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Although the complexity of the phenomena of modem history is such as to baffle any attempt to render them subservient to preconceived conclusions, yet it must be allowed that the theory of so-called historic missions has been very plausibly exemplified from the growth of the Brandenburg-Prussian polity. Not many European dynasties have furthered the interests of their dominions so steadily as the Hohenzollerns, both before and since they declared themselves the servants of the State; and few populations with whose history we can daim to be fairly well acquainted have been found more consistently ready to cany out the designs of their rulers than the inhabitants of the lands out of which has grown the most powerful monarchy of the present age. The subjects of the Electors of Brandenburg were, in the words of Lord Acton, “conscious that Nature had not favoured them excessively, and that they could prosper only by the action of their Government”; and, he might have added, the discipline to which they submitted with so exceptional a readiness was rendered easier to them after they had become possessed of a trained intelligence which at times enabled them to anti­cipate the action of their rulers. Yet it would be futile to ascribe to the insight or to the energy of either the Hohenzollems or their subjects a controlling share in the shaping of their historic achievements. Rare as are the instances of States or dynasties that have accomplished more for themselves than Prussia and the Hohenzollems, they have been conspicuously, and to all intents and purposes avowedly, the heirs of time and the beneficiaries of circumstance. But time and circumstance only rarely found the Brandenburg-Prussian State, as they had not often found either of its chief component parts, unprepared for the action demanded by them. In earlier days the necessity of expansion had been almost identical with that of self-preservation; in later times the traditions had definitely formed themselves, in accordance with which the ship of State, as if obeying laws that had become part of her being, continued her onward course.

The history of the Prussian monarchy cannot be surveyed as that of any particular tribe which in the end consolidated itself, together with its accretions and acquisitions, into a State. Indeed, as a whole it lacks most of the elements which go to the making of a nation—unity of race, unity of creed, and the consciousness of a common history extending over the course of centuries. On the contrary, fresh affluents differig in origin or in some important feature from the main stream were constantly finding admittance into it by a continuous process, which was only interrupted in exceptional periods of depression. Nor again, can this history be written as the annals of a dynasty which systematically and without any serious break identified itself with aspirations that with its subjects had almost grown into a second nature. Apart from the fact that other dynasties preceded the Hohenzollems in almost every part of their ultimate monarchy, we remember how, once more to quote Lord Acton, it was not till the accession of the Great Elector that the Brandenburg-Prussian dynasty “entered into the spirit of the problem” confronting the State; and the proportion of the Electors and Kings who since that date have “struggled intensely for the increase of their power,” has been, to put it bluntly, little more than one-half of the whole number.


A very few pages must suffice, at a point so advanced as that which the course of this History has reached, to recall the most noteworthy stages in the growth and development of the two chief factors of the Brandenburg-Prussian State, before the time of their union in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. The Mark Brandenburg was the foundation of the great Saxon Duke who, as King Henry I, was the first to give to Germany so much of cohesion as could result from the general recognition of a vigorously asserted royal supremacy. But his more notable service to the German “name” was his actual assertion of his power from the Elbe towards the Oder. This implied, in the first instance, the subjugation of the Wends, who, seated in these regions from perhaps so early a date as the beginning of the sixth century, absorbed the remnants of the Germanic populations which held the country at the beginning of the Christian era. By the end of the ninth century—the birth-time of the national kingdoms of Western Europe—all the land to the east of the Elbe, besides not a little of it to the west, had come to be inhabited by Slavs; and it was as a bulwark against the great Slav inundation, which he had striven to drive back from the borders of his realm, that King Henry established (or reestablished on the lines of Charles the Great) the Northern Mark of the Saxons. Henry’s son, Otto the Great, developed the margravate system in his habitual grand style; and, while the Saxon Dukes themselves guarded the lower Elbe, the Counts of the Northern Mark steadily extended their authority eastwards from Brandenburg (Brennibor), a fastness which already Henry I had wrested from the Wends, over the marsh and sand of the Havel and Spree country as far as the Oder. Thus the future Brandenburg-Prussian State was in its beginnings indisputably an offshoot of the Saxon duchy; but the seventeenth century was hardly historical enough in its susceptibilities to make much account of this fact in the perennial jealousies between the Houses of Saxony and Brandenburg.

Notwithstanding the episcopal sees set up by Otto I in the half­subdued Wendic lands (Havelberg in 946; Brandenburg in 949; Lebus cannot be traced with certainty further back than the early part of the twelfth century), and in spite of the advance of the Christianised kingdom of Poland, the struggle was maintained by the Wends and Paganism for the better part of two centuries. In accordance with the physical features of the country, the contest had little of grandeur about it, and no great missionary efforts imparted to it a heroic character. After the great insurrection of 983, the conquered lands between Elbe and Oder long remained lost to Germany and Christendom, while the fortress of Brandenburg repeatedly changed its masters. Thus things went on, till, in 1133, the Emperor Lothar conferred the vacant countship of the Saxon North Mark upon the man who was to become the real founder of the power of Brandenburg. Albert the Bear, of the House of Ballenstadt, which called itself the Ascanian, from the old castle (Aschersleben) where he set up his judicial tribunal, and which was after­wards known as the House of Anhalt, failed in his attempt to oust the Guelf Henry the Proud (the father of Henry the Lion) from the Saxon duchy. But in the end he succeeded in recovering his Northern Mark, now first called the margravate of Brandenburg from the definitive seizure of that fortress, and extending eastward several miles beyond the site of Berlin. Thus Albert the Bear illustrated the value of the ancient adage that the half is often greater than the whole; for the founda­tions of dominion laid by him proved more solid and enduring than the vast structure raised by Henry the Lion. Now that the Mark Brandenburg protected the Empire against both Scandinavian pressure in the north and Polish in the north-east, its guardianship of the frontier and furtherance of the Christian mission on each side of it had been changed into a settled territorial dominion. The changes of nomenclature which accompanied its growth need not detain us here. Unlike so many German dynastic creations, especially in the northern and central parts of the Empire, Albert the Bear’s, although it received many augmentations and passed through various minor changes—the first of the innumerable partitions of Albert’s inheritance took place on his death—was in substance permanent.

In the work of Germanisation the Margraves were greatly aided by the efforts of the Christian Church, and in particular of the Praemonstratensian and still more of the Cistercian Orders. The Wends were not annihilated; they were pushed aside into their villages, or absorbed by their conquerors, without being able to impregnate the language, manners, religion, or legends and traditions of the latter with any distinctive elements of their own. While the mass of the Wendic population, without being admitted by intermarriage into the communities of the towns, had thus to choose between serfdom and expatriation, all rebellion being rigorously repressed, the Slav nobles in the Mark were accorded an equality of rights with their German neighbours, on whom a large proportion of the land had as a matter of course been bestowed. Free intermarriage ensued; an accord of sentiment and opinion (there being no longer any religious barrier in the way) was gradually produced; and thus the upper or ruling classes peacefully amalgamated, some Slavonic family names being preserved among the landed gentry, while no analogous process was so much as attempted in the case of the lower orders. In this social sphere immigration, to which probably no ancient or modern State has been more largely indebted than the Brandenburg-Prussian in the successive stages of its progress, was welcomed by a country broken up by invasion and depopulated by revolt; but in these early times, as afterwards, it took place in small numbers or bodies, so that the authority of the Government was not impaired but strengthened by it. The Flemish, Dutch, Westphalian, and Franconian settlers, dependent as they were upon the hand of authority for the protection of their holdings, and for the security of the franchises granted to them in an environment of serfs, were steadily loyal to the Margraves. These considerations account on the one hand for the early growth of an arrogant and self-reliant Junkertum, a squirearchy rather than an aristocracy—for the subdivision of the Mark prevented the growing up of States General, or any other kind of comprehensive representative body capable of much beyond petty interference with expenditure— which only a strong hand could force into submission to the authority of the State. And, on the other hand, they explain how there grew up, as the best support of that authority, an industrious burgher class, whose intelligence was quickened by the perpetual struggle with the difficulties surrounding it. The Brandenburg towns were necessarily small and poor in comparison with those of the south-west and of the Low Countries; and there was no communal cohesion to disturb the monarchical system of government, which it is futile to regard as established for military purposes only.

The comparative remoteness of the dominions which had grown out of the Northern Mark allowed its rulers to pursue their own dynastic interests without seeking to take part in the European conflicts of the Hohenstaufen age. Nevertheless, the outlook of the Brandenburgers was always wide. The investment, at so early a date as 1186, of Margrave Otto II by the Emperor Frederick II with Pomerania created claims leading to an endless series of feuds, raids and disputes which, as has been seen in a previous volume, were not ended even by the Succession Treaty of 1529; and the complete union of Pomerania and Brandenburg was only established by the Vienna Treaties of 1815. Although, when in 1196 Margrave Otto II and his brother Albert II for ulterior purposes of their own commended all their possessions to the Archbishop of Magdeburg, this did not imply any diminution of their political power, their successors came to judge differently of the relation of dependence thus established, and it was ended in 1449 by the Hohenzollem Elector Frederick II.

Early in the thirteenth century the collapse of the Danish King Waldemar the Victorious at Bomhoved (1226) had led to the acquisition by the Margraves of the Spree district, in which the foundations of Berlin seem about this time to have been laid, and of the Ukermark. Their older possessions were about the same time multiplying their centres of civil and ecclesiastical life; it is from this period that, among other foundations, dates that of Lehnin, whose prominent position in the history of the Mark afterwards gave rise to a celebrated forged prophecy (the Vaticinium Lehninense) as to the interdependence of their destinies.

Conformably to the uncontrollable practice of German dynasties, immediate or mediate, partitions went on without ceasing in the House of Brandenburg, but with the prevailing characteristic that they were usually amicable, and always treated as revocable in the common interest of a clear-sighted dynasty. Early in the fourteenth century the power of the House had, in the person of its all but single male representative, Waldemar the Great, reached an unprecedented height, and, largely by means of a good understanding with the Church, extended from Danzig to Dresden.

But the death of the great Waldemar (1319) was followed by a period of trouble, in which the neighbours of Brandenburg fell upon the land to seize what they could of it. The victorious Emperor Lewis the Bavarian invested his son Lewis, a child eight years of age, with Brandenburg, together with Lusatia and other dependencies. For nearly half a century (1324-73) the Mark was nominally subject to the House of Wittelsbach; and it almost seemed as if the centre of gravity of the territorial possessions of that House might come to lie in those northern lands whose future relations to the Empire were so wholly unforeseen. But the Wittelsbach rule had never struck root in the Mark; under Lewis it had been devastated by a Polish invasion, blessed by the Pope (John XXII); and after the death of the Emperor Lewis (1347) his three sons had to contend not only against the statecraft of Charles IV of Bohemia, now generally acknowledged as Roman King, but against a popular current of mysterious force. The story of the False Waldemar (1348-55), in whose favour almost the entire margravate (except Treuenbrietzen) renounced its Bavarian ruler, attests a tenacious loyalty of which Brandenburg-Prussian history was to furnish many later examples, but none more remarkable than this. The Bavarian sway over Brandenburg survived this shock; but it continued to be exposed to the hostility of the Imperial House and to the feebler efforts of the spiritual power of Rome. Finally, after a terrible devastation of the margravate by the Emperor’s Bohemian soldiery (1371), the Elector Otto resigned his authority; and at Tangemünde (1374) the perpetual union of the Mark Brandenburg with the Bohemian Crown was proclaimed. Brandenburg had probably been thus preserved from disruption, but with the prospect of becoming, like Silesia, a mere element in the dynastic power of Bohemia, whose furthest advance in political importance, in economic prosperity, and in intellectual activity, is marked by the reign of Charles IV.

For more than a generation Brandenburg was subject to a Government which had been imposed upon it by methods as unscrupulous as those of Ferdinand of Aragon or of Louis XIV, but which gave to the province a fair share in the order and prosperity prevailing in the kingdom of Bohemia. The neighbours were pacified; and at home the insolence of some of the nobles was curbed, while at the same time the privileges of their order and of the towns were extended. Unfortunately, after the death of Charles IV (1378) the excellent intentions of his second son Sigismund, who succeeded in Brandenburg, were frustrated by his ambition; and, though in 1382 he ascended the Hungarian throne, he aimed at the succession both in Bohemia and to the Imperial Crown. In Brandenburg, under his lieutenants, the old dangers revived on the north-western frontier, and the old turbulence within. Being always in want of money, he in 1385 mortgaged the Old Mark to his kinsmen, Margraves Jodocus and Procopius of Moravia, in spite of the opposition of the Estates of the land, both spiritual and temporal; and three years later he threw into the mortgage his electoral dignity and the entire margravate with the exception of the New Mark, which, having been bequeathed to his younger brother John by their father, could not be alienated till John’s death in 1402, when it was mortgaged to the German Order. Margrave Jodocus, although in time he became legal owner of the greater part of Brandenburg, only appeared within its borders for the purpose of extorting money. The close of the fourteenth and the early years of the fifteenth century were evil times for Brandenburg—more especially by reason of the irrepressible turbulence of the native nobility, typified by the Old Mark family of the Quitzows, whose name has sometimes been given to the whole period in question. They took the lead in systematising—if the expression may be used—an anarchy by which the authority of State and Church, and the last remnants of prosperity in the towns, were threatened with utter collapse. In turn champions of native independence against the encroachments of neighbouring potentates, and leaders of a combination of native and foreign opposition to the authority of the Margraves, which at times they actually usurped, these protagonists of the Junkertum were not deposed from their ascendancy till after the advent of the Hohenzollerns.

With the investment of Frederick of Hohenzollern, Burgrave of Nürnberg, with the margravate of Brandenburg (he was appointed vicar and captain-general of it in 1411, made his first appearance there in 1412, practically settled matters with the Quitzows in 1416, and was finally invested in April, 1417), a new chapter begins in the histoiy of the land.

Burgrave Frederick VI of Nürnberg, now Elector Frederick I of Brandenburg, was a descendant of the Alemannic Counts of Zollem, who are mentioned as early as the tenth century, and who soon afterwards had reached a prominent position among the magnates of Swabia. Early in the thirteenth century (1210), Count Frederick of Hohenzollern is proved by documentary evidence to have been Burgrave of Nümberg; from his second son and namesake sprang the Swabian Hohenzollems, whose rights as territorial Princes were resigned by them into the hands of their Prussian kinsmen more than six centuries afterwards (1849); to his eldest son Conrad II passed the newly acquired Franconian dominions. These latter would by partitions and donations to the Church have been reduced to almost nothing, but for the marriage of Burgrave Frederick III to the heiress of Meran, whose possessions included Baireuth and probably Culmbach. He was the right hand of Rudolf of Habsburg; and it should be added that the burgravate itself, as involving the guardianship of a large body of Imperial domains, was an important trust, by their loyal fulfilment of which the Franconian Hohenzollerns endeared themselves to the Habsburg Emperors, and no doubt greatly contributed to their own advancement. In 1420 Baireuth and Ansbach were once more united in the hands of Burgrave Frederick VI, the founder of the power of the House of Brandenburg.

Frederick I, a soldier and a scholar, and gifted, as it would seem, with the supreme political faculty of distinguishing between things essential and non-essential, and suiting his action to this perception, knew how to bide his time. The services which he had rendered to Sigismund both in the field and in finally securing his election as Roman King sufficiently account for his being in flagramti Caesaris gratia, and for the transfer to him of the Electoral Mark Brandenburg on easy and practically (though perhaps not technically) permanent terms. Frederick’s undertaking to renounce the fief,, should he ever attain to the dignity of Roman King, at all events proves Sigismund’s estimate of the importance of his friend in the affairs of the Empire.

But although Frederick, with the cooperation of the Archbishop of Magdeburg, with the aid of his own new artillery, and by judicious concessions to the main body of the Brandenburg nobles, pacified the Mark, his services to Emperor and Empire failed to secure a continuance of confidence between them. Frederick, although Brandenburg had suffered terribly from the Hussites, supported the policy of making terms with them; on the other hand, his design of becoming possessed of the Saxon in addition to the Brandenburg electorate, could not commend itself to the House of Austria. Still, the old feeling of loyalty, united no doubt to the sense of inadequate power, ranged him on the side of those who, after acquiescing in the election of Albert II as Roman King, agreed to that of Frederick III, whose long and impotent reign lasted for more than half a century (1440-93). Thus the founder of the new House of Brandenburg cannot be said to have either effectively promoted or vigorously resisted the beginning of an occupation of the Imperial throne by the House of Austria, which was to continue till 1740, just three centuries after his death.

The founder of the greatness of the Hohenzollems necessarily moved within the limits of his own political horizon; and the testamentary disposition which he made of his dominions, although partly explained by personal considerations, fails to indicate that he was intent on securing a great future to his electorate, or even on preserving its territorial integrity. While his eldest son (John “the Alchemist”) succeeded in Baireuth, it was to the second, Frederick II, that he left the inheritance of Brandenburg. The new Elector had, like his contemporary, Louis XI, to wage a hard struggle with a still disaffected nobility; but he also had to hold his own against the towns, sufficiently awake to their own interests to confederate themselves with the great Hanseatic League whose system was extended over northern Germany. Finally, he had to meet the claims of a Church naturally inclined Homewards; but, while he put a decisive stop on the feudal dependence of part of his dominions on the archbishopric of Magdeburg, he contrived to secure, in the spirit of his own age and in good time for the opportunities which that of the Reformation was to bring, the right of nomination to episcopal sees within his electorate. Amidst all these internal difficulties Frederick II did not lose sight of the duty, present to so many of his line, of augmenting his dominions. In 1454 the New Mark, which had been pledged to the German Order, was repledged by it to the Elector, and conditions were soon added which in 1517 resulted in the renunciation of all rights to these territories hitherto reserved by the Order. He withstood, however, the temptation towards more remote gains (West Prussia and Bohemia); and his claim on the inheritance of the last Duke (Otto III) of Pomerania-Stettin, and the hope of thus extending the dominions of his House to the shores of the Baltic, were frustrated by King Casimir IV of Poland. Thus his prudent and on the whole prosperous reign ended in disappointment; and a year before his death he transferred the government to his brother Albert Achilles, who already ruled the Franconian principalities of the House.

The Dispositio Achillea.

Albert Achilles (1470-86)—his cognomen, like those of some of his successors, is redolent of the Renaissance sympathies of the age—was in certain other respects a Prince on the pattern of Maximilian I, who owed to the hereditary attachment of the Brandenburger his own election as Roman King. At home Albert Achilles conducted the government of his electorate with vigour, while he enlarged his dominions by the acquisition of parts of Silesia, and was definitely invested with Pomerania-Stettin, though he obtained no immediate possession of the duchy. The steady support which he gave to the decadent Empire was important, inasmuch as he was probably, at the time, its most powerful Prince. But, though, following in his father’s footsteps, he contrived to assert his authority as supreme in Brandenburg, his heart was in his Franconian possessions; and the task of consolidating his inheritance weighed heavily on him, as it did on so many German Princes of his times. Thus his famous testamentary disposition—known hereafter as the Dispositio Achillea—was at once a compromise and an enduring fiat. It laid down in perpetuum the principle that, while his whole inheritance should at no future time be divided into more than three parts, the margravate of Brandenburg should henceforth never be subjected to partition. Thus Albert Achilles, in different circumstances, corroborated the critical action of Albert the Bear.

A prolonged tranquillity along their frontiers enabled the successors of Albert Achilles to give security to their territorial authority, which neither Poland nor Hungary, alike preoccupied by conflicts with the Turks, was disposed to menace. But the Elector John Cicero (1486­99) and his successors Joachim I and II and John George, whose reigns covered the ensuing century (1499-1598), were strong rulers as well as intelligent patrons of learning. (The foundation of the University of Frankfort-on-the-Oder, 1505, was almost contemporary with that of the University of Wittenberg, whose importance overshadowed that of her younger foster-sister.) John Cicero had to suppress a revolt of the towns of the Old Mark; his successor strung up in a single batch forty members of the recalcitrant nobility—of that Kockeritz and Liideritz, Kracht and Itzenplitz, sort, from which the litany of the peasants prayed the Lord to deliver them. The introduction of Homan law, coinciding with the establishment at Berlin of the Electoral Cameral Tribunal, was of much advantage to these processes of the executive. And at the same time the traditional policy of maintaining a close connexion with the central authority of the Empire was steadily maintained; and when, in 1514, Joachim I’s younger brother Albert, Archbishop of Magdeburg and Administrator of Halbcrstadt, had been elected Archbishop of Mainz, the Brandenburg dynasty was in possession of two electoral votes. Never before had the House of Brandenburg loomed so large in the eyes of Europe; but it will suffice for our purpose to mention the election, in 1512, as High Master of the German Knights of the Franconian Margrave Albert, a grandson of the Elector Albert Achilles.

At a critical stage in the celebrated Imperial election of 1519 the Elector Joachim I, though by no means anti-Habsburg in sentiment, was gained over by the profuseness of the French promises to give his support to the candidature of Francis I. It was an age of bargains, but this particular move proved futile; and the accession of the new Emperor’s brother Ferdinand to the kingship of Hungary and Bohemia (1526) for the first time brought the vastly augmented dominions of the Habsburgs into contiguity with those of the Hohenzollems. A special germ of future complications lay in the fact that in the borderland of Silesia, now a dependency of the Bohemian Crown under Habsburg supremacy, a Hohenzollem Prince, Margrave George of Ansbach, had during the reign of King Lewis II of Bohemia (and Hungary) been invested with the principality of Jagerndorf (1523) and had acquired a reversionary interest in that of Oppeln (1528), thus materially advancing the long-continued efforts of the Brandenburg dynasty to establish a firm footing in Silesia. But, although Jagerndorf remained in Branden­burg hands for an entire century (to 1623), Joachim I failed to foresee the ultimate effect of these Silesian possessions and claims upon the relations of his dynasty with the continuously growing power of the House of Austria.

Equally little was it in his mind, as it afterwards came to be in the minds of his descendants, to identify the interests of his dynasty with the cause of the Reformation. It should be premised that the Margraves of Brandenburg had from the first stood in a quite peculiar relation to the Church, so that the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Electors in their dominions was not a work of the Reformation. The episcopal authority never reached the same development in the territories beyond the Elbe as that to which it attained in the older regions of the Empire; and, after its complete collapse and reestablishment through them, they continuously stood to it in a relation of protectorship. The Brandenburg Bishops were nominated by the Margraves, and merely confirmed by the vote of their Chapters; and they were in all temporal matters subject to the territorial authority, sitting in the Landtage and not in the Imperial Diet. Indeed, if the relations of the Margrave- Electors to the monastic Orders within their dominions be taken into account, their authority may be said to have resembled that of the contemporary great monarchical Powers.

The Reformation in Brandenburg. [1517-48

The reception of the Reformation in Brandenburg was, notwithstanding, one of those instances in which, contrary to a common assumption, the mind of the population of the electorate moved more rapidly than did that of its ruling House. All the neighbouring parts of Germany had passed, or were passing, over to the Protestant side, and no attempt at resistance to the current could be permanently successful. Although therefore Joachim I, without remaining insensible to the influence of the Renaissance, held out to the best of his power against the Reformation, joining the League of Halle (1533) and actually offering to renounce his claims on Pomerania if its Dukes would remain orthodox, he could not even unite his own House in the support of his religious polity. The Franconian Hohenzollerns were early adherents of the Reformation—among them Margrave George “the Pious” of Ansbach, to whose Silesian acquisitions reference has been made above, and his younger brother Margrave Albert, of whom, as the first Duke of Prussia, more will immediately have to be said.

On the death of Joachim I (1535) his son Joachim II Hector, to whom his father had left two-thirds of the margravate with the electoral dignity, did not, like his younger brother John, to whom passed most of the New Mark, at once declare himself a Lutheran; but he allowed the Reformation movement to progress freely in his electorate, while himself aiming at something of an Erasmian middle course. Thus, while the Brandenburg reformation received the Imperial sanction in 1541, Joachim II remained on friendly terms with the Imperial House, and commanded against the Turks in Hungary. So long, moreover, as that eminent pluralist, Joachim II’s uncle, Cardinal Albert, Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, Archbishop of Magdeburg, and Bishop of Halberstadt, survived, Joachim’s liberal conservatism was sure of a very potent support. His own attitude in matters of religion was probably in the first instance due to conscientious motives; but it is difficult to palliate his having entered, in the course of the Schmalkaldic War (1547), into an understanding with the future Emperor Ferdinand I, by which he actually undertook to send a small auxiliary force to the Imperial side, in return for the promise to one of his sons of the sees of Magdeburg and Halberstadt, between which and the electorate a connexion was thus preserved by him. Yet, though he agreed to the Interim, the unwillingness of his subjects to accept it, or some other cause, soon afterwards brought him to see the situation more clearly and began to estrange him from the Emperor Charles V. He became a supporter of the bold policy of his neighbour, the Elector Maurice of Saxony; and as he continued to go hand in hand with Maurice’s sagacious successor, Augustus, the conjunction between Saxony, Brandenburg, and Hesse, materially helped to bring about the Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555). The Brandenburg reformation was now carried through; but though the three episcopal sees within the electorate were secularised, and the administration of them was conferred upon princes of the dynasty, as few changes as possible were made in forms of worship, and the doctrinal teaching of the Swiss and other more advanced reformers was kept at a distance. Politically, the great achievement of Joachim II's reign was his success in securing the administration of the see of Magdeburg to his grandson, Joachim Frederick (1566), as the centre of gravity of the dominions of his dynasty was thus definitively fixed between the middle Elbe and Oder.

The conscientious and frugal John George (1571-98), though he over-governed his subjects, proved how well he meant by them by securing to them the peace in which alone they could prosper. In matters of religion he was, in accordance with the sterile inspirations of this age, a narrow Lutheran—as is shown by his waiving the claims of his dynasty on the inheritance of Jiilich, Cleves, and Berg, if the prosecution of them was to involve joint action with the Calvinistic Netherlander.

His son, Joachim Frederick (1598-1608), who as Administrator of Magdeburg had completely carried out the reformation of the see, had been strongly impressed by the divisions among the Protestants which prevented them from making head at the Diet against their Catholic opponents, who refused to allow him to take his seat there on the Spiritual Bench. He thus came to accept the rigidly Lutheran Jbrmula concordiae as binding upon the whole of his electorate; but the necessity of this submission, and still more the persistent intervention of his Estates in the administration of the State, led him to cease convening them unless on quite exceptional occasions, and to appoint a Council of State (whose original members, nine in number, were the earliest of many generations of Geheimrathe) charged with the initiation of all except Church and judicial business. This Council may be regarded as the germ of the Prussian bureaucracy—if so slovenly a designation must be adopted for so strenuous a thing—assuredly one of the most important of all the factors in the political development of the Branden- burg-Prussian State. Joachim Frederick’s successor, John Sigismund, quite early in his reign formally approved the principle already estab­lished in practice under his father: that the Elector would take no step in the affairs of his House or dominions without having previously sought the advice of his Privy Council. In other words, by about the second decade of the century the heads of the administration in Brandenburg had already done what a generation later Strafford and his helpers vainly attempted to do in England—they had taken the real control of the government out of the hands of the parliamentary representation,

In his foreign policy, Joachim Frederick was not destined to see the results of his efforts in connexion with the affairs of the lower Rhine, The great issue, on the other hand, of the union between Brandenburg and Prussia he advanced by obtaining (1605) the administratorship of the latter duchy on behalf of its demented Duke Albert Frederick and by marrying one of his younger daughters (Eleanor), the eldest (Anne) having been married several years before to the Electoral Prince. But he made little way with the Prussian nobles; and in this direction also left the fruits of his steadfast endeavours to be gathered in by his son and successor.

John Sigismund (1608-19), though really a less remarkable man than his father, had the good fortune to advance signally the importance and power of his dynasty. Among the claimants of the disputed Jülich-Cleves-Berg inheritance, John Sigismund of Brandenburg was, as has been narrated in an earlier passage of this History, the first in the field; and his interests and those of the promptest among his competitors (the Palatinate-Neuburg Duke), when they obtained, first joint and then several, possession of the coveted territories, really coincided with the interests of European peace. Thus the House of Brandenburg virtually secured an important extension of its dominions, although not one which was throughout of unmistakable advantage to it. In the person of John Sigismund was also accomplished, on the death of Duke Albert Frederick in August, 1618, the all-important union between the Brandenburg electorate and the duchy of Prussia; so that, when his weary life came to a close, the eastern and the western limits of the future kingdom of Prussia in its earliest stage had already been reached by the dominions of the Brandenburg Hohenzollems.

John Sigismund’s reign had, however, left a distinctly personal mark upon the history of the State of which he had become one of the founders. Though first brought up as a strict Lutheran, he had been subjected to Calvinistic influences during his University life at Strassburg and Heidelberg, and at the latter place to that of the Electress Palatine, Louisa Juliana, the daughter of William of Orange, with whose House his own was later to become so closely connected. Thus, in 1613, at a most critical time for the future of his line (upon which the Jülich-Cleves succession difficulty might at one time have possibly brought down the ban of the Empire), he declared himself a Calvinist. Rarely in Hohenzollern annals has a head of his House fouud himself face to face with a resistance so irreconcilable as that provoked by this step both in Brandenburg, where its censors were encouraged by the neighbouring Lutheran rulers of Saxony and Pomerania, and in Prussia, where it provoked a resistance as bitter as it was unanimous. And yet it led the Princes, and with them the population, of the State to accept and assimilate principles of toleration which, besides having signally augmented its economic resources, have come to be its priceless moral and intellectual inheritance. Thus, by the great designs which it was his lot to carry out, and by the consequences of an act of pure conscientiousness, John Sigismund’s reign marks an epoch in the history of his land.




No account, complete even in outline, can here be attempted of the history of the duchy of Prussia before its union with the electorate of Brandenburg. The Prussians who inhabited the region between Vistula and Pregel were more nearly akin to their Lithuanian neighbours on the north-east than to the Pomeranians, Poles and Russians on the south and the south-east; and it was Lithuanian support on which they had to depend in their struggle against Germanic invaders. For a long time, protected seawards by the sand-banks of the Haffs, and landwards by impenetrable marshes and , forests, the seats of these old Prussians, in an isolation which still impresses itself on thd traveller, remained impervious alike to the hostile attacks of their powerful neighbours and to the peaceable inroads of Christian missionaries. Neither the martyrdoms of St Adalbert (997), whose shrine at Gnesen afterwards became a kind of rallying-point against the German advance, and (rather more than a decade later) of St Brun, nor the sword of either Pole or Dane, could bend or break the resistance of this pagan people. By the middle of the twelfth century the sum total of the struggle seems to have been the reduction to dependence upon Poland of a small southern comer of Prussia, the Culmland. The efforts which resulted in the actual Christianisation and subsequent Germanisation of Prussia date from the following (thirteenth) century, and are associated with the name of Christian, a monk of the Cistercian convent of Oliva near Danzig, and afterwards the first Prussian bishop. The consequent insurrection of the Prussians led to the proclamation by Pope Honorius III of a crusade against them (1218). Various restrictions were imposed upon the participation in this crusade, and upon the application to be made of its results; in short, the intention appears to have been to make Prussia, when conquered, a kind of ecclesiastical province apart, under conditions revealing a singular loftiness as well as self-consciousness of purpose. But political considerations of all kinds, with which after the manner of the age religions were closely intermixed, obscured the prospect and delayed the accomplishment of the conversion of Prussia; and no real change was effected in its condition by the (virtually) Polish and Pomeranian crusade of 1222.

This failure had lost Poland a fair chance of definitively mastering the destinies of Prussia. While Emperor and Pope each declared that the country owed allegiance to him alone, the power to which it actually became subject was that of the German Order of Knights. The youngest of the great Orders which owed their origin to the enthusiasm of the Crusades, had, like the others, taken its origin from small beginnings; in this case from the charitable efforts of German crusading knights cooperating with those of Liibeck and Hamburg merchants to provide for their afflicted countrymen in the course of the long siege of Acre (1190). Here the Order was afterwards duly established under its actual founder, Duke Frederick of Swabia, the second son of the great Barbarossa. Favoured by both Popes and Emperors, it had within a single generation distanced both the Templars and the Knights of St John, and was regarded as the most powerful association of Knights in the Western world. Its outlying settlements (Balleien) spread over both Italy and Germany; and its great days began with the election to the High Mastership of the Thuringian, Hermann von Salza (1210), whom his great patron, Emperor Frederick II, created a Prince of the Empire, the Imperial eagle thus finding his way into the Black Cross of the Order. He was not only a most able politician who in times of bitter hostility between Pope and Emperor was the friend of both, but also a great statesman who perceived that the task of the German Knights was no longer specifically in the East, but wherever they could render real service to the cause of Christianity and civilisation. In Transylvania they began in small the experiment which on a larger scale they were to repeat in Prussia. What Hermann von Salza could not know was that his Order was after all only an aftergrowth of the crusading spirit; and that chivalry, even if fired with religious enthu­siasm, could no longer do more than supplement and aid in its expansive action the conquering impulse of commercial enterprise.

Starting from the Culm lands, made over to Hermann and his Knights in 1226 by the Duke of Masovia, a vassal of the Polish Crown, as its base of action, the German Order was to invade Prussia and conquer it to the honour and glory of God. But the High Master took care at the outset to obtain for himself and his successors investment with all the rights of a Prince of the Empire over all the Prussian lands of which the Order might possess itself. Its advance was promoted, while its design of controlling the eastern coast of the Baltic was indicated, by the union effected by him between his Order and that of the Sword, which had subdued Livonia (1237). Still, the conquest of Prussia, a process carried on by a small and compact body of assailants against a population which can hardly have reached a quarter of a million, occupied rather more than half a century. Neither the advance to the north-eastern comer, where to this day Memel is the north­eastern boundary-point of the German Empire, nor the subsequent construction (1255) in Samland of the fortress called Konigsberg in honour of the aid given to the advance of the Order by Ottokar II, King of Bohemia, contradicts the fact that the process was gradual, and its result achieved by an adherence to the principle of “pegging away.”

This advance continued during the greater part of the thirteenth century. At every stage in its course—from Danzig to Narva on the Gulf of Finland—it was seconded by the mercantile instinct, which insisted on the foundation and organisation of centres of civic life. The terrific outbreak of the repressed Prussian spirit of nationality, which began in 1261 and rapidly spread through the whole Lettic group of populations, placed the Order on the defensive, and is rightly held to have given rise to its heroic period. A season of rigorous, and even cruel, repression and reorganisation ensued, which left its mark on the history of Prussia. The old nobility of the land virtually ceased to exist; while, with certain privileged exceptions, the entire population capable of bearing arms was obliged to take part, not only in defensive war, but in the reysings or excursions beyond the frontier which were an integral part of the regular work of the Order. In a word, its dominions were organised strictly on the footing of a military State, without any sustained attempt to raise the civilisation of the lower classes of the population, whose use of their own language lasted into the sixteenth century. Inasmuch, however, as the primary purpose of this State was the Christian propaganda, it rapidly arrived at a clear and definite understanding with the Church; so that the Prussian clergy (more especially as no archbishopric had been established within the borders of Prussia) submitted to the authority of the Order even after it had come into conflict with Rome. This authority was further strengthened by the fact that the German colonists who found their way to Prussia came from every part of the Empire—in the patient German fashion— seeking, rather than bringing with them, the elements of cohesion.

Scarcely had the conquest of Prussia been accomplished, when the Order cast an eager eye upon the territory of Pomerelia on the western bank of the Vistula. Pomerelia was under the rule of Dukes who were the vassals of Poland; but the Order was strong enough to assert its power in this direction without asking any cooperation from either the Dukes of Pomerania-Wolgast or the Brandenburg Margraves. In 1311 the Order established its authority over Danzig which was to become the wealthiest of the cities of the Baltic—its inglorious Venice; and for a generation the Knights were the masters of Pomerelia. This great advance of the power of the Order thus coincided with the widest expansion of the early power of Brandenburg under Waldemar the Great.

It was in this very period that the German Knights had once more to face the problem of their corporate future; for the Order of the Templars was abolished by the Council of Vienne (1313), and the younger Order did not escape the papal thunderbolts. Very wisely, it determined to meet its destiny as a consolidated rather than as a dissipated Power, and to this end permanently fixed its seat in the centre of Prussia, between the Vistula and the sea—at Marienburg on the Nogent. Here, in the acropolis whence their Virgin patroness gazed forth upon the subject plains around, the German Knights seemed immovable and unassailable; and, when they sent forth their representatives to Avignon or other Courts, it was as a Power with which other Powers had to reckon.

Yet, already in the earlier half of the fourteenth century, the revival of the national spirit of the Poles under Casimir III the Great, the last in the male line of their national Kings, the Piasts, and the design of a union of Poland and Lithuania, threatened the overthrow of the German Order. But, after a protracted struggle, the Peace of Kalisch (1343) assured to the Order a dominion even wider than that to which it had laid claim. Now began its golden days, during which it was not only esteemed the high school of Christian chivalry, practising on the vast mass of Lithuanian heathendom, but also asserted itself—and this is the great age of the Hansa—as a notable commercial and maritime Power.

The land of “Spruce” was now something of a promised land, and the sprusado the militant darling of the age. The ulterior political designs of the Order were fully commensurate with its actual achievements; and if the partition of Poland which it negotiated was not actually carried out, it obtained possession, as has been seen, of the New Mark of Brandenburg in pledge from the still-vext Sigismund. At home it maintained the freedom of its government from all alien inter­ference. No Peter’s Pence were levied in Prussia; the Bishops, though their dioceses were of papal foundation, and the great convents of Oliva and Peplin, were subject to the territorial authority of the High Master. On the other hand, a large measure of liberty was left to the towns, of which in the fourteenth century a vast network, together with a multitude of German villages, overspread the land; the Culmische Handfeste became a kind of model charter of municipal rights.

The reason for the decline of so strenuous and prosperous a polity as that of the German Order cannot be examined here. The loyalty of the Knights began to give way, so soon as the religious basis of the Order became mere formalism; the allegiance of the towns, tired of being mastered by a garrison of monks, and jealous of their mercantile competition, had never rested on any foundation beyond the traditions of force; the military system of Europe was passing through a change to which the heirs of the crusaders could not accommodate themselves; and the real raison d'être of their actual position—the carrying on of warfare against the heathen—was at least not so self-evident as of old. Meanwhile Poland, the hereditary foe of the Order, was preparing for a resumption of the struggle.

The memorable attempt to extend once more the range of power and influence covered by the Slavonic nationality connects itself with the dynastic ambition of the Emperor Charles IV, already noted in its bearing on the history of Brandenburg. The religious movement of which John Hus was the centre (though its dogmatic origin has to be sought in the speculations of Wiclif) accentuated the antagonism between German and Slav, till in the Hussite Wars its record was written in letters of blood on the face of the Empire. As a matter of course, this conflict declared itself in those northern borderlands, where German and Slavonic enterprise and ambition had been perennial rivals. Under the Jagello dynasty (1386-1572) Poland reached an unprecedented height of territorial power, though the seeds of her decay were sown when the control of the government was acquired by a nobility responsible to neither King nor people.

The German Order’s real occupation had gone after, towards the dose of the fourteenth century, it had completed the official Christianisation of Lithuania—a process bearing a most shadowy resemblance to a crusade, and rather resembling annual manoeuvres, to which foreign visitors of distinction and adventurers “reysing in Littowe” were largiely attracted. About the same period, the power of the Hanseatic League, the natural and all but indispensable ally of the Order, had, in face of the union between the Scandinavian States, visibly begun to decline. We pass by the successive attempts at resistance to the authority of the Order, the losses to which it was subjected by the decline of its maritime power and by the fickleness of the native Prussian nobility (the Knights of the Lizard) under the influence of unscrupulous Polish intrigue. The collision was only a question of time; and, as the Order was true to its chivalrous traditions in refusing to avoid the decision of arms, the contest might seem to have been at an end with the crushing victory of the Polish host at Tannenberg (1410). But the siege of Marienburg broke down, and, thanks to the resolution and sagacity of the new High Master, Henry of Plauen (from whose House are descended the Princes of Reuss), the whole of the territories held by the Order at the outbreak of the war, with the exception of Samogitia, were preserved to it in the First Peace of Thom (1411).

Henry of Plauen endeavoured to strengthen the administrative system of the Knights by establishing a Landrath—a Council of Estates consisting of deputies of nobility and towns; but all his efforts were in vain, and his deposition, half-treason, and miserable end signified that the last shadow of its former greatness had departed from the Order. While its dominions had to suffer a series of inroads, which it sought rather to avert than to resist, the Slav peoples, excited beyond bounds by the Hussite successes, drew closer and closer together. The Order had, in a word, lived too long. As has been well said, being nothing but a corporation, it had not in itself the power of self-renewal which is inherent in a nation. It was no longer German in its composition; the Knights made no pretence of observing their vows of poverty or chastity, or the High Masters of setting an example which no one would have cared to follow. To its subjects the Order was no longer a defence, only a danger; and, being unable to assimilate to its system either learned or lay, if had sunk into a thing of the past before it had actually come to an end. The so-called Prussian League or Alliance, of which the motive spring was to be found in the Danzig Patriciate, had thus become a State within the State; and in 1454 its members in town and country renounced their allegiance to the Order. When the fortress of Thom and nearly threescore other castles had fallen into the hands of this League, it threw off the mask, and offered the dominion of Prussia to King Casimir IV of Poland. After his arrival in Prussia Danzig finally declared for the Polish Crown, which was thus placed in possession of the sinews of war.

It was in its dire distress and supreme need of funds for paying its mercenaries that the Order, as has been seen, sold the New Mark of Brandenburg to the Hohenzollem Elector, Frederick II; but the sum received proved quite insufficient for the purpose. The turbulent mercenaries (among whom there were many Bohemian Hussites) drove the High Master forth from the Marienburg (1457), which they incontinently sold to the King of Poland, though it was some time before he could succeed in taking the town. In the end both sides were exhausted, and the second or so-called Perpetual Peace of Thom put an end to the thirteen years’ war (1466). It divided Prussia into two parts. West Prussia, i.e. the country to the west of the Vistula and the Nogent, including Danzig, together with the land of Culm, Marienburg, the sea­port of Elbing, and the bishopric of Warmia (Ermeland), became an integral part of the Polish kingdom, and was as such called Royal Prussia. East or, as it afterwards came to be called, Ducal Prussia, was restored to the Order as a Polish fief. Thus the humiliation of the Order, of which the League had refused to countenance the recon­struction on a new basis that would have placed it under German control, was shared with the Order itself by the Empire, then weak and shrinking, and under an Emperor (Frederick III) who had nothing to contribute to the situation but brave words.

The decay of the German Order was as sorry as its greatness had been deserving of admiration. Neither the Hansa, unable to stay the progress of Scandinavians or of Muscovites on the Baltic shores, nor the provinces and dependencies of the Order itself, were able to raise an arm on its behalf; and the inner constitution of its ruling oligarchy was a mere nest of jobbeiy. At length the obvious counsels of worldly wisdom found acceptance, and the Knights began to follow the practice of electing as their High Master a member of some important princely House, whose support in the struggle for existence might thus be conciliated. At Konigsberg, whither the seat of the Order had now been transferred, Duke Frederick of Saxony from 1498 carried on the government on the lines of an ordinary temporal principality; and on his death in 1511 Margrave Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, whose mother, the Margravine Sophia, was sister to King Sigismund I of Poland, and whose elder brother George held the principality of Jagemdorf in Silesia, was elected to the High Mastership.

Margrave Albert, through whose action the ultimate expansion of the dynastic power of the Hohenzollems may be said to have been first rendered possible, was by his own confession inadequately trained for playing a part in times such as those in which his lot fell; and towards the close of his career he showed much moral weakness. But he was from the first animated by a determination to put an end to his relation of vassalage as High Master towards the Polish Crown. In this all-important design he was encouraged by the Emperor Maximilian I— whose actions, however, were not always on the level of his aspirations, and in this instance contradicted them. Albert’s attempt to throw off his vassalage by his own strength, supported by such volunteer aid as he could obtain, failed; and, after making his peace with the Poles as best he could (1519), he fell back on another line of action, less heroic, but destined to prove more productive of results. This was the secularisation of the dominions over which he presided as head of the German Order. He had been more than once admonished from Rome, when the spirit of reform ruled in the person of Pope Adrian VI, to bring new life into the decayed and degenerate company of Knights; and at Nurmberg, where he had sought the countenance of the Diet, he had become subject to the influence of the rigorous Lutheran theologian Osiander, whom he afterwards designated as his “spiritual father.” Thus, at a loss how to obey the papal injunction, Albert betook himself to Luther, whose advice to him and to his Order was administered in no spirit of restraint (1523). Luther opined that the High Master should cast aside the foolish rule of his Order, marry, and turn its dominions into a secular State; and this counsel was without much loss of time carried into execution by Albert.

In 1525, Albert was invested by Sigismund I of Poland with the secularised duchy of Prussia; the Black Cross vanished from his coat of arms, but the Black Eagle remained, with the suzerain’s initials on his breast. In the same year Albert married Dorothea, daughter of Frederick I of Denmark. The recalcitrance shown by some of the Knights cannot occupy us here, nor the later vicissitudes of the German Order as an interesting relic of an irrecoverable past. West Prussia remained untouched by the results of Albert’s action. Its feudal subjection to Poland continued, and the life of its population—the veiy names of its towns, Marienburg itself becoming Malborg—were Polonised so far as might be, and the very existence of the Order was forgotten. Danzig—perhaps alone—derived great material advantage from this close connexion with Poland, of whose trade the city enjoyed an uncontested monopoly.

Duke Albert did his best to reorganise the administration of East Prussia; but unfortunately he gave deep offence to his subjects by identifying himself with a school of Lutheran theology (Osiander and the Osiandrists) to whose teaching the bulk of them were opposed with a fury of dogmatic partisanship such as would have been hardly explicable in any particular age, and with a less stubborn race. Thus the period of his rule ended in cruel differences and bitter disappointment (1568). The question of the succession had for some time been beset with a series of intrigues and demonstrations; and when on his death his son Albert Frederick (1568-1618) was invested by Sigismund II of Poland with the duchy of Prussia, the Brandenburg Elector, Joachim II, succeeded in obtaining simultaneous investiture for himself and his son John George. The Brandenburg tradition of making prospective acquisitions was never more signally justified. The unhappy orphan boy who had succeeded to Albert’s troubled inheritance, distracted by political and religious discords, and by fears not wholly illusory of attempts on his life, lapsed into melancholy and before long became insane. In the veiy year (1573) in which he was married to Maria Eleonora, the heiress of Duke William of Jülich, Cleves, and Berg, he had to be placed under continuous personal control, and his cousin, Margrave George Frederick of Ansbach and Jagerndorf, was appointed administrator of his duchy with the title of Duke. Though his rule failed to conciliate the goodwill of the Prussian Estates, they seem on the whole to have favoured the ultimate union with Brandenburg, partly no doubt because the event seemed still remote.

The prospect of the union advanced with George Frederick’s death in 1603, when the Elector Joachim Frederick of Brandenburg with much difficulty succeeded in being named Administrator of the duchy of Prussia, neither of Albert Frederick’s sons having survived beyond infancy. He could not, however, obtain his investiture as eventual successor to the duchy from King Sigismund III of Poland; and it was only with great difficulty and under hard and humiliating conditions that after his death (1608) his son and successor, John Sigismund, after obtaining from the Polish King the guardianship and administration, at last, in 1611, secured the desired investiture for himself, his three brothers, and his heirs male. His rule was accepted most reluctantly by the Prussian nobility; and his adoption of the Reformed (Calvinist) faith stank in the nostrils of the orthodox Lutheran population. With the assistance of the Polish Crown, an organised Lutheran revolt against his government and a systematic persecution of his fellow-Calvinists were set on foot. So paradoxically irreconcilable were the relations between ruler and ruled in Ducal Prussia, when in 1618—the year of the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War—the unhappy Albert Frederick died, and Ducal Prussia was unwillingly but, as it was to prove, in­separably united with Brandenburg.

John Sigismund, who had in circumstances so untoward united the long-coveted Prussian duchy with his electorate, and who had likewise established a hold upon the disputed duchies on the lower Rhine that was to bring first part and ultimately the whole of them into the possession of his House, died at the close of 1619, with his spirit broken. He had shown himself tolerant to Catholicism, and had taken up no decisive attitude towards the issues involved in the outbreak of the Great War, by whose course, as has been seen in a previous volume, no State was to be more continuously and more momentously affected than Brandenburg. But, as has been also shown, his son and successor George William (1619-40) was utterly incapable of making his augmented dynastic power felt in times so difficult and dangerous. As it seems necessary to repeat (for the plain fact is often lost sight of in judging the princes and magnates of this age), the failure of his career and of others such as his was due less to his inconsistencies, than to his consistencies—in other words, in his addiction to the diversions of the chase and the pleasures of the table. In justice to him, it should be remembered that his long-enduring and obstinate self-subjection to the ascendancy of his Minister Count Adam von Schwarzenberg was largely due to his own traditional regard for the Imperial House.

It is unnecessary to go back here to the difficulties in which the government of George William was involved, and the troubles brought upon his electorate, by the course of the war and the political changes consequent upon it, more especially after the landing in Pomerania of his brother-in-law, Gustavus Adolphus. The adherence of the Elector of Brandenburg to the Peace of Prague (1634) warranted the Dutch in occupying the Rhenish duchies, whence they and the Spaniards had been more or less excluded since the provisional compact of Xanten in 1614; and it had the more important consequence of a declaration of war by Brandenburg against Sweden (January, 1636). When, in the following year, the long-expected vacancy in Pomerania at last occurred by the death of Duke Bogislav XIV, the inheritor of the entire duchy, and the Estates were in favour of the union with Brandenburg, the Swedes were accordingly found in possession, and such attempts as were made to dislodge them proved futile. In 1638 George William finally abandoned any attempt to guide the fortunes of his electorate, and, abandoning the control of its affairs to Schwarzenberg, withdrew for the remainder of his days into Prussia.

Here, as fortune would have it, his rule benefited from the inevitable reaction against the uncompromising resistance offered by the nobility to his predecessor, and from the struggle of the “Protesters” (who acquiesced in the concessions obtained under the ducal Government) against the pro-Polish designs of the “Querulants.” Moreover, Prussian sentiment approved the line of policy ultimately taken up by him with regard to the war reopened between Sweden and Poland in 1626, which had led to the truce of 1629 and its subsequent renewal (at Stuhmsdorf, in 1635) for twenty-five years. Thus Prussia, instead of being exhausted by the visitations of the Thirty Years’ War, had gained strength during its progress, and many fugitives from various parts of Europe had found a home in this peaceful comer. In reinvesting George William with the duchy of Prussia, King Wladislaw IV of Poland (who succeeded in 1632) had refrained from exacting any humiliating conditions. The proposal of a Spanish-Imperial-Polish combination, which Brandenburg was to join, for the control of the Swedish power in the Baltic, was manifestly premature, and broke down accordingly. It was primarily due to the maintenance by Sweden of the high tolls exacted by her at Pillau, Memel, and Elbing; but it also indicated the desire of Poland, which was indeed vital to her political future, to become a maritime Power, and the resumption by the Habsburg politicians of the ideas of Wallenstein as to the control of the Baltic. Under George William the policy of Brandenburg (as is shown by the Kdpenick compact of August, 1638) readily accommodated itself to the designs, at this time largely concordant, of the Polish and the Imperial Government. But, partly in consequence of this tendency, the maritime trade of Ducal Prussia passed for the most part into the hands of Danzig. Thus, in this part also of his dominions George William’s government had incurred much censure, when he died in 1640, after a reign of twenty-one years, full of misfortunes and of humiliations.