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Journal > Volumes > 34 (2003) / 3 (Autumn)
Bastards in the German Nobility in the Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries: Evidence of the Zimmerische Chronik
Judith J. Hurwich
School of the Holy Child, Rye, New York

Many scholars have stressed the favor shown to the bastard sons of noblemen, particularly in the "golden age of noble bastards" in the fifteenth century This article examines the position of noble bastards in Southwest Germany, using the Zimmerische Chronik (written in the 1560s) and regional studies of counts and barons in Swabia and Franconia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The legal position of noble bastards in Germany was inferior to that in France, where bastards were presumed to inherit their fathers noble status, or in Italy and Iberia, where illegitimate sons were often legitimated as heirs. Few German bastards established themselves as nobles, and their opportunities for secular and ecclesiastical careers were declining long before the Reformation. The causes were not so much religious or political factors as social factors, especially the German definition of nobility and the increasing lineage consciousness of German nobles.

Pages: 701 - 727