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GERMANY, 1273-1313



The political condition of Germany towards the end of the Interregnum was indeed deplorable. Its kings, for more than three centuries, had ruled as Emperors over Central Europe in concert with or in opposition to the Popes. This opposition had ended about the middle of the thirteenth century to the disadvantage of the Empire in the victory of the Popes over the proud race of the Hohenstaufen. The German Kings who succeeded, albeit only nominally, had not been able to maintain their supremacy over the vassal princes, and had left the Empire in hopeless confusion. This lasted until 1273; it was in fact a period of Interregnum.

After the death of the nominal king, Richard of Cornwall (2 April 1272), there was a general desire to place at the head of the State a real king and a truly German one. The new Pope, Gregory X, elected a few days before, animated by a fervent longing to wrest the Holy Land from the Muslims, shared this desire. The question was, however, whom the German Electors were to choose as their king. They did not want a powerful German prince, neither the Wittelsbach Count Palatine Lewis nor his brother Henry Duke of Lower Bavaria, less still the brilliant Slav King Ottokar II, grandson on his mother’s side of the Hohenstaufen Philip of Swabia, who ruled from Bohemia as far as the north of Italy. On the proposal of the Bavarian Duke and strongly influenced by the Count Palatine himself, they at last (1 October 1273) chose at Frankfort the Swabian Count Rudolf of Habsburg, who readily accepted the terms imposed. Rudolf, now fifty-five years of age, whose rich possessions were spread over Upper Alsace, Swabia, and the north-west of modern Switzerland—the ancestral home of the Habsburgs stands in Aargau on the Aar—entered Frankfort the next day and on 24 October was crowned with Charlemagne’s crown in the ancient royal city of Aix-la-Chapelle. He was highly respected in Swabia as the descendant of an old Alsatian family from the neighbourhood of Mühlhausen, and greatly loved for his knightly talents, his solid character, and his sympathetic personality. As a partisan and connexion of the Hohenstaufen he humbly asked for the Pope’s support and help, also for his “approbation” of the election and his promise to crown him Emperor in Rome. Gregory, who was at Lyons for the General Council, gave his promise in general terms (6 June 1274), although King Ottokar of Bohemia, not having been allowed to vote and being disappointed at the choice of the Electors, refused to acknowledge him as King of the Romans and protested to the Papal See against the violation of his own rights and those of Alfonso X of Castile, from whom he himself had nothing to fear and who during the Interregnum had been one of the nominal Kings of Germany. For that reason Gregory X did not as yet openly recognise the new King of the Romans. However, he addressed Rudolf by that title on 26 September 1274, promised him the imperial crown later on, and, ever in mind of the Holy Land, wishing to maintain peace in Europe, did his very best to effect a reconciliation between Rudolf and Ottokar as well as King Philip of France and also the king’s deadly enemy, Count Amadeus V of Savoy; while Alfonso was warned to resign himself to the Electors’ choice. By order of the Pope, Alfonso accordingly withdrew his claims. Rudolf’s meeting with the Pope at Lausanne (October 1275), where he appeared with a splendid suite of German knights, consolidated the momentary cordiality between pontiff and king. The latter was not slow in promising to undertake the crusade so ardently desired by the Pope.

The king’s conflict with Ottokar, however, was not long delayed. In the autumn of 1276 Rudolf with an imposing army laid siege to Vienna, in order to bring the disobedient prince of the Empire into subjection. The proud Ottokar, excommunicated and outlawed, and forsaken by a number of vassals and subjects, was obliged to submit (25 November) and to relinquish all his states in the Empire except Bohemia and Moravia, for which he had immediately to do liege homage to the King of the Romans. The latter took temporary possession of the confiscated imperial fiefs, Austria and Styria, confirmed the Duke of Carinthia and Carniola in his fiefs, and took up his residence in Vienna, which remained the seat of his race for six and a half centuries. Thus King Rudolf became the founder of the greatness of the House of Habsburg. The proud and brave Ottokar, however, was far from feeling beaten. Taking advantage of Rudolf’s quarrels with the successors of Pope Gregory, who had died in 1276, over the imperial claims to the Romagna, he allied himself with the neighbouring Polish and Silesian princes who shared with him the old hatred of the Slav tribes against everything German. In June 1278 he led his army against the King of the Romans, who on his side marched northwards with his trained Austrian and Swabian knights and supported by a large army of Hungarian horsemen under the young King of Hungary, Ladislas IV, his natural ally against the Slavs, the permanent enemies of the Hungarians. The armies met on the Marchfeld near Stillfried on the Danube in Austria (26 August 1278), and Rudolf fought with valour and success against the ineffective Slav hordes. Their brave leader was captured and forthwith murdered by a revengeful Austrian knight. On account of his excommunication this dreaded ruler of the Czechs, the most famous of their kings, was even refused burial with the rites of the Church. His body lay in state in Vienna, was temporarily buried, and afterwards interred at Znojmo in Moravia. His young son Wenceslas II was made to marry one of Rudolf’s daughters; and in payment of the expenses of the war Moravia was pledged to Rudolf for five years. Thus the mighty Slav realm fell; Bohemia alone remained in the possession of Ottokar’s son, who was placed under the guardianship of the Margrave Otto of Brandenburg.

This brilliant victory tended to enhance the reputation of the King of the Romans in Germany and also to secure the cooperation of Pope Nicholas III in procuring for him the imperial crown. In order to induce the Pope to give his consent, Rudolf allowed himself (14 February 1279) to be persuaded to approve far-reaching declarations signed by the princes of the Empire concerning the subordination of the royal to the papal power. In a solemn document they likened the royal power to a smaller planet owing its light to the sun of the papal power, and recognised that the material sword was wielded at the will (ad nutum) of the Pope. Rudolf definitively renounced all claims to imperial sovereignty over the whole Papal State including Romagna and over Southern Italy, i.e. Naples and Sicily, Emperor Frederick IPs territory, where now ruled Charles of Anjou supported by the Pope. Charles’ grandson was to become King of the feudal State of the Arelate (or Burgundy) and to marry one of Rudolf’s daughters.

This self-humiliation, however, did not bring him nearer to his goal. Pope Nicholas’ early death in August 1280 annulled the agreements, which appeared to have had in view the division of the German Empire into four kingdoms, and were in any case prejudicial to the interests and rights of the Empire; all this for the sake of the coveted imperial crown. Rudolf never realised his desire, although he could reckon on the co­operation of his new ally at Naples, who was now so closely connected with his house, and on that of the latter’s nephew, the powerful King Philip III of France.

While the King of the Romans tried to strengthen the power of his race in the East and strove after the imperial crown with undeniable ingenuity, he allowed the numerous German princes to strengthen their power in their domains, which had greatly increased since Frederick II’s time, and to settle their own feuds. The free and imperial cities were permitted to form confederations for the sake of their commercial interests. Rudolf only exercised his sovereignty by granting important favours and privileges for money, and by forming on his journeys through the Empire, whenever possible, unions for promoting peace, as had been done by Frederick II in 1235. The Hanseatic League, formed some years before between the commercial cities on the North Sea and the Baltic, was more firmly organised under Rudolf. Although the fervently desired imperial crown was not yet his, he managed at the brilliant diet held at Augsburg (27 December 1282) to obtain the consent of the leading princes of the Empire to the investment of his two remaining sons Albert and Rudolf with the duchies of Austria and Styria as well as Carniola and the Wendish March as far as the Alps—formerly among the fiefs King Ottokar held of the Empire. The elder of those two sons, Albert, was to be the ruler, the younger was to be indemnified either by other territory in Swabia or in Burgundy or by a sum of money, retaining, however, his hereditary claim on the Austrian possessions. Carinthia, the duke of which had recently died, had primarily also been allotted to him but in the end (1286) was assigned to Count Meinhard of Tyrol as prince of the Empire, who also received in temporary fief Carniola and the Wendish March as a reward for his services against King Ottokar. Moreover the prospect was opened of yet more extensive territory in this “East March” of the German Empire. For his younger son Rudolf he expected soon to acquire an equally compact territory either in Swabia, by restoring the ancient duchy, or in Burgundy. Then the house of Habsburg would indisputably become the mightiest in the Empire and its way be clear to the greatest eminence in Western Christendom; it would indeed enter upon the inheritance of the Carolingian, Saxon, Salian, and Hohenstaufen imperial families.

Opposition, however, to his ambition, now becoming so apparent, was already rising in the Empire. The second marriage of the king in his sixty-seventh year with the fourteen-year-old Isabella, daughter of the late Duke of French Burgundy, in February 1284 opened to him and his family new chances of extending his possessions on the borders of the Empire, his new wife being a member of the mighty Capetian family. The institution of royal governorships in order to protect the newly established Landfrieden in Swabia, Bavaria, and Franconia, the annoyance of the imperial cities at the favours he bestowed on the princes of the Empire and at the monetary demands he brought forward, his manifest ambition to make his royal power superior to that of those mighty princes—all this excited anger and animosity everywhere. This animosity shewed itself especially when in 1284 a pseudo-Frederick II appeared.

For years the romantic history of the famous Emperor, whose name, together with that of his great predecessor and grandfather Barbarossa, was still held in honour among the German people, had given rise to the legend that he, like Barbarossa, was not really dead but had only been hidden by his archenemies, the clergy. When not actually the Emperor Frederick himself it was his grandson Conrad, who had perished in the vain attempt to regain his Italian inheritance. About 1280 several pseudo­Fredericks and Conrads appeared. One of them, Dietrich Holzschuh, had a large following along the Lower Rhine and presently took up his residence at Neuss, welcomed with reverence and affection by the superstitious people from far and near, as far even as Italy and the Eastern March. In north-western Germany all those who feared and hated Rudolf gathered round him, until the king seized this dangerous impostor at Wetzlar and had him burned at the stake (7 July 1285)

This new triumph brought increased fame to the King of the Romans. His power rose even higher when his devoted friend Bishop Henry of Basle was appointed Archbishop of Mayence (Mainz) and primate of Germany. Already he was preparing for his journey to Rome for the imperial crown; already, encouraged by the presence of the papal legate at the German council at Wurzburg, he was calling upon the German ecclesiastics for money and support; already he had announced a general German truce for three years in order to secure peace in the Empire during his stay in Italy; already he had regulated the imperial tolls, which since the confusion in the Empire had everywhere been misused or fallen into disuse; already the day for the coronation was fixed and, if that day should pass, a definite date was to be determined upon, when in April 1287 Pope Honorius IV died.

Almost a year passed before a new Pope was chosen. Moreover, since 1285 there ruled in France the powerful and ambitious Philip IV, surnamed the Fair, one of the most illustrious of French kings, whose great aim was to wrest the Arelate, the ancient kingdom of Burgundy, from the Empire, and thus to recover for France the boundaries of ancient Gaul at least along the Alpine range. King Rudolf suc­ceeded, although with difficulty, in keeping under his control the princes of the Empire in Swabia and farther north along the Rhine. With an imposing army such as had not been seen for years, he succeeded at Besançon (July 1289) in maintaining the imperial rights over the “free county” of Burgundy (Franche Comté) against the rebel Count Palatine Otto IV and against the French intrigues.

In the spring of 1289 Rudolf made fresh arrangements for his coronation at Rome with the new Pope Nicholas IV. First, however, as he had done in the south, he had to consolidate his royal authority in northern and north-western Germany, where the ambitious Archbishop Siegfried of Cologne had repeatedly defied it. In the north-west the recognition of Rudolf’s authority was still far from general. There the young and energetic Count Florence V of Holland had in a few campaigns subdued the West Frisians who had killed his father the King of the Romans William II; he had also renewed his predecessors’ ancient claims on the Frisians of Westergoo. Count Florence had further invaded the bishopric of Utrecht and actually seized the western part (Nedersticht) of this important ecclesiastical domain without taking much notice of the expostulations of the Pope and the Archbishop of Cologne. Brabant and Guelders had entered upon a violent struggle over the succession to the duchy of Limburg which had become vacant, culminating in the fierce battle of Woeringen (7 July 1288), in which the two parties of north­western Germany opposed one another, and the Archbishop of Cologne with his allies of Guelders, Nassau, and numerous other counts, lords, and knights were taken prisoners by the Brabantines.

The King of the Romans, certain of the friendship of the victor at Woeringen, Duke John I of Brabant, did not interfere. John kept his personal enemy, Archbishop Siegfried, prisoner for a year, and only set him free on payment of a large ransom. Nor was Count Florence seriously thwarted by the King of the Romans, who saw in him a strong supporter against Philip IV of France, because he was the ally of Duke John, later on a supporter of King Edward I of England, and the hereditary enemy of Count Guv of Flanders, who sided with France. At first Rudolf saw no reason to be dissatisfied with the course of events in those parts; his authority was at least nominally recognised by the victors, although the peace of the Empire was meanwhile sadly disturbed and could only in seeming be consolidated by their victory.

In the north-east—in Saxony, Thuringia, and Brandenburg—he also met the wishes of the great princes of the Empire. Here too he consolidated the Landfrieden sometimes formed without his knowledge. At last, about Christmas 1289, he appeared in triumph at Erfurt; at the head of his band of knights he put down the marauders from the Thuringian woods and robbers’ castles. He held another brilliant court at which he was able to point with pride to the many princes of the Empire who had come from almost every part of Germany to do him liege homage. His young son-in-law Wenceslas II of Bohemia had also appeared. For close upon a century no German King or Emperor had occupied a similar position, and he won all hearts by his innate savoir-vivre and by the bonhomie that seems hereditary in his race.

He remained at Erfurt till Easter 1290. One of the reasons for his coming, the recognition of his son as his future successor, was nearing realisation; many princes promised to recognise his second son, the young Rudolf, as King of the Romans as soon as he himself should have been crowned Emperor. To this end he granted the electoral vote to Bohemia. Before May was out, however, and shortly before the birth of his son John, who afterwards became notorious as the murderer of his uncle Albert, young Rudolf died at Prague at the early age of twenty.

The stricken king now set to work to gain the votes of the Electors and the good will of the nobles for his eldest son Albert of Austria, ever striving after increased power for his race which was to acquire the right of succession to the Hohenstaufen. However, as Albert, with the child John, was also heir to the Swabian family possessions, he was too powerful in the eyes of the princes, especially when in 1289 his father invested him with the Hungarian kingdom vacant through the early death of King Ladislas IV. Rudolf based his claim on a promise of King Bela IV of Hungary to become a vassal of the Empire, if in return the Empire would help him against the Mongols; and this help had not been given. Albert’s investiture bore no fruit, nor was the papal candidate, Charles Martel of Naples, any more successful; for the Hungarians themselves elected a member of their ancient royal house, Andrew III. On the other hand, Rudolf invested his son-in-law Wenceslas II of Bohemia with the vacant imperial duchies of Breslau and Silesia, and once more, this time publicly, recognised Bohemia’s right to the fifth electoral vote in the Empire.

The king remained in Thuringia until November 1290. Thence he went to Swabia. The old ruler, now seventy-two years of age, felt his end drawing near and was unable to undertake the tiring and perilous journey to Rome. He seriously contemplated abdication, but in that case Albert’s succession must first be made secure. At the end of May 1291 he therefore again convoked a diet at Frankfort-on-the-Main. He was, however, already seriously ill and at that diet, well-attended as it was, he was unable to fulfil his plans. Unflinchingly and resignedly he rode, though sick to death, from the imperial city of Frankfort to the ancient city of Spires, where so many of his royal predecessors lay buried in the cathedral. There, he said, he wished to die, and there he breathed his last on 15 July 1291.

He left an honoured name in the Empire. His subjects reverenced his memory for having restored the blessings of peace in many parts of the Empire either by force of arms or by skilful intervention and policy; they revered him as a popular king, an exemplary knight, a capable and intelligent ruler, under whom the Empire had enjoyed a period of peace such as had not been known for years, freed from the rival kings who for more than a century had fought for the mastery, of marauding knights and ruffians who for years had infested town and country. His long struggle for the supremacy of his house was moreover of far-reaching future importance. The memory of his life, his rule, and his aims lived on in the hearts of the German people, in his own and in later generations.

Adolf of Nassau

Who was to succeed him as King of the Romans? Duke Albert, recommended by his father but, from the very outset, considered un­desirable by the Electors, especially by the three archbishops, on account of his rough, tyrannical nature and his already considerable power, firmly counted on being chosen; he felt certain of the support of his Bohemian brother-in-law Wenceslas, of that of the Count Palatine Lewis, and also of Bavaria. Towards the beginning of May, when he knew the Electors were to assemble at Frankfort, he came to the outskirts of that city with a large following, nearly an army. Archbishop Gerhard of Mainz, however, who did not favour Albert, had associated himself with the brave and very able, though not powerful, Count Adolf of Nassau, vassal of the Archbishop of Cologne and the Palatinate, who as head of the Walram branch of his house resided in Southern Nassau and there enjoyed a great reputation. The forty-year-old count, without wide lands, without the outstanding qualities of Rudolf of Habsburg, although a good soldier as a German king had need to be, seemed a serviceable tool in the eyes of the ecclesiastical Electors, who aspired to more power. They succeeded in obtaining the consent of the four temporal Electors, even that of King Wenceslas, Rudolf’s weak and very pious son-in-law, whose still disputed electoral vote they now fully recognised. All of them exacted from Adolf exorbitant concessions in money as well as in lands, the demands of Archbishop Siegfried of Cologne being especially heavy, even shamelessly so. The ambitious count accepted his liabilities without troubling about the possibility of fulfilling his promises, sur­rendering to the Electors and their friends many imperial towns and rights without much resistance. As was customary, the nomination was left to the primate Archbishop Gerhard of Mainz; Archbishop Sieg­fried also played an important part, and Wenceslas, who had not appeared, put his vote in the hands of Gerhard. Thus the new “Pfaffenkönig” (priests’ king), even less to be feared than King William II of Holland, was elected at Frankfort on 10 May and crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle on 24 June 1292.

The disappointed and embittered Duke Albert had retired to Alsace, where the hostile attitude of the neighbouring Swiss against his house caused him some anxiety. Afterwards he went to his family possessions in Austria to prepare for the struggle with his victorious rival, who had begun going round the Empire, restoring peace here and there with troops brought together with the help of the Rhenish Electors, and everywhere gaining friends and adherents by lavish granting of favours. Adolf succeeded in countering the Habsburg power in Alsace, and in the much-divided Thuringia his royal supremacy was recognised by dint of merciless pillage and robbery. His lack of regard for the immunities of churches and other ecclesiastical possessions roused the antagonism of the clergy. He, too, always kept in mind the imperial crown, which he meant to obtain as soon as circumstances in Rome and in the Empire should permit and a Pope of some personal weight should once more occupy the Holy See.

The war between England and France, which had broken out in the spring of 1294, prevented him from carrying out his plan for the present. Applied to by King Edward I of England, Adolf showed himself quite ready to frustrate with the help of the English the designs of the French on German territory. King Edward had acquired powerful allies in north-western Germany by subsidies and clever manoeuvring. Flanders, Brabant, Holland, and Guelders had taken up his cause on receipt of considerable sums of money. On 24 August 1294 he made a close alliance with Adolf at Nuremberg, under which Adolf in his turn demanded no less than 100,000 marks for his help against Philip IV of France. Ten days later Adolf, as the King of the Romans and therefore protector of the Empire, declared war against Philip on the plea that the French king had for years violated the imperial rights on the south-western borders. The actual declaration of war, however, which bore the character of a knight’s challenge, was not dispatched until the beginning of 1295. Preparations for a great campaign against France were immediately set on foot. Adolf could expect the French king to play off the opponents to his election against him. And indeed Philip immediately made sure of the support not only of Duke Albert of Austria, but also of Count Henry IV of Luxemburg, Duke Frederick of Lorraine, the Dauphin Humbert I of Dauphiné, which at that time was still a fief of the Empire, and of Otto IV, Count Palatine of Burgundy, who was likewise a vassal of Adolf.

It was of great significance that the new Pope, Boniface VIII, one of the greatest pontiffs of the later Middle Ages, strongly disapproved of King Adolf’s declaration of war on France. In his capacity of peace­maker in Christendom Boniface, in 1295, sent his legates from Rome to the combatants; as a Christian and Head of the Church he forbade the King of the Romans (whom he acknowledged as such) to engage in the war and told the Rhenish Electors, Adolf’s powerful patrons, not to support him in a campaign against France. At first the papal intervention had its effect and the actual war was not entered upon by the Germans, although King Adolf declared the forfeiture of all the fiefs belonging to the Burgundian Count Palatine without, however, going so far as actually to attack him. He himself seized the lands of the disobedient Margrave of Meissen in Thuringia, and the margrave was forced to leave his country. Again his army committed ruthless pillage, especially where churches and monasteries were concerned, which vividly reminded the clergy of the Emperor Frederick II; they consequently turned against King Adolf. Meanwhile Duke Albert had again managed to draw back to his side Wenceslas of Bohemia and other princes, while Adolf saw his own patrons and adherents leave his cause one after another, deeming him not as submissive as they had expected and embittered against him because he had unwisely broken his promises. Even the Archbishop of Mainz, who had been temporarily deprived of his office by Pope Boniface, turned against him. Nothing came of the war with France; King Edward I of England was induced to open lengthy negotiations and presently saw the alliance he had bought on the Lower Rhine dissolved through the withdrawal of the “peasants’ friend”, Florence V of Holland. The latter’s murder (June 1296) by his opponents among the nobles temporarily restored English influence in that county; King Edward, having kept as hostage the murdered count’s only son John, his own son-in-law, now sent John back to Holland in order to gain that territory for England.

In 1297 Duke Albert at last considered the time ripe for attacking his opponent. An extensive plot, hatched by the clergy against the King of the Romans, was gaining more and more ground. In February 1298 a diet at Vienna was turned into a military review of the plotters, who then and there decided to depose Adolf and put Albert in his place. Archbishop Gerhard, who had hesitated a long time, was persuaded to join Albert for good and all, now that the “Pfaffenkönig” turned out to be an unwilling tool in the hands of those who had invested him with his high dignity; he had not fulfilled many of his promises, partly through inability, partly because he had no wish to keep them.

As early as February 1298 Albert left Vienna at the head of an army composed of Austrians, Bohemians, and Hungarians, and marched through Bavaria to Swabia, where many knights joined him. His semi-barbarian troops of savage Slavs and Hungarians, armed according to eastern custom with bows and battle-axes and followed by a large horde of women, were kept under control with great difficulty, and made a deep impression on the simple German townsfolk and peasants who saw them pass. Towards the middle of May, the Archbishop of Mainz summoned the King of the Romans to Frankfort, ostensibly to confer with the princes of the Empire about the means to guard the imperial interests in the midst of the increasing confusion in the Empire, but really to call him to account. Adolf did not obey the summons; he hastily collected an army, with which to keep in check his adversary who had already reached Strasbourg. At Frankfort the princes of the Empire, as of old from far and near assembled in the open, proceeded to take action. The Duke of Saxony, long ago won over by Albert, solemnly accused the King of the Romans of the spoliation of churches and the ill-treatment of priests during his devastating marches through Thuringia, of arbitrary violation of peace and law, of shameful perjury against towns and princes of the Empire, of a persecution of Church and religion in general which dangerously resembled heresy. On these grounds the princes of the Empire, finding him guilty of all these crimes, deposed King Adolf, and the Electors present immediately set about choosing a new king, who was, of course, Duke Albert. The duke, who had almost reached the royal city, received their homage in his camp.

Yet all was not lost for Adolf. Accompanied by his numerous Nassau relatives, supported by other Rhenish knights and the Bavarian dukes, he decided to take his chance against the usurper and marched north-westwards from Spires. Near Gollheim, not far from Worms, the decisive battle was fought on 2 July 1298. The valiant Nassau prince fought bravely. Fallen from his horse, he mounted another and bare-headed tried to find the hated Austrian in the throng of battle so as to settle the matter in personal combat. Albert scornfully dealt him a blow on the open face with his sword and then turned away leaving him to his friends. A moment later Adolf fell in the confused and desperate melée. This was the end of his dreams of royalty. His body was not buried in the venerable cathedral of Spires but in a neighbouring monastery.

Albert of Habsburg

King Albert lacked his father’s sympathetic character and appearance. A hard and rough warrior, ambitious and intriguing, often rude and coarse, suspicious and miserly, severe and merciless in his dealings, at the same time a talented statesman, he inspired fear rather than affection in those who came into contact with him. King Philip IV congratulated him on his accession, and his coronation took place at Aix-la-Chapelle, where also the French king’s partisans from the western part of the Empire paid homage to him.

One of his first acts was to take vigorous measures to suppress the scandalous persecutions of the Jews, which during the last years had again been prevalent especially in the Rhenish towns, where the ancient ridiculous accusations of ritual murders of Christians and the like were once more repeated against them. Prompted by the thought that he might reap advantage rather than by feelings of right and justice, he brought back to the Rhenish towns the Jews who had survived the massacres. This earned him the scornful nickname of “Judenkönig” in some of the monastic chronicles. He celebrated his victory over Adolf at a brilliant diet at Nuremberg and also had his consort crowned there with much pomp. There too he secured the Austrian hereditary domains for his sons, emphatically repeated King Rudolf’s ordinances of peace, and confirmed the princes of the Empire in the rights they had acquired against the increasing independence of the towns; these, in their turn, had the satisfaction of seeing the imperial tolls and taxes, which had greatly increased, especially on the Rhine, since Frederick II’s time, re­duced to their old standards. On a long tour throughout the Empire his authority was recognised everywhere.

His relations with King Philip remained friendly: he caused the dis­putes in the west to be settled by arbitration, and contrived a marriage between his eldest son and successor Rudolf and Philip’s sister, while a marriage between one of his daughters and one of Philip’s sons was to strengthen the alliance with the French royal family still further. A solemn treaty concluded at Strasbourg (5 September 1299) was sealed in December of the same year at a meeting of the two kings at Toul. The princely splendour displayed by Albert on that occasion could not be equalled even by King Philip, although this excessive German magnificence seemed in the eyes of the French knights nothing but a coarse imitation of their own knightly customs, which had been generally adopted by the whole chivalry of Western Europe.

Very soon, however, Pope Boniface’s hostile attitude caused him anxiety. The Pope was always on bad terms with Philip the Fair; he had not yet recognised Albert as king and even blamed him severely for the violent death of King Adolf. The Electors also, fearing the rapid development of the Habsburg influence, were not long in showing the new King of the Romans the limitations of his power.

That he himself had not much faith in this power, at least in the north-west, was clear when in August 1300 he withdrew from Nimwegen before the army with which Count John of Hainault tried to force from him recognition. John of Hainault had usurped the fiefs of Holland and Zeeland, become vacant through the death of his cousin Count John I, and had been summoned to Nimwegen to justify his acts. Menaced from the other side by the equivocal attitude of the Rhenish Electors—there was even a rumour of a plot against his life—Albert swiftly retreated, while Pope Boniface VIII reminded the Electors in a solemn bull of the supremacy of the Holy See, which might in the end recognise Albert, if he on his side fully submitted to the papal claims, especially to the demand that he should renounce the imperial rights in Tuscany and the whole of Middle Italy. Thus began the revolt of the Rhenish spiritual princes joined by the Wittelsbach Count Palatine Rudolf the Stammerer and all the branches of the offended house of Nassau, and led by Archbishop Diether of Treves, brother of King Adolf. At the instigation and with the co-operation of the Pope, these princes formed at Heimbach on the Rhine an alliance against Albert, “who now calls himself King of the Romans” (14 October 1300). Albert, on his side, declared that he, as lawfully elected king, would withstand these disturbers of peace and order, and on 7 May 1301 he called upon the German people, in particular on the powerful Rhenish towns from Cologne to Constance, to assist him in this, promising to protect every one of them against the unlawful exactions of tolls by princes and overlords, who for more than a century had attempted to enrich themselves at the expense of the commerce on the Rhine and its tributaries down to its mouth.

The Pope’s increasing enmity was a serious drawback to the king in this affair. By a bull of 13 April 1301 Boniface VIII at last openly refused to recognise him, and summoned him to defend himself within six weeks against the accusation of the murder of his predecessor King Adolf, on pain of excommunication and the annulment of the oaths taken by the princes of the Empire at the coronation at Aix-la-Chapelle. This marked the open breach between the King of the Romans and the papal authority. The whole of the Rhenish territory from Bavaria and Swabia to the Lower Rhine became involved. With skilful strategy the king, certain of the support of many lords and towns, led his troops along the Rhine for more than a year and successively conquered the Palatinate, Mainz, Cologne, and Treves. One after another their spiritual and temporal princes were forced to submit. A subsequent campaign planned against Count John II of Holland-Hainault had, however, to be abandoned, because the great quarrel between Philip IV and Boniface had then reached a crisis.

Much more important issues than the subjection of a few recalcitrant princes of the Empire were at stake: the question whether papal authority would at last succeed in putting into practice the theory of papal sovereignty over Christendom, the great question of the later Middle Ages. This time the head of the anti-papal party was the King of France, perhaps the greatest of the French Capetians, and not, as before, the ruler of the Empire, who now only played a subsidiary part in this world-drama as an ally of France, albeit not wholly a reliable one. With talent and success Philip engaged in the struggle, which in its consequences was to bring the Papacy under French influence for almost a century and temporarily to raise France to the first place in the Christian world, while Germany’s significance correspondingly dwindled. The alliance with France soon shewed to the King of the Romans its dangerous side. If he continued to follow this policy he would inevitably become involved in a violent struggle with Rome, and that might have the direst con­sequences for him in the Empire itself, as the fate of the Salian and Hohenstaufen Emperors had abundantly shown in the past. The reconciliation with France had evidently only been a means to secure temporary quiet on the western frontiers of the Empire, as well as to shew the Pope that the friendship of the King of the Romans was of importance to him. Albert’s policy was directed towards making both parties feel the importance of that friendship. The Jubilee of 1300 had revealed Boniface VIII in the brilliant glamour of power. His famous Bull Unam Sanctam (18 November 1302) once more expressed Gregory VII’s great ideal, that Holy Church was one and indivisible, ruled by one worldly power, that of Christ’s representative at Rome; the spiritual sword demanded the support of the temporal in upholding the supremacy of Rome in the world.

After his victories on the Rhine Albert seemed to be secure in his Empire in spite of his treaty with France. For the sake of the imperial crown he appeared willing to comply with the Pope’s demands, but only conditionally. In March 1302 he sent a deputation to Rome for the purpose of justifying his conduct towards King Adolf, as the Pope had demanded, and at the same time defending his rights against the Electors who had denounced him; he also declared himself ready to recognise, or even to defend, the papal claims in general. And the Pope, needing his help against France, actually recognised him as King of the Romans on 30 April 1303. Assuming the attitude of the “Good Samaritan”, he promised to crown Albert at Rome with the imperial crown, urging all his subjects to recognise Albert’s sovereignty in the Empire, and released him from all the alliances and treaties, however solemn, that were inconsistent with the papal claims, consequently also from the alliance with Philip IV, against whom he hoped to use him. Albert, reminded by the fate of Adolf and the opposition of the spiritual Electors how important it was to him too to be on good terms with the mighty pontiff at Rome, sent a very humble answer to this message, promising not to appoint an imperial governor in Lombardy and Tuscany for five years, to fight the Pope’s enemies, and to deal justly with the lately subdued spiritual Electors on the Rhine. At the same time he skilfully avoided too definite an expression of obedience to the heavy demands of papal supremacy; prudence as well as his own strongly developed ambition forbade him to go any further.

Thus his alliance with France threatened to be severed at one blow. The King of the Romans, whose political discernment was perhaps not inferior to that of King Philip, saw its dangers for himself and for the Empire. The papal anathema on Philip was impending and war would no doubt have broken out at once, when the French king, with the help of the Colonna, surprised the Pope in his own territory at Anagni. There followed the sudden death of the Pope at Rome on 11 October 1303 in the midst of great confusion. The victory of France was imminent.

New dangers threatened in the Empire. King Wenceslas II of Bo­hemia, elected in 1300 King of Poland also, saw, at the death of the last prince of the ancient native house of Arpad, the crown of Hungary within his reach or at least within that of his young son Wenceslas, who did in fact acquire it. King Albert fully realised the great danger in the rise of a new mighty Bohemian Empire such as Ottokar’s had been in his father’s time. In the autumn of 1304 he marched into Bohemia but met with violent opposition, until Wenceslas II’s death from consumption (June 1305) delivered him from this adversary. The young Wenceslas III, however, was murdered soon after, and then Albert, after a second campaign, succeeded in getting his own son Rudolf elected King of Bohemia. Rudolf’s reign did not last long, for he died in July 1307, and his younger brother could no more than hold his own in Moravia against the newly-chosen King of Bohemia, Duke Henry of Carinthia, Wenceslas II’s son-in-law. The time for the Habsburgs had evidently not yet come in Bohemia. Elsewhere as well, in Thuringia, on the Rhine, in Swabia, in the Swiss cantons, there were disturbances. In Switzerland especially began the conflict which legend and poetry have embodied in and round the person of William Tell, the champion of freedom, and his followers. The King of the Romans saw his power menaced on all sides. He courageously set to work to compel recognition of his authority throughout the Empire. Busy with preparations for this difficult task, he was staying at Baden in Aargau (1 May 1308), when a small band of conspirators made a scheme to kill him. Among them was his eighteen-year-old nephew Duke John of Swabia, son and heir of Albert’s younger brother Rudolf and the proud Bohemian princess Agnes, daughter of Ottokar, who in her inmost heart hated the Habs­burgs, in particular King Albert, the merciless enemy of her race. This hate had passed down to her son, who was discontented at what his uncle had portioned out to him, the grandson of a King of the Romans: he had merely the governorship and not the possession of the Swabian domains belonging to his house and once his father’s heritage. His fellow-plotters were three Swabian-Swiss nobles, Rudolf von Wart, young Walter von Eschenbach, and Rudolf von Balm, who had sworn to help him in upholding his rights and claims. Counting on help from the new Archbishop of Mainz and Count Eberhard of Wurtemberg, they once more tried to get satisfaction for Duke John from the king; both the princes interceded for him. The king, fearing their opposition and the wrath of his young nephew, consented and promised to look after the latter’s interests at the end of the intended campaign. Duke John, disappointed and discouraged at this new delay and at Albert’s unreliable promises, lent an ear to the proposals of his three friends. After the evening meal, when the king was on his way across the Reuss to the neighbouring little town of Brugg to meet his consort, they contrived to be alone with him on the little ferry-boat and to ride with him to Brugg. On the path leading to it, not far from the ancestral castle of Habsburg, they fell upon the unarmed king, wounded him mortally, and then escaped leaving him lying helpless. The king’s attendants found him still alive, but he died after a few minutes. The regicides, afterwards outlawed by Albert’s successor, fled into hiding. Only one of them, Rudolf von Wart, was captured soon afterwards and delivered up to Albert’s sons; he ended his life on the spot where the crime had been committed, by having his body broken upon the wheel. Duke John (Johannes Parricida) lived for some years unrecognised in a monastery at Pisa, where he still was when the new King of the Romans, Henry VII, came there in 1312; he disclosed his identity, and was thrown into prison as a regicide and died there soon after. Eschenbach hid in Wurtemberg and died many years later, only disclosing his real name on his death-bed. Balm died miserably and at a great age in his hiding place, a monastery at Basle. On the spot where the murder took place Albert’s widow erected the convent of Königsfeld, appointing her daughter Agnes its first abbess. After the ancient German custom, she and her sons and daughters mercilessly took a bloody revenge on all who could possibly be thought connected with the crime. The victim of this murder left to posterity the memory of a strong though hard and proud personality; he was a past-master in political cunning, always striving after the strengthening of the royal power, in which he considered lay the best guarantee for his own authority and for the future of his house. His sudden death intervened to prevent the fulfilment of his endeavour.

Philip IV immediately seized the opportunity to attempt to raise his brother Charles of Valois to the German throne, hoping thus to secure French predominance in Europe. To that end he began by bribing the Electors and other princes of the Empire and nobles with money and fair promises, and also exercised pressure on his willing tool, Pope Clement V, formerly Archbishop of Bordeaux, who owed him his high dignity, and who had taken up his residence at Avignon instead of at Rome. Though the French Pope did not venture to oppose his “patron” openly, he nevertheless feared—and with reason—too large an increase in Philip’s power in the Christian world. He therefore confined himself to framing a lukewarm recommendation, in order not to prejudice the king against himself and yet to have a chance of directing the choice of a German King into another quarter.

In the Empire itself Frederick the Fair, eldest surviving son of the murdered king, naturally came forward as candidate for the throne. He immediately gave up his plans with regard to Bohemia, at least for the time being, so as not to scare the Electors by revealing too much power in the hands of the house of Habsburg. He did not, however, succeed in allaying their fears. Other princes, too, entertained expectations, such as the Electors of the Palatinate, Brandenburg, and Saxony, while the Archbishop of Cologne felt inclined towards the French proposals. Several other princes were mentioned as claimants. In the midst of all these dissensions the recently nominated young Archbishop of Treves, Count Baldwin of Luxemburg, succeeded in drawing the attention of Archbishop Peter of Mainz, who had the first voice in the election of a king, to his distinguished elder brother Count Henry IV of Luxem­burg. The latter was immediately prepared to grant to this prelate as well as to the Archbishop of Cologne, according to custom, extensive rights and advantages, should the choice fall on him.

Towards the end of October the Archbishop of Mainz called the Electors to a preliminary conference at Rense near Coblenz on the Rhine, where, after all sorts of intrigues and confused discussions, Count Henry, though not exactly elected, was designated as the most likely candidate. With the aid of yet more concessions the Archbishop of Cologne was won over for good and all; the temporal Electors were brought over in the same way, and thus the Luxemburg Count was at last (27 November 1308) unanimously elected King of the Romans by the six Electors present. The coronation took place at Aix-la-Chapelle on 6 January 1309. The new king, lord of a semi-Walloon and sparsely peopled domain, mainly situated in the ancient wild Silva Carbonaria (the Ardenne), had had a French education. He was wont to speak Walloon, the official language of Luxemburg, which, as a border-­country, used both languages and was closely allied to France. He was fair and slim, had an intelligent face and pleasant manners; he was religious, kind-hearted, sensible, and temperate in all his ways; he was not yet forty years old, and therefore in the prime of life. His wife was Margaret of Brabant, the pious and amiable daughter of the chivalrous Duke John I.

Immediately after the election, Henry sent an embassy to the Pope with a letter in which he expressed his sacramentum fidelitatis, but in terms which were not detrimental to his royal dignity. Clement V, approving his election, answered with a somewhat equivocal friendliness, yet promised to crown him as Emperor; the date of the ceremony (2 February 1312) was mentioned in connexion with a general council to be held before that date. King Philip was far from pleased at the accommodating tone of the Curia, and accordingly gave unmistakable signs of his displeasure at Avignon. In Germany itself no demur was at first heard against the unanimous choice, although many were dis­appointed. Already a fine chance was opening for the new king of acquiring the Bohemian crown. Wenceslas Ill’s enterprising younger sister Elizabeth offered herself in marriage to Henry’s son; she considered herself heiress to Ottokar’s family domains in opposition to the claims of her elder sister. In case the husband of this sister, Henry of Carinthia, the then King of Bohemia, could not hold his own against the Habsburgs—and that seemed probable—such a marriage would be very important.

His relations with the Habsburgs at first claimed the king’s chief attention. To his great joy Duke Frederick of Austria appeared at his first court at Spires. Frederick wished King Albert’s body to be interred with due ceremony in the ancient imperial cathedral, and this seemed to lead to a reconciliation between the two rivals, since Henry also demanded the interment there of King Adolf, which likewise took place. At the negotiations about their respective interests Frederick renounced the possession of Moravia, which he had held in fief, whereas he was confirmed in the investment of the imperial fiefs in Austria and Swabia, which his family had had in their possession, also in those of the absent John Parricida who had been outlawed by King Henry together with the three other murderers. Frederick promised to help the king against the ever-rebellious Landgrave of Thuringia, and also to assist him in his journey to Italy for the coronation, the ideal of King Henry’s life and not in his opinion unattainable; for the much-oppressed Ghibelline party had already approached him more than once. Neither was the Pope at Avignon disinclined to fulfil his promise concerning the king’s coronation at Rome, provided Henry was prepared to support the Pope against his too powerful patrons at Naples and in France. Agreements were already drawn up regarding the duties which Henry, as Emperor, was to perform for the Church and the solemn promises he was to give concerning them. A papal legate was to be sent to conduct further negotiations.

On 10 August 1310 Henry took the oath to observe his promises regarding his future relations with the Pope, declaring that he would defend the rights and interests of the Church against the Saracens as well as against all “heretics and schismatics”; the latter was a threat against the French and Italian lawyers and schoolmen of anti-papal leanings under the protection of Philip IV. He further promised to uphold the privileges actually granted or said to have been granted to the Papal See by his predecessors, the Emperors and kings from Constantine and Charlemagne down to Frederick II and Rudolf. The Pope’s domains, which would include the Romagna and perhaps Tuscany, were carefully detailed. This declaration was, of course, prefaced by the usual references to the “two swords,” which the king also subscribed, though it was not in the uncompromising terms in which Pope Boniface VIII had formulated his demands against Albert.

Before the journey to Rome could be commenced, it was necessary to settle affairs in Bohemia so as to consolidate and, if possible, strengthen the power of the still weak Luxemburg family and its position in the Empire. The energetic princess Elizabeth of Bohemia had contrived to organise in her country a strong party among the nobles against her brother-in-law the king, and this party had actually seized Prague. A Czech deputation impeached King Henry of Bohemia before the King of the Romans at Frankfort, and demanded sentence against him as a vassal of the Empire. Without a proper hearing, the King of the Romans straightway declared that Henry had forfeited his kingship, and consented to the marriage of his own thirteen-year-old son John of Luxemburg with the seventeen-year-old princess, who presently came to Spires with an imposing retinue. On 30 August she married the king’s son, whom his father invested with the royal crown of Bohemia without further investi­gation whether Bohemia was indeed an imperial fief. The wedding festivities at Spires lasted a week and included magnificent tournaments. Afterwards the young couple set out for Bohemia with a considerable German and Bohemian army. At first the enterprise was not successful, but in the end (19 December 1310) Prague, where Henry of Carinthia had again entrenched himself, was captured and Henry was forced to flee to his own country of Tyrol. The young Bohemian king was crowned at Prague; he was the first of the Luxemburg line, which was destined to remain settled there for more than a century and to wear the German royal and imperial crowns as well. He persuaded Duke Frederick of Austria, who did not much appreciate the mere mortgage of semi- barbaric Moravia, to hand this territory also over to him.

At last Henry was free to go to Italy. The wellnigh unwarrantable way in which he had distributed the imperial rights among princes and landowners did not add lustre to his name in the history of the Empire. It was the imperial crown, the ideal which had also lured his predecessors and which now seemed within his reach, that brought him to purchase order and quiet in the Empire by giving in to the demands from lords and towns. The situation in North and Central Italy, the only regions where the Empire still had some power, was one of great confusion and divergent local interests. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen, imperial authority at Naples, in Sicily, and in the Papal States had disappeared altogether, at Naples to the advantage of Charles of Anjou, in Sicily to that of King Frederick of Aragon. King Rudolf had had to relinquish the Romagna, while his suzerainty over Tuscany had been seriously contested by the Pope. In the north, in Lombardy, he and his successors had kept a semblance of power, and had now and again tried to assert themselves from a distance, albeit only by feeble protests, by useless threats, or by appointments of deputies who were not obeyed. Venice had been able to keep her republican independence, which had lasted for five centuries, and was in that way more fortunate than Genoa and Pisa, who longed for the German King to restore order and imperial authority.

But no one in Italy had, after all, heeded the commands and counsels of the later kings; almost everywhere disorder and hopeless dissension reigned. Here and there a powerful noble family had succeeded in gaining the upper hand in the violent quarrels between Guelfs and Ghibellines. These names in themselves were void of significance; they had simply become party-watchwords without fundamental principles attached to them. The Guelfs no longer, as of yore, represented the papal party, nor the Ghibellines the imperial. In the ancient republics the burning question was only who should possess supreme local power and authority over the surrounding districts. Wherever the “popolo” in those numerous towns, now in fact republics, had wielded that power for a time, there prominent nobles had finally acquired an almost dictatorial control and the harassed populace in its longing for order and quiet had acquiesced. At Milan the supremacy was contested by the Visconti and the Della Torre families. The Della Scala ruled Verona; the D’Este held Ferrara and Modena. Pisa had lost her authority over Corsica and Sardinia to Genoa, and had seen her old prosperity vanishing through violent internecine quarrels. Genoa herself suffered through the eternal war with Venice and the quarrels between the Grimaldi and Fieschi, the Doria and Spinola. Florence, the magnificent and opulent Guelf city on the Arno, was likewise divided within herself. Everywhere the temporarily victorious party had killed or banished the conquered and confiscated its possessions. Every Italian city was full of ruined exiles from elsewhere. In the Papal States, where the Popes no longer resided, the same happened; the Colonna and Orsini fought for the supremacy in and about Rome. Nowhere, except in Naples under the capable King Robert of Anjou, and in Sicily under the crafty King Frederick of Aragon, was there even a semblance of well-established order. North and Central Italy seemed about to dissolve into a number of city-republics without coherence and without fixed government, where peace and order were replaced by a succession of violent revolutions.

It was a marvel that learning in cultured Padua and art in lovely Florence could develop like a flower in the midst of a desert. At Pisa and Siena the deserted buildings, monuments of still recent prosperity, already seemed only memories of a long-departed glory. In this hopeless chaos many looked towards the Emperor, who by his influence and skill might be able to restore the disturbed social order. Among them sounded the mighty voice of Dante, who, himself exiled from his native Florence, in a famous and eloquent letter called upon the “Longobardi”, rulers and ruled alike, to welcome with enthusiasm the approaching Emperor, the restorer of peace and quiet. He urged them to acknowledge his authority unhesitatingly and to join the Pope, who, he reminded them, in a bull of 1 September 1310 had judged the German King worthy of the imperial crown, in promoting the welfare of the Christian world, the honour and interests of Italy, still the seat of the ideal power of the Holy Roman Empire, whose fate might be called the fate of the world. Many Ghibellines and Guelfs went with Dante to meet the Luxemburg “Arrigo,” inspired with sympathy, reverence, and ardent hope.

The new German King himself, infatuated with the old ideals, yearned to fill the part allotted to him; he felt ordained by God to fill it; for was not the Pope God’s representative upon earth? Educated as a knight, he had a great reverence for the ancient culture of Italy, which, in spite of everything, still exercised its fascination, a culture so immeasurably excelling that of Germany, and even of France. A king so alive to spiritual development and intellectual refinement could not be unaware that the German people had in those respects much to learn from Italy. Had not the “Minnesang”, originally Provençal, been almost lost at the courts of the German princes during the confusion of the last fifty years? Did not German learning bear a narrow monastic stamp compared with that of Padua and Bologna? Was not German art paltry in comparison with what Florence and Pisa, Venice and Bologna could shew, those cities which had drunk of the eternal classical wells? Was not Italy still the country where a repeated recrudescence of classical culture occurred? Were not the German towns feeble imitations of those mighty city­republics which had defied Barbarossa and Frederick II? What was German commerce, even that of the rising “Hanse”, of Hamburg, Bremen, Lubeck, Augsburg, Ulm, Nuremberg, the Rhenish towns, compared with that of Venice, Genoa, Milan, and Florence? Was not Italy, were not Tuscany and Lombardy, the centres of banking and finance, which dominated commerce more and more? Italy was still the Promised Land in the eyes of the German, who, however, was there looked upon as a semi-barbarian. In his heart he himself, the German from a Walloon country, felt barbaric.

The Imperial Coronation

With these expectations and in this frame of mind Henry left Alsace at the beginning of October 1310 on his long journey southward to Rome. He reached Lausanne via Berne; from there through Geneva and Savoy he crossed the Alps, climbing the Mont Cenis, which was already thickly covered with snow. This route through the domain of Count Amadeus of Savoy, his brother-in-law, was the proper one to take, since the easier Brenner Pass was closed to him on account of its being within reach of his bitter enemy Duke Henry of Carinthia, whom he had driven out of Bohemia. When he reached Susa only a small escort of 3000 men, mainly consisting of Walloon knights and their followers, accom­panied him, a heavily armed band renowned for their savage prowess. During the summer he had sent envoys to all the towns in Lombardy and also to Venice to herald the peace he came to bring. On his arrival in Italy he repeated that message in a solemn manifesto. As the king of peace he was welcomed by everyone. From all sides armed partisans flocked towards him, Guelfs as well as Ghibellines, for the new ruler—he had loudly proclaimed it—did not wish to be a party-leader, nor an upholder of “imperial” principles against the “papal”, which in fact seemed by now to have fallen into oblivion in Italy. Delegations from the principal Lombard and Tuscan towns came to greet him respectfully and blessed him as the long-expected rescuer of country and people from dire distress, who was to make his powerful manifesto of peace heard by all without consideration of parties or persons. A papal legate also came to welcome him and Henry begged that the coronation at Rome by Clement V, who was expected from Avignon for the purpose, should take place at Whitsuntide.

With an ever-increasing army he reached Milan in December via Turin, Asti, and Novara. On his way he restored order everywhere, reconciled combating factions, appointed governors over States and towns. At Milan even the mighty and proud Guido della Torre, who had at first been unwilling and uncertain, actually greeted him with at least simulated humility. There too the archbishop crowned him King of Lombardy with the Lombard crown (6 January 1311), although this time it was not the iron crown of his predecessors, which had temporarily disappeared and only turned up again long after. Here too, however, he experienced his first—and decisive—disappointment. Matteo Visconti cunningly induced the Della Torre to join in a revolt, and then deserted them. The Della Torre, considered untrustworthy from the very beginning as ancient enemies of imperial power, were attacked without warning by the king’s followers, and the latter, supported by the Visconti, burnt down Guido’s palace, plundered, robbed, and killed his adherents in large numbers, and drove the remainder out of the city. Guido saved himself by flight. Contrary as this was to Henry’s peaceable plans, so loudly proclaimed beforehand, he deplored the course of events, which had cost many lives and had reduced a considerable portion of Milan to ashes. In future, however, he was forced to stand by the Visconti, who had remained faithful, and to keep aloof from the not altogether trusted Della Torre, in other words to support the ancient Ghibellines against the ancient Guelfs.

Milan’s fate roused everywhere in Italy the bitterest animosity at the conduct of the royal troops, against the German barbarians who, according to the general complaint, had been let loose on Italy—those Germans, despised and hated from time immemorial, beside whom the Italians still felt themselves the proud heirs of classical civilisation. In Lombardy too these feelings spread, and one town after another, indignant at what they called the king’s treachery, drove out the royal governors. Cremona received Guido della Torre, and from all sides the Guelfs enthusiastically rallied under him. King Henry, embittered at the course of affairs and now firmly resolved to reach his goal by force, immediately placed rebellious Cremona under the ban of the Empire; his clergy also excommunicated her. Passionately angry at the disappointment, he marched his army up to the city, refused her humble submission, and mercilessly punished her by putting to death the principal instigators of the revolt, banishing hundreds of others, destroying her walls and gates, and pulling down the houses of the culprits. Brescia, however, whose turn came next, had to be regularly besieged. She bravely held out from May till the end of September 1311. Now adversity commenced in earnest. A violent plague swept away thousands in the royal army, among them Guy, the chivalrous son of the Count of Flanders, and many other famous generals. Only when famine and pestilence had broken the courage of the inhabitants did the town surrender, and, like Cremona, it was severely punished for its mutiny. One of the king’s most distinguished followers, the famous Count Werner of Homburg, greatly feared for his ruthlessness, was appointed royal captain-general of Lombardy.

All this delayed Henry a long time in North Italy. Besides, the Guelf cities, Florence and Bologna, now prevented him from taking the land­route to Rome, so that he would be obliged to travel by sea via the seaports Genoa and Pisa, which were on his side. Genoa, hoping for future advantages in the Levant over her rival Venice, was perfectly willing to oblige him, nay put herself unconditionally at his service, even acknowledging him as sovereign lord of the republic and accepting his governor. During his stay at Genoa he sustained a great loss through the death of his noble consort, the universally beloved Queen Margaret, who had up to then shared all his anxieties. These anxieties increased more and more. Philip IV of France desired, in return for his acquiescence in the Italian situation, that his son and namesake should become Count of the imperial fief of Burgundy. King Robert of Naples stated his claims and meanwhile seized Rome, or rather the Leonine city on the opposite bank of the Tiber with the strong castle of Sant’Angelo. The Pope was in no hurry over the preparations for the promised coronation. At length, in the spring of 1312, Henry decided to leave Genoa to go by sea to faithful Pisa. There he made a triumphal entry on 6 March, welcomed on all sides by the Ghibellines, while the other Tuscan cities adhered to the Guelfs and accordingly were put under the ban of the Empire.

At last the king marched to Rome straight through Tuscany with a retinue of 2000 heavily armed knights. On 7 May he entered the Eternal City near the Porta del Popolo and took up his abode in the Lateran, appointing Louis of Savoy commander-in-chief of the half-conquered city, whilst John of Gravina was still holding Trastevere with the Vatican and St Peter’s, the Capitol, the Campo dei Fiori, and the Piazza Navona for his brother King Robert of Naples. Henry VII failed in his attempts to persuade the Neapolitans to surrender by agreement, or at least to give up St Peter’s, where the imperial coronation always took place; the rebellious Roman nobles and the cardinals were only compelled by force or strategy to side with Henry. Thereupon the struggle began; barricades in the streets, fortified palaces, and strongholds of hostile nobles had to be attacked and captured before the Germans could venture an advance in the direction of St Peter’s (26 May). This attack, however, failed and the fighting in the city continued for weeks without advantage to either party. A large portion of the Eternal City was destroyed by burning and plundering, and the inhabitants were massacred.

The Pope having refused to leave Avignon, Henry had for a long time been urging the cardinals to crown him in the Lateran, the papal residence next in importance to the Vatican. At first they refused, because the Pope had explicitly designated St Peter’s for the ceremony; at Henry’s insistence, supported by the threatening attitude of the Roman populace, they at last consented. The coronation took place on 29 June 1312 at St John Lateran and was performed with the usual ceremonies by Cardinal Nicholas of Ostia assisted by two other papal legates. Henry proudly accepted the golden crown, imperial globe, sword, and sceptre. The sublime goal of his arduous journey was reached, and the acclamations of the Ghibellines, in which the Guelfs only sporadically and reluctantly joined, resounded throughout the whole of Italy.

The new Emperor was, however, far from able to enjoy his triumphs in peace, for Rome itself was for the most part still in the hands of the Neapolitans, and his greatly diminished German troops wanted to go home. And this they did in spite of his protests; only 900 German and Walloon knights remained with him. With this handful of followers he did not venture farther than Tivoli, to seek respite from the hot summer for himself and his men; and even there he was scarcely safe from his enemies in the neighbourhood.

The Pope, highly incensed at the fighting in Rome between Henry and the Neapolitans and incited by Philip IV, now joined Henry’s Guelf adversaries. He demanded, on pain of excommunication, an armistice until the quarrel should be settled by his arbitration, the Emperor’s promise not to return to the papal capital without papal permission, the release of all prisoners, and the return to the nobles of all the city strongholds. King Henry protested against the hostile attitude of the Pope and maintained that he and no one else was the head of the Empire, just as the Pope was of the Church; he protested at being virtually placed on a level with King Robert, his vassal and the Pope’s, with regard to papal commands. As Emperor, he claimed the right to enter Rome without the Pope’s permission; on the other hand, he con­sented to the release of the prisoners and the restitution of the Roman towers and castles. Eventually he did leave Rome on 20 August in order to bring the Tuscan Guelfs to reason, and he promised to withdraw the small garrison he had left in the Eternal City. As Emperor, however, he called King Robert to account before the imperial tribunal.

After having subdued Perugia and other Tuscan towns he besieged Florence, but did not succeed in taking this powerful city. Moreover, he had to contend with lack of provisions and severe outbreaks of fever, from which he himself did not escape. He then convened a diet at Pisa, where he again took up residence in March 1313. King Robert, who had not obeyed the imperial summons, was declared an enemy of the Empire and the Emperor decided to attack him in his own kingdom. While at Pisa he tried to reinforce his army, which had suffered greatly through illness, casualties in fighting, the return home of many lords and knights, and the defection of the Guelfs, by calling up new troops from Germany and Italy in preparation for a campaign against Naples. The sentence pronounced on King Robert at Pisa (26 April 1313) declared him a rebel, deserving of death and the ban of the Empire with confiscation of all his fiefs and rights. Robert called on the assistance of Philip IV, violently protested against the Emperor’s attitude, and found a ready supporter in the Pope, who, in a solemn bull, with dire threats forbade the war against Naples in the interest of Christianity. The Emperor replied with counter-demands, including the immediate deposition of Robert. A considerable period was spent in these reciprocal complaints, demands, and reproaches; meanwhile John of Bohemia prepared to come to his imperial father’s help with a large army of Germans and Czechs. Henry had long ago allied himself with Frederick of Sicily (Trinacria), and in September Naples was to be attacked from the land as well as from the sea, while King John’s army was to subdue Lombardy and Tuscany, where the Guelfs had risen once more. Indeed the whole of Italy dreaded the Emperor’s revenge, remembering the fate which had already befallen many of his adversaries. An unexpected event caused the failure of all the Emperor’s plans. Henry, who had left Pisa on 8 August with a considerable army of knights in order to recommence the siege of Rome, had for a long time been suffering from malaria. His doctors had advised him to put off his departure until he had quite recovered, but he refused to wait and hurriedly marched up to Siena, which, however, he failed to take. He then hastened southwards. At Buonconvento on the Ombrone he collapsed and died suddenly of an attack of fever (24 August 1313). In popular belief his death was of course ascribed to the effect of poison, said to have been administered to him by a Dominican priest in the Sacrament. His body was taken to Pisa and interred with great pomp in the cathedral. The news of his death was received with joy by the Guelfs, with consternation by the Ghibellines, who had fixed all their hopes on him. His faithful followers returned to their country; his son had only reached Swabia and now disbanded his army.

In Germany his death was no less deeply lamented than in Italy; fervent partisans deplored the loss of a second Charlemagne. Dante bemoaned his death and wrote beautiful lines in his honour in the Divina Commedia. Villani described in admiring terms what the insignificant German King had wrought and had wanted to achieve. Henry VII was the last of the really medieval Emperors; he passed away at the very moment when he was triumphantly grasping the supremacy in Italy and when he was on the point of renewing the old struggle against papal authority. In Germany he was universally acknowledged to have been the restorer of imperial sovereignty, which since Barbarossa’s death had been impotent against the rising power of the German princes. Dante’s De Monarchia, written after Henry’s death, evinces not only deep gratitude for all he had accomplished but also great disappointment at the sudden frustration of so many hopeful expectations.


Although the forty years between 1273 and 1313 are among the most bewildering and dreary in her history, they were more fateful for Germany than many a period crowded with heroic figures and thrilling events. In the first place, they started her on a political path which she was to follow until the nineteenth century. One must, it is true, beware of the misleading implications of the term Interregnum. Throughout its length—save for the interval, not abnormally long, after the death of William of Holland—there had always been one claimant to the imperial title and generally two. Still, over the greater part of Germany no one had paid any serious attention to either Richard of Cornwall or Alfonso of Castile; and in 1272 there was a real possibility that the very name of Holy Roman Emperor might disappear. Yet more likely was it that the title would become merely honorary, attached to anyone whom the Pope wished to compliment or entrust with the leadership of a crusade; in that case there would be no more reason for bestowing it on a German than on any other Catholic Christian. Now the forty years after 1273 decided that the Holy Roman Empire was to survive, that it was to be more than a name, and that it was still to be peculiarly associated with the German nation. Rudolf’s election alone would have settled none of these things. But after he had been succeeded by Adolf of Nassau, after the title of King of the Romans had been con­sidered worth fighting for at much risk, after Albert I had maintained his claim to it in the teeth of rebellious Electors and an unfriendly Pope, after Henry VII had received the imperial crown at Rome and, despite his reverses, inspired the Italians with a just respect for his vigour and an exaggerated fear of his might, there could be no doubt that the Empire was to live for a long time yet and that it was still a force in the life of Europe. And that the imperium was to be wielded by Germans, as in the past, was equally assured. Successive Popes, by actions and words, had countenanced the time-honoured connexion; it was largely due to Gregory X that the claims of Alfonso had been finally set aside and that Rudolf of Habsburg had been chosen; and in 1308 Clement V, Frenchman though he was, had failed to give effective support to the candidature of Charles of Valois. In this relation, the theory of the “translation of the Empire” had its value from the German point of view. Much was heard of it in these years; it was generally accepted by imperialists as well as papalists, and the Kings of the Romans have been much denounced by modem historians for countenancing it; but one should remember that while it was by the Pope that the Empire was supposed to have been transferred, it was to the Germans that he was supposed to have transferred it. The imperium had gone abroad during the Interregnum; there were not wanting foreigners, especially Frenchmen like Pierre Dubois, who argued that it should be “translated” again; even patriotic Germans were sometimes perplexed that their country should have received it rather than France, which had equally belonged to the Empire of Charles the Great. Hence the usefulness of a theory, first enunciated by the Papacy, which expressly sanctioned Germany’s imperial rights.

The Empire, then, was to continue to mean something. But these forty years decided that it was not to mean much. Of the four kings with whom we are concerned, only one went to Italy for the imperial crown. His expedition was encouraged and supported by the Pope; his arrival was hailed with delight by a very great number of the Italian people. But his experiences shew plainly—though it is true that contemporaries did not realise their full significance—that Italy, while willing to applaud imperial ideals, would not brook imperial rule. There was no attempt to enforce royal authority in the kingdom of Arles. It was not indeed forgotten; one of Rudolf’s most spectacular and successful undertakings was his expedition in 1289 against the Count Palatine of Burgundy; and the rights of the Empire in the king­dom proved useful more than once in bargaining with the royal houses of France and Naples. But if the great feudatories of the Arelate did homage to the King of the Romans, it was as much as he could expect; and after Albert I’s treaty with Philip the Fair it looked as if Franche Comté, now in the hands of the French king, would soon be severed from the Empire, both in fact and in law. Needless to say, there was no extension of imperial power to regions where even the greatest of the Emperors had never made it effective. The rulers of Poland during the years under review sometimes paid allegiance to the Empire, sometimes not; while the independence of Hungary was now beyond serious question, notwithstanding Rudolf’s pretence of treating it as an escheated fief.

It has commonly been assumed in modem times that for Germany the continuance of the Empire after 1273 was a calamity. As before, it is asserted, the claims inherent in the imperial title diverted the German kings from their proper task, the government of Germany. On the other hand, one may well doubt whether, but for its association with the Empire, the German Crown Would have survived at all. And, in reality, the glitter of imperial pretensions had little effect on the actions of three out of the four kings of these forty years, nor, for that matter, did it often have much influence on the policy of their successors. The rights of the Empire might be cited to lend colour to some project that had really been suggested by other considerations; it was seldom that they furnished a motive for any important undertaking. Rudolf, Adolf, and Albert (though none of them despised the imperial dignity) busied themselves almost exclusively with German affairs. The Empire, it is true, proved a fatal lure to Henry VII; it was the cause of much trouble to Lewis the Bavarian; and in the fifteenth century it enticed Sigismund into ambitious undertakings which, in the interests of Germany, had been better left alone. The connexion with the Empire, moreover, brought the German King into a peculiar and embarrassing relationship with the Pope. But there was no need of an imperial crown to tempt the kings of that time into foolish foreign adventure; and in the later Middle Ages the Holy Roman Emperors were no more likely to fall out with the Papacy than were the Kings of France or England. In the past, no doubt, the Empire had done great mischief to the German monarchy, but it did little more, partly because that monarchy was so weak that there was not much left for it to lose.

For the years we are surveying revealed plainly the plight of the German Crown. The kings of the time were all capable and vigorous men; but none had the least chance of doing what Henry the Fowler had done 350 years before. Feudal disintegration had gone too far; and for another thing, there was lacking the public spirit that in 918 had led the magnates of Germany to choose as their king the strongest man in the country. Three times did the Electors deliberately bestow the crown on men of small account, and when, to gratify their hatred of Adolf, they were constrained to elect the powerful Albert, they soon tried to get rid of him. It was vain for any king at this time to try to secure the succession for his son.

After the Interregnum the German Crown was of necessity weak. Frederick II had dissipated its resources and impaired its authority by his policy towards the princes; and, in the confused years after his “deposition,” royal lands had been seized, royal rights usurped. Rudolf, to do him justice, really tried to get back what had been lost; and his prospects seemed fairly good when in 1274 the Diet authorised him to take into his hand all royal domain held by Frederick II at the date of his “deposition.” The measure afforded a legal pretext for Rudolf’s proceedings against Ottokar, whose principal acquisitions were alleged to be usurpations of imperial fiefs or domain. Rudolf also recovered a good deal of royal domain in small fragments scattered here and there, and several imperial cities were rescued from princely rule or control. His systematic use of Landvögte in the administration of the domain showed, moreover, that he recognised the value of a local organisation such as had enabled the kings of France to keep vast territories under their direct rule. But the need of conciliating the princes drove him, notably before his campaigns against Ottokar, to exempt many of them from the effect of the Diet’s decree; and where he sought to enforce it he often met stubborn resistance, which he sometimes failed to overcome. In the last quarter of the thirteenth century even a poor knight might have a stronghold far more formidable than those “adulterine” castles which Henry Plantagenet, little more than a hundred years before, had destroyed so easily. The remaining resources of the Crown, in short, were inadequate for the recovery of what had been lost, and the hereditary Habsburg possessions were not sufficient to supply the deficiency, even if Rudolf had been willing to risk them in such a cause. Perhaps, indeed, he foresaw that what little he laboriously achieved would be in great part undone by his successors when bargaining for election. Though Adolf and Albert were not indifferent to the duty of restoring to the Crown lost lands and rights, it is not astonishing that their efforts to that end were less resolute than those of Rudolf.

Perhaps the most valuable asset of the Crown was its right to dispose of vacant fiefs that lacked heirs. Unfortunately, it was now established custom that escheated or confiscated fiefs must not be kept in the king’s hand, but must be granted to a new lord. The recipient might be a member of the king’s family, even his son, so that Rudolf’s treatment of the forfeited possessions of Ottokar was constitutionally correct. Had the crown been hereditary, the rule would scarcely have harmed its power. As things were, it made the crown a prize worth seeking, but encouraged a king to exploit his prerogative in the interests of his family rather than of the nation.

As the revenue from the royal domain was insignificant, as the imperial cities paid their dues reluctantly, resenting and resisting all extraordinary demands, and as all the kings save Albert were poor when elected, they could rarely afford big enterprises. Feudal military service was no longer exacted from the princes, and when waging war the king had to rely on his personal resources or bargain with over-mighty subjects for their support. At this very time Edward I of England was converting the English feudal host into a paid volunteer army, to his own great advantage and the vast increase of English power. But the King of the Romans lacked an Exchequer like Edward’s, and when Adolf went to war with France, it was as the subsidised ally of the English King.

Thus the German monarchy, though its life had been saved, was not restored to health. It was not negligible. It still had prestige; its pre­rogatives were still worth something. Possessing the crown, the Habsburgs and the Luxemburgs quickly sprang into the front rank of German princes. Even poor Adolf, once he was king, became formidable. But the crown was an investment, to be bought in the hope that it would eventually yield a little profit to the purchaser.

It was the Electors who drew most benefit from the continued existence of the crown. The years under review consolidated their position and powers. There was now no doubt that there were seven Electors, though it was not quite certain who the seven should be. One debatable point, however, was settled by Rudolf’s formal recognition of the electoral right of the King of Bohemia. Some writers have argued that the Electors at this time regarded themselves as a standing Council of the Empire, whose duty it was to deliberate together in times of crisis and if occasion arose to constrain the king to good behaviour. But there is no real evidence that the Electors thought thus of themselves; between elections they acted as seven individuals, and it was only when the throne was vacant that they worked together. The status and prospects of the Electors were to be much affected by the reign of Lewis the Bavarian and still more by that of Charles IV; and further consideration of the subject may be deferred until it becomes necessary to examine the effect of the Golden Bull.

Considering the weakness of the central government, it is surprising that Rudolf and his successors, when dealing with other potentates, upheld the rights and dignity of Germany as well as they did. All of them, of course, had much to do with the Papacy. The relations between the regnum and the sacerdotium were not as simple as they had formerly been. The kings after 1273, not caring very much about imperial authority and often needing papal support for their domestic ambitions, were disposed to be conciliatory towards the Church and to accept contentions and theories which their predecessors had denied. Thus it was seldom disputed that the relation of the sun to the moon was an analogue of the relation of the Papacy to the Empire, and, as we have seen, the doctrine of the Translation of the Empire was regarded with equanimity. Neverthe­less, it is fair to add, papal claims which were new, or believed to be so, were never expressly conceded. As for the Popes of this period, they rarely wanted to destroy the Empire or even to weaken it. They needed it as a counterpoise to France—a consideration which greatly influenced the most Francophil of all, Clement V. Consequently, even when they voiced the most extreme pretensions, they did not press them persistently.

The main source of disagreement between the two powers was the papal “approbation” of a newly-elected king. During these forty years every king as a matter of course wrote to the Pope, asking for favour and support, and expressing the hope that in due time he might receive from the Vicar of Christ the imperial crown. Each king was “approved,” though only after he had taken a sacramentum fidelitatis, while Rudolf’s approval was preceded by elaborate negotiations and the grant of important concessions by the king, especially in Italy, and in the case of Albert some years passed before Boniface VIII would recognise him. What was the significance of this “approval” and this oath? The Papacy maintained that the election of a King of the Romans had no legal effect until the Holy See had approved it, and that in the meantime the king-elect had no right to exercise royal authority. On the other hand, the kings and Electors of the time, almost without exception, held that election followed by coronation at Aix-la-Chapelle warranted the exercise not only of royal but also of imperial power, and that nothing was sought of the Pope but his friendly countenance and support, the refusal of which, however regrettable, would in no wise impair the king’s rights. Usually both sides used ambiguous language when touching upon this question, neither wishing to force a quarrel or to give anything away. But Boniface VIII, and also Clement V after his breach with the Emperor, stated the papal view in uncompromising terms; while after Henry’s death Clement tried to act upon the contention that, when the Empire was vacant, its administration belonged to the Papacy—a claim which was to have practical results of great moment in the reign of Lewis the Bavarian. With respect to the sacramentum fidelitatis, the question was whether it was an oath of fealty, such as a vassal took to his lord, or merely a promise of loyal support such as any Christian might fittingly make to the head of the Church. Canonists had long maintained that it was feudal in character, like the oath which the King of Naples took to the Papacy; the Popes of this time accepted this interpretation as a matter of course, and when Clement V urged it strongly in his quarrel with Henry VII, he was putting forward nothing new. There is no doubt that the customary oath was virtually identical with the one sworn by Otto I to Pope John XII and was not feudal at all. Albert I, it is true, took an oath couched in more submissive terms, and, though it is not necessarily feudal in character, there is no doubt that Boniface VIII construed it as such and that Albert expected him to do so. Imperial compliance with papal pretensions never went farther. But Albert’s oath was not repeated by Henry VII, and although before setting out for Italy Henry swore to protect and defend the Holy See, recognising the superiority of the sacerdotium to the imperium, his undertakings fell short of an oath of fealty.

In general, it must be recognised that the kings of this period were too ready to shelter behind ambiguities and to accept theories which, if harmless in themselves, might be used as bases for claims very damaging to the Empire. The doctrine of the “Translation” was dangerous; it was imprudent to concede that the Empire was the “lesser light” in the firmament, even though Dante for a while was willing to do so; but it was suicidal to admit, as Rudolf and Albert did, that the Electors owed their existence and rights to the Papacy, a belief which, under Rudolf, was actually countenanced by the Electors themselves. It can hardly be disputed that in the verbal skirmishes of these forty years the Papacy had on the whole the better of it.

There were, nevertheless, several able publicists who at this time vigor­ously defended the authority and rights of the Empire against the Papacy. The most famous was of course Dante, whose De Monarchia was probably, to the medieval mind, the most cogent vindication of the Empire ever written. And just at the end of the reign of Henry VII the imperialists opened a counter-attack, with ammunition mainly supplied by the civil lawyers of Italy. In a circular announcing his coronation in Rome—a verbose and pompous document—Henry used phrases which might be construed as a claim to the lordship of the whole world, including the Church. Later, while not going so far, Henry, in reply to the Pope’s claim of feudal overlordship, urged that all temporal authority belonged to the Emperor and that he received it direct from God. It was the beginning of a great imperial offensive, which under Lewis the Bavarian was to assume a practical importance far greater than it possessed in the reign of Henry.

Of more serious consequence than all this talk were the relations between the Empire and France. It was under Philip the Fair that France em­barked on the policy of fomenting dissension in Germany and taking advantage of the consequent confusion to nibble at her territory. The German kings of the time have been bitterly denounced for failing to frustrate and chastise the national enemy. They were aware of the danger and sometimes tried to check it, Adolf’s alliance with Edward of England being the most ambitious step towards this end. Albert of Austria, however, was ready to ally with the King of France against his own sovereign, and when he himself sat on the throne, he maintained his friendly relations with Philip for several years. Henry VII’s Italian enterprise of course prevented him from doing much to protect the western border against France, even if he seriously wished to do so. It should be understood, however, that Philip the Fair did little actual harm to Germany itself. Lyons and Viviers were definitely annexed by France, and it looked as though Franche Comté had fallen under the lordship of the French king; but these encroachments were at the expense of the kingdom of Arles, not of Germany, and in Arles imperial authority had for generations been little more than nominal. It was indeed a loss to Germany when the Count of Bar did homage to Philip for his lands west of the Meuse, and when the city of Toul placed itself under Philip’s protection; and it was a blow to the German Crown when several princes of the west allied with him against Adolf and declared themselves vassals of France. But these traitors were simply seeking a momentary advantage, and few princes can have wished to subject themselves to the hard yoke of Philip the Fair in preference to the negligible overlordship of a King of the Romans. The sequel showed that it was only a very favourable conjunction of circumstances that enabled Philip to gain so much; his successors, troubled by domestic discord or foreign invasion, could not follow up his successes or even retain all that he had won; and it was not until the reign of Louis XI that France again became a serious menace to the territorial integrity of Germany. It is probable, too, that if French encroachments had become more serious, German resentment, which showed itself more than once, would have stimulated a national resistance. Far more perilous than Philip’s intrigues, from the German standpoint, was the advance of French culture within the German kingdom. Brabant, Hainault, Luxemburg, Lorraine were becoming more French than German in language, customs, and institutions. Henry VII spoke French as his native tongue. At the marriage of his son John and the Bohemian princess Elizabeth it was remarked that much French, some Czech, and little German could be heard, and from what was said and done it seemed as if those taking part in the ceremonies were all foreigners. It was, in the main, a French-speaking army which Henry led to Italy. This Gallicisation of western Germany was of course nothing new, and no political force could have stopped it.

What German culture was losing in the west it was gaining in the east. French encroachment at the expense of Germans was more than balanced by German conquest and colonisation at the expense of Slavs. The greatest days of the medieval Drang nach Osten were indeed just over; but the movement was still strong, and it was during these forty years that the Teutonic Knights completed the conquest of East Prussia, acquired the lordship of East Pomerania, and began the erection of Marienburg. It was not merely that Germans were occupying new territory; Germany’s political centre of gravity was moving eastward. Henceforth it was on their possessions in the east that the leading German dynasties were to base their power. Gone was the greatness of Swabia; but eastward of it the Wittelsbachs remained strong, and there was still a formidable duchy of Bavaria. The Habsburgs, hitherto petty counts of the south-west, were now mighty potentates on the eastern frontier. Throughout the four reigns that we have been surveying there was intrigue and dispute concerning the succession to Bohemia, the final victor being the House of Luxemburg, which was thus enabled, after Henry VII’s death, to retain its place in the front rank of German families. The old duchies of Saxony and Franconia were now shattered; but the Ascanians and the Wettins, in virtue of the Marks over which they ruled, were as powerful as any prince of the centre or west. Nor should it be overlooked that several Slavonic princes of much influence, just within or just without the bounds of the kingdom, were becoming Germanised. But for the great Rhenish archbishoprics, the west of Germany would have carried little weight in the politics of the country.

It is a commonplace that it has seldom been safe to draw inferences about the state of the German people from the state of their central government. For the Crown, times were bad in the forty years that followed the succession of Rudolf of Habsburg, but to the ordinary German they seemed much better than they had been for a long while. There was still, nevertheless, a great deal of violent disorder, and in trying to check it the kings relied mainly upon Landfrieden, a poor substitute for strong-handed retribution. The term Landfriede was used in more than one sense. It might mean simply a royal ordinance embodying regulations for the establishment and maintenance of public order. The term, however, was increasingly used to denote a league for preserving peace, whether founded at the instance of a great potentate or not. Such an organisation commonly consisted of the temporal and spiritual magnates, knights and cities of a specified area, each member undertaking (usually for a specified time) not to wage war on any other, to observe certain rules in the interest of public order, and to assist, whether by money or by men, in chastising disloyal members or troublesome outsiders. Scores of these Landfrieden were organised in Germany during the two centuries following the Interregnum. Their very number indicates that they were usually ineffective, but many did useful work and lasted a long time, though all broke down sooner or later.

The spirit of self-help which gave rise to many of these Landfrieden produced other associations destined to greater success and renown, though just as humble in their origin. It was the reign of Adolf that witnessed the lowly beginnings of the Swiss Confederation. This, indeed, was something out of the common, for united action on the part of peasants was difficult. The growth of the Hansa, at the other end of Germany, was less astonishing, for it was in the cities that co-operative enterprise found the most congenial atmosphere. The kings of this period, while not deliberately hostile to the burghers, were as a rule inclined to take the side of the princes against them; but the cities shewed that they were quite capable of protecting their own interests, though it must be ad­mitted that they frequently displayed a selfish indifference towards the welfare of Germany as a whole. The best days of the German cities, it is true, were yet to come, and the favours bestowed on them by Lewis the Bavarian were to modify their attitude towards the Crown. Already, however, the best and most scientific government in Northern Europe was to be found among them. What they had most to fear was internal dissension, and at the end of the thirteenth century many of them, both imperial and princely, were tom by feuds between the merchant aristocracy and the craft gilds, a conflict which sometimes ended in the introduc­tion of a democratic element into the civic constitution, but often in the defeat of the artisans. But, whatever their troubles and defects, the German cities were already proving that the weakness of the central government was not incompatible with the economic progress of the German people.

While the cities are the most attractive feature of the Germany of late medieval times, it would be unjust to dismiss the princes as so many self-seeking ruffians. It is doubtless true that high ability and lofty motives were not common among them. The best of them, however, brought to their lands a measure of order and prosperity. Albert of Austria made his eastern territories more peaceful than they had ever been. Brandenburg became very powerful and wealthy under the last Ascanians, who inherited the administrative capacity of the earlier margraves of the line, and strove, notwithstanding the growing power of the feudal nobility, to continue their paternal rule. Where the princes were less capable, their subjects often profited by securing political concessions. Many a Landstadt enjoyed privileges which left it no reason to envy imperial cities; and it was in the years immediately after the Interregnum than Landtage first acquired real importance, the Estates of Bavaria being conspicuously influential. The Landtage, indeed, were soon to be of more practical consequence than the Reichstag.

The period under review was a time of much outward splendour. For a love of extravagant pageantry it would be hard to excel the German kings and princes of these years. Usually their means did not justify their ostentation. Nevertheless, the country at large was not unprosperous. Nearly all the cultivable land of Germany was being exploited. There were more villages in Germany then than now, and in certain regions, notably in the west, there was some congestion of population. On the whole, the peasants were well off. The number of free cultivators was increasing, and even the unfree, their obligations fixed by custom, were profiting by the general rise in prices.

At the opening of the fourteenth century the Germans themselves were certainly not pessimistic. To the average man the Empire had seldom been more than a resounding name, and he did not understand that it had lost whatever grandeur it had possessed. The king was to him a great personage; he did not share the modem historian’s knowledge of the weakness of the Crown; on the contrary, he knew that it had recently been revived, and that the condition of Germany, however disorderly, was better than it had been during the Interregnum. The Germans of the time had a very good conceit of themselves, which appeared in the oft-proclaimed opinion that they surpassed all other peoples in military prowess, a belief which seldom had less warrant than at this moment. At all events, the disunion of Germany had caused among the Germans no such demoralisa­tion as afflicted the French a century later during the feud between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs. Throughout the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the morale of the German people, though it naturally suffered, remained astonishingly high.