Gotz Or Gottfried Von Rerlichingen, one of the last of the feudal knights of Germany, born at Jaxthausen, in Wfirtemberg, in 1480, died July 23, 1562. He was educated under the charge of his uncle Konrad, a knight of the old feudal type, under whose guidance he attained remarkable skill in all warlike exercises, His first military experience was gained in the service of the elector Frederick of Brandenburg; but on the breaking out of the war of succession between Rupert of the Palatinate and Albert of Bavaria, he espoused the cause of the latter, and distinguished himself by reckless bravery in the campaigns which followed. At the siege of Landshut he lost his right hand. It was replaced by one of iron, still shown in the castle where he was born; and thus he acquired the name of Gotz with the Iron Hand. After the war he spent much of his time in feuds with his neighbors and petty conflicts, often capturing and plundering merchants, but accompanying his exploits with many exhibitions of chivalrous generosity. In 1519 he assisted Duke Ulrich of Wfirtemberg against his Swa-bian enemies, and defended Mockmfihl against an overwhelming force, surrendering on condition of his being allowed to withdraw without molestation.
This agreement was treacherously broken, and the knight was kept for three years and a half a captive at Heilbronn, only obtaining his release by the payment of a large ransom. In the peasants' war he took a prominent part as a leader of the people, whose excesses, however, he controlled. At the close of this he was again treacherously captured and obliged to swear that he would appear when summoned before the leaders of the Swabian confederation. He kept his oath, and was sentenced by them, after a two years' imprisonment, to give bonds and an oath that he would keep the following conditions: he must take up his residence in the castle of Hornberg, and promise not to spend a single night away from it; even in the day he must not pass certain designated boundaries; he must not mount a horse; he must not himself take revenge on any one of those now sentencing him, nor must he employ any of his friends to do so. If he violated these conditions, he must pay 25,000 florins. He must also pay an indemnity for the damage he had done the cities of Mentz and Wiirzburg. Von Berlichingen kept this agreement for 11 years, and was at last released from it after the breaking up of the Swabian confederacy. In 1541 he fought under Charles V. against the Turks, at the head of a band of picked men.
In 1544 he took part in the campaign against Francis I., and penetrated into France as far as Chateau-Thierry. After the declaration of peace he retired again to his castle, Hornberg, and there lived quietly until his death. He was buried in the cloister of Schonthal, where his monument is still shown. He wrote the history of his own life, which was first published at Nuremberg in 1731, and gives an admirable description of the life of his time. Goethe made him the subject of the first of his dramas.