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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Character of Ferdinand of Styria


The history of Germany, from the accession of Rudolf II. to the end of the century, is marked by no political event of importance. Spain was fully occupied in her hopeless attempt to subdue the Netherlands: in France Henry of Navarre was fighting the Duke of Guise; Hungary and Austria were left to check the advance of the Turkish invasion, and nearly all Germany enjoyed peace for upwards of fifty years. During this time, population and wealth greatly increased, and life in the cities and at courts became luxurious and more or less immoral. The arts and sciences began to flourish, the people grew in knowledge, yet the spirit out of which the Reformation sprang seemed almost dead. The elements of good and evil were strangely mixed together--intelligence and superstition, piety and bigotry, civilization and barbarism were found side by side. As formerly in her history, it appeared nearly impossible for Germany to grow by a gradual and healthy development: her condition must be bad enough to bring on a violent convulsion, before it could be improved.

Such was the state of affairs at the end of the sixteenth century. In spite of the material prosperity of the country, there was a general feeling among the people that evil days were coming; but the most desponding prophet could hardly have predicted worse misfortunes than they were called upon to suffer during the next fifty years.




Growth of the Calvinistic or "Reformed" Church. --Persecution of Protestants in Styria. --The Catholic League. --The Struggle for the Succession of Cleves. --Rudolf II. set aside. --His Death. --Matthias becomes Emperor. --Character of Ferdinand of Styria. --Revolt in Prague. --War in Bohemia. --Death of Matthias. --Ferdinand besieged in Vienna. --He is Crowned Emperor. --Blindness of the Protestant Princes. --Frederick of the Palatinate chosen King of Bohemia. --Barbarity of Ferdinand II. --The Protestants Crushed in Bohemia and Austria. --Count Mansfeld and Prince Christian of Brunswick. --War in Baden and the Palatinate. --Tilly. --His Ravages. --Miserable Condition of Germany. --Union of the Northern States. --Christian IV. of Denmark. --Wallenstein. --His History. --His Proposition to Ferdinand II.

[Sidenote: 1600.]

The beginning of the seventeenth century found the Protestants in Germany still divided. The followers of Zwingli, it is true, had accepted the Augsburg Confession as the shortest means of acquiring freedom of worship; but the Calvinists, who were now rapidly increasing, were not willing to take this step, nor were the Lutherans any more tolerant towards them than at the beginning. The Dutch, in conquering their independence of Spain, gave the Calvinistic, or, as it was called in Germany, the Reformed Church, a new political importance; and it was not long before the Palatinate of the Rhine, Baden, Hesse-Cassel and Anhalt also joined it. The Protestants were split into two strong and unfriendly sects at the very time when the Catholics, under the teaching of the Jesuits, were uniting against them.

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