CHARLES V achieved a masterpiece of unscrupulous statecraft when he extricated himself from his war with France and left his English ally entangled in its toils. Cogent military reasons for the peace concluded at Crépy could doubtless be alleged; the position of the imperial army in the heart of France was more imposing than secure, and the disasters of the retreat from Marseilles in 1524 might have been repeated in Champagne or Picardy. But there were deeper motives at work; however promising the military situation might have been, no prosecution of the war could have been attended with greater advantages than was its conclusion at that juncture. Charles was left with a freer hand to deal with Germany than he had ever had before. He had been more brilliantly victorious in 1530, but England and France were then at peace, and at liberty to harass him with underhand intrigues. Now, they were anxious suitors for his favor, ready, instead of reluctant, to purchase his support against each other by furthering the Emperor's efforts to cope with his remaining difficulties. These were now three, Turkish, Lutheran, and papal; with the two latter he must deal to some extent simultaneously; the Turkish problem he was enabled by the friendly offices of Francis I to postpone.
Few historical points are so hard to determine as Charles’ real intentions with respect to the religious situation in Germany in 1545. Was it to be peace or was it to be war? We have much of the Emperor’s correspondence to guide us, but its help is by no means decisive. Charles was constitutionally hesitating; it was his habit to dally with rival schemes until circumstances compelled a choice. On the eve of war he was still weighing the merits of peace, and it was always possible that an unexpected development in any one of his heterogeneous realms might disturb all past calculations. Yet there can be little doubt as to Charles’ ultimate aim in 1545 or at any other date. The original dynastic objects of his policy had been achieved with wonderful success, and the subordinate but still powerful motive of religion came more prominently into action. His religious ideas were comparatively simple; he adhered to medieval Catholicism because he could comprehend no other creed and conceive of no other form of ecclesiastical polity. As well let there be two Emperors as two independent standards of faith. The Church like the Empire must be one and indivisible, and he must be the sovereign of the one and the protector of the other.
With these ideas it was impossible for Charles even to contemplate a permanent toleration of schism or heresy. His concessions to the Lutherans from 1526 to 1544 were not made with any such intention; they were simply payments extorted from Charles by necessity for indispensable services to be rendered against the Turks and the French; they were all provisional and were limited in time to the meeting of a General Council. That they sprang from necessity and not from any reluctance of Charles to persecute is proved by his conduct in other lands than Germany. He did not attempt a policy of toleration or comprehension in Spain or in the Netherlands; there his methods were the Inquisition and the stake. Wherever he had the power to persecute he persecuted; he abstained in Germany only because he had no other choice and because he thought his abstention was not for ever; and in the end the most powerful motive for his abdication was his desire to escape the necessity of countenancing permanent schism.
Throughout, Charles was steadfast to the idea of Catholic unity; but his determination to enforce it at the cost of war was the growth of time and the result of the gradual course of events. He is credited with a desire to effect his end by the method of comprehension ; but room for the Lutherans in the Catholic Church was to be found not so much by widening the portals of the Church as by narrowing Lutheran doctrine, by the partial submission of the Lutherans and not by the surrender of current Catholicism. It soon became obvious that the Lutherans would never be brought to the point of voluntary submission; and so early as 1531 the Emperor would have resorted to persecution if he had had the means. But from persecution to war was a long step, and he would have shrunk from war at that date even if it had been in his power to wage it. Before 1545, however, this reluctance had been removed. The logic of facts had proved that it was a death-struggle in Germany between the medieval Church and Empire on the one hand and Protestant territorialism on the other. The fault was partly the Emperor’s; by making himself the champion of the old religion he had forced an alliance between the anti-Catholic Reformers and the anti-imperial Princes; and from 1532 onwards territorial and Protestant principles had made vast strides at the expense of Catholicism and the Empire. It is not necessary, nor is it possible, to determine which advance alarmed Charles most; both were equally fatal to the position which he had adopted. The threatened secularization of the ecclesiastical electorates would have converted Germany from a Catholic monarchy into a Protestant oligarchy; and such was the meaning of the proposal of the Lutheran Princes in 1545 to revive the dignity of the Electorate, when by the evangelization of Cologne and of the Palatinate they had acquired a majority of votes in the Electoral College. Nor was that the only danger. A portion of the Netherlands would naturally follow the religious lead of its metropolitan city, Cologne; the accession of the Palatinate to the Lutheran cause threatened the Habsburg lands in Alsace; and a majority of Protestant Electors might mean a Protestant Emperor at the next vacancy.
These perils, and the persistency with which the Lutherans turned the Empire's necessities to their own advantage, convinced Charles that the issues at stake were worth the risks of war. He was sure that there was no remedy but force, without perhaps being certain that force was any remedy. At the same time his experience in Germany from 1541 to 1544 had shown him how those risks might be minimized. The Landgrave’s bigamy had driven a wedge into the Protestant ranks; and the success with which the Emperor had widened the breach between Electoral Saxony and Hesse had opened the prospect of further divisions among the Lutheran Princes. Charles declares in his Commentaries that his success in isolating Cleves proved to him the lack of coherence among his enemies, and made him hope for victory in case of war; and that he intended in 1544 if not earlier to make war on the Lutherans is hardly a matter of doubt. He would not have made such great concessions at the Diet of Speier in 1544, had he not foreseen that a final settlement of accounts with France would enable him to render those concessions nugatory; and the fact that the Lutherans fell so easily into the trap has been considered the most conclusive proof of their political incapacity. Within three months from the date of the truce with France Charles was discussing with the Pope details of a war against the Lutherans. People would be glad, he wrote, if the Pope devoted to that object the vast sums he had amassed for a war against the Turks, “especially if the undertaking against the Turk had ceased to be a pressing necessity”; he declared that one of his chief objects in concluding peace with France was to be able to conduct these two wars against Turks and Lutherans successfully; and there was a secret stipulation that Francis I should assist in his endeavors. The war against the Turks had been one of the pretexts for requiring Lutheran aid at the Diet of Speier; but Charles was taking care that it should “cease to be a pressing necessity” or to stand in the way of the other war he had in his mind.
Yet it would be a mistake to represent a religious war as the Emperor’s prime object. It would in any case be only the means to an end, and he was still seeking if not hoping to attain that end by other means. He had moreover greater schemes in view than a mere conquest of the Lutherans. He was, though to a less extent than his grandfather Maximilian, subject to dreams, and his dream from 1545 to the disasters of 1552 was to assemble a General Council by means of which he would reduce the Lutherans to Catholicism and the Pope to reform; then having united and purified Western Christendom he would march at its head against the Infidel, regain the East for the orthodox faith, and be crowned in Jerusalem. Maximilian had contemplated all these achievements, and had also hoped to encircle his brow with the tiara of a Pope and the halo of a saint; but Charles would have been content to crown his life with monastic retirement. The object immediately under consideration in 1545 was the General Council for which he had labored so long in vain. By this means he hoped to work his will both with the Pope and with the Protestants. The Lutherans had for many years expressed a desire for a General Council; if it met and they accepted its decrees, unity would be achieved: if they refused to be bound by them, the refusal would be a justification for war and a good ground on which to appeal for help to the Catholic Powers. Secondly, the mere fact of its meeting would annul the concessions which Charles had made; and thirdly, the demand of a free General Council from an obstructive Pope would enhance the illusion under which the Lutherans labored that Charles was their ally against the Papacy. In August, 1544, Paul III had denounced the Emperor's compliance at Speier, had reminded him of the fate of his predecessors, from Nero to Frederick II, who had persecuted the Church, and had threatened him with an even more terrible doom; and Luther and Calvin had thereupon seized their pens in his defence. The Pope in fact was the chief obstacle to the Council; but the peace between Charles and Francis destroyed all chance of successful resistance; and Paul III made a virtue of necessity by summoning a Council to meet at Trent in December. As the Edict of Worms had been dated the same day as Charles’ alliance with Leo X, so the summons to the Council of Trent was dated the same day as the Peace of Crépy (November 19, 1544).
If Charles hoped for Protestant submission to the Council of Trent he was speedily undeceived. The choice of Trent was a concession to German sentiment, but was nevertheless a tricky gift. Trent was only nominally a German city; in feeling it was almost purely Italian, and, on account of its proximity to Italy, Italian Bishops would swamp the Council almost as completely as if it had met within Italian borders. The practical exclusion of deputies made the adequate representation of non-Italian sees impossible; and the choice of monastic theologians ruined the prospect of an accommodation with Lutheran doctrine. The authority of the universal Church was assumed by a gathering of Italian and Spanish Bishops, who would unite to maintain the extreme Catholic theology, and would only be divided by the political question of papal or imperial predominance. Even in the more favorable event of Charles prevailing, the Protestants had little to hope; a few practical abuses might be removed, but the medieval Church would remain in essence the same, and an attempt would be made to force them within its pale. Hence they repudiated the Council from the beginning; they denied that it was free, Christian, or General, the three conditions upon which alone they would recognize its authority; and at the Diet of Worms, which met in the spring of 1545, they demanded from Charles a permanent religious security quite independent of what the Council might decree. Nothing would ever have induced the Emperor to grant such terms; they would have involved him in the sin of schism and cut away the ground on which his whole position and policy were based; the one weapon with which he now hoped to effect his aims would have broken in his hands. So Ferdinand, who represented Charles, unhesitatingly rejected the petition; there was nothing, he truly said, in the decisions of Speier in the previous year to justify it.
War thus became inevitable, but Charles still sought to postpone it. He was not yet sure of peace with the Turks, of the Pope, or of the allies he hoped to win from the Lutheran side. Although the Spaniards at his Court spoke openly of the approaching extirpation of Protestantism, and although his confessor, Domenico de Soto, reinforced by the influence of Peter Canisius and other early missionaries of the Company of Jesus in Germany, was constantly urging him to take the decisive step, Granvelle and even Alva were still for peace, and the Emperor halted between the two opinions. To bring the Pope to terms he again made show of listening to the Lutherans. He expressed his intention of carrying out the decisions of the Diet of Speier, and annoyed the Catholics by again holding out the prospect of a national Council on religion, in case the General Council at Trent proved abortive. To this national assembly was also postponed the consideration of the various projects of reform which had been drawn up as a result of the Diet of Speier. The most notable of them was the “Wittenberg Reformation”, which was drawn up by the Elector John Frederick, and signed by Luther, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, and Melanchthon, although it contains few traces of Luther’s spirit. It recommended the establishment of a Protestant episcopacy on the ground that Princes were too much immersed in secular affairs to exert a proper supervision over those of the Church; possibly also it was intended to reconcile the great Catholic Bishops to a change of faith.
During 1545, however, the last reasons for hesitation vanished. The Turks, threatened with war in Persia and with a dynastic dispute between Roxolana and Mustapha, listened to the mediation of Francis I, and concluded a truce with Charles and Ferdinand in October. The Emperor had nothing to fear from the Kings of France and England, who were then engaged in a bitter war; and Christian III of Denmark had been alienated by the Schmalkaldic Leaguers refusal to assist him in 1544, and alarmed by the admission into it of the Elector Palatine, who had claims to the Danish throne through his wife Dorothea, Christian II’s daughter. The Council of Trent actually met in December, and Paul III offered 12,000 foot, 500 horse, a loan of 200,000 crowns and half-a-year’s ecclesiastical revenues in Spain for the purposes of the war. At the same time the Emperor's personal efforts to check the Reformation in Cologne had failed; Hermann von Wied defied both the imperial Ban and the papal Bull, and was taken under the wing of the Schmalkaldic League. The primate, Albrecht of Mainz, died in September; Charles’ candidate for the vacant Archbishopric received not a single vote; and Sebastian von Heusenstamm was an Erasmian Catholic who owed his election to Philip of Hesse’s aid rendered in return for Heusenstamm’s promise to purify his see. Duke Henry of Brunswick was defeated in an attempt in September to regain his duchy with the help of mercenaries under Christopher von Wrisberg; the sequestration of his territories arranged at Speier and Worms was set aside; and they were appropriated by the Schmalkaldic League, an act of violence which Charles expressed his intention of using as a pretext for a religious war.
In these circumstances the doctrinal discussions which the Emperor renewed in the winter can be regarded as little more than a blind to delude the Protestants or a screen behind which he made his preparations for war. His representatives at the conference, Cochlaeus, Eberhard Billick, and Malvenda all held extreme views, and their arguments were principally aimed against the compromise of 1541. They revived the scholastic dogmas which had then been abandoned; and the interest of their discussions consists, for English readers at any rate, mainly in the fact that Malvenda based his defence on the teaching of a forgotten English Dominican, Robert Holcot (d. 1349). Charles’ real efforts were directed towards the more useful work of consolidating the Catholic and disintegrating the Protestant party. The leading Catholic opponent of the Habsburgs, Duke William III of Bavaria, who ruled the whole duchy since the death of his younger brother Ludwig, was won over to something more than benevolent neutrality by the alliance between Pope and Emperor, by the marriage of his son with Ferdinand's eldest daughter, and a promise of the throne of Bohemia for their descendants if Ferdinand's male issue failed, and by the offer of the coveted hat of the Elector Palatine, if the latter sided openly with Charles' enemies.
Still more important were the divisions among the Protestants. The imprisonment of Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and the seizure of his duchy had alienated his Protestant as well as his Catholic kinsfolk, including the Duchess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Calenberg, her son Duke Eric, and Duke Henry’s son-in-law Margrave Hans of Brandenburg-Cüstrin, who were detached from the Schmalkaldic League by the promise of Henry’s restoration. Margrave Hans’ elder brother, the Elector Joachim of Brandenburg, was already pledged to neutrality, and his cousin Margrave Albrecht Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Culmbach was also brought into the Emperor’s net. But these accessions of strength were trifling compared with the advantages secured by Charles through the reconciliation of Duke Maurice of Saxony.
Maurice’s uncle Duke George (1500-39), the main representative of the Albertine branch of the House of Wettin, had been the staunchest Catholic in the north of Germany; but his father Duke Henry (1539-41) had been a no less zealous Protestant. Maurice, who succeeded to the duchy in 1541, when twenty-one years of age, was neither. The hereditary jealousy between the Albertine and Ernestine Houses of Saxony was neutralized to some extent by Duke Henry’s adoption of the Protestant cause and by Maurice’s marriage with Agnes, the daughter of Philip of Hesse. But Maurice was less influenced perhaps by religious motives than any other Prince of the age; and he poured scorn on those who thought that the interests of the State should be subordinate to theological dogma. His Protestant education at the Elector John Frederick's Court did not prevent his recalling the Catholic counselors of his uncle Duke George. He readily followed his father-in-law, Philip of Hesse, in making a compact with Charles in 1541, though he had not Philip's personal motive of fear; and he assisted the Emperor to reduce John Frederick's brother-in-law, Duke William of Cleves. This first aroused enmity between him and the Elector; the dispute concerning the bishoprics of Meissen and Merseburg increased it; and a fresh source of discord arose in the question of the protectorate of the sees of Magdeburg and Halberstadt, which Maurice wanted for himself and declared that John Frederick coveted. Carlowitz, an old adviser of Duke George and a member of one of the noble families of Meissen, which had sided against John Frederick as to the question of the bishopric, was untiring in his efforts to win over Maurice from the Elector's side to that of the Emperor; and the attempts of the Archbishop of Cologne to reconcile the cousins in the summer of 1546 proved futile. Luther had succeeded in allaying their quarrels about Meissen; but Luther was now no more. He passed away on February 18,1546, full of forebodings of evil to come, and more dominated than ever by wrath against Sacramentaries on the one hand and the Pope on the other; and revenge was taken for his diatribes against Rome by the invention of a legend that the great reformer died by his own hand.
Luther had ample justification for gloomy vaticinations, and the internal weakness of the Schmalkaldic League was doubtless one of Maurice’s most powerful motives for refusing to trust his fortunes in so ill-found a vessel. Bucer proposed a dictatorship as the only cure, and Philip of Hesse would naturally be his choice for the office. Maurice, on the other hand, who could not expect to rank above Philip or John Frederick, suggested a triumvirate, and refused Philip’s invitation to enter the League as it was then constituted. A prolonged diet of the League was held at Frankfort from December, 1545, to February, 1546, without resulting in harmony between Philip and John Frederick or in the adoption of satisfactory financial or military preparations for war. Philip had been alarmed early in 1545 by rumors of the approaching peace with the Turks, and wished to send embassies to England, France, and Denmark, to form an alliance with the Swiss and with Holland, and to take the offensive before Charles’ measures were complete. But John Frederick believed in peace to the last. He was deluded by Charles' assurances that he meant no war on the Lutherans, but rather another expedition against Algiers, and by the Emperor's apparent confidence in peace, evinced by his crossing Germany almost unattended from the Netherlands to Ratisbon, which base it was in fact essential for Charles to reach.
1545-6] The Diet of Ratisbon. Charles V’s diplomacy
So the time passed until the opening of the Diet at Ratisbon in June, 1546. Eric of Brunswick, Margrave Hans of Cüstrin, and some other Protestants whom Charles had won over were present; but Philip and John Frederick were absent. Maurice, who was still ostensibly on the best of terms with his cousin and his father-in-law, was told by Granvelle that he must come to Ratisbon to conclude his agreement with the Emperor. Maurice came, but he was determined not to sell himself too cheaply. Besides the grant of the practical administration of Magdeburg and Halberstadt, a demand which ran counter to all the principles Charles was bent on enforcing, he required the transference to himself of his cousin’s electoral dignity and what cost Charles a greater effort to concede immunity from the decrees of the Council of Trent, so far as they might touch the doctrine of justification by faith, clerical marriages, and communion in both elements. Without these concessions Maurice despaired of maintaining his position in Protestant Saxony, and with some modifications they were all granted by Charles. The Emperor’s confessor had advised him to tempt some of the Protestant Princes with the bait of their neighbors’ vineyards; but it was a sore test for Charles when, in order to attain his purpose, he had to grant in private to particular Princes terms which he refused to them all in public, and to surrender that principle of submission to the Church on which the whole war was based.
Somewhat similar verbal assurances were made to Hans of Cüstrin, Albrecht of Culmbach, and Eric of Brunswick. On June 7 the treaty with Bavaria was formally signed, and two days later that with the Pope. But the Diet still continued; and on the 13th the Protestants repudiated the Council of Trent and demanded instead a national Council. Pending its decisions the compromise of Speier should remain in force. Charles laughed; he had already given orders for mobilization. Encouraged by the success of his diplomacy in dividing the Protestants and by the singularly favorable aspect of foreign affairs, urged on by the exhortation of his Spanish subjects, possibly carried away to some extent by the rising theological temper, of which the murder of an unfortunate Protestant, Juan Diaz, and its official approval, were signs, Charles had taken the plunge, and on May 24 he had announced to his sister Maria his resolve to begin the war of religion.
The Elector of Saxony must have been the only leading Protestant who was surprised by the decision. Philip of Hesse had long been seeking in vain to awake the Schmalkaldic League from its lethargy. But, expected or not, the war certainly found the Protestants unfitted if not unprepared to cope with the crisis. Long immunity had created a false sense of security; and the League, whose military strength appeared imposing, was honeycombed with disaffection. It had not escaped the workings of that particularism which had proved fatal to the Swabian League and to the Reichsregiment; and its members were discontented because it could not grind all their private axes. The cities, and still more the knights, were hostile as ever to the encroaching territorial power of the Princes, among whom Philip of Hesse was considered the protagonist. At his door was laid the ruin of Sickingen, and Sickingen’s son mustered many a knight to Charles’ standard. Charles moreover could appeal to public opinion as the champion of the imperial constitution, which the Lutheran Princes attacked without suggesting a substitute. They had repudiated the Kammergericht, protested against the Diet’s recesses whenever they pleased, and denied the authority of General Councils and of the Emperor himself; he was no longer Emperor, they said, but a bailiff of the Pope. But if authority were denied to all these institutions, where was the bulwark against anarchy? They might seem to have resolved that the Empire should not exist at all unless it served their particular purpose.
It was this aspect of lawlessness which enabled Charles to pretend that the war was waged, not against any form of religion, but against rebellion. When Hans of Cüstrin’s chaplains were preaching the purest word of Lutheranism within the lines of the Emperor's camp, who could say that Charles was warring on Lutheran doctrine? Henry VIII told the Schmalkaldic envoys that if they were threatened on account of religion he would come to their aid, but he could not see that such was the case when so many Protestant Princes were fighting on Charles’ side. The Emperor spared no pains to foster this public impression. On this ground he persuaded the Swiss to remain neutral, and endeavored to detach the south German towns from the cause of the Princes. He sought, in fact, to isolate Philip and John Frederick as he had isolated William of Cleves in 1543, and to represent his offence and theirs as the same. In the ban which was proclaimed against them on July 20 he recalled the Pack conspiracy of 1528, the invasion of Württemberg in 1534, and the two wars in Brunswick; and held up the Princes to reprobation as condemners of public authority and disturbers of the peace of the Empire.
And yet Paul III was declaring at the same moment that the war was due to injuries done to the Church and to the Princes’ refusal to acknowledge the Council of Trent. He sent the cross to his Legate Alessandro Farnese, and offered indulgences to all who assisted in the extirpation of heresy. In his eyes at least the war was a crusade, and as such he commended it to the Catholic Swiss. The Emperor himself in his private utterances confirmed this view. To his sister he admitted that the charges against Philip and John Frederick were a pretext intended to disguise the real issue of the war. To his son he wrote that his intention had been and was to wage war in defence of religion, and that the public declarations about punishing disobedience were only made for the sake of expediency; and when the war was over he told the Diet of Augsburg that the disturbance had originated in religious schism.
There was no irreconcilable contradiction between the two contentions. To repudiate Charles’ religion was a civil as well as an ecclesiastical offence, because it was impossible to distinguish in Charles the person of the Emperor from the person of the protector of the Church, just as Henry VIII made it impossible for men to distinguish in him the Supreme Head from the sovereign. Henry utilized the divinity which hedged a king to combat the divinity of Rome; Charles employed the remnants of respect for the imperial authority to extinguish Lutheran doctrine. It was always possible to represent heresy as treason so long as Church and State were but two aspects of one body politic; it was always expedient to do so because the State in the sixteenth century was a more popular institution than the Church; numbers confessed to heresy, but few would confess to treason.
The Schmalkaldic War. [1546
To all these advantages the Schmalkaldic League could oppose in July, 1546, an undoubted superiority of military force. Charles would depend mainly upon troops from the Netherlands, and his own and the papal levies from Spain and Italy. But the whole breadth of Germany separated him from the one and the Alps from the other; and prompt offensive action on the part of the League would have ended the war in a month. Promptness and boldness were, however, the last qualities to be expected from the League. Every question had to be referred by the commanders in the field to the League’s council of war, where it was generally made the subject of acrimonious discussion between representatives of the south German cities and the Princes, or between the adherents of the adventurous Philip of Hesse and the sluggish Elector of Saxony. They were afraid to take the offensive lest it should damage their cause in public opinion. In particular they would not violate Bavarian territory, wherein Charles was established at Ratisbon, lest Bavaria should be driven into the Emperor’s arms, where as a matter of fact it was already reposing. This timidity ruined their best chance of success. Schärtlin, the ablest of the League's commanders, who led the forces of Ulm and Augsburg, had conceived the bold plan of marching south-west, and closing the Tyrolese passes against Charles’ Spanish and Italian levies. This could probably have been effected without much difficulty, and the Emperor would thus have been rendered powerless in Germany; for the Tyrolese peasantry had sympathies with the Protestant cause, and their experience of Spanish and Italian mercenaries in 1532 made them anxious to keep them at a distance. Schärtlin actually crossed the Danube, seized Füssen and the Ehrenberg pass; but the League based fond hopes upon Ferdinand’s conciliatory attitude, and its reluctance to offend him spoilt Schärtlin’s plan, as its fear of Bavaria had prevented the proposed seizure of Ingolstadt and march on Ratisbon.
Recalled from the south, Schärtlin occupied Donauwörth, a city where the Catholic Fuggers were strong; and here he was joined by the Elector and the Landgrave. The total force now amounted to fifty thousand foot and seven thousand horse, but this formidable army wasted the whole month of August, while Charles advanced to Landshut with little more than six thousand men, and effected a junction with his Italian and Spanish troops. He then moved on to Ingolstadt and threatened to cut the Protestant communications with Upper Swabia, whence they drew their supplies. On the last day of August the two armies were only separated by a few miles of swamp. Philip of Hesse succeeded in planting a hundred and ten guns within range of the imperial camp; but the bombardment failed to compel Charles either to attack or to evacuate, while the Protestants, for reasons which were afterwards disputed between Philip and Schärtlin, declined to risk an assault on Charles’ entrenchments. The only result was a series of indecisive skirmishes between the light horse of either party; but the Emperor gradually extended his control up the banks of the Danube in the direction of the forces from the Netherlands under van Buren, who crowned a brilliant march across Germany by eluding the main Protestant army and uniting with Charles at Ingolstadt on September 17.
The Emperor could now assume the offensive. The Neumark territories of the Count Palatine Otto Henry, a zealous Protestant, were overrun, and the imperial army made for Nördlingen. The Protestants, however, keeping to the high ground and resisting all Alva’s temptations to come down and fight, headed Charles off, and he thereupon turned south-west towards Ulm. Again he was anticipated; Ulm was too strong to be taken by the camisado which Charles proposed, and the climate and lack of money began to tell heavily upon his southern troops. Three thousand Italians deserted in one day, and death thinned the Emperor’s ranks as fast as desertion. The term during which the papal auxiliaries were bound to serve would expire in the winter, and the Protestants thought the imperial cause would collapse without a battle. But their own difficulties were hardly less than those of Charles. Their German troops were more inured to the climate, but money and food were equally scarce; and it has been contended that the League’s abandonment of southern Germany was due to financial straits and not to Maurice’s attack on John Frederick. The cities were frightened by the loss of their trade; the Protestant lands of the Baltic, the French, and the Swiss showed no disposition to intervene. The Leaguers therefore made proposals of peace; but Charles rejected their terms, refusing to regard them as aught but rebellious vassals.
He had reasons for confidence unknown to the enemy. His diplomacy had in fact made victory certain almost before the war began. On October 27, in his camp at Sontheim, he signed the formal transference of the Saxon Electorate from John Frederick to Maurice, and a few days later Maurice and Ferdinand entered upon the conquest of Ernestine Saxony. The partnership was the result of mutual distrust. Maurice would have held aloof, could he have obtained his ends by peaceful means. But he could not hope for the Electorate unless he won it by arms. Ferdinand was preparing for war in Saxony; and if Maurice remained inactive, he might find himself in as evil a plight as John Frederick, and at the mercy of a victorious Habsburg army. His desire to remain neutral was overcome by force of circumstances; and the most favorable view of his conduct is that in self-defence he was driven to attack his still more defenseless cousin.
However this may be, Maurice had experienced great difficulty in inducing his Lutheran Estates to concur in an attack on his cousin’s lands. His preachers had declared that Charles was warring on the Gospel, and that whoever abetted him would incur everlasting damnation. To discount these denunciations Maurice produced a declaration from the Emperor that religion should remain untouched where it was established; he represented to his Estates that if he did not execute the ban against John Frederick, Ferdinand would, and that it would be much safer for them politically and theologically that Electoral Saxony should fall into his Protestant hands than into the Catholic hands of Ferdinand. The counterpart of the argument was employed by Ferdinand to secure the co-operation of his Bohemian nobles; it would, he said, be fatal to Bohemia’s claims on Saxon lands if Maurice were to execute the ban alone. So each Prince joined to execute the ban ostensibly as a check upon the other, and they agreed on a partition of the spoils. On October 30 Bohemian troops crossed the Saxon frontier and terrified the neighboring towns. Maurice undertook to defend them on condition that they did him homage, while he promised to protect their religion and to treat the Elector with every respect consistent with his own obligations to the Emperor. Zwickau, Borna, Altenburg, and Torgau all accepted these terms, and the greater part of the Electorate passed into Maurice’s possession.
The news of these events reached the armies on the Danube early in November and exercised a decisive influence over the campaign in southern Germany. On the 23rd the Protestant army broke up, and John Frederick hastened to the defence of his Electorate. The League’s plan was to leave an army of observation in the south to protect the Protestant cities if attacked, and to occupy the Franconian bishoprics while the Elector reconquered Saxony. Only the last part of the programme was carried out. The departure northwards of the main army was followed by a stampede among the south German cities. The Protestant light horse went home for want of pay, and the army of observation came to nothing. Philip of Hesse failed to raise the peasants and artisans in Franconia and practically retired from the contest; while Giengen, Nördlingen, and Rothenburg rapidly fell into the Emperor’s power. The moment had come for breaking up the disjointed League. The southern cities had never forgotten their Zwinglian leanings or been happy in their political and religious relations with the north German princes. They at least had no territorial ambitions to gratify, and, if Charles could give them security for their religion, there was no reason for them to continue the struggle. Nürnberg, in spite of its strong Lutheranism, had from the first refused to fight. Granvelle, always peaceably inclined, pressed on Charles the dangers of war, and the Emperor himself had not the personal feeling against the cities which he exhibited towards the Landgrave and the Elector.
Negotiations were first opened with Ulm, which stood out strongly for a religious guarantee, but was ultimately satisfied with a verbal promise that it should enjoy the same advantages in that respect as Maurice of Saxony and the Hohenzollerns. The agreement was concluded on December 23, and similar terms were soon arranged with Memmingen, Biberach, Heilbronn, Esslingen, and Reutlingen, all of them among the original fourteen Protestant cities of 1529. Frankfort submitted two days before the end of the year, and Augsburg and Strasburg in January, 1547. Augsburg was moved by the influence of the big trading families; Anton Fugger conducted the negotiations; and the city contented itself with Granvelle’s oral promise of religious toleration. Next came Strasburg, the surrender of which caused Bucer and Jacob Sturm some bitter pangs; but the dangerous proximity of the city to France and Switzerland induced Charles to offer exceptionally liberal terms. The others were all compelled to contribute as much to the Emperor’s war expenses as they had paid to his opponents. By February all the south German cities had yielded with the exception of Constance; and the Protestant Princes of the south could no longer hold out. Charles’ old friend the Elector Palatine, Frederick II, the lover of his sister and the husband of his niece, and his old enemy, Ulrich of Württemberg, both came to crave his forgiveness. The Elector suffered nothing beyond reproaches; but Ulrich was forced to pay an indemnity of three hundred thousand crowns, to surrender some of his strongest fortresses to permanent imperial garrisons, and to engage in service against his former allies. He was fortunate to escape so lightly; he had not learnt wisdom with years, and his people detested his rule. Ferdinand pressed for the abrogation of the Treaty of Cadan and the restitution of the duchy, but Charles was afraid that such a step would revive Bavarian and other jealousies of the Habsburg power.
In the north-west, too, the imperial cause made strides. At the end of January imperial commissioners were sent to enforce the long-threatened Catholic restoration in Cologne. The Protestant Archbishop, Hermann von Wied, had been suspended by the Pope, and his offer to abdicate in return for a guarantee for the maintenance of Protestantism was rejected; Count Adolf of Schaumburg was elected coadjutor; on February 25 Hermann resigned and Catholicism was forcibly re-established. In the same month Duke Henry of Brunswick captured Minden and regained his duchy. For these successes the inactivity of Landgrave Philip was largely responsible. At the critical moment his former vigour was lost in vacillation. His son-in-law Maurice was seeking to separate him from the Elector, and Philip gave Maurice warning when John Frederick marched against him. But he could not make up his mind to accept the terms that were offered, and the final catastrophe, which he did nothing to avert, left him at Charles' uncovenanted mercy.
The Landgrave and the Elector seemed to have exchanged their accustomed parts, for while Philip was wasting the precious moments John Frederick was exerting himself with unwonted resolution and success. Maurice’s treachery had alienated the whole of Saxony; and John Frederick’s appearance at the beginning of December, 1546, was the signal for a great outburst of enthusiasm for his cause. He rapidly recovered the whole of his own territories, extended his influence over the sees of Merseburg, Halberstadt, and Magdeburg, and invaded Albertine Saxony. He defeated and captured Margrave Albrecht of Culmbach at Rochlitz, and overran all Maurice’s lands with the exception of Leipzig. His cousin complained that most of his subjects favored John Frederick, and thought of fleeing to Konigsberg. The Lutherans of Lusatia and Silesia and the Utraquists of Bohemia refused to follow Ferdinand in support of Maurice. They were much more anxious to preserve their own lands from Spanish troops; they entered into negotiations with John Frederick, threatened to withdraw their allegiance from Ferdinand, whose hold on the Bohemian throne was at that moment weakened by the death of his wife, the daughter of Wladislaw II, and received John Frederick with open arms when he crossed the frontier. North Germany seemed at last to be roused to a sense of danger; a league was in course of formation including Magdeburg, Bremen, Brunswick, and Hamburg, and Christopher of Oldenburg and Albrecht of Mansfeld were prepared to support it.
The campaign of Muhlberg. [1547
At this moment, when the fortune of war seemed to be turning, the tide began to set against Charles in other quarters. The spiritual and the temporal head of Christendom could never agree long together even when fighting a common foe, and Charles V and Paul III were now at enmity. The Emperor had demanded the Council of Trent because a Council was essential to his policy; the Pope had summoned the Council because he could not help it. Charles wanted to reform the Papacy, Paul did not. Paul desired an emphatic restatement of dogma; Charles, with his eye on wavering Lutherans, required a discreet silence; and this fundamental difference between the imperial and papal parties soon provoked a breach. So early as July, 1546, there were rumors that the Pope would remove the Council to an Italian city where it would be under his exclusive control, and against this proposal Charles protested in October. His concessions to his Lutheran allies and to the southwestern cities offended papal orthodoxy, while his success in the field alarmed a Pope who dreaded nothing so much as a drastic reform of the Church at the hands of a militant Emperor. In January, 1547, the publication of the decrees of the Council on the question of Justification by Faith extinguished Charles’ chances of conciliating the Lutherans; and at the same moment Paul did what he could to prevent their subjection by recalling the papal contingent. To such a pass had things come that the Pope was rejoicing at the Elector’s successes; and in March the Council of Trent, on the pretext of the plague, removed to Bologna. The Emperor now joined the Lutherans in refusing to recognize the Council’s authority; while papal agents stirred up plots against the imperialists in Siena and Venice, Genoa and Naples. Charles overwhelmed the Pope and his legate with abuse, and his threats to find a remedy for this evil again turned men’s thoughts back to 1527.
But first he must deal with the successful rebel in northern Germany. John Frederick, however, was not really dangerous, and the successive deaths of Henry VIII (January 28) and Francis I (March 31) guaranteed Charles immunity from external complications. Charles rose to the crisis and wisely determined, in spite of Granvelle’s protests, to march north himself. He spent Easter at Eger, and on April 13 crossed the Saxon frontier. The Elector had formed a prudent plan of avoiding pitched battles, retiring to Magdeburg, and leaving Charles to fritter away his strength in sieges; but unfortunately for himself John Frederick could not resist the temptation to keep in touch with Bohemia, whence he expected material help. So he stationed part of his forces on the Bohemian frontier, and with the rest occupied Meissen on the right bank of the Elbe. Charles advanced by rapid marches through Flauen, Altenburg, and Kolditz, cut off the Elector from Thuringia, and threatened his communications with the north, where he trusted, in case of defeat, to find refuge. Alarmed by this movement John Frederick broke up his camp at Meissen and made his way down the Elbe towards Wittenberg. He hoped that Charles would march on Meissen and thus give him time to escape; but the Emperor went straight for Mühlberg, where he found the Elector at nine a.m. on April 24. A bridge of boats was moored to the right bank of the Elbe, but some Spaniards swam the river with swords in their mouths, cut down the guards, and secured the bridge. By it the bulk of the infantry crossed, while the cavalry found a ford higher up. Without attempting to defend his position the Elector commenced a retreat to the north. About sunset the imperialists overtook him and routed his slender forces with great slaughter. John Frederick fought with conspicuous courage, and was brought into the Emperor's presence with blood streaming from a wound in his cheek. Charles was not generous in the hour of victory; he taunted the Elector with his previous disobedience, while Ferdinand demanded his execution. A sentence of death was actually passed, but it was only used to extort the surrender of Wittenberg, which the Spanish troops were afraid to storm. By the capitulation of Wittenberg Maurice received his cousin’s electoral dignity, and a considerable slice of his territories, while Sagan and the Voigtland fell to the share of Ferdinand. John Frederick was carried about a prisoner in the Emperor’s suite; but no threats could shake his steadfast adherence to the Lutheran faith, and three years later Charles secretly decreed that his detention should last as long as his life.
From the Elector he turned to the Landgrave, whose submission was delayed by the successful resistance of Bremen to Eric of Brunswick and Christopher von Wrisberg, and by the defeat, much more sanguinary than the battle of Mühlberg, which Christopher of Oldenburg and Albrecht of Mansfeld inflicted upon the imperialists near the Drakensberg. But these victories only saved the Baltic lands; in the west Philip could find no support, and after much hesitation he was induced to surrender by Maurice and Joachim of Brandenburg. The two Princes pledged their word to Philip that he should not be imprisoned, but for this they apparently had no warrant. The popular legend that the term without any imprisonment was altered by a secretary to without perpetual imprisonment has no satisfactory basis; but it is clear that both Philip and the two Princes understood that the Landgrave should go free, and there were high words between them and Alva, when, after Philip had made his submission (June 20), the Duke placed him under arrest. Such had been Charles’ intention throughout; he does not appear to have encouraged any deception, and subsequently the two Princes admitted that the mistake had been theirs. It was an unfortunate mistake for Charles’ reputation; but for the rest Philip escaped more lightly than John Frederick, a circumstance which he owed to Maurice, and not to his deserts. In 1550 his term of detention was fixed at fifteen years; he was to dismantle all his fortresses save one, and to give up his artillery; his territories were to remain intact and his people unmolested on account of their religion; though subsequently half of Darmstadt was transferred from Hesse to the House of Nassau.
In the north-east of Germany the Dukes of Pomerania made peace with Charles through their agent Bartholomew Sastrow, whose memoirs present a gloomy picture of the condition of Germany during the war. Bremen held out, but more important was the resistance of Magdeburg, which ultimately defied all the force which Maurice was able or willing to bring against it. A proposal to bring Albrecht of Prussia to terms was rejected lest warlike measures should precipitate a conflict with his suzerain Sigismund of Poland; but in Bohemia Ferdinand used his opportunity to crush its remaining constitutional liberties, and to reduce it to a footing more nearly resembling that of his own hereditary lands.
Except for Constance and these outlying regions on the Baltic, Charles was now dictator in Germany. No Emperor since Frederick II had wielded such power, and at the Diet of Augsburg which was opened on September 1, 1547, he endeavored to reap the fruits of his victory. He never had a greater opportunity, but the inherent antagonism between the aims of the Habsburg dynasty and those of the German nation was too fundamental to be eradicated by the defeat of a section of Lutheran Princes. The constitutional reforms which he laid before the Diet were inspired by the same family motives which actuated Charles in 1521, and they provoked the same kind of national and territorial opposition. Bavaria reverted to its natural attitude, partly because Charles had quarreled with the Pope, but more because he had not repaid Bavaria for her exertions in the war by an increase of territory, nor shown any inclination to transfer the Electoral dignity of the Palatinate from his old friend, the Elector Frederick II, to Duke William. Maurice was not satisfied with the partial ruin of his cousin, and felt that Charles had purposely left his position insecure.
The Emperor’s first object was to strengthen the executive with a view to preventing such outbreaks as the Peasants’ War, the Anabaptist revolt, the lawless enterprises of Lübeck, and Philip of Hesse’s conquests of Württemberg and Brunswick. A proposal for the preservation of peace would naturally meet with much support; but that support was neutralized by the conviction that the League, which Charles proposed to establish on the model of the old Swabian League, was really designed to strengthen the Habsburgs against other Princes and against the nation itself. The League was to embrace the whole of Germany, to be directed by a number of permanent officials who although representative of the various orders would tend to fall under government influence, and to have at its disposal an efficient military force. This League and its organization was to lie entirely outside the ordinary constitution of the Empire; and the Electors discovered the chief motive for it in the fact that the Habsburgs would command a far greater share of influence in it than they did in the three Councils which constituted the Diet. However, the real flaw in the Emperor’s plan was that he did not seek to reform the Diet, but left it standing, while a new organization was introduced which was bound to come into conflict with existing institutions and could only supersede them after a long and wearisome constitutional struggle. Both its good points and its defects excited discontent. The territorial Princes feared to lose their hold over mediate lords when the latter would look not to them but to the League for protection; the cities dreaded the expense of having to keep internal and external peace in outlying lands like Burgundy and the Austrian Duchies. Bavaria had resolved to refuse, even if all the other Estates agreed; the College of Electors was unanimously hostile; the Diet as a whole disliked a measure which would bring its own authority into dispute, and Charles dropped the proposal without a struggle.
He was more fortunate in his reconstitution of the Reichskammergericht; he arrogated to himself the immediate nomination of its judges, reserved to his own Hofgericht questions of Church property and episcopal jurisdiction, and persuaded the Diet to adopt a codification of the principles by which the action of the Court should be governed, and to promise contributions for the Court’s support. He was able to defy the remonstrances addressed to him on account of the Spanish troops, which, contrary to his election pledges, he had quartered in the Empire. He secured the establishment of a fund for the maintenance of internal and external peace, which was not, however, to be used without the Diet’s consent; and obtained preferential treatment for the Netherlands by means of a perpetual treaty between them and the Empire. They were to contribute to national taxation but to be exempt from the national jurisdiction; they were thus partly removed from imperial control, though Germany was perpetually bound to the arduous task of their defence; the transfer of Utrecht and Gelders to the Burgundian circle was a mark of their incorporation in the Habsburg inheritance.
Meanwhile religion naturally occupied much of the attention of Charles and the Diet. The Emperor vowed that even when in the field against his enemies he had thought more about the Church than the war; and it was incumbent upon him to attempt some sort of solution at the Diet of Augsburg. The problem, difficult in any case, was rendered infinitely more so by his strained relations with the Pope; which the murder of Paul’s son, Pierluigi Farnese, on September 10, 1547, with the suspected connivance of Ferrante di Gonzaga, the governor of Milan, of Granvelle, and even of Charles himself, did nothing to improve. The Pope was hardened in his determination not to let the Council leave Bologna. The Emperor obtained a unanimous recognition from the Estates to the effect that the prelates remaining at Trent constituted the only true Council. They also approved of Charles’ refusal to publish the Tridentine decrees; and, going further than he desired, they demanded that Scripture, should be the test applied to all doctrines, and that the members of the Council should be released from their oaths to the Pope, in order that they might more effectually reform the Papacy. In the name of the German nation Charles formally required the return of the Council to Trent; and when this was refused, his two representatives, Vargas and Velasco, solemnly protested on January 18, 1548, against all future acts of the Council at Bologna, declaring them null and void.
The Interim. [1548
Was Charles also among the prophets? He, even as Philip of Hesse and John Frederick of Saxony, had protested against a General Council and refused to be bound by its decrees. Had he been as devoid of religious scruples as Maurice of Saxony or Henry of Navarre, and had he had only German feelings to consult, he would in 1548 have become an ostensible Protestant. But Charles would never have bought a kingdom with a Mass; he preferred to lose a kingdom for a Mass, and, in spite of his enmity with the Papacy, he was bent on making Germany Catholic, and on using his victory to decide questions upon which he had declared the struggle would not be fought. At the same time his refusal to accept the Tridentine decrees as the standard of faith made it necessary for him to evolve some criterion of his own which should serve its purpose during the interval until a General Council should formulate conclusions acceptable both to him and the Pope. With this object in view, after a fruitless discussion by a committee consisting of representative laymen as well as ecclesiastics, he took into consultation Michael Helding, the suffragan Bishop of Mainz, who represented the high Catholic point of view, the Erasmian Julius von Pflug, whom the result of the Schmalkaldic War had at last established as Bishop of Naumburg, and John Agricola, whose views were Lutheran, of a moderate type. The compromise, known as the Interim, which this commission drew up, conceded clerical marriages, the use of the cup by the laity, and accepted a modification of the doctrine of justification by faith. Pflug also explained away enough of the sacrificial character of the Mass to satisfy some of the Lutherans, and denied some of the prerogatives claimed by the Pope. On the other hand the Interim retained all the seven Sacraments, the worship of the Virgin and the Saints, fasts, processions, and other Catholic ceremonies, and reaffirmed the dogma of transubstantiation.
The reception of the Interim by the College of Electors was on the whole favorable. Joachim of Brandenburg rejoiced to see included in it the three concessions which formed the basis of his compact with Charles in 1541; the Elector Palatine concurred. Maurice wanted to consult his Estates, but Charles represented to him that no provincial assembly could override the decisions of a Diet. The Emperor had more to fear from the College of Princes, where the Bishops and Bavaria were preponderant on the Catholic side. The Count Palatine Wolfgang of Neumark and Margrave Hans of Cüstrin, as zealous Lutherans, offered a strenuous opposition. Duke William of Bavaria had Catholic and other scruples, and referred them to the Pope. Paul III had also conscientious scruples and remembered Pierluigi. He replied that the Emperor had nothing to do with matters of doctrine, which must be reserved for the Council at Bologna; points on which the Council had already decided should be adopted without alteration by the Diet; and on questions, which the Council had not yet settled, the Interim contained several assertions repugnant to the Catholic faith. Armed with this opinion the College of Princes resolved that all Church property must be restored, that the concession of the Cup to the laity and of clerical marriages could only be made effective by papal dispensation, and above all that the Interim must not apply to Catholic territories. In other words, the compromise was to bind one party but not the other, and Lutherans were to accept such concessions as they had obtained subject to the Pope’s grace and favor. Charles was incensed at this attempt to spoil the concordat, and told the Princes that they must accept the articles as they stood. This they refused to do. The Emperor was compelled to give an assurance that the Interim had no other object than the conversion of backsliders from the faith; and several alterations were made in its wording without the knowledge of the Protestants. In this form the Interim was proclaimed as an edict on May 15, 1548; but the vague terms in which the Elector of Mainz expressed the Diet’s concurrence did not imply that unanimous concurrence which Charles read into its declaration.
It needed more than sleight of hand to compel the edict’s observance, but Charles was resolved to stick at no measures, however violent. He disregarded the oral assurances given to the cities before their surrender, and his councilor Hase averred that Spanish troops should teach them Catholic truth. At Augsburg and Ulm the city franchises were violated, the democratic Councils purged of refractory members, and their places supplied by rich Catholic merchants like the Fuggers and Welsers. Constance yielded after a brilliant defence of its bridge which recalled the exploit of Horatius Codes, and surrendered its privileges as an imperial city to be merged in the Habsburg domains. Divines who refused to submit became exiles. Osiander left Nürnberg, Brenz left Swabian Hall, and Blarer Constance; Schnepf was driven from Tübingen, and Bucer and Fagius from Strasburg. The last two found a home in Cambridge, and many others came to spread the doctrines of reform in England; over four hundred divines are said to have left southern Germany.
In northern Germany the rulers who had submitted to Charles generally accepted the Interim, but Maurice was compelled to pay tribute to Lutheran sentiment, and employed for this purpose Bishop Pflug of Naumburg, the most conciliatory of Catholic divines. He was met in the same spirit by Melanchthon, who, much to the Emperor’s annoyance, still enjoyed safety and power in Wittenberg. Melanchthon’s attitude was similar to that of 1530, and aroused much discontent among the bolder Lutherans; his criticisms of Luther and John Frederick seemed oblivious of his former relations with them and of the facts that one was dead and the other in prison. At a conference with the Catholics at Pegau he gave away much of the Lutheran case; but the Interim met with greater resistance at a second debate at Torgau in October, 1548, and was likened to the forbidden fruit with which Eve tempted Adam. At Celle, however, in the following month its advocates once more prevailed, and the formulary which they drew up was adopted at a Saxon Diet at Leipzig; thence it took the name of the Leipzig Interim and became the rule for Saxon lands.
Over almost the whole of Germany the Interim was now enforced, and Charles was so elated by his success that he thought of pressing its acceptance upon the Scandinavian kingdoms, upon England, and even upon Russia. Yet his triumph was illusory and short-lived; even Melanchthon, who conformed, secretly counseled resistance, and people followed his private precept rather than his public example. Three years later two English ambassadors at Charles’ court gave a description of the situation in Augsburg. An imperial commission had charged the ministers of that city with preaching against the Interim and refusing to say Mass in their churches. The divines replied that they durst say none, being more loth to offend God than willing to please man; the Apostles had neither said nor heard Mass; and for themselves if they were in fault the fault was no new one, for they had said no masses for fourteen years. They were then compelled to leave the city, which remained disconsolate; there were few shops in which people might not be seen in tears; a hundred women besieged the Emperor’s gates “howling and asking in their outcries where they should christen their children”, and where they should marry. “For all this the Papist churches have no more customers than they had; not ten of the townsmen in some of their greatest synagogues. The churches where the Protestants did by thousands at once communicate are locked up, and the people, being robbed of all their godly exercises, sit weeping and wailing at home”. Strasburg and Nürnberg were in no better mood; when Charles required the young Duke Christopher of Württemberg to expel John Brenz, he replied that he was as willing as the Emperor to do so, but it was not in his power unless he could expel all his subjects with him.
Against a spirit like this the Emperor labored in vain. It availed him little that Paul III in his dying days recognized the Interim and dissolved the Council at Bologna; that Julius III repaired his predecessor’s error and sent his prelates to Trent where Charles’ Bishops still kept up the continuity of the Council; or that in January, 1552, some Protestant delegates appeared there and reinforced the opposition to the Pope. The reunion did not assuage the struggle between papal and imperial influence. In the demand that the points already decided must be reconsidered, Vargas, Charles V’s representative, concurred with the Protestants, and wrote to the Emperor a series of letters exposing the papal intrigues at the previous sessions of the Council, which has been used with effect by Protestant historians. He even welcomed the proposal of Maurice’s commissioners that doctrines should be tested by the Scriptures, and pressed hotly for a practical reformation of the Papacy. It was Charles’ view that if the Lutherans would come within the pale of the Church as he defined it, they would be useful allies against the Pope. But his definition was the Interim, and the effort to force that definition on his subjects electrified the atmosphere and prepared it for the storm which Charles’ dynastic and absolutist projects brought down upon his head.
1548-51] The question of the imperial succession
Nothing illustrates more vividly Charles’ incurable want of sympathy with his German subjects or the incompatibility of his family ambitions with the national tendencies of the age than his attempt to force his son Philip into the seat of the German Emperors. National antipathy to France had contributed more than anything else to his own election, yet he thought he could defy a far deeper hostility to the Spaniards. The foreign character of his own aims had been responsible for much of the opposition he experienced in Germany, though he had at least been brought up in nominally imperial territory. Yet he imagined that Philip could succeed who had lived all his life in Spain and was purely Spanish in feeling. No Spaniard had hitherto ruled in Germany, for Alfonso of Castile can scarcely be cited as an exception, and the Reformation, added to other causes, made it impossible that a Spaniard should ever rule there in the future. Spain and Germany represented opposite poles of religious and political ideals, and the attempt to unite them under one rule would inevitably have proved as disastrous in Germany as a similar attempt did in the Netherlands. Charles in fact was a hybrid physically, politically, and to some extent ecclesiastically; and the parts of his cosmopolitan Empire necessarily reverted to their original national types.
In his endeavour to perform the impossible Charles nearly produced a rupture in the Habsburg family, and alienated all the German Princes. His plan was that Philip should be elected King of the Romans when Ferdinand became Emperor, and that thus after Ferdinand’s death the Empire should remain with the elder line of the family. Ferdinand was led to believe, however, that the design extended to Philip’s immediate succession and his own exclusion from the throne, and this was the current suspicion in Germany. He long and strenuously opposed his brothers plan; and the quarrel between them was only patched up by the intervention of their sister Maria from the Netherlands. Eventually it was agreed (1551) that Philip should succeed Ferdinand, but that Ferdinand’s son Maximilian should succeed Philip. This healed the family breach but had no effect on the other German Princes; and the Electors, with wise regard for their own interests and national liberties, unanimously refused even to consider the scheme.
The whole nation in fact was growing day by day more hostile to Charles and his Spanish troops. The garrisons scattered throughout the Empire, few though they were in numbers, created the impression that Germany was a conquered country; and Spanish arrogance lost no opportunity of bringing this sense home to the German mind. Granvelle was suspected of harboring a design for the partition of Germany. Hatred, which was at first limited to the Spaniards themselves, began to embrace the Emperor as he repeatedly refused to listen to the Diet’s complaints of their conduct and of his infraction of his engagements. He also wounded military feelings by forbidding the service of German mercenaries in foreign armies, a practice which he had often licensed himself, and by summarily hanging Sebastian Vogelsberger for defying his commands. Discontent was expressed with Charles’ proposal to invest his son with the Netherlands on terms which rendered those provinces an hereditary appanage of the Habsburg family, independent of the Empire and transmissible to female heirs; and even Catholics were offended at the persecution to which Philip of Hesse and John Frederick were subjected. The former believed that the Emperor intended to carry him off to Spain, and when he attempted to escape his German guards were exchanged for Spaniards. The three lay Electors, most of the Princes, and even Ferdinand, petitioned for Philip’s release; but Charles turned a deaf ear and decided that his detention should last for fifteen years, though he was afraid to publish the sentence.
While Charles’ popularity in Germany was being thus undermined, his prestige abroad was rapidly waning. His power in Germany from 1547 to 1550 had really rested upon a fortunate coincidence of external circumstances, the absorption of England and France in their mutual struggles and the diversion of the Turks to the East. But such a combination of propitious conditions could not last. By 1550 France had recovered Boulogne, established her influence in Scotland, and compelled England to make peace; and it was generally anticipated that this peace would be followed by war with the Emperor. The naval warfare in the Mediterranean between Dragut and Charles’ admirals began to go against the imperialists; and the loss of Tripoli (August, 1551) more than counterbalanced the previous gain of Mehedia. The Turk again turned his attention towards Hungary, where the remnants of Zapolya’s kingdom acknowledged the nominal sway of his son but the real rule of George Martinuzzi. His domination proving intolerable to Zapolya’s widow, she appealed to the Sultan, while Martinuzzi sought to make terms with Ferdinand. Ferdinand’s request for assistance from the Diet was coldly received by Charles, and his envoy in Transylvania, Castaldo, suspecting that Martinuzzi intended treachery, had him murdered with Ferdinand’s connivance (December, 1551). The Turks thereupon began to advance, while the disputes of the Farnese in Italy, where France supported Orazio and the Emperor Ottavio, brought Henry II and Charles to the verge of war.
Under these circumstances men began to desert the Emperor’s failing cause. Maurice, who had betrayed his cousin, would not adhere too scrupulously to Charles; he was highly unpopular in Saxony on account of his religious backsliding and his political treachery, and unless he found independent means of support he would go down with the Emperor’s ruin; his own subjects were already thinking of placing his brother Augustus in his place, and his nobles declined to assist him in the siege of Magdeburg. So gradually he began to dissociate himself from the Emperor’s fortunes; he supported Maximilian in his opposition to Philip’s succession, and the Landgrave’s sons in their attempt to secure some mitigation of their father’s lot. He obtained in the autumn of 1550 a useful basis of operations, being entrusted by the Diet, in spite of the reluctance of Charles, who already suspected his intentions, with the conduct of the siege of Magdeburg. That city had been placed under the ban of the Empire for its continued resistance to Charles and to his religious measures; on September 22, 1550, its troops had been defeated by Duke George of Mecklenburg, but the citizens spurned all proposals for submission. Their indomitable resistance had stirred a fever of enthusiasm in Lutheran Germany; and the acceptance of the task of subduing them evoked renewed taunts of “Judas” against the Saxon usurper.
But it was not Protestantism which Maurice intended to betray this time. His character remains to this day an enigma; elaborate attempts have been made to represent him not merely as the ablest statesman of his age but as the champion of German Protestantism, consistently working in its interest. According to this theory his original desertion of the Schmalkaldic League was only a necessary step towards his ultimate victory over Charles and the forces of reaction. To others his career appears to be a masterpiece of treachery, and Maurice himself a subtle intriguer comparable only with his contemporary the Duke of Northumberland, who like him played an unscrupulous and selfish part under the mask of religion. In Maurice the territorial ambition of German Princes found its most skilful exponent: his religious creed was but an accident of circumstances. No pronounced Catholic could have maintained himself in ducal Saxony or held the Ernestine electorate; but Charles’ help was indispensable for the overthrow of John Frederick, and Charles’ help could not be purchased without some concessions to orthodoxy. This object having been achieved Maurice proceeded to rid himself of a dangerously unpopular ally; and he was as successful in choosing the right moment for leaving Charles as he had been when he deserted the Schmalkaldic League.
The popular antipathy to Charles and his Spaniards, the genuine devotion of the middle classes to Lutheranism, were the levers which Maurice and his fellow-Princes used for their own ends. They rebelled neither to free the German nation, nor to redeem the true religion. Their real motive was fear lest Charles should establish a strong monarchy, and reduce their oligarchy to the impotence to which they had endeavored to reduce his sovereignty. This apprehension had begun to work soon after the battle of Mühlberg. As early as 1548 Otto of Brunswick-Harburg was intriguing in France with Henry II, who suggested a North-German-Polish league, the germ of the later alliance between France and Poland against the House of Habsburg. Negotiations were soon in train between the young Landgrave William of Hesse, Margrave Hans of Cüstrin, Duke Albrecht of Prussia, and his suzerain Sigismund Augustus, the King of Poland. The soul of the movement was Hans of Cüstrin, whose refusal to acknowledge the Interim had provoked the wrath of Charles V, and whose dominions in Cottbus and Crössen, the one surrounded and the other bounded by Ferdinand’s lands, excited that King’s desires. In February, 1550, a defensive league was formed between Hans of Cüstrin, Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg, and Duke Albrecht of Prussia at Konigsberg; and secret agents were busy in foreign lands, Schärtlin in Switzerland and George von Heideck, a cadet of the House of Württemberg, in England and the Hanse towns.
Maurice had early information of these movements, but his advances were viewed with suspicion. Hans of Cüstrin wished to exclude him and the young Margrave Albrecht Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Culmbach from the league on account of their religious indifference; but the threats of the Emperor against Hans and Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg, and Maurice’s success in enticing to his banners the military forces of northern Germany induced them to listen to his overtures. For this purpose his command gave Maurice every opportunity; in September, 1550, he won over the troops of Duke George of Mecklenburg; in January, 1551, he secured the Protestant levies of George von Heideck; and in the following month Hans came to terms at Dresden. The deposed and imprisoned Elector was the chief difficulty in Maurice’s path. John Frederick vowed he would rather end his days in captivity than owe freedom to his godless and traitorous cousin; but Maurice carried his point with his allies; and in May Hans of Cüstrin, Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg, and Landgrave William of Hesse consented to threaten the young Ernestines with open hostility unless they would join the league or at least undertake to remain neutral. Maurice also secured Duke Albrecht of Prussia, and an envoy was sent to France to request a monthly contribution of a hundred thousand crowns. In August, 1551, the Bishop of Bayonne came to Hesse, and in the autumn the terms of an alliance between Henry II and the German Princes were outlined. On November 3 Magdeburg capitulated. To Charles Maurice represented the surrender as a complete imperial victory; but in reality the terms of the capitulation guaranteed to the townsfolk the religion they desired, and secured to Maurice control of the city and a basis of operations.
1550-2] Agreement with Henry II of France.
The appeal to France involved a radical alteration of Hans of Cüstrin’s original plan. His object had been merely defence against the threatening aspect assumed by Charles V, but mere defence was of no use to Henry II. French support could only be bought by making the league offensive, and offence was also Maurice’s plan. Chagrined at having to yield the first place in the league to Maurice, and alarmed, perhaps, by the terms which Henry II demanded, Hans broke away from the league. A German who was both a patriot and a Protestant could indeed have been offered no more painful choice. The French stipulations were that the Princes should undertake to vote as Henry wished at the next imperial election, and connive at his conquest and administration as imperial vicar of the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, Verdun, and Cambray. The imperial lands were to be sacrificed as the price of religious security, or rather of princely privilege. Particularism was at least as strong a motive with the Princes as Protestant or patriotic feeling. They had not crushed the knight, the peasant, and the Anabaptist in order to smooth Charles1 path to absolutism, but their own. The Emperor was the last obstacle to the full development of territorial despotism, and the real inwardness of the struggle is illustrated by the fact that the cities, Protestant though they were, for the most part stood aloof or sided with the Emperor. The Lutheran North remained passive, and the so-called war of liberation presents many of the features of an oligarchic plot.
The treaty between the German Princes and the King of France was signed at Chambord and at Friedwald in January, 1552. Henry intervened in Germany, as he did in Italy, as the champion of national liberties against the Emperor; and while in March he threw thirty-five thousand men into Lorraine he hardened his heart against the heretics in France. In fact his devotion to German freedom although more specious was no more real than his love of toleration; and the German lands which fell into his power fared at least as ill as ever they would have done under Charles V. The double face which France showed from 1532 to 1648, Catholic at home and Protestant abroad, was a religious guise adopted to help her in her secular rivalry with the House of Austria, and never did it stand her in better stead than in 1552. In that year Henry II avenged the defeats and imprisonment inflicted on his father by Charles V and thus embittered the close of the Emperor’s life with failure and humiliation.
As the French troops crossed the frontier, Maurice, William of Hesse and Margrave Albrecht Alcibiades concentrated thirty thousand men in Franconia. The Emperor was not so ignorant of Maurice’s designs as has often been supposed. His commissioner, Lazarus Schwendi, had sounded warning notes from the camp at Magdeburg; but success had made Charles confident and careless, and he failed to realize the danger until it was too late to organize resistance. On April 6 he was thinking of flight to the Netherlands, but the way was blocked already. He suspected Ferdinand’s loyalty, and others have believed that the King of the Romans had a secret understanding with Maurice. Ferdinand had ample grounds for discontent, but there seems to be no proof of treason on his part. Maurice, who had outwitted the keenest diplomats at Charles’ Court, may well have duped his brother; he had promised to meet the King at Linz on April 4, but Ferdinand was not prepared for the guise in which he came. On that day Augsburg fell before the Princes; the resistance of Nürnberg, Ulm, and Strasburg alone marred the completeness of their victory, for Bavaria and Württemberg were their secret allies. On the 18th Maurice was at Linz. Ferdinand sought to negotiate an armistice, but Maurice refused to date it earlier than May 26, and used the interval to draw his net round Charles. In spite of the words attributed to him, that he had no cage big enough for such a bird, Maurice did not shrink from pressing his illustrious fugitive, and hoped, as he said, to run the fox to earth. On the nights of May 18-19 he seized the pass of Ehrenberg. Twelve days earlier Charles had been foiled in an attempt to escape to Constance and to pass on thence to the Netherlands. He had no troops to withstand Maurice; but a mutiny in the Elector’s forces gave him a few hours’ respite, and towards evening, with a few attendants, he fled amid rain and snow across the Brenner. The victor of Mühlberg was an almost solitary fugitive in his Empire; the assembled Fathers at Trent broke up in dismay, having, it was said, no mind to argue points of doctrine with soldiers in arms; and the Emperor’s soaring plans dissolved like castles in Spain.
It was the darkest hour in Charles’ career, but soon the twilight began to glimmer. The Emperor found a refuge at Villach in Carinthia, while Maurice went to the conference at Passau, where his own troubles began to gather. He demanded as the price of peace security against Habsburg aggression in Germany, restoration of princely privilege, and a guarantee of the Lutheran religion irrespective of the decrees of the Council of Trent. The Catholic Princes assembled at Passau were disposed to concede these terms, but to connive at permanent schism was incompatible with Charles’ rigid Catholic conscience. Nothing could bend his iron will, not the advance of the Turk nor the success of the French in Italy nor his own personal peril. He insisted that the question of religious peace must be referred to a Diet. On that point he refused to yield an inch; and among the circumstances which preserved so large a portion of Germany to the Roman Catholic faith not the least is the unshaken constancy which Charles V evinced at the sorest crisis of the Catholic cause in Germany.
His courage had its reward. Margrave Albrecht had separated from his allies and was pursuing a wild career of murder and sacrilege in Franconia, where he dreamt of carving a secular duchy out of the Bishops’ spiritualities; in six weeks he extorted nearly a million crowns by way of ransom. Maurice failed in his attack on Frankfort, where he lost one of his ablest lieutenants by the death of George of Mecklenburg. The advance of Henry II had been checked by the valor of Strasburg; Charles had released John Frederick, and with a little help the Ernestine Wettin could raise a storm which would drive his cousin from Saxony; while Hans of Cüstrin would willingly join in the fray in return for a share of the Albertine lands. Conscious that the nation was not really behind him and that he would lose his all by defeat, Maurice reluctantly yielded to Charles’ demand that the religious question should be left to a Diet. Margrave Albrecht roughly refused to accept the peace; and when Maurice marched to help Ferdinand against the Turks, many of his troops mutinied and took service with Albrecht. The Margrave’s disgust was not due to zeal for the Protestant faith, but to the fact that Maurice had played both hands in the game and reduced his partner to a dummy. Fortune seemed to be turning and Charles thought of refusing to ratify the treaty, delayed the liberation of Philip of Hesse, and returned to his schemes for creating a friendly league and securing the Empire for his son. He appeared to have learnt and forgotten nothing, but his advisers were more amenable. Queen Maria opposed these plans, Ferdinand denounced them, and the fear lest his obstinacy should drive his brother into Maurice’s arms induced Charles to submit and sign the Treaty of Passau.
Siege of Metz. League of Heidelberg. [1552-3
Reluctantly the Emperor surrendered for the moment his dynastic projects and assumed the part of the champion of Germany against the French invader. Emerging from Villach and journeying by way of Augsburg, where he could not refrain from once more overthrowing the democratic government and expelling some of the more obnoxious preachers who had returned in Maurice’s train, Charles appeared on the Rhine determined to wrest Metz, Toul, and Verdun from the French. Metz was the key of the situation, and it had been amply provisioned and skillfully fortified by the Duke of Guise. On the last day of October, 1552, the siege was formally opened, and Charles strengthened his forces by an unscrupulous alliance with Albrecht Alcibiades. The Margrave’s brutalities had roused all Franconia against him and he had been forced to flee to the Court of Henry II; but Court life had no attractions for him, and the French King hesitated to entrust so doubtful an ally with important commands. So Albrecht escaped, captured the Duke of Aumale, and with this peace-offering came into Charles’ camp. His terms were the imperial sanction of his spoliation of the Bishops of Würzburg and Bamberg. “Necessity knows no law”, wrote Charles to his sister, as he struck his bargain with the worst law-breaker in Germany and sanctioned his sacrilegious plunder of Bamberg and Würzburg. But Albrecht could not remedy the defects of Alva’s generalship, produce harmony between Germans and Spaniards in the Emperor’s army, or make any impression on Metz. For a month after his generals had recognized that success was impossible. Charles refused to admit his defeat. But at length the havoc wrought among his Italian and Spanish troops by a mid-winter siege conquered even his obstinacy. With a grumble at the fickleness of Fortune who preferred a young King to an old Emperor, he raised the siege on January 1, 1553, and turned his back on his German dominions for ever. Success in the war with France would have meant a renewed effort to divide and crush the Lutheran Princes, to rivet the Spanish succession on Germany, and to restore the Catholic faith. Charles’ failure left Germany free to settle these questions herself. Already meditating abdication and retirement from the world, the Emperor journeyed to Brussels; he was cheered by the capture of Térouanne from the French and the triumph of Mary in England, but German affairs were resigned into the hands of the King of the Romans.
The evil which Charles had done by his bargain with Albrecht survived his departure, and it is a lurid comment upon the Emperor’s reign that its last days were characterized by as wild an anarchy as Germany had known in all her turbulent history. The Margrave, having performed a last service to Charles by saving his guns during the retreat from Metz, proceeded once more to trouble his foes in Germany; and, as nearly all Germany hated the Emperor, Albrecht was free to turn his arms in whatever direction he chose. The League of Heidelberg, formed in March, 1553, for the preservation of the peace and prevention of Philip’s election, consisted of Catholics and Protestants and was too general to be very effective. Moreover Albrecht’s onslaughts on Bishops and priests won him a good deal of secret sympathy. The situation was full of confusion; the Emperor, the extreme Protestants, and the Ernestine Wettins and Margrave Albrecht, were all in more or less open opposition to the Albertine Maurice, King Ferdinand, and the Heidelberg League. Charles had more than once divided the Lutherans; he had now divided the House of Habsburg.
Maurice alone could restore peace to the Empire. His campaign in Hungary had not been successful, and Zapolya’s widow with Solyman’s help retained control of Transylvania. But Persia once more diverted the Turk’s attention from west to east, and gave Maurice and Ferdinand respite to deal with Albrecht and his notorious lieutenant, Wilhelm von Grumbach. Maurice, who had posed as the liberator of Germany from Spanish tyranny, was now to play the part of savior of society from princely anarchy. Charles had left the Empire to its fate, the Heidelberg League was powerless, and a decree of the Reichskammergericht against Albrecht would be a mere form of words. Could Maurice succeed amid this maze of impotence, no prize might be beyond his reach. At Eger he concerted measures with Ferdinand and despatched his brother for Danish aid. Albrecht, after winning another victory at Pommersfelden on April 11, renewed his ravages in Franconia, and his excesses were worse than those of the Peasants’ War. He then turned against the Catholic Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel, and thought of utilizing John Frederick's hatred of Maurice and Elector Joachim’s friendship with Charles to draw them both to his side; even Landgrave Philip of Hesse was loth to assist his son-in-law against so good an enemy of the priests. On July 9, 1553, at Sievershausen, the forces of Albrecht and Maurice met. It was the fiercest battle fought in German lands for many a day; beside it Mühlberg was the merest skirmish. Maurice won the day, but lost his life; a wound from a musket-ball proved fatal on the 11th, and one of the most extraordinary careers in history was cut short at the age of thirty-two years.
The death of Maurice brought no redress to his injured and aged cousin. The Saxon Electorate continued in the Albertine branch of the family, passing to Maurice’s brother Augustus, a man of conciliatory temper, who had incurred none of the odium attaching to Maurice and could look for support to his Danish father-in-law Christian III. Charles V had no longer a private grudge to revenge by restoring his former captive. John Frederick did not survive the disappointment by many months. He died on March 3, 1554, a classic instance of fortune’s perversity. He suffered more severely than any Prince of his age, and his coveted electoral dignity passed into a rival House, never to be restored; and the only solace vouchsafed to the Ernestine branch was the restitution of Altenburg, Neustadt, and some other districts ceded to Maurice in 1547. Yet John Frederick was the most blameless of men, “the example of constancy and very mirror of true magnanimity in these our days to all Princes”. Such is the verdict of one contemporary; better known is the glowing description by Roger Ascham : “one in all fortunes desired of his friends, reverenced of his foes, favored of the Emperor, loved of all”.
With the disappearance of Maurice the Emperor’s interest in Albrecht Alcibiades waned. It was in vain that the Margrave beat the anti-ecclesiastical drum more furiously than ever, or that many a north German Prince and city came to secret terms. Duke Henry of Brunswick displayed unwonted vigour and defeated Albrecht at Steterburg on September 12, 1553. On December 1 the long-delayed ban was proclaimed, and a second victory won by Duke Henry at Schwarzach on June 13, 1554, drove Albrecht again as a fugitive to the French Court. Peace was at length restored, and Germany prepared for that Diet which was to settle its religious affairs for two generations. Permanent toleration of heresy was inevitable in the existing condition of German politics, and the prospect of such unwelcome violence to his conscience determined the Emperor definitely to withdraw from his imperial responsibilities. His formal abdication of the Empire was not made till three years later; his relinquishment of the Netherlands only took place in 1555, and that of his Spanish kingdoms in 1556; but the end of his reign in Germany may be dated from the summer of 1554, when he empowered Ferdinand to settle the question of religion with the Diet, but not in his name.
Diet of Augsburg. [1554-5
The city which had witnessed the birth of the Lutheran Faith was also to see its legitimation, and on February 5, 1555, Ferdinand opened another great Diet at Augsburg. No Elector was present in person; of the ecclesiastical Princes only two, the Bishops of Augsburg and Eichstadt, attended, and of temporal Princes only four, the young Archduke Charles, the Dukes of Bavaria and Württemberg, and the Margrave of Baden. The Catholics still had a majority in the Diet, and it cost them a severe mental struggle to relinquish the fundamental position of Catholicism, the seamless unity of the Christian Church. But common action with Protestants in opposition to the Spanish Succession, in defence of princely privilege against Charles and of public peace against Albrecht, had paved the way, not to an agreement in religious matters, but to an agreement to differ about them. Yet even this compromise was not reached till Ferdinand had made one more effort to save ecclesiastical unity. He proposed that the Diet should first deal with the question of public peace and refer religion to a Council or to a conference. Duke Christopher of Württemberg and the Elector of Brandenburg were not averse to the idea, and the latter even suggested the Interim as the basis of an agreement. But the hand of the Diet was forced by the Lutheran Convention at Naumburg, which was attended by more German Princes than the Diet itself. Here it was determined to abide by the Confession of Augsburg, and this decision was upheld by the Elector Augustus, the sons of John Frederick, and the Landgraves of Hesse, while the Elector Joachim hastily withdrew his ill-advised suggestion with regard to the Interim.
Thereupon the Electoral College at Augsburg decided to deal with the religious question at once and demanded religious peace at any price. The Catholic Princes, led by the Cardinal Archbishop of Augsburg, protested; but Christopher of Württemberg came over to the Protestant side, and presently the Bishop of Augsburg was summoned to Conclaves at Rome, necessitated by the successive deaths of Julius III and Marcellus II. The Protestants now put forward their full demands. They required security not merely for all present but all future subscribers to the Confession of Augsburg, and liberty to enjoy not only such ecclesiastical property as had already been secularized but all that might be confiscated hereafter; Lutherans in Catholic States were to have complete toleration, while no such privilege was to be accorded to Catholics in Lutheran territories. They sought in fact to reduce the Catholics to the position to which they had themselves been reduced by the Recess of Speier in 1529; every legal obstacle to the Lutheran development was to be removed, while Catholics were deprived of their means of defence.
The Catholics were not yet brought so low as to submit to such terms; for months the struggle of parties went on, and it seemed possible that another religious war might ensue. Eventually a compromise was arranged mainly by Ferdinand and Augustus of Saxony. Security was granted to all Lutheran Princes; episcopal jurisdiction in their lands was to cease; and they might retain all ecclesiastical property secularized before the Treaty of Passau (1552), provided it was not immediately subject to the Empire. For the future each territorial secular Prince might choose between the Catholic and Lutheran faith, and his decision was to bind all his subjects. If a subject rejected his sovereign’s religion the only privilege he could claim was liberty to migrate into other lands. There remained two all-important points in dispute. The Lutherans still required toleration for the adherents of their confession in Catholic States; and the Catholics demanded that any ecclesiastical Prince, who abjured Catholicism, should forfeit his lands and dignities. The Catholic objections to the first demand were insuperable; and the Lutherans were compelled to content themselves with an assurance by Ferdinand, which was not incorporated in the Recess, did not become law of the Empire, and of which the Reichskammergericht could therefore take no cognizance. The Catholic requirement about spiritual Princes was met by the famous “ecclesiastical reservation” which imposed forfeiture of lands and dignities on Bishops who forsook the Catholic faith. This was incorporated in the Recess ; but the Lutherans made their own reservation, and declared that they did not consider themselves bound by the proviso.
The so-called Peace of Augsburg, embodied in the Recess which was published on September 25,1555, thus rested upon a double equivocation, and contained in itself the seeds of the Thirty Years’ War. It was in fact no more than a truce concluded, not because the two parties had decided the issues upon which they fought, but because they were for the moment tired of fighting; and no half-measure was ever pursued by a more relentless Nemesis. The “ecclesiastical reservation” has been condemned as the worst sin of omission of which Protestant Germany was guilty, as a criminal and cowardly evasion of a vital decision, which delay could only make more difficult. The artificial perpetuation of spiritual principalities only served to buttress the Habsburg power and postpone the achievement of national unity. In the other scale a Catholic would place the fact that to the rescue of the ecclesiastical Electorates from the rising tide of Protestantism must be attributed in no small measure the hold which Catholicism still retains on western Germany.
This lame and halting conclusion of nearly forty years’ strife has been hailed as the birth of religious liberty; but it is mockery to describe the principle which underlay the Peace of Augsburg as one of toleration. Cujus regio ejus religio is a maxim as fatal to true religion as it is to freedom of conscience; it is the creed of Erastian despotism, the formula in which the German territorial Princes expressed the fact that they had mastered the Church as well as the State. Even for Princes religious liberty was limited to the choice of one out of two alternatives, the dogmas of Rome or those of Wittenberg. The door of Germany was barred against Zwingli, Calvin, and Socinus; and in neither the Lutheran nor the Roman Church was there the same latitude that there was in the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. The onslaughts of her enemies compelled Rome to define her doctrines and to narrow her communion; if the Catholic Church was purified in the process, it was also rendered more Puritan; it became exclusive rather than comprehensive, Roman rather than Catholic. To define the faith is to limit the faithful; the age was one of definitions, and it destroyed for ever the hope of a real Catholicism.
But even this meager liberty of choice between two exclusive communions was denied to the mass of the German people. For them the change consisted in this, that instead of having their faith determined for them by the Church, it was settled by their territorial Princes; instead of a clerical, there was a lay persecution; instead of a remote prospect of being burnt, the German dissenter, after 1555, enjoyed a much more imminent prospect of being banished; for the tyranny of Wittenberg, if it was less than that of Rome after the Council of Trent, was certainly greater than that of the Catholic Church before the appearance of Luther. Luther enunciated the principle of religious liberty, of individual priesthood. But he and his followers imposed another bondage, which went far to render this declaration ineffectual. The chief actual contribution of the Lutheran Reformation to religious liberty was thus indirect, almost undesigned. It produced the first Church independent of Rome, and prepared the way for countless other religious communities, which, however narrowly they may define their individual formularies, tend by their number to enforce mutual toleration. Private morality has been evolved out of the conflicting interests of an infinite mass of individuals; international law depends upon the multiplicity of independent States; and the best guarantee for the freedom of conscience consists in the multitude and relative impotence of the Churches.
There is no more disappointing epoch in German history than the reign of Charles V; if in its course it shattered some idols, it also shattered ideals. It began full of hope, and the nation seemed young. There were plans for reforming the Church and renewing the Empire; no one dreamt of dividing the one and destroying the other. Yet such was the result. The Reformation began with ideas and ended in force. In the Germany of the sixteenth, as in that of the nineteenth century, an era of liberal thought closed in a fever of war; the persuasions of sweetness and light were drowned by the beat of the drum and the blare of the trumpet; and methods of blood and iron supplanted the forces of reason. No ideas, it was found, in religion or politics, could survive unless they were cast in the hard material mould of German territorialism.
The triumph of this principle is really the dominant note of the period. Territorialism ruined the Empire, captured the Reformation, crushed the municipal independence of the cities, and lowered the status of the peasant. The fall of the imperial power was perhaps inevitable, but it was hastened by Charles V. In the first place, his dynastic and Spanish policy weakened his authority as a national monarch; in the second, his adoption of the cause of the Church threw the Reformers into the arms of the territorial Princes. The success of the Reformation thus meant that of the oligarchic principle and the ruin of German monarchy. The Reformation of the Empire became incompatible with the Reformation of the Church; and the seal on Charle’ failure was set by the Diet of Augsburg, which, besides concluding a truce of religion, removed the Reichskammergericht, the organization of the Circles, and the preservation of the peace from the sphere of imperial influence. Henceforward Germany was not a kingdom, but a collection of petty States, whose rulers were dominated by mutual jealousies. From the time of Charles V to that of Frederick the Great, Germany ceased to be an international force; it was rather the arena in which the other nations of Europe, the Spaniard, the Frenchman, the Swede, the Pole, and the Turk, fought out their diplomatic and military struggles.
The Kaisertum was but one of the Princes’ victims; the Bürgertum also fell before them. The vigorous city life of the Middle Ages was a thing of the past; in many a German town the representative of the territorial sovereign domineered over the elect of the burghers, interfered in their administration, and even controlled their finances. On the shores of the Baltic the destruction of town independence involved the loss of Germany's maritime power, and not till our own day has this eclipse begun to pass. With the decay of civic life went also the ruin of municipal arts and civilization, and in its stead there was only the mainly formal culture of the petty German Court. No age in Germany was more barren of intellectual inspiration than that which succeeded the Peace of Augsburg. The internecine struggles of the reign of Charles V had exhausted all classes in the nation, and an era of universal lassitude followed : intellectually, morally, and politically, Germany was a desert, and it was called Religious Peace.