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A history of Austro-Hungary from the earliest time to the year 1889 online

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notwithstanding the victory gained by his son Charles at San
Felice, he was obliged completely to evacuate the peninsula.


after ruling over Lombardy for three years (1333). He
recalled his son and conferred upon him the margraviate of

In 1335, the death of duke Henry of Carinthia gave rise
to fresh complications, as the emperor Louis proceeded to
divide his domains, the Tyrol, Carinthia, and Carniola, between
himself and the duke of Austria. King John thereupon sent
his son Charles to the help of Margaret ISIaultasche, who
had married his younger son, John Henry ; and the Tyrol was
saved from the imperial ambition, though only for a short
time, as Marguerite soon after repudiated her marriage with
the son of the king of Bohemia.

' A it"^ years after this, John was obliged to conclude a
treaty with Kazimir, king of Poland, in order to secure the
neutrality of that monarch. By it he renounced all claim to
the title of king of Poland, while Kazimir gave up his to the
suzerainty of Silesia (1335).

John's various expeditions were, however, worse than use-
less to Bohemia. To carry them on he not only exhausted
the revenues of the crown, but was forced to pledge his
estates, till at last, of all the royal castles, that of Prague was
the only one which he had not mortgaged to his creditors.
The royal authority fell into discredit, and the judicial power
of his burgraves, or governors of castles, came to an end :
they were no longer obeyed, and faiistrcciif, the reign of force,
prevailed. But John cared little for this. "When he was not
fighting he was losing his time over tournaments. He usually
lived on his hereditary domain of Luxemburg, or else at the
court of Paris, where he wasted the money which he extorted
from his subjects. During his absence the country was
governed by captains, who farmed the crown revenues. The
queen Elizabeth never accompanied her husband, but lived
in a solitude that was worse than widowhood.

On the death of Elizabeth (1330) the hereditary prince
Charles came to reside in Bohemia. He had been educated
at the court of France, and brought from tliat country ideas


of economy and good government. He at once set himself to
work to restore order in the finances, and succeeded so well
that, at the close of 1333, John associated him with himself in
the government with the title of co-regent. At this moment,
the war for the domains of Henry of Carinthia broke out, and
Margaret Maultasche, at the instigation of the emperor,
repudiated her husband, John Henry, who was Charles's
brother, in order to marry the margrave of Brandenburg. In
consequence of this, king John declared war against the
emperor. He was at first supported both by the kings of
Poland and Hungar}', and also by the duke of Austria, but the
emperor soon deprived him of his allies. Silesia was next
invaded by Kazimir of Poland. It was at about this time that
John was attacked by blindness j but, in spite of that, he
pursued Kazimir, even to the walls of Cracow, where he
forced him to make peace. Pope Clement VI. now interfered,
and, as the avenger of the Church, whose laws had been
broken by the unlawful divorce of Margaret Maultasche, called
upon the electors to choose a new emperor. The three
ecclesiastical electors, the duke of Saxony, and the king of
Bohemia thereupon chose the young prince Charles, who is
known in German history as Charles IV., but in Bohemia bore
the title of Charles I. (1346).

John II. survived this unlooked-for triumph of his policy
but a short time. In the year 1337, when on an expedition
against the i:)agans of Lithuania, he had lost an eye, and in
1339 he lost the other, through the unskilfulness of the
physicians of Montpellier. But his blindness abated nothing
of his warlike ardour. Hearing of the invasion of France by
the English, he hastened to offer his help to his friend and
relative, Philip of Valois, and his death at the battle of Crecy
(1346) is known to everybody. French historians put into his
mouth the following words, which he is said to have spoken to
his companions-in-arms : — '' I beg and earnestly entreat that you
will lead me so far forward that I may strike one blow with my
sword." The Chekh historians quote other words which, how-


•ever, in no wise contradict these. His companions-in-arms,
seeing that the day was lost, wished to lead him from the field
of battle. " Please God, a king of Bohemia shall never take
to flight," the knightly king cried out. His son Charles was
also wounded in the fight. John died on the 26th of August,
1346, the same day of the month on which Premysl Otokar II.
had perished on the field of ]\Iarchfeld. A Chekh poem of the
fourteenth century celebrates the battle of Crecy (Krescak),
but in vague terms, which add nothing to our previous know-
ledge. The story which connects the arms and motto of the
princes of \Vales with the blind king of Bohemia is altogether
without foundation.

Charles IV. (1346-1378) — Prosperity of the Kingdom — The
Golden Bull.

■ On the election of Charles IV. the centre of gravity of the
Holy Empire was again to be found in Central Europe, and
thenceforth remained there, first in Bohemia and then in
Austria, until these two states became united under the
common rule of the same sovereign. German historians
judge Charles IV. harshly, but those of Bohemia are full of
enthusiasm for him, and call him the father of his country.
John of Luxemburg had left him plenty to do, and Charles
applied himself energetically to do it. It was first needful to
put in order the crown revenues and release the domains from
mortgage. This done, he reorganized the administration of
justice, suppressed brigandage, improved trade and commerce,
and divided his kingdom into twelve circles. The beginning of
his reign was marked by the foundation of the university of
Prague (1348), the first in Central Europe, and second only to
that of Paris in the whole of Europe. Its first chancellor was
Ernest of Pardubitz (Pardubice), the celebrated archbishop.
According to the custom of the time, it was divided into four
nations — the Chekh, Polish, Bavarian, and Saxon. A large
number of Germans were attracted to Prague by it, and they
gradually gained more than their due share of influence in it,


especially after the foundation of the university of Cracow, since
from that time onward the Polish 7iation was composed entirely
of Germans from Silesia. Thus the Chekhs were outweighed
by foreigners from an early date. At the same time, it is a
remarkable fact that, though the fourteenth century was a
golden age for the Germans in Bohemia, they made little use
of it for the improvement of their own literature ; they pro-
duced no original works, and very little more than translations
from the Chekh. Thanks to this foundation of the university,
Prague became an intellectual centre, not only for Bohemia,
but also for Germany, Hungary, and Poland, the universities
of Vienna and Cracow not being yet in existence.

Charles IV. was an enlightened protector of the fine arts^
and adorned Prague with buildings which are its pride to this
day. He rebuilt the cathedral of St. Vit after the pattern of
the Gothic buildings of France ; its first architect was Mathias
of Arras, a Frenchman. He also built the celebrated stone
bridge of Prague, one of the finest, perhaps the finest, in
Europe ; the royal castle of Prague, " with the roofs of gold,"
on the model of the old castle of the Louvre ; and the castle
of Karlstein, in the environs of Beroun, in which were to be
kept the royal insignia and the crown of St. Vacslav. The first
school of painting which we hear of in the Middle Ages
flourished in the Bohemian capital in this reign ; some works
of this school still remain. Charles paid equal attention to the
police of his kingdom, and drew up, under the title oi Majesios
Carolina, a kind of code, which he submitted to the diet of the
nobles (1355). But this diet, little anxious to restrain abuses
by which its members profited, refused to adopt the Majestas.
It consented, however, to some important reforms — among
others, to the abolition of trials by ordeal ; and it recognized
the right of the peasant to summon his lord before a court of
justice. In other respects, Charles made important improve-
ments in the administration of justice. He made special laws
for the relations between vassals and lords, and increased the
privileges of the townsfolk, giving them the right, independent


of the diet, of making regulations for their internal government,
in some cases each town for itself, in others in assemblies of
town deputies. At the same time the inhabitants of Chekli
towns were admitted by him to those privileges which had
hitherto been conferred only on German colonists.

The same diet which had rejected the Majestas Carolina
joined Charles in fixing the order of succession in the dynasty
of Luxemburg, and in definitely establishing that principle of
primogeniture which had already been the custom in the
Premyslide dynasty. Moravia, Silesia, Upper Lusatia, Bran-
denburg which had been acquired from the margrave Otto,^
and the county of Glatz (Kladsko), with the consent of the
diets of these provinces, were declared integral and inalienable
portions of the kingdom of Bohemia. The see of Prague was
created an archbishopric, and thus made independent of the
foreign diocese of Maintz. At the same time a monastery
was established at Prague, at which a Slavonic liturgy was to
be regularly used. From this monastery came the celebrated
manuscript w^hich was carried to Rheims, and known there as
the Consecration Gospel, being the one on which for two
centuries the kings of France took the coronation oath.

By the Golden Bull, Charles IV. established the public law
of Germany. He did not forget the interests of Bohemia in
this celebrated act. In it the king of Bohemia is spoken of as
one of the seven electors of the Holy Empire, but it is stated
the kingdom is in no wise to be considered as a fief of the
empire. It goes on to declare that the king of Bohemia can
only be chosen by the nobles of the country, and not by the
emperor, and that his subjects are free from all foreign juris-
diction, and even forbids them to appeal to any foreign
authority. One passage in the bull, which is but little known,
shows how much importance Charles attached to the Slav
nationality and language of Bohemia. It is as follows : — " It
is right that the majesty of the Holy Roman Empire should

' For Brandenburg during this perioil, sec Carlylc, Frederick, bk. ii.
chs. 12, 13.


ordain laws and govern people of divers nations and of different
manners and tongues. It is right that the prince electors, Avho
are the pillars of the empire, should have a knowledge of
different languages, their business being to support the emperor
in weightier matters. Therefore we order that the daughters
and the heirs of the king of Bohemia, the count-palatine of the
Rhine, the duke of Saxony, and the margrave of Brandenburg,
who must know German from having learned it in their
infancy, shall, from the age of seven, learn the Latin, Italian,
and Slav tongues, in such a manner as that by the age of
fourteen they shall have mastered them."

Chekh literature flourished as we might expect under the
reign of Charles iV. It produced knightly romances, satirical
and elegiac poems, chronicles, and some dramatic attempts.

Charles had concluded in 1366 a treaty of inheritance with
Austria, in virtue of which that one of the houses of Luxemburg
and Habsburg which survived the other was to take possession
of both Austria and Bohemia. In order to secure the
inheritance of Bohemia and the empire to his own family, he
had had his eldest son Vacslav crowned king of Bohemia in
1363, and obtained his election as king of the Romans in
1376. Before his death he divided his possessions among his
four sons. To the eldest, he gave Bohemia, Silesia, and the
domains in Bavaria, Saxony, and Germany ; to the others,
Brandenburg, the country of Gorlitz, and part of Moravia.
He died in 1378, on the eve of the religious movement of
which he must have seen the first symptoms, and which was
destined to have so great an effect on Bohemian history.

Vacslav IV. (1378 — 14 19) — Revolts of the Arables — Religions

The glory of the reign of Charles was heightened by the
fact that those of his predecessor and his successor were both
unhappy reigns for Bohemia. His father was a crowned
adventurer; his son, Vacslav IV. (1378 — .1419), has received
the names of the Sluggard and the Drunkard. This young

VACSL.ir //'. 165

prince was endowed with some good qualities, and his accession
had filled both the empire and Bohemia with the brightest
hopes. But he was weak and yet violent, and his lot was
cast in critical times ; an epoch when the old institutions of
Christianity began to crumble to pieces, and when the thoughts
of men were in a state of fermentation which threatened the
destruction of the old bonds which had hitherto enchained
them. This reign coincides with two great events in religious
history — the great schism, and the reform of John Hus.

Vacslav was only seventeen when he succeeded his father.
At this time he was very far from being such a monster as he
is represented in legendary history. His education had been
much neglected. Pie was a drunkard, and he had an extrava-
gant fondness for the chase and for dogs. His first wife, they
say, was torn to pieces by one of his dogs, and this terrible
accident gave Vacslav a reputation for pitiless ferocity. He
was also careless in his behaviour towards the nobles and
clergy, and often bestowed the offices of his court on citizens
or on simple knights, or even on servants of his household or
stables, and this it is which explains the animosity of the clergy
and nobles against him, while it also was the cause of a certain
amount of popularity which he had among the lower classes.
In his time Bohemia, owing to her family alliances, might have
played a most important part in Europe. His brother Sigis-
mund was elected king of Hungary (1387); his sister Anne
married king Richard of England, and he himself was in
friendly alliance with the court of France. His reign, however,
began badly. He excited the clergy against him by his violent
behaviour towards some of the highest ecclesiastics in his
kingdom, the most noteworthy example being his attack in
1393 upon the archbishop of Prague, John of Janstein (from
whom he demanded the surrender of one of his castles), and
upon the archbishop's vicars-general, Puchnik and John of
Pomuk. The latter he caused to be tortured and thrown into
the Mtava, though his only crime was that he had resisted
the royal will in an ecclesiastical matter. In the seventeenth


century, v.'hen Bohemia had been crushed and the CathoUc
faith restored, a myth concerning this St. John Nepomucen
was concocted, in which he was said to have been martyred
rather than betray the secrets of the confessional, and his
name and worship were substituted for those of John Hus, in
an attempt to drive the latter from the memory of the people.
Modern criticism has, however, completely destroyed this
legend, and it can no longer hold its ground.

Many of the nobles, irritated by the violence of Vacslav,
and by the influence possessed by his unworthy favourites
{g>-atiarii), entered into a league against him. They said they
united to restore the constitution of the land, which had been
violated by the king and his counsellors, but their real aim
was the augmentation, or, at any rate, the maintenance, of the
privileges of their order. One of their demands was that
certain offices should only be confided to persons of the rank
of lord, unless a special agreement should be entered into by
the king, the lords, and the knights. They secured the assist-
ance of the king of Hungary and the margrave Jost of
Moravia, and when Vacslav resisted their demands they made
him a prisoner in his royal castle at Prague (1394), and forced
him to sign what amounted to an act of abdication, by which
his cousin Jost was appointed regent, or staroste, of the king-
dom. But Vacslav's brother John, duke of Gorlitz, soon came
to his assistance, and, with the help of the small landowners and
the inhabitants of the towns, resisted the rebels with energy,
whereupon these latter fled with their prisoner to the south of
Bohemia, and even carried him into Austria. He did not
obtain his freedom till the following year, and in the interval
both the king of Hungary and the margrave of Moravia inter-
fered in the affairs of the kingdom, the latter becoming its real
ruler in 1396.

The year following, he was driven away, and Vacslav, who
had obtained his freedom, began again to reign with the
help of another of his cousins, Procopius of Moravia. In
1398, he went to France, where he had an interview with


Charles VI., king of P'rance, at Rheims, to consider the great
schism which then divided Rome and Avignon. On his
return to Germany, he found that, on the instigation of pope
Benedict IX., the electors had risen against him. In '1400,
Rupert, the elector palatine, was chosen emperor by the three
ecclesiastical electors. He proceeded to declare war against
Bohemia, and German troops penetrated to the very walls
of Prague. The city defended itself bravely, and Vacslav was
able at least to keep his kingdom, though, truth to tell, he had
nothing but the title of king. Incapable himself of governing,
he had been obliged to seek help from his brother Sigismund,
king of Hungary, who treated him in no very brotherly fashion,
for he kept him a prisoner in his palace at Prague, and with
him the margrave Procopius, who sought to defend the rights of
Vacslav. Later on, he carried them both to Vienna, where he
confided them to the keeping of the Austrian princes. Part of
Bohemia, however, refused to obey a foreign king, and Vacslav
managed to escape from his Austrian prison, and in 1402
again returned to his capital.

Respect for authority must have been much diminished
among the people by the sight of these perpetual struggles
between the royal families and the indignities suffered by
crowned heads. At the same time their faith in the authority
of the church had been seriously shaken by the scandal
created in the whole Christian world by the existence of the
two popes, one at Rome and one at Avignon. The corrup-
tion among the clergy was frightful. " Among the priests,"
says Andrew de Cesky Brod, a contemporary, " there is no
discipline ; among the bishops there is open simony ; among
the monks countless disorders ; and among the laymen there
is no abuse in practice which has not been the habit of the
clergy before them." Besides all this, the Chekhs were in-
dignant at the influence which the Germans continued to gain
in the kingdom. The peasants began to find the weight of
servitude too heavy to be borne, especially when it was im-
posed upon them by foreign masters, and the disturbance in


all men's minds Avas heightened by the feebleness of the
monarch. A revolution was inevitable. In the Middle Ages,
religion was the strongest interest. The revolution broke out
in the world of religious ideas, and John Hus was its hero.

The great preachers, Conrad "Waldhauser and Milic of
Moravia, in the reign of Charles IV., had prepared the way for
the religious movement to which the name of Hus is attached.
Both these men had preached reform of manners and of the
church. Conrad had attacked the monks and their super-
stitious practices. Among other things he had said, " Give
to the poor, and not to the monks ; they are well off, big
and fat, and have more than they need for their wants.'^
Milic had dared even to attack the pope and the cardinals.
The priests, whose scandalous lives they reproved, replied
with accusations of heresy. Milic was obliged to go to
Avignon to clear himself, and died there in 1374. One of
his most remarkable pupils was the theologian Mathias of
Janov, who also endeavoured to bring the clergy back to a
sense of their duty, and attacked as Antichrist those who
brought lying fables into the church — " Antichristus est omnis
c[ui mentitur et fabulas in sanctam ecclesiam introducit." He
accused the pope and the bishops of having broken through
the traditions of the primitive church, and of thinking only of
temporal advantages. The austere morality of these preachers
is also to be found in the writings of some of the laymen ;
as, for example, in those of the knight Thomas of Stitny,
especially in his book called " The Christian Republic ; " and
even in the didactic poems of Flaska of Pardubice. Numerous
passages from the Bible had also by this time been translated
into the Chekh language, and had helped the people to begin
to reason for themselves in religious matters.

The development of the national literature had roused in
men's minds a wish to throw off the supremacy which the
Cermans had acquired throughout the country. The towns
were full of these foreigners. In the churches and schools their
language took the place of the national tongue ; and there were


even cases ^vhere ecclesiastical functions were entrusted to
Germans, who did not understand the language of their flocks.
John Hus gave utterance to all the moral needs of his time :
as priest, he brought the Divine words home to the people in
their own language, and preached the reform of the church ; as
patriot, he aimed at freeing the Bohemian nation from the
intellectual oppression of a German minority. Till the time of
Luther no reformer ever again exercised so great an influence
over a nation.

John jT/z^ (1369-1415) — The Council of Consfa?ice {ij^is).

John Hus was born in 1369, at Husinec, in the south
of Bohemia. He Avas a Master of Arts and Bachelor of
Theology. He had deeply studied the writings of John
Wycliffe, the Englishman who had been condemned by the
court of Rome, and who aimed at restoring to the church the
purity of her early days. He was one of the professors in the
university of Prague, where in 1402 he became dean, and
preacher in the chapel of Bethlehem, where the sermons were
always preached in Chekh. An upright man, and zealous in the
performance of his duties, he stood so high in public estima-
tion, and even in that of the court, that queen Sophia, the
second wife of king Vacslav, appointed him her confessor.
His sermons on the abuses of the church found an echo in the
hearts of the numerous listeners who thronged to them. His
adversaries were unable to refute his charges, but accused him
of the Wycliflite heresies. By attacking them they hoped to
attack him, and in 1403, at the request of the chapter of
Prague, forty-five propositions, taken from the works of Wycliffe,
were condemned by the university of Prague.

John Hus and his followers would not agree to this
decision. They maintained that the errors attributed to
Wycliffe either did not exist in his writings, or else had re-
ceived a ^wrong interpretation. In 140S, at their suggestion,
a meeting was held of the Bohemian nation of the university


of Prague, at which the forty-five articles were discussed, and,
notwithstanding the previous decision in the assembly of the
four nations, the Chekh nation then declared that the state-
ments in question were to be found in Wycliffe's writings, but
that they need not be interpreted in any heretical sense. This
declaration was considered by archbishop Zbynek as an act
of formal disobedience ; he ordered that all the known copies
of Wycliffe's works should be submitted to a fresh examina-
tion, and, soon after, had a large number of them burnt. About
the same time Hus was denounced before the archbishop on
account of the vehemence of his preaching.

In the year 1409, a general council was held at Pisa in
order to put an end to the schism of Avignon. Those
cardinals who had been most active in obtaining this council
hoped not only to restore unity in the church, but also to bring
about reforms "in head and in members." In obedience to
the decision of the council, king Vacslav called upon the clergy
of his kingdom to acknowledge the Roman pontiff, Gregory XII.,
and when archbishop Zbynek, together with the higher clergy,

Online LibraryLouis LegerA history of Austro-Hungary from the earliest time to the year 1889 → online text (page 16 of 58)