Today’s installment concludes Protestant Struggle Against Charles V – The Smalkaldic War,
our selection from The Emperor Charles V (2nd. edition) by Edward Armstrong published in 1910. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed a selection from the great works of four thousand words. Congratulations!
Previously in Protestant Struggle Against Charles V – The Smalkaldic War.
Muehlberg was little more than a skirmish, and yet it was decisive. In a far more murderous battle the imperialists were beaten. The forces of the maritime towns had compelled Eric of Brunswick to raise the siege of Bremen, and on his retreat had defeated him near Drakenberg with a heavy loss. But victories belated or premature do not turn the scale against an opportune success. The sole result of the battle was to delay the Landgrave’s surrender a little longer. Philip had sworn to die like a mad-dog before he would surrender his fortresses, but he yielded ultimately without a blow. He found discontent rife among his nobles; he was threatened alike from the Netherlands and by the Count of Buren; for months he wavered between capitulation and resistance. Arras assured the nuncio that he was a scoundrel and a coward; that he had implored Maurice to intercede, first for all Lutheran Germany, then for John Frederick and himself, and finally for himself alone. “See what men these are,” added the Bishop later. “Philip has even offered to march against the Duke of Saxony; he is a sorry fellow and of evil nature: he is such a scoundrel that his majesty cannot trust him in any promise that he may make, for he has never kept one yet.”
The imperial minister’s judgment upon the Landgrave was too severe. He long struggled for honor against fear, and, but for his son-in-law, Maurice’s influence might have made a better fight. Maurice had from the first striven to detach Philip from John Frederick, while in turn he was expected by the Landgrave to strike in for a free Germany and a free gospel against the Hungarian hussars and the black Spanish devils. When the two Lutheran leaders parted in November, 1546, on no good terms, Philip warned his son-in-law that the Elector was on the march against him, but begged to intercede with Charles for a general peace. Maurice would have no peace with his Ernestine cousins, but offered to use all his influence on behalf of Philip, who must hasten to decide, for Buren was “on his legs” and the Emperor was an obstinate man. From this moment the Landgrave’s irresolution was piteous; the negotiations crippled all enterprise, and yet he could not persuade himself to abandon his ally, although the natural expiry of the League of Smalkald on February 27, 1547, gave him a tolerable pretext. Maurice waxed impatient at the recurring hesitation, at the perpetual amendment of all suggested terms: Philip could not bargain with Charles as though he were a tradesman; he need have no fear for religion, but he must make it clear to the Emperor and Ferdinand that he was against John Frederick. Then came the defeat of Muehlberg, which at least relieved Philip from obligations to his late ally. It was now the surrender of his fortresses and his artillery that he could not stomach, and the victory of Drakenberg raised his once martial ardor to a final flicker.
The flicker died away, and at length Philip yielded to the pressure of Maurice and Joachim of Brandenburg. Charles insisted on unconditional surrender, but promised the mediators that punishment should not extend to personal injury or perpetual imprisonment — this only, however, on their pledge that Philip should not be informed of these limitations. It was agreed that he should dismantle his fortresses with one exception, surrender his artillery, and pay an indemnity, but that his territory should remain intact and its religion undisturbed.
With Philip’s surrender the war seemed virtually at an end. Magdeburg, indeed, still held out, for fear of falling again under its Catholic Hohenzollern Archbishop. There was no reason to believe that the city would prove more courageous than its fellows. Charles did not dare spend his four thousand Spaniards in the assault, but in this case extravagance would have proved to be economy. When he knew his subject, his opinion was usually well founded; he had little knowledge, however, of North Germany, and confused Magdeburg with Ulm or Augsburg. It were better for Charles had his Spaniards been decimated on its parapet than that they should lord it in security over the churches and taverns of Southern Germany.
Apart from his two last mistakes, in the campaign against the league, Charles, whether as a soldier or statesman, is seen at his best. When once the drums beat to arms there was an end to irresolution. He had that reserve of energy upon which an indolent, lethargic nature can sometimes at a crisis draw. The Netherlands seemed threatened from east to west; yet in perfect calm he ordered his agitated sister Mary to watch her frontiers, but to send every man and gun that could be spared under Buren to the front. Taking advantage of his enemies’ delays, he made with greatly inferior forces the forward move on Ingolstadt, and was there seen under heavy fire “steady as a rock and smiling.” Racked by gout he now sought sleep in his litter behind a bastion, now warmed his aching limbs in a little movable wooden room heated by a stove. In the cold, wet November, when generals and ministers fell sick, and soldiers of every nationality deserted, he resolutely rejected expert advice to withdraw into winter quarters. He would not give his enemies, he said, the least chance of outstaying him. All success, wrote the Marquis of Marignano, was due to the Emperor’s resolution to keep the field. Charles vexed the fiery Buren by shrinking from a general engagement, because he knew that his combinations would break up the league without the risk of a battle. But when once danger really pressed, ill as he was, he marched across Germany, and followed fast upon the Elector’s heels until he tripped and took him.
This ends our series of passages on Protestant Struggle Against Charles V – The Smalkaldic War by Edward Armstrong from his book The Emperor Charles V (2nd. edition) published in 1910. This blog features short and lengthy pieces on all aspects of our shared past. Here are selections from the great historians who may be forgotten (and whose work have fallen into public domain) as well as links to the most up-to-date developments in the field of history and of course, original material from yours truly, Jack Le Moine. – A little bit of everything historical is here.
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