The Lords of Wolfurt
The Lords of Wolfurt
The histories of the Wolfurts all claim that they descended from a Mc Decor family from Scotland but I could not find any original source for this story. Nor could I find any record of a Mc Decor or Decor family in Scotland. So I thought perhaps it was a mispelling of a name. It had to be a name that wasn't "Wolf" but was associated with a wolf and one that was not too dissimilar to Decor. It seemed like too much of a longshot to find. But just out of curiosity I looked at a list of Scottish clan names on Wikipedia and the first name that struck me was "Dewar." So I clicked on that name and, amazingly enough, here is what Wikipedia had to say about the Clan Dewar:
"As with many Scottish clans a legend exists to demonstrate physical prowess:
There is a tradition that a savage wolf was terrorising the district around and a reward was offered to the man who would despatch the beast. Dewar is said to have achieved this and received his bounty."
I wasn't sure about the connection until I found this from a German history of the family: "The Lords of Wolfurt first appear in 1219. A local historiean of Wolfurt, Siegfried Heim, traced the name back to a Scottish knight named M'Dewr the Wolf who recieved the castle (Wolfurt Castle) from Emperor Barbarossa as a fief.
In the 14th century the family of Wolfurt knights owned , in addition to the ancestral castle in Wolfurt ten other castles in southern Germany, nine in Hungary and one in Italy (Guglionesi). About 100 years later - in the first half of the 15th century - the clan of the noble von Wolfurt disappeared."
New England families
Strangely enough this clip is from a book about New England families.
According to one source the WOLFURTS owned twenty castles. Here are some that I found.
Wolfurt Castle in Wolfurt, Austria
Wolfurt Castle was the ancestral seat of the Lords of Wolfurt as first mentioned in documents dated 1217 and 1226. There is a legend that the ghost of the last Wolfurt knight appears there in the form of a golden snake in the spring. The castle had been privately owned but in 2o17 the town of Wolfurt bought it and plans to open it to the public in the fall of 2018.
Hornstein castle, Austria
Hornstein Castle, Krumpendor, Austria, in the region of Worthersee that was part of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Bequeathed to Ulrich Wolfurt in 1359 by King Louis the Great for his merits in the Neopolitan Campaigns.
Vöröskő Castle, Slovakia
Bequeathed to the Eglolf Wolfurt (direct ancestor) in 1352 by King Louis the Great of Hungary for providing 4000 mercenaries to help the king conquer southern Italy (Kingdom of Naples). The medieval castle was destroyed and reconstructed in 16th Century.
Geissen Castle, Kressbronn, Germany
A once moated castle in the Lake Constance district of Baden-Wurttemberg. 'The earliest owners of the Castle Giessen were knights, the Lords of Wolfurt, in the 13th century who had great influence in southern Germany and Switzerland.' Although privately owned it is often open for viewing. It has a beautiful medieval interior.
- Wolfurt Castle in Wolfurt, Austria (photo Friedrich Böhringer, Wikipedia)
- Hornstein (Szarvkő) Castle excavated in 1995, aerial of ruins (Wikipedia)
- Hornstein (Szarvkő) Castle, painting of ruins in the Basilica of Loretto in 1714 (Wikipedia)
- Vöröskő Castle in Cseszte (Wikipedia)
- Drawing of Vöröskő Castle (www.varak.hu)
The Wolfurter Chalice
"At the time of the heyday of the Knights of Wolfurt, the brothers Konrad and Ulrich appeared, they served as the mercenary leader of King Ludwig I alongside the mercenary leader Werner von Urslingen and conquered the kingdom of Naples in 1348. They plundered the cities of Foggia, Capua and Aversa, among other things, with murder, extortion and arson they made rich booty." According to Siegfried Heim (issue 24, p. 10), the mercenary leader Konrad von Wolfurt donated what is now known as the Wolfurter Chalice to Pfäfers Abbey, a Benedictine monastery. In the donation document dated September 20, 1364 he speaks of feeling remorse for his misdeeds: "Knight Konrad (begs) for the salvation of his soul (...) and for the salvation of all who have been injured by him in body and soul, physical or otherwise." The chalice is now in the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. A copy of it was made in 1985 for the town of Wolfurt in Austria.
The Worfurt crest in the Zurich roll of arms
This is the oldest roll of arms known to exist. It has been dated to the year 1340.
The Lost Kingdom
Nowadays Hungary is a small country we don't hear too much about but throughout the Middle Ages it was the largest cohesive political entitity in Europe. The Kingdom of Hungary existed as an independent realm for over five hundred years from 1000 A.D. to 1526 during which time it was considered one of most powerful countries in western civilization. It included territories of what are now Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Transylvania, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, as well as parts of Austria, Poland and the Ukraine. Yet, history only seems to remember it in its relationship to Austria- first as part of the Habsburg Empire and later as half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The families whose legends and I present on this site are part of the rich and unbelievably dramatic history the the Hungarian Kingdom that was driven externally by the threat of the Holy Roman and the Ottoman Empires and internally by a constant tension between the monarchs and the powerful barons. This caused a series of battles of succession that, I have to say, kind of make the War of the Roses look like a picnic in the park.
About the Nobility of Hungary
Like most kingdoms in medieval times, Hungary was divided into two main classes, nobles and commoners. But within these groups were further distinctions. The nobility was divided into the categories of "higher" and "lesser." The high nobility were the magnates, families that owned in the area of thirty or more estates that probably included a castle or several castles. They lesser were all the rest ranging from those those that owned twenty estates to those who owned only one impoverished estate to those who owned no estates at all but nevertheless had a coat-of-arms.
There were many noble who had less than well-off peasants.
Some had titles that translate as follows.
The head of the county: comes or ispan = count
Deputy head of county: alispan = viscount
Governor of a territory or sub-nation: ban, voivode = duke, earl, prince (e.g. Ban of Croatia, Voivode of Transylvania)
What made these titles different from their English counterparts was that generally until the 1500s they were NOT HEREDITARY. They only applied to the people during the time they held the office and the rank did not pass on to their children. The king could remove them from their positions and appoint someone else. There wasn't much job security. Patents of nobility and the accompanying coats of arms were hereditary. Nobility could pass on the father's side and the mother's side but property could only be inherited by sons, while the inheritance of daughters was the equivalent of 1/4 of the property's worth in currency.
Interestingly noble women kept their maiden names after they were married while their children took the husbands name.
Barons v. Barons of the Realm
Baron was an informal designation for wealthy lords who owned a large amout of property usually including a castle. All the lords with estates and villages attached by the charter to a particular castle were the baron's banderium, or bannermen. They pledge loyalty to the baron and were under obligation to respond to his call to arms with one "lance" (meaning heavily armored knight) or several archers for every 10- 20 serfs they had, depending on the ratio stipulated at the time.
Barons of the realm were those members of the nobility who held the highest offices in government and in the royal household were usually either descended from the original clans of the Hungarian tribes that settled in the Carpethian Basin in the late ninth century or from the foreign knights that came to the kingdom with their own small armies to provide military support to the Hungarian kings in the 11th and 12th centuries. Originally They were called barones regni, barons of the realm, a status originally only held by the office holder while he was in office but by the late 1300s it also to applied to the descendants of the high office holders. They became known as the magnates and were given the prefix of 'magificus' in documents.
The 19 Families
In the late 1400s, nineteen families were distinguished from the rest of the barons of the realm by King Matthias. They were now called the natural barons of the realm (barones regni natureles). The list included the Orszag, Rozgony, and Hedervary families.
Barons of the Realm
Holders of the highest offices in the Kingdom of Hungary:
- Royal Judge
- Bans of Croatia, Severin & Slavonia
- Voivode of Transylvania
- Master of the Treasury
- Master of the Horse
- Master of the Cupbearers
- Master of the Stewards
- Master of the Doorkeepers
- Ispan of the Counties Pozsony & Temes