1902 Encyclopedia > Henry the Lion

Henry the Lion
Duke of Saxony and Bavaria
(1129-1195)




HENRY THE LION (1129-1195), duke of Saxony and Bavaria, son of Henry the Proud, was born in 1129. After the death in 1139 of his father, who had been deprived of his possessions by Conrad III., the bravery and energy of his mother Gertrude and his grandmother Richenza secured to him the duchy of Saxony. Shortly after coming of age he at the diet of Frankfort in 1147 demanded also the restoration of Bavaria, but was refused, upon which, along with his uncle Weif VI., he made an unsuccessful attempt to seize it by force of arms. In 1154 he, however, received from Frederick I. the formal recognition of his claims to its possession, and in 1156 Henry Jasomirgott was compelled to deliver it up to him. Besides distinguishing himself in the wars of Frederick in Italy, Henry now devoted his energies to establishing his power in his own dominions, both by conquest and by encouraging agriculture and trade. He extended the boundaries of Saxony beyond the Elbe by successful battles against the Slavs, founded Munich in Bavaria, colonized Mecklenburg and Holstein, and fostered the growth of Hamburg and Lübeck. His ambitious projects and his arrogant bearing awakened, how-ever, the hostility of several of the secular and ecclesiastical potentates, who in 1166 concluded a league against him at Merseburg, and a stubborn contest of two years' duration ensued, which was finally ended by Frederick in 1169 deciding at the council of Bamberg in Henry's favour. In February 1168 Henry, having previously divorced Clementia of Zähringen, married Matilda, daughter of Henry II. of England; and, elated by such an influential alliance and by the increasing resources of his dominions, he shortly after his return from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1172 began to manifest a tendency to treat the emperor with coldness and to revive the traditional rivalry of his race with the Hohenstaufens. He took no part in the Italian expedition of 1174, and in 1176 his sudden desertion of Frederick in the crisis of his struggle with the Lombard cities resulted in the disaster at Legnano. On Frederick's return from Italy in 1177 Henry was summoned to appear before him at the diet of Worms, and declining to do so he was placed under the ban of the empire, and his lands were divided among other princes. For more than a year he endeavoured to resist the execu-tion of the imperial decree, but he found it necessary at last, in November 1181, to give in his submission to Frederick, who, on condition that he remained three years in England, agreed to reinstate him in the possession of Brunswick and Lüneburg. Having in 1189 refused to accompany Frederick on his crusade, he was again compelled to withdraw to England, but shortly after Frederick's de-parture he returned, and, concluding an alliance with the archbishop of Bremen, made a second attempt to recover his territories; but, though at first he gained several im-portant victories, he was ultimately compelled in July 1190 to conclude a peace at Fulda, which secured to him scarcely any advantages from the contest. Emboldened by the hostile alliance formed against the emperor Henry VI. in 1192, he again renewed the struggle ; but after Richard of England fell into the hands of the emperor in the following year, he found it necessary again to give in his submission; and shortly afterwards a pledge of amity between the two houses was given through the marriage of the eldest son of Henry the Lion to Agnes, niece of Frederick I., and cousin of the reigning emperor. Henry died 6th August 1195 at Brunswick, and was buried in the church of St Blaise. Otto, his second son, became emperor under the title of Otto IV. A colossal statue of Henry was unveiled at Brunswick 4th July 1874. Though ambitious, headstrong, and pugnacious, Henry showed that while he possessed no small skill in the art of war he could appreciate the arts of peace, and he gave a powerful impetus to the development of many important cities, and furthered with judicious sagacity the material prosperity of his kingdom.

See Böttiger, Heinrich der Löwe, Hanover, 1819; Prutz, Heinrich der Löwe, Leipsic, 1865 : Weiland, Das Sachs. Herzogthum unter Lothar und Heinrich dem Löwen, Greifswald, 1866 ; Philippson, Geschichte Heinrichs des Löwen, Leipsie, 2 vols., 1867-8 ; and the various biographies of Frederick I.







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