(c. 1361–1435)

"May my will be done!"

The late Middle Ages saw the rapid rise of a noble family in Styria. In a century and a half, they became the most ambitious and sagacious noble dynasty in the territory of present-day Slovenia, creating a formidable reputation throughout Central Europe. The family of the barons (Freiherr) of Žovnek (Sanneck), as of 1341 the Counts of Celje, demonstrated a healthy ambition in business, military, and political affairs in all their movies and decisions. The apex of their rise is embodied in Herman II of Celje. He was a man with a vision: to be elevated to the title of the Prince of the Holy Roman Empire (or Imperial Prince, Reichsfürst) and merge the Celje estates into an independent land. In the social hierarchy of the day, it meant being second only to the King.

Herman II of Celje was born as the son of the Count of Celje Herman I and Katarina, daughter of Stjepan II Kotromanić, Ban of Bosnia. After the death of his father 1385 and his cousin Viljem in 1392, Herman II was alone in charge of the Celje dynasty. He shrewdly turned to his advantage the disagreements within the House of Habsburg and the struggle for power between the leading Central European dynasties, Luxemburg and Habsburg. He beefed up the political and economic power of the Celje House in Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, especially after inheriting the estates of the extinct Ortenburg dynasty (1420).  Moreover, he reached beyond the borders of the Holy Roman Empire, acquiring the vast estates in Zagorje (Seger) and Slavonia and the title of the Counts of Zagorje. He also formed a strong bond between the Celje dynasty and the later-to-be Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxemburg.

Herman benefited greatly from the connection to the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxemburg. In addition to the estates, he was given influential titles in Croatia. As a Hungarian nobleman, he became a member of the immediate council of the Hungarian King – the monarchical chivalric Order of the Dragon.

The rising power of the Celje House was reflected in dynastic connections that integrated it into the European political elite. In 1402, Hermann II gave away Ana of Celje, daughter of his cousin Viljem, to marry the Polish King Władysław II Jagiełło. Around 1405, his daughter Ana married Nicholas II Garay (Garai Miklós II), the Palatine of Hungary; and his youngest daughter Barbara married the Hungarian King Sigismund of Luxemburg.

Looking to further elevate the House of Celje, he weaved close connections with Bosnia in 1427. Bosnian King Tvrtko II promised the Counts of Celje to make them heirs presumptive in case he died without a male heir. Opposition to such deal by the Bosnian nobility, however, prevented him from acting on the promise. His efforts to elevate the Counts of Celje to the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, however, were quite successful. To reach such rank, they would have to free themselves from the Habsburg vassalage. Herman II spared no expense in the matter. In 1423, Ernest the Iron, in exchange for a hefty consideration in the form of estates, relinquished the Habsburg's feudal superiority over the Counts of Celje. The Counts of Celje speedily advanced to Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. Sadly, the first attempt for the title to be bestowed upon them in 1430 was prevented by the Habsburg dynasty and Herman II of Celje would never rise to princedom. He died on October 13, 1435. His son Friderik II and grandson Ulrik II, however, did see the day. A year later, on November 30, 1436, they were elevated to Princes of the Holy Roman Empire. At the same time, the Principality of Celje was founded.

Notable Celje natives in Europe:

Notable Europeans in Celje: