The profession of barber, i.e. the operator of a bathhouse, had an ambivalent position in the Middle Ages. On the one hand, it was essential for an urban community for hygienic and medical reasons, because the lifeguard was on hand with advice and action for the little people who could not afford a doctor. On the other hand, the bath was also a place where men and women met in a sultry atmosphere and was therefore considered a euphemism for sex and prostitution.

Agnes Bernauer, who according to tradition was born around 1410 as the daughter of a barber in Augsburg, was therefore socially tainted with an “unclean profession”. However, her beauty made up for that. “They say that you were so pretty that when you drank red wine, you had to sift the wine down the bucket,” reports chronicler Veit Arnpeck, full of admiration.

Even the duke’s son Albrecht von Bayern-Munich could not escape this when he was in Augsburg for a tournament in 1428. He immediately made her his lover. According to some sources, the prince is also said to have married the woman from Bernau. Her “Hube und Hofstatt” in Menzing, which a document from January 1433 attests, could have been a wedding gift.

Albrecht’s father Ernst, who was known as a “lover of tender women”, is said to have initially given the liaison his blessing. But at the latest when the wedding became known, this changed. Because even if this marriage was considered “morganatic”, Agnes – because not befitting her status – and her children did not enter into the husband’s rights, she got in the way of the duke’s ambitious plans.

With Ludwig IV (1282–1347), the Bavarian, the Wittelsbach family provided the king and emperor in the Holy Roman Empire for the first time. It is true that their power base was too narrow to be able to assert themselves against the Luxembourgers and Habsburgs in the next generations. But at least three princely lines were established from Ludwig’s descendants: Bavaria-Ingolstadt, Lower Bavaria-Landshut and Upper Bavaria-Munich.

It was not for nothing that the people of Landshut called themselves “the rich”, which was hardly met with approval in Munich. There the idea matured to reunite the entire Wittelsbacher property in one hand, preferably their own. However, this calculation called into question the marriage of the Hereditary Prince to Agnes Bernauer. In addition, Albrecht increasingly closed his father’s plans and went to Straubing with his wife.

For he “was so in love with Agnes Bernauer, the daughter of an Augsburg barber, that he treated her exactly like his lawful wife and had the intention of having her betrothed publicly with solemn wedding ceremonies. She called herself the wife of the Bavarian prince and Duchess of Bavaria,” reports the chronicler Aventinus.

When Albrecht’s uncle Wilhelm III, who was also co-regent, died in 1435 as the second dynastic option of the Munich family and the entire inheritance construct depended on Albrecht, the father saw an urgent need for action. At his son’s side, space had to be made for a wife befitting his status, who would give birth to legitimate offspring for the people of Munich.

While Albrecht was at a hunting event with his relatives in Landshut, the duke had his unloved daughter-in-law arrested. A death sentence was issued without a trial and was carried out near Straubing on October 12, 1434. “One is not guilty of exaggerated dramatization if one calls such a procedure judicial murder,” judges the historian Hans-Michael Körner.

The contemporary chronicler Andreas von Regensburg reported how the execution was carried out: “By order of Duke Ernst of Bavaria, a most beautiful woman became the mistress of his son Albrecht – but some said that she was his real and lawful wife – who Called Bernauerin, fell from the Danube bridge in Straubing… With the help of one foot that was not tied, she swam a little and came close to the shore, calling in a hoarse, pitiful voice: Help! help! But the torturer who threw her off the bridge . . . wrapped a long rod in her hair and pushed her back under the water.”

The bewildered Albrecht immediately instituted a perpetual mass in a Straubing monastery. The fact that his father had a chapel built in memory of the woman from Bernau in the cemetery there may have contributed to the reconciliation between the two. Perhaps also the mediation of Emperor Sigismund, which Ernst von Bayern had asked for. In any case, Albrecht agreed in 1436 to marry the Duchess Anna of Brunswick-Grubenhagen, with whom he was to father ten children.

However, Albrecht refused Ernst’s dynastic plans. After his death in 1438, he largely left the Ingolstadt legacy to the people of Landshut. His nickname “the pious” did not prevent him from turning around again in his old age and giving his favors to a furrier.

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