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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

He is always called Ludwig the Bavarian


Diet unanimously declared that the Emperor had exhausted all proper means of reconciliation, and the Pope alone was responsible for the continuance of the struggle. The excommunication and interdict were pronounced null and void, and severe punishments were decreed for the priests who should heed them in any way. As it was evident that France had created the difficulty, an alliance was concluded with England, whose king, Edward III., appeared before the Diet at Coblentz, and procured the acknowledgment of his claim to the crown of France. Ludwig, as Emperor, sat upon the Royal Seat at Rense, and all the German princes--with the exception of king John of Bohemia, who had gone over to France--made the solemn declaration that the King and Emperor whom they had elected, or should henceforth elect, derived his dignity and power from God, and did not require the sanction of the Pope. They also bound themselves to defend the rights and liberties of the Empire against any assailant whatever. These were brave words: but we shall presently see how much they were worth.

The alliance with England was made for seven years. Ludwig was to furnish German troops for Edward III.'s army, in return for English gold. For a year he was faithful to the contract, then the old superstitious fear came over him, and he listened to the secret counsels of Philip VI. of France, who offered to mediate with the Pope in his behalf. But, after Ludwig had been induced to break

his word with England, Philip, having gained what he wanted, prevented his reconciliation with the Pope. This miserable weakness on the Emperor's part destroyed his authority in Germany. At the same time he was imitating every one of his Imperial predecessors, in trying to strengthen the power of his family. He gave Brandenburg to his eldest son, Ludwig, married his second son, Henry, to Margaret of Tyrol, whom he arbitrarily divorced from her first husband, a son of John of Bohemia, and claimed the sovereignty of Holland as his wife's inheritance.


Ludwig had now become so unpopular, that when another Pope, Clement VI., in April, 1346, hurled against him a new excommunication, expressed in the most horrible terms, the Archbishops made it a pretext for openly opposing the Emperor's rule. They united with the Pope in selecting Karl, the son of John of Bohemia (who fell by the sword of the Black Prince the same summer, at the famous battle of Crecy), and proclaiming him Emperor in Ludwig's stead. All the cities, and the temporal princes, except those of Bohemia and Saxony, stood faithfully by Ludwig, and Karl could gain no advantage over him. He went to France, then to Italy, and finally betook himself to Bohemia, where he was a rival monarch only in name.

In October, 1347, Ludwig, who was then residing in Munich, his favorite capital, was stricken with apoplexy while hunting, and fell dead from his horse. He was sixty-three years old, and had reigned thirty-three years. In German history, he is always called "Ludwig the Bavarian." During the last ten years of his reign many parts of Germany suffered severely from famine, and a pestilence called "the black death" carried off thousands of persons in every city. These misfortunes probably confirmed him in his superstition, and partly account for his shameful and degrading policy. The only service which his long rule rendered to Germany sprang from the circumstance, that, having been supported by the free cities in his war with Frederick of Austria, he was compelled to protect them against the aggressions of the princes afterwards, and in various ways to increase their rights and privileges. There were now 150 such cities, and from this time forward they constituted a separate power in the Empire. They encouraged learning and literature, favored peace and security of travel for the sake of their commerce, organized and protected the mechanic arts, and thus, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, contributed more to the progress of Germany than all her spiritual and temporal rulers.

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