The declaration of the German princes and that of their ally, the King of France, fell like a thunderbolt on the Emperor.
Continuing Collapse Of The Power Of Charles V,
our selection from The Court of France in the Sixteenth Century: 1514-1559 by Lady Catherine Charlotte Jackson published in 1886. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in four easy 5 minute installments.
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In his retreat some rumors had reached him that the movements of Maurice of Saxony were suspicious, and that he was raising troops in Transylvania. But he gave little heed to this, or to warnings pressed on him by some of his partisans. For Maurice, to serve his own ambitious views, had in fact, though professing the reformed faith, aided Charles to acquire that power and ascendency, that almost unlimited despotism in Germany he now proposed to overthrow. For his services he had obtained the larger part of the electoral dominions of his unfortunate relative, John Frederick of Saxony, whose release, as also that of the Landgrave, now formed part of his program for delivering Germany from her fetters ere the imperial despot could — as Maurice saw he was prepared to do — rivet them on her. To renew the Protestant league, to place himself at its head and defy the despot, was more congenial to Maurice’s restless, aspiring mind than to play the part of his lieutenant.
The winter passed away without any serious suspicions on Charles’ part. To throw him off his guard Maurice had undertaken to subdue the Magdeburgers. The leniency of his conduct toward “those rebels” with whom he was secretly in league did at last excite a doubt in Charles’ mind. Maurice was summoned to Innsbruck, ostensibly to confer with him respecting the liberation of his father-in-law, the Landgrave of Hesse. But Maurice was far too wary to put himself in his power, and readily found some plausible excuse to delay his journey from time to time. But when, early in March, at the head of twenty-five thousand men, thoroughly equipped, he announced that he was about to set out on his journey, the information was accompanied with a declaration of war. “It was a war,” he said, “for the defense of the true religion, its ministers and preachers; for the deliverance of prisoners detained against all faith and justice; to free Germany from her wretched condition, and to oppose the Emperor’s completion of that absolute monarchy toward which he had so long been aiming.”
To this manifesto was appended another from the King of France. Therein Henry announced himself the “defender of the liberties of Germany, and protector of her captive princes”; further stating “that, broken-hearted (le coeur navre) at the condition of Germany, he could not refuse to aid her, but had determined to do so to the utmost power of his ability, even to personally engaging in this war, undertaken for liberty and not for his personal benefit.” This document — written in French — was headed by the representation of a cap between two poniards, and around it the inscription “The Emblem of Liberty.” It is said to have been copied from some ancient coins, and to have been appropriated as the symbol of freedom by Caesar’s assassins. Thus singularly was brought to light by a king of the French Renaissance that terrible cap of liberty, before which the ancient crown of France was one day destined to fall.
The declaration of the German princes and that of their ally, the King of France, fell like a thunderbolt on the Emperor — so great was his astonishment and consternation at the events so unexpected. With rapid marches Maurice advanced on Upper Germany, while other divisions of the army, headed by the confederate princes, hastened on toward Tyrol, by way of Franconia and Swabia, everywhere being received with open arms as “Germany’s liberators.” Maurice reached Augsburg on April 1st, and took possession of that important city — the garrison offering no resistance, and the inhabitants receiving him joyfully. There, as in other towns on his march which had willingly opened their gates to him, the Interim was abolished; the churches restored to the Protestants; the magistrates appointed by the Emperor displaced, and those he had rejected reinstated. Money, too, was freely offered him, and the deficiency in his artillery supplied. At Trent the news that the Protestant princes, joined by several of the Catholics and free states, “had taken up arms for liberty,” caused a terrible panic. The fathers of the council, Italian, Spanish, and German, at once made a precipitate retreat, and this famous council, without authority from pope or emperor, dissolved itself, to reassemble only after even a longer interval than before. When Maurice began his march Henry II had joined his army at Châlons, and was on his way to Lorraine. Toul, on his approach, presented the keys of the city to the constable commanding the vanguard — the King afterward making his entry, and receiving the oath of fidelity from the inhabitants, having previously sworn to maintain their rights and privileges inviolate. After this easy conquest the French army continued its march toward Metz. This old free republican city did not so readily as Toul yield to the French. The municipal authorities very politely offered provisions to the army, but declined to deliver the keys of the city to the constable. They were, however, willing to admit the King and the princes who accompanied him within their walls. “Troops were not permitted to enter Metz, whatever their nation.” This was one of their privileges.
Montmorency cared little for privileges, and violence would probably have been used but that the Bishop of Metz, who was a Frenchman, prevailed on the principal burgesses to allow the constable to enter with an escort of two ensigns, each with his company of infantry. Montmorency availed himself of this permission to give his ensigns fifteen hundred of his best troops. The city gates were thrown open, and the burgesses then perceived their error, but too late to remedy it. They were firmly repulsed when attempting to exclude the unwelcome visitors; there was, however, no bloodshed. The people were soon reconciled to the change; and the chief sheriff and town council on the King’s entry having assembled on the cathedral porch, Henry there, in the presence of an anxious multitude who crowded around him to hear him, made oath strictly to maintain their franchises and immunities. Thus easily was captured the former capital of the ancient Austrian kings, which remained under the dominion of France until separated from her by the misfortunes of the second empire.
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