DECLINE OF EMPIRE AND PAPACY

CHAPTER IV

GERMANY: LEWIS THE BAVARIAN

 

 

The death of the Emperor Henry VII took Germany by surprise. There would inevitably have been some delay in choosing a new king, and the interregnum was prolonged by the desire of Archbishop Peter of Mayence (Mainz), the convener of the Electors, to secure the crown for John of Bohemia, who at his father’s death was a minor and so ineligible, but would be eighteen in the following year and therefore of age in the opinion of most German princes. The interval was marked by the customary intrigues between the Electors and aspirants to the crown and also, as it happened, by events which altered the whole outlook of German politics.

Despite the favour shewn towards John of Bohemia by the influential Archbishop Peter, it at first seemed likely that the choice of the majority of the Electors would fall on Frederick the Handsome, Duke of Austria, head of the house of Habsburg. He was young, brave, and honourable; and his family was no longer hated and feared as it had been in the days of King Albert. Frederick, however, was of an unstable temperament, readily discouraged by difficulties, and his self-confidence and ambition had continually to be stimulated by his younger brother Leopold, a man equally famous for knightly accomplishments and superior in energy and resolution. Unfortunately for the Habsburgs, the internal troubles of Lower Bavaria had just involved them in war with the Wittelsbachs. An invasion of the Wittelsbach lands by Frederick and Leopold was foiled by Lewis, Duke of Upper Bavaria, who in November 1313 gained a brilliant victory at Gammelsdorf, in which he performed feats of arms which made him the talk of Germany.

Lewis of Wittelsbach, thus thrust into prominence, attracted the interest of the Electors. Preliminary conferences between them had given little hope of agreement. Peter of Mainz and Baldwin of Treves, the supporters of John of Bohemia, began to doubt the possibility of his election. At the same time Peter was implacably opposed to the choice of a Habsburg. He and Baldwin therefore transferred their support to Lewis of Bavaria, who had not even put himself forward as a candidate. John of Bohemia, Baldwin’s nephew, would vote as his uncle bade him. The Brandenburg vote and the good will of one of the claimants to the Saxon vote were also secured. Lewis was admired but not feared, and the Wittelsbachs, never having possessed the crown, seemed less dangerous than either the Habsburgs or the Luxemburgs.

Frederick the Handsome, however, retained the support of the Arch­bishop of Cologne and had purchased that of Rudolf of the Palatinate, elder brother of Lewis, with whom he was almost always on bad terms. He could also count on Duke Rudolf of Saxe-Wittenberg, who had the better claim to the Saxon vote, and on Duke Henry of Carinthia, who still asserted his right to Bohemia.

In October 1314, towards the day appointed for the election, the rivals, attended by the Electors favourable to them, led armed forces to Frankfort and camped on opposite sides of the Main, the city, in fear of violence, having closed its gates to both. On 19 October Frederick was hastily elected by his supporters, next day Lewis more ceremoniously by his. Five votes, three of undisputed validity, were cast for Lewis; four, two of which were unchallenged, for Frederick.

There followed attempts by the would-be kings to secure formal in­vestiture and perform the traditional ceremonies. Lewis was admitted to Frankfort after his election, and was solemnly placed on the altar of St Bartholomew’s church according to ancient custom. On 25 November, moreover, he was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle. Frederick, on the other hand, though his coronation, which took place on the same day, was performed at Bonn, could boast that he had been crowned, if not at the proper place, at least by the proper person—the Archbishop of Cologne; and it was to his advantage that he had possession of the imperial insignia. In popular estimation there was little to choose between the claims of the rivals to recognition. It is unlikely that foreign influences had much to do with the policy of the Electors on this occasion. Clement V had exhorted them to choose no one likely to persecute the Church, but he died during the interregnum, and the Holy See was vacant when the election took place. Philip the Fair is known to have been keenly interested and to have entered into negotiations with some of the Electors, but it cannot be shown that his wishes carried much weight.

The disputed election of 1314 was followed by an eight years’ war. Neither protagonist was unworthy of devotion. Lewis was about thirty and, like Frederick, was a fine-looking man, tall and muscular, with a good-natured countenance and lively brown eyes. He was temperate and clean-living, liked good company, and had a passion for hunting. He was pious in a conventional way, and had had the usual education of a man of his rank, which had apparently not given birth to any intellectual interests except a fondness for German poetry. His military skill was highly estimated, his courage unquestioned. But—and here too he resembled his rival—he was of a wayward disposition, easily excited and easily cast down, with an ever-growing tendency to hypochondria. Never­theless he greatly exceeded Frederick in ambition and determination; and, when all is taken into account, there were few abler men among the German princes.

Despite the personal attractiveness of both Lewis and Frederick, the struggle between them was singularly uninspiring. A great part of Germany, including nearly the whole of the north, took no part in the fighting. Even in the west and the south, where the lands of the rivals lay, little enthusiasm was shewn; and such support as either received had usually to be paid for at a high price. Though he was inferior in territorial resources, Lewis’ adherents in Germany at large outnumbered those of Frederick. Actuated by enmity to Frederick’s chief supporter, the Archbishop of Cologne, a number of important princes of the Lower Rhineland espoused the Bavarian cause; while most of the imperial cities of the west and south were on the same side, won over or confirmed in their loyalty by the privileges and concessions which Lewis lavished on them. The Electors generally shewed little disposition to risk anything in promoting the success of their respective nominees, though Lewis received valuable military assistance from John of Bohemia.

As in most of the German wars of the later Middle Ages, there was not much bloodshed. Numerous castles and a few towns were besieged, as a rule in vain. The open country traversed by an army was mercilessly ravaged. But a knight or man-at-arms of the fourteenth century was too costly to be lightly hazarded by a German prince; and though every now and then one side would invite the other to a pitched battle, the challenger was generally found to have previously occupied so advantageous a position that it would have been folly for his enemies to fight. In 1315 it seemed likely that a decisive battle would be waged near Spires, but Lewis, disappointed of expected reinforcements, evaded an engagement. Next year, it is true, an attempt by Lewis to relieve Esslingen, besieged by Frederick, led, against the will of both commanders, to a confused and bloody fight, but this had no decisive consequences. For some time, however, the cause of Lewis was in the ascendant. The power of the Habsburgs was gravely impaired by the defeat inflicted on Leopold at Morgarten by the infant Swiss Confederation; in 1317 Lewis forced his brother Rudolf to sign a treaty favourable to himself; and in the next year the Archbishop of Cologne virtually withdrew from the conflict.

Suddenly, however, the tide turned. Troubles with his Bohemian subjects prevented King John from continuing his military aid to Lewis. The Habsburgs rallied their forces, ravaged the Wittelsbach territories, and easily defeated an attempted counter-invasion. In 1320 Lewis lost a valuable friend by the death of Archbishop Peter of Mainz, a very sagacious politician, to whom Henry VII and John of Bohemia, besides Lewis himself, owed their crowns. Lewis fell into despair and talked of abandoning the struggle. The Habsburgs, however, neglected to press home their advantage till the autumn of 1322. Then Leopold invaded Bavaria from the west while Frederick came up the Danube with a large and motley force, which included pagan Hungarians who ate cats and dogs. Lewis, who again enjoyed the assistance of John of Bohemia, shewed unexpected enterprise, and got into touch with Frederick at Mühldorf on the Inn before Leopold could join him. John kept Lewis’ sagging resolution to the sticking-point, and a challenge to battle was accepted by Frederick, who in reply to the remonstrances of his captains declared that he had made too many widows and orphans and wanted the issue settled. In the battle Frederick fought brilliantly, while Lewis kept aloof amid a bodyguard of knights dressed exactly like himself. The Habsburg horse, at first irresistible, were checked by the Bavarian footmen, and the knights and men-at-arms of the Wittelsbach army, having rallied after their discomfiture, dismounted and reinforced the infantry. The issue was determined, however, by a timely charge of fresh cavalry under Frederick of Hohenzollern, Burgrave of Nuremberg, before which the Habsburg troops broke and fled. The battle was one of the greatest in Germany during the later Middle Ages. The victors took 1400 prisoners, among them being Frederick and his brother Henry. At a stroke all the advantages previously gained by the Habsburgs were nullified. Most of Frederick’s supporters speedily abandoned his cause, the collapse of which was accele­rated by the wise clemency of Lewis towards the vanquished.

Lewis was now secure. He did not long leave in doubt the policy he meant to pursue. He was to use the German crown as a means of promoting the interests of his family, regardless of the effect of his plans on royal authority and German unity, regardless too of the claims of others on his gratitude. In his eyes, what the Wittelsbachs needed most was more territory, and, as his family increased, the desire to add to its landed possessions outweighed all other considerations. It cannot be denied that in the pursuit of his end Lewis displayed remarkable pertinacity, ingenuity, and acumen.

The victory of Lewis over the Habsburgs had been due in great measure to the steadfast loyalty of John of Bohemia. John was one of the most interesting men of the time. Since he was King of Bohemia and Count of Luxemburg, his possessions lay at the opposite ends of the Empire, but to one of his temperament that mattered little. He lived in a hurry. The speed of his movements was the wonder of his contemporaries; he was known to travel from Prague to Frankfort-on-Main in four days. He would rush light-heartedly from Poland to France, from the Netherlands to Italy, in furtherance of some plan of the moment. His ubiquity cor­responded to the range of his interests. There was no political quarrel or intrigue in Western or Central Europe but he had a finger in it. His fertility and resource were inexhaustible. The moment one scheme failed—often indeed before that happened—he was eagerly prosecuting another. While his knightly prowess was admired by all, there were some who thought him a little mad; but there was generally more than a grain of sense in his projects, and that his career, despite many reverses, was on the whole successful was due as much to his energy and ability as to the luck for which he was famous.

John, like his father, was at heart a Frenchman. Bohemia he hated, and the Bohemians reciprocated the dislike. They regarded him as an intruder, dreaded his visits with their invariable accompaniment of oppressive exactions, and were shocked by his disreputable tastes and habits. In 1318 a rising of the nobles nearly dethroned him, and it was only at the cost of great concessions that an agreement was reached. Then the long-growing estrangement of John and his queen widened into an irreparable breach. He left Bohemia and for some years had hardly anything to do with it.

Gratitude and policy alike counselled Lewis to maintain his friendship with John. By lending his countenance to some of John’s designs outside Germany, he might have secured his continued loyalty to the German Crown. Instead, caring only for the aggrandisement of the Wittelsbachs, he pressed forward a scheme which conflicted with John’s ambitions at more than one point. After the battle of Mühldorf had decided the civil war, the burning question in German politics was the future of the Mark of Brandenburg. The Brandenburg line of the house of Ascania had of late dwindled rapidly away, and with the death of Margrave Henry II in 1320 became extinct. Henry’s predecessor Waldemar had shed a gleam of splendour over the last days of the family; but while holding all the territories of the elder branch of the Ascanians, he had squandered his resources on fantastic schemes and ostentatious display. Feared even more than he was admired by his neighbours, he was in 1316 defeated by a combination of princes headed by the King of Denmark and had to acquiesce in the loss of territory. Three years afterwards, before he could recover from the disaster, he died. When his cousin and heir followed him a few months later, Lewis of Wittelsbach claimed that the Mark was at his disposal as an escheated imperial fief. This, however, was disputed by the Archbishop of Magdeburg, and while his claims to the overlordship of Brandenburg had but flimsy foundations, there was real doubt as to the feudal status of some of the other Ascanian lands. John of Bohemia claimed Lusatia, and Lewis bestowed on him the district of Bautzen and other estates in this region. For some years, however, he made no announcement about Brandenburg itself, though it was widely believed that he had given John to understand that it would be granted to him.

Later in his reign Lewis was repeatedly charged with raising hopes which he did not mean to fulfil. Whatever may have happened in this case, Lewis no sooner felt secure on the German throne than he bestowed the Mark, with several adjacent fiefs, on his son Lewis, a boy of eight, John’s services at Mühldorf being rewarded by a few gifts and concessions of no great consequence in the estimation of the recipient. About the same time, Lewis, anxious that the new margrave should have at least one friendly neighbour, induced Frederick the Quarrelsome, Margrave of Meissen and Landgrave of Thuringia, to break off a match which had been arranged between his heir and one of John’s daughters and to substitute for the latter a daughter of his own. Fortunately for Lewis, John’s hands were very full at the moment, and before he could attempt reprisals, in fact before the grant of Brandenburg to young Lewis had been formally proclaimed, the attention of Germany was diverted to a very different problem, and Lewis found himself compelled to play his part as a German king.

John XXII; the Appeal of Sachsenhausen

Since 1316 the Holy See had been occupied by John XXII. His favour had been sought by both Lewis and Frederick, especially the latter, on whose behalf his father-in-law, James of Aragon, had vigorously exerted himself. But the Pope had remained inflexibly neutral, usually addressing each claimant as “king-elect of the Romans.” The reason for John’s attitude is to be found in his resolve to reassert papal authority in Italy. As long as Lewis and Frederick were fighting, neither was likely to interfere seriously with his projects. Moreover, to justify some of his doings beyond the Alps, John appealed to the doctrine, lately upheld by Clement V, that when the Empire was vacant its authority in Italy devolved on the Papacy. He therefore wished to avoid recognising anyone as King of the Romans, and perhaps, under Neapolitan influence, had thoughts of ending the Empire altogether.

The nature and consequences of John’s policy in Italy are treated at length in another chapter. Both Lewis and Frederick appointed vicars-general for Italy, but for some years these had scarcely any influence. The participation of the Habsburgs in the crusade against the Visconti in 1322 caused bad blood between them and the overbearing Pope, who had treated them as servants rather than allies; but John nevertheless remained true to his neutrality as between them and Lewis. Even the news of Mühldorf did not alter his attitude. But the victor was now able to listen to appeals for help from the Ghibellines of North Italy. An imperial vicar, Berthold of Neiffen, appeared in Lombardy, and in defiance of the protests and threats of the papal legate, saved Can Grande of Verona from over­throw and relieved Milan when it was about to surrender to the besieging Guelfs.

The Pope was alarmed and furious. He was old and irascible, and his Italian plans lay very near his heart. But even the doings of Berthold seem hardly sufficient to account for the ferocity of the onslaught which he suddenly launched against Lewis, who, apart from his intervention in Italy, had done nothing to kindle the Pope’s anger. On 8 October 1323 John XXII promulgated a bull in which he asserted that, while it belonged to the Holy See to judge of the validity of imperial elections, Lewis, without receiving papal recognition of his disputed title, had presumed to exercise the powers appertaining to both regnum and imperium, though the latter in time of vacancy ought lawfully to be administered by the Church, and that he had furthermore lent aid to condemned heretics in the persons of Galeazzo Visconti and his associates. Lewis was therefore summoned, on pain of excommunication, to lay down his authority within three months and to annul all acts performed by him as king. His subjects were to withdraw their obedience from him within the same term, or suffer both excommunication and forfeiture of their ecclesiastical and imperial fiefs. Lewis, who was completely taken aback by this assault, asked for a prolongation of the three months in order that he might have time to prepare his defence. John granted an extension of two months, a con­cession of small value, seeing that when it was made the original three had almost elapsed. Lewis therefore resolved to await events. He had already, on 5 January 1324, at Frankfort, published an elaborate vindi­cation of his rights and conduct, which, though no further use seems to have been made of it, shews that he was already disposed to offer uncompromising resistance.

On 23 March 1324 the Pope excommunicated Lewis, and again called upon him to comply with the demands made in the previous October. Failure to do so within three months would involve him in the loss of any rights which he might conceivably have derived from his election. He was, further, to appear at Avignon, in person or by deputy, to receive final sentence. All clergy who should still recognise him were to be suspended, and if obstinate, to be excommunicated and deprived. Princes and cities who had disregarded the Pope’s orders were graciously reprieved for the present, but if they persisted in their contumacy, they were to undergo the punishments named in the previous bull and their lands were to be placed under interdict.

The bull, though arrogant in tone, betrays certain weaknesses in the Pope’s position. He had made the tactical mistake of using too many weapons in his first attack and now he had few terrors in reserve. Perhaps somewhat perplexed by the refusal of Lewis to show his hand, he went so far as to hint that formal surrender might be rewarded by confirmation of his election as king. And John was plainly disconcerted at the general indifference of the Germans to his threats against those who obeyed Lewis. On 26 May, indeed, he wrote to the Electors disclaiming any intention of infringing on their rights. The same hesitation to exacerbate the German princes appears in another bull which the Pope issued in July. It declared that Lewis had now been deprived by God of any right to the German crown which he might previously have possessed; failing his submission by 1 October he was to suffer further penalties, including the loss of Bavaria and all his imperial fiefs. His subjects were again forbidden to obey him, but only the clergy and the cities were to incur immediate punishment for recalcitrance.

The reserve at first shown by Lewis was perhaps due in part to his relations with the Habsburgs. Leopold, the younger brother of Frederick the Handsome, had refused to accept the verdict of Mühldorf. Lack of support in Germany had frustrated his military plans, and he had reluctantly entered into negotiations with Lewis. These, however, had been fruitless, owing, if Leopold is to be believed, to Lewis’ double-dealing. When John XXII issued his first bull against Lewis, Leopold naturally regarded him as a welcome ally; but the Pope, though friendly, was determined to uphold his contention that the German throne had been vacant since 1313, and still refused to recognise Frederick. Leopold, more eager for revenge on Lewis than for the victory or release of his brother, then entered upon an intrigue with Charles IV of France. It is an obscure episode; but it seems certain that in July 1324 Charles and Leopold, then at Bar-sur-Aube, signed a treaty in which the latter recognised that the German throne was vacant and undertook to work for the election of the French King, while Charles promised to finance the Habsburgs in their war against Lewis. The treaty led to nothing, for Leopold’s younger brothers did not approve of his sacrifice of Frederick’s rights.

Lewis must have had some notion of what was happening, and for some time he probably thought that Leopold’s dealings with France had been instigated by John XXII. Late in the spring, indeed, he had become convinced that the Pope was bent on his ruin, and that nothing was to be gained by submission or quiescence. On 22 May, therefore, he accepted the Pope’s challenge by publishing the celebrated Appeal of Sachsenhausen. This manifesto is a long, verbose, and ill-compacted document. John XXII is denounced as a man of blood, a friend of injustice, and an enemy of the Holy Roman Empire, to which the Church owes her temporal power and possessions. He is striving to ruin the Electors and princes—nay, he has openly sworn to trample down the Empire. His claim to confirm imperial elections is hardly worthy of notice. Lewis’ election and coronation were regular, and thus in themselves entitled him to exercise authority as King of the Romans. If there is a disputed election, ancient usage refers the issue to the arbitrament of war; and in the present instance God has given the victory to Lewis. When the Empire is vacant, the Count Palatine is lawful regent. Lewis holds the Catholic faith, but will not suffer his loyal subjects to be falsely styled heretics. Nay, John is a heretic himself, as is shewn by his denial of the absolute poverty of Christ (a subject which is treated at length). Finally, Lewis appeals to a General Council, at which he is willing to confront the Pope and make good his accusations. In the theological part of the Appeal, the influence of the Spiritual party of the Franciscans is evident. Much of it indeed is drawn from a writing of Petrus Johannis Olivi. It was probably through Emicho, Bishop of Spires, who became one of his most faithful adherents, that Lewis was brought into touch with the party, with whom he had no natural affinity.

It has been argued that the imperialists were unwise to confuse the issue between Lewis and John XXII by dragging theological questions into the dispute. The object was doubtless to give churchmen, many of whom, especially in Germany, were sympathetic with Lewis, a pretext for openly espousing his cause. This policy certainly gained him the support of a powerful party in the Church, and it cannot be shown that it did his cause any practical harm. The truth is that the denunciations and arguments flung backwards and forwards did not mean much to either Lewis or John. The conflict was essentially political. The Pope wanted a free hand in Italy. He might have secured himself from interference on the part of Lewis by offering recognition of his royal title; but believing that he could hector Lewis into unconditional surrender, he gave the impression that he was bent on depriving him of his hard-earned crown, on the retention of which depended all his hopes of increasing the territories of the Wittelsbach family. Lewis had no wish to be a Barbarossa, and as soon as he realised that the Pope could not do him serious injury in Germany, he betrayed his eagerness to have done with the controversy, even at high cost to the Empire. By that time, however, Avignon realised that, if the Pope could not do much harm to Lewis, neither could Lewis do much harm to the Pope; so the papal terms of peace were kept high, and the barren dispute dragged on to its uninspiring end.

For a few years indeed the conflict appeared to be of vital significance to European religion and thought, for it looked as if John XXII was to be ignominiously worsted. It was at this time that Lewis appeared at his best. He recognised that he must give his full attention to the struggle with the Papacy. The key to the Pope’s position, as Lewis saw, was Italy. There he could strike blows which the Pope would really feel; there, too, he could add to his prestige by securing the imperial crown. So for the two years following the publication of the Sachsenhausen Appeal his aim was to dispose German affairs in such a way that it would be safe for him to leave the country. In pursuit of this object he showed a most acute judgment of the persons and conditions that had to be taken into account.

Recognising that Leopold of Habsburg was implacable, Lewis resolved to attempt a reconciliation with his prisoner Frederick, who, a victim of nervous depression, cared no more for the crown but only desired freedom. He was soon induced to sign a treaty, dated 13 March 1325, whereby, in return for his release and perhaps a promise of lands and dignities, he renounced all claim to the throne. He persuaded all his kinsmen save Leopold to recognise Lewis, but failing to secure the accomplishment of some of his undertakings, he returned to captivity. Lewis rewarded such conduct as it deserved; the two former rivals became fast friends; and in September Lewis, apparently carrying out a proposal already discussed in the negotiations of the previous spring, made Frederick joint-king. He and Lewis were to rule as though they were one person, the regulations for the exercise of their authority being drawn up in great detail. If either went abroad, he was to act with full power there, the other at home.

Lewis evidently felt sure of his personal ascendancy over Frederick. Leopold, however, did not approve of the arrangement, nor did the Electors, whose consent was necessary for its execution. Lewis resolved to go farther, and his next move was as daring as it was clever. At the beginning of 1326 he announced that he would be willing to abdicate provided that Frederick were recognised as king by the Pope before 25 July. In return, Frederick promised that, if the condition were fulfilled, he would confirm Lewis’ son in the possession of Brandenburg and would give Lewis his general support. This agreement actually placated Leopold, though his death immediately afterwards robbed this result of its significance. The rest of the Habsburgs were for the time fully reconciled to Lewis, while the Pope was forced to reveal clearly to the German people his determination to accept no one as their king. For, as Lewis had doubtless foreseen, the agreement proved abortive; John XXII, when the Habsburgs applied for his recognition of Frederick, first put them off politely, and soon afterwards, under pressure from France, broke off negotiations altogether.

With the Habsburgs friendly to him and estranged from the Pope, Lewis was in a strong position. So far, indeed, the Pope had small ground for satisfaction at the effect which his denunciations and threats had produced on Germany. The interdict was seldom enforced in the Wittelsbach territories, and elsewhere only when the ordinary of the place was an exceptionally fiery partisan of the Papacy. It is true, however, that many old supporters of Frederick the Handsome welcomed a pretext for withholding obedience from Lewis. In the south, under the influence of the Archbishop of Salzburg, John’s “processes” were published in most dioceses. The ecclesiastical Electors wavered for some time, but all in the end complied outwardly with the Pope’s commands, though Baldwin of Treves long afterwards remained on friendly terms with Lewis. Of the other prelates few shewed much zeal for the Pope. In many cathedral churches the dispute between king and Pope simply added fresh bitterness to an existing feud between the chapter and a papal provisor. Some bishops indeed, such as those of Spires, Freising, and Augsburg, were openly on the side of the king. Among the regulars, the Cistercian monks and the Dominican friars were mostly hostile to Lewis. The Spiritual Franciscans and for some time many of the main body of the Order were opposed to the Pope rather than friendly to the king, but their influence worked in Lewis’ favour; while the Carmelite and Austin friars, and the Premonstratensian Canons, were for the most part on his side. Of the Military Orders, the Hospitallers, while providing Lewis with many trusted supporters, were divided in sympathy; but the Teutonic Knights were whole-heartedly for him, and from their ranks came some of his most valued counsellors. As for the parish clergy, their attitude depended on that of the authority, ecclesiastical or secular, which could most readily be brought to bear upon them.

To judge by the writings of the chroniclers, the dispute was regarded very coolly by the majority of Germans. It occasioned little bloodshed or violence. Few laymen paid any heed to John’s fulminations. The cities were for the most part devoted to Lewis, though Mainz and Cologne, strange to say, were more papalist than their archbishops. In the Lower Rhineland one or two princes, such as the Counts of Jülich and Cleves, professed zeal for the Pope; but the only part of Germany which gave Lewis ground for serious concern was the north-east. Brandenburg, it is true, was generally loyal to him, and the people of Berlin killed an envoy sent by Rudolf, Duke of Saxe-Wittenberg, to seduce them from their allegiance. The Archbishop of Magdeburg, too, a very bitter foe of the Wittelsbachs, was opportunely murdered by the municipal authorities of his own cathedral city, with whom he had long been at strife. But the Pope succeeded in stirring up the King of Poland and the nobles of Silesia, Pomerania, and Mecklenburg, to invade the Mark; and in 1326 an army of Poles and Lithuanians, many of whom were heathen, ravaged a great part of the land and massacred many of the inhabitants.

Lewis’ Italian expedition

Nevertheless, towards the end of the same year, Lewis felt able to press forward preparations for an expedition to Italy. In January 1327 he went to Trent to confer with some of the Ghibelline leaders. He intended to return to Bavaria after a few days, but they urged so strongly the advisability of immediate action that he summoned troops from beyond the Alps, and in March moved southwards. He had with him, besides a number of Franciscan scholars, Marsilio of Padua and John of Jandun, who had fled from Paris to his court in the previous spring. Marsilio, there is no doubt, had much influence on Lewis’ conduct during his sojourn in Italy, and was often employed to vindicate in public the policy of his royal patron.

The events of Lewis’ Italian expedition are narrated elsewhere, and we are here concerned with it merely as an episode in his conflict with the Papacy. In April, while Lewis was advancing towards Milan, John XXII issued bulls depriving him of his imperial fiefs, declaring him a public maintainer of heretics, ordering him to leave Italy within two months and appear at Avignon on 1 October to receive sentence, summoning his son to surrender Brandenburg, and excommunicating a number of his companions, including Marsilio and John of Jandun. Much of this was vain repetition, and no effect seems to have been produced. Lewis received the iron crown at Milan in May. There now reached him an invitation to Rome, purporting to come from the Roman people, and he solemnly called upon the Pope to return to his see.

In the autumn, John, who was demanding from the German clergy funds for organising resistance to Lewis, formally condemned him as a heretic and declared him deprived of all his goods and dignities. Nevertheless, it was amid popular rejoicing that, on 7 January 1328, this spiritual outcast entered the Pope’s own city. His army consisted mainly of Italians. Very few German magnates were with him, the most notable being his nephew Rudolf of Bavaria, Elector Palatine, and Frederick, Burgrave of Nuremberg. Not a single German bishop was present. If there was little enthusiasm for the Pope’s cause in Germany, there was not much more for the king’s.

While it is true that Lewis did his utmost to conciliate the people of Rome, treating them as rulers of the city, and that at his coronation as Emperor the crown was placed on his head by the four Syndics of the People, from whom he also received the rest of the imperial insignia, he was careful to avoid any express recognition of Marsilio’s theory that his imperial authority was derived from his choice by the Romans. It was essential to him to stand by the view that his rights were grounded on the vote of the German Electors, and that while coronation at Rome gave him the right to style himself Emperor, it added nothing to his legal powers. It must be admitted, however, that Lewis never contradicted Marsilio’s theory in public during his stay in Rome, and probably tried to give the people the impression that he accepted it. There is no need to emphasise the fact that, on whatever theory they were based, the proceedings at Lewis’ coronation involved a denial of the Pope’s right to any share in the appointment or investiture of an Emperor.

A few days after the coronation, and before he could have heard of it, John XXII played his last card by proclaiming a crusade against Lewis. The Emperor replied by declaring that the Pope, as a heretic and traitor, had been deposed by Christ. In support of the charge of heresy were adduced John’s inciting of infidels to attack Brandenburg, his arrogation to himself of the authority of the divinely-instituted Empire, and his encroachment on the rights of cathedral chapters, as well as his opinions on the poverty of Christ. He was sentenced to the total loss of his clerical orders and subjected to the secular power for punishment. The formal proceedings which led up to this pronouncement took place before great assemblies of the people in front of St Peter’s. The populace, however, were mere spectators; it was solely in his capacity of Emperor that Lewis condemned the Pope.

It is true that Peter of Corvara, the Pope chosen in place of John by a committee of Roman clergy and laity, was accepted by another popular assembly. It does not appear, however, that the people’s acclamations were regarded by either Lewis or Peter as adding to his authority. At all events, it was the Emperor who invested him with the ring and fisherman’s cloak and subsequently placed the papal crown on his head. The Florentine Villani asserts that after his own coronation the new Pope, Nicholas V, crowned Lewis. It is hard to believe this, even if the statement be interpreted as referring to a piece of pure ceremony, devoid of legal significance. For anything that suggested the dependence of the Emperor’s authority on papal consent or countenance cut away the ground from Lewis’ feet and made ridiculous everything he had done since his arrival in Rome. A possible explanation is that Lewis hoped to recover some of his popularity with the Romans, who were growing tired of him, by submitting to a sham coronation at the hands of a Pope whom they regarded as having been chosen by themselves. But either Villani’s report is wholly false, or Lewis, whatever his motives, was guilty of gross folly.

It is evident, at any rate, that Lewis’ situation at Rome grew rapidly worse. On 4 August 1328 he and his Pope left the city. No success attended his efforts to retain some of the advantages which he had gained in northern Italy. The death of John of Jandun, it is true, was counter­balanced by the arrival at his court, while he was staying at Pisa, of Michael of Cesena and William of Ockham, an event which raised hopes of the adhesion of the whole Franciscan Order to the imperial cause, and encouraged Lewis to lay new charges of heresy at the door of Pope John and to revive his proposal of a General Council. But Italian politics took an unfavourable turn, and at the beginning of 1330 Lewis returned to Bavaria. Nicholas V, left without support, soon submitted to John XXII. The Emperor’s great stroke had failed.

In Germany, however, Lewis was still powerful. While in Italy, he had composed a family quarrel by making the Rhenish Palatinate independent of Bavaria, and surrendering to its rulers a piece of Bavarian territory henceforth known as the Upper Palatinate. John XXII’s intrigues among the Electors during his absence had borne no fruit. On the other hand, Baldwin, Archbishop of Treves, was incensed with the Pope for refusing to confirm his election to the see of Mainz when it fell vacant in 1328, and was now waging war against the Pope’s nominee. The younger Habsburgs, indeed, were disposed to use any opportunity of revenge on Lewis, but the death of Frederick the Handsome just before his return deprived them of their most dangerous weapon. Among the people at large Lewis’ prestige seems to have been somewhat increased by his expedition; but how little his controversy with the Pope meant to most Germans is shown by the fact that, while he was commonly regarded as lawful Emperor, John was commonly regarded as lawful Pope.

The conflict, in fact, was now one between the elephant and the whale. The Pope might renew his excommunications and interdicts: they had no more effect than before. Lewis had struck at his enemy’s one vulnerable point, but had done him no serious hurt; and while he talked of returning to Italy, he can hardly have expected a second expedition to yield more decisive results than the first. At all events he henceforth gave the greater part of his mind to his schemes of family aggrandisement. At the same time, recognising that papal hostility was a nuisance, if not quite a danger, he shewed himself anxious to end the quarrel and willing to make notable concessions and even to undergo personal humiliation in pursuit of his object. Nevertheless, while admitting that he had sometimes encroached on ground that was lawfully the Pope’s, he always resisted ecclesiastical interference in matters which he regarded as secular.

Lewis’ family ambitions

The seven years after Lewis’ return from Italy are among the most dreary in German history. Those who still cherish the old delusion that diplomacy was invented by the Italians of the fifteenth century could not do better than study the relations of the German princes during the latter years of Lewis the Bavarian. Entente, alliance, betrothal, and betrayal, with a score of States—independent for all practical purposes—taking a hand in the game, follow in bewildering succession. Of good faith and self-respect there is small trace. There is some skill and no lack of subtlety, but, except with Lewis, little fixity of purpose. In the background there is the dispute between Empire and Papacy, several princes making vain attempts to mediate, followed by equally vain negotiations between the principals.

The hinge on which German politics turned for several years after 1330 was the question of the Carinthian succession. Duke Henry, ruler of Carinthia and Tyrol, was an elderly man with two young daughters, one of whom was betrothed to John Henry, son of John of Bohemia. Lewis had promised the old duke that, if he left no male issue, a daughter or a son-in-law should succeed to his lands. In September 1330 John Henry was married to the second daughter, Margaret, commonly nicknamed Maultasch; and King John, confident that his son’s succession to Carinthia and Tyrol would be accepted by the Emperor, set off light-heartedly on an expedition to Italy. Although, as we have seen, Lewis treated him shabbily after the battle of Mühldorf, John at first lacked time to undertake serious reprisals and of late had needed the Emperor’s friendship for the accomplishment of his Carinthian ambitions. Lewis, on his part, had planned a joint expedition to Italy with John, whom he had led to believe that he had no objection to John Henry’s succession to Carinthia and Tyrol. Nevertheless, as soon as it was known that John was about to go to Italy, Lewis made an agreement with the Habsburgs whereby on Duke Henry’s death he would enfeoff them with Carinthia, while they would help him to secure Tyrol for the Wittelsbach. Even if Lewis had not expressly committed himself to the support of John of Bohemia’s plans, his dealings with the Habsburgs were in violation of his promises to Duke Henry.

Lewis was in a strong position. Both the Habsburgs and King John coveted Carinthia and could not hope to secure it without his consent. Neither party wished to see the Emperor under the influence of the other; thus, a few months earlier, John, fearful lest Lewis might be defeated, had intervened to avert the outbreak of war between him and the Habsburgs. The Emperor was thus well placed to play off the two rivals against each other, and he made the most of his opportunity. For the next few years, however, he was generally inclined to favour the Habsburgs, for John’s initial success in Italy had seemed to presage a dangerous increase of his power. Still, he avoided an open breach with John, who seems not to have known the terms of his agreement with the Habsburgs, and after prolonged negotiations at Ratisbon in 1331 the Bohemian King went away with the belief that his son would be allowed to succeed to both Carinthia and Tyrol if he would undertake to exchange them for Brandenburg, a condition to which he was apparently willing to agree.

Nevertheless John gradually came to the conclusion that Lewis was against him, and sought to obtain by pressure what he could not get by friendship. Attempts were being made to effect a reconciliation between Lewis and the Pope. In 1330 John of Bohemia himself, his uncle the Archbishop of Treves, and Duke Otto of Habsburg had suggested at Avignon, apparently with Lewis’ approval, that if he would withdraw his appeal to a General Council, abandon his anti-Pope, revoke everything he had done against John XXII’s lawful authority, acknowledge the validity of his excommunication, and seek the Pope’s pardon, he might be permitted to retain the royal and imperial titles and be restored to the Church. The acceptance of these terms would have been an admission of defeat on the part of the Papacy, and John XXII decisively rejected them. Direct negotiations between Lewis and the Pope in 1331 were also abortive. John XXII seemed slightly less implacable in 1332, when the Count of Holland joined Baldwin and the Habsburgs in an effort to make peace; but nothing came of their mediation, perhaps because John of Bohemia was now looking to the Papacy for aid against Lewis.

In 1333 and 1334 there occurred obscure negotiations with the object of securing the succession to the German throne for Duke Henry of Lower Bavaria, Lewis’ cousin. The motive of the Emperor in counte­nancing the plan was probably a desire to conciliate the King of Bohemia, who was Henry’s father-in-law. While Lewis seems merely to have agreed to the election of Henry as prospective king, John and Henry himself had hopes that Lewis would abdicate in his cousin’s favour. The Pope was naturally favourable to this scheme, and John and Henry gained the acquiescence of the King of France by lavish promises, which included the transference to Philip of imperial rights over the kingdom of Burgundy and the bishopric of Cambrai in guarantee of the payment of a large sum of money. But the project collapsed when, in the summer of 1334, the Emperor emphatically announced that he had no thought of abdicating.

About this time events took a turn in favour of Lewis. First, the Italian party among the cardinals, using as a pretext the suspicion of heresy under which John XXII had fallen for his views on the Beatific Vision, intrigued with the Emperor against him; it was largely due to their encouragement that Lewis threw over the scheme for the election of Duke Henry. Then, in December, came John’s unexpected death. His successor, Benedict XII, appeared to be inclined towards a settlement with the Emperor.

From the point of view of Lewis, the death of Duke Henry of Carinthia, which occurred on 2 April 1335, could not have come at a better moment. A month later he bestowed on the Habsburgs Carinthia and the southern part of Tyrol, the northern part being granted to his own sons. Luck was still with him, for John of Bohemia was lying sick at Paris, having been grievously wounded in a tournament. The triumph of the Emperor’s policy was indeed somewhat spoiled by the Tyrolese, who obstinately upheld the rights of Margaret Maultasch. Faced with the certainty of war as soon as King John should recover, Lewis now made a desperate attempt to reconcile himself with the Papacy. The Emperor soon found, however, that the new Pope, for all his pacific professions, was in reality no more conciliatory than John XXII. Lewis went to great lengths in his desire to placate him. He was willing to admit that he had sinned against Pope John, to abandon the title of Emperor, to revoke all imperial acts of himself and Henry VII, to promise never to visit Rome save with the Pope’s permission and in order to receive the imperial crown, and then to enter and leave the city within one day. He offered to go on crusade over­seas, to found churches and monasteries, and to perform pilgrimages, as the Pope might order. If he had fallen into heresy, he had done so unintentionally. The responsibility for the Sachsenhausen Appeal and other obnoxious documents he shabbily tried to throw onto the Franciscans or Marsilio, whom he undertook to cast off if they would not follow him in returning to the grace of the Holy See. But on one point, and that a crucial one, he stood firm. He would admit no invalidity in his title as king, for which he sought papal approval only as his predecessors had done. It must not be forgotten that the basis of John XXII’s first attack on Lewis was the contention that without papal recognition he was no true king at all. If Lewis could make peace without accepting this doctrine, he might claim to have been victorious on the main issue.

The offers summarised above were not made by Lewis all at once. During this phase of his relations with the Pope he sent several separate embassies to Avignon. The first, dispatched in March 1335, lacked sufficient power to deal with the Pope’s demands. The second reached Avignon in September of the same year. The consequent negotiations lasted a long time; but the Kings of France and Bohemia threw their weight against peace and ruined whatever small chance of agreement there might otherwise have been. Another abortive embassy was com­missioned early in 1336. In that year things went badly for Lewis in Germany. He failed to get possession of Tyrol. The Habsburgs and the Wittelsbachs accused each other of failing to give proper support to the common cause; and when John of Bohemia opened war and ravaged Austria, the Habsburgs made peace, keeping Carinthia and consenting to leave Margaret Maultasch in possession of Tyrol. It was after this that Lewis sent Margrave William of Jülich, who was married to a sister of his wife, to negotiate a marriage alliance with Philip of Valois and to offer to Benedict XII the most humiliating of the concessions mentioned above. The negotiations occupied the early months of 1337. They were impeded by the French, but broken off finally owing to the hectoring tone of the Pope, who in Consistory likened Lewis to the dragon of the Apocalypse and asserted that the insincerity of his repentance was proved by his refusal to abandon the title of king.

Lewis’ policy since his return from Italy, despite the shrewdness and resource which he had shown, had led to failure. Nothing had been added to the possessions of his family. He had alienated both the Luxemburgs and the Habsburgs. In his dealings with the Pope he had abased himself to no purpose. Yet in a few months he was more formidable to his enemies and more respected by his subjects than he had ever been before. He owed this sudden change of fortune, however, to a happy conjunction of circumstances rather than to any skill or insight of his own.

War between England and France was on the point of breaking out. Edward III was seeking allies, and the Pope had warned Philip that by repelling Lewis’ attempt to conciliate France and the Papacy he risked driving him into alliance with the English. Philip took no notice of the advice, but Benedict was right. Lewis knew that war with France would not be disliked by the Electors, who regarded the chief protector of the Pope as an enemy of their rights, and he thought that Philip might be constrained by fear to change his attitude towards the dispute between the Empire and the Papacy. A number of Lewis’ vassals in the Netherlands and the Rhineland were already allied to Edward, and in July 1337 the Emperor followed their example, undertaking to supply 2000 men for service against France in consideration of a large sum of money.

John of Bohemia had promised aid to France against both Edward and Lewis; Henry of Lower Bavaria took the same side; the Habsburgs, reluctant to offend the Pope, remained friendly with the French, though at first they gave no military support to either cause. But there is no doubt that most Germans, while not disposed to take any active share in the war, approved of the Emperor’s policy and liked to see him playing a part in international politics instead of intriguing with his own subjects in order to gain a few square miles of territory for his family. This feeling merged itself with a growing indignation excited by the Pope’s refusal to consider any terms offered by Lewis short of unconditional surrender. It was some of the clergy who first gave public expression of the general sentiment. The Pope’s nominee to the archbishopric of Mainz was now in undisputed possession of the see, having come to an understanding with Baldwin of Treves. He was on good terms with Lewis, and at his instance his suffragans and a number of other clergy, meeting at Spires, begged the Emperor to make peace with the Pope, and when Lewis offered to commit his cause to the German bishops concerned, they sent a mission to ask Benedict to show him favour. About the same time, the Archbishop of Cologne dispatched envoys on a like errand; and a little later, at Lewis’ request, a number of cathedral chapters and imperial cities wrote to Benedict setting forth their view of the true relation between the Papacy and the Empire.

To the messengers from Spires the Pope returned a curt and insulting answer. He suggested, indeed, that the Electors should mediate; but it was probably at the instance of Lewis himself, acting through the Archbishop of Mainz, that they resolved to intervene. The Pope’s conduct pointed to the conclusion that it was the settled policy of the Holy See to destroy the Empire and subject the German monarchy to itself, thus abrogating the rights of the Electors. On 15 July 1338 a conference was held at Lahnstein, and was attended by the three ecclesiastical Electors, the Emperor’s son Lewis of Brandenburg, four other Wittelsbach princes (representing the vote attached to that family), and Rudolf of Saxe-Wittenberg. The Bohemian electorate was the only one not represented. It was unanimously resolved to uphold the German kingdom and the rights of the Electors against all persons whatsoever.

The Declaration of Rense

Next day, at a meeting at Rense on the opposite bank of the Rhine, the resolution was published in expanded form. The oath taken by those who subscribed to it was declared to be binding on their successors and to pledge their own loyalty to Lewis. It was proclaimed in uncompromising terms that whoso was elected King of the Romans by the Electors or a majority of them had no need of the approbation or confirmation of the Apostolic See before entering upon the administration of the Empire or assuming the title of king, nor was he under any obligation to seek recognition by the Pope. It belonged to the Pope to crown the Emperor-elect and so give him the right to bear the imperial title. But his coronation as Emperor in no way increased the authority which he possessed in virtue of his election.

Early in August a Diet met at Frankfort. Its main business was to ratify the declaration made at Rense. Lewis recounted in public the efforts he had made for peace with the Pope, and recited the Lord’s Prayer, the Ave, and the Apostles’ Creed in proof of his orthodoxy. The Diet gave its approval to two imperial ordinances. One, drafted by the Franciscan canonist Bonagratia, gives a long demonstration of the illegality of the Pope’s pretensions regarding the Empire, forbids Lewis’ subjects to take any notice of excommunications or interdicts announced by the Pope in support of such pretensions, and threatens with forfeiture of their imperial fiefs all who disregard this decree. The second measure was the celebrated ordinance Licet iuris. Although it is manifest from both Civil and Canon Law that in ancient times imperial power proceeded directly from the Son of God, and the Emperor is made true Emperor by the election of those to whom the choice pertains and does not need the confirmation of anyone else, nevertheless some, blinded by avarice, ambition, and ignorance, assert that the imperial power and dignity come from the Pope and that no one is truly Emperor or king unless he has been approved and crowned by him. Wherefore, to avert the discord occasioned by such pestiferous doctrines, the Emperor, with the consent of the Electors and other princes, declares that, according to ancient right and custom, after anyone is chosen as Emperor or king by the Electors or a majority of them, he is to be deemed and styled true King and Emperor of the Romans, and ought to be obeyed by all subjects of the Empire as possessing and lawfully exercising imperial jurisdiction and the plenitude of imperial power. All those who deny anything in this ordinance shall ipso facto incur forfeiture of all their imperial fiefs and the privileges granted to them by Lewis or previous Emperors and shall be held guilty of high treason.

The ordinance claims that the choice of the Electors is sufficient authority for the assumption of the imperial title. In this it goes beyond the declaration of Rense, and it has been argued that the Diet can only have meant that after election the king was to be treated as if he were Emperor. But the wording of the ordinance is perfectly clear1 and leaves no room for reasonable doubt that the princes deliberately treated the royal and the imperial power, the regnum and the imperium, as one and the same thing, and denied to the Pope any share in the conferring of either. In accordance with the ordinances, Lewis now commanded all clergy to perform the regular services of the Church on pain of outlawry—a measure which was widely enforced. He also forbade the reception and execution of papal letters except with the permission of the bishop of the diocese concerned.

Hard upon the Diet at Frankfort came the famous meeting of Lewis and Edward III at Coblenz, when, with all the wealth of pomp and symbolism that marked the formal transaction of imperial business, Lewis appointed the English King imperial vicar, promulgated the laws enacted at Frankfort, and announced various measures for the promotion of the war against France. The occasion was graced by the presence of a multitude of princes and lords, who seem, at least for a time, to have felt something of the loyalty which they displayed. It was a brilliant climax to the astonishing events of the past few months.

Many German writers of modern times have regarded the declaration of Rense, the ordinances of Frankfort, and the ceremonies at Coblenz as evidence of a strong national feeling. The war with France, it is said, appealed to the animosity which most Germans felt towards that country, though some of the princes naturally fall under the suspicion of having been influenced by “English gold”. There is, however, no good reason to believe that there was any widespread hatred of France, except perhaps in the extreme west, where some of the princes were justifiably apprehensive about the designs of their restless neighbour. At all events, the proceedings at Rense and Frankfort referred exclusively to the relation of the Empire to the Papacy. As the sequel showed, if patriotic fervour influenced their course, it did not go very deep. The Electors, we may believe without injustice, were actuated mainly by concern for their threatened rights. The other princes, too, had no wish to admit the overlordship of so great a potentate as the Pope. As for the clergy who had pleaded for Lewis, they were ill a most perplexing position owing to the dispute between their spiritual and secular lords, and naturally were eager for an agreement, while recognising that Lewis had gone as far to meet the Pope as could reasonably be expected. Had Lewis been a man of imaginative ambition and forceful personality, he might indeed have turned the situation to the advantage of the German monarchy and people. But he was not equal to the opportunity. He was interested in the recent stirring events only in so far as they affected his chances of retaining Brandenburg and getting Tyrol or anything else that offered itself. Thus the rumblings of Rense and Frankfort produced nothing but smoke.

At first, it is true, there seemed a prospect of important results. Lewis withdrew or modified nearly all the concessions he had offered to the Papacy, and Benedict, while outwardly unyielding, actually sent an agent to the Emperor to discover his real intentions. In Germany, the Habsburgs allied with Edward III, and in 1339, after the death of Duke Otto, his brother Albert, sole survivor of the sons of King Albert I, joined Lewis in an attempt to coerce Henry of Lower Bavaria, who forthwith made peace. John of Bohemia, abandoned by his allies and estranged from his son Charles (who was ruling Bohemia), reconciled himself with Lewis and for the first time acknowledged him as overlord, having hitherto treated him merely as an ally. He would not abandon his alliance with France, but went so far as to promise to stand by the Empire if it were attacked by the Pope.

Lewis was thus most favourably situated for vigorous action whether against France or against the Pope. Unluckily for Germany his attention was diverted from large issues by the death of his cousin Henry of Lower Bavaria and his assumption, as next of kin, of the wardship of Henry’s infant son. In the autumn of 1339, indeed, Lewis of Brandenburg and Frederick of Meissen commanded an imperial contingent in Edward III’s futile invasion of the Cambrésis; but this was the full extent of the Emperor’s participation in the war. Next year the battle of Sluys made Philip of Valois anxious for peace: he asked the Emperor to mediate; and Lewis, jumping at the opportunity, concluded a treaty with France in March 1341. Each party was confirmed in the enjoyment of his actual possessions, the French being thus left in occupation of some pieces of territory which till lately had been German. Edward was deprived of his vicariate, and Philip undertook to mediate between Lewis and the Pope.

The English King took his dismissal with nonchalance. The Pope refused to listen to Philip’s representations on the Emperor’s behalf. In Germany Lewis’ behaviour was angrily condemned, and he was widely accused of cowardice. All hope of a national stand against the Papacy disappeared. The Electors felt that the Emperor had betrayed them, and the Archbishops of Mainz and Treves hastened to conciliate Benedict. Lewis was growing old and had perhaps lost some of his mental alertness. However that may be, his abandonment of the English alliance was undoubtedly one of the gravest mistakes he ever made.

The Tyrolese marriage

It was probably the fatal Tyrolese question that determined the Emperor’s policy at this time. He wished to be free to take advantage of an opportunity to retrieve his former failure. Margaret Maultasch, a high-spirited and sensual woman, had for some time been on the worst of terms with her impotent husband, John Henry of Luxemburg, while the Tyrolese nobles resented the strong rule which had been imposed on the country by his elder brother Charles. A conspiracy was formed to drive out John Henry, call in Lewis of Brandenburg, and marry him to Margaret. The plot succeeded, and early in 1342 the Emperor and his son visited Tyrol. Marsilio of Padua contended that Lewis’ imperial authority empowered him to dissolve the marriage between Margaret and John Henry, but Lewis acted on the more moderate opinion of William of Ockham that the marriage, never having been consummated, was void. Even so, Margaret and the younger Lewis were within the prohibited degrees; but no regard was paid to the lack of a papal dispensation which would not have been granted, the marriage was celebrated, and the Emperor enfeoffed his son, not merely with Tyrol, but also with Carinthia.

These doings outraged German opinion, but reprisals on the part of the Luxemburg family were delayed by the death in April of Pope Benedict XII. The new Pope, Clement VI, was already known as an enemy of Lewis, and John of Bohemia soon gained his ear. It behoved Clement, however, to walk warily, lest he should exasperate the Electors, and when, in April 1343, he instituted new proceedings against Lewis, he carefully limited himself to misdeeds committed since the beginning of the dispute in 1323 and laid special emphasis on the marriage of Lewis of Brandenburg and Margaret Maultasch. In face of the new attack, Lewis repeated the offers which he had made in 1337, but still refused to admit that the votes of the Electors required to be supplemented by papal recognition. Clement, who seems to have set his mind on the complete overthrow of Lewis, declared the terms inadequate.

The Emperor unwisely reported the recent negotiations to the Electors. Some were probably genuinely concerned at the extent of the proffered concessions. To others, notably Baldwin of Treves, now hand-in-glove with his kinsmen, they were a useful instrument for compassing the Emperor’s downfall. A Diet declared itself ready to support the Electors in any measures which they might adopt to maintain the rights of the Empire. It was generally known that the deposition of Lewis was contemplated, for in the opinion of the more public-spirited Electors it was desirable to have a king who was under less temptation to barter away the rights of his subjects.

Lewis was still formidable; his diplomacy surrounded Bohemia with a ring of enemies, and Philip of France feared a renewal of his alliance with England. Once again, however, his incorrigible lust for territory caused him to throw away his advantages. After the death of his childless brother-in-law, William Count of Holland, which occurred in September 1345, Lewis, not content with his wife’s inheritance of Hainault, bestowed on her Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland, shewing no regard for the interests of her sisters, married respectively to Edward III and the Margrave of Jülich. His action was not illegal and does not seem to have been resented by the inhabitants of the regions concerned. But it freed Philip from the dread of a new league between the Empire and England, and it exacerbated the Luxemburg princes, who saw in it a threat to their western possessions. The Pope, himself concerned at reports of an im­pending invasion of Italy by Lewis and the King of Hungary, was easily persuaded to attempt a decisive blow. The Archbishop of Mainz, who refused to consent to the deposition of the Emperor, was himself deposed from his see, and the dean, Gerlach of Nassau, whom the Pope could trust, appointed in his stead. Immediately afterwards, in April 1346, the Pope published a tremendous bull reciting the recent misdeeds of the Emperor, repeating the sentence of forfeiture of all his goods, pronouncing his sons and grandsons ineligible for any ecclesiastical or secular office, involving him in a comprehensive curse which covered both time and eternity, and calling upon the Electors to choose a ruler for the long-vacant Empire.

Clement recognised that the Electors would not agree to the claims put forward by John XXII and still cherished by himself. He must therefore consent to the choice of a king who would give him what he wanted behind their backs. He had found his man in Charles of Bohemia, who, thanks to the assiduous intrigues of his father and himself, could count on a majority of the Electors. In April 1346 Charles went to Avignon and signed the documents purchasing Clement’s consent to his election. He conceded practically everything which Lewis had offered in his most conciliatory mood, approved of his condemnation as a heretic and schismatic, guaranteed the Papacy in its temporal possessions, and promised to submit to papal arbitration all disputes between the Empire and France. On the crucial question of the confirmation of the election by the Pope, Charles was willing to establish a precedent without admitting a principle. He promised in writing to seek papal recognition before he exercised any authority in Italy, and he agreed verbally to await it before being crowned King of the Romans or acting in that capacity.

Charles’ conduct at this juncture has had its apologists even among patriotic German historians, though they can say little in his defence except that he did not agree to everything the Pope demanded. What he had done was not known, and it mattered little what was suspected. The Archbishop of Mainz was the Pope’s creature. The other ecclesiastical Electors and Duke Rudolf of Saxe-Wittenberg had been well paid. These three received without apparent resentment the Pope’s order to obey the summons of the Archbishop of Mainz, and, together with John of Bohemia, assembled at Rense—a cynical choice of place—at the beginning of July. The two Wittelsbach Electors did not appear, and Charles was chosen unanimously.

Very soon afterwards the new king and his father hastened to France in response to a call for help from Philip VI, and a few weeks later John was slain at Crecy. Though blind for several years, he had to the end displayed his marvellous activity, both mental and physical, and if it is true that his achievements were hardly proportionate to the energy expended in accomplishing them, it is also true that at his death his house was stronger than at his accession, secure in Bohemia (thanks, it must be admitted, to his son), with its overlordship recognised almost everywhere in Silesia, and with the prospect of still greater power in future.

Charles’ situation, however, was not cheering. He swore to the promises made at Avignon, and having received Clement’s recognition as king was crowned at Bonn by the Archbishop of Cologne, both Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne standing by Lewis. The Electors did nothing to help him. The Pope’s exhortations to the princes were ignored. He was popularly derided as a Pfaffenkönig. He crept home to Prague, which he reached in January 1347.

Lewis had viewed the plots against him with apparent indifference; but when the election of Charles had actually taken place, he suddenly dis­played the energy and ability of his best days. Nearly all the imperial cities were on the side of their constant patron; so were many of the princes; and the Habsburgs promised neutrality. An attempt by Charles to conquer Tyrol was defeated, and in South Germany and the Rhineland Lewis’ party gained some notable military successes. But in October the old Emperor died suddenly while hunting.

Though Lewis cared little for the Empire or the German monarchy and missed an opportunity of adding to the power and prestige of both, he can hardly be said to have weakened either. Indeed, his quarrel with the Pope and his expedition to Italy gave the idea of the Holy Roman Empire a prominence in men’s thoughts which it had not enjoyed for a long time. The most lasting result of his rule in Germany is to be seen in the increased power and independence of the cities. In Bavaria he shewed himself a competent but hardly a distinguished administrator. There can be no doubt, however, that he would have accounted himself a successful man. During his reign Brandenburg, Tyrol, and four Netherlandish provinces had been added to the resources of the house of Wittelsbach. It was not his fault that the family proved unworthy of the great inheritance he left them.

 

CHAPTER V

GERMANY: CHARLES IV