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The Dynasty of Carantania
by Josef Savli

Excerpted from Glas Slovenia (Australia) March 2002.

In the 10th century, Carantania (Slovenia) developed to a grand duchy (952 - 1180), and had a social structure based on a combined symbiosis of the ancient Slovenian and Franks, i.e., similar to the European feudal system. At first it was conserved on the basis of the old Carantanian social structure, meaning that the leaders of the villages and districts (and even the former Carantanian dukes) were elected by the peoples’ assembly. In the feudal system, however, the leadership appointments of the lords were hereditary. Due to these fundamental possibilities leaderships could originate only from very potent feudal families. Such families were also present in Carantania at that time, and one of them arose to the dynasty of Carantania.

First House

Around 930, the historical records point out the name of a landowner, who had his lands on the Ingering Creek in the Mura Valley, close to today’s town of Knittelfeld. All we know is that his name was Markvart I, and that he was the forefather of the family who created the dynasty in coming years. His son Markvart II is mentioned in the records aroud 970. He was married to Hadmut Sempt-Ebersberg, a Bavarian Countess. In 1012, their son Adalbero was the appointed Duke of Carantania, and he became the real father of the Carantanian dynasty. His consort and mother of the dynasty, Beatrice, was a Swabian Princess (Conradins). She originated in the female line from the Western Carolingians, what indeed gave an enormous prestige to her husband. Duke Adalbero even confronted the Emperor Conrad II in 1036, and therefore was deposed of his charges. Some years later he died in Bavaria († 1039), and was burried in the abbey of Greisenfeld (near Ingolstadt), founded by the family of his mother Hadmut. In the following decennium the Imperial Court continued to nominate dukes of Carantania. However, three dukes, that where appointed in a row, were rejected by the Carantanian assembly (vechah). Neither one of them entered the dukedom, where Adalbero’s son Markvart III was the very ruler. He also was Count of Goerz (Gorica, now belonging to Italy). Only in the year 1076 he was recognized by the Court as the true Carantanian duke († 1076).

The Dynasty of Carantania

On the duke’s throne he was followed by his sons, first Luitpold († 1093) and then Henry III († 1122), who was the last successor of the family in the male line. But the dynasty continued through his nephew Henry, son of his sister, Duchess Hedwig, and Count Engelbert (called Spanheim). In 1076 Duke Markvart III laid foundation of the Monastery St. Lambrecht in the Upper Mura basin, which became the last restingplace of the dynasty respectively of its First House. The building was finished by his son Henry III.

Second House

The Carantanian law, called Slavica lex, also granted succession to the female line! In this sense, duke Henry IV († 1123) continued the dynasty until his death in 1123 and was succeeded by his brother Engelbert († 1141),the former Margrave of Istria. After him his son Ulric I († 1144) took over the ducal charge. His sister Mathilda († 1161) was married to a French nobleman, Theobold II, Count of Champagne. Their daughter Alice became Queen of France and mother of King Philip II August. In Carantania the ducal throne was ascended by the sons of Ulric I: First, there was Herny V († 1161) followed by his brother Hermann († 1181). On the ducal seal of 1163, belonging to the latter, the famous figure of the Carantanian panther appears for the very first time. His son, duke Ulric II died untimely of leprosy († 1202). He was followed by his brother Bernard, who reigned for a long time († 1256) and became very famous. Among other facts it is known, that his court was a meeting place of troubadours with great reputation. Bernard’s son and successor Ulric III († 1269) was the last duke of the Carantanian dynasty. It was his choice to appoint as his successor Otokar II, King of Bohemia, his cousin from his mother’s side, and not his younger brother Philip. The latter, being the last member of the dynasty, was elected Archbishop of Salzburg and then Patriarch of Aquileia, but he never received confirmation by the Pope in his official duties († 1279). He is intered in Krems (Lower Austria). The last resting-place of the Second House is to be found in St. Paul, a monastery in the Lavant Valley, which was founded in 1091 by Count Egelbert and Duchess Hedwig, parents of Henry IV.The decline of the dynasties of Austria in 1246, and shortly after of Carantania in 1269, opened up the territory for expansion to the Habsburgs. After defeating their new ruler Otokar II, King of Bohemia, they acquired Austria and other Carantanian provinces. Under their power the name Austria prevailed definitely over all provinces. The German and Austrianhistoriography did not recognize the Carantanian dynasty, because they did not take the Slavica lex into consideration but falsely supported the Germanic leges, meaning that, the succession in the families had followed in the male line only. The Germanic leges had no value for Carantania and their families. The German and Austrian standpoints have been rejected now by a number of facts.For example, in case of the two seals of 1253. The first seal belonged to duke Bernard showing himself on horseback and keeping a shield with the Carantanian Panther. The second seal belonged to his son Ulric III and depicts a shield divided per pale: In the first part we see three lions “sable” on “or” called “Swabian lions”, in the second a fess “argent” on “gules”. It is still today the coat of arms of Carinthia. Even today the three lions are forming the coat of arms of Swabia. The seal of Ulric III makes it obvious, that it refers to the mother of the Carantanian dynasty, namely Princess Beatrice of Swabia, and her Carolingian descent. The image of Charlemagne was still very present in that period. Even in the following century, Emperor Carl IV ordered artists to create a precious bust of him. Thus, Beatrice of Swabia was considered the mother of both “First” and “Second House” of the Carantanian dynasty.

The former Yugoslav historiography, in reference to the part of the Slovenian historiography, denies the existence of the Carantanian dynasty. Since the founding of Yugoslavia, Slovenian historians have been suppressed under the control of Belgrade, a Serbian center, which was envious of the historical roots of Slovenians. Therefore, it did not allow a full and independent explanation of their history, depicting them, likewise the German nationalists, as “historical serfs” only. It is truly understandable that, such a “scientifically” explanation of Slovenian history, in comparison to those of their neighbours, left enormous frustration in many Slovenians. Indeed, this was its very purpose that Belgrade used as a cheap instrument for their ideological and political manipulation.