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The Diary about Tycho Brahe's Last Days

Conference at the Tycho Brahe Planetarium 15.01.2009

First, let me thank the Tycho Brahe Planetarium for giving me the opportunity to present my theory about the death of Tycho Brahe here in Denmark. It is based on a hitherto unheeded testimony written by an eyewitness: his relative Erik Brahe’s diary. Parts of the theory are already known by several historians who have had some articles for "peer review", as they also say in Danish academic jargon. Several scholars have estimated that “there is conjecture and switches, which you have to have a lively imagination to follow” or that it is “pure speculation in the best tabloid-style, full of postulated hints."
          Ladies and gentlemen, you are hereby warned against my theory, which is indeed based on speculation. In this respect, my model is Doctor Faust, the Scanian’s German counterpart. In the notorious book about Faust, which was published in the middle of Tycho Brahe’s time on Hven, the curious German humanist was hanged as „ein Spekulierer”. It was already at that time an invective that was used on those who do not stick to the orthodox theories. As you know, Faust sold his soul to the devil and had his brain eventually splattered on a pub’s wall. His body ended up on a dunghill. That was the price for his coveting after truth. Today, in this country, we have unlimited freedom of speech. I can therefore hope to have a happier fate than Faust - despite my speculative theory.
          I use harsh words about my homeland, but as the old proverb says: “One chastens the person one loves.”  In order not to appear as a traitor, I would like to give a short quote from my last book about Hven: “Jede kritische Zeile - und deren sind viele – ist aufrichtigem Patriotismus und glühender Liebe zur Wahrheit entsprungen: O Dania, meine ferne Liebe”.  Similarly, this lecture is surrounded by sincere patriotism and passionate love for Dania and the truth.
          Ladies and gentlemen, my speculative theory is complex, almost as complicated as reality, and it requires some background knowledge. I would therefore ask for a half hour’s patience until we open the murderer’s diary.
          Tycho Brahe’s sudden death in Prague has always occupied the minds, and interest has only grown higher, since a few years ago mercury was found in his bodily remains. There is now a broad agreement that he died from mercury poisoning. At the 1901 grave opening, remains of his hair and beard were sampled. They were placed in a box, which was transferred to Denmark from the Czech National Museum after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A so-called atom absorption spectrometric analysis of the beard remains was performed. It turned out that the remains contained 12.5 times more mercury than normal. The study could not determine whether this high dose was spread evenly in the hair. We did not know whether the poison had been ingested at once or gradually.
         The Swedish physicist Jan Pallon made later another kind of analysis. His method was to bombard a hair with proton beams to determine its chemical composition in a more accurate way. In one of the hairs, the follicle was preserved. On the basis of normal hair growth rate (about 0.5 millimetres a day) Pallon was able to determine when the mercury had penetrated into the hair. The Swede’s conclusion was categorical. An unusually high amount of mercury was taken once, and it happened about 13 hours before the time of death. Pallon prepared a chart that showed the mercury content in the last 74 hours of Tycho Brahe’s life. The mercury spike is evident on the left.
         The presence of the deadly metal in Tycho Brahe’s body can only be explained in two ways: either the astronomer was murdered, or he ingested the poison by mistake.
         In recent years, this negligence theory has been the most accepted hypothesis, especially in Denmark. Supporters of this theory assume that Tycho Brahe suffered from some disease that prompted an illness after a dinner with a Bohemian baron, whom we shall come back to. In order to cure himself, Tycho Brahe prepared a quicksilver elixir and happened to dose his own medicine wrong from pure absentmindedness.
         Two Americans have, for their part, defended a murder hypothesis. They explained the presence of mercury in the beard remains with the theory that Tycho Brahe was poisoned in two phases, first during the aforementioned dinner on the 13th October and then on the 23rd at home. The Americans accused the Scanian’s assistant, Johannes Kepler, of havimg murdered his employer. This theory has encountered considerable scepticism.
         Erik Brahe’s diary suggests that neither of the two previous theories is true. Everything suggests that the Swede killed his famous relative and that he did the dirty work on a Danish order.
         Before we get better acquaintance with this crucial witness, I would like to introduce the astronomer.

Tycho Brahe was born in Scania (belonging today to Sweden), and was, at the age of 15, sent to Leipzig together with the later poet Anders Sørensen Vedel who was Court Master. After three years in Saxony, he returned shortly to Denmark and then spent five years in various German cities. Only at the age of 24 did he move in with his uncle Sten Bille near his Scanian birthplace. He had then stayed one third of his life in Germany, was educated in Germany and German was his second language beside Latin. He used Danish as little as possible.
         In Scania, he met a peasant girl named Christine and was with her father of eight children. Their eldest daughter was born the year Tycho Brahe achieved worldwide fame thanks to a little book about a new star. After his second daughter’s birth, he went abroad again to find a patron who could afford and would support his research. He was in Germany for over a year and attended the coronation of Emperor Rudolf II in Regensburg. At the age of 30, he was offered Hven and a wide range of economic privileges by Frederick II. The Danish-born man of the world accepted the offer for down-to-earth financial reasons and not because of selfless patriotism.
         During 21 years, Tycho lived on his isolated estate in the middle of the Sound (Øresund). He made Uraniborg built, which was the most fairy-like structure that has ever been on Danish soil according to several experts. It looks even more fairy-like in Heinrich Hansen's romantic painting.
         During his last years on Hven, Tycho Brahe attempted to complete a colossal 800-pages long book about astronomy. He never succeeded in getting it printed, among other things because he had difficulty to supply enough paper. Although he had built his own paper mill and established his own printing house on the island. He could apparently not count on supplies from Denmark.
         The situation worsened drastically after the coronation of Christian IV, as suddenly a long list of serious accusations was raised against the astronomer. Less than a year after the coronation, the accused sought refuge in Germany where he had always been treated with respect and admiration. He had no problems with paper supply in Hamburg and released shortly after his departure from Denmark a book about his instruments and Hven, or Venusia, as he had begun to call his beloved fief.
         He wrote by the Elbe, in Latin, a moving farewell poem addressed to a woman: “Dania, what have I done you?” In a poetic way, it broke off with his home country which he compared with an ungrateful lover.
         In a painting from the same period, he described his stay in Denmark as a long exile and expressed his joy at regaining freedom. The astronomer was pleased to return to the German Empire, which he regarded as his new self-chosen homeland. He did not die as an exiled Danish expatriate and had in many respects a closer connection to Germany than to Denmark. If we look away from his childhood years and stay at Hven, he spent only a small part of his life in Denmark. He was at least as much a German as a Dane when he died.
         In Prague, he was received with open arms by the superstitious and easily susceptible Emperor. Rudolf II had, for his part, fled from the hectic Vienna to hunt in peace and tranquillity in the Bohemian forests. In the Czech capital, he surrounded himself with astrologers and alchemists and worried not about the empire’s affairs. He is described as a spiritually and physically impaired person who for the most part was on the verge of collapse. From a legal point of view, he was to some extent irresponsible.
         Tycho Brahe came to Prague with his partner Christine and their six adult children. New admiring helpers soon streamed to him, including the young German Johannes Kepler. He was a strong supporter of Copernicus’ theory that the Earth was orbiting the Sun. Tycho Brahe thought, on the other hand, that the Earth was anchored in the navel of space and that the whole universe was contained in a small “nutshell.” It is thus that his system was described by a contemporary Copernican.
         Tycho Brahe was about to put finishing touches to his life’s work when he received an invitation from a local personality. Over dinner, he suddenly became seriously ill, but after a few days with fever, delirium, pain and urinary problems he got briefly a little bit better. In the last night before his death, he could solve a number of affairs.
         The course of this illness was described in that way in the long speech which Jan Jessenius held at the funeral in the Teyn Church. The speech was published in print a few weeks later. Jessenius was a Slovak noble. He was professor of anatomy at Wittenberg and later came to Prague, where he served as the Emperor’s medical adviser. After Tycho Brahe’s death, he was officially appointed imperial physician-in-ordinary. When he gave the speech, he had just become famous after making one of history’s first public autopsies. As a Protestant, he later had problems with Rudolf II’s successor and ended his life on the scaffold.
         In his speech, Jessenius praised the Brahe family and mentioned the late astronomer's Swedish relative Erik Brahe who participated in the funeral. He also praised the Swedish king Gustav Vasa, the Danish king Frederick II, the Scots king James VI and the German Duke Ulrick von Mecklenburg. Jessenius emphasised the last three men’s admiration for the deceased. Only Christian IV was passed over in the funeral oration.
         Finally, Jessenius took the opportunity to do a little publicity for himself and announced that he was about to conclude his anatomy treatise in Wittenberg, when he heard about Tycho Brahe's illness. He instantly went to Prague. He saw a grieving family when he arrived. He was actually not there during the illness.
         He could nonetheless describe the illness, in all probability thanks to statements by the relatives. He put emphasis on the fact that he described the illness in great detail so that no one could vandalise the truth with irrelevant lies. This remark testifies that there were then rumours of murder.
         One of the two elegies printed along with the funeral oration is not without relevance. Kepler compared his teacher with the Phoenix in one of them: “You, great Emperor of kings / can’t you sense this certain hidden feeling in your heart? / Phoenix flew down to us from the unwelcoming north and built his nest on German soil / You wished to see Phoenix at your own court. No other bird was more worth for your empire.” These lines attest genuine admiration. They cannot be an unscrupulous murder’s lines.
         Kepler got possession of the much coveted journal of observation after Tycho Brahe’s death. On the last page, he added a short note which to some extent matches the information in Jessenius’ printed funeral oration. There were, however, a couple of additions. Kepler is more precise compared to Jessenius concerning the fatal dinner. Kepler explained that the famous host was Baron von Rosenberg and that Tycho Brahe visited the baron accompanied by Minckwitz. No one has ever shown interest in the two men even after it was proven that the astronomer died of quicksilver poisoning.
         Baron Peter von Rosenberg belonged to the most powerful noble family in Bohemia. It owned countless palaces and castles during the 16th century. Peter’s elder brother, Wilhelm, used to reside in Krumau on Moldau in southern Bohemia. He had there rebuilt an old medieval fortress into a magnificent Renaissance palace. It became a pilgrimage for Europe’s alchemists. Almost an entire website is dedicated to Wilhelm’s attempt at creating gold.
         In 1592, Peter von Rosenberg took over an empire of palaces and castles but he was less enthused by alchemy than his big brother. In return, he led a life in a whirl of pleasures and quickly attracted huge debts. In five years’ time, he had to sell no less than eight palaces and a couple of silver mines and on the day of Tycho Brahe’s death, the 24th October 1601, he sold three additional palaces to the Emperor, including Krumau, the second largest construction in the Czech Republic after the royal castle Hradschin in Prague. Subsequently the baron’s economic situation seems to have improved. He soon moved into a smaller Renaissance palace in Wittingau. He built one of Central Europe’s largest libraries there.
         While the Rosenberg family has gone extinct in 1611 with Peter von Rosenberg, the Minckwitz family lives still on. Today, it counts 104 members and owns a beautiful website. It originates in Saxony and had earlier some connections with Denmark.
         Ehrenfried was roughly the same age as Peter von Rosenberg and Tycho Brahe and belonged to the so-called Caspar Line. Ehrenfried’s big brother, Caspar III, was imperial diplomat and participated in talks in Szczecin between the two warring nations Denmark and Sweden. It is in particular thanks to him that a ceasefire came into being after several months of tough negotiations. Shortly before his death, Caspar III was ennobled to Freiherr, i.e. Baron. Ehrenfried got the same promotion. Caspar III was buried in the same church as Tycho Brahe.
         Ehrenfried followed in his big brother's footsteps as a diplomat. It is known that he was sent out by the Emperor in important affairs „die ganze Christenheit betreffenden”, i.e. concernant the whole Christianity. Thanks to his work, the repayment of his debts was postponed. Yet, in 1596, shortly before Tycho Brahe's departure from Denmark, he was forced to sell a house in Prague. It was just behind the Teyn Church. In 1598, shortly after the hasty departure, Ehrenfried was sent to the young Danish king. No more is known about this mission, but there was perhaps talk of extradition of a Danish asylum applicant in Hamburg.
         With his note in the observation journal, Kepler made posterity aware of these two persons who Jessenius had not quoted in the funeral oration. Due to the professor’s warning against vicious rumours, the young astronomer could not accuse anyone in public. Moreover, he would not have thwarted his promising career. Even before the funeral, he had been appointed as Tycho Brahe’s successor as the imperial mathematician to the court. He was simply content with a discreet note, but nonetheless contributed to the investigation into one of world history’s most ingenious crimes.
         Many years later, Kepler dedicated one of his books to his late role model. In the dedication to the astronomers’ Phoenix, he returned to the tragic moment and praised “the Swede Erik Brahe, count of Visingsborg, the Polish king’s adviser, in whose arms the noble man exhaled while he looked at me.”
         The time of Tycho Brahe’s death is known thanks to a young doctor who noted in a book that the astronomer died between 9 and 10 o’clock in the morning. Death time is confirmed in the diary. The doctor added that a kidney stone had caused a bladder burst.  Milan Kundera made this theory a myth, when he declared Tycho Brahe to the world’s most ridiculous immortal.
         But who was that person who held Tycho Brahe in his arm at 9 o’clock on the 24th October 1601?
Erik Brahe belonged to the Swedish branch which had split from the Danish stock of the Brahe family in the 14th century. He had the same great-great-great-great-grandfather as his Scanian relative and the two surely met one another for the first time in Prague.
         The two relatives had a striking resemblance as Erik Brahe had a beautiful palace on a small island which reminds of Hven. Visingsborg stood once in Visingsö in the middle of Vättern. The palace is better preserved than Uraniborg.
         As a young man, Erik Brahe entered King John III’s service. This Swedish king was one of Gustav Vasa’s sons. John III had married with a Polish princess and used Erik Brahe as a diplomat to have his son elected king of Poland. The count resided for six years at the Polish Vasa Court and converted then to the Roman Catholic Church. When John III died, Sigismund was crowned king of Sweden and Erik Brahe followed him back to Sweden as adviser to Sigismund. He was appointed governor of Stockholm when the Swedish-Polish king returned to his wife in Poland.
         Sigismund had a Protestant uncle, Duke Charles. He was on bad terms with his Catholic nephew and removed Erik Brahe from his governorship. The count then returned to Visingsborg for a few years. In 1597, when Tycho Brahe left Denmark, Duke Charles started a revolt in Sweden against his absent nephew. This forced Erik Brahe to retreat in Poland through Norway and Denmark.
         The count returned already the next year with Sigismund who tried to retake his lost kingdom with military force. The king suffered a decisive defeat in Stångebro near Linköping and his Swedish allies were taken prisoners. He had to flee to Poland and was removed from the Swedish throne. As Duke Charles was first crowned king five years later Sweden was without a king when Tycho Brahe died.
         Erik Brahe did not participate in person to the battle in Stångebro and managed to change sides in the right time. Duke Charles did not value the Catholic count’s immoral habits. Erik Brahe had indeed visits by many mistresses in Visingsborg and one of them even gave birth to an illegitimate son on the island. Duke Charles accused the excessive count once of lechery and tried to confiscate Visingsborg.
         However, the Duke needed Erik Brahe after Stångebro, since Kalmar was still in the hands of one of Sigismund’s faithful supporters, Johan Sparre. He was married with one of Erik Brahe’s sisters. During the lengthy siege of Kalmar (30/11/1598 — 02/03/1599), Erik Brahe negotiated in the duke’s name with his brother-in-law who let himself be convinced of surrendering. Duke Charles did not keep his promise of safe passage. Instead, he let Johan Sparre be decapitated and placed his head on a spike in front of Kalmar. His widow did later receive his cranium.
         Erik Brahe followed the blood-thirsty duke to Linköping where Johan Sparre’s big brother, Erik Sparre, was accused of treason. The accused was married to one of Erik Brahe’s other sisters, Ebba. Their son Gustaf Sparre should later be married to one of Tycho Brahe’s daughters.
         During the trial against King Sigismund’s allies, Erik Brahe was Chief magistrate. It was he who signed under the death penalties which would cost the life of Erik Sparre and a large number of Swedes. The executions are discussed in history books as the “Linköping Bloodbath” (20/03/1600). Thus Erik Brahe was partly responsible for the executions of two of his brother-in-laws.
         These tragic events are mentioned and commented in the diary. It was begun in 1593 in Poland and continued till 1607. It covers therefore the stay in Prague. The diary is written in Latin with a few comments in Swedish, German and French. The use of French is limited to the charmer’s love affairs. Scrupulously, he noted his mistress's visits and wrote, for example, “Lull arrive”. Erik Brahe was in Visingsborg with his mistress “m’amie Anneka” when Kalmar Castle was taken. When his brother-in-law Johan Sparre was decapitated, he wrote in Swedish: “Johan Sparre shamefully killed”. Erik Brahe felt betrayed by the Swedish duke.
         He was a bonvivant and the diary gives a pleasant picture of his being. Notes in the diary point that the poor man suffered from chronic monetary problems. His wasteful and immoral manners make him the spitting image of Baron von Rosenberg and Tycho Brahe. The three aristocrats owed huge sums of money left, right and centre and had a history of conflicts with the powers-that-be, i.e. Duke Charles, Emperor Rudolf and King Christian.
         Since the diary could fall into the wrong hands, Erik Brahe had devised a secret code-writing. This code-alphabet was first deciphered during World War One. Since that, no one has shown interest in the diary. We will only have a look at the two years before Tycho Brahe’s death.
         In the beginning of year 1600, Erik Brahe was in Linköping as Chief magistrate as we mentioned above. He had a visit from his grieving sister Ebba whose husband sat and awaited his death penalty. A week’s time before the executions, Erik Brahe complained during Duke Charles’ election as king of Sweden. He described the election as barbarian and peasant-like. He could not do anything to save his former comrades-in-arms and the day before the bloodbath, he was even sent to the condemned by the cynical duke. It is written with standard letters. The count used, on the other hand, his code-alphabet to express compassion for the executed on the next day. After the Linköping bloodbath, he hurried back to his mistress in the peaceful Visingsborg.
         He tried to forget these tragic events in Visingsborg by hunting (26/03/1600). Perhaps, he called one of the slaughtered hares Charles. He wrote a few weeks later (14/04/1600) about a nightmare but all was delights in Visingsborg. The 25th of May, the castle was even host for the wedding of castle's cook. It seems that Erik Brahe enjoyed life for a few months. He wrote letters to his family and met the queen in Stockholm. Nothing special happened; he did not have any bad dreams, no worries, and no pangs of conscience.
         In late August, the count received a letter from his mistress Anna Kern. She was the daughter of the apothecary who, according to rumour, concocted poison for Erik XIV, John III and Duke Charles’ big brother. Old research has proven that he Swedish king was poisoned with arsenic. It is the most common and safest way to murder people.
         Erik Brahe received at the same time a letter from a person who he calls “Hans Holst”. Since he once refers him as prince of Holstein, the latter of the two D’s in this first mention must stand for Dux, i.e. Duke. One could believe that it would be easy to identify this Duke Hans or John of Holstein, but it is not.
         I first thought about Hans the Younger, Christian IV’s paternal uncle [correct guess, see post-scriptum]. He built the Glücksburg castle and became the ancestor of the Glücksburgs who took over the Danish throne in 1863. The problem is that Glücksburg is in Schleswig and that Rudolf the Younger was duke of Sønderborg and Plön.  He had but a few holdings further south. Moreover, he did not involve in politics on a larger scale but instead spend his time breeding children to the delight of Denmark’s present royalists.
         I subsequently considered whether Hans Holst could be Johan Adolf, Christian IV’s brother-in-law. Johan Adolf had the day before Christian IV’s coronation married the king’s little sister Augusta. He was duke of the Gottorpian parts of the Schleswig and Holstein duchies and had a close relationship with King Christian. He lived for some time in the Gottorp Castle which is in Schleswig. It was certainly not him who sent a letter to Erik Brahe after the Linköping bloodbath.
         The third candidate was Christian IV’s little brother, Prince Hans. He had then turned 17 and never managed to be portrayed. Let’s have a closer look on his short life.
         He left Denmark at the age of 14 to study at an excellent French university. He travelled afterwards across Europe, including to Dithmarschen (Northern Germany) and in Norway. According to the diary, he met Erik Brahe for the first time near Göteborg [in fact his cousin Hans Adolf, Hans the Younger's son]. A few months later, they met again in Danzig (Gdańsk), a free hanseatic town under partial Polish control. In Bohemia, they met both in and around Prague. Eight weeks before Tycho Brahe’s death, Prince Hans left his travelling companion and was declared of age a few days after the death by his big brother, i.e. he could bear arms. A courtship was engaged with the Tsar’s daughter and Hans thereafter took part in the bloody siege of Oostende in present Belgium.
         Then, Christian IV called his little brother back to Denmark where they made a pact. The prince would renounce his part of Schleswig and Holstein for 60,000 thalers (rigsdaler). This single amount, which should cover the cost of the Russian honeymoon, exceeded the price of 21 years of astronomical research on Hven by large. Tycho Brahe’s little brother Axel was one of the many participants of the journey. Shortly after this brother’s departure from Hven, he sailed to the small island as a member of the royal investigation committee. He was adviser to the king and is numbered as one of Christian IV’s most faithful advisers.
         Prince Hans did not get the opportunity to meet his bride straightaway at his arrival in Moscow and suddenly became sick in the middle of October, a hazardous season. He died after a couple of week’s illness. His body was later taken to Roskilde Cathedral.
         Let’s get back to Visingsborg. After Duke Hans’ letter, Erik Brahe hastily left his island and never saw his beautiful castle again. A couple of weeks later, he met with Duke Hans in Kungälv by the Danish-Swedish border [in fact Hans the Younger's son Hans Adolf]. After the meeting, he journeyed on through Halland and Scania and sailed across the Sound to Helsingør. Three days later, he arrived in Køge, stayed overnight in a royal estate and reached the harbour of Gedser after two weeks in Denmark.
         He sailed from the island of Falster to Szczecin and spent around a month’s time in Pomerania apparently without worries. He hunted in the surrounding areas twice in November. He arrived in Danzig first on the 12th December. After his treason during the Swedish civil war, he wasn’t keen on meeting King Sigismund.
         On the 11th February 1601, he left the free hanseatic town nonetheless and went south. He intensified his writing on the way and sent letters to Duke Hans and an unidentified Dr. Staller [in fact a Swedish jesuit]. On hhe 25th February, he noted that he had “heartaches”.
         Erik Brahe did not reach the Polish capital. He interrupted his journey in Thorn (Toruń) on the 12th March and was back in Danzig on the 23rd. A week later, he received a fateful letter from Warsaw. It was sent by Dr. Staller to a certain Magnus, perhaps Erik Brahe’s little brother in Sweden [in fact some Scandinavian monk in Danzig]. Staller confirmed that Erik Brahe had lost King Sigismund’s favours.
         Erik Brahe switched to the Gregorian calendar after the reception of this crucial letter and continued with this Catholic time reckoning. He stayed in Danzig for a short month but slept poorly on the 9th April. On the 27th April, he prayed to Jesus for pity and left Danzig the next day. There was then less than half a year before Tycho Brahe’s death.
         The journey to Prague went along the Baltic coast and then through Silesia, as far as possible from the Polish king. Erik Brahe arrived in Prague on the 14th of May and stayed in Bohemia until the end of that year. The first part of the diary stops on the 15th of December, a few weeks after Tycho Brahe’s death. Erik Brahe returned thereafter to Danzig and started a second part in January 1602. He managed to reconcile with the Polish king as in May he was in Warsaw and received 100 guilders from King Sigismund on the 2nd July. The Swedish count spent the last 12 years of his life in Danzig in peace and quiet.
         After his arrival in Prague, Erik Brahe started to have remorse. He wrote “mea culpa” twice and prayed for absolution. On the 23rd of May, he wrote to Duke Hans and on the 1st of July, he changed his address. He mentioned on the same day a letter from the Emperor to Duke Hans. Three days later, he, again, prayed for absolution, this time with a “mea maxima culpa”, my great sin.
         He had a conversation on the 15th of July with Johann Ducker, one of the Emperor’s advisers. They knew each other since Ducker was imperial ambassador in Poland.
         Two days after this meeting with Ducker, Erik Brahe left Prague for a sanatorium in Teplitz, north of Prague. He returned to the capital first three weeks later (07/07). During his treatment, he met several people, including Duke Hans. They even took a bath together. Perhaps did they discuss astronomy?
         A few weeks later, Tycho Brahe’s name appears for the first time in the diary. It happened the day after Duke Hans had spoken with the Emperor. Erik Brahe stayed at home and had a blood-letting. The duke was on the next day once more in the royal palace and met Tycho Brahe as he brought with him a greeting from the Swedish count. There is a large black cross in the diary besides this important event. Duke Hans was at Court on the 15th of July for the third time and met with Tycho Brahe again.
         Following Duke Hans’ three conversations with the Emperor, Erik Brahe took for the first time to the Court and received a visit from Tycho Brahe on the very same day. Subsequently, he was very displeased with the duke for two days and returned on his own to the Court, followed by Duke Hans.
         During the last week of July, Erik Brahe had terrible qualms of consciousness and prayed to both St. James and St. Anne. After four days of desperate prayer, he dined at Tycho Brahe’s and was at the Court on the same day. There were then less than three months until the astronomer’s death.
         On the 1st August, Duke Hans made some pact with the Emperor. In a mysterious sentence, Erik Brahe prayed to the Holy Mother for chains as only chains could save him from them. He moved six days later and designated himself a sinner. On the 17th August, he met the Emperor and two days later Duke Hans left.
         On the 30th August, Erik Brahe travelled for his part to Olmütz (Olomouc) in the eastern part of the present Czech Republic. He visited there the Jesuits and wrote to a cardinal (08/09).
         After nearly two weeks of absence, he was back in Prague on 12th September. In the ensuing time Johann Ducker, the imperial emissary, visited Erik Brahe a few times. After the last visit, the Swedish count had a new attack of guilty conscience and moved again. He sent notes (schedulae) to Ducker and Charles von Liechtenstein, chairman of the imperial advisory council. During September, the Swede also met with Johann Barvitius, another of the Emperor’s advisers. It was he who two years earlier had taken against Tycho Brahe at his arrival in Prague.
         On 29th September, Erik Brahe confessed his great trespass and washed his head as a sign of absolution. The following day, he was dining with his famous relative, who now had less than a month left to live.
         On the 1st October, Johann Ducker brought Erik Brahe 350 guilders, a reasonably large amount. Three days later, the Swede met again Barvitius, and on 6th October, he was interviewed by Barvitius’ superior, Charles von Liechtenstein.
         On 9th October, Erik Brahe changed address for the fourth time, and received two days later Ehrenfried von Minckwitz and Tycho Brahe to dinner. Minckwitz is mentioned here for the first time in the diary. Only two days later, the imperial adviser and the imperial Court mathematician went together to the fateful dinner at Baron von Rosenberg’s. According to the diary, Erik Brahe did not participate in dinner himself. Kepler did not mention his name in the observation journal. According to Jessenius, there were nonetheless other guests present at the dinner where Tycho Brahe became ill. On 13th October, which was a Saturday, Erik Brahe noted, without further explanation, that he had been strong until then, but he have not had force to do some unknown thing.
         On the following Tuesday, Erik Brahe went to the Emperor and presented himself as a secretary. By writing this word with code letters, he points out that he had a secret. A secretary is a person with secrets.
         The following days were Erik Brahe apparently awaited his bedridden relative’s death. He was spending time with a “female”. It was then long ago, he had seen Anna Kern.
         When there were no words about a death after a week, he called upon Tycho Brahe and was invited to dinner. On the 20th October he wrote for the first time the astronomer’s name in code. Besides the following three days, he used the same repetition sign in the same fashion as when he received the unpleasant letter about his disgrace in King Sigismund’s favour (29/03/1601). Erik Brahe was indeed visiting Tycho Brahe every day until the 23rd October, the day on which the astronomer was poisoned according to Pallon’s hair analysis.
         On 24th October, Erik Brahe did not content himself with writing the time of death as 9 o’clock in the morning. He wrote also some signs, which I first interpreted as to M’s, but the American Tycho Brahe expert John Robert Christianson made me aware that these signs indicate in fact the beginning of the Scorpion.
         Three days after the death, Erik Brahe wrote that he left the widow. He had been on visit for a whole week.
         A week later, the Swedish count was at the funeral. We know thanks to another contemporary account that he and Minckwitz went right after the coffin with the deceased’s son betwixt them; a macabre march.
         A week’s time after the funeral, Erik Brahe met Minckwitz again. One can notice that the count really misses his Swedish mistress thanks to a note written in French.
         Two days after the visit at Minckwitz’, an unusual meeting took place at Christine’s. She had invited Erik Brahe, Minckwitz and the Baron von Rosenberg to dinner simultaneously. It is the first and only time the baron is mentioned in the diary.
         A couple of weeks later, Erik Brahe was again visiting Minckwitz and two days after the visit, the host brought bad news. The count’s diplomatic mission in Prague had apparently come to an end as some days later the first of the diary ends.

After this objective presentation of the undeniable facts, I will allow myself to present my speculative theory:

After the bloodbath in Linköping, a decision was made in Copenhagen to use Erik Brahe to murder one of the world’s most famous persons in Prague. The Swede was chosen because he was an accomplice of the executions of two of his relatives and because he, as a relative of the astronomer, could have easier access to the victim’s lodgings than a complete stranger.
         It was the king who personally wished to part from his stubborn rival. The murder should happen in a discreet manner as Europe was on the verge of the worst war of its history. Had a Protestant assassin murdered the world famous astronomer in broad daylight in the middle of the Catholic capital, the Thirty Years War would have begun 17 years earlier. Such a feat could have had the same consequences as the murder of the Archduke in Sarajevo in 1914.
         As it was not possible to use arsenic as in Sweden, mercury was chosen instead. It has a slower effect. The poison was tested on a provoking professor who in all his books wrote that truth begets hate. According to an apprentice, the professor was hit by a dangerous catarrh in the end of May, i.e. two months after the Swedish bloodbath. He died two weeks later at an age of 47. According to a later account of an eye-witness, he had begun experimenting with chemistry which had a devastating effect on his health. He was buried in The Church of Our Lady in Copenhagen but his body does not exist any more.
         In order to contact Erik Brahe, the young king asked his even younger little brother [in fact his uncle] to write a letter. In the letter, Duke Hans warned the Swedish count against Duke Charles and offered him safe passage through Denmark but did not write anything about the murder plans. Duke Hans [in fact Hans Adolf] received the Swede at the border.
         Erik Brahe travelled relieved to Danzig which was outside King Sigismund’s reach, but shortly after his departure from the harbour of Gedser, Christian IV sent two of his diplomats to the Polish court. One was royal adviser Henrik Lykke, the other the royal historiographer Niels Krag, the deceased professor’s big brother. The two diplomats were in Poland from December 1600 to April 1601 and stayed at the Polish court when Erik Brahe received the letter about the royal disfavour. The goal of their mission was to have the exiled count believe that he now had fallen into disfavour with the Polish king.
         Here, Duke Hans is again concerned. Since the meeting near Göteborg he had been in contact with Erik Brahe and was now in Danzig [Hans the Younger was in Danzig but Erik Brahe had met the Duke's son near Göteborg]. He gave there Erik Brahe specific instructions on the upcoming mission in Prague. The Swede had no alternative but to travel to Bohemia. He met there once again with Duke Hans. Christian IV’s little brother [i.e. uncle] went to the Emperor and negotiated the Emperor’s neutrality. The poisoning should happen at an indebted Bohemian baron who had obstinately refuse to part from his last castles, especially the one in Krumau, but also the large palace in the royal holdings in Prague which today is called the Rosenberg Palace.
         The Emperor’s closest advisers, Ducker, Barvitius, Charles von Liechtenstein and Minckwitz were introduced to the Danish murder plan and the Minckwitz was ordered to put the poison in Tycho Brahe’s wine glass or his platter at the dinner at Baron von Rosenberg’s. In all probability the banquet took place in the great palace which was sold to the Emperor 11 days later.
         Long before the first attempted murder, Duke Hans had left the scene and was rewarded in Copenhagen by his big brother who declared him fit for war and promised him a beautiful and rich wife. Duke Hans had a cast-iron alibi when the accident took place.
         Erik Brahe was alone back in Prague with his qualms of consciousness in the middle of a large international power play. When Duke Hans left, he hurried to the Jesuits in order to pray for absolution. He is one of the world’s history’s most pathetic murderers.
         After the first failed attempt, the count had to swallow his pride and coerce, in one way or another, his relative to take the required amount of quicksilver. Kepler, who lived on the first floor with his wife, never knew what was happening in Tycho Brahe’s bedchamber, one floor below.
         On the day of the death, Baron von Rosenberg received shortly after 9 o’clock an ultimatum: he could either sell his castles or he would be accused of murder. The poor nobleman realised that something was wrong but had no other choice and desperately agreed to the sale contract’s merciless conditions. It had been ready to be signed for more than a year.
         The Emperor himself had no interest in being accused of murder. He therefore asked Jessenius to refute the rumours of poisoning which had spread as wild fire. The professor stressed that under no circumstances this could not be anything else than an unfortunate illness.
         At the same time than the news of Tycho Brahe’s death reached Copenhagen, the principal of the royal school in Sorø (Zealand) died. As a reward for the Polish mission, Niels Krag was appointed new principal. He left the capital in April and barely made it to Sorø before he died at the age of 52. He had been one of Tycho Brahe’s close friends and had begun to gather evidence that he had been abused in a large scale murder plot. Just before the journey to Poland, he had been in England where he had spoken about the state of things in the rotten kingdom. There was at least one English citizen in London who then had interest in astronomy, Øresund, Danish kings and poisonings.
         A couple of months after the death of Niels Krag, Prince Hans took off to Moscow together with a poison murderer. Whether it was Axel Brahe or someone else who murdered Christian IV’s little brother is of as little importance as Erik Brahe and Minckwitz’ precise roles in Prague. What matters is that the crime took place in both cases on royal order.
         Just a year after Tycho Brahe’s death, everything was back to normal in the ancient kingdom with the world’s most boring history books. Only Uraniborg still stood erect and haunted the island of Hven. Danish experts have repeatedly complained that the castle and the whole installation “fell so swiftly into decay after Tycho Brahe’s departure from Denmark and rather disappeared from the surface of the Earth.” When foreign observers, at last, were permitted to land on the island after the death of Christian IV, the castle was gone. At the same time, a new observatory was built in the middle of the Danish capital. In the future, the same historians can begin to speculate where the building materials had been taken for the Round Tower. It still stands and today it shades one little bust.
         This speculative theory may perhaps only be a fairytale, but does it matter? Dania has always been the foster mother of fairytales. Regardless of whether they are veracious or fabrications, we can delight in the fact that our fairytales are numbered to be the best of the world. Foreigners already know that our oldest fairytale was committed to paper at few months after this mysterious epidemic which took the Krag brothers, Tycho Brahe and Prince Hans. This wonderful fairytale is entitled “About Hven between Zealand and Scania”. It is based on the ancient ballads sung by the Hvenian peasants since time’s beginning. At least, it is written in the books we usually trust.

Postscript (December 2009):

After this lecture I continued my research and came to the following resultat: The mysterious Holsteiner who sent a letter to Visingsborg in August 1600 in order to decoy out of Sweden was not Christian IV’s little brother Hans, but the king’s paternal uncle Hans the Younger, duke of Holstein-Sønderborg. The person the count of Visingsborg met in September in Kungälv on the Danish-Norvegian side of the border was Hans the Younger’s son Hans Adolf. He was on his way to the Swedish capital in order to go into duke Charles’ service. The new Swedish potentate lead a war against his nephew Sigismund in Livony (= Estonia and Latvia) and Hans Adolf was finally appointed governor of Livony after Tycho Brahe’s death. The person called Hans Holst, that Erik Brahe met on several occasions in Danzig and Prague between August 1600 and August 1601, was Hans the Younger.
        Furthermore il can be noticed that "doctor Staller", that Erik Brahe met in Thorn, was a Swedish jesuit from Linköping. The "brother Magnus" Staller wrote to from Warsaw was not the count’s little brother, but some Scandinavian jesuit living in the area of Danzig. It was perhaps Magnus Laurentii who was related with the last catholic arch-bishop of Sweden Johannes Magnus. Fianally the prayer written by Erik Brahe on the 1st of August in Prag was not meant for himself, but for Hans Holst. The count prayed for chains so that his accomplice from Holstein would not end in chains.

© 2009, Vinilandicus

© Vinilandicus 2010

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