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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Henry Raspe and William of Holland


The

events which followed the death of Konrad IV. illustrate the corrupt condition of both Church and State at that time. The money which Pope Innocent IV. so freely expended in favor of the anti-kings, Henry Raspe and William of Holland, had already taught the Electors the advantage of selling their votes: so, when William was slain by the farmers of Friesland, and no German prince seemed to care much for the title of Emperor (since each already had independent power over his own territory), the high dignity so recently possessed by Frederick II., was put up at auction. Two bidders made their appearance, Richard of Cornwall, brother of Henry III. of England, and king Alphonso of Castile, surnamed "the Wise." The Archbishop of Cologne was the business agent of the former: he received 12,000 silver marks for himself, and eight or nine thousand apiece for the Dukes of Bavaria, the Archbishop of Mayence, and several other electors. The Archbishop of Treves, in the name of king Alphonso, offered the king of Bohemia, the Dukes of Saxony and the Margrave of Brandenburg 20,000 marks each. Of course both purchasers were elected, and they were proclaimed kings of Germany almost at the same time. Alphonso never even visited his realm: Richard of Cornwall came to Aix-la-Chapelle, was formally crowned, and returned now and then, whenever the produce of his tin-mines in Cornwall enabled him to pay for an enthusiastic reception by the people. He never attempted, however, to govern Germany, for
he probably had intelligence enough to see that any such attempt would be disregarded.

[Sidenote: 1256.]

This period was afterwards called by the people "the Evil Time when there was no Emperor"--and, in spite of the two kings, who had fairly paid for their titles, it is known in German history as "the Interregnum." It was a period of change and confusion, when each prince endeavored to become an absolute ruler, and the knights, in imitating them, became robbers; when the free cities, encouraged by the example of Italy, united in self-defence, and the masses of the people, although ground to the dust, began to dream again of the rights which their ancestors had possessed a thousand years before.

First of all, the great change wrought in Europe by the Crusades was beginning to be felt by all classes of society. The attempt to retain possession of Palestine, which lasted nearly two hundred years,--from the march of the First Crusade in 1096 to the fall of Acre in 1291,--cost Europe, it is estimated, six millions of lives, and an immense amount of treasure. The Roman Church favored the undertaking in every possible way, since each Crusade instantly and greatly strengthened its power; yet the result was the reverse of what the Church hoped for, in the end. The bravery, intelligence and refined manners of the Saracens made a great impression on the Christian knights, and they soon began to imitate those whom they had at first despised. New branches of learning, especially astronomy, mathematics and medicine, were brought to Europe from the East; more luxurious habits of life, giving rise to finer arts of industry, followed; and commerce, compelled to supply the Crusaders and Christian colonists at such a distance, was rapidly developed to an extent unknown since the fall of the Roman Empire.


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