From Rudolf Of Hapsburg To Ludwig The Bavarian


Rudolf of Hapsburg. --His Election as Emperor. --Meeting with Pope

Gregory X. --War with Ottokar II. of Bohemia. --Rudolf's Victories.

--Diet of Augsburg. --Suppression of Robber-Knights. --Rudolf's

Second Marriage. --His Death. --His Character and Habits. --Adolf

of Nassau elected. --His Rapacity and Dishonesty. --Albert of

Hapsburg Rival Emperor. --Adolf's Death. --Albe
t's Character.

--Quarrel with Pope Bonifacius. --Albert's Plans. --Revolt of the

Swiss Cantons. --John Parricida murders the Emperor. --The Popes

remove to Avignon. --Henry of Luxemburg elected Emperor. --His

Efforts to restore Peace. --His Welcome to Italy, and Coronation.

--He is Poisoned. --Ludwig of Bavaria elected. --Battle of

Morgarten. --Frederick of Austria captured. --The Papal

"Interdict." --Conspiracy of Leopold of Austria. --Ludwig's Visit

to Italy. --His Superstition and Cowardice. --His Efforts to be

reconciled to the Pope. --Treachery of Philip VI. of France. --The

Convention at Rense. --Alliance with England. --Ludwig's

Unpopularity. --Karl of Bohemia Rival Emperor. --Ludwig's Death.

--The German Cities.

[Sidenote: 1272.]

Richard of Cornwall died in 1272, and the German princes seemed to be in

no haste to elect a successor. The Pope, Gregory X., finally demanded an

election, for the greater convenience of having to deal with one head,

instead of a multitude; and the Archbishop of Mayence called a Diet

together at Frankfort, the following year. He proposed, as candidate,

Count Rudolf of Hapsburg (or Habsburg), a petty ruler in Switzerland,

who had also possessions in Alsatia. Up to his time the family had been

insignificant; but, as a zealous partisan of Frederick II. in whose

excommunication he had shared, as a crusader against the heathen

Prussians, and finally, in his maturer years, as a man of great

prudence, moderation and firmness, he had made the name of Hapsburg

generally and quite favorably known. His brother-in-law, Count Frederick

of Hohenzollern, the Burgrave, or Governor, of the city of Nuremburg

(and the founder of the present house of the Hohenzollerns), advocated

Rudolf's election among the members of the Diet. The chief

considerations in his favor were his personal character, his lack of

power, and the circumstance of his possessing six marriageable

daughters. There were also private stipulations which secured him the

support of the priesthood, and so he was elected King of Germany.

[Sidenote: 1273. RUDOLF OF HABSBURG.]

Rudolf was crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle. At the close of the ceremony it

was discovered that the Imperial sceptre was missing, whereupon he took

a crucifix from the altar, and held it forth to the princes, who came to

swear allegiance to his rule. He was at this time fifty-five years of

age, extremely tall and lank, with a haggard face and large aquiline

nose. Although he was always called "Emperor" by the people, he never

received, or even desired, the imperial Crown of Rome. He was in the

habit of saying that Rome was the den of the lion, into which led the

tracks of many other animals, but none were seen leading out of it


It was easy for him, therefore, to conclude a peace with the Pope. He

met Gregory X. at Lausanne, and there formally renounced all claim to

the rights held by the Hohenstaufens in Italy. He even recognized

Charles of Anjou as king of Sicily and Naples, and betrothed one of his

daughters to the latter's son. The Church of Rome received possession of

all the territory it had claimed in Central Italy, and the Lombard and

Tuscan republics were left for awhile undisturbed. He further promised

to undertake a new Crusade for the recovery of Jerusalem, and was then

solemnly recognized by Gregory X. as rightful king of Germany.

But, although Rudolf had so readily given up all for which the

Hohenstaufens had struggled in Italy, he at once claimed their estates

in Germany as belonging to the crown. This brought him into conflict

with Counts Ulric and Eberhard II. of Wuertemberg, who were also allied

with king Ottokar II. of Bohemia in opposition to his authority. The

latter had obtained possession of Austria, through marriage, and of all

Styria and Carinthia to the Adriatic by purchase. He was ambitious and

defiant: some historians suppose that he hoped to make himself Emperor

of Germany, others that his object was to establish a powerful Slavonic

nation. Rudolf did not delay long in declaring him outlawed, and in

calling upon the other princes for an army to lead against him. The call

was received with indifference: no one feared the new Emperor, and hence

no one obeyed.

[Sidenote: 1278.]

Gathering together such troops as his son-in-law, Ludwig of the Bavarian

Palatinate, could furnish, Rudolf marched into Austria, after he had

restored order in Wuertemberg. A revolt of the Austrian and Styrian

nobles against Bohemian rule followed this movement: the country was

gradually reconquered, and Vienna, after a siege of five weeks, fell

into Rudolf's hands. Ottokar II. then found it advisable to make peace

with the man whom he had styled "a poor Count," by giving up his claim

to Austria, Styria and Carinthia, and paying homage to the Emperor of

Germany. In October, 1276, the treaty was concluded. Ottokar appeared in

all the splendor he could command, and was received by Rudolf in a

costume not very different from that of a common soldier. "The Bohemian

king has often laughed at my gray coat," he said; "but now my coat shall

laugh at him." Ottokar was enraged at what he considered an insulting

humiliation, and secretly plotted revenge. For nearly two years he

intrigued with the States of Northern Germany and the Poles, collected a

large army under the pretext of conquering Hungary, and suddenly

declared war against Rudolf.

The Emperor was only supported by the Count of Tyrol, by Frederick of

Hohenzollern and a few bishops, but he procured the alliance of the

Hungarians, and then marched against Ottokar with a much inferior force.

Nevertheless, he was completely victorious in the battle which took

place, on the river March, in August, 1278. Ottokar was killed, and his

Saxon and Bavarian allies scattered. Rudolf used his victory with a

moderation which secured him new advantages. He married one of his

daughters to Wenzel, Ottokar's son, and allowed him the crown of Bohemia

and Moravia; he gave Carinthia to the Count of Tyrol, and Austria and

Styria to his own sons, Rudolf and Albert. Towards the other German

princes he was so conciliatory and forbearing that they found no cause

for further opposition. Thus the influence of the House of Hapsburg was

permanently founded, and--curiously enough, when we consider the later

history of Germany--chiefly by the help of the founder of the House of


[Sidenote: 1285. RUDOLF'S SUCCESSES.]

After spending five years in Austria, and securing the results of his

victory, Rudolf returned to the interior of Germany. A Diet held at

Augsburg in 1282 confirmed his sons in their new sovereignties, and his

authority as German Emperor was thenceforth never seriously opposed. He

exerted all his influence over the princes in endeavoring to settle the

numberless disputes which arose out of the law by which the territory

and rule of the father were divided among many sons,--or, in case there

were no direct heirs, which gave more than one relative an equal claim.

He proclaimed a National Peace, or cessation of quarrels between the

States, and thereby accomplished some good, although the order was only

partially obeyed. At a Diet which he held in Erfurt, he urged the

strongest measures for the suppression of knightly robbery. Sixty

castles of the noble highwaymen were razed to the ground, and more than

thirty of the titled vagabonds expiated their crimes on the scaffold. In

all the measures which he undertook for the general welfare of the

country he succeeded as far as was possible at such a time.

In his schemes of personal ambition, however, the Emperor was not so

successful. His attempt to make his eldest son Duke of Suabia failed

completely. Then in order to establish a right to Burgundy, he married,

at the age of sixty-six, the sister of Count Robert, a girl of only

fourteen. Although he gained some few advantages in Western Switzerland,

he was resisted by the city of Berne, and all he accomplished in the end

was the stirring up of a new hostility to Germany and a new friendship

for France throughout the whole of Burgundy. On the eastern frontier,

however, the Empire was enlarged by the voluntary annexation of Silesia

to Bohemia, in exchange for protection against the claims of Poland.

In 1290 Rudolf's eldest son, of the same name, died, and at a Diet held

in Frankfort the following year he endeavored to procure the election of

his son Albert, as his successor. A majority of the bishops and princes

decided to postpone the question, and Rudolf left the city, deeply

mortified. He soon afterwards fell ill, and, being warned by the

physician that his case was serious, he exclaimed: "Well, then, now for

Speyer!"--the old burial-place of the German Emperors. But before

reaching there he died, in July, 1291, aged seventy-three years.

[Sidenote: 1291.]

Rudolf of Hapsburg was very popular among the common people, on account

of his frank, straightforward manner, and the simplicity of his habits.

He was a complete master of his own passions, and in this respect

contrasted remarkably with the rash and impetuous Hohenstaufens. He

never showed impatience or irritation, but was always good-humored, full

of jests and shrewd sayings, and accessible to all classes. When

supplies were short, he would pull up a turnip, peel and eat it in the

presence of his soldiers, to show that he fared no better than they, he

would refuse a drink of water unless there was enough for all; and it is

related that once, on a cold day, he went into the shop of a baker in

Mayence to warm himself, and was greatly amused when the good housewife

insisted on turning him out as a suspicious character. Nevertheless, he

could not overcome the fascination which the Hohenstaufen name still

exercised over the people. The idea of Barbarossa's return had already

taken root among them, and more than one impostor, who claimed to be the

dead Emperor, found enough of followers to disturb Rudolf's reign.

An Imperial authority like that of Otto the Great or Barbarossa had not

been restored; yet Rudolf's death left the Empire in a more orderly

condition, and the many small rulers were more willing to continue the

forms of Government. But the Archbishop Gerard of Mayence, who had

bargained secretly with Count Adolf of Nassau, easily persuaded the

Electors that it was impolitic to preserve the power in one family, and

he thus secured their votes for Adolf, who was crowned shortly

afterwards. The latter was even poorer than Rudolf of Hapsburg had been,

but without either his wisdom or honesty. He was forced to part with so

many Imperial privileges to secure his election, that his first policy

seems to have been to secure money and estates for himself. He sold to

Visconti of Milan the Viceroyalty over Lombardy, which he claimed as

still being a German right, and received from Edward I. of England

L100,000 sterling as the price of his alliance in a war against Philip

IV. of France. Instead, however, of keeping his part of the bargain, he

used some of the money to purchase Thuringia of the Landgrave Albert,

who was carrying on an unnatural quarrel with his two sons, Frederick

and Dietzmann, and thus disposed of their inheritance. Albert (surnamed

the Degenerate) also disposed of the Countship of Meissen in the same

way, and when the people resisted the transfer, their lands were

terribly devastated by Adolf of Nassau. This course was a direct

interference with the rights of reigning families, a violation of the

law of inheritance, and it excited great hostility to Adolf's rule among

the other princes.

[Sidenote: 1298. ALBERT OF HABSBURG.]

The rapacity of the new Emperor, in fact, was the cause of his speedy

downfall. In order to secure the support of the Bishops, he had promised

them the tolls on vessels sailing up and down the Rhine, while the

abolition of the same tolls was promised to the free cities on that

river. The Archbishop of Mayence sent word to him that he had other

Emperors in his pocket, but Adolf paid little heed to his remonstrances.

Albert of Hapsburg, son of Rudolf, turned the general dissatisfaction to

his own advantage. He won his brother-in-law, Wenzel II. of Bohemia, to

his side, and purchased the alliance of Philip the Fair of France by

yielding to him the possession of portions of Burgundy and Flanders.

After private negotiations with the German princes, both spiritual and

temporal, the Archbishop of Mayence called a Diet together in that city,

in June, 1298. Adolf was declared to have forfeited the crown, and

Albert was elected in his stead by all the Electors except those of

Treves and Bavaria.

Within ten days after the election the rivals met in battle: both had

foreseen the struggle, and had made hasty preparations to meet it. Adolf

fought with desperation, even after being wounded, and finally came face

to face with Albert, on the field. "Here you must yield the Empire to

me!" he cried, drawing his sword. "That rests with God," was Albert's

answer, and he struck Adolf dead. After this victory, the German princes

nevertheless required that Albert should be again elected before being

crowned, since they feared that this precedent of choosing a rival

monarch might lead to trouble in the future.

Albert of Hapsburg was a hard, cold man, with all of his father's will

and energy, yet without his moderation and shrewdness. He was haughty

and repellent in his manner, and from first to last made no friends. He

was one-eyed, on account of a singular cure which had been practised

upon him. Having become very ill, his physicians suspected that he was

poisoned: they thereupon hung him up by the heels, and took one eye out

of its socket, so that the poison might thus escape from his head! The

single aim of his life was to increase the Imperial power and secure it

to his own family. Whether his measures conduced to the welfare of

Germany, or not, was a question which he did not consider, and

therefore whatever good he accomplished was simply accidental.

[Sidenote: 1307.]

Although Albert had agreed to yield many privileges to the Church, the

Pope, Bonifacius VIII., refused to acknowledge him as king of Germany,

declaring that the election was null and void. But the same Pope, by his

haughty assumptions of authority over all monarchs, had drawn upon

himself the enmity of Philip the Fair, of France, and Albert made a new

alliance with the latter. He also obtained the support of the cities, on

promising to abolish the Rhine-dues, and with their help completely

subdued the Archbishops, who claimed the dues and refused to give them

up. This was a great advantage, not only for the Rhine-cities, but for

all Germany: it tended to strengthen the power of the increasing


The Pope, finding his plans thwarted and his authority defied, now began

to make friendly overtures to Albert. He had already excommunicated

Philip the Fair, and claimed the right to dispose of the crown of

France, which he offered to Albert in return for the latter's subjection

to him and armed assistance. There was danger to Germany in this

tempting bait; but in 1303, Bonifacius, having been taken prisoner near

Rome by his Italian enemies, became insane from rage, and soon died.

Albert's stubborn and selfish attempts to increase the power of his

house all failed: their only result was a wider and keener spirit of

hostility to his rule. He claimed Thuringia and Meissen, alleging that

Adolf of Nassau had purchased those lands, not for himself but for the

Empire; he endeavored to get possession of Holland, whose line of ruling

Counts had become extinct; and after the death of Wenzel II. of Bohemia,

in 1307, he married his son, Rudolf, to the latter's widow. But Counts

Frederick and Dietzmann of Thuringia defeated his army: the people of

Holland elected a descendant of their Counts on the female side, and the

Emperor's son, Rudolf, died in Bohemia, apparently poisoned, before two

years were out. Then the Swiss cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden,

which had been governed by civil officers appointed by the Emperors,

rose in revolt against him, and drove his governors from their Alpine

valleys. In November, 1307, that famous league was formed, by which the

three cantons maintained their independence, and laid the first

corner-stone of the Republic of Switzerland.


The following May, 1308, Albert was in Baden, raising troops for a new

campaign in Thuringia. His nephew, John, a youth of nineteen, who had

vainly endeavored to have his right to a part of the Hapsburg territory

in Switzerland confirmed by the Emperor, was with him, accompanied by

four knights, with whom he had conspired. While crossing a river, they

managed to get into the same boat with the Emperor, leaving the rest of

his retinue upon the other bank; then, when they had landed, they fell

upon him, murdered him, and fled. A peasant woman, who was near, lifted

Albert upon her lap and he died in her arms. His widow, the Empress

Elizabeth, took a horrible revenge upon the families of the

conspirators, whose relatives and even their servants, to the number of

one thousand, were executed. One of the knights, who was captured, was

broken upon the wheel. John, called in history John Parricida, was

never heard of afterwards, although one tradition affirms that he fled

to Rome, confessed his deed to the Pope, and passed the rest of his

life, under another name, in a monastery.

Thus, within five years, the despotic plans of both Pope Bonifacius

VIII. and Albert of Hapsburg came to a tragic end. The overwhelming

power of the Papacy, after a triumph of two hundred years, was broken.

The second Pope after Bonifacius, Clement V., made Avignon, in Southern

France, his capital instead of Rome, and the former city continued to be

the residence of the Popes, from 1308, the year of Albert's murder,

until 1377.

The German Electors were in no hurry to choose a new Emperor. They were

only agreed as to who should not be elected,--that is, no member of a

powerful family; but it was not so easy to pick out an acceptable

candidate from among the many inferior princes. The Church, as usual,

decided the question. Peter, of Mayence (who had been a physician and

was made Archbishop for curing the Pope), intrigued with Baldwin,

Archbishop of Treves, in favor of the latter's brother, Count Henry of

Luxemburg. A Diet was held at the "King's Seat," on the hill of Rense,

near Coblentz, where the blast of a hunting-horn could be heard in four

Electorates at the same time, and Henry was chosen King. He was crowned

at Aix-la-Chapelle on the 6th of January, 1309, as Henry VII.

[Sidenote: 1310.]

His first aim was to restore peace and order to Germany. He was obliged

to reestablish the Rhine-dues, in the interest of the Archbishops who

had supported him, but he endeavored to recompense the cities by

granting them other privileges. At a Diet held in Speyer, he released

the three Swiss cantons from their allegiance to the house of Hapsburg,

gave Austria to the sons of the murdered Albert, and had the bodies of

the latter and his rival, Adolf of Nassau, buried in the Cathedral, side

by side. Soon afterwards the Bohemians, dissatisfied with Henry of

Carinthia (who had become their king after the death of Albert's son,

Rudolf), offered the hand of Wenzel II.'s youngest daughter, Elizabeth,

to Henry's son, John. Although the latter was only fourteen, and his

bride twenty-two years of age, Henry gave his consent to the marriage,

and John became king of Bohemia.

In 1310 the new Emperor called a Diet at Frankfort, in order to enforce

a universal truce among the German States. He outlawed Count Eberhard of

Wuertemberg, and took away his power to create disturbance; and then,

Germany being quiet, he turned his attention to Italy, which was in a

deplorable state of confusion, from the continual wars of the Guelphs

and the Ghibellines. In Lombardy, noble families had usurped the control

of the former republican cities, and governed with greater tyranny than

even the Hohenstaufens. Henry's object was to put an end to their civil

wars, institute a new order, and--be crowned Roman Emperor. The Pope,

Clement V., who was tired of Avignon and suspicious of France, was

secretly in favor of the plan, and the German princes openly supported


Towards the close of 1310, Henry VII. crossed Mont Cenis with an army of

several thousand men, and was welcomed with great pomp in Milan, where

he was crowned with the iron crown of Lombardy. The poet Dante hailed

him as a saviour of Italy, and all parties formed the most extravagant

expectations of the advantage they would derive from his coming. The

Emperor seems to have tried to act with entire impartiality, and

consequently both parties were disappointed. The Guelphs first rose

against him, and instead of peace a new war ensued. He was not able to

march to Rome until 1312, and by that time the city was again divided

into two hostile parties. With the help of the Colonnas, he gained

possession of the southern bank of the Tiber, and was crowned Emperor in

the Lateran Church by a Cardinal, since there was no Pope in Rome: the

Orsini family, who were hostile to him, held possession of the other

part of the city, including St. Peter's and the Vatican.


There were now indications that all Italy would be convulsed with a

repetition of the old struggle. The Guelphs rallied around king Robert

of Naples as their head, while king Frederick of Sicily and the Republic

of Pisa declared for the Emperor. France and the Pope were about to add

new elements to the quarrel, when in August, 1313, Henry VII. died of

poison, administered to him by a monk in the sacramental wine,--one of

the most atrocious forms of crime which can be imagined. He was a man of

many noble personal qualities, and from whom much was hoped, both in

Germany and Italy; but his reign was too short for the attainment of any

lasting results.

When the Electors came together at Frankfort, in 1314, it was found that

their votes were divided between two candidates. Henry VII.'s son, king

John of Bohemia, was only seventeen years old, and the friends of his

house, not believing that he could be elected, united on Duke Ludwig of

Bavaria, a descendant of Otto of Wittelsbach. On the other hand, the

friends of the house of Hapsburg, with the combined influence of France

and the Pope on their side, proposed Frederick of Austria, the son of

the Emperor Albert. There was a division of the Diet, and both

candidates were elected; but Ludwig had four of the seven Electors on

his side, he reached Aix-la-Chapelle first and was there crowned, and

thus he was considered to have the best right to the Imperial dignity.

Ludwig of Bavaria and Frederick of Austria had been bosom-friends until

a short time previous; but they were now rivals and deadly enemies. For

eight long years a civil war devastated Germany. On Frederick's side

were Austria, Hungary, the Palatinate of the Rhine, and the Archbishop

of Cologne, with the German nobles, as a class: on Ludwig's side were

Bavaria, Bohemia, Thuringia, the cities and the middle class.

Frederick's brother, Leopold, in attempting to subjugate the Swiss

cantons, the freedom of which had been confirmed by Ludwig, suffered a

crushing defeat in the famous battle of Morgarten, fought in 1315. The

Austrian force in this battle was 9,000, the Swiss 1,300: the latter

lost 15 men, the former 1,500 soldiers and 640 knights. From that day

the freedom of the Swiss was secured.

[Sidenote: 1322.]

The Pope, John XXII., declared that he only had the right of deciding

between the two rival sovereigns, and used all the means in his power to

assist Frederick. The war was prolonged until 1322, when, in a battle

fought at Muehldorf, near Salzburg, the struggle was decided. After a

combat of ten hours, the Bavarians gave way, and Ludwig narrowly escaped

capture; then the Austrians, mistaking a part of the latter's army for

the troops of Leopold, which were expected on the field, were themselves

surrounded, and Frederick with 1,400 knights taken prisoner. The battle

was, in fact, an earlier Waterloo in its character. Ludwig saluted

Frederick with the words: "We are glad to see you, Cousin!" and then

imprisoned him in a strong castle.

There was now a truce in Germany, but no real peace. Ludwig felt himself

strong enough to send some troops to the relief of Duke Visconti of

Milan, who was hard pressed by a Neapolitan army in the interest of the

Pope. For this act, John XXII. not only excommunicated and cursed him

officially, but extended the Papal "Interdict" over Germany. The latter

measure was one which formerly occasioned the greatest dismay among the

people, but it had now lost much of its power. The "Interdict"

prohibited all priestly offices in the lands to which it was applied.

The churches were closed, the bells were silent, no honors were paid to

the dead, and it was even ordered that the marriage ceremony should be

performed in the churchyards. But the German people refused to submit to

such an outrage; the few priests who attempted to obey the Pope, were

either driven away or compelled to perform their religious duties as


The next event in the struggle was a conspiracy of Leopold of Austria

with Charles IV. of France, favored by the Pope, to overthrow Ludwig.

But the other German princes who were concerned in it quietly withdrew

when the time came for action, and the plot failed. Then Ludwig, tired

of his trials, sent his prisoner Frederick to Leopold as a mediator, the

former promising to return and give himself up, if he should not

succeed. Leopold was implacable, and Frederick kept his word, although

the Pope offered to relieve him of his promise, and threatened him with

excommunication for not breaking it. Ludwig was generous enough to

receive him as a friend, to give him his full liberty and dignity, and

even to divide his royal rule privately with him. The latter

arrangement was so unpractical that it was not openly proclaimed, but

the good understanding between the two contributed to the peace of

Germany. Leopold died in 1326, and Ludwig enjoyed an undisputed


[Sidenote: 1327. QUARREL WITH THE POPE.]

In 1327, the Emperor felt himself strong enough to undertake an

expedition to Italy, his object being to relieve Lombardy from the

aggressions of Naples, and to be crowned Emperor in Rome in spite of the

Pope. In this, he was tolerably successful. He defeated the Guelphs and

was crowned in Milan the same year, then marched to Rome, and was

crowned Emperor early in 1328, under the auspices of the Colonna family,

by two excommunicated Bishops. He presided at an assembly of the Roman

people, at which John XXII. was declared a heretic and renegade, and a

Franciscan monk elected Pope under the name of Nikolaus V. Ludwig,

however, soon became as unpopular as any of his predecessors, and from

the same cause--the imposition of heavy taxes upon the people, in order

to keep up his imperial state. He remained two years longer in Italy,

encountering as much hate as friendship, and was then recalled to

Germany by the death of Frederick of Austria.

The Papal excommunication, which the Hohenstaufen Emperors had borne so

easily, seems to have weighed sorely upon Ludwig's mind. His nature was

weak and vacillating, capable of only a limited amount of endurance. He

began to fear that his soul was in peril, and made the most desperate

efforts to be reconciled with the Pope. The latter, however, demanded

his immediate abdication as a preliminary to any further negotiation,

and was supported in this demand by the king of France, who was very

ambitious of obtaining the crown of Germany, with the help of the

Church. King John of Bohemia acted as a go-between, but he was also

secretly pledged to France, and an agreement was nearly concluded, of a

character so cowardly and disgraceful to Ludwig that when some hint of

it became known, there arose such an angry excitement in Germany that

the Emperor did not dare to move further in the matter.

[Sidenote: 1338.]

John XXII. died about this time (1334) and was succeeded by Benedict

XII., a man of a milder and more conciliatory nature, with whom Ludwig

immediately commenced fresh negotiations. He offered to abdicate, to

swear allegiance to the Pope, to undergo any humiliation which the

latter might impose upon him. Benedict was quite willing to be

reconciled to him on these conditions, but the arrangement was prevented

by Philip VI. of France, who hoped, like his father, to acquire the

crown of Germany. As soon as this became evident, Ludwig adopted a

totally different course. In the summer of 1338 he called a Diet at

Frankfort (which was afterwards adjourned to Rense, near Coblentz), and

laid the matter before the Bishops, princes and free cities, which were

now represented.

The Diet unanimously declared that the Emperor had exhausted all proper

means of reconciliation, and the Pope alone was responsible for the

continuance of the struggle. The excommunication and interdict were

pronounced null and void, and severe punishments were decreed for the

priests who should heed them in any way. As it was evident that France

had created the difficulty, an alliance was concluded with England,

whose king, Edward III., appeared before the Diet at Coblentz, and

procured the acknowledgment of his claim to the crown of France. Ludwig,

as Emperor, sat upon the Royal Seat at Rense, and all the German

princes--with the exception of king John of Bohemia, who had gone over

to France--made the solemn declaration that the King and Emperor whom

they had elected, or should henceforth elect, derived his dignity and

power from God, and did not require the sanction of the Pope. They also

bound themselves to defend the rights and liberties of the Empire

against any assailant whatever. These were brave words: but we shall

presently see how much they were worth.

The alliance with England was made for seven years. Ludwig was to

furnish German troops for Edward III.'s army, in return for English

gold. For a year he was faithful to the contract, then the old

superstitious fear came over him, and he listened to the secret counsels

of Philip VI. of France, who offered to mediate with the Pope in his

behalf. But, after Ludwig had been induced to break his word with

England, Philip, having gained what he wanted, prevented his

reconciliation with the Pope. This miserable weakness on the Emperor's

part destroyed his authority in Germany. At the same time he was

imitating every one of his Imperial predecessors, in trying to

strengthen the power of his family. He gave Brandenburg to his eldest

son, Ludwig, married his second son, Henry, to Margaret of Tyrol, whom

he arbitrarily divorced from her first husband, a son of John of

Bohemia, and claimed the sovereignty of Holland as his wife's



Ludwig had now become so unpopular, that when another Pope, Clement VI.,

in April, 1346, hurled against him a new excommunication, expressed in

the most horrible terms, the Archbishops made it a pretext for openly

opposing the Emperor's rule. They united with the Pope in selecting

Karl, the son of John of Bohemia (who fell by the sword of the Black

Prince the same summer, at the famous battle of Crecy), and proclaiming

him Emperor in Ludwig's stead. All the cities, and the temporal princes,

except those of Bohemia and Saxony, stood faithfully by Ludwig, and Karl

could gain no advantage over him. He went to France, then to Italy, and

finally betook himself to Bohemia, where he was a rival monarch only in


In October, 1347, Ludwig, who was then residing in Munich, his favorite

capital, was stricken with apoplexy while hunting, and fell dead from

his horse. He was sixty-three years old, and had reigned thirty-three

years. In German history, he is always called "Ludwig the Bavarian."

During the last ten years of his reign many parts of Germany suffered

severely from famine, and a pestilence called "the black death" carried

off thousands of persons in every city. These misfortunes probably

confirmed him in his superstition, and partly account for his shameful

and degrading policy. The only service which his long rule rendered to

Germany sprang from the circumstance, that, having been supported by the

free cities in his war with Frederick of Austria, he was compelled to

protect them against the aggressions of the princes afterwards, and in

various ways to increase their rights and privileges. There were now 150

such cities, and from this time forward they constituted a separate

power in the Empire. They encouraged learning and literature, favored

peace and security of travel for the sake of their commerce, organized

and protected the mechanic arts, and thus, during the fourteenth and

fifteenth centuries, contributed more to the progress of Germany than

all her spiritual and temporal rulers.