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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Grumbach was tortured and executed


Maximilian

II.'s reign of twelve years was quiet and uneventful. Only one disturbance of the internal peace occurred, and it is worthy of note as the last feud, after so many centuries of free fighting between the princes. An independent knight, William von Grumbach, having been dispossessed of his lands by the Bishop of Wuerzburg, waylaid the latter, who was slain in the fight which occurred. Grumbach fled to France, but soon allied himself with several dissatisfied Franconian knights, and finally persuaded John Frederick of Saxony (the smaller Dukedom) to espouse his cause. The latter was outlawed by the Emperor, yet he obstinately determined to resist, in the hope of wresting the Electorate of Saxony from the younger line and restoring it to his own family. He was besieged by the Imperial army in Gotha, in 1567, and taken prisoner. Grumbach was tortured and executed, and John Frederick kept in close confinement until his death, twenty-eight years afterwards. His sons, however, were allowed to succeed him. The severity with which this breach of the internal peace was punished put an end forever, to petty wars in Germany: the measures adopted by the Diet of 1495, under Maximilian I., were at last recognized as binding laws.

[Sidenote: 1576.]

The Revolt of the Netherlands, which broke out immediately after Maximilian II.'s accession to the throne, had little, if any, political relation to Germany. Under Charles V. the

Netherlands had been quite separated from any connection with the German Empire, and he was free to introduce the Inquisition there and persecute the Protestants with all the barbarity demanded by Rome. Philip II. followed the same policy: the torture, fire and sword were employed against the people until they arose against the intolerable Spanish rule, and entered upon that struggle of nearly forty years which ended in establishing the independence of Holland.

On the 12th of October, 1576, at a Diet where he had declared his policy in religious matters to be simply the enforcement of the Treaty of Augsburg, Maximilian II. suddenly fell dead. According to the custom which they had now followed for 140 years, of keeping the Imperial dignity in the house of Hapsburg, the Electors immediately chose his son, Rudolf II., an avowed enemy of the Protestants. Unlike his father, his nature was cold, stern and despotic: he was gloomy, unsocial and superstitious, and the circumstance that he aided and encouraged the great astronomers, Kepler and Tycho de Brahe, was probably owing to his love for astrology and alchemy. He was subject to sudden and violent attacks of passion, which were followed by periods of complete indifference to his duties. Like Frederick III., a hundred years before, he concerned himself with the affairs of Austria, his direct inheritance, rather than with those of the Empire; and thus, although internal wars had been suppressed, he encouraged the dissensions in religion and politics, which were gradually bringing on a more dreadful war than Germany had ever known before.

One of Rudolf II.'s first measures was to take from the Austrian Protestants the right of worship which his father had allowed them. He closed their churches, removed them from all the offices they held, and, justifying himself by the Treaty of Augsburg that whoever ruled the people should choose their religious faith, did his best to make Austria wholly Catholic. Many Catholic princes and priests, emboldened by his example, declared that the articles promulgated by the Council of Trent abolished the Treaty of Augsburg and gave them the right to put down heresy by force. When the Archbishop of Cologne became a Protestant and married, the German Catholics called upon Alexander of Parma, who came from the Netherlands with a Spanish army, took possession of the former's territory, and installed a new Catholic Archbishop, without resistance on the part of the Protestant majority of Germany. Thus the hate and bitterness on both sides increased from year to year, without culminating in open hostilities.


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