The Battle of Seckenheim on June, 30th, 1462
“woe betide the country, whose king is a child!” – This was a saying in medieval times.
Prince Elector Ludwig IV. Of Palatinate died in 1449, when his son was just one year old. This was the reason that his uncle Friedrich I. took over the power as sovereign and shortly after adopted his nephew. With some tricks, so called “Arrogations” the nephew and adopted son – later known as “Prince Elector Philipp the Upright” – had to acknowledge the fatherhood of Friedrich I. With this as well his right to stay Prince Elector for lifetime, even after his majority. Such he could take over the crown of Prince Elector not before 1476, the year of death of his uncle and adopting father Friedrich I.
To defend Friedrich I. we must state, that he was by no means a despot who under all circumstances intended to reign without having the permission. His aim was, to defend his country against the Emperor and the mighty barons in the neighborhood. The mother of the minor, Margaret of Savoy, demanded as well the regent ship of the Palatinate for herself. In this difficult situation Friedrich I. found a solution: He adopted his nephew and promised officially not to marry in order to guarantee the rights of his nephew. But this promise he broke later on, when he married his longtime beloved Klara Dett. The result of this marriage was two sons. This marriage was not appropriate to his class and therefore the children were not entitled to inheritance. Their names are not even contained in any family tree.
But Margaret of Savoy, mother of Philipp, used this situation, did not give up and looked for an alliance. This she found with the Emperor and a collateral line, the family Kurpfalz-Wittesbach, Veldez-Zweibrücken. This led to a war with the deciding battle of Seckenheim.
The enemies of Friedrich I. approached from Leimen, a little village south of Heidelberg, with 800 warriors on battle horses, while Friedrich could dispose of only 300. But very quickly the number of his warriors increased when country warriors and peasants came out of the woods and joint him in battle. About 2000 foot-soldiers came together. As distinguishing sign Fredric’s soldiers wore a badge of nut leaves, while the enemies wore bushels of oat-straw. At those times this was really something new and resulted in much less unnecessary victims. Later on this kind of distinguishing signs was adapted by other belligerent sovereigns and developed to the nowadays emblems on uniforms. A further novelty was that the population joined the sovereign voluntarily in battle. The simple people wanted to demonstrate with this, that they agreed to the politics of Friedrich I.
During this battle the enemies did lose much less blood than was to be expected. The sun was burning from the sky and heated the armor plated knights, what for them was a big disadvantage and on the other side an deciding advantage for the foot soldiers. When those suddenly enrolled the banner of the Palatinate with the gold and red headed lions and the blue-white rhombus, the dependents of the Palatinate saw with enthusiasm that the Prince Elector personally led his soldiers into the battle. The enemies were shocked: Their up to now expectation of an easy victory with devastation of the enemy’s country failed and turned into fatal gravity. At 4 o clock in the afternoon the battle already was at the end: The Palatinate had won!
Friedrich I. had turned into “Friedrich the Victorious”. His enemies named him the “Evil Fritz”. He reigned from 1451 till 1476 and was the first sovereign of the Kurpfalz to lead a politic of military conquest. Under his regency the territory of the Palatinate was extended considerably. With this the country became till the middle of the 15th century the leading region in Southwest Germany. This was only the big merit of Prince Elector Friedrich I: During his reign, the Palatinate reached the largest territory extension. Rounding up the territory at the lower Neckar and the Mountain Road, the hilly land of Rhine-Hessia and in the Anterior Palatinate was the most important success of his territorial politics.