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From Merkelbeek to Märckelbach:
A Social History with Deep Roots

Last revision: November 7, 2011
Chapter 6.  The Legend of Emma's Rode   

There is a wonderful legend that connects the first Huyn van Amstenrode to the court of Charlemagne (768-814). Here it is, as translated from the Internet, but previously published in: Pierre Kemp, Limburgs Sagenboek, Gebrs van Aelst, Maastricht, 1925.   3

Tudon, King of the Huns, a Saxon tribe, came with a large entourage to Aachen to have himself baptized. Charlemagne received the foreign sovereign, who had recently subjected himself, with much pomp and great festivity.*   4

Among Tudon's nobles was a strong and good-looking young man, who had delivered Aachen's environs from a dragon. Emperor Charles liked him very much. He retained the young man at his court, where he became known under the name "the Huyn."   5

Meanwhile, the daughter of the Emperor, Emma, had eloped with Eginhard, his private secretary. The two lovers hid themselves in the forests between Aachen and the Meuse river. There they cleared land to support themselves, and built a cottage.   6

Because the loss of his daughter caused the emperor much sorrow he went hunting frequently. During one of those hunting parties, the young Huyn discovered Emma and Eginhard's hideout. The Emperor reconciled with them soon after.   7

As token of his gratitude, Emperor Charles gave the Huyn his daughter's abode. He also had built there a castle which he named Emma's rode to commemorate the gift forever. The name then changed to Amstenrode and subsequently to Amstenrade.   8

The counts Huyn of Amstenrade blossomed till the close of the seventeenth century. When the last member of the family died, two white swans flew up from the castle to Amstenrade's pond. The next morning the pond had dried out and it has remained dry ever since.   9

Legendary as the story is, there are elements clearly in accord with historical record and the way people thought what was meet and proper at the time. For example, it is on historical record that Charlemagne did not permit his daughters to to contract a sacramental marriage so as to avoid challenges to the principal line of his offspring, the male line that is. Nevertheless, at least one daughter, Bertha, had a recognised relationship with Angilbert, a prominent member of Charlemagne's court circle. As for the name Huyn, one account has it that it derives from the, now-Belgian municipality Hu (Walloon), Huy (Fr.), or Hoei (D.)."* Accordingly, the earliest Huyn probably was the influential bishop Ansfriedus Comes ab Huy (also known as Ansfried von Utrecht, Ansfrid, Anfridus), who was born around 940 and died on May 3, 1010 at Hohorst, a monastry near Leusden. Anfriedus played an important political roll during the reign of Otto I, a man who, as a Roman emperor, considered himself a successor to Charlemagne. There are a number of Dutch sources about Ansfriedus von Huy, among which a Vita from the 11th century.   10

It is also possible that the name Huyn (and its variants like Huynen, Hoen and Hondt) derive from the Roman and Germanic military rank of honderdsman (L. centurion).* The first Merckelbach's father took the name Huyn, Servaes ("Vaes") Huyn van Amstenrade. Whether or not he was related in some way to an older Huyn, I do not know. What we do have is records of his descendants known by that name, see Roots and onwards. There we see the name Huyn associated with Amstenrade and some early Merckelbachs as well as just by itself. Wikipedia contains articles about the Huyn and the Huyn van Amstenrade families, in German and Dutch, respectively. Mention in a document from 1268 of a Willem Huyn, son of Gerardus de Houn (the Houn) strengthens our belief that Huyn does indeed mean hondersman.   11

From 1350, members of the Huyn family lived in a reinforced tower in the village Amstenrade. They gradually expanded it into comfortable living quarters. Religious strife during the 15th and 16th centuries caused the Huyn family to withdraw to the area around Metz in France. During the 17th century, a branch of the family moved to Hungary and received nobility status as it later did in Austria as well. Evidently, already in the 14th century was there an extensive branch of the family in Lorraine.*   12

The 16th and 17th centuries are the most important period of the Huyn family in The Netherlands. During this period, they acquired the "Herrschaften" Amstenrade and Geleen. In 1557, the family had acquired in fief the region Amstenraedt, Brunssum, Jabeek, Bingelrade and Merkelbeek. Geleen und Spaubeek were added in 1654 to form the "Grafshaft" Amstenraet-Geleen. As we already have seen, Merkelbeek went to Vaes Huyn von Amstenrade's son Reynart in 1574. For more about the Huyn family (in German), click here.   13

One cannot help but have his curiosity aroused with the name Huyn and the dragon that makes the crest of Huyn van Amstenrade's coat of arms and of those of other Merckelbachs as well. In some cases the crest is a swan. Rudolf Merckelbach's De afstammelingen van Gregorius (Goris) Mer(c)kelbach informs us that, according to the Central Office of Genealogy in The Hague, it is not logical to feature a swan as crest because of a convention that the dominant pictorial element of crest and shield should be similar. A snake would have been more in line with the double-serpent-cross that is the mark of the Huyns and Merckelbachs. A dragon might be perceived as a combination of a serpent and wings. It is a mythical creature typically depicted as a gigantic and powerful serpent or other reptile with magical or spiritual qualities.*   15

The double-serpent-cross is recognized in heraldry as an old Germanic symbol for cunning. Ah, cunnung! What is another, even more prominent embodiment of cunning? The fox, of course, Reinart the Fox! And, indeed, we find in Rudolf Merckelbach's book a shield crested with a winged fox, the shield itself showing the claw of a bear grasping a bloody heart. All of which indicates that it was part of the early Merckelbachs' mindset that cunning can more than make up for power. "Wie niet sterk is moet slim zijn," as the Dutch saying goes, "He who is not strong should be cunning." The double-serpent-cross is the brainy response to that symbol for brawn, the lion.   17

Principal literature of which original copies consulted:
    Charles Cawley,
Medieval Lands, v.2.1 (Backup Nov. 1, 2011) use local hyperlinks
    Max Dechamps, Der Ursprung des Geschlechtes Merckelbach (Manuscript, date?) Tableaux VIIIf, VIIIg
    Ger de Vries, Stamboom I.M.D. de Vries (Backup Nov. 1, 2011) use local hyperlinks
    Peter Kreutzwald, Ahnenforschung Kreutzwald: Stammbaum des Leonard (von) Merckelbach (Backup Nov. 19, 2011)
    R.G.F.M. Merkelbach, De afstammelingen van Gregorius (Goris) Mer(c)kelbach, 1645–1995 (350 jaar familiegeschiedenis (Selfpublished, Dec. 1995) 3,4
    James C. Russell, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity (Oxford University Press, 1994) 114, 115.
    S. Starostin, Search for data in: Germanic etymology© (Backup Nov. 25, 2011).  28

Temper of the times  18

1500. On February 24, Werner Huyn van Amstenrade (Amstenrath, Anstenroed, Anstenroid), apparently at a relatively young age, succeeded his uncle Nicolaas Huyn van Amstenrade, who was canon of St. Mary's in Achen from 1472 to 1500. His family originated from Luxembourg and owned estates in Dutch Limburg. Werner atriculated in the faculty of arts of the University of Köln on April 21, 1506 and was studying there in 1507 (Source.). On 25 January 1517 he was appointed vice-provost at St. Mary's. In this function he was also in charge of the provost's Lehnkammer (or Mannkammer). There is considerable evidence of his management for the period 1521-33. In 1525 Huyn and his fellow canon Leonardus Pricardus went to the court of John III, duke of Cleves, to seek his intervention on behalf of St. Mary's in a litigation with the city council of Aachen. Werner Huyn died early in 1534. Huyn was a member of the circle of Erasmians in Aachen who gathered around Pricardus. He mey Erasmus, probably for the first time, while the latter was visiting Aachen in September 1518. Erasmus attended a meal at his house and afterwards made ambiguous remarks about the hospitality of the Aachen canons in a letter that soon attained wide circulation, but later he praised the civility of the youthful vice-provost. (Source.)   18A

1614 - 1641. Agnes Maria Huyn, "the Holy Agnes." She was a daughter of Werner Huyn (1550-1621), lord of Amstenrade and Liffart of Lerodt or Leerode. Werner was a counsellor at the court of Jürich, a fieldmarshal, and amtsmann of Brüggen, and belonged to the Rivieren branch of the Huyn family, distinct from the Geleen branch. Agnes entered convent at age 12. She became paralyzed a year later but recovered miraculously upon promising the Holy Virgin to undertake a pilgrimage. She performed many a miracle and became the object of veneration. (Source.)   18C

1615. Godfried Huyn van Geleen (ca. 1598 - 1657) began a military career. In 1623 he joined the Deutschen Orden (Teutonic Knights). From 1638 until 1657, he was commander of the land commandership Alden-Biesen which was originally founded by the order. Because of his role during the 30-year war (1632-1634), he attained the rank of general-fieldmarshal. He was made a count by the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, and henceforth referred to as Godefridus Comes ab Huyn. (Some references: Godfried, Teutonic Order, Alden-Biesen, Ferdinand III.)   18E

1669. The last male scion of the Dutch branch of Huyns, Arnold Wolfgang Huyn van Amstenraedt en Geleen, passes away. His daughter, Godfredia Maria Anna Agnes Ignatia, died two years earlier. The family estate went into the hands of her husband's family, the princes Salm-Kirburg.   18F

2011. Died on January 22, 2011: Hans Count Huyn, born in 1930 in Warschau, Poland. He was a German diplomat, politician, publicist, and a connaisseur of South Tirolean wines. (Source.)   18G


The members of the English House of Tudor derived their name from Tudon. [Whether this is the above-mentioned King Tudon is to me still an open question. HvE].  *   fn1

J.L.M.P.T. Merckelbach-Hovens, "Het Wittemse patriciersgeslacht Merckelbach." Limburgs Tijdschrift voor Genealogie, No. 32 (2004), p.45.  *   fn2

In the Middle Ages, Huy was one of the most prosperous cities on the Meuse. It had a flourishing economy based mostly on metallurgy, but also on tanning, sculpting, woodworking, and winemaking. In the tenth century, Huy was promoted to county status, but soon feudal authority went to the Bishop of Liège who thereby himself became a prince. Thus we speak of the Prince-Bishopry of Liège. Huy became the recipient of the first historically known charter north of the Alps, confirming it as a city in 1066.  *   fn3

Wikipedia.  *   fn4

This paragraph mirrors the information found in Rudolf Merkelbach's book. A careful look at the Merckelbach family crests show that the snakes have ears, in other words, they are, in fact, dragon heads. For more about dragons, click here.  *   fn5

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