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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

With the troops of the Suabian League


next step was to rescue Austria from the Hungarians. An interview between Frederick III. and Matthias Corvinus was arranged, but before it could take place the latter died, in April, 1490. Maximilian, with the troops of the Suabian League, retook Vienna, and even advanced into Hungary, the crown of which country he claimed for himself, but was forced to conclude peace at Presburg, the following year, without obtaining it. Austria, however, was completely restored to the house of Hapsburg.

[Sidenote: 1493. DEATH OF FREDERICK III.]

Before the year 1491 came to an end, Maximilian suffered a new humiliation. The last Duke of Brittany (in Western France) had died, leaving, like Charles the Bold of Burgundy, a single daughter, Anna, as his only heir. Maximilian, who had been a widower since 1482, applied for her hand, which she promised to him: the marriage ceremony was even performed by proxy. But Charles VIII. of France, although betrothed to Maximilian's young daughter, Margaret, now fourteen years old, saw in this new alliance a great danger for his kingdom; so he prevented Anna from leaving Brittany, married her himself, and sent Margaret home to Austria. Maximilian entered into an alliance with Henry VII. of England, secured the support of the Suabian League, and made war upon France. The Netherlands, nevertheless, refused to aid him; whereupon Henry VII. withdrew from the alliance, and the matter was settled

by a treaty of peace in 1493, which left the duchy of Burgundy in the hands of France.

Frederick III. had already given up the government of Germany (that is, what little he exercised) to his son. He settled at Linz and devoted his days to religion and alchemy. He had a habit of thrusting back his right foot and closing the doors behind him with it; but one day, kicking out too violently, he so injured his leg that the physicians were obliged to amputate it. This accident hastened his death, which took place in August, 1493. He was seventy-eight years old, and had reigned fifty-three years, wretchedly enough--but of this fact he was not aware. He evidently considered himself a great and successful monarch. All his books were stamped with the vowels, A. E. I. O. U.--which was a mystery to every one, until the meaning was discovered after his death. The letters are the initials of the words, _Alles Erdreich Ist Oesterreich Unterthan_, "All Earth is subject to Austria"!

Two events occurred during Frederick's reign, one of which illustrated the declining power of the Roman Church, while the other, unnoticed in the confusion of civil war, was destined to be the chief weapon for the overthrow of the priestly power. The first of these was the fall of the Eastern Empire, when Sultan Mohammed II. conquered Constantinople in 1453. Although this catastrophe had been long foreseen, the news of it nevertheless created a powerful excitement throughout Europe. One-fourth of the zeal expended on any one of the Crusades would have saved Turkey to Christendom: the German Empire, alone, could have easily repelled the Ottoman invasion; but each petty ruler thought only of himself, and the Popes were solely interested in preventing the Reformation of the Church. The latter, now--especially Pius II. (AEneas Sylvius)--were very eager for a new Crusade for the recovery of Constantinople: there was much talk, but no action, and finally even the talk ceased.

[Sidenote: 1440.]

The other event was a simple invention, which is chiefly remarkable for not having been made long before. The great use of cards for gambling first led to the employment of wooden blocks, upon which the figures were cut and then printed in colors. Wood-engraving, of a rude kind, gradually came into use, and as early as the year 1420 Lawrence Coster, of Harlem, in Holland, produced entire books, each page of which was engraved upon a single block. But John Gutenberg, of Mayence, about the year 1436, originated the plan of casting movable types and setting them together to form words. His chief difficulty was in discovering a proper metal of which to cast them, and a kind of ink which would give a clear impression. Paper made of linen had already been in use, in Germany, for about a hundred and thirty years.

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