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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

In the priestly territories of Cologne

[Sidenote: 1559.]

At this time, although the Catholics had a majority in the Diet (since there were nearly 100 priestly members), the great majority of the German people had become Protestants. In all Northern Germany, except Westphalia, very few Catholic congregations were left: even the Archbishops of Bremen and Magdeburg, and the Bishops of Luebeck, Verden and Halberstadt had joined the Reformation. In the priestly territories of Cologne, Treves, Mayence, Worms and Strasburg, the population was divided; the Palatinate of the Rhine, Baden and Wuertemberg were almost entirely Protestant, and even in Upper-Austria and Styria the Catholics were in a minority. Bavaria was the main stay of Rome: her princes, of the house of Wittelsbach, were the most zealous and obedient champions of the Pope in all Germany. The Roman Church, however, had not given up the struggle: she was quietly and shrewdly preparing for one more desperate effort to recover her lost ground, and the Protestants, instead of perceiving the danger and uniting themselves more closely, were quarrelling among themselves concerning theological questions upon which they have never yet agreed.

There could be no better evidence that the reign of Charles V. had weakened instead of strengthening the German Empire, than the losses and the humiliations which immediately followed. Ferdinand I. gave up half of Hungary to Sultan Solyman, and purchased the right to rule the other half by an annual payment of 300,000 ducats. About the same time, the Emperor's lack of power and the selfishness of the Hanseatic cities occasioned a much more important loss. The provinces on the eastern shore of the Baltic, which had been governed by the Order of the Brothers of the Sword after the downfall of the German Order, were overrun and terribly devastated by the Czar Ivan of Russia. The Grand Master of the Order appealed to Luebeck and Hamburg for aid, which was refused; then, in 1559, he called upon the Diet of the German Empire and received vague promises of assistance, which had no practical value. Then, driven to desperation, he turned to Poland, Sweden and Denmark, all of which countries took instant advantage of his necessities. The Baltic provinces were defended against Russia--and lost to Germany. The Swedes and Danes took Esthonia, the Poles took Livonia, and only the little province of Courland remained as an independent State, the Grand Master becoming its first Duke.


Ferdinand I. died in 1564, and was immediately succeeded by his eldest son, Maximilian II. The latter was in the prime of life, already popular for his goodness of heart, his engaging manners and his moderation and justice. The Protestants cherished great hopes, at first, that he would openly join them; but, although he so favored and protected them in Austria that Vienna almost became a Protestant city, he refused to leave the Catholic Church, and even sent his son Rudolf to be educated in Spain, under the bitter and bigoted influence of Philip II. His daughter was married to Charles IX. of France, and when he heard of the massacre of St. Bartholomew (in August, 1572) he cried out: "Would to God that my son-in-law had asked counsel of me! I would so faithfully have persuaded him as a father, that he certainly would never have done this thing." He also endeavored, but in vain, to soften the persecutions and cruelties of Philip II.'s reign in the Netherlands.

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