This series has seven easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Charles V’s Brother Ferdinand at the Meeting.
Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor ruled with varied power the German lands and with near absolute power the Hapsburg lands of Austria and as King of Spain the Spanish Empire. With so much lands under his control, he fought near constant wars with France, the Papacy, and the Ottoman Empire. But it was internal conflicts and controversies that undermined the stability of his realm. This was chiefly the Protestant Reformation. The Peace of Augsburg transitioned Germany from a hot war to a cold war between the two faiths.
This selection is from History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V by William Robertson published in 1769. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
William Robertson was a significant figure in the Scottish Enlightment of the 18th. century.
Place: Augsburg, Germany
As a diet was now necessary on many accounts, Ferdinand, about the beginning of the year 1555, had repaired to Augsburg. Though few of the princes were present either in person or by their deputies, he opened the assembly by a speech, in which he proposed a termination of the dissensions to which the new tenets and controversies with regard to religion had given rise, not only as the first and great business of the diet, but as the point which both the Emperor and he had most at heart. He represented the innumerable obstacles which the Emperor had to surmount before he could procure the convocation of a general council, as well as the fatal accidents which had for some time retarded, and had at last suspended, the consultations of that assembly. He observed that experience had already taught them how vain it was to expect any remedy for evils which demanded immediate redress from a general council, the assembling of which would either be prevented, or its deliberations be interrupted, by the dissensions and hostilities of the princes of Christendom; that a national council in Germany, which, as some imagined, might be called with greater ease, and deliberate with more perfect security, was an assembly of an unprecedented nature, the jurisdiction of which was uncertain in its extent, and the form of its proceedings undefined; that in his opinion there remained but one method for composing their unhappy differences, which, though it had been often tried without success, might yet prove effectual if it were attempted with a better and more pacific spirit than had appeared on former occasions, and that was, to choose a few men of learning, abilities, and moderation, who, by discussing the disputed articles in an amicable conference, might explain them in such a manner as to bring the contending parties either to unite in sentiment, or to differ with charity.
This speech being printed in common form, and dispersed over the empire, revived the fears and jealousies of the Protestants; Ferdinand, they observed with much surprise, had not once mentioned, in his address to the Diet, the Treaty of Passau, the stipulations of which they considered as the great security of their religious liberty. The suspicions to which this gave rise were confirmed by the accounts which were daily received of the extreme severity with which Ferdinand treated their Protestant brethren in his hereditary dominions; and as it was natural to consider his actions as the surest indication of his intentions, this diminished their confidence in those pompous professions of moderation, and of zeal for the reëstablishment of concord, to which his practice seemed to be so repugnant.
The arrival of the cardinal, Morone, whom the Pope had appointed to attend the Diet as his nuncio, completed their conviction, and left them no room to doubt that some dangerous machination was forming against the peace or safety of the Protestant Church. Julius, elated with the unexpected return of the English nation from apostasy, began to flatter himself that, the spirit of mutiny and revolt having now spent its force, the happy period was come when the Church might resume its ancient authority, and be obeyed by the people with the same tame submission as formerly. Full of these hopes, he had sent Morone to Augsburg with instructions to employ his eloquence to excite the Germans to imitate the laudable example of the English, and his political address in order to prevent any decree of the Diet to the detriment of the Catholic faith. But Julius died, and as soon as Morone heard of this he set out abruptly from Augsburg, where he had resided only a few days, that he might be present at the election of the new pontiff.
One cause of their suspicions and fears being thus removed, the Protestants soon became sensible that their conjectures concerning Ferdinand’s intentions, however specious, were ill-founded, and that he had no thoughts of violating the articles favorable to them in the Treaty of Passau. Charles, from the time that Maurice had defeated all his schemes in the empire, and overturned the great system of religious and civil despotism which he had almost established there, gave little attention to the internal government of Germany, and permitted his brother to pursue whatever measures he judged most salutary and expedient. Ferdinand, less ambitious and enterprising than the Emperor, instead of resuming a plan which he, with power and resources so far superior, had failed of accomplishing, endeavored to attach the princes of the empire to his family by an administration uniformly moderate and equitable. To this he gave, at present, particular attention, because his situation at this juncture rendered it necessary to court their favor and support with more than usual assiduity.
Charles had again resumed his favorite project of acquiring the imperial crown for his son Philip, the prosecution of which, the reception it had met with when first proposed had obliged him to suspend, but had not induced him to relinquish. This led him warmly to renew his request to his brother, that he would accept of some compensation for his prior right of succession, and sacrifice that to the grandeur of the house of Austria. Ferdinand, who was as little disposed as formerly to give such an extraordinary proof of self-denial, being sensible that, in order to defeat this scheme, not only the most inflexible firmness on his part, but a vigorous declaration from the princes of the empire in behalf of his title, were requisite, was willing to purchase their favor by gratifying them in every point that they deemed interesting or essential.