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THE WIVES OF WEINSBERG
AT one time the empire of Germany was divided into factions, which brought a great deal of unhappiness
and strife. There were two noble families, one of them known as the Guelphs and the other known as
the Ghibellines, both of whom had claimants for the imperial crown. The Guelphs came from Bavaria
and the Ghibellines came from Swabia.
For a number of years war between the two factions continued. At last, Count Conrad, a Ghibelline,
was elected emperor, and went in pursuit of his enemies, who were in the town of Weinsberg.
The Guelphs gave him an obstinate resistance. The governor was by no means in a submissive mood and
the siege lasted a long time. Conrad
 was indignant at this protracted siege and sent word to the inhabitants as follows:
"Unless you surrender at once I shall demolish your city, burn your buildings and put all the
inhabitants to the sword."
To this the inhabitants returned a defiant and indignant challenge. The siege continued for some
time until at last Weinsberg was compelled to yield. Emperor Conrad now determined that his original
threat should be carried out, and ordered all the men to be gathered together that they might be put
to the sword, and told his men to prepare to destroy the city by flames. When this message came to
the inhabitants of Weinsberg there were loud lamentations because they were filled with terror and
A deputation of citizens went to Conrad's camp and said, "We men of Weinsberg are not afraid of your
threat and are willing to submit to the fate of war. You may burn our buildings and destroy our
towns if you will, but we beg of you to spare our women."
Conrad replied, "I have sworn an oath that your city shall be destroyed and your people shall be put
to death, but it is not for me to make war on helpless women, therefore I shall spare their lives.
Furthermore you may tell them that on the morrow
 each of them may carry away on her shoulders whatever precious possession she may deem worthy of
preservation. I do not wish to leave them destitute upon the world."
With this decision the emperor turned away and the deputation of citizens went sadly back into
When the women heard this declaration of the emperor they were sorely distressed and there was much
weeping among them. Finally the duchess, wife of Duke Guelph, called all the women together in the
market-place and told the men to go into a distant part of the city, as she did not wish them to
hear what she had to say to her companions.
She whispered something to the woman near her and she passed it on to the next one and she to the
next, until all the women knew what was in the duchess' mind. Then each one smiled and went her way.
The next morning the gates were opened and Conrad stood outside to see the women file by, each one
with her precious possession. First came the duchess, and to the astonishment of the emperor and to
the admiration of the whole army, the duchess was bearing upon her shoulders her husband, Duke
Guelph, the very one that Conrad had sworn first to put to the sword. Following her came a long
 line of women, each one bending under the heavy burden of her husband or some dear relative.
As the duchess passed the emperor, she said, "We have your word, my lord, that we can bear safely
away that which we consider to be most precious, and each of us has taken her soldier husband. You
are welcome to what is left in the city."
The emperor's chagrin was quickly changed to admiration. The earnest faces of the women that were
turned to him so appealingly at last changed his intention towards them and the city, and his heart
relented. Turning to the women, who were struggling along with their husbands, he said to them, "You
may rid yourselves of your heavy but precious freight. I shall harm none of you, for you deserve to
keep the treasure you have borne."
There were indeed some angry knights around him who did not have much respect for heroic deeds and
who reminded him of his first oath to put the men to death, but Conrad turned to them in anger and
said, "An emperor keeps his last word more sacred than his first."
He then called the men and women to him and told them that he not only spared them, but the whole
city, from its doom of sword and fire. Thus did the women of Weinsberg save their husbands and their