Agnes Bernauer

Agnes Bernauer (c. 1410 – October 12, 1435) was the commoner wife of Albert III, Duke of Bavaria. His father ordered her to be killed. The story has since been immortalized in folk songs and in literature.


Agnes was the daughter and/or maid of a barber surgeon in Augsburg. In 1432, she was secretly married to Albert III, the Bavarian heir apparent, the only son of Ernest, Duke of Bavaria and Elisabetta Visconti. His maternal grandfather Bernabò Visconti was Lord of Milan. Another, less common, version has her being merely his mistress. She lived at Schloss Vohburg. Albert's father had planned that Albert would marry the daughter of Duke Erich of Brunswick. One day, Ernst brought the matter up, and Albert explained that "because of fornication with a maiden" the wedding would have to be called off--Agnes was his lawful wife.

However, after Duke Ernst arranged for Albert's absence, he ordered Agnes' arrest and had her charged with witchcraft, because he could not accept his son's choice of wife. On October 12, 1435, she was drowned in the Danube at Straubing. Suddenly her leg bindings loosened and she was able to swim to the bank. But the executioner was waiting for her, and he held her head under the water until she was dead.

About Agnes herself, little is known. Her childhood, her thoughts, and her character remain murky. The only thing that can be said of her is that she was very beautiful and of delicate structure. In addition, she is said to have had magnificent blond hair. Albert called her worthy and respectable.

After her death, Albert took himself to Duke Louis at Ingolstadt, but he reconciled with his father that November. In 1436, he married Anna of Brunswick, but nevertheless in 1447, he had the bones of "ehrsamen Frau Agnesen der Pernawerin" ("The honorable Lady Agnes of Pernawerin") brought to the sepulcher (Agnes-Bernauer-Kapelle) in the cemetery of St. Peter zu Straubing and covered with a marble gravestone.

Every four years in Straubing at the original location, the ducal castle, the Agnes Bernauer Festival takes place. In the festival, Agnes' story is told in scenes by the laymen actors of the Agnes Bernauer Festival Guild.

Many cities and communities have christened a street or plaza "Der Bernauerin" after Agnes.


Albert and Agnes' tragic love has long been a staple of folk songs and over the centuries many new literary and musical versions have been created.


  • The information in this article is based on that in its equivalent in the German Wikipedia.
  • Werner Schäfer: Agnes Bernauer und ihre Zeit. Nymphenburger, München 1987 ISBN 3-485-00551-7
  • Werner Schäfer: Agnes Bernauer. Geschichte - Dichtung - Bild. Attenkofer, Straubing 1995 ISBN 3-931091-02-3
  • Christina Lichtblau: Auf den Spuren der Agnes Bernauer. Monsenstein & Vannerdat, o.J. ISBN 3-936600-08-2
  • Richard Wunderer: Agnes Bernauer und ihr Herzog. Rosenheimer Verlagshaus, 1999 ISBN 3-475-52940-8
  • Manfrad Böckl: Agnes Bernauer. Titel: Hexe, Hure, Herzogin. Roman. Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, ISBN 3-7466-1290-X
  • Hans Schlosser: Agnes Bernauerin (1410-1435). Der Mythos von Liebe, Mord und Staatsräson, in: Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, Germanistische Abteilung, 122. Band (2005), Wien-Köln-Weimar, Seiten 263-284

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