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Francis I, whose ambassadors impressed upon the Electors the necessity of showing that the empire was not an heir-loom in the house of Austria; and the Electors, with whom it was a rule not to select any prince already occupying an important position, caring little for either candidate, laid the diadem at the feet of Frederick of Saxony, a man of great prudence and popularity. Frederick, however, declined the distinction, and recommended them to choose the King of Spain, who was accordingly elected on 28th June, 1520, and crowned at Aix-la-Chapelle in the following October.
Thirty-seven years before that important event, the wife of a miner, named Luther, (a worthy, studious, and stubborn man), had, in the little town of Eisleben, become the mother of a boy, who was named Martin, from having been born on St. Martin's Eve. Removed in infancy to Mansfeld, on the banks of the Vipper, young Luther, while standing by his father's forge, or accompanying his mother to gather fagots in the forest, indulged in the anticipation of becoming a scholar, and being sent, after some preparatory training, to Erfurt, he excited by his intellectual powers the admiration of the whole university. One day, while reading keenly in the library, he came upon a Latin copy of the Bible, the pages of which he perused with breathless interest; and resolving upon a monastic life, he entered the Convent of St. Augustine at the age of twenty-one. After spending three years in the cloister, Luther accepted a professorship in the University of Wittemberg, which Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, had founded. And in 1512 being sent as envoy to Rome, where Pope Julius then reigned, and his monastic illusions vanishing into air, he commenced his career as a Reformer, and was excommunicated by Leo X, who did not like his hunting, shooting, and fishing to be disturbed by heretics. Luther retaliated by publishing the ' Babylonish Captivity and the book being burned, he, in 1520, publicly committed to the flames the Pope's bull and decretals.
The popular spirit in Germany was in Luther's favor; for though, from the days of Louis of Bavaria, the Emperors had acknowledged the ascendancy of the Popes, the people had exhibited an increasing dislike to the yoke of Rome, and in 1512 the populace of the Rhenish provinces had displayed their discontent by forming the League of Shoes. Maximilian, it appears, had not manifested any dislike to the new faith; but Charles V had inherited enough of Spanish bigotry to decide his opinions, and in 1521 he summoned Luther to appear before the Diet of Worms, and answer for his doctrines. The bold Reformer soon arrived from Wittemberg in a wagon, defended himself with great spirit, and afterward escaped into Saxony, where, secured by his friend the Elector in the fortress of Wartbcrg, while branded by the Pope as 'a viper of hell,' he commenced his translation of the Bible. And matters did not rest here, for the mind of Europe was in agitation.
While, in England, Henry was attacking alike the Catholics and Protestants; while, in Scotland, Cardinal Beaton was feasting his eyes with the burning of heretics; while, in France, the brave and glory-loving Francis was sullying his fame by consenting to the villages of the Vaudois being converted into a desert waste; the Emperor Charles was by no means indifferent to the interest of the Romish Church within the Imperial dominions. And when freed by the death of his impetuous rival from apprehensions of war, he gained, at Muhlberg, a victory over the Confederates at Smalcalde, 'which placed the venerable Frederick of Saxony in his power. Strangely, at that crisis, the Lutherans turned for aid to Henry II of France, who, though bent on persecution at home, on certain conditions proclaimed himself their champion. But ere his services could be rendered, Maurice of Saxony, to whom Charles had given the Electorate, preferring to be a chief of the Protestants to figuring as the Emperor's creature, after much dissimulation marched on Inspruck, and almost succeeded in capturing Charles, who, after escaping over the Alps in a litter, sick and solitary, signed the Convention of Passau, which was converted into a definitive peace in 1552 — the era of religious liberty in Germany.
At the close of this war, weary of the world, the great Emperor, having previously abdicated the Spanish throne in favor of his son Philip, resigned the Imperial crown to his brother Ferdinand, king of the Romans. After a reign of eight years, that prince was succeeded by his son, Maximilian II, who died in 1596, while preparing to support his election as King of Poland.
Rodolph II, son of Maximilian, was so entirely devoted to the study of astronomy and astrology that he saw with indifference his dominions usurped by his brother Matthias, who, succeeding to the Empire in 1612, procured the election of his cousin Ferdinand to the thrones of Hungary and Bohemia. Both nations revolted, and the Hungarians were appeased; but Ferdinand was a pupil of the Jesuits, and the Bohemian Protestants, to whom he was obnoxious, advanced in arms to the gates of Vienna; and, while Matthias was. on his dying bed, commenced that terrible conflict known in history as the Thirty Years' War.
Ferdinand, though elevated to the Imperial throne, was sternly rejected by the Bohemians, who offered their crown to Frederick, the Elector Palatine, and son-in-law of the first James of England. Frederick, proceeding to Prague, accepted the gift, but rashly, as it soon appeared; for in November, 1620, the Imperialists coming thither, under Tilly, inflicted a defeat, which made the Elector and his fair spouse, whom men called the Queen of Hearts, fly to the Hague, while their friends surrendered town after town in the Palatinate to the Italian general Spinola. The Duke of Batavia, ere long, took possession of the Electorate; and its hereditary sovereign, homeless and houseless, in spite of the alliance of the King of D-mark, remained a pensioner on Dutch bounty at the Hague.
The tyranny of Ferdinand speedily led to the confederacy of Leipsic, of -which Gustavus Adolphus, the heroic King of Sweden, was chief. After bearing the banner of Protestantism in triumph through Germany, that Lion of the North fell in the battle of Lutzen, and the fortunes of the Elector seemed desperate. But when the Emperor had closed his checkered career, and been succeeded by his son Ferdinand III, and when Germany was suffering from famine and poverty, the consequence of the long war, the Protestants, with the aid of France, found matters assuming a more favorable aspect. Turenne won the battle of Sommerhausen; Wrangel captured Prague; and the great Condi's victory at Lens, where the Archduke Leopold, brother of the Emperor, had his army routed, compelled Ferdinand to consent to the Peace of Westphalia, by which the Palatine family were restored and religious equality decreed.
The peace was grateful to the inhabitants after their long struggle. Their losses were gradually repaired, their lands cultivated, and their towns
rebuilt; but on the death of Ferdinand, and the accession of his unamia ble son, Leopold, in 1658, the Hungarians rose in insurrection, made Tekeli their prince, and called in the Turks to their aid. The reigning Sultan, in 1683, raised the most formidable force ever sent against Christendom; and Lorrain, the Imperial general, retired before the Turkish crescent. Leopold and his household fled from Vienna; two-thirds of the inhabitants followed; the city was besieged, and it would have fallen but for the timely arrival of John Sobieski, king of Poland, who defeated the invaders, and took the famous standard of Mohammed, which was sent as a present to the Pope. Fearful was the vengeance which Leopold now took on the Hungarians. A scaffold, erected in the market-place of Eperies, stood there so many months, that the executioners were weary of victims. At length, the Hungarian nobles having been summoned to Vienna, declared the crown hereditary: the States at Presburg confirmed the decree; and the Emperor's son, Joseph, at the age of nine, was acknowledged as King of Hungary.
When Charles, king of Spain, breathed his last, without heirs, and Louis XIV sent his grandson Philip V to Madrid, Leopold, whose mother was daughter of Philip III, claimed the Spanish throne for his second son, the Archduke Charles. England supported the Austrian claim, and the war was still raging when, in 1705, Leopold dying, was succeeded on the Imperial throne by his son Joseph, who seized Mantua and Milan, assailed the temporal power of the Pope, and made everything bend to his power. In the midst of his successes he expired, in 1711, and Charles VI, whom the allies were attempting to place on the Spanish throne, having obtained the Imperial crown, the treaty of Utrecht terminated the War of Succession. To that treaty Charles at first refused his assent; but when a French army under Marshal Villars had passed the Rhine, he acceeded to the views of the allies, and obtained Milan, Naples, and the Netherlands.
One of the greatest and most successful captains of that age was Prince Eugene. His father being a member of the house of Savoy, and his mother a niece of Cardinal Mazarin, he applied to Louis XIV first for an abbey, and then for a regiment. The Grand Monarch, little understanding the applicant's character, refused in both cases. Prince Eug&ne, taking service with the Emperor, was associated with the illustrious Marlborough in those brilliant victories that have made the name of the ' handsome Englishman' immortal, had the distinction of expelling the French from Italy, and in 1717, undertook the memorable siege of Belgrade, the strongest castle in Europe. Surrounded in his camp by a hundred and fifty thousand Turks, he routed them with immense slaughter, and captured the place, which remained in possession of Austria for twenty-two years.
Charles, anxious that the hereditary dominions of the house of Austria should be settled Dn his daughter, the celebrated Maria Theresa, obtained the assent of the European powers to a pragmatic sanction. But hardly had his eyes closed in 1740, when events verified the observation of Prince Eugene: 'The best guarantee in this case would be an army of a hundred thousand men.' Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, claimed Selesia, captured Breslau, after winning the battle of Molwitz; while Charles of Bavaria, whom Louis XV had caused to be crowned as King of Bohemia, was chosen Emperor, with the title of Charles VII. But Maria Theresa, though deserted by her allies, was a woman of too high spirit to be