Poor Conrad  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Popular revolts in late medieval Europe

Poor Conrad (Armer Konrad, also Armer Kunz) was the collective name adopted by many secret peasants' leagues during their rebellion against taxes in 1514 of the rule of Duke Ulrich of Württemberg. The rebels adopted the term used by the nobility to mock them, meaning "poor fellow" or "poor devil". The battle flag of the rebels depicted a farmer lying in front of a cross, under the words Der arme Conrad.


Duke Ulrich's excessive lifestyle had badly affected the Württemberg treasury, while the rural population was increasingly beset by their seignory under the condition of serfdom. Instead of cutting down his expenses, the duke raised further taxes in 1513 to finance his planned campaign against the Duchy of Burgundy. As the Stuttgart and Tübingen citizens prevented the levy of a wealth tax, he had an excise imposed on meat, wine and fruit to the disadvantage of the unprivileged population. In order to collect the tax, Ulrich had the unit of measurement of weight reduced, which aroused general indignation. For example, for the price of one kilogram of flour, one received only 700 grams.

As a protest against the fraud, Peter Gaiß (Gaispeter) from Beutelsbach performed a "trial by ordeal" on 2 May 1514: the new weights of Duke Ulrich were to be thrown in the Rems River at Großheppach. Were they to float, they would be legitimized; were they to sink, they would be proven fraudulent. As was to be expected, the ordeal proved the peasants right.

The next day, the authorities reacted and demanded the surrender of the weights, which Peter Gaiß rejected. Instead he convoked a growing crowd of dissatisfied peasants, which moved to the nearby town of Schorndorf, where little damage was inflicted, but the duke was so impressed that he dropped the unpopular tax. This calmed the situation in the Rems ValleyTemplate:Clarify temporarily.

Shortly thereafter, however, more riots broke out in Leonberg and Grüningen, encouraged by the town priest, Rainhard Gaißlin. Peter Gaiß also traveled again across the country, persuading people to riot against the ignorance and egoism of Duke Ulrich. In the mid of July, the rebels occupied Schorndorf for ten days, where the duke narrowly escaped the turmoil. Upon a march through the Württemberg lands, the rebels set up a camp on the Kappelberg spur near Beutelsbach.Template:Clarify However, the news of approaching well-armed ducal troops made more and more insurgents leave the camp. Finally the Poor Conrad rebellion collapsed quietly. Ducal troops occupied without resistance the Rems Valley, dragging the remaining 1,700 rebels to Schorndorf, where they were tortured, imprisoned and their commanders beheaded. Fines had to be paid, and they were deprived of their rights.

The peace would not last a long time. Some ten years later, the rural population rebelled again, leading to the German Peasants' War.

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