Rebok—the Counterfeit Voldemar, Elector of Brandenburg

Voldemar II., Marquis and Elector of Brandenburg, actuated by a fit of devotion, set out from his dominions in 1322 on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, leaving his brother John IV. to rule in his absence. He left no clue as to his intended route; but simply announcing his purpose of visiting the sacred shrines of Palestine, started on his journey accompanied by only two esquires. Four-and-twenty days after his departure his brother John sickened and died—not without suspicions of foul play—and Louis of Bavaria, then possessing the empire, presented the electorate to his own eldest son as a vacant fief of Germany. The change was quietly effected; but in 1345 a man suddenly appeared as from the dead, proclaiming himself the missing Voldemar, and demanding the restoration of his rights. He was of about the same age as the elector would have been, and the story which he told of captivity among the Saracens was sufficient to account for any perceptible change in his gait and appearance, and in the colour of his hair. Those who were interested in opposing his claim stoutly asserted that he was a miller of Landreslaw, called Rebok, and that he was a creature of the Duke of Saxony, who coveted the Brandenburgian possessions, and who, being a relative of the family, had thoroughly instructed him as to the private life of Voldemar. His plausibility, and the accuracy of his answers, however, led many persons of influence to believe that he was no counterfeit. The Emperor Charles IV. (of Bohemia), the Primate of Germany, the Princes of Anhalt, and the Dukes of Brunswick, Pomerania, Mecklenburg, and Saxony, all supported his pretensions; the most of the nobility of the marquisate acknowledged him to be their prince; and the common people, either touched with the hardships he was said to have suffered, or wearied of Bavarian rule, lent him money to acquire his rights and drive out Louis. All the cities declared for him except Frankfort-on-the-Oder, Spandau, and Brisac, and war was at once begun. The victory at first rested with the so-called Voldemar; many of the towns opened their gates to him; and his rival Louis fled to his estates in the Tyrol, leaving the electorate to his two brothers—a disposition which was confirmed by the Emperor Charles IV. in 1350. There are two versions of the death of Voldemar. Lunclavius asserts that he was finally captured and burnt alive for his imposture; while De Rocoles maintains that he died at Dessau in 1354, nine years after his return, and was buried in the tombs of the Princes of Anhalt. The general impression, however, is that he was an impostor.