Oliver J. (Oliver Joseph) Thatcher.

A short history of mediæval Europe online

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formed certain principalities, such as the kingdoms of Leon,
Castile, Aragon, and Navarre, and the counties of Catalonia
and Portugal. About 1040 Leon and Castile were united,
and a hundred years later Aragon and Catalonia were made
one. The county of Portugal was established about 1095,
It was practically independent and in 1 139 became a king-
dom. About 1250 Navarre established relations with
France, and for a long time had little in common with the
rest of the peninsula.

When the Ommiad Khalifate came to an end (1031),
five large Mohammedan kingdoms were established (Toledo,
Seville, Cordova, Saragossa, and Badajoz), besides a great
many little independent principalities. The struggle between
these and the small Christian states on the north was con-
stantly carried on during the Middle Age, and from them
the Christians slowly won territory after territory. In 1086
the Mohammedans called on the Almoravides of northwest
Africa for help. Their response resulted in the destruction
of the Christian army, indeed, but also in the conquest of
the Spanish emirs, and the establishment of the Almoravides

254 -^ Short History of McdicBval Europe

as rulers of Mohammedan Spain. About fifty years later
(1145) another sect having risen to power in Africa, the
Almohades crossed the strait and in a few years defeated
the Almoravides and united all Mohammedan Spain under
themselves. Their rule lasted to 1212. Before the end
of the thirteenth century all of Spain was again in the
hands of the Christians except the southeastern part, which
formed a principality known as Granada. This remained

Fall of the Mohammedan until 1492, Avhen Ferdinand and Isabella

Moors, 1492. „ „j -4-

^^ conquered it.

Tyleanwhile Castile and Aragon had become the most
powerful states, and gradually absorbed all the others.
Sicily and Sardinia were added to Aragon during the last
years of the thirteenth century. The consolidation of the
two leading Spanish states was accomplished (1474) by the
marriage of Isabella of Castile to Ferdinand of Aragon.
The union of Spain was soon after completed and she was
prepared to take her place among the leading states of
Portiifrnl. In 1095, when king Alphonso gave the county of Portu-

gal to his son-in-law, Henry of Burgundy, it consisted of
only the small territory between the Douro and Minho
rivers. In 1139, after a great victory over the Moors, the
count was made a king, and from that time on the struggle
with the Mohammedans for territory went steadily forward.
In about one hundred years the kingdom was extended to
nearly its present boundaries. The Portuguese, turning
their attention also to the sea, became the most daring sailors
and explorers in the world. The Madeira and the Azore
Islands were taken and added to their possessions. In the
fifteenth century their voyages of discovery were directed
by Prince Henry, known as ''the Navigator." Va.sco da
Gama, a Portuguese, discovered a route around the Cape of
Good Hope to the East Indies (1498), thereby increasing

The Lesser Countries of Europe to 1500 255

Portuguese commerce and enabling Portugal to get posses-
sion of many islands, and diminishing the amount of trade
between the east and west, which had been carried on by
way of the eastern Mediterranean, whose great ports now
began to lose their importance. Portugal's activity on the
sea was so great that she was enabled to compete with the
larger countries of Europe for the control of the new world
which was just then being discovered and opened up.

The territory lying about the mouth of the Rhine (Hoi- Holland and
land and Belgmm) was slow in attammg a complete inde-
pendence and a separate national existence. It was a part
of the Empire of Karl the Great, and in the division of 843
(Verdun) was given to Lothar. Nearly all the territory
west of the Rhine from Basel to the North Sea was called
Lotharingia, and came to be divided into two parts, upper
and lower. The latter comprised all the territory north of
the Moselle river, including, therefore, nearly all of mod-
ern Belgium and Holland. Following the feudal tendency
Lotharingia broke up into several fiefs, most of which suc-
ceeded in rendering themselves practically free from for-
eign control. Among these feudal principalities were the
counties of Namur, Hainault, Luxemburg, Holland, Gel-
derland, and others ; the episcopal sees of Liege, Cambrai,
and Utrecht ; and the duchies of Brabant and Limburg.
To the west of these lay the county of Flanders, which had
been able to break away from the kingdom of France and
become practically indei)endent. The growth and power
of the cities in all this territory were remarkable. Their
inhabitants became rich, and early took part in the com-
munal revolt. They naturally wished to be free from Ger-
many and France, one or the other of which had sovereign
claims all over this land, and hence were the allies of Eng-
land in the Hundred Years' War. Their progress in civ-
ilization was rapid, and during this period they laid the

256 A SJiort History of MedicBval Europe

foundation of the strength which they were to develop in
the sixteenth century in their tremendous struggle with

During the last years of the fourteenth century and the
first of the fifteenth the French dukes of Burgundy got pos-
session by marriage and conquest of almost all of these little
independent territories after they had seriously weakened
themselves by making war on each other. By the marriage
of Mary of Burgundy, the daughter of Charles the Bold,
with Maximilian of Austria (1477), afterward Emperor, the
Netherlands came into the possession of the House of
Hapsburg. The Emperor, Charles V. (1519-55), inher-
ited them from his grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, and
gave them to his son, Philip II. of Spain. Against him
and his misrule they revolted and carried on an heroic war
for eighty years. The history of this revolt belongs, how-
ever, to another period.

The conquests and settlements of the Norsemen have
already been described. In the ninth and tenth centuries
Denmark was united into one kingdom. One of the great-
est of its sovereigns was Knut, whose conquest and govern-
ment of England have already been recounted. The king-
dom of Denmark had a period of considerable power,
followed by another of decadence. Sweden also became a
kingdom in the ninth and tenth centuries. Christianity
was thoroughly established there by about 1050. Norway
was not united until about the year 1000. For some cen-
turies the history of these countries is but a confused succes-
sion of wars and civil strife.

In 1363 Waldemar Atterdag, king of Denmark, married
his daughter Margaret to King Haco VI. This Haco was
the son of Magnus Smek, who had become king of both
Norway and Sweden, and who, after reigning for several
years, had been compelled by the nobility to surrender the

The Lesser Countries of Europe to i^oo 257

crown of Sweden to his eldest son, Eric, and that of Nor-
way to another son, the Haco VI. mentioned above. After
a long civil war Haco was the only representative of his
family left alive, but the Swedes refused to accept him as
their king, and elected Albert of Mecklenburg. In 1365
Waldemar Atterdag died, and Margaret secured the crown
of Denmark for her son Olaf. Her husband died 1380,
and Margaret took possession of Norway also for Olaf.
Denmark and Norway were, therefore, united under one
ruler. Although Olaf was king in the two countries, his
mother Margaret was the real ruler. At his death (1387)
she was elected queen in Norway and regent in Denmark,
Since 1380 she had also assumed the title of queen of Swe-
den, although Albert of Mecklenburg had been chosen its
king in 1365. Margaret now began a war on him to make
good her claims to the crown of Sweden, and was in the
end victorious. In 1396 she had one of her nephews,
Eric, crowned king of the three countries, and in 1397, by
the union of Calmar, they were firmly united. Theoreti-
cally, the union of Calmar put the three countries on the
same plane. In reality, Denmark was the leading power
and dominated the other two. Sweden made several at-
tempts to revolt and gain her independence, but without
success, till the appearance of Gustavus Vasa (1523). Nor-
way, however, remained united to Denmark till 18 14.

The victory of Emperor Otto I. over the Hungarians on Hungary,
the Lech (955) put an end to their invasions of the west.
During the tenth century Christianity was introduced
among them from Germany and Constantinople. In the
year 1000 their duke, Stephen, sent to Rome to ask for the
establishment of an independent Hungarian archbishopric
at Gran, and also that he himself be made king. Both
petitions were granted, and he became the subject of the
Pope. In the time of Henry III., in consequence of a

258 A SJiort History of Mcdkeval Europe

heathen reaction, the Christian king, Peter, was driven
out. Henry III. restored him by force of arms and made
him his vassal, a relation little more than nominal, because
the German Emperors were so taken up with their prob-
lems in the west that they had no time to attend to Hun-
gary. Croatia was added to Hungary (1091), although
afterward lost for a short time. German influence was felt
all along the western frontier, and especially through the
Saxon immigrants, who were invited at various times to
settle in different parts of Hungary, more particularly in
the southeast districts now known as Siebenbuergen (Tran-
sylvania). The country suffered terribly under the inva-
sion of the Mongols (from 1241 on), but the devastated
countries were repeopled with Germans. The family of
Stephen (the Arpad dynasty) held the throne till 1301,
when it became extinct, and the crown went to an Ange-
vin of the French family of Charles of Anjou, who had es-
tablished himself as king of Sicily and Naples. After the
failure of this dynasty (1437) the crown was fought over
for nearly one hundred years. The country was gradually
weakened by this strife, and at the same time the Turks
invaded it. At the battle of Mohacs (1526) Solyman II,
was able to destroy the Hungarian army, and to get pos-
session of a large part of the country, which he held for
nearly one hundred and fifty years. The rest of Hungary
passed into the hands of the Hapsburgs and was added to
Austria, but always enjoyed a measure of independence.

In consequence of the efforts of Otto I. to extend Chris-
tianity, and, at the same time, German influence to the
east, several bishoprics (Merseburg, Zeitz, Meissen, Havel-
berg, Brandenburg) were established under the Archbishop
of Magdeburg. Their bishops were the missionaries to tlie
Slavs. Duke Mieczislav of Poland did homage to Otto I.
and received the rite of baptism. Christianity spreads

The Lesser Countries of Europe to 1500 259

among the Poles, but the process of Germanizing them
was checked by the estabhshment of Gnesen as an arch-
bishopric (1000) directly under the Pope. This secured
Poland an independent ecclesiastical development, and also
the preservation of its nationality. Duke Boleslav I. first
took the title of king. In the eleventh century Poland con-
sisted of the territory on both sides of the river Warthe.
Pomerania was conquered in the next century, and thus
Poland acquired a seaboard. The Mongols in the thir-
teenth century ravaged almost the whole of the country.
By the marriage of a Polish princess with the prince Ja-
gello of Lithuania Poland acquired a new dynasty and all
the territory of the Dnieper and Dniester rivers. By some
victories over the German Order, established since the
thirteenth century on the Baltic, her boundaries were also
extended on the north till, at this time, her territory
reached from the Baltic to the Black Sea. German influ-
ence was strong in many parts of Poland, because of the
large number of German colonists who settled there. At
the end of the Middle Age Poland seemed a powerful state
and possessed of great possibihties. The nobility, how-
ever, was omnipotent, and the common people oppres.sed
with too great burdens. The dynasty of Jagello died out
in 1572, and the crown became elective. The quarrels
that arose over the recurring royal election were to be the
cau.se of Poland's destruction. She lost her sea-coast, and
having no good natural boundaries, could not resist dis-

The settlements of the Norsemen at Novgorod and Kiev,
and the dynasty established by them, have already been
spoken of. These settlements were united about 900 a.d.,
and shortly afterward were Christianized from Constanti-
nople. The political chaos of the next centuries was very
great. The Mongols established themselves north of the

26o A Short History of MedicEval Europe

Black Sea, and compelled all the principalities of Russia to
Russia. pay tribute. A large part of Russia continued subject to

them till the end of the fifteenth century, when Ivan III.
threw off their yoke. He also reduced all the independent
principalities and took the title of Czar. He built the
royal palace at Moscow (the Kremlin), and laid the foun-
dation for the growth of Russia in the next centuries.
The Greek The Greek Empire was engaged in constant struggle

Empire. ^^^.^^ ^^ Mohammedans. The Seldjuk Turks, as we have

seen, conquered nearly all the imperial possessions in Asia.
In spite of all the efforts that were made about the time of
the crusades to drive them out of Asia Minor, they kept a
firm hold upon a part of it. The Osman Turks cam.e from
central Asia about the middle of the fourteenth century and
began a brilliant career of conquest, in which they en-
croached steadily on the territory of the Empire, conquered
all the Balkan Peninsula, and extended their sway far north
beyond the Danube. The fall of Constantinople (1453)
marks the end of the Byzantine Empire. While Moham-
medanism was being utterly driven out of Spain, it was
firmly establishing itself on the Balkan Peninsula, from
which vantage ground it was yet to threaten some of the
Christian states of Europe.


GERMANY, 1254-1493

Anarchy prevailed in Germany during the great inter- The Great
regnum (1254-73). The great princes made use of the 1254-73
opportunity to seize tlie crown lands and to make themselves
strong at the expense of the weaker nobles. But in spite of
the violence of the times, owing to the spirit of self-help
which the cities exhibited, as shown in the Rhenish league,
industry and commerce increased.

The seven princes who from this time have the sole right
to elect the Emperor, because they were afraid the new Em-
peror would make them disgorge what they had unjustly
seized, were in no hurry to end the interregnum. Finally,
the Pope told them that if they did not elect an Emperor,
he himself would appoint one. They accordingly got to-
gether and chose Rudolf, count of Hapsburg, wdio they Rudolf,
thought would not be strong enough to interfere with them J^°"" Kmjfe'r-'
in any way. Rudolf had the good sense to see that he could "■■• 1273-92.
do nothing in Italy and very little in Germany, so he
wisely exerted himself in trying to strengthen his family by
acquiring as much territory as possible. Ottokar, king of
Bohemia, resisted him. Rudolf was victorious over him and
confiscated his po.ssessions (1278), retaining a large part of
them for his own family. In this way the Hapsburgs be-
came possessed of Austria, and Vienna was made their resi-
dence. After thus looking after the interests of his family,
Rudolf turned his attention to the Empire, restored peace, ^~"\
and administered justice with a firm hand.


262 A Short History of Medieval Europe

At the death of Rudolf the electors refused to choose his
Adolf of son, lest the Hapsburgs should become too strong. Adolf

ia'ga-gs.' of Nassau (1292-98) was elected, but was soon deserted be-

cause he also wished to gain territory at the expense of the
Aibrccjit I., Empire. The electors deposed him and set up Albrecht I.
129 130. (i 298-1308), the son of Rudolf I. Albrecht I. continued

the policy of his father and made friends with the cities in
order to have their aid against the nobles. The story of
William Tell and the efforts of the Swiss to preserve their
freedom is laid in his reign but has no foundation in fact.
Henry VII. of Henry VII. of Luxemburg (1308-13) succeeded Al-
1308-13.' '" brecht, and by marrying the widowed queen of Bohemia to
his son, secured the possession in his family of that king-
dom. Forgetting the lessons which his predecessors had
learned, Henry VII. allowed himself to be persuaded to
go to Italy in the vain hope of reestablishing order there.
He received both the Lombard and imperial crowns, but
died suddenly near Pisa without accomplishing anything.
A disputed election followed. The Luxemburg party made
i.udwig of Ludwig of Bavaria Emperor, while the Hapsburgs elected
one of their own number, Frederick the Fair. A civil war
ensued which ended in the victory of the Luxemburgs.
Ludwig was acknowledged Emperor, but Frederick was to be
his successor, with the title of King of the Romans. He
was also to act as regent in the absence of the Emperor.
Ludwig then went to Italy, but was able to do nothing
toward a settlement of the disturbances in that unfortunate
country. He deeply offended the Pope by receiving the
imperial crown from a layman, the head of the Roman
Commune. A bitter struggle ensued between Pope and
Emperor, in which the claims of both to universal dominion
were renewed. The Pope declared Ludwig deposed, and
claimed the right to act as Emperor until another Emperor
should be elected. In answer to this the electors met at


Frederick the

Germany, 1254.-14^3 263

Rhense (1338), and asserted that they alone were competent Khcnbc, 1338.
to elect an Emperor, nor did their choice need the con-
firmation of the Pope.

lAidwig spent the last years of his life in trying to secure
property for his family. This turned the electors against
him and involved him in a war with Charles of Bohemia,
who was set up as a rival king, a struggle brought to an end
only by the death of Ludwig (1347). Charles was every-
where recognized as his successor. As king of Bohemia,
Charles IV. deserved well of his country. He acquired Charles IV.,
much new territory, getting possession of Brandenburg, ^^^^ '' '
Silesia, and Moravia. For his capital city, Prague, he had
a special fondness. He established the first German uni-
versity there (1348) and surrounded himself with the best
artists of his time (Prague School of Painting). In 1356 he
published the Golden Bull, by the terms of which the im- 'riie Golden
perial relations of king and electors were settled. Charles
made two journeys into Italy, but succeeded only in getting
himself laughed at by the Italians, who had no regard for so
insignificant an Emperor. He renewed the imperial claim
to Burgundy by having himself crowned king of that coun-
try. But this was an empty form. Burgundy was already
hopelessly broken into independent principalities, event-
ually to be absorbed by the expanding kingdom of France.
Charles IV. was succeeded by his son Wenzel (1378-1400), Wcnzei
but he was so incapable and became so debauched that he 'i/'^-Moo.
was deposed.

The fourteenth century witnessed two things imijortant in
the further development of Germany : the defence of their
liberties by the Swiss, and the furmaliun of the league of
the cities.

The history of the origin of Switzerland takes us back to Origin of
the last Hohenstaufen. During the reign of Frederick II.,
the two forest cantons of Uri and Schwyz had acquired let-

264 A SJiort History of Medieval Europe

ters-patent from the Emperor, by which they were freed
from the sovereignty of the counts of Hapsburg, whose ter-
ritory lay in that part of Germany (southern Suabia). In
1 29 1 representatives from these two cantons met with some
men of Unterwalden, where the Hapsburgs still had seign-
iorial rights, and swore to protect each other as confederates
(Eidgenossen) against every attack upon their liberties.
This is the beginning of the Swiss confederation. These sim-
ple, hardy peasants, neatherds, and foresters, who, in their
isolated mountain homes, had preserved much of the old
Teutonic vigor, and even many of the old Teutonic institu-
tions, had never been assimilated to the feudal system ; and
now that it began to irritate them with restrictions on their
freedom, they resolved to shake it off. The fact that their
feudal lords, the Hapsburgs, had risen to the Empire did
not frighten them from their resolution. They even vent-
ured upon encroachments of the neighboring territory.
This was more than Hapsburg pride and patience would sub-
mit to, and Leopold, brother of Frederick the Fair, invaded
their territory with the flower of Austrian chivalry to visit
them with condign punishment. At Morgarten (13 15) the
Confederates suddenly fell upon Leopold, and his feudal
armament was annihilated by bands of low-born peasants,
equipped with axes and pitchforks. It was a spectacle new
and surprising to the world, prophetic of the passing of
knighthood. Owing to this success of the confedera-
tion new adherents gradually poured in, until by the mid-
dle of the century, Zurich and Bern having joined their lot
to their neighbors', the confederation embraced the so-called
eight old cantons (Orte), It was repeatedly called upon to
defend itself against the Hapsburgs and their feudal allies of
Suabia, but with the battle of Sempach (1386), won over
another Leopold, it raised itself beyond danger from prince-
ly authority. This battle was, in its character of peasan^

Germany^ 12^^-T^gj 265

versus baron, a repetition of Morgarten, and the touching
story of Arnold of Winkelried, who is said to have made
the first breach in the ranks of the enemy by gathering to
his breast as many spears as he could grasp, truthfully illus-
trates the style of manhood destined in the new social order
to supersede the knight.

The cities in Germany were of two kinds : imperial cities
(Reichsstaedte), subject to the Emperor only, and seigniorial
cities (Landesstaedte), subject to the princes.^ Both
classes of cities had gradually purchased a great number of
privileges, so that by this time they governed themselves The cities :
like so many free republics. The power was usually in the ment.^°^^^°'
hands of a few wealthy and ancient families (Patriciate).
From among these were elected the burgomaster and the
assisting council (Rath), who together formed the magis-
tracy. The increasing industrial population was divided
into guilds (Zuenfte), and these, induced by the conscious-
ness of their strength, were beginning, during the four-
teenth century, to aspire to a share in the government.

For the development of the cities and their commerce,
peace and security were necessary, and since the Empire
was weak, they banded together for mutual protection. In
1254 the cities of the lower Rhine formed a league, and in
1344 the cities of southern and southwestern Germany
made the famous Suabian League. Fearing that this league The Suabian
would become all-powerful, the princes attacked it at Doef- ^^^sue, 1344.
fingen (1388) and won a victory over it. The cities were
forbidden to form such leagues in the future, and the
princes supposed they had made an end of their foe. The
cities, however, recovered from the blow and increased their
power and importance. Alost famous of all such leagues
was the Hanse, an organization which included all the cities The Hanse.

' Compare with these two classes of cities the communes and the villes
de bourgeoisie in France, Chapter XVI.

266 A Slwrt History of MedicBval Europe

in the Baltic provinces, besides having its outposts in sev-
eral other countries. Beginning in a small way in the
thirteenth century, the Hanse steadily grew until it em-
braced about eighty-five cities, monopolized the trade, and
practically ruled northwestern Europe. From 1350 to
1500 the league was at the height of its power.
Rupert, At the death of Emperor Rupert (1400-10) there was

s1°?sniund ^ disputed election, but Sigismund was finally recognized
1410-37. as Emperor (1410-37). His efforts to reform the Church

led to the calling of the Council at Constance, which
condemned Huss to be burned for his heresy, and ended
the schism by deposing the three Popes who were strug-
gling for reelection, and electing Martin V. In 141 5
Sigismund, in order to pay off his indebtedness to Freder-

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Online LibraryOliver J. (Oliver Joseph) ThatcherA short history of mediæval Europe → online text (page 21 of 25)