James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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reform, and in a memorial of the Electoral
College of 1453 the electors were described
as the " ex-officio councillors and co-
adjutors of the emperor." They wished
to co-operate not only in the council, but
in the execution of the decrees, and hoped
by this means to revive the prestige of
the empire. The emperor naturally op-
posed this with all the energy of which he
was capable. The adoption of such a
proposal would have been tantamount to
_ . his deposition. A further at-

Oppod by iem P^ made b y Kin .g George
r of Bohemia, was similarly de-

the Lmperor , , ,, 1.1

feated through the resistance

offered to it both by emperor and princes.
The question of the Public Peace was
more hopeful. Since all parts of Germany
had been harassed by the most bloody
and devastating feuds in spite of the
proclamation of the Public Peace, it must
have been clear to the dullest intellect




that the most important point of the dis-
cussion must not be legislation, but the
introduction of an executive authority.
In the diet at Nuremberg in 1466 the plan
had been already adopted of creating for
separate districts some such executive
power on a federal basis. A return was
made to the former division of the empire
into circles for the restoration of the
Public Peace. This plan had been con-
tained in the Public Peace proposals of
King Wenzel in 1381 and of King
Albert II. No immediate steps were
taken; but in the " Swabian League,"
founded in 1488, there appeared, for the
first time in Upper Germany at any rate,
a power which possessed sufficient means
to enforce the Public Peace in its district
even against the most powerful opposition.
This was the state of imperial reform
at the death of Emperor Frederic III.
All the hopes of the nation were now
directed toward his youthful and mag-
nanimous son, from whom the whole
world thought that some extraordinary
results might be expected. The task was
indeed difficult, and perhaps harder for
so energetic a personality as King Maxi-
milian than it would have bee'n for a
prudent head, who might have persuaded
himself to sacrifice a portion of the
practically vanished regal prerogative
theoretically on the altar of patriotism.


King Maximilian found in Berthold of
Mainz to begin with, at any rate an
adviser who possessed sufficient insight
to support him in his work. And so far
as there was no question of resigning any
legal power and authority, the princes and
towns were ready to share in it.

But for the moment these duties lay far
from the king. He had formed the
mighty plan of energetically confronting
the advance of the Turks ; then, decked
with the laurels of victory over the Turks,
he would obtain the imperial crown, and
so with greater authority carry out the
reform of the empire. That is doubtless
the thought which underlies the policy of
the emperor to the end of the year 1494.

The idea of a war with the Turks had
occupied him from his earliest youth, and
only a few weeks before Frederic's death
father and son took steps in common to
effect a league against the infidels. Their
exertions were fruitless ; the enemy was
in no way intimidated, but invaded
Croatia and returned with rich booty
before Maximilian could come up. The
king vainly tried with the help of his
hereditary lands to raise an army primarily

The son of Frederic III., Maximilian succeeded his father
as German Emperor in 1493. While his fame is due
chiefly to his efforts to reform the Imperial and Austrian
administrations, he achieved success in other directions,
and his general policy made him popular with the people.


From the painting by Strigel in the Imperial Picture Gallery. Vienna

for the protection of Hungarian Croatia.
A new Turkish invasion followed in
August, 1494. It was now only too clear
that without vigorous help from the em-
pire Croatia would be alienated from the
Christian faith, and that its embodiment
into the Turkish Empire would constitute
a serious menace to Germany. Notwith-
standing all the king's exertions, no serious
measures were taken, and so, in April, 1495,
Maximilian joined the three years' truce
which Ladislaus of Hungajy had struck
with the sultan.

Maximilian had during the lifetime of
his father betrothed himself in second
marriage with the princess Bianca Maria
of Milan, and had secured to her uncle,
Lodovico Sforza, his investiture with the
Duchy of Milan. The dowry of three


hundred thousand ducats, which this matri-
monial alliance would bring, induced him
to take this step not less than the hope of
Lodovico's help in the impending Turkish
war. The marriage of the king with the
Milanese princess took place after the
death of the Emperor Frederic in Novem-
ber, 1493. Maximilian actually conferred
the duchy as an escheated crown land on
Lodovico Sforza and his male heirs in
September, 1494, and the solemn investi-
ture followed, in November, 1495.

Maximilian, immediately after he had
oome into the empire, in order to show
himself as sovereign for the first time,
made it his most earnest duty, in the
interests of the intended Turkish cam-
paign, to suppress by his fiat the long
threatening war between the electors of


Mainz and the Palatinate. He was, in
fact, successful, in August, 1495, in bringing
about a reconciliation between them.
Before this the Public Peace, proclaimed
in 1486 for ten years, was prolonged for
three years more, that is to say, until
1499. The idea of a lasting Public Peace
was thus by implication not entertained
by the king. The affairs of
Italy now occupied him afresh ;

Tphiii 8 Lodovic Sforza found him -

self hard pressed by France,
and desired Maximilian's help to nego-
tiate a peace between Charles and Naples.
The two kings agreed to do so ; confer-
ences were repeatedly arranged but never
held, since Maximilian precisely at the
suitable moment was detained by the
dispute with Charles of Guelders.

Connected with this was the entry of
the king into the Netherlands, where the
Archduke Philip, a youth of fifteen years,
now took over the government at the wish
of the states. The more unpopular Maxi-
milian himself was in the Netherlands, the
more the people hoped to be able to guide
his tractable son Philip. His matrimonial
alliance with the Spanish Infanta Joanna,
which afterwards acquired such import-
ance for the destinies of Europe, was cele-
brated in October, 1496. Father and son
thought less of obtaining the Spanish
crown by marriage than of creating a
counterpoise to the mighty crown of
France by an alliance between the royal
families of Spain and of the Hapsburgs.

In the year 1497 Margaret, daughter of
King Maximilian by his first wife, was
married to John, the only son of
Ferdinand and Isabella. But the heir
to the Spanish throne died after a very
short wedded life, and Margaret returned
to Germany two years later as a widow.

Although the German ruler and Charles
VIII. of France had no direct personal
relations, they had frequent communication
by embassies. The result of the negotiations

, was that France should have a
France s freg hand in N j b t j

Free Hand n i/

in Na les re t urn -was to allow Venice, so
important for the Turkish war,
to fall to the Hapsburgs. The idea of a
war against the Turks was very pro-
minently before the two kings, and
Venice had not shown the least friendliness
to Maximilian, but had absolutely refused
to take part in the Turkish campaign.
However, when Charles VIII. entered
Rome towards the end of 1494, and there

was talk of his intentions of winning the
imperial crown, Maximilian sought an
alliance with Venice, meaning thus on his
side to gain an open road to Rome in
order to assume the imperial style.

The coronation journey to Rome, which
Maximilian had at first wished to postpone
until after the victory over the Turks, had
thus become more urgent. But an
imperial assembly was required to settle
the preparations, and was also impera-
tively demanded by the schemes of reform
which were floating in the air. It met at
Worms at the end of March, 1495. The
king demanded for the protection of Milan
an " urgent aid," and besides that a
" permanent aid," that is, an army which
was to be permanently under arms for at
least ten years ; in return for this he was
prepared to treat about the reform of the
constitution. The states, for their part,
were willing to discuss the permanent mili-
tary system of the empire, but would not
hear of an immediate expedition to Rome.

The majority of the princes were in-
terested chiefly in a radical reform of the
system of law and legislation which cul-
c minated in the appointment of

, an imperial standing chamber
the Imperial ., , j , ,,

^ ... .. or council nominated by the
Constitution . , J . J

states ; this was equivalent to a

complete change of the imperial constitu-
tion in the direction of the federal state.
The Elector Berthold of Mainz was the soul
of these efforts. He was the author of the
practical proposals which in the interest
of the empire increased for the time the
influence of the electors, but appeared in
essentials acceptable to the other princes
and the towns. The Wittelsbachs and
the Landgrave of Hesse alone adopted
an unconciliatory attitude.

By the end of April the assembly learned
of the proposal of the Elector of Mainz,
according to which an imperial chamber
was to be entrusted with the entire
government for a definite period. Only
such commands of the king as were given
through it were to be legally valid in the
empire. Its main duties were the restora-
tion of peace and order in the empire, the
administration and expenditure of the
imperial revenues, and the charge of the
imperial military system. Since the
power of pronouncing the ban was assigned
to the Supreme Court of Judicature, then
called into existence, the king was left
with only honorary privileges, while the
electors were in important cases to have


a hearing in the imperial chamber.
The king kept silence for a considerable
time when the proposals had been
communicated to him. It was clear to
him that his " supremacy " had not been
reserved for him in the form in which he
thought he ought to have claimed it.

When he appeared in person, towards the
middle of May. and explained the " urgent
aid " to the effect that he demanded from
the states within six weeks one hundred
thousand florins he was willing to raise
50,000 himself from his hereditary
dominions the princes informed him that
no grant of money could be contem-
plated before the establishment of order
and peace in the empire. Finally, in view
of the conditions in Italy, the states showed
their readiness to grant the money.

A committee from the states was, how-
ever, to superintend the application of it.
But the money was not forthcoming,
chiefly through the fault of the towns, which
would not pay until first of all they were
assured of the acceptance and execution
of the proposals for changing the consti-
tution of the empire. The emperor had
E , not yet made any official

statement about the reform

programme : this was not given

Programme r 9. T , ~,

until June 22nd. I he counter
proposals which he unfolded that day to
J:he assembly meant almost the opposite
of those laid before him by the states.
However welcome the raising of the
" Common Penny " might be to him,
impecunious as he always was, he saw too
clearly an infringement of his " supremacy "
in the formation of an imperial chamber.
He was willing to recognise an imperial
chamber only during the period of his
absence from the empire. Wearisome
negotiations now began between the states
and the king ; the former saw that some-
thing at least could be obtained from the
king, and they wished to have it. His
assent was given to the Public Peace
and the Supreme Court, with some slight
changes ; in return the states renounced
the institution of an imperial chamber.

On July 27th the king gave his assent
to the renewed separate proposals as
regards the Common Penny, the Public
Peace, and the Supreme Court, and on
August 7th he signed the four documents
which related to the institution of the
Supreme Court, the Public Peace, the ad-
ministration of the Public Peace, and the
Common Penny. In return Maximilian

received, in addition to the 150,000
florins already granted, the guarantee of
the states for a further loan of a similar

Undoubtedly the most important of the
decrees was that as to financial reform,
the provision of money for the Supreme
Court, and the expeditions of the imperial

~ army. It did not seem clear

Tax of the , , ,, ^

., c how much the Common

Penn " Penny " would really bring

in. The system of collection
the parish clergy appear to have been the
controllers of country taxes was not re-
markable for its simplicity. The collection
was provisionally sanctioned for four years.
It was confessedly an experiment, but on
the expiration of this period the method
of its collection, and not the tax itself,
was to be discussed afresh. No money
at all came in at first. The territorial lords
were first obliged to come to an understand-
ing with their states ; the elector of the
Palatinate refused his assent absolutely,
and in the case of other princes who
were absent from the assembly, as well as
of the unrepresented knighthood of the
empire, it was necessary to ascertain their
willingness to pay.

The commissioners, who were to hand over
the money received to the seven imperial
treasurers, had not even been nominated
for the various territories by the summer
of 1496. The money could not be collected
in any case so quickly as the emperor
expected, through the defective administra-
tive organisation of* the empire and the
complete ignorance of the principles of
taxation which prevailed at the time.

In Burgundy, however, and in other dis-
tricts, there was absolutely no intention of
exacting the tax. The Knights of Swabia,
united in the " Shield of St. George,"
declined to do so, as did also the Swiss
Confederacy, which did not wish to
recognise the Supreme Court, and in
consequence actually abandoned all con-
nection with the empire after
the war of the year 1499, so

feebly conducted by the em-
Maximilian * ,~, . J ,

peror. 1 he promises made in

1495 with respect to the money were not
observed by the states, and still less
by the emperor. He carried out his
foreign policy on his own responsibility,
and tried, v^rv ingeniously, without
appearing in the imperial diets, to
spend as much as possible of the public
money without the control of the states.


Policy of


The condition of affairs in Italy at the
beginning of the year 1496 showed little
change. Milan and Venice both urgently
wished for Maximilian's appearance in
person. He eventually crossed the moun-
tains in August, after England, in July,
had joined the Holy League. Maximilian
did not come as emperor, but as a mer-
TK w cenary of Venice and Milan.
* They had both invited him in

Ma ^ and 6ach had P romised
him 30,000 ducats, for which he

was to put 2,000 horsemen and 4,000
infantry into the field for three months ;
there was, in addition, an extended extra
payment for 2,000 Swiss.

Notwithstanding all this, his army was
excessively weak ; by the end of August
he had not more than 600 men, and the
enlistment of the Swiss had only just
begun. Venice was not yet ready to pay,
and in fact would rather not have seen
Maximilian come. But he was there
already, and endeavoured after the begin-
ning of September to suppress by military
occupation the western districts of Italy,
which were subject to France, and to
bring them over where possible to the
league of France's enemies.

The most suitable plan by which to
assert any power would have been to
bar the passage of the Alps and thus to
prevent the concentration of the French.
But Venice and Milan, which finally gave
way, opposed this scheme, and thus the
selfish policy of Venice hindered the full
employment of the strategically advanta-
geous position in the interests of the league.
Maximilian, instead of returning to
Germany, dreamed of great military en-
terprises to be carried out simultaneously
in Italy and Burgundy, for which, un-
fortunately, money and troops were com-
pletely wanting. On the other hand, there
was no longer any talk of taking serious
measures to obtain the imperial crown,
although the diet at Worms had expressly
v k PI promised its assistance. In

f rench r Icet r\ , , ,-, , ^..

to the Aid October the king came to Pisa

of Leghorn in Order to besie g e the im "
portant town of Leghorn. But

toward the end of the month the French
fleet, so eagerly expected by the besieged,
arrived, and a favourable wind allowed it
to enter the harbour of Leghorn, while
Maximilian's attempts to repel it were
totally unsuccessful. The attempt on
Leghorn finally failed, the siege was aban-
doned in the middle of November, and

since the three months' term of service
was over, the force went back over the
mountains, although just then a renewed
expedition of Charles VIII. was threaten-
ing, and even Venice itself would have
been glad to see the king longer in Italy.
The promise, however, of better success
in a war against Burgundy decided his

On December 26th, 1496, Maximilian
was again at Mais in Tyrol. But he did
not go, as might have been expected, to
the diet at Lindau, where Berthold of
Mainz was busied in closely examining the
position of the sovereign towards the
empire ; the discussion of such questions
now seemed to the king almost high
treason. The diet at Lindau was unsuc-
cessful, owing to the small attendance,
and it finished its sittings on February 9th,
1497, whereupon another, equally unsuc-
cessful, was opened at Worms. The only
result of it was the actual assembling of
the Imperial Supreme Court at the end of
May. Notwithstanding every effort, the
" Common Penny " was not collected from
most districts. Other expedients for
_ R raising money failed signally.

, At last, when Maximilian had
Promise of -, o . , i

M . ... given a definite promise that

he would appear in person in
the next diet at Freiburg in Breisgau, the
states granted him immediately 4,000
ducats on account. But the sovereign, far
too much occupied with his hereditary
lands, did not go to Freiburg ; the states
waited for him from October, 1497, to the
summer of 1498. He remained in Inns-
bruck, where the news reached him of the
death of Charles VIII., and he set about
levying an army to fight against France.
Some 7,000 troops actually entered the
enemy's land. But since neither the
league nor the princes not even his son
Philip thought of sharing the struggle,
Frederic of Saxony was selected to
conduct negotiations, and the war was
broken off. Archduke Philip had already
allied himself with Louis XII., and on
August I5th he promised, as a final com-
promise, to take the oath of fealty for
Flanders and Artois. The simultaneous
renunciation by Philip of his claims to
Upper Burgundy roused the wrath of his
father, who had distinctly hoped for a
more favourable result, in the event of his
diplomatic representative having brought
matters to a settlement.^ Maximilian at
length appeared on June i8th in Freiburg,



with the declared intention of taking the
field against France at once. After heated
explanations the states were at last pre-
pared to pay the balance of the 150,000
florins if the king would furnish them
with an account of what he had already
received. With regard to France, they
promised to safeguard the interests of the
empire ; but the king must
provide for the collection of

Pe\n "Tax" the " Common Penny" and
the establishment of peace
and justice. The first attempt was now
made to survey the receipts from the tax.
Fourteen abbots and twenty-seven towns
had paid, and of the princes only the
Elector of Mainz, so far as any money
had been received by the king.

The knights of the empire alone raised
open objections ; with this exception, all
were ready for payment. Some important
decrees were passed concerning the ad-
ministration of the empire, as a sort of
supplement to the reforms of Worms. The
final decree of August 24th signified a
distinct advance, although a new diet at
Worms at the end of September was
destined to crown the whole work.

A treacherous attack of the French, in
spite of the truce and the pending negotia-
tions, now drove the king to vigorous
action. With the force that stood at his
disposal he reached Montbeliard by
September I2th and advanced after the
retreating enemy, but was unable to come
up with them. He remained a short time
at Metz on the way back, as the attempts
to effect a longer truce with France came
to nothing. The king was equally unsuc-i
cessful in dissuading his son from the
treaty with France. When, then, at the
beginning of the year 1499, Louis entered
into an alliance with Venice it was
impossible for Maximilian to make any
terms, although he was distracted both
by the recent outbreak of war with
Guelders and the events in Switzerland.
Phili 's * n Edition to this, the diet
FealT \o summone d to Worms did not
France meet - Tne king transferred it
to Cologne, on account of
the quarrel with Guelders but did not
appear himself and thence to Ueberlingen
on account of the confederates. Mean-
while, Archduke Philip actually took the
oath of fealty to the French king, as
promised in 1498. Louis XII. was now
prepared to act as arbitrator between the
Lower Rhenish territories of Juliers, Cleves,


and Guelders ; . and in spite of the grave
protests of the German king, who threat-
ened the princes with loss of their privi-
leges, peace was ratified by his influence.

Before Switzerland was lost to the
empire in 1499, the old peasant freedom
in Friesland had been ended. In the diet
of Freiburg Maximilian had nominated
Duke Albert of Saxony governor of Fries-
land on July 2Oth, 1498. The Frisians
thus received a territorial lord, but obsti-
nately rebelled against him, so that lasting
wars followed. The counts of Cirksena
had always to suffer in later times from
the ambition of their neighbours ; at the
beginning of the Thirty Years' War Mans-
feld came to an understanding with the
States-General. But at last Prussia received
from the Emperor Leopold the reversion
to the land, and took possession of it after
the death of the last count in 1744.

The sea-coast was a great acquisi-
tion for Prussia, but the commercial
companies, which were immediately
founded, did not fulfil their brilliant
promises of success. Before his election
Maximilian had been famed as an efficient
, general, but after his accession

defeated in



campaign which he under-
in Battle , , t ?,, ,, ,

took. All the internal reforms

hitherto recorded were in reality only
concessions forced from him by his endless
need of money. But the work was now
begun, and the imperial diet summoned
for February, 1500, was to advance it
a stage farther. Although the king had
been present some considerable time,
business did not begin before April.
The most important question for Maxi-
milian was that of auxiliary troops, and
he came forward with proposals on the
point. The "Common Penny" was uni-
versally disliked ; it had proved nothing
but an abortive scheme. For this reason
the attempt was made to raise a permanent
imperial army of 34,000 men on the basis
of the proposal made in 1486. At the same
time, for the relief of the assembly of the
empire, a standing committee, the Council
of Regency, was to be appointed, and the
Supreme Court once more established.

The arrangements for the council were
completed in July, and the committee
itself met at Nuremberg in 1500. But the
king's plan with regard to the army did not
meet with the approval of the states ; on
the contrary, the princes; at Berthold's
advice, insisted that the requirements of

From a life-size reconstruction in the Arsenal at Berlin

the empire should be supplied by every
member of the empire. One trooper should
be furnished by every 400 persons who had
any property, while the lords were to
furnish one for every 4,000 florins income.

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 25 of 55)