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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

And naturally gravitated towards the Schmalkald League


Such was the strange and scandalous document to which Luther, Melanchthon, and Bucer appended their names.

Of course the thing could not be kept secret, and the moral effect of the revelation was disastrous among friends and foes. The Evangelical princes were especially aggrieved; and it was proposed that the Landgrave should be tried for bigamy and punished according to the laws of the Empire. When the matter was brought before the Emperor, he decided that no marriage had taken place, and the sole effect of the decision of the theologians was to deceive a poor maiden.(358)

Philip, humiliated and sore, isolated from his friends, was an instrument ready to the Emperor's hand in his plan to weaken and, if possible, destroy the Schmalkald League. The opportunity soon arrived. The father of William Duke of Cleves Juliers and Berg had been elected by the Estates of Guelders to be their sovereign, in defiance of a treaty which had secured the succession to Charles. The father died, and the son succeeded almost immediately after the treaty had been signed. This created a powerful anti-Hapsburg State in close proximity to the Emperor's possessions in the Netherlands. William of Cleves had married his sister Sibylla to John Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, and naturally gravitated towards the Schmalkald League. In 1541 an arrangement was come to between the Emperor and Philip, according to which Philip guaranteed to

prevent the Duke of Cleves from joining the League, or at least from being supported by it against the Emperor, and in return Philip was promised indemnity for all past deeds, and advancement in the Emperor's service. Young Maurice of Ducal Saxony, who had succeeded his father in the Duchy (August 18th, 1541), and had married Philip's daughter, also joined in this bargain. The Emperor had thus divided the great Protestant League; for the Elector of Saxony refused to desert his brother-in-law. In 1543 the Emperor fell upon the unbefriended Duke, totally defeated him, and took Guelders from him, while the German Protestants, hindered by Philip, saw one of their most important allies overthrown. This gave rise to recriminations, which effectually weakened the Protestant cause.

In 1544, Charles concluded a peace with France (the Peace of Crepy, November 19th), and was free to turn his attention to affairs in Germany. He forced the Pope in the same month to give way about a General Council, which was fixed to meet in March 1545. The Emperor meant this Council to be an instrument in his hands to subdue both the Protestants and the Pope. He meant it to reform the Church in the sense of freeing it from many of the corruptions which had found their way into it, and especially in diminishing the power of the Roman Curia; and in this he was supported by the Spanish bishops and by the greater part of Latin Christendom. But the Pope was the more skilful diplomatist, and out-generalled the Emperor. The Council was summoned to meet at Trent, a purely Italian town, though nominally within Germany. It was arranged that all its members must be present personally and not by deputies, which meant that the Italian bishops had a permanent majority; and the choice of Dominicans and Jesuits as the leading theologians made it plain that no doctrinal concessions would be made to the Protestants. From the first the Protestants refused to be bound in any way by its decisions, and Charles soon perceived that the instrument he had counted on had broken in his hands. If ecclesiastical unity was to be maintained in Germany, it could only be by the use of force. There is no doubt that the Emperor was loath to proceed to this last extremity; but his correspondence with his sister Mary and with his brother Ferdinand shows that he had come to regard it as a necessity by the middle of 1545.


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