Richard Wagner's relationship with the German nation was inconsistent and often contradictory, veering between pride and distaste. One constant feature, however, was his intense hostility to the German princes. He held them responsible for the decline of German culture after the Reformation and, more especially, after the Thirty Years War. Their imitation of Italian and French models amounted to cultural treason in his view. The great revival of the ‘German spirit’ in the eighteenth century, he asserted with characteristic vehemence, came from the common people. It was they too who rose in revolt against Napoleonic tyranny in the great ‘War of Liberation’ of 1813–15. Yet once again the princes betrayed them, restoring despotic rule once the French yoke had been removed and resuming the patronage of French plays and Italian operas. In forming this narrative, Wagner was strongly influenced by Friedrich Schiller, who ranks with Shakespeare and Beethoven in his rather limited pantheon. It found its way into several of his music dramas, most explicitly in The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, whose political message has often been misunderstood.