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Helene Kottannerin: Wikis


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Helene Kottanner was a late-medieval woman born in Odenburg, Austria. Her last name is spelled variously as Kottanner, Kottanerin, or Kottannerin. She is primarily known to history as a handmaiden to Queen Elisabeth of Hungary (1409-1442), who also assisted Queen Elisabeth in a royal succession plot.

Helene married twice and bore two children. By 1436, both Helene and her second husband, Johann Kottanner of Vienna, were servants of Albert the second, the then duke of Austria and his wife Elisabeth. Helene's role in this royal Habsburg household was nanny to the daughter of Albert and Elisabeth; Helene was known as "Mother Kottanner" to her employers. Note that the alternative names ending in "-in" amount to adding a feminine suffix to her husband's name.


A daring raid

Helene, later a member of Elisabeth's court, wrote a book around 1451 entitled "Denkwurdigkeiten" ("things to be remembered") in which she provides a first-person account of the theft of the gold Crown of St. Stephen on February 20, 1440. This was an action in which she participated at the request of Queen Elisabeth, widow of King Albert. This crown was considered holy by the Hungarian people and also property of the Hungarian nation. It was then stored at the Hungarian stronghold of Visegrád.

Helene noted in her book that she would be putting herself and her family in great danger by assisting the queen in her efforts to obtain the crown. In an atmosphere of political Intrigue, where death was a common punishment for many crimes, Helene apparently had reservations concerning the advisibility of the queen's request: "The queen's request frightened me, for it meant great danger for me and my little children."

Helene apparently had at least two male assistants in this desperate escapade. These men did the actual breaking and entering work while Helene kept watch.

The crown was smuggled out of Visegrad inside a pillow. The golden cross on top of the crown was however bent as the conspirators fled, and is still visible in this condition today.

The crown was then transported quickly by a sled to queen Elisabeth. Elisabeth, at the castle at Komorn[1] was in the final hours of the delivery of her son, Ladislaus. The boy had "Posthumous" added to his name as a result of being born after the death of his father.

Helene noted in her book that the timing had been close: "Within the same hour in which the Holy Crown arrived from Plintenburg in Komorn, within that same hour King Laszlo was born." Helene further stated in her book that she thought that this was clearly God's will at work.

A new king is crowned

Queen Elisabeth rewarded Helene lavishly in return for her actions in obtaining the Holy Crown, since she desired the crown for the coronation of her son Ladislaus. The queen believed, as did the people, that only by coronation with the crown of St. Stephen would the royal succession to the Hungarian throne be legitimate. This was an important distinction since the Hungarian nobles were clamoring at the time for the appointment of the 16 year old king of Poland to be the king of Hungary, instead of the queen's newborn son.

Unfortunately for the Queen, her family, and the nation of Hungary, a civil war promptly broke out between supporters of the queen's son and the supporters of the Polish king. The royal family was then separated for their own safety, and Helene's family was also separated at the same time, Helene going off to care for the infant king while her husband and daughter Katharina stayed with the queen.

The Polish king desired by the Hungarian nobility died in 1444; after that the nobles accepted Ladislaus as king. In 1457, Ladislaus died with no heir to his throne.


The Memoirs of Helene Kottaner, by Helene Kottannerin; Maya C Bijvoet Williamson, Publisher: D.S. Brewer, Cambridge (England), New York


  1. ^ Slovakian: Komárno, Hungarian: Komárom, originally a Hungarian city located on the both banks of the Danube, but was divided into two parts after World War I. The left bank belongs to Hungary and the right one to Slovakia. Ladislaus Posthumus was born on the right bank of the Danube which is in Slovakia now.

External links

Publisher D.S. Brewer description of book The Memoirs of Helene Kottaner, by Helene Kottannerin; Maya C Bijvoet Williamson

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