Under any circumstances the Lutheran army must have broken up.
Continuing Protestant Struggle Against Charles V – The Smalkaldic War,
our selection from The Emperor Charles V (2nd. edition) by Edward Armstrong published in 1910. The selection is presented in four easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Protestant Struggle Against Charles V – The Smalkaldic War.
Charles now took the offensive, pushing the enemy slowly up the Danube, and steadily forcing his way toward Ulm. The strongly Protestant Count Palatine of Neuburg, Otto Henry, was the first prince to lose his territory, which, indeed, his debts had already forced him to desert.
The Lutherans now showed more fight, and during the last fortnight of October the advance came almost to a standstill. Charles was ill, money and supplies were falling short, Spaniards and Italians were suffering from the cold rains of the Danube valley. The papal contingent was demoralized for want of pay; three thousand men deserted in a day, whereas the Lutherans were reinforced. Yet Charles, in spite of professional advice, refused to go into winter quarters. He counted on divisions in the League, on the selfish interests of the towns, on the penury of the princes, and reckoned aright. The fighting was never more than skirmishing; not arms but ducats were deciding the issue; the fate of war was literally hanging on a fortnight’s pay.
The Emperor had said that a league between towns and princes could never last. The financial burden pressed mainly on the cities, and they refused to raise further subsidies. The richer classes had always disliked the war; the great merchants were often, as the Fuggers of Augsburg, zealous Catholics. Trade was at a standstill, and they could protest that all their capital was at the Emperor’s mercy, at Antwerp, at Seville, in the Indies, or else in Portugal. It was convenient to forget the brisk traffic which still continued with friendly Lyons. Zeal for the Lutheran cause seemed limited to a Catholic, Piero Strozzi the Florentine exile, who in his hatred for the Hapsburgs was vainly spending his fortune on revenge, striving for aid from Venice, negotiating loans from France. There was, moreover, no real solidarity between Northern and Southern Germany. Neither the Protestant princes nor the wealthy cities of the Baltic had as yet stirred a finger for the cause. Under any circumstances the Lutheran army must have broken up. The leaders had resolved to retire to the Rhineland for the winter, live at free quarters on the ecclesiastical princes, and renew the struggle in the spring.
At this critical moment Maurice of Saxony came into action. Hitherto his conduct had been ambiguous. This was probably due less to deliberate deceit than to genuine hesitation. The incompetence of the Lutheran leaders and Ferdinand’s expressed intention of invading Ernestine Saxony determined him. Persuading his estates with difficulty that it was necessary to save the Electorate for the house of Wettin, he undertook to execute the ban in his cousin’s state. His reward was the title of elector and the Ernestine territories. The correspondence of Charles and his brother on the subject was characteristic of both. Ferdinand, always greedy of territory, had bargained for partition, but Charles persuaded him to be content with John Frederick’s Bohemian fiefs.
Charles, cautious and suspicious, was unwilling to grant the title until Maurice had proved his loyalty; Ferdinand, more impetuous, induced him to pay the bribe and give credit for the service. The Albertine and Austrian troops soon overran the defenseless land. This determined the manner of the Danubian campaign, and the Saxon phase of the war began. John Frederick must withdraw his troops to defend their homes, and he plundered en route the neutral ecclesiastical territories through which he passed. “In a papal country,” he told the burgomaster of Aschaffenburg, “there is nothing neutral.” The campaign of the Danube was suddenly over. Philip of Hesse retired sullenly to his two wives, as Schartlin put it. As he passed through Frankfurt he hoisted banners with the crucifix, flails, and mattocks, to incite the lower classes to revolt; he had failed to bend the powers above him, he would fain stir Acheron.
Charles could now complete the subjection of Southern Germany. Granvelle, the last to be convinced of the necessity of war, was the first convert to the policy of peace, which the Landgrave and the towns desired. Peace would relieve the financial strain and prevent the Germans from becoming desperate; peace would enable Charles to turn his arms against the Turks. Charles thought it undignified to negotiate with an army in the field: peace entailed the abandonment of Maurice, and henceforth no other prince would dare serve him; Augsburg and Ulm, if they were persuaded that he had no wish to establish a tyranny in Germany, were likely to capitulate, and after a victory his generosity in leaving Germany her liberty would appear the greater. Charles did not at this moment fear the Turk, and it was in his power at any moment to propitiate the French. Pedro de Soto urged the continuance of the war, to avert the danger of a papal-French combination, which would be the natural result of Paul’s indignation at a compromise with heretics.
The deserted princes and towns of South Germany now one by one made submission. Very pathetic was the Emperor’s meeting with the Elector Palatine, the friend of his youth, the whilom lover of his sister, the husband of his niece. Charles did not extend his hand: the Elector made three low bows, after which Charles drew out a paper which he read and then spoke to him in French — “It has grieved me most of all that you in your old age should have been my enemies’ companion, when we have been brought up together in our youth.” The Elector answered almost in a whisper, and left “like a skinned cat,” the Emperor half raising his cap, but no one else. He was ordered to go to Granvelle, and the minister played the doctor and healed the wound. He returned with tears in his eyes, and then Charles forgave him. “My cousin, I am content that your past deserts toward me should cancel the errors which you have recently committed.” Henceforth the old friendship was renewed.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history