13: Chapter XIII (1617)
<< 12: Chapter XII || 14: Chapter XIV >>
When the forlorn emperor Rudolph had signed the permission for his
brother Matthias to take the last crown but one from his head, he bit the
pen in a paroxysm of helpless rage. Then rushing to the window of his
apartment, he looked down on one of the most stately prospects that the
palaces of the earth can offer. From the long monotonous architectural
lines of the Hradschin, imposing from its massiveness and its imperial
situation, and with the dome and minarets of the cathedral clustering
behind them, the eye swept across the fertile valley, through which the
rapid, yellow Moldau courses, to the opposite line of cliffs crested with
the half imaginary fortress-palaces of the Wyscherad. There, in the
mythical legendary past of Bohemia had dwelt the shadowy Libuscha,
daughter of Krok, wife of King Premysl, foundress of Prague, who, when
wearied of her lovers, was accustomed to toss them from those heights
into the river. Between these picturesque precipices lay the two
Pragues, twin-born and quarrelsome, fighting each other for centuries,
and growing up side by side into a double, bellicose, stormy, and most
splendid city, bristling with steeples and spires, and united by the
ancient many-statued bridge with its blackened mediaeval entrance towers.
But it was not to enjoy the prospect that the aged, discrowned, solitary
emperor, almost as dim a figure among sovereigns as the mystic Libuscha
herself, was gazing from the window upon the imperial city.
"Ungrateful Prague," he cried, "through me thou hast become thus
magnificent, and now thou hast turned upon and driven away thy
benefactor. May the vengeance of God descend upon thee; may my curse
come upon thee and upon all Bohemia."
History has failed to record the special benefits of the Emperor
through which the city had derived its magnificence and deserved this
malediction. But surely if ever an old man's curse was destined to be
literally fulfilled, it seemed to be this solemn imprecation of Rudolph.
Meantime the coronation of Matthias had gone on with pomp and popular
gratulations, while Rudolph had withdrawn into his apartments to pass
the little that was left to him of life in solitude and in a state of
hopeless pique with Matthias, with the rest of his brethren, with all
And now that five years had passed since his death, Matthias, who had
usurped so much power prematurely, found himself almost in the same
condition as that to which he had reduced Rudolph.
Ferdinand of Styria, his cousin, trod closely upon his heels. He was
the presumptive successor to all his crowns, had not approved of the
movements of Matthias in the lifetime of his brother, and hated the
Vienna Protestant baker's son, Cardinal Clesel, by whom all those
movements had been directed. Professor Taubmann, of Wittenberg,
ponderously quibbling on the name of that prelate, had said that he was
of "one hundred and fifty ass power." Whether that was a fair measure
of his capacity may be doubted, but it certainly was not destined to be
sufficient to elude the vengeance of Ferdinand, and Ferdinand would soon
have him in his power.
Matthias, weary of ambitious intrigue, infirm of purpose, and shattered
in health, had withdrawn from affairs to devote himself to his gout and
to his fair young wife, Archduchess Anna of Tyrol, whom at the age of
fifty-four he had espoused.
On the 29th June 1617, Ferdinand of Gratz was crowned King of Bohemia.
The event was a shock and a menace to the Protestant cause all over the
world. The sombre figure of the Archduke had for years appeared in the
background, foreshadowing as it were the wrath to come, while throughout
Bohemia and the neighbouring countries of Moravia, Silesia, and the
Austrias, the cause of Protestantism had been making such rapid progress.
The Emperor Maximilian II. had left five stalwart sons, so that there had
seemed little probability that the younger line, the sons of his brother,
would succeed. But all the five were childless, and now the son of
Archduke Charles, who had died in 1590, had become the natural heir
after the death of Matthias to the immense family honours--his cousins
Maximilian and Albert having resigned their claims in his favour.
Ferdinand, twelve years old at his father's death, had been placed under
the care of his maternal uncle, Duke William of Bavaria. By him the boy
was placed at the high school of Ingolstadt, to be brought up by the
Jesuits, in company with Duke William's own son Maximilian, five years
his senior. Between these youths, besides the tie of cousinship, there
grew up the most intimate union founded on perfect sympathy in religion
When Ferdinand entered upon the government of his paternal estates of
Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, he found that the new religion, at which
the Jesuits had taught him to shudder as at a curse and a crime, had been
widely spreading. His father had fought against heresy with all his
might, and had died disappointed and broken-hearted at its progress.
His uncle of Bavaria, in letters to his son and nephew, had stamped into
their minds with the enthusiasm of perfect conviction that all happiness
and blessing for governments depended on the restoration and maintenance
of the unity of the Catholic faith. All the evils in times past and
present resulting from religious differences had been held up to the two
youths by the Jesuits in the most glaring colours. The first duty of a
prince, they had inculcated, was to extirpate all false religions, to
give the opponents of the true church no quarter, and to think no
sacrifice too great by which the salvation of human society, brought
almost to perdition by the new doctrines, could be effected.
Never had Jesuits an apter scholar than Ferdinand. After leaving school,
he made a pilgrimage to Loretto to make his vows to the Virgin Mary of
extirpation of heresy, and went to Rome to obtain the blessing of Pope
Then, returning to the government of his inheritance, he seized that
terrible two-edged weapon of which the Protestants of Germany had taught
him the use.
"Cujus regio ejus religio;" to the prince the choice of religion, to the
subject conformity with the prince, as if that formula of shallow and
selfish princelings, that insult to the dignity of mankind, were the
grand result of a movement which was to go on centuries after they had
all been forgotten in their tombs. For the time however it was a valid
and mischievous maxim. In Saxony Catholics and Calvinists were
proscribed; in Heidelberg Catholics and Lutherans. Why should either
Calvinists or Lutherans be tolerated in Styria? Why, indeed? No logic
could be more inexorable, and the pupil of the Ingolstadt Jesuits
hesitated not an instant to carry out their teaching with the very
instrument forged for him by the Reformation. Gallows were erected in
the streets of all his cities, but there was no hanging. The sight of
them proved enough to extort obedience to his edict, that every man,
woman, and child not belonging to the ancient church should leave his
dominions. They were driven out in hordes in broad daylight from Gratz
and other cities. Rather reign over a wilderness than over heretics was
the device of the Archduke, in imitation of his great relative, Philip
II. of Spain. In short space of time his duchies were as empty of
Protestants as the Palatinate of Lutherans, or Saxony of Calvinists, or
both of Papists. Even the churchyards were rifled of dead Lutherans and
Utraquists, their carcasses thrown where they could no longer pollute the
true believers mouldering by their side.
It was not strange that the coronation as King of Bohemia of a man of
such decided purposes--a country numbering ten Protestants to one
Catholic--should cause a thrill and a flutter. Could it be doubted that
the great elemental conflict so steadily prophesied by Barneveld and
instinctively dreaded by all capable of feeling the signs of the time
would now begin? It had begun. Of what avail would be Majesty-Letters
and Compromises extorted by force from trembling or indolent emperors,
now that a man who knew his own mind, and felt it to be a crime not to
extirpate all religions but the one orthodox religion, had mounted the
throne? It is true that he had sworn at his coronation to maintain the
laws of Bohemia, and that the Majesty-Letter and the Compromise were part
of the laws.
But when were doctors ever wanting to prove the unlawfulness of law
which interferes with the purposes of a despot and the convictions
of the bigot?
"Novus rex, nova lex," muttered the Catholics, lifting up their heads
and hearts once more out of the oppression and insults which they had
unquestionably suffered at the hands of the triumphant Reformers. "There
are many empty poppy-heads now flaunting high that shall be snipped off,"
said others. "That accursed German Count Thurn and his fellows, whom the
devil has sent from hell to Bohemia for his own purposes, shall be
disposed of now," was the general cry.
It was plain that heresy could no longer be maintained except by the
sword. That which had been extorted by force would be plucked back by
force. The succession of Ferdinand was in brief a warshout to be echoed
by all the Catholics of Europe. Before the end of the year the
Protestant churches of Brunnau were sealed up. Those at Klostergrab were
demolished in three days by command of the Archbishop of Prague. These
dumb walls preached in their destruction more stirring sermons than
perhaps would ever have been heard within them had they stood. This
tearing in pieces of the Imperial patent granting liberty of Protestant
worship, this summary execution done upon senseless bricks and mortar,
was an act of defiance to the Reformed religion everywhere.
Protestantism was struck in the face, spat upon, defied.
The effect was instantaneous. Thurn and the other defenders of the
Protestant faith were as prompt in action as the Catholics had been in
words. A few months passed away. The Emperor was in Vienna, but his ten
stadholders were in Prague. The fateful 23rd of May 1618 arrived.
Slawata, a Bohemian Protestant, who had converted himself to the Roman
Church in order to marry a rich widow, and who converted his peasants by
hunting them to mass with his hounds, and Martinitz, the two stadholders
who at Ferdinand's coronation had endeavoured to prevent him from
including the Majesty-Letter among the privileges he was swearing to
support, and who were considered the real authors of the royal letters
revoking all religious rights of Protestants, were the most obnoxious of
all. They were hurled from the council-chamber window of the Hradschin.
The unfortunate secretary Fabricius was tossed out after them. Twenty-
eight ells deep they fell, and all escaped unhurt by the fall; Fabricius
being subsequently ennobled by a grateful emperor with the well-won title
of Baron Summerset.
The Thirty Years' War, which in reality had been going on for several
years already, is dated from that day. A provisional government was
established in Prague by the Estates under Protestant guidance,
a college of thirty directors managing affairs.
The Window-Tumble, as the event has always been called in history,
excited a sensation in Europe. Especially the young king of France,
whose political position should bring him rather into alliance with the
rebels than the Emperor, was disgusted and appalled. He was used to
rebellion. Since he was ten years old there had been a rebellion against
himself every year. There was rebellion now. But his ministers had
never been thrown out of window. Perhaps one might take some day to
tossing out kings as well. He disapproved the process entirely.
Thus the great conflict of Christendom, so long impending, seemed at
last to have broken forth in full fury on a comparatively insignificant
incident. Thus reasoned the superficial public, as if the throwing out
of window of twenty stadholders could have created a general war in
Europe had not the causes of war lain deep and deadly in the whole
framework of society.
The succession of Ferdinand to the throne of the holy Wenzel, in which
his election to the German Imperial crown was meant to be involved, was
a matter which concerned almost every household in Christendom. Liberty
of religion, civil franchise, political charters, contract between
government and subject, right to think, speak, or act, these were the
human rights everywhere in peril. A compromise between the two religious
parties had existed for half a dozen years in Germany, a feeble
compromise by which men had hardly been kept from each others' throats.
That compromise had now been thrown to the winds. The vast conspiracy
of Spain, Rome, the House of Austria, against human liberty had found a
chief in the docile, gloomy pupil of the Jesuits now enthroned in
Bohemia, and soon perhaps to wield the sceptre of the Holy Roman Empire.
There was no state in Europe that had not cause to put hand on sword-
hilt. "Distrust and good garrisons," in the prophetic words of
Barneveld, would now be the necessary resource for all intending
to hold what had been gained through long years of toil, martyrdom,
and hard fighting,
The succession of Ferdinand excited especial dismay and indignation in
the Palatinate. The young elector had looked upon the prize as his own.
The marked advance of Protestant sentiment throughout the kingdom and its
neighbour provinces had seemed to render the succession of an extreme
Papist impossible. When Frederic had sued for and won the hand of the
fair Elizabeth, daughter of the King of Great Britain, it was understood
that the alliance would be more brilliant for her than it seemed. James
with his usual vanity spoke of his son-in-law as a future king.
It was a golden dream for the Elector and for the general cause of the
Reformed religion. Heidelberg enthroned in the ancient capital of the
Wenzels, Maximilians, and Rudolphs, the Catechism and Confession enrolled
among the great statutes of the land, this was progress far beyond flimsy
Majesty-Letters and Compromises, made only to be torn to pieces.
Through the dim vista of futurity and in ecstatic vision no doubt even
the Imperial crown might seem suspended over the Palatine's head. But
this would be merely a midsummer's dream. Events did not whirl so
rapidly as they might learn to do centuries later, and--the time for a
Protestant to grasp at the crown of Germany could then hardly be imagined
But what the Calvinist branch of the House of Wittelsbach had indeed long
been pursuing was to interrupt the succession of the House of Austria to
the German throne. That a Catholic prince must for the immediate future
continue to occupy it was conceded even by Frederic, but the electoral
votes might surely be now so manipulated as to prevent a slave of Spain
and a tool of the Jesuits from wielding any longer the sceptre of
On the other hand the purpose of the House of Austria was to do away with
the elective principle and the prescriptive rights of the Estates in
Bohemia first, and afterwards perhaps to send the Golden Bull itself to
the limbo of wornout constitutional devices. At present however their
object was to secure their hereditary sovereignty in Prague first, and
then to make sure of the next Imperial election at Frankfurt. Time
afterwards might fight still more in their favour, and fix them in
hereditary possession of the German throne.
The Elector-Palatine had lost no time. His counsellors even before the
coronation of Ferdinand at Prague had done their best to excite alarm
throughout Germany at the document by which Archdukes Maximilian and
Albert had resigned all their hereditary claims in favour of Ferdinand
and his male children. Should there be no such issue, the King of Spain
claimed the succession for his own sons as great-grandchildren of Emperor
Maximilian, considering himself nearer in the line than the Styrian
branch, but being willing to waive his own rights in favour of so ardent
a Catholic as Ferdinand. There was even a secret negotiation going on a
long time between the new king of Bohemia and Philip to arrange for the
precedence of the Spanish males over the Styrian females to the
hereditary Austrian states, and to cede the province of Alsace
It was not wonderful that Protestant Germany should be alarmed. After a
century of Protestantism, that Spain should by any possibility come to be
enthroned again over Germany was enough to raise both Luther and Calvin
from their graves. It was certainly enough to set the lively young
palatine in motion. So soon as the election of Frederic was proclaimed,
he had taken up the business in person. Fond of amusement, young,
married to a beautiful bride of the royal house of England, he had
hitherto left politics to his counsellors.
Finding himself frustrated in his ambition by the election of another to
the seat he had fondly deemed his own, he resolved to unseat him if he
could, and, at any rate, to prevent the ulterior consequences of his
elevation. He made a pilgrimage to Sedan, to confer with that
irrepressible intriguer and Huguenot chieftain, the Duc de Bouillon.
He felt sure of the countenance of the States-General, and, of course,
of his near relative the great stadholder. He was resolved to invite
the Duke of Lorraine to head the anti-Austrian party, and to stand for
the kingship of the Romans and the Empire in opposition to Ferdinand.
An emissary sent to Nancy came back with a discouraging reply. The Duke
not only flatly refused the candidacy, but warned the Palatine that if it
really came to a struggle he could reckon on small support anywhere, not
even from those who now seemed warmest for the scheme. Then Frederic
resolved to try his cousin, the great Maximilian of Bavaria, to whom all
Catholics looked with veneration and whom all German Protestants
respected. Had the two branches of the illustrious house of Wittelsbach
been combined in one purpose, the opposition to the House of Austria
might indeed have been formidable. But what were ties of blood compared
to the iron bands of religious love and hatred? How could Maximilian,
sternest of Papists, and Frederick V., flightiest of Calvinists, act
harmoniously in an Imperial election? Moreover, Maximilian was united by
ties of youthful and tender friendship as well as by kindred and perfect
religious sympathy to his other cousin, King Ferdinand himself. The case
seemed hopeless, but the Elector went to Munich, and held conferences
with his cousin. Not willing to take No for an answer so long as it was
veiled under evasive or ornamental phraseology, he continued to negotiate
with Maximilian through his envoys Camerarius and Secretary Neu, who held
long debates with the Duke's chief councillor, Doctor Jocher. Camerarius
assured Jocher that his master was the Hercules to untie the Gordian
knot, and the lion of the tribe of Judah. How either the lion of Judah
or Hercules were to untie the knot which was popularly supposed to have
been cut by the sword of Alexander did not appear, but Maximilian at any
rate was moved neither by entreaties nor tropes. Being entirely averse
from entering himself for the German crown, he grew weary at last of the
importunity with which the scheme was urged. So he wrote a short billet
to his councillor, to be shown to Secretary Neu.
"Dear Jocher," he said, "I am convinced one must let these people
understand the matter in a little plainer German. I am once for
all determined not to let myself into any misunderstanding or even
amplifications with the House of Austria in regard to the succession.
I think also that it would rather be harmful than useful to my house
to take upon myself so heavy a burthen as the German crown."
This time the German was plain enough and produced its effect.
Maximilian was too able a statesman and too conscientious a friend
to wish to exchange his own proud position as chief of the League,
acknowledged head of the great Catholic party, for the slippery,
comfortless, and unmeaning throne of the Holy Empire, which he
considered Ferdinand's right.
The chiefs of the anti-Austrian party, especially the Prince of Anhalt
and the Margrave of Anspach, in unison with the Heidelberg cabinet, were
forced to look for another candidate. Accordingly the Margrave and the
Elector-Palatine solemnly agreed that it was indispensable to choose an
emperor who should not be of the House of Austria nor a slave of Spain.
It was, to be sure, not possible to think of a Protestant prince.
Bavaria would not oppose Austria, would also allow too much influence to
the Jesuits. So there remained no one but the Duke of Savoy. He was a
prince of the Empire. He was of German descent, of Saxon race, a great
general, father of his soldiers, who would protect Europe against a
Turkish invasion better than the bastions of Vienna could do. He would
be agreeable to the Catholics, while the Protestants could live under him
without anxiety because the Jesuits would be powerless with him. It
would be a master-stroke if the princes would unite upon him. The King
of France would necessarily be pleased with it, the King of Great Britain
At last the model candidate had been found. The Duke of Savoy having
just finished for a second time his chronic war with Spain, in which the
United Provinces, notwithstanding the heavy drain on their resources, had
allowed him 50,000 florins a month besides the soldiers under Count
Ernest of Nassau, had sent Mansfeld with 4000 men to aid the revolted
estates in Bohemia. Geographically, hereditarily, necessarily the deadly
enemy of the House of Austria, he listened favourably to the overtures
made to him by the princes of the Union, expressed undying hatred for the
Imperial race, and thought the Bohemian revolt a priceless occasion for
expelling them from power. He was informed by the first envoy sent to
him, Christopher van Dohna, that the object of the great movement now
contemplated was to raise him to the Imperial throne at the next
election, to assist the Bohemian estates, to secure the crown of Bohemia
for the Elector-Palatine, to protect the Protestants of Germany, and to
break down the overweening power of the Austrian house.
The Duke displayed no eagerness for the crown of Germany, while approving
the election of Frederic, but expressed entire sympathy with the
enterprise. It was indispensable however to form a general federation in
Europe of England, the Netherlands, Venice, together with Protestant
Germany and himself, before undertaking so mighty a task. While the
negotiations were going on, both Anspach and Anhalt were in great
spirits. The Margrave cried out exultingly, "In a short time the means
will be in our hands for turning the world upside down." He urged the
Prince of Anhalt to be expeditious in his decisions and actions. "He who
wishes to trade," he said, "must come to market early."
There was some disappointment at Heidelberg when the first news from
Turin arrived, the materials for this vast scheme for an overwhelming and
universal European war not seeming to be at their disposition. By and by
the Duke's plans seem to deepen and broaden. He told Mansfeld, who,
accompanied by Secretary Neu, was glad at a pause in his fighting and
brandschatzing in Bohemia to be employed on diplomatic business, that on
the whole he should require the crown of Bohemia for himself. He also
proposed to accept the Imperial crown, and as for Frederic, he would
leave him the crown of Hungary, and would recommend him to round himself
out by adding to his hereditary dominions the province of Alsace, besides
Upper Austria and other territories in convenient proximity to the
Venice, it had been hoped, would aid in the great scheme and might
in her turn round herself out with Friuli and Istria and other tempting
possessions of Ferdinand, in reward for the men and money she was
expected to furnish. That republic had however just concluded a war with
Ferdinand, caused mainly by the depredations of the piratical Uscoques,
in which, as we have seen, she had received the assistance of 4000
Hollanders under command of Count John of Nassau. The Venetians had
achieved many successes, had taken the city of Gortz, and almost reduced
the city of Gradiska. A certain colonel Albert Waldstein however,
of whom more might one day be heard in the history of the war now begun,
had beaten the Venetians and opened a pathway through their ranks for
succour to the beleaguered city. Soon afterwards peace was made on an
undertaking that the Uscoques should be driven from their haunts, their
castles dismantled, and their ships destroyed.
Venice declined an engagement to begin a fresh war.
She hated Ferdinand and Matthias and the whole Imperial brood, but, as
old Barbarigo declared in the Senate, the Republic could not afford to
set her house on fire in order to give Austria the inconvenience of the
Meantime, although the Elector-Palatine had magnanimously agreed to use
his influence in Bohemia in favour of Charles Emmanuel, the Duke seems at
last to have declined proposing himself for that throne. He knew, he
said, that King James wished that station for his son-in-law. The
Imperial crown belonged to no one as yet after the death of Matthias,
and was open therefore to his competition.
Anhalt demanded of Savoy 15,000 men for the maintenance of the good
cause, asserting that "it would be better to have the Turk or the devil
himself on the German throne than leave it to Ferdinand."
The triumvirate ruling at Prague-Thurn, Ruppa, and Hohenlohe--were
anxious for a decision from Frederic. That simple-hearted and ingenuous
young elector had long been troubled both with fears lest after all he
might lose the crown of Bohemia and with qualms of conscience as to the
propriety of taking it even if he could get it. He wrestled much in
prayer and devout meditation whether as anointed prince himself he were
justified in meddling with the anointment of other princes. Ferdinand
had been accepted, proclaimed, crowned. He artlessly sent to Prague to
consult the Estates whether they possessed the right to rebel, to set
aside the reigning dynasty, and to choose a new king. At the same time,
with an eye to business, he stipulated that on account of the great
expense and trouble devolving upon him the crown must be made hereditary
in his family. The impression made upon the grim Thurn and his
colleagues by the simplicity of these questions may be imagined. The
splendour and width of the Savoyard's conceptions fascinated the leaders
of the Union. It seemed to Anspach and Anhalt that it was as well that
Frederic should reign in Hungary as in Bohemia, and the Elector was
docile. All had relied however on the powerful assistance of the great
defender of the Protestant faith, the father-in-law of the Elector, the
King of Great Britain. But James had nothing but cold water and
Virgilian quotations for his son's ardour. He was more under the
influence of Gondemar than ever before, more eagerly hankering for the
Infanta, more completely the slave of Spain. He pledged himself to that
government that if the Protestants in Bohemia continued rebellious, he
would do his best to frustrate their designs, and would induce his son-
in-law to have no further connection with them. And Spain delighted his
heart not by immediately sending over the Infanta, but by proposing that
he should mediate between the contending parties. It would be difficult
to imagine a greater farce. All central Europe was now in arms. The
deepest and gravest questions about which men can fight: the right to
worship God according to their conscience and to maintain civil
franchises which have been earned by the people with the blood and
treasure of centuries, were now to be solved by the sword, and the pupil
of Buchanan and the friend of Buckingham was to step between hundreds of
thousands of men in arms with a classical oration. But James was very
proud of the proposal and accepted it with alacrity.
"You know, my dear son," he wrote to Frederic, "that we are the only
king in Europe that is sought for by friend and foe for his mediation.
It would be for this our lofty part very unbecoming if we were capable
of favouring one of the parties. Your suggestion that we might secretly
support the Bohemians we must totally reject, as it is not our way to do
anything that we would not willingly confess to the whole world."
And to do James justice, he had never fed Frederic with false hopes,
never given a penny for his great enterprise, nor promised him a penny.
He had contented himself with suggesting from time to time that he might
borrow money of the States-General. His daughter Elizabeth must take
care of herself, else what would become of her brother's marriage to the
daughter of Spain.
And now it was war to the knife, in which it was impossible that Holland,
as well as all the other great powers should not soon be involved. It
was disheartening to the cause of freedom and progress, not only that the
great kingdom on which the world, had learned to rely in all movements
upward and onward should be neutralized by the sycophancy of its monarch
to the general oppressor, but that the great republic which so long had
taken the lead in maintaining the liberties of Europe should now be torn
by religious discord within itself, and be turning against the great
statesman who had so wisely guided her councils and so accurately
foretold the catastrophe which was now upon the world.
Meantime the Emperor Matthias, not less forlorn than through his
intrigues and rebellions his brother Rudolph had been made, passed his
days in almost as utter retirement as if he had formally abdicated.
Ferdinand treated him as if in his dotage. His fair young wife too had
died of hard eating in the beginning of the winter to his inexpressible
grief, so that there was nothing left to solace him now but the
He had made but one public appearance since the coronation of Ferdinand
in Prague. Attended by his brother Maximilian, by King Ferdinand, and by
Cardinal Khlesl, he had towards the end of the year 1617 paid a visit to
the Elector John George at Dresden. The Imperial party had been received
with much enthusiasm by the great leader of Lutheranism. The Cardinal
had seriously objected to accompanying the Emperor on this occasion.
Since the Reformation no cardinal had been seen at the court of Saxony.
He cared not personally for the pomps and glories of his rank, but still
as prince of the Church he had settled right of precedence over electors.
To waive it would be disrespectful to the Pope, to claim it would lead to
squabbles. But Ferdinand had need of his skill to secure the vote of
Saxony at the next Imperial election. The Cardinal was afraid of
Ferdinand with good reason, and complied. By an agreeable fiction he was
received at court not as cardinal but as minister, and accommodated with
an humble place at table. Many looking on with astonishment thought he
would have preferred to dine by himself in retirement. But this was not
the bitterest of the mortifications that the pastor and guide of Matthias
was to suffer at the hands of Ferdinand before his career should be
closed. The visit at Dresden was successful, however. John George,
being a claimant, as we have seen, for the Duchies of Cleve and Julich,
had need of the Emperor. The King had need of John George's vote. There
was a series of splendid balls, hunting parties, carousings.
The Emperor was an invalid, the King was abstemious, but the Elector was
a mighty drinker. It was not his custom nor that of his councillors to
go to bed. They were usually carried there. But it was the wish of
Ferdinand to be conciliatory, and he bore himself as well as he could at
the banquet. The Elector was also a mighty hunter. Neither of his
Imperial guests cared for field sports, but they looked out contentedly
from the window of a hunting-lodge, before which for their entertainment
the Elector and his courtiers slaughtered eight bears, ten stags, ten
pigs, and eleven badgers, besides a goodly number of other game; John
George shooting also three martens from a pole erected for that purpose
in the courtyard. It seemed proper for him thus to exhibit a specimen of
the skill for which he was justly famed. The Elector before his life
closed, so says the chronicle, had killed 28,000 wild boars, 208 bears,
3543 wolves, 200 badgers, 18,967 foxes, besides stags and roedeer in
still greater number, making a grand total of 113,629 beasts. The leader
of the Lutheran party of Germany had not lived in vain.
Thus the great chiefs of Catholicism and of Protestantism amicably
disported themselves in the last days of the year, while their respective
forces were marshalling for mortal combat all over Christendom. The
Elector certainly loved neither Matthias nor Ferdinand, but he hated the
Palatine. The chief of the German Calvinists disputed that Protestant
hegemony which John George claimed by right. Indeed the immense
advantage enjoyed by the Catholics at the outbreak of the religious war
from the mutual animosities between the two great divisions of the
Reformed Church was already terribly manifest. What an additional power
would it derive from the increased weakness of the foe, should there be
still other and deeper and more deadly schisms within one great division
"The Calvinists and Lutherans," cried the Jesuit Scioppius, "are so
furiously attacking each other with calumnies and cursings and are
persecuting each other to such extent as to give good hope that the
devilish weight and burthen of them will go to perdition and shame of
itself, and the heretics all do bloody execution upon each other.
Certainly if ever a golden time existed for exterminating the heretics,
it is the present time."
The Imperial party took their leave of Dresden, believing themselves to
have secured the electoral vote of Saxony; the Elector hoping for
protection to his interests in the duchies through that sequestration to
which Barneveld had opposed such vigorous resistance. There had been
much slavish cringing before these Catholic potentates by the courtiers
of Dresden, somewhat amazing to the ruder churls of Saxony, the common
people, who really believed in the religion which their prince had
selected for them and himself.
And to complete the glaring contrast, Ferdinand and Matthias had scarcely
turned their backs before tremendous fulminations upon the ancient church
came from the Elector and from all the doctors of theology in Saxony.
For the jubilee of the hundredth anniversary of the Reformation was
celebrated all over Germany in the autumn of this very year, and nearly
at the exact moment of all this dancing, and fuddling, and pig shooting
at Dresden in honour of emperors and cardinals. And Pope Paul V. had
likewise ordained a jubilee for true believers at almost the same time.
The Elector did not mince matters in his proclamation from any regard
to the feelings of his late guests. He called on all Protestants to
rejoice, "because the light of the Holy Gospel had now shone brightly in
the electoral dominions for a hundred years, the Omnipotent keeping it
burning notwithstanding the raging and roaring of the hellish enemy and
all his scaly servants."
The doctors of divinity were still more emphatic in their phraseology.
They called on all professors and teachers of the true Evangelical
churches, not only in Germany but throughout Christendom, to keep the
great jubilee. They did this in terms not calculated certainly to
smother the flames of religious and party hatred, even if it had been
possible at that moment to suppress the fire. "The great God of Heaven,"
they said, "had caused the undertaking of His holy instrument Mr. Doctor
Martin Luther to prosper. Through His unspeakable mercy he has driven
away the Papal darkness and caused the sun of righteousness once more to
beam upon the world. The old idolatries, blasphemies, errors, and
horrors of the benighted Popedom have been exterminated in many kingdoms
and countries. Innumerable sheep of the Lord Christ have been fed on
the wholesome pasture of the Divine Word in spite of those monstrous,
tearing, ravenous wolves, the Pope and his followers. The enemy of God
and man, the ancient serpent, may hiss and rage. Yes, the Roman
antichrist in his frantic blusterings may bite off his own tongue, may
fulminate all kinds of evils, bans, excommunications, wars, desolations,
and burnings, as long and as much as he likes. But if we take refuge
with the Lord God, what can this inane, worn-out man and water-bubble do
to us?" With more in the same taste.
The Pope's bull for the Catholic jubilee was far more decorous and lofty
in tone, for it bewailed the general sin in Christendom, and called on
all believers to flee from the wrath about to descend upon the earth,
in terms that were almost prophetic. He ordered all to pray that the
Lord might lift up His Church, protect it from the wiles of the enemy,
extirpate heresies, grant peace and true unity among Christian princes,
and mercifully avert disasters already coming near.
But if the language of Paul V. was measured and decent, the swarm of
Jesuit pamphleteers that forthwith began to buzz and to sting all over
Christendom were sufficiently venomous. Scioppius, in his Alarm Trumpet
to the Holy War, and a hundred others declared that all heresies and
heretics were now to be extirpated, the one true church to be united and
re-established, and that the only road to such a consummation was a path
The Lutheran preachers, on the other hand, obedient to the summons from
Dresden, vied with each other in every town and village in heaping
denunciations, foul names, and odious imputations on the Catholics;
while the Calvinists, not to be behindhand with their fellow Reformers,
celebrated the jubilee, especially at Heidelberg, by excluding Papists
from hope of salvation, and bewailing the fate of all churches sighing
under the yoke of Rome.
And not only were the Papists and the Reformers exchanging these blasts
and counterblasts of hatred, not less deadly in their effects than the
artillery of many armies, but as if to make a thorough exhibition of
human fatuity when drunk with religious passion, the Lutherans were
making fierce paper and pulpit war upon the Calvinists. Especially Hoe,
court preacher of John George, ceaselessly hurled savage libels against
them. In the name of the theological faculty of Wittenberg, he addressed
a "truehearted warning to all Lutheran Christians in Bohemia, Moravia,
Silesia, and other provinces, to beware of the erroneous Calvinistic
religion." He wrote a letter to Count Schlick, foremost leader in the
Bohemian movement, asking whether "the unquiet Calvinist spirit, should
it gain ascendency, would be any more endurable than the Papists. Oh
what woe, what infinite woe," he cried, "for those noble countries if
they should all be thrust into the jaws of Calvinism!"
Did not preacher Hoe's master aspire to the crown of Bohemia himself?
Was he not furious at the start which Heidelberg had got of him in the
race for that golden prize? Was he not mad with jealousy of the
Palatine, of the Palatine's religion, and of the Palatine's claim to
"hegemony" in Germany?
Thus embittered and bloodthirsty towards each other were the two great
sections of the Reformed religion on the first centennial jubilee of the
Reformation. Such was the divided front which the anti-Catholic party
presented at the outbreak of the war with Catholicism.
Ferdinand, on the other hand, was at the head of a comparatively united
party. He could hardly hope for more than benevolent neutrality from the
French government, which, in spite of the Spanish marriages, dared not
wholly desert the Netherlands and throw itself into the hands of Spain;
but Spanish diplomacy had enslaved the British king, and converted what
should have been an active and most powerful enemy into an efficient if
concealed ally. The Spanish and archiducal armies were enveloping the
Dutch republic, from whence the most powerful support could be expected
for the Protestant cause. Had it not been for the steadiness of
Barneveld, Spain would have been at that moment established in full
panoply over the whole surface of those inestimable positions, the
disputed duchies. Venice was lukewarm, if not frigid; and Savoy,
although deeply pledged by passion and interest to the downfall of the
House of Austria, was too dangerously situated herself, too distant, too
poor, and too Catholic to be very formidable.
Ferdinand was safe from the Turkish side. A twenty years' peace,
renewable by agreement, between the Holy Empire and the Sultan had been
negotiated by those two sons of bakers, Cardinal Khlesl and the Vizier
Etmekdschifade. It was destined to endure through all the horrors of the
great war, a stronger protection to Vienna than all the fortifications
which the engineering art could invent. He was safe too from Poland,
King Sigmund being not only a devoted Catholic but doubly his brother-in-
Spain, therefore, the Spanish Netherlands, the Pope, and the German
League headed by Maximilian of Bavaria, the ablest prince on the
continent of Europe, presented a square, magnificent phalanx on which
Ferdinand might rely. The States-General, on the other hand, were a most
dangerous foe. With a centennial hatred of Spain, splendidly disciplined
armies and foremost navy of the world, with an admirable financial system
and vast commercial resources, with a great stadholder, first captain of
the age, thirsting for war, and allied in blood as well as religion to
the standard-bearer of the Bohemian revolt; with councils directed by the
wisest and most experienced of living statesman, and with the very life
blood of her being derived from the fountain of civil and religious
liberty, the great Republic of the United Netherlands--her Truce with the
hereditary foe just expiring was, if indeed united, strong enough at the
head of the Protestant forces of Europe to dictate to a world in arms.
Alas! was it united?
As regarded internal affairs of most pressing interest, the electoral
vote at the next election at Frankfurt had been calculated as being
likely to yield a majority of one for the opposition candidate, should
the Savoyard or any other opposition candidate be found. But the
calculation was a close one and might easily be fallacious. Supposing
the Palatine elected King of Bohemia by the rebellious estates, as was
probable, he could of course give the vote of that electorate and his own
against Ferdinand, and the vote of Brandenburg at that time seemed safe.
But Ferdinand by his visit to Dresden had secured the vote of Saxony,
while of the three ecclesiastical electors, Cologne and Mayence were sure
for him. Thus it would be three and three, and the seventh and decisive
vote would be that of the Elector-Bishop of Treves. The sanguine
Frederic thought that with French influence and a round sum of money this
ecclesiastic might be got to vote for the opposition candidate. The
ingenious combination was not destined to be successful, and as there has
been no intention in the present volume to do more than slightly indicate
the most prominent movements and mainsprings of the great struggle so far
as Germany is concerned, without entering into detail, it may be as well
to remind the reader that it proved wonderfully wrong. Matthias died on
the 20th March, 1619, the election of a new emperor took place at
Frankfurt On the 28th of the following August, and not only did Saxony
and all three ecclesiastical electors vote for Ferdinand, but Brandenburg
likewise, as well as the Elector-Palatine himself, while Ferdinand,
personally present in the assembly as Elector of Bohemia, might according
to the Golden Bull have given the seventh vote for himself had he chosen
to do so. Thus the election was unanimous.
Strange to say, as the electors proceeded through the crowd from the hall
of election to accompany the new emperor to the church where he was to
receive the popular acclaim, the news reached them from Prague that the
Elector-Palatine had been elected King of Bohemia.
Thus Frederic, by voting for Ferdinand, had made himself voluntarily a
rebel should he accept the crown now offered him. Had the news arrived
sooner, a different result and even a different history might have been
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