She signs a passport for the renowned knight, Baron Sigismund Hager.
Allentsteig is a city about 40 miles northwest of Vienna in Lower Austria. By 1499 Sigismund Hager I took control of the leadership of the Allentsteig area, coming into possession of the estate and castle at Reinsback. From 1502-1517 he held the office of Landmarschall, a position that made him its ruler,...
Allentsteig is a city about 40 miles northwest of Vienna in Lower Austria. By 1499 Sigismund Hager I took control of the leadership of the Allentsteig area, coming into possession of the estate and castle at Reinsback. From 1502-1517 he held the office of Landmarschall, a position that made him its ruler, responsible for all military and political matters. It also required him to represent the region to the Habsburg court in Vienna.
In 1529 the Ottoman Turks attacked Austria in an attempt to move forward their conquests into Western Europe. Their 120,000-man army laid siege to Vienna, in which the vastly outnumbered defenders made their preparations. In one of the most significant confrontations in history, the Viennese successfully resisted the siege and the Turks retreated. This victory effectively stopped the advance of Islam into Central and Western Europe and ensured that the Christian rather than the Muslim religion and culture would dominate the region. Sebastian Hager, successor to Sigismund Hager I, was a leader of the Austrian infantry during this heroic and historic defense.
From the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in the 1520’s, Protestant doctrines were welcomed by the people living in the areas under Habsburg rule. According to the Allentsteig website, “The Hagers are considered the pioneers of Protestantism in Austria.” By the middle of the 16th century, under their leadership, over 80% of the Allentsteig population was Protestant. The Roman Catholic Church retained the support of the Habsburg dynasty and was thus able to maintain a strong presence throughout the area as well.
Sigismund Hager II (1547-1617) was a nobleman who distinguished himself by his knowledge of languages and science and who was also well known for his courage. He served as a field commander in Hungary and in 1577, after he came back, sold much of his holdings in Allentsteig. He then traveled throughout England, Holland, France and Italy; he was gone so long that upon his return he found he had been declared dead. So renowned was he that he became the hero of a Victorian novel – The Faithful Knight Sigismund Hager of Allentsteig and the Reformation. The Hager family continued to defend Protestantism into the 17th century, when the strong support the Habsburgs gave Catholicism overwhelmed them.
Queen Elizabeth I acceded to the throne of England upon the death of her sister, Mary, in 1558. Upon her coronation in January 1559 she became head of the Church of England, making her perhaps the most important Protestant monarch in Europe. Her defense of the Protestant faith led to her excommunication by Pope Pius V in 1570; in 1580 his successor, Pope Gregory XIII, decreed that killing Elizabeth would not be a sin. Thus, throughout the 1570’s and 1580’s, the Queen endured plots to take her life and England endured threats from foreign nations, all designed to place a Catholic on the English throne. These culminated in the Spanish Armada in 1588, an attempt that failed, preserving both England’s independence and its religion.
It is therefore not surprising that when Sigismund Hager, whose family were the pioneers of Protestantism in Austria, requested permission to travel through England, it was granted. The document we offer here is the very passport that Queen Elizabeth issued and signed to Hager for the trip mentioned in his biography. In it, she went far beyond simply providing a passport; she made sure her Protestant ally would receive the royal treatment on his journey.
Document Signed, folio, Palace of Westminster, June 1579, addressed “To all mayors, sheriffs, bailiffs, constables…and to all those our officers, ministers and subjects to who in this case it shall appertain,”and identified on the verso as “Passport for the Baron Sigismund Hager…to travel…in England, and to so pass into Ireland.” “Whereas the noble man called Sigismund Hagar, a Baron of Austria, being lately come into this our realm of England to travel and see the countries of the same, and so to pass into Ireland, hath our favor and license so to do. We will and command you, and every [one] of you, not only to suffer him with five persons with him to pass by you quietly with all their bag, baggage and merchandise without any…trouble, but also to see him and his company furnished from place to place of able horses for the post and journey, and of all other things meet and necessary for his better journey and priced reasonable. And also…assist…him for a meet vessel for his transportation to our realm of Ireland if so he shall require your assistance. And hereof fail you not…And this…shall be your sufficient warrant and discharge in this behalf.”
Documents signed by Elizabeth are uncommon, and this is the first we have had. The association it creates between the Protestant leaders of England and Austria of their generation is extraordinary. The two would in all likelihood have met while he was in the country, with the status and prospects for the Protestant faith in England and on the Continent probably topics of conversation.
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