In order to truly enjoy the tense historical events, intrigues and myths of the Counts of Celje, you must first get to know the key figures of this great European medieval family.
Konrad of Sanneck: The story of the famous Counts of Celje started with the Lords of Sanneck. Konrad of Sanneck was a free nobleman and ancestor of the Counts of Celje. Living at the Sanneck Castle in the Savinja Valley, near present-day Žalec in the first half of the 13th century, he was a poet and troubadour, a true champion of knightly poetry. He left us three poems that praise an honourable and spiritual love for a lady – as a poem written by a knight should.
Frederick I of Celje: With him, the winning line of the Counts of Celje started. The last Lord of Sanneck and the first Count of Celje was Frederick I, son of Ulrich II of Sanneck and Countess Catherine of Heunburg. After the extinction of the Heunburg men line in the early 14th century, Frederick inherited numerous estates and castles. In the 14th century, the emperor named him the first true (state) Count of Celje with a hereditary title.
Herman II of Celje: Grandson of Frederick I of Celje and son of Herman I of Celje. Under his 50-year-long rule, the Celje family achieved a rapid political upswing. With the skill of a savvy diplomat, he expanded the territory and power of the Counts of Celje in medieval Europe. At the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, he helped save the life of the later emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Sigismund of Luxembourg. The latter richly rewarded his courage and support with new estates while Herman offered him the hand of his daughter, Barbara of Celje. After marrying Sigismund, the latter became the Hungarian, Czech and German queen, and thus the highest crowned head in Slovenian history.
Barbara of Celje: Youngest daughter of Herman II of Celje. When she married Sigismund of Luxembourg and became a triple queen, she was not yet 15 years old. Although the levers of power were in the hands of her husband, rumours began to spread about her stunning capacities and powers; she was said to be managing an important part of the estates and the treasury all by herself. Also familiar with the mysteries of alchemy, she was awe-inspiring wherever she appeared. Barbara of Celje also stood behind the elite Order of the Dragon, founded by her husband, the triple king and emperor Sigismund. The members, including her father Herman, brother Frederick and even the notorious Count Dracula, swore allegiance to the King and the Queen. With the symbol of the dragon, they were defending Christianity throughout Europe.
Frederick II of Celje: Son of Herman II of Celje and, next to his father, sister Barbara and son Ulrich II, the most legendary member of the Celje dynasty. During the rapid rise of the Counts of Celje, he was politically exploited by his father. He was married to Elizabeth of Frankopan, herself coming from one of the most influential and wealthiest Croatian families. With this marriage, the Frankopan estates belonged to the Counts of Celje. Frederick II of Celje is kept alive in historical memory through his tragic story with Veronica of Desenice, whom he fell in love with while he was already married. Herman II did not approve of the union and had Veronica drowned and Frederick confined to the tower where he wanted him to starve to death. The father-son relationship became even more contradictory and full of hatred. It is crucial for the history of Celje that Frederick II of Celje and son Ulrich II were at the same time elevated to the status of state princes by Emperor Sigismund. Frederick delegated most of the business and further expansion of the territories to Ulrich. On 11 April 1451 he granted Celje a privilege certificate with city rights.
Ulrich II of Celje: Son of Frederick II of Celje and the very last Count of Celje. Acting in the spirit of his ambitious grandfather Herman II rather than that of his father, Ulrich II had high political goals. He spent a lot of time in Hungary and Bohemia, where he was trained in politics and cosmopolitanism. He became the guardian of the minor king of Hungary – a role that brought him many rivals and new enemies. As the last descendant of the dynasty of Celje, he expanded both their influence and territories, and concluded a hereditary contract of mutual inheritance with the Habsburgs if any of the two families was left without an inheriting descendant. Following a well-planned conspiracy, he was assassinated by his political opponents in 1456 at the Kalemegdan Fortress in Belgrade. This is how the famous dynasty remained without its last male heir. Meanwhile, in the spirit and memory of all subsequent generations of Celje, this dynasty has never died.