Duchy in Prussia : Samland-Natangen Peasant Revolt, 1525

In the 1520es Prussia was in transition. The Protestant Reformation spread quickly; the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Albrecht von Brandenburg (Hohenzollern) accepted Prussia, as a Duchy and fief, from the King of Poland - the Duchy in Prussia, thus terminating the state of the Teutonic Order (Emperor Charles V. rejected the act; the support structure of the Teutonic Order in southern Germany and Austria remained intact; a new, Catholic grand master was elected).
The free peasants of Prussia had been burdened by both military service (for instance in the "Reiterkrieg" of 1519-1521, against Poland) and rising taxation, as well as the (illegitimate) demand by bailiffs of them to contribute corvee labour. In 1525 the free peasants of Samland and Natangen took up arms, in an effort to draw attraction to their situation. They were disciplined and neither pillaged nor attacked castles held by the authorities. The Duke, absent at the time of the rebellion, hurried home.
Three rebellion leaders were executed; otherwise the rebels were treated leniently. Yet the peasants did not achieve a lessening of their burden, the confirmation of their status. The nobility was given free hand to press the free peasants into the status of serfs (Bauernlegen), a process that would go on for centuries.

Ostpreussische Geschichte 1525-1713, from Preussenweb

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 18th 2004, last revised on November 18th 2004

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