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Title: Bohemia
       From the earliest times to the fall of national independence
              in 1620; with a short summary of later events

Author: C. Edmund Maurice

Release Date: September 13, 2015 [EBook #49955]

Language: English

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The Story of the Nations.





1. ROME. By Arthur Gilman, M.A.

2. THE JEWS. By Prof. J. K. Hosmer.

3. GERMANY. By Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A.

4. CARTHAGE. By Prof. Alfred J. Church.

5. ALEXANDER’S EMPIRE. By Prof. J. P. Mahaffy.

6. THE MOORS IN SPAIN. By Stanley Lane-Poole.

7. ANCIENT EGYPT. By Prof. George Rawlinson.

8. HUNGARY. By Prof. Arminius Vambéry.

9. THE SARACENS. By Arthur Gilman, M.A.

10. IRELAND. By the Hon. Emily Lawless.

11. CHALDEA. By Zénaïde A. Ragozin.

12. THE GOTHS. By Henry Bradley.

13. ASSYRIA. By Zénaïde A. Ragozin.

14. TURKEY. By Stanley Lane-Poole.

15. HOLLAND. By Prof. J. E. Thorold Rogers.

16. MEDIÆVAL FRANCE. By Gustave Masson.

17. PERSIA. By S. G. W. Benjamin.

18. PHŒNICIA. By Prof. Geo. Rawlinson.

19. MEDIA. By Zénaïde A. Ragozin.

20. THE HANSA TOWNS. By Helen Zimmern.

21. EARLY BRITAIN. By Prof. Alfred J. Church.

22. THE BARBARY CORSAIRS. By Stanley Lane-Poole.

23. RUSSIA. By W. R. Morfill, M.A.


25. SCOTLAND. By John Mackintosh, LL.D.

26. SWITZERLAND. By Mrs. Lina Hug and R. Stead.

27. MEXICO. By Susan Hale.

28. PORTUGAL. By H. Morse Stephens.

29. THE NORMANS. By Sarah Orne Jewett.


31. SICILY: Phœnician, Greek and Roman. By the late Prof. E. A. Freeman.


33. POLAND. By W. R. Morfill, M.A.

34. PARTHIA. By Prof. George Rawlinson.

35. AUSTRALIAN COMMONWEALTH. By Greville Tregarthen.

36. SPAIN. By H. E. Watts.

37. JAPAN. By David Murray, Ph.D.

38. SOUTH AFRICA. By George M. Theal.

39. VENICE. By Alethea Wiel.

40. THE CRUSADES. By T. A. Archer and C. L. Kingsford.

41. VEDIC INDIA. By Z. A. Ragozin.

42. WEST INDIES and the SPANISH MAIN. By James Rodway.

43. BOHEMIA. By C. Edmund Maurice, M.A.

44. THE BALKANS. By W. Miller.

45. CANADA. By Sir J. G. Bourinot, LL.D.

46. BRITISH INDIA. By R. W. Frazer, LL.B.

47. MODERN FRANCE. By André-Le Bon.

48. THE FRANKS. By Lewis Sergeant.

49. AUSTRIA. By Sidney Whitman.

50. MODERN ENGLAND. Before the Reform Bill. By Justin McCarthy.

51. CHINA. By Prof. R. K. Douglas.

52. MODERN ENGLAND. From the Reform Bill to the Present Time. By Justin McCarthy.

53. MODERN SPAIN. By Martin A. S. Hume.

54. MODERN ITALY. By Pietro Orsi.

55. NORWAY. By H. H. Boyesen.

56. WALES. By O. M. Edwards.

London: T. FISHER UNWIN, Paternoster Square, E.C.









Corresponding Member of the Royal Bohemian Society of Sciences




Copyright by T. Fisher Unwin, 1896
(For Great Britain).




Few countries have been more strangely misunderstood by the average Englishman than Bohemia has been. The mischievous blunder of some fifteenth century Frenchman, who confused the gipsies who had just arrived in France with the nation which was just then startling Europe by its resistance to the forces of the Empire, has left a deeper mark on the imagination of most of our countrymen than the martyrdom of Hus or even the sufferings of our own Princess Elizabeth. The word “Bohemian” has passed into newspaper slang; and it has been so often quoted in its slang sense by people who ought to be more careful in their language, that it has really hindered the study of the real country which it misrepresents. The few who care to hear anything more of a people so strangely slandered, have often been yet further blinded by their readiness to accept as absolute truth the prejudices of the German and Magyar opponents of the Bohemian national feeling. From these sources they have derived an impression[viii] of a set of narrow Ultramontanes, who, oddly enough, combine their religious bigotries in favour of Roman Catholicism with a reliance on Russia in political affairs. These prejudices ought certainly to yield to an acquaintance with the people in their own country. A Roman Catholicism, tempered by an enthusiasm for Hus and Z̆iz̆ka and King George, can scarcely be a very obscurantist form of creed; and an intense feeling of national distinctness can hardly be compatible with an anxiety to be absorbed by the great North-eastern Empire, though undoubtedly it produces a stronger repulsion against the equally denationalising force of Pan-Germanism. Perhaps a careful study of the history of a country so much misunderstood will be the best preparation for a fairer appreciation of its present difficulties.

I have now to thank the many kind friends who have helped me in my work. Of these the chief helper has been Professor Mourek. During the whole of my stay at Prague I received every assistance from him which a foreigner studying in that town could possibly require; and since I have returned to England he has helped me most energetically in procuring various illustrations necessary for my book. I have also to thank Count Leo Thun (the cousin of the late Governor of Bohemia) for many useful hints and introductions. I should also thank Mr. Custos Borovsky, of the Rudolfinum, for the kindness with which he supplied me with introductions during my visits to other towns in Bohemia and Moravia. I should also thank Professor Rez̆ek for many useful hints, especially about the difficult reign of Ferdinand[ix] I. Professor Kalausek I have to thank for hints about the earlier period. Professor Tomek I must thank for allowing me to use the map of Prague which appears in my book. I must also thank Dr. Toman for the use of the curious pictures of Z̆iz̆ka. For help in my work in other towns I must thank Father Wurm, of Olmütz (Olomouci); Mr. Palliardi, of Znaym (Znojem); Professor Brettholz, of Brünn (Brno); the Sub-librarian of C̆aslau; Professor Lemminger, of Kuttenberg (Kutna Hora); Mr. Gross, of Krumov; Father Fuc̆ik, of Prachatice; Professor Strnad, of Pilsen (Plz̆en); Monsignore Rodler, of Budweis (Budejóvice); the Keeper of the Archives at Wittingau (Tr̆ebon̆), and Professor Sedlac̆ek, of Tabor. I also wish to thank Mr. C̆elakovsky, of the Town Archives of Prague, for the suggestion about the relation of the early Utraquist rising to the differences between Bohemian workmen and German employers (see Chap. ix. pp. 231, 232).

The question of when and how far to use the Bohemian names of places is one of some difficulty. My own instinct would be to use them wherever possible. But it cannot be denied that there are cases in which the German forms are so well known to English readers, and some in which the Bohemian names seem so unpronounceable, that it would be affectation to follow the strict rules of national expression. Praha, of course, has been hopelessly Anglicized into Prague; and Olomouci, Cheb, Brno, and Plz̆en have been as certainly Germanised into Olmütz, Eger, Brünn, and Pilsen. Even in these cases I have on some occasions added the Bohemian[x] names in brackets. But it was so difficult to know what names of Bohemian towns are generally known in England, that I may sometimes seem to have been inconsistent in my practice. Only let me assure my readers that my wish has been to impress on them the distinctive character of the Bohemian language, and at the same time to secure the recognition of any places with whose names they are already familiar.





From the Earliest Period of Bohemian History to the Hungarian Invasion1-17
Characteristics of Bohemian history—Story of Queen Libus̆a—Early Slavonic kingdom—The struggle with the Franks—Resistance to Frankish “conversions”—Boris of Bulgaria and Methodius—The Cyrillic language—Cyril and Methodius in Moravia—Career of Svatopluk—Renewed struggle with the Franks—Conversion of Bor̆ivoj—The Slavonic ritual—Opposition of Svatopluk and his courtiers to Methodius—The appeal to the Pope—The “Pilatici”—Approval of the ritual by John VIII.—Wiching’s fraud—Svatopluk and Arnulf—Expulsion of the Methodian Christians from Moravia—Death of Svatopluk—Mojmir and the Slavonic ritual—The Hungarian invasion.
Bohemian Saints and Warriors in the Tenth Century18-32
Bohemian feeling about the saintly and the military character—Svatopluk’s struggle and fall—Separation of [xii]Bohemia from Moravia—Reigns of Bor̆ivoj and Vratislav—The heathen reaction under Drahomíra—Life, death, and character of St. Wenceslaus—Reign of Boleslav the Cruel—Rise of the Vrs̆ovici—Boleslav the Pious—Life and death of St. Adalbert.
Relations of Bohemia to Poland and to the Empire in the Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Centuries33-66
Effect of the Hungarian invasions on the position of Bohemia—The struggles between Bohemia and Poland—Romantic stories of Oldr̆ich and Brac̆islav—Revival of the Slavonic ritual—Brac̆islav’s victories in Poland—The scene in the Church at Gnesen—Invasion of Bohemia by Henry III.—The Pr̆emyslovci made hereditary Dukes—Spitihnĕv’s anti-German policy—Election and policy of Vratislav—The family opposition and its results—Relations with Henry IV.—The first Bohemian king—Relations with the Hohenstauffen—Vladislav’s policy and the opposition of the nobles—Frederick Barbarossa—The second King of Bohemia—Bohemians in Italy—Summary of Vladislav’s reign—New disorders—Election of Pr̆emysl—Divisions in the Empire and their effect on the Bohemian position—Contests of King and Priest—Breach between Bohemia and the Empire—Conquest of Austria by Bohemia—Accession of Ottakar II.
The Growth of Bohemian Life from Accession of Pr̆emysl Ottakar I. to Death of Pr̆emysl Ottakar II.67-106
Relative importance of Constitutional questions in different histories and at different periods—Causes of decline of [xiii]early Bohemian liberties—Policy of Pr̆emysl Ottakar I.—The German settlement in Poric̆—Extension of its privileges to other towns—Special position of Moravia—The town-rights of Brünn—The Mongol invasion—Collapse of Europe—Pope and Emperor—King Wenceslaus I.—First check of the Mongols—Impulse given by these events to the movement for municipal liberty—Towns as a check on the nobles—Power of the jury—Effect of this movement on trade—On political capacity—Pr̆emysl Ottakar II.—His relations to nobles and clergy—Difficulties between towns and monasteries—Ottakar’s policy in that respect—His foreign policy—Circumstances of the annexation of Austria to Bohemia—The marriage with Margaret—Relations of Ottakar to Vienna—The struggle in and conquest of Styria—Story of conquest of Carinthia and Carniola—Ottakar’s tyranny in Styria—Ottakar’s relations with Hungary—Anarchy in the Empire—Refusal of Imperial Crown by Ottakar—Long discussions and divisions among the Electors—Circumstances of the election of Rudolf of Hapsburg—Ottakar’s protest—Pope Gregory X. and Bruno of Olmütz—The Council of Lyons—Rudolf’s claims on Ottakar’s conquests—The first war between Ottakar and Rudolf—Surrender of the conquered lands to Rudolf—Differences about the terms of peace—Rudolf’s difficulties between towns and archbishops—Falling off of Rudolf’s supporters—The conspiracy in Vienna and its suppression—The final war—Battle of the Marchfeld and death of Ottakar—Estimate of the work of Pr̆emyslovci—Causes of Ottakar’s fall.
Time of Anarchy in Bohemia from Death of Ottakar II. to Accession of Charles IV.107-129
Rudolf’s moderation as a conqueror—Impossibility of his policy—Kunigunda and Otto of Brandenburg—Treachery and tyranny of Otto and his followers—The famine—Return of King Wenceslaus II.—Zavis̆ of Falkenstein—Marriage of Wenceslaus—Intrigues and death of Zavis̆[xiv]—Policy of Wenceslaus—Death of Rudolf and new divisions in the Empire—Albert’s concessions and election—Relations of Wenceslaus to Hungary—Death of Wenceslaus II., and accession and murder of Wenceslaus III.—Struggles between Rudolf of Hapsburg and Henry of Carinthia for Bohemia—Election of Henry of Luxemburg as Emperor—Election of John as King of Bohemia—His prospects and promises—The Archbishop of Mainz—Henry of Lipa—The towns and the nobles—Audacity of Henry of Lipa—Return of John—Civil war in Bohemia—Practical victory of Henry—His intrigues against Elizabeth—John and the citizens of Prague—Difficulties of Elizabeth—Prosecution of Bishop John—Cruelty of John—Charles as Governor of Bohemia—Intrigues of nobles against him—Resistance of Charles to John—Friendliness of Pope Clement to John and Charles—The Slavonic ritual—Election of Charles as Emperor—Battle of Crecy and death of John.
Reign of Charles IV.130-153
Difficulties of explaining Charles’s career by his antecedents—Influences of his Paris experiences on him—Earlier attempts at “higher education” in Bohemia—Charles’s aims in founding his University—His plans—The “Four Nations”—Immediate effects of the foundation—The New Town of Prague—Foundation of Carlstein—The Majestas Carolina—Reasons for its withdrawal—Its merits and defects—Abolition of the fire and water tests—Appeal granted to the Serfs—Connection of “Charles I.” of Bohemia with “Charles IV.” of Germany—The Golden Bull—Resistance to the Emperor, and his way of meeting it—Concession to the House of Hapsburg—Relations of Charles with young Louis of Bavaria, in the Tyrol, in Brandenburg—His relations with Italy, Rienzi, Petrarch—Attempt to make the German Empire hereditary.
The Reform Movement from the Diet of 1359 to the Retirement of the Germans from the Prague University154-187
Movements of thought in the thirteenth century—Uncertainty in their direction—The “Beghards” or “Picards.”—Position of Charles in relation to religious reform—The Diet of 1359—Charles’s ideas of reform—Conrad Waldhauser—The Bohemian language question—Milic of Kromĕr̆íz̆—Thomas of S̆títný—Growth of Bohemian literature, and opposition of the “Masters” to it—Death of Charles—Accession and character of Wenceslaus IV.—His relations with the Pope—His quarrels with the clergy—Archbishop Jenstein’s opposition—Death of John of Nepomuc and its consequences—Wenceslaus’s relations with the nobles—Power and policy of the Rosenbergs—Imprisonment of Wenceslaus by the nobles—John and Sigismund—Violence of Wenceslaus—Opposition of the Electors to him—His deposition in 1400 from the Empire—Sigismund’s policy in Prague—The second imprisonment of Wenceslaus and his escape—Matthias of Janov—Founding of the Bethlehem Chapel—Early career of Jan Hus—Relations of the English and Bohemian Reformations to each other—The Prague University proposals of 1403 against Wyclif—Attitude of Hus towards Wyclif—Unique theological position of Hus—Zbynĕk and Hus—Wenceslaus and the Council of Pisa—Attitude of rival parties—The votes of the “Nations”—Hesitations and final decision of Wenceslaus—The German resistance to the decree—The two sides of the question—Retirement of the Germans from Prague.
From the Retirement of the Germans from the University of Prague to the Death of Hus188-220
Injustices of Hus’s opponents in reference to the voting [xvi]question—Election of Alexander V.—New attacks on heresy—Hus’s answers—Queen Sophia—The burning of Wyclif’s books—Wenceslaus and John XXIII.—Intervention of Sigismund—Pope John’s crusade—The sale of indulgences—Opposition of Hus—Revolt of his followers from him—First appearance of Jerom in Bohemian controversy—Effect of his interference—The treacherous execution of the opponents of Indulgences—Michael de Causis—Hus’s retirement from Prague—The “De Ecclesia”—Jakaubek of Kladrau—Banishment of Pálec̆ and Stanislaus—Intervention of Sigismund—The safe-conduct—The arrival at Constance—Promises of Pope John—Michael and Pálec̆—Imprisonment of Hus—“The Cup for the laity”—Hus’s letter and its perversion—Sigismund at Constance—Deposing Popes—Jerom at Constance—The Bishop of Litomys̆l and the Bohemian nobles—The trial of June 5th—Of June 7th—Sigismund’s anger with Hus—June 8th—Deposition of Popes and of Kings—“Abjure”—Chlum’s handshake—Sigismund’s condemnation of Hus—Last letters and interviews—Condemnation of “the Cup”—The final scene at the Council—The martyrdom.
From the Death of Hus to the First Coronation of Sigismund221-260
(July 6, 1415-July 28, 1420.)
Differences between Hus and his followers—Effect of his death—The Interdict on Prague and its results—Attitude of Wenceslaus—Of Sigismund—Jerom’s trial and death—Quarrel with the Council about the bishopric of Olmütz—Growing differences among the Utraquists—Nicholaus of Hus—Z̆iz̆ka—Effect of their action on Wenceslaus—Election of Martin V.—End of Council of Constance—Scene between Z̆iz̆ka and Wenceslaus—The “New Town” of Prague—John of Z̆elív—The Defenestratio—Anger and death of Wenceslaus—Attitude of Sigismund—C̆enek of Wartenberg—Conditions offered to Sigismund by the Assembly—Queen Sophia—The three parties in Bohemia—Mode of life of the Taborites—Z̆iz̆ka’s character—The [xvii]appeal for peace—Differences between the Calixtine nobles and the Calixtine citizens—Ulric of Rosenberg—First struggle between the nobles and the Taborites—The compromise—The Kuttenberg persecution—Sigismund’s demands—Z̆iz̆ka’s surrender of Pilsen—“No faith with heretics”—Sigismund’s lies—C̆enek’s double treachery—Z̆iz̆ka’s cruelties—The march of the Taborites to Prague—Forcible Reformers—Sigismund’s retreat—The First anti-Hussite “Crusade”—Frederick of Hohenzollern and the Margravate of Brandenburg—Differences in Sigismund’s camp—New burnings of Utraquists—The battle of Z̆iz̆kov Hora—More differences in the camp—The “Four Articles of Prague”—The discussion—The compromise—Coronation of Sigismund.
From the First Coronation of Sigismund to the Opening of the Council of Basel261-289
Demands of the Taborites—Peter Payne—John of Z̆elív—Withdrawal of Taborites—Differences of the Calixtines with Sigismund—His retirement from Prague—Nicholaus of Hus—Hynek of Crus̆ina—The battle of the Vys̆ehrad—Differences of the Bohemians from their enemies in the war—New divisions among the Utraquists—The siege of R̆íc̆an—The “vestment” controversy—Death of Nicholaus of Hus—Martinek Hauska and Transubstantiation—The Adamites—Z̆iz̆ka’s treatment of them—Capture of Kuttenberg and Jaromír and return of the nobles to the Utraquists—Resolution of the Assembly about Sigismund—New quarrels between nobles and citizens—The “Second Crusade”—The siege of Z̆atec—The “miracle”—Cruelties of Sigismund in Moravia—The capture of Kuttenberg—Z̆iz̆ka at bay—The recapture—Z̆iz̆ka’s final victory over Sigismund—Tyranny of John of Z̆elív in Prague—“Prince Korybut”—Betrayal and death of John of Z̆elív—Collapse of the “Third Crusade”—Z̆iz̆ka’s struggles with the nobles[xviii]—His final victories and death—Procop the Great—The new war policy of the Bohemians—Pr̆zibram and Peter Payne—Korybut’s blunder—John Rokycana—The “Fourth Crusade”—Cardinal Beaufort—The siege of Mies—The rout of Tachov—New discussions—Demands for a Council—Death of Martin V.—Cesarini and the “Fifth Crusade”—The flight from Taus—End of the “Crusades.”
From the Opening of the Council of Basel to the Fall of Tabor290-322
Reasons for the meeting of the Council of Basel—More lies of Sigismund—The peasant risings in France and Germany—Bohemian towns in German hands—Meeting of the Council—Arrival of Bohemians in Basel—Rokycana and Peter Payne—Policy of Cardinal Cesarini—The first meeting—Procop and Cesarini—Rokycana on “the Cup”—Difference of Rokycana from his colleagues—Peter Payne—The English opposition—Cesarini sows division among the Utraquists—End of the first stage of the discussion—Growing differences—Rokycana and Pr̆zibram—The delegates from Basel—Final struggle between the nobles and Procop—Battle of Lipaný and death of Procop—C̆apek and the Orphans—Meinhard of Neuhaus—Negotiations with Sigismund—The “Compacts of Basel”—Election of Rokycana to the Archbishopric—Restoration of Sigismund—His new treacheries—Flight of Rokycana—Peter Payne as judge—Effect of his decision—Revolt of Rohac—Sigismund’s retirement and death—Struggle between Albert of Austria and Ladislaus of Poland—Acceptance of Albert’s son Ladislaus as King of Bohemia—Meinhard and Ptac̆ek—New discussions between Calixtines and Taborites—Last appearance of Peter Payne—Story of his imprisonment and ransom—Rise of George of Podĕbrad—Treachery of the Basel delegate—Capture of Prague and death of Meinhard—George’s policy—Opposition and fall of Tabor.
From the Fall of Tabor to the Death of George of Podĕbrad323-340
George’s attitude towards the young king—Entry of Ladislaus into Prague—His Catholic sympathies—His death—Candidates for the throne of Bohemia—Election of George—Significance of this election in European history—George’s moderation—His relations with Matthias of Hungary—Pius II. and the Turks—Resistance to George in Moravia and Silesia—The revolt of Breslau—The compromise—Increase of George’s power and influence—Pius II.’s change of feeling—His condemnation of the Compacts of Basel—Fantinus de Valle and King George—George’s defiance of the Pope—Frederick III. and King George—Pius and the revolt of Breslau—Growing opposition in Bohemia to the king—Death of Pius II. and election of Paul II.—The deferred greeting—The Bull of deposition—Zdenek of Sternberg—The rebellion of the nobles—Losses of George—Election of Matthias—The insulting terms of peace—George’s defiance of Pope and princes—His victories and death—Death of Rokycana.
From the Beginning of the Bohemian Brotherhood to the Accession of Ferdinand I. to the Throne of Bohemia341-373
Parallels between English and Bohemian history—Likeness and difference between the Bohemian Brothers and the English “Friends”—Contrast between English and Bohemian traditions—Peter of Chelc̆ic—His early career—Relations with Rokycana—Change of Rokycana’s policy towards the Brothers—Gregory persecuted by Rokycana—Organisation of the Brotherhood—Further persecutions—[xx]Death of George and accession of Ladislaus II.—Denunciations by the “Masters” of Prague—Death of Gregory—His warnings to the Brothers—Growth of the Brotherhood—Lukas of Prague—Struggle between Lukas and Amos of S̆tekna—The compromise with the world—New persecutions—Bohuslav of Hassenstein—Amos’s denunciations—Ladislaus offends the Constitutionalists—The protectors of the Brotherhood—The examination at Prague—The Printing Press—Ladislaus’s appeal to Moravia, and its repulse—Persecution in Bohemia—Erasmus and the Brothers—Death of Ladislaus—Decline of freedom in Bohemia—The struggle between the towns and the nobles—King Louis—Lev of Roz̆mital and Pas̆ek of Wrat—Louis’s reforms—Luther’s appearance—Luther and Hus—Luther’s warnings to the Utraquists—Gallus Cahera—Pas̆ek’s new intrigues—The tyranny in Prague—Louis’s vain resistance—Lev of Roz̆mital and Henry of Rosenberg—The Turkish invasion—Louis’s vain appeal—His flight and death—Battle of Mohács—Election of Ferdinand I.
Reign of Ferdinand I.374-405
Questions at issue in Bohemia at the time of Ferdinand’s accession—Ferdinand’s mistakes—The Turkish war—Ferdinand’s reforms in Prague—Soliman’s siege of Vienna and its repulse—Final fall of Pas̆ek and Cahera—Ferdinand’s aims—The Brothers and the Anabaptists—Conrad of Krajek—The Confession of the Brotherhood—John Augusta—Luther’s relations with the Brotherhood—His defence of their Confession—Ferdinand’s attacks on the Brotherhood—Utraquist opposition to the “Compacts”—Augusta with Calvin and Luther—Luther refuses to Germanise Bohemia—Growth of Lutheran principles in Bohemia—The Bohemians and the Schmalkaldic war—The League for Bohemian Liberty—The insurrection of 1547—Consequences of its failure—Renewed persecution of the Brotherhood—The Litomys̆l Brothers—Arrest and torture of Augusta—Ferdinand’s ingenious cruelty—Expulsion of [xxi]the Brothers from Bohemia—Their settlement in Poland—Removal to Prussia—Their treatment in Prussia—Ferdinand’s difficulties with the “local” claims—The “Estates of the Circles”—The Komora Dvorska and its uses—Catholics and Utraquists—New torture of Augusta—Ferdinand’s appeal to Moravia and its repulse—Augusta’s difficulties with the “Elders”—Protestant hopes from Maximilian—Power of the Jesuits—New persecution of the Brothers—Augusta’s position—The final attempt at his conversion—His verbal concession to Utraquism and its misrepresentation—His last imprisonment and final release—Death of Ferdinand.
From the Death of Ferdinand I. to the Beginning of the Reaction under Rudolf II.406-424
Progress of despotism in Bohemia—Ferdinand’s great excuse—The fall of Utraquism—Character and policy of Maximilian—His special difficulties—National feeling of the Brotherhood—Blahoslav and Augusta—Lutheran desire for uniformity—Augusta’s defeat and death—The “Bohemian Confession”—The Conference of 1575—Consequences of its failure—Change of policy and death of Maximilian—Character and tendencies of Rudolf II.—Revival of Art and Science—Use of it by the Jesuits—Struggle of Jesuits with the Brothers—Difficulties of the Brotherhood—The expulsion of the Krajeks and its consequences—Jesuit successes—Resistance of Moravia—Peter Vok von Rosenberg—General character of the struggles.
From the Beginning of the Reaction to the Death of Rudolf II.425-453
Causes of Rudolf’s change of policy—The Turkish question—Growth of power of the Komora Dvorska—Rudolf’s [xxii]insanity—Opposition of his family to him—The Edict of 1602—of 1604—Bocksay’s insurrection—Growing opposition to Rudolf—Karl von Z̆erotin—His training, character, and policy—Rudolf removes him from office—His relations with Illyezhazy—His championship of Matthias—Differences between Rudolf and Matthias—Lichtenstein and Berka—The Moravian rising—Christian of Anhalt—Z̆erotin’s feelings about war—Alliance between Hungary, Moravia, and Austria against Rudolf—Wenceslaus Budovĕc—His struggles for religious liberty in Bohemia—His opposition to Matthias—The Assembly of 1608—Importance and originality of Budovĕc’s demands—Rudolf’s resistance—Failure of Matthias in Bohemia and success elsewhere—Lobkovic, Martinic, and Slavata—Adam of Sternberg—Resolution of Bohemian Protestants to resort to armed resistance—Bohemia and Silesia—Rudolf’s final resistance to the Protestants—Budovĕc’s leadership—The Defenders—Peter Vok of Rosenberg—Rudolf’s final concession—The Letter of Majesty—The Archduke Leopold—The peacemakers—Concession by Rudolf to Matthias—The Passau plot; its rise, horrors, and end—Flight of Leopold—Matthias crowned at Prague—Last hopes and death of Rudolf.
From the Death of Rudolf II. to the Battle of the White Hill454-482
Matthias’s difficulties—Policy of Z̆erotin—Erasmus von Tschernembl—His differences with Z̆erotin—Z̆erotin and Khlesl—Relations of Bohemia to Moravia and Silesia—Policy of Khlesl—The Transylvanian question—Khlesl worsted by Z̆erotin—Election of Matthias as Emperor and its results—The nobles and the towns—Results of their quarrels—The provincial question again—“Hapsburgs or no Hapsburgs?”—New persecution—Ferdinand of Styria—Khlesl’s change of policy—The Troppau question—Fall of Z̆erotin—Election of Ferdinand as King of Bohemia—The renewed persecution—The Assemblies of 1618—The Defenestratio—The Provisional Government—Fall of [xxiii]Khlesl—Alliances on both sides—Deaths of Maximilian and Matthias—Silesia, Lausitz, and Moravia join the Bohemians—Thurn’s invasion of Austria and its end—Bethlen Gabor, and the rising in Hungary—Election of Frederick as king—Discontent of the peasantry with the movement—Difficulties of the Assembly—Bethlen’s successes and failures—Maximilian of Bavaria—The final invasion—Battle of the White Hill.
From the Battle of the White Hill to the Present Time483-509
Completeness of the overthrow of Bohemian independence in 1620—Execution of leaders of insurrection—Persecution of Protestant preachers—Triumph of the Jesuits—Their absolute power—Destruction of memorials of Protestant leaders—Loc̆ika’s protest and death—Resistance and overthrow of Kuttenberg—Z̆erotin and Ferdinand—Resistance of Z̆erotin and Sabovsky—Penal laws against Protestants—Their expulsion in 1627—Overthrow of constitutional and municipal liberty and national independence—Crushing out of the language—Career of Comenius—His life before leaving Bohemia—His allegory—He settles at Lissa—“Janua aurea”—The “Didactica”—Invitation to Sweden—Comenius and Hartlib—Success and failure in England—Milton’s letter to Hartlib—Comenius in Sweden—At Elbing—Comenius and De Geer—Disappointment at peace of Westphalia—Election as Bishop of Brotherhood—Effect of his addresses—His later labours—Results of his work—General stagnation in Bohemia—Accession of Maria Theresa and its results—Suppression of the Jesuits—Joseph’s Edict of Toleration—Shortcomings of his religious policy—Of his educational policy—His opposition to Constitutional liberty—His abolition of serfdom—Leopold II.—Revival of Bohemian Literature—Frantis̆ek Pelc̆el—Caspar von Sternberg—Josef Dobrovsky—Leopold II. and Dobrovsky—The National Museum—The Königinhof MS.—S̆afarik and Palacký—The Grünberg MS.—The controversy about these MSS.—Palacký’s History—The discovery of ancient peasant art—Later controversies.






T. Fisher Unwin, Paternoster Square, London, E.C.





The history of a lost nationality is necessarily tragic and can rarely be commonplace. In the case of Bohemia the interest is increased by the variety of the parts which she was forced to play, each of which, while of great value to the world, assisted in some degree to hasten her ruin. Thus, for instance, the intense desire to maintain her own independent life brought her into collision with neighbouring States which were determined to crush or to absorb her; while, on the other hand, her position as the champion of a race, of which she was but one member, dragged her into further quarrels that were not necessarily the result of her geographical position. And, lastly, the very desire to maintain her national existence, and to defend the freedom of her Slavonic kinsmen, constantly compelled her to mix in the[2] quarrels of that larger world with which she and they had so little sympathy; and even to accept a share in the responsibilities of that Empire, which, calling itself Roman, was always becoming more and more Teutonic, and therefore more anti-Slavonic.

And in that struggle between Teuton and Slav the one thing which, from the earliest to the latest times, has been the most prized treasure, and the subject of the fiercest championship of the Bohemian, is his language. Every effort for constitutional government and national liberty has always directly connected itself with this aspiration for the preservation, development, and general recognition of this great right. Sigismund, in the time of his most cruel attempts to crush out the freedom of his subjects, was denounced as “the enemy of our language,” rather than of our nation. Hus is honoured, even by Roman Catholic Bohemians, as the assertor and developer of their language. It was the great crime of Joseph II. that he desired to destroy it. If we could have talked with a Bohemian Christian of the ninth or tenth century, we should have found his deepest feelings stirred by a reference to the language which was then assuming its first shape; and the same subject has the deepest interest for the Bohemian patriot of the nineteenth century, now that his language has become one of the most varied and expressive of modern Europe.

Nor must we forget the connection of the ecclesiastical independence of Bohemia with her most vivid political life. From the time when the mission of Cyril and Methodius brought to the front the question[3] of a Slavonic ritual, and of an ecclesiastical organisation, which was to be separated as far as possible from Teutonic influences, to the time when Bohemia sank before Ferdinand in the struggle between national Protestantism and Imperial Romanism, the questions of Bohemian language and Bohemian self-government were mixed up continually with the claim to be guided in spiritual things by a clergy who preached and prayed in the Slavonic language.

Even the earliest traditions show that long before the introduction of Christianity the Bohemian ideal of national life had been totally different from that of the surrounding nations. The poem of “The Judgment of Libus̆a,” which seems to embody the earliest picture of Bohemian life, is no Iliad or Niebelungen Lied, no story of robber dens or rapes of the Sabines, but the representation of a peace-loving nation trying to uphold traditions of communal ownership of land, and the gentle guidance of the wisest in judicial affairs, modified by an organised expression of popular opinion.[1]

[4]So great an impression did the poems, in which this ideal is set forth, produce on the Bohemian mind, that extracts from them are translated at full length by the chronicler Cosmas, who took an active part in the bustling politics of the eleventh century, when these ideals must have seemed to belong to a very distant past.

According to this writer, certain people who had been scattered by the failure of the Tower of Babel, wandered into Germany where they found various wild beasts. One party in the course of their wanderings found a plain lying near the mountain Rip, and between the rivers Ogra (Eger), and Wlitawa (Moldau). This plain they called Bohemia after the eldest of the party named Boemus. Here they founded a peaceable and communistic settlement where they desired to make war on none but the beasts. But, some ambitious men having introduced the evil of private property, it became necessary to choose a judge to decide the disputes which now unavoidably arose. So they chose as their judge their best man named Crocco, who founded a camp. He had three daughters, of whom the eldest was skilled in medicine, the second was a kind of religious teacher, who instructed the people in the worship of Oreads and Dryads; while the third, Libus̆a, was distinguished for her political wisdom and foresight, and was supposed to be an inspired prophetess.

Libus̆a was accordingly chosen to the judicial office on her father’s death. But Crocco’s formation of a camp seems to have stirred the military spirit in the Bohemians; and the story which follows clearly[5] indicates the transition from the earlier and more peaceable stage to the later developments of national organisation. Two powerful chiefs are disputing for the land, which has come to them from their father. The question is submitted to Libus̆a, as the chief judge. On the day of the trial she appears in great state, summons before her the heads of the different families or tribes, and submits to them her proposals for settling this question. She declares that, according to the old custom of their people, the land ought either to be equally divided between the brothers, or else they ought to share it in common. The leaders of the tribes, after collecting in some way the votes of the assembly, decide that the land is to be held in common, basing their judgment also on the old traditions of the nation. Thereupon the elder of the disputants rises in anger, and declares that he ought to have retained the land in right of primogeniture, and further that the Bohemians ought not to submit any longer to women, who were fitter for receiving the advances of wooers than of dictating laws to soldiers.

Then follows a scene which seems at once to fix the point of change arrived at, and to make the circumstances more familiar for ordinary readers by the parallel which it suggests with a familiar transition to military kingship recorded in the Second Book of Samuel.

Libus̆a, anxious to warn her people of the full effect of the course they are taking, sets forth to them the dangers of a military monarchy. Beginning with a reference to the story of the petition of the frogs to[6] Jupiter, she reminds them that it will be more easy to choose a chief than to remove him. “Before him your knees will tremble, and your tongue cleave to your mouth. You will with difficulty answer, ‘Yes, sir! yes, sir!’ He will condemn men by his nod without your judgment being taken; he will cut off the head of one, and throw others into prison; some of you he will make slaves, and others exactors and torturers; others, again, he will make cooks or bakers or millers. He will appoint you as tribunes or centurions or cultivators of his vines and wheat, as armourers and preparers of skins. He will reduce your sons and daughters to subjection, and will carry off the best of your horses and mares and cattle to his palace. He will take what is best from your fields and plains and meadows and vineyards, and turn them to his own use.” But though the criminal folly of the change proposed is indicated as clearly by Libus̆a as by Samuel, yet in both stories we find by a strange contradiction the same half-mystical enthusiasm for the person of the first king.

Libus̆a, unable to resist the popular demand that she should take a husband and give the Bohemians a king, tells the people to go to a certain village where they will find a man ploughing with oxen. Him they are to greet as their king, and his posterity will rule in this land for ever. The messengers plead that they do not know the way to the village. Libus̆a answers that if they will follow her horse it will guide them. They obey; and they at last arrive at the village of Stadic, where they find Pr̆emysl ploughing. They call on him to change his dress and mount the[7] horse, as Queen Libus̆a and all the people demand him as their ruler. Pr̆emysl therefore sets free his oxen, telling them to go whence they came, and strikes his goad into the ground. The oxen vanish from sight, and the goad puts forth leaves and fruits. Then Pr̆emysl comes with the messengers; but he insists on taking with him his ploughman’s boots, that his successors may be made humble and merciful by the memory of the state from whence they sprung; “and these boots,” says Cosmas (writing in the eleventh century), “are preserved at Vys̆ehrad to this day in the Duke’s chamber.”

There is another legend which still more quaintly marks this transition from mild and readily accepted rule to the era of physical force. According to this story the maidens of Bohemia founded a city which they called Dĕvín from Devina, “a maiden.” The young men to maintain their independence set up an opposition town called Hrasten. The intercourse between these rival towns seems to have been sometimes friendly and sometimes hostile; but always apparently on equal terms as long as Libus̆a lived. After her death, however, the men won the day, and ever afterwards held the women under their control.

But the golden age of Queen Libus̆a is long past, when we catch sight of the Bohemians in even the earliest period of authentic history. First we have a dim vision of a great Slavonic Empire stretching northwards to the Spree, and eastwards to the Carpathians; of struggles with Avars and Huns, and, above all, with the Franks. Then suddenly, as the dim mist clears a little, we find that the Franks have[8] become Christian, and the great struggle between German and Slav, hinted at already in the poem of “Libus̆a’s Judgment,” has begun in earnest. The centre of resistance to the German, however, is not in Bohemia, but in the neighbouring Slavonic dukedom of Moravia; and it gathers round a prince named Rostislav, who is encouraging both Moravians and Bohemians to stand firm against those peculiar ideas of Christianity, which Charles the Great and his descendants tried to thrust upon reluctant nations by fire and sword. Some Bohemians had indeed been compelled by Louis, the grandson of Charles the Great, to accept baptism; and Christian Bohemia owned the authority of the German Archbishop of Regensburg.[2]

But the Duke of Bohemia, encouraged by Rostislav, still held out against the Carlovingian form of Christianity; the Moravians defeated Louis in 849, and Rostislav strengthened his own position as the champion of Slavonic independence by an alliance with the Bulgarians. This alliance was to produce results very unexpected at the time by Rostislav, and powerfully affecting the future of Moravia and Bohemia. Boris, the powerful king of Bulgaria, had received at his Court a Christian monk named Methodius, the son of a patrician of Thessalonica. Apparently Methodius had originally been brought to the Bulgarian Court on account of his artistic talent; but[9] he was also a very zealous Christian; and when Boris ordered him to paint such a picture, in the hall of his palace, as would strike terror into all who saw it, Methodius improved the occasion by painting a picture of the Last Judgment. The inquiries and explanations that followed prepared the way for the acceptance of the new faith by the king of Bulgaria and his subjects.


But the Greek missionaries found that the want of a written language prevented them from giving their Slavonic converts full instruction in the details of the Christian creed. Methodius, therefore, called in the help of his brother Cyril, who had been occupied in the conversion of the Chazars, a people whose country lay a little to the north of the Bulgarian kingdom.[10]

Cyril was a learned monk, who had been trained at the Court of Constantinople, and was well skilled in various languages. Taking the Greek alphabet as his basis, but altering its form, he invented a written language for the Slavonic race, into which he translated a liturgy, several books of the Bible, and some of the early Fathers.

The news of the conversion of the Bulgarians quickly came to the ears of Rostislav, for the great Bulgarian kingdom touched the eastern side of Moravia; and the recent alliance had brought the two peoples into closer intercourse. Unwelcome as Christianity had seemed to the Moravians, when presented to them as a demand of Frankish invaders, and taught in an unknown tongue, its lessons came with a very different force when urged by pious and peaceable monks, recommended by friendly kinsmen, and expounded in a language intelligible to the converts. Rostislav no doubt quickly perceived that the new teaching might form a valuable link in the alliance of the Slavs against their enemies. He appealed to the Emperor of the East to send Cyril and Methodius to Moravia; and, when they arrived at the town of Devina, Rostislav and his followers went out to welcome them; and after Cyril had retired from the mission, Methodius was recognised by the Pope as Archbishop of Moravia and Pannonia.

But troubles very soon began for the new-comers. The German party in Moravia were resentful at the introduction into the churches of what they considered a barbarous language; and they saw danger to their power, both in the adoption of a ritual which[11] was understood by the people, and in the assertion of an episcopal authority which claimed to be independent of the German bishops. Nor was it only by foreigners that the influence of Cyril and Methodius was endangered; an opposition was roused even among the Moravians themselves. Svatopluk, the nephew and rival of Rostislav, seems to have accepted some kind of nominal Christianity, but unaccompanied by any change of life, or even by any great reverence for the externals of worship; and he opposed the new apostles of the Slavs with the greatest fierceness. The opposition of this ambitious prince no doubt arose at first from his desire to pose as the champion of the German party, who were undermining his uncle’s authority. According to one story he had already attempted to poison Rostislav, and having failed in that purpose he conspired with the Emperor Louis against him, made him prisoner, and sent him off to the Imperial Court to be tried. Louis threw Rostislav into prison, and put out his eyes. But Svatopluk, though he succeeded in seizing the Dukedom, did not long retain the confidence of the Emperor or the German party. He, in his turn, was deposed and thrown into prison.

Then the Moravians rose against the Franks, under a man named Slavomir, who, according to one story, was a pupil of Methodius. The Emperor thereupon set Svatopluk free, and sent him at the head of an army to suppress the new rising. Svatopluk betrayed his soldiers to his countrymen, destroyed the German army, and once more became Duke of Moravia. He now felt it impossible any longer to pose as the champion of the German party; and he had married[12] the sister of Duke Bor̆ivoj, of Bohemia, in order to strengthen the alliance of the Slavs against the Franks. As a part of his new policy, he was forced, for a time, to encourage the movement of Methodius; and it was during this period that the archbishop or one of his followers converted and baptised Bor̆ivoj, and induced him to found two churches in memory of St. Clement of Rome, whose remains Cyril had discovered in his expedition to the Chazars.

There seems some difficulty in ascertaining how far the Slavonic ritual came into general use in Bohemia at this time. It is tolerably certain, on the one hand, that Methodius did not desire to oppose the authority of the Bishop of Regensburg, who claimed to be primate over the Bohemian Christians; and that bishop, like all the German prelates, was opposed to the spread of the Slavonic ritual. On the other hand, it is clear that, as Christianity grew in Bohemia, it connected itself with Slavonic traditions; and we find that in less than a century from this time the Bohemian congregations had adopted a Slavonic hymn as a necessary part of their ritual.

But, however slow the progress of Slavonic Christianity may have been in Bohemia, Methodius does not seem to have excited there that savage hostility which he continued to provoke in Moravia. Svatopluk and his courtiers were, no doubt, indignant at the higher morality preached by Methodius; and one of the claimants of the German Empire, with whom Svatopluk was alternately in alliance and enmity, resented extremely the authority claimed by Methodius over Pannonia as well as Moravia. But, in order to[13] strengthen their position, the opponents of Methodius took advantage of his having come from Constantinople, to attack him as a rebel against the Pope, and a supporter of the Greek heresy of the Single Procession.


The first of these charges was singularly inconsistent with the traditions of both the brothers, who led[14] the mission to the Slavs. Cyril had been partially induced to go on his mission to the Chazars by the unfriendly relations which had arisen between him and the Patriarch of Constantinople. While in the Chersonesus he had discovered the bones of the Roman saint, Clement, who had died there; and he had ever since recognised this saint as the special patron of his mission to the Slavs. After Cyril and Methodius had established themselves in Moravia, they had applied to Rome for sanction to their work; and when they had been summoned to the Court of the Pope, in consequence of this application, Cyril had been so much attracted to the place that he had entered a Roman monastery, and had abandoned the mission, for the future, to Methodius. Methodius, on his part, seems to have been little inclined to resist authority, where no moral or religious principle was concerned. So in 879 he readily accepted the summons to appear before the Roman Synod, and easily convinced Pope John VIII. of his willingness to obey him. Methodius was equally happy in vindicating his orthodoxy in the matter of the Double Procession.

But when these points had been settled, there still remained the real subjects of dispute. These were the lawfulness of the Slavonic ritual, and the position of Methodius as Archbishop of Moravia. Svatopluk had thrown himself with eagerness into the cause of Methodius’s opponents, and joined in the denunciation of the Slavonic ritual, declaring that it degraded worship by connecting it with a barbarous dialect. The champions of the Latin ritual attempted to strengthen their cause by referring to the inscription written by[15] Pilate on the Cross in Hebrew and Greek and Latin. This argument brought them the nickname of Pilatici, or followers of Pilate, while Methodius and his disciples appealed, in answer, to the authority of the Apostles, who, on the Day of Pentecost, had uttered in all languages the wonderful works of God. Pope John seems clearly to have understood that the opposition to Methodius arose rather from prejudice of race than from ecclesiastical principle; and he recognised this fact in the Bull which sanctioned the Slavonic ritual. For in this document he expressly required that all the clergy in the diocese of Moravia and Pannonia, whether Slav or of whatever race they might be, should be submissive to the archbishop. A very noteworthy modification was subjoined to this decision which seemed to stamp a popular and democratic character on the Slavonic movement. “If Svatopluk,” said the Pope, “and the members of his Court desire to use the Latin ritual, they may do so still.”

An even more crushing blow to the hopes of the enemies of Methodius was given in a second decision of the Pope. The German party had persuaded Svatopluk to appoint a preacher named Wiching as Bishop of Nitra in Pannonia, thereby hoping at any rate to counterbalance the authority of Methodius. Pope John, however, decided that he would only recognise this appointment on condition that Wiching acknowledged the archbishop as his superior; and he expressly recommended Svatopluk to choose his next bishop with the advice and consent of Methodius. So alarmed were Wiching and his friends at this letter[16] from the Pope that they succeeded in suppressing it, before it could reach Svatopluk; and they forged another in which the Pope was made to say that Methodius had indeed recanted his heresy about the Double Procession; but that he was forbidden to use the Slavonic ritual, and that Bishop Wiching was appointed to carry out the papal decrees.

Methodius denied the genuineness of the document, and wrote to Rome for another letter. John confirmed his former decree, and summoned Wiching to Rome to answer for his proceedings. Wiching, however, refused to go; and he was backed in his opposition both by Svatopluk and by Arnulf, the claimant of the Empire, whose hold over Pannonia had been one of the chief causes of the opposition to the episcopal authority of Methodius.

The relations between Methodius and Svatopluk, always hostile, would now have probably culminated in the death or exile of the archbishop, but that a quarrel broke out between Svatopluk and Arnulf; and the desire of Svatopluk to overthrow Arnulf’s influence in Pannonia naturally hindered his action against Methodius. For the few remaining years of the archbishop’s life, he was able to carry on his work, both moral and religious, with much less opposition; but when, after his death, his friends attempted to get his pupil Gorazd appointed as successor in the archbishopric, Wiching succeeded in stirring up Svatopluk against him, in renewing the alliance with Arnulf, and finally in securing the expulsion from Moravia of the leading followers of Methodius. But in spite of the opposition of dukes and Germans, the Slavonic ritual[17] held its own in Moravia, and Svatopluk’s son Mojmir became its champion against the bishops of Salzburg.

Important, however, as the defence of the Slavonic language and ritual was in the history of Bohemia and Moravia, the enemy against whom it had specially served as a watchword had ceased to become the object of uncompromising hostility. A new power had made its way into Europe, more dangerous, for the moment, to Slavonic unity and Bohemian independence than Frank, Saxon, or Bavarian; and the Bohemians and Moravians were for a time compelled to forget their fears and hatred of the Germans, in order to combine with them against a new enemy.





The ideal of life and character hinted at in the Libus̆in Saud affects, in an often contradictory way, the popular judgments of the prominent characters of Bohemian history. So strangely does this tendency manifest itself at more than one stage of the story, that it would almost seem as if the ordinary conceptions of national greatness, and sometimes even of independence, were entirely obscured by the Christian aspiration after a peaceable national life. Kings and warriors, who had done much to extend the prestige and power of Bohemia, are remembered mainly for their cruelty and oppression; while saints, who may in some degree have weakened the sense of Bohemian independence, are not merely honoured, but are even put forward as the symbols of distinctive national life. Thus, for instance, Svatopluk, the cruel and unscrupulous persecutor of Methodius and his followers, might, from the ordinary nationalist point of view, have been looked upon as the establisher of[19] Slavonic greatness, the champion of Moravian independence, and even the protector of Bohemia and Moravia against a cruel and barbarous invader.

Under his rule Moravia had become the centre of a great Slavonic alliance extending eastwards to Bulgaria and northwards to Magdeburg. The exact relations between the dukedom of Moravia and the other States referred to may be difficult to define; but the whole story of his relations with Bohemia shows that Svatopluk exercised an authority there which was, at least, equal to that maintained by the German Emperor over many of the states subject to him; and we may fairly assume that he held a somewhat similar position towards the other Slavonic States which surrounded him.

Such a position, in the then condition of Europe, could not but excite rivalry and jealousy among the neighbouring princes; and Arnulf, the Duke of Pannonia, who had aspired to the throne of the Frankish Empire, was particularly jealous of a man whose power, as he considered, had been largely due to the patronage which Arnulf had granted to him. The exact merits of the numerous quarrels between these princes it is impossible to estimate accurately; but it is clear that, as Svatopluk gained power, he became more and more resolved to throw off the authority which Arnulf found difficult to assert. At last Arnulf, having lost hope of maintaining his authority by his own force, and perhaps suspecting that Pannonia would itself fall a prey to his rival, resolved to call in a new ally to his assistance.

The emperors of Constantinople had followed the[20] tradition of the Western Empire, by playing off their barbarian invaders against one another. And, as the Romans had used their alliance with the Goths to drive back the hordes of Attila, so the Emperor of Constantinople had called on the descendants of Attila’s followers to protect the decaying empire from the inroads of the Bulgarians.

It was apparently in the latter part of the sixth century that the Hungarians, or, as some called them, the Turks, had been driven into Europe by the pressure of other Asiatic races. They had been hospitably received at Constantinople, and, after various fortunes, had settled, in the eighth century, among the Chazars. But they were never allowed to remain long in one place; and it was in consequence of their alliance with the Emperors of the East that they overran Transylvania, and secured their first settlement in their future kingdom. Even here, however, they were not allowed to remain quietly, and another tribe succeeded in driving them out of Transylvania for a time.

It was while this contest was at its height that the new invaders attracted the attention of Arnulf; and, in the year 892, finding himself in a desperate plight, he persuaded the Hungarians to join him in an invasion of Moravia. Svatopluk fought gallantly against his enemies, and more than once repelled them from his dukedom; but, in 894, he was finally defeated by the combined forces of his opponents. Then comes in a story which illustrates in a startling manner the Bohemian feeling that no military successes could atone for acts of cruelty and treachery. Although[21] Svatopluk was undoubtedly fighting for the independence of his country, he was seized, according to this legend, with so extreme a fit of penitence for his crimes, that he fled from the battle to a secret place in the mountains, where he killed his horse, buried his sword in the ground, and lived and died a hermit. What gives a still stranger flavour to the legend is the cause which Cosmas assigns for the Duke’s penitence; for this cause was not his persecution of Methodius, but his ingratitude to Arnulf.

The ruin of the Moravian dukedom speedily followed. According to one tradition, Wiching, Svatopluk’s German bishop, was used by Arnulf to stir up division between the sons of Svatopluk. If so, he must undoubtedly have used his influence in favour of the younger Svatopluk, and against Mojmir, the champion of the Slavonic ritual. But, whatever the cause of division, the fact of the civil war is undoubted; and all the enemies of the country took advantage of it. In 896 the Hungarians again invaded Moravia, and this time with much greater success. The struggle was, however, continued for a few years longer, during which the Emperor endeavoured to assist Mojmir; but at last, in 907, Mojmir was killed in battle, and the old dukedom of Moravia was completely destroyed.



Although the overthrow of this powerful State broke down, for a time, a barrier between the savage invaders and the settled governments of Europe, it seems, strangely enough, to have produced less immediate evil to Bohemia than to the German principalities. It is, however, easy to understand that the protection and championship of a neighbouring State by such a ruler as Svatopluk may have had its disadvantages, both in checking the independence of the country protected, and in involving it in wars in which it had little interest. Indeed, it appears as if Bor̆ivoj and his immediate successors were too much concerned with the internal struggles of their country, to take much immediate interest in the apparently larger issues which were being settled in the neighbouring States. The Bohemian struggles were mainly concerned with the rivalry between heathens and Christians. The zeal of Bor̆ivoj for the new faith soon irritated a large number of his subjects against him; and, being unwilling to maintain his authority by force of arms, he abdicated in favour of his son Spitihnĕv. In the latter we seem to catch a glimpse of a premature champion of toleration, who, while desiring to encourage the progress of Christianity, resented the excessive influence of the Christian priests, and declared that he was equally the king of his heathen and Christian subjects alike. This, however, was a position that it was obviously impossible to maintain at such a transitional period; and, after Spitihnĕv’s death, Bor̆ivoj, being recalled to the throne, resolved that the propagation of his creed should not again suffer by the laxity of his family. He therefore put his second son, Vratislav, under the special care of Methodius; and, after Bor̆ivoj and Methodius were both dead, Vratislav’s mother, Ludmila, continued to influence him in favour of the new faith. But the power of Ludmila was counteracted, especially among the nobles, by[24] her daughter-in-law Drahomíra, who became the centre of the heathen opposition to Ludmila and the clergy; and she trained her son Boleslav to follow in her footsteps. Vratislav’s other son, Václav (or, as we call him, Wenceslaus), was protected from Drahomíra’s influence by his grandmother Ludmila; and thus the two brothers became the champions, the one of the Christian, and the other of the heathen party, in the State. The Duke was so little conscious of the mischief that was brewing that, after building the town of Bolislava in honour of his younger son, he celebrated the occasion by building a church in that town in honour of Cyril and Methodius; and he apparently sanctioned that division of his territory between his sons which was carried out after his death. No sooner, however, was Vratislav dead, than Drahomíra commanded the Christians to close their churches; and this order was speedily followed by a massacre; nor was Wenceslaus able to save even his grandmother Ludmila from the vengeance of his mother. Indeed, this favourite saint of the Bohemians seems to have had so little vigour, as a ruler, that he could not protect even the clergy, whom he most desired to favour, from the intimidation of Boleslav and Drahomíra. Thus, for instance, when he invited the Bishop of Regensburg to consecrate a new church at Prague, the bishop was so terrified by the threats of his enemies that he dared not come. It would, indeed, be unjust to deny that the position of a Christian Duke in the midst of this sudden revival of heathenism was a most difficult and dangerous one; nor is there the smallest ground to suspect[25] Wenceslaus of personal cowardice. On the contrary, he is represented on two occasions as offering personal combat to an invading prince, in order to save his country from the evils of war; and no doubt, according to his lights, he was very willing to sacrifice himself for the good of Bohemia. Yet one cannot but detect certain weaknesses in his career, which may well have alarmed some of the stronger, if coarser, statesmen, who stood near the throne; and though he distinguished himself by many acts of benevolence and devotion, and succeeded on several occasions in preserving peace and preventing bloodshed, yet it was not wholly by his virtues that he excited the indignation of the party led by his brother. The tendency to encourage those who were engaged in other work to become priests, and his excessive reliance on the authority of the Emperor, might well have given occasion to a more reasonable opposition than that which expressed itself in the mere persecution of the Christians.

Nor is it a wholly satisfactory sign that his piety, like that of Edward the Confessor, took the form of a contempt for marriage, or, to use the ecclesiastical phrase, of the zeal for preserving his virginity. He was therefore probably in the right when he meditated retiring into a Benedictine monastery; but the Pope, glad enough, no doubt, to secure a Christian Duke on the throne of a half-converted nation, threw great difficulties in the way of his abdication. His mother and brother, indignant at the frustration of their hopes, resolved on murder; and as a first step, to their purpose, they invited Wenceslaus to be present[26] at the baptism of the son of Boleslav. So unexpected a concession to Christianity aroused the suspicions of Wenceslaus; but his religion throughout seems to have had a touch of fatalism, and he went to the feast in the full expectation of death. While the revelry was at its height, he withdrew from the table to worship in the church; and it was there that Boleslav found him and murdered him, while he clung to the door of the church for safety. The murder was followed by a general massacre of the Christian priests, among whom is especially mentioned Podiven, the follower known to English readers as having warmed his feet by treading in the footsteps of his master.[3]

The German Emperor was naturally indignant at the murder of his faithful protégé; and he exacted from Boleslav, as the price of peace, the recall of the banished Christians, the renewal of the tribute which he had just remitted to Wenceslaus, and an oath of allegiance, such as had hitherto been paid to the Emperor only by German princes. Boleslav was apparently induced to submit to these severe terms, partly by his fear of the power of the Emperor, partly by a sense of the danger which was still threatening the civilised States of Europe, a danger which could only be faced by an alliance with the new ruler who had arisen in Germany. For while Bor̆ivoj and his successors had been struggling to assert their power over their heathen subjects, the old Saxon kingdom[27] had succeeded in producing a champion of European freedom and civilisation.

Henry the Fowler had thrown off the effete yoke of the Franks, and rallied the Germans under his banner; he had then routed the Hungarians at the celebrated battle of Merseburg, and had founded towns, by which a new order of civilisation was being introduced into Germany. His son Otto was vigorously carrying on the struggle against the Hungarians; and Boleslav, however much he might dislike foreign rule, saw that an alliance with Otto was the only hope for his country. The Hungarians were now advancing into Bohemia, and Boleslav encountered them on the frontier and completely defeated them. He then proceeded to suppress a robber tribe who had given much trouble to Wenceslaus, and who had established a castle on the borders of Bohemia, from whence they had harassed the country.

The chroniclers declare that Drahomíra was swallowed up in an earthquake, and perhaps her death removed the chief anti-Christian influence in the life of Boleslav; for, to whatever motives of conviction or policy the change may have been due, it is evident that, from this time forward, he not merely abandoned his persecution of the Christians, but used all his power to encourage their influence. The son whose baptism had been the occasion of the murder of Wenceslaus, became a monk; while the second son was trained with such effect in the principles of Christianity that he afterwards gained the name of Boleslav the Pious. But to the father of these princes the Bohemian chroniclers are as inexorable as they had[28] been to Svatopluk; and, while Wenceslaus is remembered as one of the chief national saints of Bohemia, his brother lives in history as Boleslav the Cruel.

If the weaknesses of Wenceslaus tend to diminish our sympathies with the movement of which he is the champion and martyr, we may perhaps feel a more undivided interest in the next phase of the development of Bohemian Christianity, and a more unmixed admiration for the saint who represents that period. There were two demands made by the Christian leaders in Bohemia which specially connected patriotism with religion. These were the claim for a Slavonic ritual, and the attempt to establish an independent bishopric at Prague. But, though both of these claims sprang from the feeling of national independence, it was only the question of the bishopric, which appealed to such champions of Bohemia as Boleslav the Cruel. That strong and deep longing for the protection and development of the national language, which expressed itself, at this time, in the cry for the Methodian ritual, was not a feeling which the mere military champions of Bohemia could understand or recognise. The Pope seems to have been conscious of this division, and to have availed himself of it to make more grudging concessions to the national feeling than the merits of Boleslav the Pious, and the memory of St. Wenceslaus might seem to have demanded. He granted, indeed, the free election of a bishop of Prague, and sanctioned, at the same time, the foundation of a nunnery of which Boleslav’s sister was to be abbess; but he clogged the latter concession by the condition that the Slavonic[29] ritual should not be used in the new nunnery. Perhaps it was a similar desire for compromise which led Boleslav to recommend to his clergy and people, for the first bishop, a Saxon named Dettmar, who, however, was noted for his knowledge of the Bohemian language. Friendship with Saxony was doubtless attractive to the wiser men of Bohemia, for more than one reason. It was the centre of that resistance to the Hungarian power which they felt to be so vital to European civilisation. It contained a large proportion of men of Slavonic race; and Magdeburg, where Dettmar had been trained, was the great home of such learning and culture as were then to be found in Germany.

But the fierce heathen spirit, which had been strengthened by Boleslav the Cruel, could not be suppressed at once either by his conversion, or by the probably sincerer piety of his son. It is now that the strong and cruel aristocracy of Bohemia begin to show their power both against king and people. Even in heathen times we hear of at least one family who claimed a sort of equality with the royal line, and who continued during the tenth and eleventh centuries to play much the same part as that of the Douglases in Scotland in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There was, however, one important difference between the cases. With all their selfishness and unscrupulousness, the Douglases always stood by Scotland against its external enemies, while the Vrs̆ovici were continually betraying Bohemia to Pole or German in order to gain their own ends. Nor were the Vrs̆ovici the only specimens of a lawless and cruel[30] class; and Boleslav the Pious and Bishop Dettmar soon incurred the hatred of that class. The bishop, however, did not long survive his appointment; and he was soon to be succeeded by a man far more notable in Bohemian history. This man was Vojtĕch, the son of a powerful Bohemian noble, who was as distinguished for his virtues as for his wealth and rank. Vojtĕch, by the advice of Dettmar, had been sent by his parents to study at Magdeburg; and on his entrance into the clerical profession, he had received from the Archbishop of Magdeburg his name of Adalbert. When he returned to Bohemia, he was called to succeed Dettmar in the bishopric of Prague. He soon began to denounce the state of morals around him. Divorce was frequent; impurity of all kinds terribly rife; and the nobles, not content with oppression at home, were constantly selling their unfortunate dependants into slavery. The stern denunciations of Adalbert soon roused against him the hatred of his own class, which was increased in bitterness by the rivalry between his family and that of the Vrs̆ovici.

On one occasion a woman, whom he had saved from her angry husband and sent into a nunnery, was dragged out and murdered by her husband. Boleslav desired to repress such violence by the sword; Adalbert at first persuaded him to abstain from bloodshed; but, when the insurgent nobles built a fortress on the banks of the Elbe, from which they harassed all the Christians who came that way, the king felt bound to act; so he marched against the insurgents and signally defeated them. Adalbert, horrified at being in any way the cause of bloodshed, fled to Pannonia, which had now been conquered by the Hungarians.



[32]Geysa, the leading chief of the Hungarians in that district, was a hospitable and large-minded man, who welcomed strangers heartily. Adalbert used the opportunity to teach Christianity, and many of the Hungarians were converted. Amongst other converts was Geysa himself, who consented to have his son Stephen christened by Adalbert. Over this child Adalbert’s influence was evidently great; and when Stephen grew up, he became the first Christian king of Hungary, recognised as such both by Pope and Emperor. From the reign of St. Stephen the Hungarians themselves reckon their beginning as a settled monarchy; and thus they owe their change from the condition of a marauding horde to an orderly and progressive nation, to the teaching of the Bohemian saint.

Twice Adalbert was recalled to Bohemia, and twice he again left it in disgust. On the last occasion he took refuge with the King of Poland, and from thence went to convert the heathen Prussians, by whom he was killed. His body was brought back by the Poles and buried at Gnesen. Next to the actual memory of his life, his most notable legacy to his country is the hymn which he wrote in the native language, and which soon became, and long remained, a kind of war-cry of Bohemian independence.




The invasion of the Hungarians had changed the attitude of Bohemia, as of other countries, towards the German Empire. The necessity of saving themselves from the ruin which overwhelmed the dukedom of Moravia, naturally compelled the Bohemians to recognise their former enemies as their only sure protectors; and, as the vigorous line of Saxon princes put new force into the German kingdom, this relation became necessarily closer. But it was long before the German rulers were able to realise that they could gain any help, in turn, from the rising dukedom of Bohemia. Torn by the divisions between heathen and Christian, distracted to an unusual degree by family quarrels, harassed by powerful neighbours, Bohemia seemed, in the tenth and early part of the eleventh century, more fitted to be the tool or the prey of the Emperors than their ally. Nor was it only a weakening of[34] internal security which had been produced by the Magyar invasion. The break-up of Slavonic unity, by the overthrow of Svatopluk, had caused a confusion of races in certain districts, which made them the subject of dispute between rival powers.

Of these mixed lands, the two in which Bohemia was most interested, were the district of Lusatia (afterwards called the Lausitz), over which she disputed with Saxony, and the even more variously peopled province of Silesia, which was the great cause of controversy between Bohemia and Poland. Of these two subjects of difference the Silesian question was the far more pressing and important. The common feeling of danger, produced by Hungarian invasion, had, indeed, affected Poland as much as other European countries; but, as the raids of the invaders grew less frequent, the sense of union, developed by that danger, grew weaker; and when the Hungarians began to settle down as a peaceable and Christian nation, the Poles began to abandon their defensive attitude, and gradually to become aggressive in their turn.

Nor was the Silesian question the only cause of jealousy between Poland and Bohemia. The town of Cracow, the former capital of Croatia, was as much desired by both the rival nations as Silesia could be; since it was important both for military and political purposes. Moreover those ecclesiastical considerations, which were always influencing the foreign politics of Bohemia, played a somewhat important part in the struggle with Poland. The desire of the Polish Duke to secure the burial of Adalbert at[35] Gnesen had not been wholly due to religious feelings. The kings and bishops of Poland wished to make Gnesen the centre of a large diocese, in which Prague should hold a subordinate position; and an offer of money which the Duke of Poland made to a Bohemian monastery founded by Adalbert, was no doubt intended as a bribe to the monks, to induce them to further these schemes of ecclesiastical and political ambition. These enterprises were unfortunately aided by that treacherous family, the Vrs̆ovici, who had already played so fatal a part in their country’s history. They seem to have again tried to carry out their treasons by stirring up family jealousy. Young Boleslav, a nephew of Boleslav the Pious, showed himself eager to assert his claims to the Dukedom of Bohemia. Mĕs̆ek of Poland encouraged his kinsman’s intrigues, and, by a sudden surprise, Cracow was seized, and Silesia was overrun by the Polish troops.

Boleslav the Pious demanded reparation for this outrage, and circumstances soon gave him the opportunity for revenge. A Russian chief unexpectedly invaded Poland and laid waste a great part of it. Boleslav the Pious seized this opportunity to recover Cracow, and he placed there a governor of sufficient vigour to hold the fortress against all attempts of the Poles to recover it, even after they had succeeded in making peace with Russia. Indeed the new governor would willingly have extended the Bohemian territory by making reprisals on Poland; but this was strictly forbidden by the Duke of Bohemia.

The death of Boleslav the Pious, and the accession[36] to the dukedom of his weak and profligate son, Boleslav the Third, gave a new opportunity both to native and foreign intrigues. Indeed the Vrs̆ovici are represented by some historians as acting in this reign rather the part of patriotic opponents of a tyrant than of selfish intriguers for power. It is, however, unfortunately clear that they did not abandon their intrigues with the Polish pretender; and he was able to take advantage of the non-payment of the soldiers in the garrison of Cracow to stir up division in the fortress. By this means he was once more able to surprise the garrison, and to put all the Bohemians to the sword. Great confusion now followed; the German Emperor, Henry II., seized the opportunity of fishing in troubled waters, and something like a conquest of Bohemia by Poland was for a time the result of this struggle. The accounts, however, of the details of the struggle seem uncertain and contradictory; and it is not until the Bohemians had in some measure re-established their independence that we once more find ourselves on firm ground.

Strangely enough, it is just when we have reached a point at which modern research and early tradition seem to be in practical harmony that we light upon a series of stories of the most romantic kind. Oldr̆ich, the brother of Boleslav III., had been established on the throne after the expulsion of the Poles. He seems to have been an eccentric prince, given to somewhat unconventional explorations of his kingdom. In one of these wanderings he came upon a handsome peasant-girl washing clothes in a stream. He at[37] once fell in love with her, and soon after woo’d, won, and married her. The great ladies of the court at first resented the arrival of the peasant-queen; but in time the grace and courtesy of Beatrix broke down the opposition of her jealous critics, and the birth of her son Brac̆islav was celebrated with splendid feasts. Brac̆islav was to be the future hero and restorer of the greatness of his country; and, as usual, the political and military revival of Bohemia is preluded by a reawakening of the interest in the national language.

In another of his wanderings Oldr̆ich found, in the depth of the forest, an old hermit, to whom he confessed his sins; and he was so much impressed by the power and saintliness of the man, that he persuaded him to leave his solitary life, to return to the town, and to assist the duke and other pious men in founding the monastery of Sázava. He soon found that this hermit had in his keeping copies of the old Slavonic services introduced into Bohemia by Methodius, which had doubtless disappeared from the country in the recent troubles. Encouraged by Oldr̆ich, and at a later time by his son Brac̆islav, the national ritual was rapidly extended from Sázava to other churches.

Oldr̆ich bequeathed to his son both his zeal for the national language and the national independence, and also the love of romantic adventure. Even before his accession to the throne, Brac̆islav had attracted attention as a hero of romance. He had made a sudden expedition to the nunnery of Schweinfurt, to carry off from thence the beautiful daughter of a German[38] Count. The gate of the nunnery was secured by a bar; but Brac̆islav cut through the bar with his sword, and carried off his bride in triumph, though some of his followers were cut off and killed. But the great purpose of his life was to recover the ground which Bohemia had lost in her struggle with Poland. Even before his accession to the throne, he had reconquered the greater part of the province of Moravia, which the Poles had torn away from Bohemia; and, as soon as he became duke, he resolved to carry his plans yet further, and to invade Poland itself. The death of Duke Casimir of Poland, and the infancy of his successor, facilitated this expedition. Brac̆islav retook Cracow by storm, overran much of Silesia, and transplanted many of the Poles to Bohemia, where he suffered them to maintain their old laws and customs. He then marched to Gnesen, the centre of the intended scheme for establishing the ecclesiastical supremacy of Poland over Bohemia. The city was ill-defended, and Brac̆islav entered it in triumph.

Then followed one of those scenes which show how strangely the fiercer elements in the Bohemian character were checked and crossed by influences like those of St. Wenceslaus and St. Adalbert. It will be remembered that the body of the latter saint had been buried by the king of Poland at Gnesen, and Brac̆islav had many motives for desiring to recover so valuable a possession. But the scene which preceded the restoration of the national saint to the country, which had so ill-treated him during his life, is curiously unlike the ordinary performances of a[39] military conqueror; and, if there are any who think that such a mediæval legend is beneath the dignity of history, they should remember that the historian Cosmas, who has preserved it for us, was a man actively engaged in the ordinary political affairs of his time.

At first the Bohemians were disposed to carry things with a high hand; and, in spite of the warnings of the chief pastor of the town, they tore down the altar which covered the body, in order to seize it the more easily. For this offence they were struck dumb and blind for the space of three hours; and on recovering their senses they consented to submit to a three days’ fast before taking further action. On the third day the same priest, who had warned them of the consequences of their sacrilege, told them that he had had a vision of St. Adalbert; and that the saint had bidden him to tell the Duke and his companions that the Father in Heaven would give them what they asked, if they did not repeat those evil deeds which they abjured in their baptism. On the morning following this announcement, the Duke and his followers entered the church and prostrated themselves before the tomb of St. Adalbert. Then the Duke arose and addressed them as follows: “Do you wish to amend your errors and to turn from evil works to wisdom?” To this they answered, “We are prepared to amend whatever our fathers or we have done wrong against this saint of God, and to cease from every evil work.” Then the Duke, extending his hand over the sacred tomb, addressed the crowd as follows: “Stretch out,[40] my brothers, your hands to God, and listen to my discourses, which I wish you to confirm your faith in by an oath. Therefore, let this be my first and most urgent decree; that your marriages, which you have hitherto treated as if they were mere fornications, and like the union of brute animals, should in future be made lawful, according to canonical rules, private and indissoluble, so that each husband shall be content with one wife, and each wife with one husband. But, if a wife shall despise a husband, or a husband his wife, and if a quarrel between them shall boil over into a separation, then I do not will that the one of them that refuses to return to lawful union shall be made a slave according to the custom of our land; but rather that, by the slavery of our unchangeable decree, such persons, whoever they may be, shall be carried into Hungary; and it shall not be permitted to them to buy their liberty, or to return to this land, lest the contagion of one little sheep should creep into the whole sheep-fold of Christ.” Then the pastor of the church answered: “Let him who does otherwise be anathema.”

After further provisions for enforcing purity of life, the Duke added, “But, if a woman shall have declared publicly that she was not loved as an equal, but was afflicted and persecuted by her husband, let the judgment of God be given between them; and let the one who is found guilty pay the penalty.” Further provisions were then introduced for punishing homicides; but with regard to murderers of fathers, brothers, or priests, they were to be bound by hand and belly with iron, and sent out of the kingdom,[41] to wander, like Cain, over the whole earth. Those, again, who set up taverns, which are the source of all crimes and impurities, were to be anathema; and he who was caught in the act of keeping a tavern was to be hung, and his drinks to be poured out upon the earth, lest any one should be polluted by this execrable draught. Further provisions then followed against holding markets or doing servile works on Sunday, and against burial of the dead in unconsecrated places.

After these sins had been denounced as offensive unto God, and as the cause why St. Adalbert left his native country, all present were called upon to assent to the changes of conduct proposed. When they had done so the archbishop broke open the tomb, and disclosed the body of the saint. So delicious, says Cosmas, was the smell which came out that many seemed as if they had tasted rich food, and for three days they needed no more; many sick were healed; yet only the Duke, the archbishop, and the nobles were suffered to see the body. They then prayed St. Adalbert to allow them to carry him to Prague; and the Duke and bishop, taking the body from the tomb, wrapped it in silk, and set out with it in a solemn procession. After the body were carried the spoils taken from the Poles; and the Polish nobles (among whom was the great-grandfather of Cosmas) followed the procession as prisoners, their hands and necks being loaded with irons.

It was not to be expected that Brac̆islav’s proceedings would pass unchallenged; and both Pope and Emperor were appealed to, to redress the wrongs[42] done to the Church and to Poland. Both of them answered the appeal; but the complaints of the Pope were soon silenced by the building of a monastery, and by the judicious distribution of money among the cardinals. Henry III. was not so easily satisfied. He had doubtless adopted the Imperial policy of playing off the rival kingdoms against each other; and the Bohemian victories, won so easily, and without his intervention, were most unwelcome. His avarice, moreover, was roused by the news of the booty which Brac̆islav had brought back from Poland. He therefore peremptorily demanded the surrender of the spoil, under pain of war. Brac̆islav boldly replied that, “while the Bohemians were willing to pay to the Emperor that tribute which they had always paid him, they would resist to the death any attempt to lay on them unlawful burdens.” Henry retorted that the law had a wax nose, which a king could always bend with his iron hand.

Such an exchange of courtesies was naturally followed by war; and, while a Saxon army marched into Bohemia on one side, the Emperor himself speedily followed by another entrance. But the Bohemians were ready for the invasion; and, while the imperial army were resting in a wood, they were surprised by Brac̆islav’s soldiers and cut to pieces, Henry only saving himself by the swiftness of his horse. The Duke of Saxony in vain tried to make terms with the Bohemians, and was speedily forced to retreat to his own country.

This success, indeed, was not quite so complete as it seemed at first; for, in the following year,[43] Henry once more invaded Bohemia, and gained such successes that Brac̆islav was compelled to pay a higher tribute, and to restore many towns to Poland. Nevertheless, he was able to retain some hold even over those towns, by exacting a perpetual tribute from them; nor was Bohemia ever again so completely at the mercy of Poland as it had been in the previous reigns.

The divisions in the Bohemian Ducal family seemed, however, to Brac̆islav to be as great a danger as could arise from any foreign enemy; and he persuaded the nobles to guard against such dangers in the future by making the crown hereditary in his family, and abandoning the unlimited right of election. Such a law could not finally prevent family quarrels, or defeat the designs of ambitious adventurers. But it is worth noting, as indicating the feeling of an able ruler about the dangers to which his country was exposed.

It will be easily understood that the conduct of Henry III. and the Duke of Saxony had quickened once more in Bohemia that anti-German feeling, which the struggles with the Magyars and the Poles had for a time forced into the background. Brac̆islav had, no doubt, been statesman enough to restrain such a feeling within due bounds; but, when his son Spitihnĕv came to the throne, he gave far fiercer expression to his hatred of the old enemies of Bohemia. No sooner was he established in his power, than he issued a decree ordering all the Germans to leave the country; nor was even his mother allowed an exemption from this sentence.[44] His brother Vratislav set himself against this policy, and tried to make the province of Moravia a centre of opposition to the king. But Spitihnĕv invaded Moravia, forced Vratislav to fly to Hungary, and treated his wife with such cruelty that she died from the effects. In order to make his power yet more secure, the Duke persuaded his other brothers, Otto and Conrad, to abandon their claims to the special districts of Moravia, which their father had granted to them, and to come to the ducal court at Prague.

Spitihnĕv, however, like Svatopluk of Moravia and Boleslav the Cruel, was one of those violent men who are subject to reactions as inexplicable as their first outbursts. Under the influence of the Bishop of Prague, he consented to be reconciled to Vratislav, and to allow him to return to Moravia; and this concession was a prelude to a complete change of policy. So mild, indeed, did he become, that he gained the reputation of being a friend to the poor, a just judge, and an encourager of religion.

It is difficult to say to which part of his reign we are to assign an act, which seems at first sight a strange contrast with his furious national prejudices. This was his suppression of the Slavonic ritual in the monastery of Sázava. But the apparent inconsistency is easily explained. The Emperors and Popes were no longer the props of each other’s power; for Henry III. had struck out that new policy, which aimed at the humiliation of the Papacy, and the exaltation of the Empire at its expense. Under these circumstances, a king of Bohemia who wished to hurl defiance at the Germans and their ruler, was[45] necessarily forced to rely on the support of the Pope. Now the very bitterness of the struggle against the German Empire had crushed out those ideas of tolerance towards national feeling which had prevailed in the days of John VIII. The Slavonic ritual represented at once a concession to the Greek heresy, and a substitution of a national language for the Latin, which symbolised the power of the Papacy. Spitihnĕv, therefore, was obliged to suppress this incitement to heresy before he could obtain the help of the Papacy against the Emperor.

But, whatever changes might have marked the closing years of Spitihnĕv’s reign, he could not hope at once to suppress that fierce spirit of national hatred which he had called into prominence; especially since it had entwined itself, in many cases, with personal ambitions and jealousies. When, then, Vratislav succeeded to his brother’s dukedom, he found himself in an exceptionally difficult position. The persecution which he had suffered from his brother naturally inclined him to a reversal of Spitihnĕv’s policy; but he found that the rest of his family by no means shared his desire for such a change. The most turbulent and ambitious of his brothers was named Jaromír. He had been early persuaded to enter deacon’s orders, in the hope of ultimately succeeding to the bishopric of Prague. Soon, however, he wearied of a life for which he had no natural inclination; he therefore fled to Poland, and entered the Polish army. When, then, the Bishop of Prague died, Vratislav naturally felt that any claim which Jaromír might have founded on former promises, was cancelled by[46] his desertion of his profession; and this seemed a good opportunity for introducing the new policy of conciliation of the Germans. Vratislav, therefore, offered the bishopric to a Saxon chaplain named Lanczo. Though Saxon birth might have special recommendations to those who remembered St. Adalbert’s training at Magdeburg, yet, on the other hand, the share which the Saxons had taken in the invasions of Henry III. had produced a deep feeling of resentment in many Bohemians. Conrad and Otto resolved to give expression to these discontents, by persuading Jaromír to renew his tonsure; and they resolved to support his claim to the bishopric.

Vratislav hoped to solve the difficulty by an appeal to a General Assembly. The Assembly met, and Vratislav in their presence presented Lanczo with the episcopal ring and staff. For a few moments dead silence followed this act; then, after some mutterings amongst themselves, several nobles sprang up, and announced their intention to support the claims of Jaromír by force of arms. The opposition was so fierce that Vratislav yielded, and Jaromír was made Bishop of Prague.

But the ambition of the new bishop was not yet satisfied. It had been found necessary, in a previous reign, to divide the diocese into two parts, one Bohemian and one Moravian; and the Bishop of Olomouci (Olmütz) was then made practically independent of the Bishop of Prague. Jaromír now demanded that the Bishop of Olmütz should be deposed, and his diocese absorbed in the diocese of Prague. This proposal was, of course, opposed by Vratislav; whereupon[47] Jaromír went secretly to Olmütz and assaulted his rival bishop, injuring him severely. Vratislav now felt that the time had come to appeal to the Pope against his unruly brother. Alexander II. sent a legate to Bohemia to try the case; but, though the Duke and the nobles received him with great honour, Jaromír denied the authority of the Papal emissary, and refused to resign the see at his bidding.

This, however, was not a time when the Pope could be bearded with impunity. In 1073 Alexander died, and Hildebrand was chosen Pope, with the title of Gregory VII. He summoned Jaromír to Rome; and, after a short attempt at resistance, the turbulent prince submitted to that powerful will. But even Gregory had allies with whom he could not dispense; and Matilda of Tuscany, who was connected with the Bohemian ducal family, chose to interest herself on Jaromír’s behalf, made up a temporary reconciliation between the brothers, and persuaded the Pope to restore Jaromír to the bishopric of Prague, after he had performed some kind of penance, and had given a promise to abstain from interference with the Bishop of Olmütz. Jaromír, therefore, returned to Bohemia, and continued to be a thorn in the side of his brother, and of all his order-loving countrymen.

It is obvious that neither the conduct of Jaromír nor of Gregory can have tended to sweeten Vratislav’s feelings towards the anti-German party; and his personal resentment and the desire for greater security for his throne, doubtless mingled with larger considerations, to recommend to him an important[48] change in Bohemian policy, which was vitally to affect the future of the country.

Ever since the death of Henry II., the Bohemian Dukes had had a new chance for playing a part in the affairs of the German Empire. The six German princes, to whom the Saxon Emperors had wished to limit the right of election to the Empire, had found it impossible, or at least, extremely difficult, to come to a satisfactory decision on occasions when the champions of rival candidates were equally divided. So they were forced to add the Duke of Bohemia as a seventh Elector, to secure a better chance of a satisfactory decision, and in 1024 Duke Oldr̆ich had actually taken part in an Imperial Election. At that time, no doubt, the Emperors were still strong enough to dispense with allies who were not directly and naturally connected with the Empire; but when the struggle with the Popes began, the need for fresh support became more evident, and the friendship of the new Elector of the Empire became more valuable.

When, then, in 1075, Vratislav offered his help to the Emperor in the struggle which was then becoming desperate, his alliance was gladly welcomed. Henry IV. had just then been excommunicated by Gregory for his opposition to the Papal claims over the German bishoprics; and he was threatened with rebellion by some of his most powerful subjects. Vratislav’s opportunity was therefore well chosen; and throughout the many changes of fortune in his stormy career, Henry found his new ally both faithful and helpful. Many victories were gained by the help[49] of the Bohemian soldiers; and perhaps the most noteworthy battle, as affecting the future Bohemian history, was that at Mailberg in 1082, when Vratislav, with the help of the Bavarians, defeated Leopold, Margrave of Austria, who had just revolted against Henry. The Emperor would gladly have presented the Mark of Austria to the victorious Duke; but Vratislav wisely shrank from this extension of his dominions. Other offers of territory by Henry were either declined by the Duke or found incapable of execution; and at last, in 1086, the Emperor, finding no other reward acceptable to his ally, publicly recognised Vratislav as King of Bohemia, and released him from tribute to the Empire.

Thus Bohemia passed for the moment from a position of dependence to one of equal alliance with the German Emperor. It might seem, indeed, when one considers the later developments of Bohemian history, as if the country would have been happier had it held aloof from the quarrels of Emperors and Popes, and developed itself on narrower and more peaceful lines. But, by the statesmen of that time, the matter must have been seen in a very different light. The perpetual interference by Emperors, Popes, and Kings of Poland in the internal affairs of Bohemia seemed to have become an unavoidable evil; and the only apparent remedy was to seize the moment when the Emperor was in difficulty, and to show him that his despised dependant might become a necessary ally.

But the general character of Vratislav’s policy justifies us in attributing to him higher motives than[50] those above mentioned. He seems to have really desired to encourage a wider development of thought and culture in Bohemia. Both Germans and Jews were granted special privileges to induce them to settle in Prague; and it may well be believed that he hoped to extend this connection between Bohemia and the European world, by concerning himself with the politics of the Empire.

Nor did he fail to do honour to native excellence. One man in particular stands out amongst his favourites, as a proof of Vratislav’s sympathy with artistic power. This was Boz̆etĕch, who was distinguished both as painter, sculptor, and architect. Such a variety of excellence so attracted the Duke that he appointed Boz̆etĕch as Abbot of Sázava; and by his help he once more brought back into use the often-disputed Slavonic ritual. Pope Gregory, indeed, indignantly demanded its suppression; but Vratislav, strong in the support of the Emperor and of the general feeling of Bohemia, stood firm on behalf of this symbol of national life. Unfortunately, rulers who choose their favourites for merit rather than for birth, naturally rouse the hostility of those courtiers, who have only the latter claim to distinction; and while Boz̆etĕch was sternly rebuked for presumption by the Bishop of Prague, another favourite of Vratislav’s gave offence to the heir to the throne, and was murdered by the young prince and his followers.

This act of violence is one proof among many that Vratislav’s policy was too vigorous for the leaders of Bohemian opinion. His successors could not[51] maintain Bohemia in the position in which he would have placed her; and even the royal title fell into disuse, in consequence, partly, of the disputes about the succession. Indeed, the chief evidence of the progress, which Bohemia had made under Vratislav, is to be found in the fact that the internal quarrels which followed his reign were not able to drag the country down to the condition into which she had previously fallen. Poland was not able to recover her hold over Bohemia; and Henry IV. was so conscious of his debt to Vratislav that he refused to interfere in a contest between members of the ducal family, on the ground that such questions should be left to the free choice of the Bohemians themselves.

In spite, then, of Vratislav’s partial success, the divisions which followed his death could not fail to weaken Bohemia; and at last one of the Dukes resolved upon a terrible method for suppressing internal disorder. This duke bore the name of Svatopluk; and his career was not wholly unlike that of his namesake in the old Moravian times. By the help of Mutina and Boz̆ej, two of the leaders of the Vrs̆ovici, he had deposed Duke Bor̆ivoj, and placed himself upon the throne of Bohemia. Bor̆ivoj appealed to Polish support for the recovery of his kingdom; and, during Svatopluk’s absence, he invaded Bohemia at the head of a Polish army. Mutina, who had been left as one of Svatopluk’s chief representatives, offered little resistance to the invaders, and he was, in consequence, denounced to the Duke as having intrigued with Bor̆ivoj. Thereupon Svatopluk resolved to[52] destroy the whole race of the Vrs̆ovici. He summoned all the nobles to a banquet in Breslau; and among them came Mutina, not suspecting what was to follow. At the close of the banquet Svatopluk suddenly turned upon Mutina, and accused him and his family of being the authors of all the treasons in Bohemia for many years past. Then he made a sign to an officer, who rushed upon Mutina and cut off his head as he was trying to rise from his seat. His sons were then seized and their eyes put out. Then messengers were despatched all over the country, who hunted out every member of the family of the Vrs̆ovici, and killed all whom they could seize—men, women, and children. Some of them fled, to Poland, and others to Hungary; and for a long time the family was unknown in Bohemia. But this savage act of vengeance did not produce the general results at which its author had aimed. Svatopluk himself was murdered during an invasion of Poland by one of the exiled Vrs̆ovici; and the succeeding reign was as much disturbed by family quarrels as any which had preceded it.

But the real stability of Bohemia, and the substantial unity which under-lay its divisions, were to be proved very soon, by a most searching test. In 1125 the line of the Franconian sovereigns of Germany ended; and Lothar, Duke of Saxony, was chosen Emperor. It will be remembered that the Saxons had now for some time been recognised as the most dangerous rivals of Bohemia; and, at the time of Lothar’s accession, an opportunity seemed to offer itself for using the Imperial power to crush out[53] Bohemian independence. Sobeslav, the next Duke of Bohemia, had just obtained the throne by the influence of his mother Svatava, who had persuaded the Bohemian nobles to ignore the claims of her eldest son, Otto. Otto at once appealed to Lothar, who asserted his right, as Emperor, to decide the succession to the Dukedom of Bohemia.

Such a claim would have been resented at any time; but Otto had specially offended Bohemian feeling, by consenting to hold the province of Moravia as a fief from the Emperor, instead of a dependency of the Duke of Bohemia. All the national feeling of independence at once burst into flame; Sobeslav answered Lothar “that he trusted in the mercy of God, and in the merits of the holy martyrs of Christ, St. Wenceslaus, and St. Adalbert, that our country would not be delivered into the hands of foreigners.” Then he went round to the monasteries imploring Divine help; and when he finally set out on his march, the spear of St. Wenceslaus and the banner of St. Adalbert were carried at the head of the army. At the same time Sobeslav despatched a message to the Emperor, reminding him that the Bohemian nobles were the sole electors of their duke, and that the Emperor had only the right of confirming their choice. But Otto had filled the leaders of the Saxon army with the belief that the nobles of Bohemia were on their side; so the Emperor and his friends declared that Sobeslav’s speech was mere raving.

Following Otto’s guidance, the Saxon army now marched through a thick wood till they came to the pass of Chlum. Here they found themselves wedged[54] in between two mountains, and so blocked by the snow that they had to dismount from their horses. While the invaders were thus cut off from any hope of retreat, Sobeslav’s army broke in upon them from three different sides. Surprised and unable to defend themselves, the Saxons were cut to pieces; while many of the Bohemians were encouraged by visions of St. Wenceslaus and St. Adalbert. So great was the victory that, in the words of one chronicler, “there was rejoicing through all the family of St. Wenceslaus.” Lothar admitted that he had been misled by Otto, recognised the “judgment of God,” and presented Sobeslav with the ducal standard.

Sobeslav, like all the wiser rulers of Bohemia, while determined to maintain the independence of his country, was unwilling to provoke any needless quarrel with Germany. Even with Lothar he soon entered into friendly relations; and, after the death of the Saxon Emperor, he used his vote as Elector of the Empire on behalf of Conrad of Hohenstauffen. Once more the connection between Bohemia and the Empire became one of close friendship; and Sobeslav appealed to Conrad to confirm his nomination of his son Vladislav as successor to the throne. Evidently fearing the divisions which might follow his death, Sobeslav further strengthened Vladislav’s position by securing a special promise from the nobles and knights that they would accept this prince as their duke. The correctness of Sobeslav’s fears was soon proved by the events which followed his death. When in 1140 the duke was known to be dying, the nobles of Bohemia met at the Vys̆ehrad, where they[55] consulted long about the succession to the throne; and, though they finally decided to accept Vladislav as their duke, he soon found that his tenure of authority was a frail and uncertain one.

His difficulties, indeed, were much increased by the reforming zeal of one of the most important of the statesmen on whom he had to rely. Zdík, Bishop of Olmütz, had just returned from a pilgrimage to Palestine, full of eager enthusiasm for establishing a new order of things. By this “new order” he understood a revival of clerical discipline, an increase of monasteries, and a stricter enforcement of general purity of life. Vladislav sympathised with the bishop’s zeal; and he had also enthusiasms of his own, which were equally difficult of realisation. He removed corrupt magistrates, and he insisted that his subjects should have the right to appeal to him against the decisions of those subordinate courts which often represented rather the will of the lords than the intentions of the law.

Such reforms, however welcome to the peasants, the townsfolk, and the stricter clergy, were bitterly opposed by the nobles, whose power they weakened, and whose oppressions they redressed. Therefore, in 1142, the nobles again met, to depose Vratislav from the throne, and to choose a successor in his place. After some discussion, they fixed upon Conrad, the Margrave of Moravia, and placed him at the head of the insurgent forces. Vladislav soon heard of their intrigues; and, while he entrusted the Bishop of Olmütz with the organisation of the ducal troops, he himself sent messengers to the conspirators,[56] reminding them of their oaths of allegiance; and he specially appealed to his cousin Otto, the son of the prince who had headed the Saxon invasion, reproaching him with the fact that he had just restored him to his father’s lands. But all these appeals were in vain; the insurgent army advanced to “Vizoca,” where they were encountered by Vladislav. The fight was a fierce one, and many of the leading nobles were killed; but at last, by pretending a panic, they decoyed the ducal army into a dangerous position, and there turned on them and routed them. Vladislav retreated to Prague; and then, leaving his brother Theobald to defend the city, he went to the Emperor to ask his assistance. The Emperor remembered his debt to Sobeslav, and willingly interceded for his son; and Conrad of Moravia was soon compelled to fly before the forces of his Imperial namesake. Great part of the next four years was wasted in compelling the insurgents to return to their allegiance; but at last the Emperor succeeded in making peace between the contending parties, and Conrad was restored to the government of Moravia.

Vladislav now became eager to resume his interrupted career of reform; and, as a first step, he began to rebuild the monasteries which the rebels had destroyed. Like Vratislav, however, he now felt himself forced by the opposition which he had encountered at home to rely more than ever on the German Emperor; and he was thus dragged into expeditions which had little concern for Bohemia. At first, indeed, the wars in which he engaged were not of a kind to offend the feelings of his countrymen. The[57] crusade, for instance, in which he followed Conrad in 1147, was too much in accordance with the ideas of the time to provoke any open opposition from the nobles; while his invasion of Poland in 1149 was, doubtless, only too popular in Bohemia. But an expedition of a far more important character, and far more closely bound up with the Imperial power, was, a few years later, to occupy the thoughts of Vladislav and his countrymen.

In the year 1154 the Emperor Conrad died, and the Electors of the Empire met to choose his successor. The influence of the Duke of Bohemia in these elections had now been completely recovered; and Vladislav played a considerable part in securing the success of his candidate, the son of Conrad, the celebrated Barbarossa.

But Vladislav’s enemies were on the watch to break a connection so important to his power. Vladislav, for some reason not easy to ascertain, refused to attend Barbarossa’s first Council at Merseburg. This absence was at once seized upon by his rival and kinsman Oldr̆ich to draw the Emperor’s favour away from the new duke. Fortunately, Vladislav, though absent, was well represented by his shrewd adviser, Daniel, Bishop of Prague; and by the bishop’s influence Oldr̆ich was quieted for a time. Vladislav took note of this intrigue; and to prevent its recurrence he drew closer his ties with the Emperor, and consented to support the Emperor in a new invasion of Poland.

This connection gave Barbarossa the opportunity to interest Vladislav in his important projects for[58] recovering and making firmer his position as Holy Roman Emperor. The rising of Arnold of Brescia had drawn the Pope and the Emperor for a time into an alliance; and the appeal of Lodi against the tyrannies of the greater Lombard towns had given the Emperor a new excuse for establishing his rule in Italy. So he became anxious to secure sufficient support from the princes of the Empire; and he was ready to grant favours to those most likely to be of service to him. In 1156 he raised the Margravate of Austria into an independent dukedom; and in the following year he proposed to restore to Vladislav that royal title which had gradually fallen into disuse in Bohemia, on condition that the new King should bring his forces to assist him in the siege of Milan.

This was the third occasion on which a royal crown had been offered to the Dukes of Bohemia; and it was in some ways the most significant of the three. The first offer had been made to St. Wenceslaus, and had been based entirely on the ground of his personal qualities. The saint had refused it as inconsistent with his character. The offer made to Vratislav had been of a wholly different kind from the first proposal; but the way in which the title speedily fell into disuse has led some to doubt if Henry IV. had intended the crown to be hereditary. In the case of Vladislav, however, there was no doubt as to the intentions of Barbarossa. Indeed, he clearly showed that he considered the grant of this dignity as the revival of the old Moravian kingship; and, in order to emphasise the importance and independence of the new dignity, he accompanied it by the grant of territory which the[59] Bohemians had previously claimed, but over which their rights had hitherto been disputed. Although, therefore, the continual contests for the throne of Bohemia, which followed the death of Vladislav, made it impossible for the rival pretenders to make good their claim to the royal title, there was, nevertheless, no doubt that, from this time forth, any lawfully elected ruler of Bohemia had the right to call himself king. Yet, splendid as this proposal was, Vladislav felt it necessary to consult his chief adviser, Bishop Daniel of Prague, before he would give the promise which could alone secure him the new dignity. Daniel had no doubts in his own mind; indeed, he seems throughout to have been more zealous for the Imperial alliance than Vladislav himself, and even to have taken a warm interest in the details of the Italian campaign. He, therefore, readily used his influence in favour of the proposal; and the bargain between the Emperor and the King was accordingly struck.

Few wise and well-meaning rulers have ever done greater mischief to their country than Vladislav accomplished by that hastily made bargain; but nothing could be honester than his way of carrying out the compact; and he clearly showed that he believed himself to be acting for the good of his country. He hastened back to Bohemia, and called a General Council of the nobles, to whom he announced the whole transaction. Immediately fierce protests broke forth. The Duke, without any consultation with his lawful advisers, had raised himself to a new dignity, and had dragged the country[60] into a foreign war. The adviser of such unlawful acts deserved to be crucified. This threat was obviously aimed at Bishop Daniel, but Vladislav hastened to take the whole responsibility upon himself. “I have made this promise,” he said, “to the Emperor, by no man’s advice, but of my own free will. I give this answer to the honours which he has granted to me. Whosoever intends to help me in this business, him I will provide with fitting honour and with the money necessary for this work; but he who cares not for it let him sit at home content with the games and the ease of women, and secure of the peace which I will guarantee to him.”

It should be noted that, under the scornful rhetoric of this speech, there is concealed the admission of the important constitutional principle, that the king had no right to demand the service of his subjects in a foreign war. In saner moods and at later periods, Bohemians were eager to assert this great liberty. But, for the moment, the king’s appeal acted like magic in silencing opposition and rousing enthusiasm for the war. Songs were composed and speeches delivered in honour of the siege of Milan; and, while the young nobility disregarded the warnings of their elders and hastened to take up arms in the Imperial cause, the peasants gladly left their wearisome occupations and oppressed condition to flock to the banner of their beloved king. The splendid services accomplished by Vladislav in that ill-fated war strengthened his influence in the Councils of the Empire; and it is at least pleasant to mention that, at the siege of Brescia, the King of Bohemia used his[61] influence with Barbarossa to soften the terms offered to the unfortunate Brescians. His personal share in the war was indeed cut short, partly by ill-health, partly by the necessity of returning to Bohemia, which was disturbed by the insurrection of a new pretender. But his son Frederick and his brother Theobald brought new reinforcements to the camp of Barbarossa; and a large part of all the glory that could be won in such a cause was due to the Bohemian soldiers.

Nor was Vladislav less successful in rousing the enthusiasm of his subjects in favour of another war, which had as little connection as the Italian expedition had had with the welfare of Bohemia. Queen Geysa, of Hungary, appealed to Vladislav in 1164 to help her young son in his struggle against a pretender to the Hungarian throne. Again Vladislav promised his help, and again the constitutional protest against his promise produced an explanation which served to show the deference of the king to the laws, while its complete success proved his personal popularity in the country. This campaign gave additional proof of the king’s military reputation; for the Emperor of Constantinople, who had invaded Hungary on behalf of the rebels, was eager to make a special peace with his Bohemian opponent; and when he failed to effect this purpose, he speedily returned to his own country and accepted the proposals of Vladislav about the terms of his peace with Queen Geysa.

The reign of Vladislav stands out strangely in the middle of the disorderly twelfth century. We see there a king suppressing disorder without suppressing[62] freedom; armed insurrection by selfish intriguers, changing as if by magic into constitutional opposition on behalf of most important liberties; and all these gains apparently connected with an increase in military glory and national prestige, such as might well dazzle even men of some sagacity and foresight.

But the glory, and, what was of far more importance, the peace of Bohemia, were of short duration. The death of Bishop Daniel broke the chief link between Vladislav and Barbarossa. The bishop had remained with the Emperor during his Italian campaign; his counsels had always been welcome, and his influence had, no doubt, been a strong force in securing Bohemia to the Imperial cause. Nor did his death produce a merely negative effect on the relations between Bohemia and the Empire. It brought into play another influence which was exerted on the opposite side.

Vladislav’s queen, Judith, favoured the party of Pope Alexander III.; and by her advice a Saxon bishop, who had taken the Papal side, was elected as Daniel’s successor. As the new bishop was totally ignorant of the Bohemian language, his election weakened Vladislav’s popularity with his people as much as his favour with the Emperor. Three years later, the enemies of the king once more found their opportunity to make use of these discontents against him. Vladislav, without any consultation with the nobles, and without any notice to the Emperor, resigned his power to his son Frederick; and the intriguers, whom he had with such difficulty suppressed, were now easily able to rouse an insurrection against[63] his successor. Then followed twenty-five years of miserable dynastic squabbles, during which Conrad of Moravia was able to play the part of king-maker, and, by the help of the puppets whom he placed on the throne of Bohemia, to secure a temporary independence for the province which he governed.

At last the contest was brought to an end by the accession of King Pr̆emysl to the throne in 1198; and he settled the question of Moravian government by conceding the rule of that province to his brother Vladislav. Pr̆emysl came at the right moment to recover for Bohemia the power and influence of which the civil wars of a quarter of a century had deprived her. Once more, as in the time of Henry IV., Germany’s difficulty was Bohemia’s opportunity. The death of Henry VI., the son of Barbarossa, had thrown the Empire into all the disorder which arises from a disputed succession; and Pr̆emysl found his interest in playing off one rival emperor against another, just as the Emperors had previously played with the rival candidates to the Bohemian throne. Philip and Otto soon found that their respective causes were practically at the mercy of the Bohemian king; and, if Dubravsky has any authority for saying that Pr̆emysl’s surname of Ottakar was a tribute to his devotion to Otto, never, certainly, did a nickname convey keener irony.

Nor did the election of Frederick II. diminish the power of Pr̆emysl. His influence had considerably contributed to that election; and Frederick’s lifelong war against popes and priests compelled him to rely[64] on any friend who would stand by him against those dangerous antagonists. In his eagerness to secure Pr̆emysl’s help, the Emperor confirmed to the Bohemian crown those German territories in Silesia and the Lausitz, which had so long been the subject of dispute. He also granted to Pr̆emysl the power of appointing bishops in Bohemia without any outside interference. Pr̆emysl’s sympathies with Frederick were further quickened by the struggles with the clergy of Bohemia in which he found himself involved. The same difficulties which our Henry II. had so recently experienced, in his attempts to bring the clergy under the authority of lay tribunals, were harassing Pr̆emysl during a large part of his reign; and his attitude in these matters provoked against him Papal censures as stern as those which were aimed at his Imperial ally. The contest between king and priest in Bohemia ended in a compromise; but the substantial victory probably remained with the king.

Pr̆emysl’s vigour tended, no doubt, to reconcile the discontented nobles to his rule; but, in the reign of his son Wenceslaus, the opposition again began to make head. Young Pr̆emysl Ottakar, the son of Wenceslaus, had been appointed Margrave of Moravia; and the power connected with this office induced the nobles to make the young prince the centre of their intrigues. The terrible events of 1241 suppressed faction for a time in Bohemia; for in that year the invasion of Genghis Khan shook all the States of Europe to their centre, and gradually forced into the background any minor cause[65] of division. The details of this invasion are more properly connected with the events to be dealt with in the following chapter. Here it is enough to say that the panic produced by this invasion enabled Wenceslaus to rally round him the whole forces of the kingdom, and to establish the reputation of Bohemia as the champion of European civilisation.

But there was one ruler, in whom neither fear of danger nor gratitude for deliverance could quench his hostility to the Slavonic kingdom. This was Frederick of Babenberg, Duke of Austria, who was otherwise known as Frederick the Quarrelsome. Ever since the time when Vratislav had defeated the Margrave Leopold in his rising against Henry IV., the rulers of Austria had been doubtful friends to Bohemia; and, though accident might sometimes have forced them into an alliance, their ordinary attitude was that of suspicion, if not of open hostility. Frederick the Quarrelsome was one of the bitterest in his opposition. He invaded Moravia in the very year after the repulse of the Mongols; and he continued the struggle till his death.

That death, however, instead of bringing peace to Wenceslaus, only raised against him a far more formidable opponent. The Emperor Frederick had opposed the efforts of his turbulent namesake; but, when the Duke died without an heir, it seemed an excellent opportunity for seizing Austria as a fief of the Empire. Wenceslaus, on the other hand, desired to secure the dukedom for his son Vladislav; and, in spite of Imperial opposition, he seems to have won for[66] his son the sympathies, of a part, at least, of the Austrian nobles.

Thus then ended abruptly that alliance between Bohemia and the Empire which had been so useful to both parties. Neither Wenceslaus nor Frederick lost time in their declarations of hostility to each other. In 1247 Wenceslaus openly joined in the schemes of Innocent IV., for deposing the Emperor, and setting up William of Holland in his place; and Frederick revenged himself by stirring up the discontented Bohemian nobles against their king. The struggle was a sharp one; the rebels succeeded for a time in deposing Wenceslaus and setting up young Ottakar in his stead; but the threats of Innocent IV. brought them back to their allegiance; and a compromise by which young Ottakar was confirmed in his former government of Moravia removed him from the ranks of his father’s enemies. The death of Frederick II. once more plunged the Empire into disorder. Wenceslaus saw his opportunity in this confusion; and, as Vladislav was now dead, the King persuaded young Ottakar to seize the dukedom of Austria for himself. The Austrians accepted their new duke without any apparent reluctance; and thus, when Wenceslaus died in 1253, Ottakar II. became king of a Bohemia, which included not only Silesia and the Lausitz, but also the dukedom of Austria.




In the present century the development of national constitutions has had a special interest for historians. This interest has arisen partly from the spectacle of the unusual number of new experiments in government which have been made in our own time; partly from the growing sense that the history of wars and Courts has become less important, and that the growth of law and of popular life ought to take the place of those exploded subjects of interest. But the exact legal position of the different component parts of a nation is not generally easy to ascertain at an early period of its history; nor, when it is ascertained, has the knowledge always brought us nearer to the discovery of the really living and progressive force in the nation at that period.

Thus, in the case of Bohemia, though we get continual hints of national feeling and popular aspiration,[68] these do not always centre in legally constituted bodies, nor do they keep pace with any orderly line of constitutional development. Assemblies seem constantly to have met, but these were, in the main, assemblies of nobles; and the general national feeling more often took the form of an enthusiasm for the Bohemian language, or the reverence for a native saint, than of a demand for the extension of the rights of any class, or for a limitation of the royal power.

Perhaps it was a natural consequence of this popular indifference to political progress, as compared with the zeal for the preservation of the national language, and the religious ritual, that, by the close of the twelfth century, we find few traces remaining of those free institutions which seemed to connect themselves with the story of Libus̆a. Even those securities for popular freedom, which undoubtedly prevailed in historical times, had been, in the course of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, corrupted into new sources of tyranny. Of these the most important had been the Z̆upa, or local assembly. This had been formed partly for purposes of self-defence, partly for ecclesiastical organisation; and, though it had centred at one time in a castle, at another in a church, yet it had originally been governed by a judge, elected by the district.

But from the time of Boleslav the Cruel, the Dukes began to make it their practice to grant these local judgeships to nobles who had done them special service; and those nobles were generally allowed either to sell their offices or to bequeath them to their heirs. The temptation to use this position as[69] an instrument of oppression was yet further increased by the profit which the judges were allowed to make out of the fines that they had inflicted. The money thus accumulated was often used for the purchase of neighbouring lands; and thus lands formerly held by freemen, or on the communal system, passed into the power of the official nobles. In the meantime those nobles, who did not become Z̆upani, were able to profit by the growing unpopularity of the local tribunals to strengthen the power of their own feudal courts over their dependants; while the continual wars, and the practice of selling captives into slavery, encouraged the growth of an even more helpless and degraded class. The coolness with which many of the grants of land transfer workmen of various kinds as mere appendages of fields and fishponds, is in itself a proof of the degraded position to which the peasant class in Bohemia had been reduced; and the fact that military service seemed one of the few means of escaping from serfdom led the peasants to favour those wars which in the end increased their misery.

When the peculiarly disturbed state of Bohemia, which followed King Vladislav’s retirement from power, had been for a time brought to an end, or at least modified by the accession of Pr̆emysl Ottakar to the throne of the kingdom, it became necessary to provide some remedy for the miserable state of things which was destroying the country; and above all to find a new opportunity for the development of peaceful trade, and some power which could counteract the lawless intrigues of the nobles. The calling into life of communities which should be out of reach of the[70] power both of feudalism and officialism was the natural method of meeting these difficulties; and, in the ruin of the rest of the country, there seemed to be two places where there still lingered traditions that could be made available for this purpose.

Curiously enough, amid the decay of national freedom, the privileges granted to foreigners still remained undiminished; and, stranger still, it was from these communities that a new material for national life was to be drawn. In the district of Poric̆, which Vratislav had raised into a suburb of Prague, a settlement of German workmen had been planted by that king; and to encourage them in the continuance of their occupations, he had granted them rights of self-government, which had survived the freedom of the Z̆upani, and the other elements of independence which had been enjoyed by the poorer classes of Bohemia. They had been allowed to choose their own judge without interference from any one; and, except in the cases of the most extreme crimes, which were dealt with by the Duke himself, they were allowed to carry on their own affairs according to their own laws. They were never to be compelled to go on military service, except when the actual defence of the country required it. A Bohemian wishing to bring an action against a German was obliged to prove his case through two German witnesses and one Bohemian before a German judge. They were to be safe from that compulsory intrusion into their houses by nobles who came from a distance, which was one of the great burdens of the Bohemian citizens; and in many other matters they were allowed to follow the customs of[71] their own country. The respect felt for these privileges is sufficiently shown by the fact that, even in the time of turbulence and disorder between the abdication of Vladislav, and the accession of Pr̆emysl, we find a formal confirmation by Duke Sobeslav of Vratislav’s grant to the settlers in Poric̆.

Here then Pr̆emysl could find a tradition which might justify him in developing, without violent change, liberties of the greatest importance to his country; and accordingly in 1213 he grants to the citizens of Freudenthal the settlement of their town “in accordance with that Teutonic law which has hitherto been unwonted and unused in the lands of Bohemia and Moravia; but which, having been granted to you first by our illustrious brother Vladislav, Margrave of Moravia, we confirm with our royal authority.” And then, as an important hint of coming developments, and an indication of the thoroughly national purpose of this movement, he grants them, during the life of himself and his brother, the tithes on the metals found within four miles from the city, to be used for the improvement of the aforesaid city.

But, if the new development of town life took root at this time in the western parts of Bohemia, it seems to have had a still earlier growth in the more eastern province of Moravia. That province had always had peculiar traditions of its own. It was a fragment of the old kingdom of Moravia, and had been incorporated in the Bohemian dukedom, at the time of the Hungarian invasion. It always retained a sense of its important position; and Barbarossa himself had[72] increased that feeling when, in granting the royal crown to Vladislav, he spoke of the new dignity as a revival of the old Moravian kingdom. Moreover, by some means or other, a German element seems to have penetrated into this province; and it is now generally believed that in Moravia, as in Bohemia, the first traditions of municipal self-government were drawn from German sources. Nevertheless, when in 1229 King Pr̆emysl recognised the municipal liberties of Brünn (Brno), he evidently refers to them as connected with local rights which had been traditional for a considerable time in that town; and in the book of decisions of the Moravian municipal tribunals, the Law of Brno is sometimes pitted against that Law of Magdeburg which was generally accepted as the model of town rights. Brünn, too, became in a peculiar manner the centre of the towns of Moravia, and its laws became a new source of life to a great portion of the Bohemian kingdom; and its Book of Rights, with its splendid binding and beautiful illuminations, may still be seen in the town council house at Brünn. So, when in 1229 Pr̆emysl Ottakar confirmed the ancient laws of the province of Brünn, he gave a new, and probably more attractive, impulse to the movement for civic self-government.



These rights, however, were of gradual growth, and at the time of Pr̆emysl’s decree they were not developed to that point which the subsequent records of their interpretation would lead one to expect. Thus, although we find securities against arbitrary arrest, we do not find that definite arrangement for the production of legal witnesses which was afterwards[74] established; and, though the judge is no longer allowed to decide questions alone, the check upon him seems to be rather that of officials and nobles than of his fellow-citizens. But, whatever defects and limitations we may find in these early provisions for municipal liberty, the movement in its favour was soon to be hastened by one of the most tremendous shocks which had convulsed Europe since the fall of the Roman Empire. This was nothing less than the invasion of Genghis Khan and his Tartar hordes, which has already been slightly alluded to in the previous chapter.

It appears that the Cumani, a still barbarous tribe, had come into collision with the Tartars in Asia; and, either flying from Tartar vengeance, or following a new career of conquest, the Cumani entered Hungary. There they joined with some of their kinsmen who had formerly settled there, and began to harass the Hungarians. The Tartars quickly followed on their heels; and, having overrun Russia, they made their way into Hungary, defeated King Bela, and laid waste his territory, killing men, women, and children. From thence they swept over Poland, and advanced into Moravia, while others attacked Bulgaria and Greece. The terror-struck descriptions of the writers of the period seem to combine the memories of Gothic and Hunnish invasions with the imagery of the Apocalypse. Like so many conquerors, Genghis Khan seems to have had a conception of a special mission to destroy imposed on him by some invisible Power; and he and his followers were looked on, for a time, as irresistible. He had[75] twelve thousand men wearing breastplates of skin, and always on horseback, and twenty or thirty horses without any one to guide them following every rider; for the Mongol Tartars could do nothing on foot because of their short legs and long bodies. They were killing all except those children whom Genghis Khan was branding on the face with his mark. Their women were said to fight on horseback; and those who slaughtered the most were the most admired.

While Europe was panic-struck, and every man was calling on his neighbour for help, Pope Gregory IX. and the Emperor Frederick II. were fighting with each other for the possession of Sicily; and, while Frederick pleaded that he could not put himself at the head of the Imperial forces till Gregory would let him alone, the friends and admirers of Gregory were accusing Frederick of having himself invited in the Tartars; and some even declared that they had seen his messengers in the Tartar army. Alone almost among the princes of Europe, Wenceslaus of Bohemia, who had now succeeded to the throne, seems to have preserved some nerve and sense. He called upon the Duke of Austria, the Patriarch of Aquileia, the Duke of Carinthia, and the Margrave of Baden to help him to gather together his forces near Olmütz (Olomouci); and he made so determined a stand that the invasion was rolled back upon Hungary.

Even after this defeat of the Tartars the terror of them hung for years over Europe; but, though Bohemia itself was not yet free from danger, Wenceslaus, as King of Bohemia, and his son[76] Pr̆emysl Ottakar, as Margrave of Moravia, now set themselves to redress the injuries done by the Tartar invasion. In 1243 they began to enlarge and restore the towns which had been destroyed by the Tartars; and in order to induce the frightened citizens to devote themselves to this work, they found it necessary to encourage them by the grant of further liberties.

The conception of municipal government evidently makes great strides at this time. Accused persons are now more carefully guarded from arbitrary sentences; and we also find the jury rising to an equality with the judge in the decision of certain matters. More clearly, too, do we detect the determination to put a check on the tyranny of the nobles by the development of civic liberties. “We will,” says Wenceslaus, in his extension of the privileges of Brünn, “and we irrefragably decree that no baron or noble of the land shall have power in the city of Brünn, or shall do any violence in it, or shall detain any one, without the license and proclamation of the judge of the city; and we will that, whoever of the citizens has servants or possessions outside the city, shall not be summoned by the provincial judge, or the officials of the province, but shall be judged by the judge of the city.”



The power of demising property without interference from others, freedom of marriage or non-marriage to widows and maidens, various forms of protection against violence, facilities for holding markets, and the removal of customs duties—such are the chief subjects dealt with in these civic constitutions.[78] The discovery and working of minerals, which largely date from this time, led to new opportunities of self-government. In the town of Iglau (Jíhlava), where miners had been prominent in the defence of their country against the Tartars, the powers granted to them and the neighbouring citizens were particularly large. “We wish and command,” say Wenceslaus and Pr̆emysl Ottakar his son, “that, whatever the jury of our city and the jury of the miners have ordained, for the commercial good, should be inviolably observed by all.” Even tax-collectors of the king are to consult the miners in certain matters; while special securities are given against possible defalcations by debtors of noble birth.

Great as was the advance which is implied in these decrees, the use made of them by the citizens shows that they understood how to extend their liberties still further. The benefit derived from the powers granted to civic judges might have been neutralised by the way in which the judgeships were still conferred by the kings on their personal favourites; but the jurymen of Brünn claimed for themselves the power of checking, and even overruling the judge, which must have been a far better guarantee for the self-government of the city than any that was directly contained in the royal decree.

“The judge,” say these administrators, “must reverence the jury as legislators, never dictate sentences on his own authority, never arrest any one without their knowledge, never appropriate to himself the fines of the city, never bring back those[79] that are driven from the city, without the consent of the jurors; always listen to them, and arrange all the business of his office according to their advice.”

How much the sense of equality before the law grew under this administration may be illustrated by the following instance. A servant has brought an action against a fellow-servant for wounding him; while at the same time a master brings an action against the same defendant for debt. The question arises which of these shall be heard first. The jury decide that “since the body of a man is more precious than money,” the defendant should answer for his violence to the man whom he has wounded, before he answers to the master for his debt. More bold still was the assertion of the rights of the citizens to hold the nobles responsible to the city tribunals for lands held within the city. And while they held their own against the nobles outside, the popular magistrates increased their authority within the city. The power of regulating trade, which in England was seized by the Guilds, was, in the Moravian towns, at once taken into the hands of the civic authorities; and thus those conflicts, which Mrs. Green has described as prevailing in so many English towns, between the magistrates and the leaders of the trades, never assume such prominence in the history of Brünn and Olmütz.

Nor was it only in their immediate security for liberty and good government that these civic rights were of advantage to Bohemia and Moravia. Questions were forced upon the practical consideration of the jurors, the very discussion of which formed an[80] important element in political education. Thus the treatment by the jurors of the questions of the value of torture, and ordeal by battle, as methods of discovering truth, show how experience was already preparing the way for the overthrow of abuses, which were yet too strongly supported by popular prejudice to be removed at once. The steady growth of these liberties, which had received so powerful an impulse from the needs produced by the Tartar invasion, was still further promoted by Pr̆emysl Ottakar II., and became in his hands part of a complete scheme for humbling the power of the nobility.

Wenceslaus, in spite of some fine qualities, had been a self-indulgent and pleasure-seeking man; and he had, like some of his predecessors, mortgaged many of the royal lands and castles to the nobles. This had naturally increased their power, and had enabled them to organise those insurrections against the king in which they had at first succeeded in involving his son. But even while he was still Margrave of Moravia, young Pr̆emysl Ottakar had broken loose from these influences; and by various economies and convenient pecuniary transactions he had succeeded in raising money enough to purchase back the lands from the nobles, compelling them, sometimes against their will, to surrender their mortgages. He also forced them to break down those castles which had been great causes of disorder and weakness in the country. Nor did he fail to strengthen his cause by alliance with the clergy.

Ever since the quarrel between Frederick II. and Wenceslaus, that King had been a devoted champion[81] of the Pope; and in the growing weakness of the Empire, the Pope became more and more the one great Power to which a rising and ambitious king could appeal. Ottakar II. became distinguished as a friend of the Church, not only by his strong support of the Papal power, but by his endowment and development of the monasteries. In this, indeed, he was carrying on that revival of Bohemian life which Wenceslaus had begun after the repulse of the Tartars. But it was evident that these ecclesiastical exemptions must sometimes come into collision with those civic liberties of which we have spoken.

This contradiction was evidently felt by Ottakar; and it showed itself in three different ways. The freedom of trade, which, under certain limitations, was so welcome to the towns, was by no means in accordance with the claims of the abbots. They wished that certain occupations should be carried on under their control; and not that there should be any exchange of the articles connected with those occupations. Thus we find in some of the grants to the monasteries that, while the monks and their dependants are relieved from certain forms of taxation, the exemption is specially limited to those who are not engaged in trade. Secondly, there was an obvious risk of a conflict of authority between the monastic tribunals and those of the city. Thirdly, the records of Brünn, and of its imitators, show that the growing ideas of equality before the law did not always seem to the citizens quite consistent with the privileges claimed by the clergy. Nor must it be supposed that charters to monasteries and charters[82] to towns represented, in the same degree, the ordinary idea of human liberty. The dependants of the abbot were as much at his mercy as those of any feudal lord; and though it might be an advantage for them to escape from the oppressions of the Z̆upani, it was not always certain that the abbot would be a gentler master.

That Ottakar felt the difficulty of this conflict, and desired to compromise between the interests of these rivals for his favour, is strikingly illustrated by the two cases of Hradiste and Litomys̆l. In the former case, Ottakar was particularly anxious to secure the good will of the citizens, because he looked upon their town as a possible bulwark against Hungarian invasion; but the neighbouring convent of Vilegrad feared that the grant of liberties to Hradiste would interfere with the privileges of their convent. The compromise to which Ottakar was forced seems a considerable surrender to ecclesiastical pretensions. The townsmen were to settle in one particular island, for which they were to pay rent to the monastery. The monastery was to retain all its former rights over waters, fisheries, mills, meadows, woods, and corn-fields; and, though the town was to hold a market two days a week, the profit of that market was to go on one day to the king, and on another to the monastery; and, above all, the judge of the town was to be appointed by the monastery. But in this decree there is a provision which seems to suggest how even such a compromise might work for freedom. The common rights in pasture held previously by the townsmen are to be shared with the dependants of[83] the monastery; but the dependants of the monastery in their turn are to share their common rights with the citizens of the town. Thus there would naturally grow up a combination among the dependants of the monasteries, like those unions which, in England, gave such trouble to the abbots of St. Albans and Dunstable.

In the case of Litomys̆l the grants to the monastery and those given to the town are so entangled that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the benefits received by the respective recipients of the royal favour; and, in this case, Ottakar seems to have cut the knot by raising Litomys̆l to the ordinary position of a royal town, and thereby emancipating it from the control of the monastery. Ottakar indeed had one sure protection against any possible offence which the Church might fear from the growth of civic liberty. Bruno, Bishop of Olmütz, was his right-hand man in this as in other parts of his work. Himself a German by birth, he warmly encouraged the introduction of German town rights into the cities of Moravia; while, on the other hand, he always succeeded, until the final catastrophe of Ottakar’s life, in strengthening the good understanding between the Pope and the King of Bohemia.

Thus there were now growing up in Bohemia the elements of internal liberty, under the patronage of a king strong and wise enough to hold his own against the nobles. Had Ottakar been content to remain King of Bohemia alone, the effect of his reign on his country might have been permanently beneficial. But it is now necessary to speak of that career of[84] conquest and aggression which raised up against him so many enemies, and which at last put into the hands of his most dangerous rival the weapon by which king and country were alike overthrown.

However evil were the final results of his aggressions, it must be owned that there was a certain plausibility in the justification offered by Ottakar for each of his conquests. To begin with the first and most important of them, the conquest of Austria. The Babenbergers had been undoubtedly troublesome neighbours to the Dukes of Bohemia; and Frederick the Quarrelsome, the last of the line, had been also so oppressive to his subjects that they had appealed to the Emperor to choose them a new duke. On this occasion the King of Bohemia had been one of those to whom the enforcement of the ban of the Empire had been entrusted. When, then, on the death of Frederick the Quarrelsome, the land seemed likely to fall into the hands of the Emperor, or to be torn in pieces by rival claimants, Wenceslaus and Ottakar may have naturally considered it a matter of self-defence to establish their rule, and with it some kind of order, in the lands of so near a neighbour; and they were further encouraged in their attempt by the approval of Pope Innocent IV.

But the latter phases of the conquest are perhaps less excusable, and even somewhat discreditable to Wenceslaus and his son. The Austrian nobles, on the death of the Emperor Frederick had resolved to choose the Margrave of Meissen as their duke, and to send representatives to invite him to accept the ducal crown. On their way through Bohemia,[85] Wenceslaus invited them to a banquet, and tried to cajole them into choosing his son as their duke. The messengers, alarmed and taken by surprise, declared that they had no authority to accept this proposal. Wenceslaus, thereupon, uttered such threats, that the Austrians considered it dangerous to continue their journey; and they returned to their country to reconsider the question.

Apart from the claim given to the Margrave of Meissen by the choice of the nobles, there were two rival claimants to the dukedom of Austria; Margaret the widow of the Emperor Henry VI., and daughter of Leopold the Glorious, the most popular of all the Babenberg House; and Gertrude a niece of Frederick the Quarrelsome, and wife of the Margrave of Baden. Margaret was, of course, tolerably advanced in life, and had taken a vow of virginity after the death of her husband; but Wenceslaus and Bruno of Olmütz persuaded young Ottakar to make good his claim to the duchy by wooing the widow. In an evil hour for herself, Margaret consented to Ottakar’s proposal; the approval of the Pope, and possibly some slight display of military force, completed Ottakar’s claim; and he was accepted by some at least of the Austrian nobles as their Duke.

In Austria, as in Bohemia, Ottakar looked chiefly for his support to the great cities. Vienna flourished under his rule; and he granted special privileges to the neighbouring town of Neustadt. But the hostility of the nobles still continued; and they were resolved that, at all events, the German province of Styria should not fall into Bohemian hands. The difficulty[86] of Ottakar’s position on this question lay in the fact that the most important rival claimant was Bela, King of Hungary, who, like Ottakar, was a special favourite of the Pope; and in the beginning of the struggle the King of Hungary succeeded in establishing his authority in Styria. But, by the admission even of Ottakar’s enemies, the tyranny of the Hungarians in Styria was so great that, when Ottakar again made an attempt on the province, he was welcomed as a deliverer; and for the time he made good his footing.

It was now necessary to get a formal sanction for these conquests; and Ottakar chose Richard of Cornwall, from the rival claimants to the German Empire, as the puppet most useful for this purpose. Richard was willing enough to secure so influential a supporter; but the King of Hungary was not so easily satisfied. In 1260, he once more poured his forces into Styria and Austria; and he was now followed, not only by the Hungarian troops, but by the savage Cumanians, and even, according to one account, by the Tartars. The struggle was a fierce one; but it ended in the complete victory of the Bohemians.

Ottakar, however, thought it necessary to secure himself against future invasions, by a singularly questionable step. The unfortunate Margaret, to whom, it was evident, he must very soon have become unfaithful, was to be repudiated on the ground of her former vow of virginity, in order that Ottakar might marry Kunigunda, the daughter of Bela, King of Hungary. Urban IV., like many of his predecessors,[87] was extremely desirous to procure a good understanding between Hungary and Bohemia, as in the union of these kingdoms he saw the best hope of security against a future Tartar invasion; so Kunigunda was crowned Queen of Bohemia by the Archbishop of Mainz.

But Ottakar’s conquests were not yet at an end. Ulrich, the Duke of Carinthia and Carniola, had a very troublesome brother called Philip, who was generally at feud with some prince or other. Amongst his other enemies was the Patriarch of Aquileia, to whose office he desired to succeed. Ulrich, knowing Ottakar’s influence with the Pope and the ecclesiastics generally, tried to secure that influence in favour of the election of Philip to the patriarchate. Ottakar agreed, on condition that Ulrich would make him his heir in Carinthia and Carniola. Ulrich consented to this proposal; and, by Ottakar’s influence, the Chapter of Aquileia elected Philip Patriarch. Philip was apparently unaware of the bargain; and he was therefore extremely indignant, when, on Ulrich’s death, the King of Bohemia entered Carinthia and Carniola as the lawful heir of Ulrich. This bitterness was further increased when the Pope refused to confirm the election of the Chapter, and Philip found himself without either patriarchate or dukedom.

Ottakar was now the lord of all the territories which form the western part of the present Austrian Empire, with the exception of the Tyrol. But his hold on these conquered territories was by no means so certain as it at first appeared. Though none of[88] his rivals were able, at the moment, to make good their claims against him, yet any one of them might reckon on a formidable amount of discontent in all the conquered provinces. For the same policy which he had pursued in Bohemia of breaking down the power of the nobles, by destroying their castles, was carried on in his new dominions; and, while in all of them it caused considerable opposition, in Styria the discontent soon ripened into rebellion.

The attitude of the Styrian nobles had, from the first, been one of more determined hostility than Ottakar had encountered in his other dominions; and it soon provoked him into measures which increased the evil. One can scarcely accept as undoubted history all the charges of cruelty made against him by the Styrian noble Ottakar von Horneck, who was evidently in full sympathy from the first with those who resisted the Bohemian claims. Still less can we accept as authentic the reckless attacks of the chronicler Victor, who was a chaplain of the House of Hapsburg. But those facts, which seem to be indisputable, are sufficient of themselves to account for Ottakar’s failure to reduce the province to submission. As usual in such cases, intriguers were found to intensify the king’s suspicions by false accusations; some nobles were thrown into prison on insufficient evidence; and when the case broke down against them, their accuser was in turn imprisoned. Finally, Milota, the governor appointed by Ottakar, tried to bring in Bohemian soldiers and Bohemian settlers to maintain the authority of the king.

But, though all these elements of discontent were[89] gradually ripening to violent conclusions, to outward appearance Ottakar was still at the height of his power. Old King Bela of Hungary, in dying, placed his wife, daughter, and barons under the special protection of Ottakar; and, when Bela’s son and successor Stephen tried to shake off the power which his father had given to Bohemia, he found himself opposed by the bishops and archbishops of Hungary, and by some even of the barons. Ottakar was able to dictate peace in Hungary itself, and Stephen was forced to renounce all claims to Styria and Carinthia.

A change, however, was shortly to occur in Europe which was to diminish one of the chief causes of Ottakar’s success. In his, as in former reigns, Germany’s difficulty had been Bohemia’s opportunity; and it was Ottakar’s too ready recognition of this fact which now brought him into collision with the wisest and most patriotic rulers in Europe, as well as with some of the most daring intriguers. Ever since the death of Henry VI., the son of Barbarossa, the claim to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire had been perpetually disputed. The striking and romantic figure of Frederick II. had indeed arrested the attention of Europe in a marked manner; but the intense hatred felt for him by all the Popes, his own preference of Sicily to Germany, and the complete disorganisation produced by the Tartar invasion, had combined to prevent him from establishing any firm rule in the Empire. Since his death the phantom figures of William of Holland, Conrad the Fourth, Alfonso of Castille, and Richard of Cornwall had flitted across the stage of German politics, each[90] contributing a certain amount of increase to the general anarchy. In the absence of any settled central government, the great towns of Germany had endeavoured to form leagues for their own protection, and in the general interest of order; but even these had a difficulty in maintaining their existence against the pretensions of the archbishops and the robberies of the knights and nobles.

In such a state of things the first instinct of those who desired to restore order was to choose the strongest ruler who could be found; and therefore it was not altogether surprising that the Imperial crown was offered, by some at least of the German princes, to Ottakar himself. The grounds of Ottakar’s refusal have been variously given; and it is highly probable that both of the explanations offered were parts of the truth. On the one hand his nobles, already jealous of his power, were extremely unwilling that he should have a new and independent force at his back, which would enable him still further to overawe them; while, on the other hand, Ottakar himself saw clearly that the position of King of Bohemia and King-maker of the Empire was a far safer and more powerful one than the position of a Holy Roman Emperor, checked, and often controlled, by the Electors of the Empire.

The Elector who took the most prominent part in this offer to Ottakar had been the Archbishop of Köln; but Werner of Mainz now succeeded in inducing the Archbishops of Köln and Trier to join him in an alliance which was to secure the election of an Emperor who would be amenable to their advice.[91] Werner had been specially alarmed at the growth of Ottakar’s power; for any development of Bohemian independence would weaken the power of the Empire over the diocese of Prague, and would thereby weaken also the ecclesiastical authority of Mainz. He was, therefore, specially anxious to secure a counterbalancing power to Ottakar’s, but a power which would at the same time be dependent on the Electors of the Empire. The Archbishops first considered, and then rejected, the proposal to raise to the Imperial throne the Count Palatine of the Rhine; for they soon saw that he might be useful as an ally, but extremely dangerous as a master. As the great hindrance to the unity of the Empire seemed, at that time, to come from the South, it was particularly necessary for the Archbishops to win to their side Duke Louis of Bavaria, who was the principal rival and enemy of Ottakar. Bavaria had recently been divided into two parts, between the two brothers Louis and Henry; and the warm friendship of Henry for Ottakar had strengthened the opposition of Louis. Louis, indeed, may have himself dreamt of the Imperial crown; but neither the Archbishops, nor the more northern Electors, were disposed to concede this dignity to him. They had, however, a bait which was sufficiently attractive to the Duke.

It appeared that in the year 1257, the Duke of Bavaria had taken part in one of those confused elections to the Empire which had given an opportunity for every kind of irregular interference. The Archbishops now proposed to recognise this precedent as conferring on the Duke of Bavaria the position of[92] Elector of the Empire, and thus completing the mystic number of seven, without the help of the King of Bohemia. A candidate for the throne had, however, still to be found; and, as the idea of choosing one of the more powerful princes was now definitely abandoned, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the Duke of Saxony put forward a kinsman of their own, named Siegfried of Anhalt.

The majority, however, of the Electors, and the most active spirits among them, desired to strengthen their position in the South rather than the North of Germany; and it was now that Frederick of Hohenzollern, the Burggraf of Nürnberg, brought forward the candidate for whom he had been secretly preparing the way. This was Count Rudolf of Hapsburg, the owner of a castle near the Lake of Constance, who had become known in his own neighbourhood as the protector and champion of Bern and other growing towns. He had gained considerable reputation for military ability; and he had evidently some of that personal power of fascination so important to a great ruler. Fortunately for his chances of success he had already attracted the attention of Werner of Mainz, at the time when the Archbishop was on his journey to Rome to be confirmed in his diocese. But, besides this important support, Rudolf had another source of influence, the peculiar use of which was to be a marked characteristic of his descendants. He had a large number of marriageable daughters. One of these was promised to the Count Palatine of the Rhine; and by marriage with another the Duke of Saxony was persuaded to abandon the[93] cause of Siegfried of Anhalt. By what means the Elector of Brandenburg was won over is not quite clear; and, in all probability, he was the least willing of the Imperial Electors to grant his support to Rudolf. His opposition, however, cannot at this time have been very decided; for, when the Electors held their formal meeting, the resolution to support Rudolf was unanimous.

Thus far the intrigues appear by some mysterious means to have been kept from the knowledge of Ottakar. But such an arrangement could not long be hid. Henry of Bavaria must necessarily have been admitted to the knowledge of some of these proceedings; and, although the Electors were anxious to conciliate him, he was not yet prepared to abandon his friendship for Ottakar. Probably, therefore, it was through his means that Ottakar had received notice of the meeting of the final Assembly for deciding the election; and he was able, therefore, to send a representative to it. Apparently, however, the King of Bohemia had not even yet realised the full extent of his enemies’ intrigues; and it was with the greatest surprise and indignation that his representative discovered that the meeting to which he had been summoned was merely called to confirm an election already previously agreed upon. That Ottakar should be indignant at this ignoring of his electoral rights was natural enough; but the amazement and horror which the election of Rudolf excited in his mind can only be described in his own words.

In November, 1273, he addressed to Pope Gregory X., who had then been recently elected, his[94] protest against the decision of the Electoral College. Beginning with a most glowing and somewhat fulsome description of the Papacy, he then proceeds as follows:—

“Wherefore, if the commonwealth is ever oppressed, neither reason nor our wishes allow us to have recourse to any but you. Whence, since the Princes of Germany who have the power of choosing the Cæsars have agreed (we would not speak with spiteful poison, nor has detraction a place in a royal speech) to direct their votes to a less suitable Count, in spite of the protest of our customary messengers whom we sent to Wrauenwrt, where the election ought to have been held; and since, to the injury of the Empire and to our prejudice, after our appeal to the Apostolic Chair, they have decorated him with the majesty of the sacred diadem, we return to you as the inexhaustible fountain of justice and piety, entreating your Holiness not to permit us to be trampled on in our rights, which the aforesaid princes try to crush down with manifest injuries; and that you will deign to turn your sacred mind to the weeping state of the Empire; and that the blessed benignity of Mother Church will take compassion on it; since that Empire, before which the whole world has trembled, which was entrusted with all the most excellent dignities of monarchy, has now fallen to those persons whom obscurity hides from fame, who are deprived of power and strength, and weighed down by the burden of poverty. Pity us! holiest Father! lest that which is so pressed down may be seen to be most unworthy; since, if the Apostolic Chair permits it, if the world tolerates it, that so[95] high an exaltation should be granted to those that are low, it would be reduced to nothing; and that which the Arab has served, the Indian has obeyed, the Italian has submitted to, the Spaniard has looked up to, which the whole world has reverenced, should become despicable in the eyes of all. Him whom the Senate and Roman people, whom law and virtue, whom God Himself has established on the throne, every one will despise as scorning the bridle of a poor man. And thus justice will be stifled, concord will be banished, peace will perish in a reign of crimes, injuries will flourish unpunished, neighbour will rise against neighbour, and such calamity and misery will hang over us that all who live will hate their life.”

Surely a more pathetic appeal was rarely addressed by a great ruler to the head of the Christian Church. But Gregory X., though willing like his predecessors to be on good terms with the King of Bohemia, was probably not so ill-informed of the affairs of Europe as not to know that many of the evils which Ottakar depicted as likely to follow on Rudolf’s election, had already disturbed the Empire for many years past; and he was soon to be convinced that the election of Rudolf might be the best way of removing them. Rudolf, on his part, lost no time and spared no pains in destroying in the Pope’s mind the only objection which might possibly have interfered with his acceptance. While eager to secure his recognition and coronation as Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope, Rudolf, more than any Emperor since Henry the Fowler, desired to be, in all essentials, merely a German King. He eagerly assured the Pope[96] that he had not the slightest wish to assert those claims in Italy and Sicily which had brought Frederick II. and other emperors into collision with the Papacy; nay, he would even defend the nominees of the Pope in their claims on Sicily, and would in all things be the faithful servant of the Church. But, though Gregory very soon showed an inclination to accept the choice of the German Electors, he still paused on the brink of so important a decision; and this pause was ingeniously used by the ablest of Ottakar’s advisers, Bruno, Bishop of Olmütz. Gregory, who seems to have been one of the most high-minded Popes of the period, was sincerely desirous of restoring a better state of things in Europe, partly as a preparation for a new expedition to Palestine. In order to ascertain the real feeling and purposes of the Christians of Europe, he requested various bishops to report to him on the condition of the countries with which they were acquainted. Whatever other results this appeal may have produced, Bruno saw in it an admirable opportunity for furthering his master’s interests. The growth of heresy, the maintenance of the Cumani by the King of Hungary, the extreme poverty and misery of the clergy, the indifference of the bulk of the people to religious services, the intrusion of the mendicant friars into the offices of the parochial clergy and bishops, the unwillingness of the laity to hear their sins denounced, and the continual encroachment of lay judges on the privileges of the clergy—all these evils are aggravated by the elevation to high places of those who ought rather to be subjects. The only trustworthy champion of the[97] Christian faith is the King of Bohemia; even in the very diocese of Prague he is the only patron who grants the presentation of the clergy to the bishops; and on him mainly will fall the burden of resisting a new Tartar invasion. Bruno undoubtedly stood high in the opinion of Gregory; and, even apart from his advice, there were obvious grounds for inquiry in the circumstances of Rudolf’s election. A Council was therefore held at Lyons for the full investigation of this question; an unusually large number of bishops attended it; and it doubtless received dignity in the eyes of many by the presence of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura. Bruno’s protest was heard at full; while, on the other hand, Rudolf’s readiness to meet the demands of the Pope, and to acknowledge the rights of the clergy was pressed upon Gregory’s attention. Anxious to treat Ottakar mildly, but conscious that the Church and the Empire would both gain by the election of Rudolf, Gregory decided that, though Ottakar’s claim to share in the election was undoubtedly just, yet, as the six other Electors took the opposite side to that which he advocated, he was in the minority, and ought therefore to yield; and the Pope persuaded Bruno to use his influence with his master in favour of Rudolf.

But the question, in the meantime, was assuming a new aspect. Rudolf’s alarm at the opposition of Ottakar, and his desire to secure all the Imperial rights, were combining with other circumstances to induce him to put forward a claim for the restoration to the Empire of the Duchies of Austria, Styria, Carniola, and Carinthia. Ottakar had been unwilling[98] to resist the pressure of the Pope and the advice of Bruno; but he now demanded that, before doing homage to Rudolf, he should have a clear guarantee for the possession of the lands that he had conquered.

In his determination to resist the demands of Rudolf, Ottakar seems to have been strangely unaware of the dangers that were surrounding him. Rudolf was, in the meantime, making allies with great sagacity. Count Meinhard of the Tyrol had been the Count of Hapsburg’s most intimate friend; and he was one of the many who looked with jealous eyes on Ottakar’s possession of Carinthia. The Archbishop of Salzburg had claimed some rights in Styria, and was besides continually harassed by encroachments on the part of Ottakar; Henry of Bavaria had been one of those to whom the nobles of Styria had offered their dukedom; and though his friendship for Ottakar shows that he must have abandoned this claim for a time, the offer of one of Rudolf’s useful daughters finally detached him from his alliance with Bohemia.

In the meantime, the indefatigable Burggraf of Nürnberg had discovered and fomented the discontents of the nobles of Austria and Styria; and he announced to Ottakar that the Ban of the Empire had been proclaimed against him. But even now Ottakar was unaware of Rudolf’s plans; he probably despised his military ability; and he thought it sufficient to send a small force to the defence of the Bohemian frontier, while he gave himself up to hunting and other amusements. He was, therefore, terribly startled when, in September, 1276, Rudolf[99] suddenly entered Austria. Almost at the same time Count Meinhard invaded Carinthia, and the Styrian nobles, rising in insurrection, drove out Milota from their country. Still Ottakar hoped to save himself by the devotion of the towns; for six months, Vienna justified his expectations by holding out against Rudolf’s army; and Paltram, the Burgomaster, roused the citizens to a vigorous defence on behalf of the King, who had showed them such favour. Ottakar, now stirred to action, marched into Austria and occupied one side of the Danube; from whence he hoped to make an attack on the rear of Rudolf’s army. But the Count Palatine of the Rhine hastened to seize the fortresses which lay between him and the German army; and it was now that Ottakar became thoroughly aware of the defection of his nobles. Fortress after fortress surrendered to Rudolf without a struggle; and at last the poorer men in Vienna, seeing the continual destruction of their vineyards outside the city, called upon Paltram to surrender. He, finding that Ottakar did not arrive, despaired of holding out longer; though, before surrendering, he exacted from Rudolf a promise that he would maintain the liberties of Vienna.

As soon as Bruno of Olmütz heard of this loss, he advised Ottakar to yield. Ottakar was most reluctant that the struggle should end without a pitched battle; but another enemy now threatened to appear on the scene. Ladislaus, the new king of Hungary, was smarting under the recollection of the defeats which his predecessor had sustained; and he prepared to invade Bohemia. This new danger[100] seems to have decided Ottakar to yield. He therefore publicly surrendered to Rudolf all his claims on Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, and did homage to him as Emperor for his kingdom of Bohemia and Moravia. Such a settlement could not possibly be lasting. Ottakar had not yet been defeated in any pitched battle; his wife Kunigunda is said to have reproached him for his weakness in yielding so soon; and, in the carrying out of the treaty which followed, numerous questions, of doubtful interpretation, quickly came to the front. In this case, one of Rudolf’s otherwise successful daughters proved a source of contention rather than of unity. Guta, the daughter whom Rudolf had offered as a bride to Ottakar’s son, had been promised large lands as her dowry; and Ottakar maintained that, as these lands must necessarily lie in Austria, he was not bound to evacuate those territories, but should rather claim them as his due. Rudolf, on the other hand, insisted that the terms of the treaty involved the evacuation of the whole of Austria.

A question which must have touched Ottakar far more nearly was the interpretation of the clause about the extension to the supporters of each King of all the securities gained by the peace. The discontent of the nobles with Ottakar’s rule had extended even to Bohemia and Moravia; and many of the king’s native subjects had entered into intrigues with Rudolf. Rudolf maintained that, as these men must be considered his supporters, they were entitled to the same concessions as the other champions of his cause. It was obvious that such[101] grounds of division as these, by whatever compromise they might be settled at the moment, must leave a lasting sting behind them; and there is no sign in the letters of either King of even such a pretence of friendship, as the ordinary exigencies of diplomacy might seem to require. Both Rudolf and Ottakar were, in fact, preparing for a new struggle, and looking about for allies.

At this stage the chances seemed to be in favour of Ottakar. In the first struggle he could rely on nothing but the military forces of his own kingdom, and the sympathies of those citizens whom he had favoured; while Rudolf was backed by the approval and encouragement of the great princes of the Empire, by the sanction of the Pope, by the assistance of the King of Hungary, and by the eager sympathy and co-operation of the discontented subjects of Ottakar.

Now, these supporters seemed to be gradually dropping off from the Emperor. Rudolf had by no means abandoned that championship of the towns for which he had been so distinguished before his election to the Imperial throne; and of all the enemies of the town life of Germany the prince-bishops were looked upon as the most determined and dangerous. Rudolf had therefore to choose between adherence to his old policy and the favour of his archiepiscopal supporters. With a courage which was doubtless united to far-sighted wisdom, he boldly defended the municipal rights of Köln against the encroachments of its Archbishop. That powerful Elector was thus completely alienated from Rudolf’s cause; and he[102] speedily succeeded in persuading his brother Archbishops of Trier and Mainz to desert their nominee. The defection of Werner of Mainz so alarmed Rudolf that he seemed disposed to make some sacrifice of principle in order to conciliate him. But the concessions which the Emperor offered were not sufficient to appease the jealousies and suspicions of the Archbishop; and Werner now began to listen only too readily to the advances of Ottakar.

The Margrave of Brandenburg can never have been a warm supporter of Rudolf. He had married Ottakar’s sister; and he was united to him also by the still closer link of military comradeship; for Ottakar and he had fought side by side in one of those invasions of Prussia, which were supposed to be so advantageous to the souls of the heathen population, and which undoubtedly tended to increase the power and territory of the Margrave of Brandenburg. Nor does the Duke of Saxony seem to have been finally secured to the interest of Rudolf by the marriage with his daughter. Even the Dukes of Bavaria did not feel that they had profited as much as they had hoped to do by their support of the Emperor; and they were not a little alarmed at his evident intention to turn the provinces, which he had won for the Empire, into a private possession of the House of Hapsburg. Nor was Rudolf more fortunate when he tried to find allies abroad whose support might compensate him for the loss of his friends at home. In vain he made advances to our Edward I.; and an attempt to strengthen his hands[103] by alliances with the princes of Italy, had the sole result of exciting the suspicions and enmity of Pope Nicholas III.

Ottakar was, of course, greatly encouraged by these secessions from his rival; and he hoped still further to strengthen his own position by detaching the King of Hungary from his alliance with Rudolf, and by stirring up an insurrection in Austria. In both these efforts, however, he was unsuccessful. The conspiracy formed by some of the Austrian nobles, in concert with the still discontented Burgomaster of Vienna, was detected by Rudolf before it had come to a head; and while Paltram was forced to save himself by flight, one of the leading nobles was seized and condemned to death.

The discovery of this conspiracy seems to have been the signal for the new outbreak of war; and it was now apparent that Rudolf had not been wholly weakened by the desertion of his powerful supporters. The forces on which he could still rely were more ready to act under his command than the great princes of the Empire would have been; and his one independent ally probably gave him more efficient help than he could have derived from any distant general. This was Ladislaus of Hungary, who had been firmly secured to Rudolf’s side, partly by the gift of one of his inexhaustible tribe of daughters, and partly by a vague promise of extension of territory. Ottakar was apparently unaware of the firmness of this alliance; and he entered Austria with a somewhat small force, expecting an easy victory. One or two fortresses fell quickly into[104] his hands; but the sudden appearance of the King of Hungary at the head of a large army took him completely by surprise; and, after suffering a slight defeat, he found it convenient to retreat to some distance.

Rudolf in the meantime had rallied round him his most determined supporters. Chief among these was Frederick of Hohenzollern; and the Emperor also received ready help from Count Meinhard of the Tyrol, the Archbishop of Salzburg, and the Bishop of Basel. Besides these supporters, he had under his command a strong force of South Germans; while fiercest and keenest of all the soldiers in his ranks were those who fought under the banners of the discontented Styrian nobles.

The rival armies met on the banks of the river Morava on the plain called the Marchfeld. The battle was a fierce one. The Bishop of Basel and Frederick of Hohenzollern broke the left wing of the Bohemian army; while, on the other side, Ottakar, at the head of a chosen band of knights, drove back the right wing of the Imperialists, and even struck down the Emperor himself. But the Styrian nobles so fiercely resisted the advance of the Bohemians, that they gave time to Rudolf to reform his troops; while Frederick of Hohenzollern followed up his success by attacking the reserve guard, which ought to have advanced to Ottakar’s rescue. These reserves were headed by Milota, Ottakar’s Governor of Styria. It is said that Milota himself had a bitter grievance against the king, on account of an injury inflicted on his brother. Whether this is true or not,[105] it seems certain that, just when these troops ought to have hastened to the support of the main army, they were suddenly seized with a panic, and fled in confusion. The panic quickly spread to the troops posted next to them; and the battle was hopelessly lost. Ottakar fought with desperate courage to the last; and, whether he died sword in hand, or whether, as others say, he was killed by the Styrian nobles after he had surrendered, it is certain that his body was found on the battlefield.

With him, for a time, fell the liberty and independence of Bohemia; and, though his son bore the name of king, and even recovered for a short period an appearance of independence, yet, politically considered, the male line of those Bohemian native rulers, who traced their descent to Libus̆a and Pr̆emysl, came to an end on the plain of Marchfeld in August, 1278. Bohemian independence was, indeed, to revive under a different form; and, nearly two centuries later, a native Bohemian king was once more to rule at Prague; but never again was a purely Bohemian dynasty to be established on the throne.

With all its faults, the line of the Pr̆emyslovci had produced as many able and patriotic rulers as most royal houses can boast of. They had steered their country through its difficult progress from Paganism to Christianity. They had reduced the rival kingdom of Poland from the position of a dangerous aggressor into that of a tributary State. They had helped to roll back the tide of Hungarian conquest; they had made themselves a powerful factor in the policy of the German Empire. Amid the despair of Europe,[106] they had stood almost alone against the crushing invasion of the Tartars. And last, and most important of all, they had begun to develop the municipal liberties of their country, in a way which gave good promise of future prosperity. That in this last matter they had borrowed largely from German models, only showed their power of rising superior to a most natural national prejudice; while, in the case of Ottakar II., his enlightened policy towards the Jews must have often brought upon him the rebukes of those clergy on whom he so much relied for help. He failed, because he was not content to be king of Bohemia, but wished to be the head of a powerful State which could dictate the policy of the Empire. Had he been satisfied to develop the liberties of his own country in peace, he might have laid the foundations of a State, which could even now have been playing an independent part in the affairs of Europe.





If tried by the standard of ordinary conquerors, Rudolf of Hapsburg must be admitted to have been merciful, and even generous, in his dealings with Bohemia. Although, after the death of Ottakar, he continued for some time to hold Moravia as a conquered province, he set himself to restore those Moravian cities which had suffered by the war; and he readily confirmed all the municipal liberties, which had been granted by Ottakar and previous kings. He always treated Kunigunda as a Queen; he secured to her, not only her own money dowry, but also that district of Opava (in Moravia) which had been specially settled upon her; and, as will be seen, he protected her from the cruelty of the friends in whom she had too rashly trusted. To her son, Wenceslaus, he was even more generous. The daughter whom he had promised in 1276 to the son of the still powerful King of Bohemia, he was still[108] ready to give to the orphan of a defeated and conquered man.

As soon as the boy’s age permitted such a step, he restored him to his father’s throne, and helped him, sometimes by wise advice and sometimes by force of arms, to maintain his power over his subjects. Doubtless this policy, however magnanimous, was part of a scheme of action which tended to strengthen and increase Rudolf’s power. The towns in Moravia, whose liberties he confirmed, he raised into free cities of the German Empire; and he saw the wisdom of winning to his side, and holding in friendly subjection, the young and spirited King of a kingdom which had so often been a hindrance to schemes of Imperial policy. Yet, allowing for these considerations, it cannot be denied that the consistent execution of such a policy must have required a masterly self-restraint, and a splendid coolness of judgment, not often found in conquerors of any time.

But the feat which he had attempted was one which many circumstances combined to make impossible; and men, of a very opposite type to Rudolf’s, speedily frustrated his efforts for a peaceable and gradual absorption of Bohemia in the German Empire. Queen Kunigunda had naturally desired to make a further stand against her husband’s conqueror; and she called to her aid the son of that Otto of Brandenburg who had been Ottakar’s companion in arms, and afterwards his brother-in-law. He came; and the queen had speedy cause to regret her invitation. The struggle between Otto and Rudolf was of short duration, and the Margrave was soon willing to[109] accept the Emperor’s terms of peace and one of his inexhaustible tribe of daughters.

Otto soon showed that it was not for the sake of the wife and son of his old friend that he had come to Bohemia. Under pretence of investigating some old charter of Ottakar’s, Otto sent German soldiers to Prague to find out the places where Ottakar’s bailiff had kept the royal treasure. These soldiers entered one of the chief monasteries, and there discovered a large chest which had been used by many people during the war as a storehouse for food, clothes, and other property. This chest the Germans at once broke open and plundered of its contents; and then, as if determined to offend the national feeling to the utmost, they rushed into the chapel of St. Wenceslaus and rifled the tomb of the saint.

These outrages were followed by a yet more daring act of violence. Otto suddenly entered Prague by night, seized the queen and prince in their rooms, while still half dressed, and carried them off to a fortress, where he set German soldiers to guard them, and would permit no Bohemian to see them. Some Bohemian nobles demanded the release of these captives, and Otto promised to set them free; but he broke his promise. Kunigunda, indeed, by a series of ruses, succeeded in escaping from her imprisonment and taking refuge in her own special dominions at Opava; but her boy remained a prisoner in Otto’s hands.

In the meantime the soldiers, who had been brought in by Otto to carry out his tyrannical purposes, began a series of plundering expeditions on their own account.[110] The unfortunate peasants fled from their fields and took refuge in the woods, leaving the lands wholly uncultivated. Even worse calamities fell on the towns. The large-minded policy of the two Ottakars and of Wenceslaus I. now proved a source of evil and division. They had tried to induce Germans and Bohemians to live together in towns, established under German municipal laws, and often peopled in the first instance by German immigrants. But these enlightened kings had not been able thereby to stifle race-hatred and jealousy; and the German settlers now looked upon the wild soldiers of Otto as their allies against the native Bohemian citizens. They invited the leaders of the plundering parties into the towns, and with their help expelled the Bohemians. Prague was the only city strong enough to resist this Germanising process; and Tobias, the Bishop of Prague, tried to rally the faithful nobles of the kingdom round Kunigunda. This effort was a desperate one; and, even when Otto left Bohemia for a time, his viceroy, the Bishop of Brandenburg, carried his ruthless policy still further, plundering the clergy and treating the remonstrances of Bishop Tobias with scorn and insolence.

At last the Bohemians were forced to call in their former conqueror to deliver them from this cruel tyranny; and Otto soon succumbed to the Imperial forces. He consented to summon an Assembly at Prague, at which he appointed Bishop Tobias as chief ruler of the kingdom; and he further issued a decree that those Germans who had entered Bohemia for the purposes of plunder should leave the country[111] within three days. He again promised to release young Wenceslaus, and again broke his promise. The German robbers, awed doubtless by the power of Rudolf, hastened to obey the orders of their master. But the evil seed which they had sown did not cease to produce its natural fruits.

It must be remembered that for three years the lands had been left uncultivated; and trade, except where carried on by Germans, had been totally paralysed. The consequence of these misfortunes was a terrible famine. Unemployed workmen and starving peasants crowded into Prague and enforced by violence their demands for food and clothing. Driven out by the authorities of the city, they perished of cold in the woods; large holes were filled with the dead bodies; family affection ceased in the bitter struggle for life; and, when all kinds of strange food had been tried and exhausted, mothers killed and ate their own children.

At last, in 1283, a better harvest began to restore some hope for a return to human conditions of life. Then wild rumours and speculations fed the rising expectation. A beautiful rainbow was the source of bright prophecies; and a half belief began to arise in some minds that King Ottakar was not really dead, and would return in triumph. Suddenly a definite announcement took the place of dreams and fancies. Not Ottakar, but his son Wenceslaus, was to return to reign in Bohemia. Base and sordid to the last, Otto had demanded from the half-starved Bohemians a ransom of 35,000 marks, as compensation for what he called his care and expense in[112] guarding the young Bohemian king, in reality as a bribe not to break any more promises. But the sum was paid, and no doubt willingly.

There is something inexpressibly touching in the enthusiasm which greeted the return of the twelve-year-old king. Men, hardly recovered from years of starvation and plague, seemed at once convinced that at last a better time was coming; and on June 9, 1283, barons, knights, clergy, citizens, and peasants flocked out to meet the young king, Bishop Tobias leading the motley throng, and all singing the hymn of St. Adalbert, the opening words of which had served Ottakar as a war-cry at the fatal battle of the Marchfeld.

But the troubles of Bohemia were not yet at an end. The boy followed his most natural instinct in appealing to his mother to join him in Prague. Unfortunately, Kunigunda had in the meantime formed a connection which proved most dangerous to the peace and order of the country. Zavis̆ of Falkenstein belonged to a noble family of Moravia, and he had succeeded in securing the queen’s affection during her residence in Opava. Whether the marriage, which was recognised at a later time, had already taken place, or whether, as some said, their connection was one of illicit love, certain it is that it was the affection between them, rather than the form of its expression, which excited the indignation and jealousy of the Bohemian nobles; and Zavis̆ soon justified that indignation.

No sooner did he appear at the Court of Prague than he set himself to oppose and drive away such[113] patriots as Bishop Tobias, and to put his own favourites in their place. An insurrection quickly followed; and though Rudolf exerted himself to pacify the insurgents, he soon showed in an unmistakable manner his own distrust of the new ruler of Bohemia.

In January, 1285, Wenceslaus, now arrived at his fourteenth year, was married to Guta, the daughter of Rudolf. Zavis̆ was so conscious of Rudolf’s distrust, that he did not venture to enter the town where the marriage was solemnised. This absence, however, did not satisfy the Emperor; and he took the extreme step of carrying back Guta with him, after her marriage, to preserve her from the influences which prevailed at Prague. Either encouraged by these signs of Rudolf’s feelings, or irritated by some new insolence on the part of Zavis̆, the Bohemian nobles raised a second insurrection; but they were again unsuccessful, and it was not till the death of Kunigunda, in 1287, that Wenceslaus succeeded in shaking off the power of his stepfather.

An excellent excuse for this final effort for freedom was supplied by Rudolf, who declared that he would not restore Guta to her husband until Zavis̆ was banished from the court. Wenceslaus was, no doubt, glad enough to get back his wife in exchange for his stepfather; and, when Zavis̆ intrigued with the King of Hungary and tried to entrap Wenceslaus, the young king decoyed him back to Prague and there imprisoned him. The friends of Zavis̆, both in Hungary and Bohemia, attempted his rescue; but Rudolf again intervened; and after the Hungarian invasion had been repelled, Wenceslaus was at last[114] persuaded by his Imperial father-in-law to put Zavis̆ to death.

The young king now devoted himself to the restoration of order. He broke down castles, encouraged trade, extended the liberties of the cities, and gained a high reputation for justice. He even attempted to substitute for the vague mass of traditional custom a regular code of written laws; but in this attempt he was defeated by the nobles, who often showed themselves too strong for him.

The fatality which seemed to attend the best and most law-loving kings of Bohemia dragged Wenceslaus also into the complications of Imperial and Polish politics. In 1291 Rudolf died; and it soon became evident how bitter was the hostility which the Hapsburg family had excited among the princes of Germany.

Albert, the son of Rudolf, had indeed made good his power in the dukedoms of Austria and Styria, but he had shown little sign of his father’s vigour or ability; and the suspicion felt by the Bohemians towards the whole house of Hapsburg was increased, in the case of Albert, by the personal quarrels which had embittered his relations with his brother-in-law, Wenceslaus. Rudolf, indeed, had made great efforts to preserve the peace; but, as soon as he was dead, the quarrel again broke out, and Wenceslaus joined with other Electors of the Empire to choose Adolf of Nassau as Emperor, in opposition to Albert.

His success in securing this election left the King of Bohemia free to carry on the struggle with Poland. He recovered the often-disputed town of Cracow, and[115] resumed that claim to the kingdom of Poland which, in some form or other, had been traditional in Bohemia since the time of King Vladislav. Adolf would gladly have strengthened the allegiance of Wenceslaus by this or any other concession; but Albert had an advantage which eventually enabled him to outbid his rival. He still retained in his hands the towns of Eger (Cheb) and Pilsen (Plz̆en), which his father had never surrendered to Bohemia. These towns, from their nearness to the Bavarian frontier, might be specially dangerous to the Bohemians if held by an enemy of their country; and their restoration to Wenceslaus meant the practical revival of Bohemian independence. This bribe therefore proved too strong for Wenceslaus’s faith; he withdrew his support from Adolf, and helped to place Albert on the throne of the Empire. In the following year the King of Poland finally surrendered his crown to Wenceslaus; and in 1300 Albert gave his Imperial sanction to the union of Poland with Bohemia.

There was yet another kingdom whose internal affairs had always a dangerous attraction for the kings of Bohemia. In 1301 the direct line of the old kings of Hungary came to an end; and a Hungarian bishop, backed by some of the nobles, offered the crown to Wenceslaus. The young king, though refusing the offer on his own account, was disposed to accept it on behalf of his son; but this acceptance brought upon him the hostility of the two greatest Powers of Europe. The Pope complained that the election was uncanonical; because the bishop[116] who had taken the leading part in it was not authorised to crown the kings of Hungary. The Emperor Albert, on his side, had already become suspicious of the growing power of Bohemia; and, according to one chronicler, his avarice had been excited by the fame of the silver mines at Kuttenberg (Kutna Hora). Wenceslaus, indeed, though ready enough to hold his own against the Emperor, was as anxious as his father had been to remain on good terms with the Pope. He acknowledged the irregularity in the form of his son’s election; and, at the same time, he entreated the Pope to secure him the crown in a canonical manner. But it soon appeared that Boniface’s complaint about the form of election was a mere pretext, and that the Pope was really intending to grant the crown of Hungary to the King of Naples. To this arrangement Wenceslaus would not consent; and hence it came that in 1304 he was compelled to defend Bohemia against the forces of the Empire, supported by the authority of the Pope. This time, however, there was no division in the national feeling. However unwelcome some of Wenceslaus’s schemes might be to the Bohemian nobles, they had too recently learnt, by bitter experience, the folly of deserting a national king for a foreign invader. The Bohemians offered a unanimous resistance to the Imperial army, and Albert was forced to retreat.

But the doom of the male line of the House of Pr̆emysl was, none the less, hopelessly fixed. Wenceslaus died in the following year; and his son, after resigning his claim to the kingdom of Hungary, gave himself up to dissipation and profligacy. The Poles[117] began to revolt; and during an expedition to Cracow the last of the male line of the Pr̆emyslovci was murdered by a traitor.


It seemed for the moment as if the turn of the House of Hapsburg had once more come. During the bitter divisions in the Bohemian Assembly which followed the death of their king, Albert succeeded in thrusting his son Rudolf on the attention of the Electors; and the majority of those who were present consented to elect this prince to the Bohemian throne, and even to declare their crown hereditary in the[118] House of Hapsburg. But this success was only momentary, for a fierce hatred of the Hapsburgs was deeply rooted in the Bohemians; and, by a curious irony of fortune, the opponents of Rudolf called to their aid the son of that Duke of Carinthia who had won his Dukedom by supporting Rudolf’s grandfather against Ottakar II. Rudolf died after a few months; and the majority of the next Assembly chose Henry of Carinthia as their king.

But Albert would not yet yield; and he set up his son Frederick as Rudolf’s successor. The fight was a fierce one; and it was soon changed from the attempt of an Emperor to conquer a new kingdom into a struggle of the House of Hapsburg to maintain its political existence. The opposition to that House was due, not only to the bitter Bohemian feeling against the German oppressor, nor yet to the jealousy felt by the great Princes of the Empire towards successful upstarts, but also to the hatred of those townsmen and peasants who had looked to Rudolf as their protector, and who found in his descendants their most deadly enemies.

In May, 1308, the Emperor Albert was murdered by his nephew; and, as the murderer was the son of Ottakar’s daughter, he was looked upon by the Bohemians as the avenger of his grandfather. The Electors of the Empire were now resolved that no further chance should be given to the House of Hapsburg; and Henry of Luxemburg was elected to the Imperial throne. The fate of Bohemia once more followed that of the Empire; for the new Emperor quickly saw his opportunity in the unpopularity[119] of both the claimants of the Bohemian crown. He secured the hand of Elizabeth, the daughter of Wenceslaus, for his son John, and thus paved the way for the latter’s succession to the Bohemian throne. Hence it came about that in 1310 the Estates of Prague enthusiastically welcomed John of Luxemburg as their king.

It even seemed, for the moment, as if this election would be the signal for a yet more complete victory of the House of Luxemburg over that of Hapsburg; for, at the very same time, the Austrians suddenly rose against their Dukes, and expelled them from all but three towns of the Duchy. But the Emperor Henry refused to encourage this insurrection; and the Hapsburgs continued to maintain their position as Dukes of Austria.

Few kings have ever succeeded to the rule of a foreign country with a better hope of popularity than did John of Luxemburg. The terrible years of anarchy had made the Bohemians desirous of a strong government, and ready to welcome any one who seemed to have force and vigour enough to restore order. As the rival of the hated House of Hapsburg, and the deliverer from the incapable Henry of Carinthia, the new king was specially acceptable; while his marriage with the daughter of Wenceslaus might have almost cheated the enthusiastic Bohemians into the belief that they were once more to be governed by a national sovereign. John, too, seemed willing enough to meet these aspirations more than half way. He not only recognised that claim, which had been formerly asserted against Vladislav, that Bohemians[120] should not be called to fight outside their kingdom; but he declared that no official should be appointed in Bohemia or Moravia who was not a native of those countries; and, more startling still, that none but natives should be suffered to buy lands, inheritances, fortresses, or any other rights within the country.

But it soon became evident that, if these promises were to be kept to the ear, they were certain to be broken to the sense. The earliest cause of offence, was, no doubt, one which might be excused to a boy of fourteen. By the advice of his father, John accepted the Archbishop of Mainz as his chief counsellor, and gradually drew around him a number of German courtiers. It appears, indeed, from trustworthy evidence, that this German Churchman preserved better order in Bohemia than that which prevailed in the latter part of John’s reign; yet his position was, notwithstanding, a most difficult one, and several circumstances combined to make it impossible.

The national feeling of independence, which had been roused to new life by the promises of John, was unfortunately manipulated at this period by one of those unscrupulous intriguers who sometimes drift to the front in times of disorder. His name was Henry of Lipa; and he had already played a part in the reign of Henry of Carinthia, in exciting the nobles of Bohemia against the rulers of the towns.

Ever since the time of Ottakar II. the claim of the towns to a share in the government of Bohemia was being more strongly asserted; and a controversy which, under their native rulers, might have been settled by peaceful means, had led, in a time of[121] foreign tyranny, to an outbreak of civil war. In the first phase of the struggle, the towns had so far made good their claim that they were admitted to share in the discussions of the Assembly which offered the crown to John; and such a victory must have tended to prejudice men like Henry of Lipa against the new king.

Nor was it difficult to give a national colouring to the class selfishness of the nobles. It will be remembered that Ottakar II. had introduced a large German element into the towns which he had founded. This measure of wise policy had been changed into a means of cruel oppression by Otto of Brandenburg; and, unfortunately for the cause of the towns, Otto had been, apparently, the first ruler who summoned their representatives to share in the deliberations of the Estates of the Realm.

Moreover, Henry of Lipa added to his class prejudices a more personal reason for opposing the existing government. He was attached to the widow of the late King Rudolf, who was known to her supporters as the Queen of Grätz; and he was resolved to make good both her claims and his own at the expense of the peace and order of the country.

To the unscrupulous intriguers who were plotting against their power, John and the Archbishop of Mainz were unfortunately soon to supply some just causes of complaint. The death of the Emperor Henry seemed to open to John a chance for claiming the Imperial throne; and, when he found that his youth was held to disqualify him for that dignity, he threw all his influence on to the side of Louis of Bavaria, as he[122] was resolved that no Hapsburg, at any rate, should again become Holy Roman Emperor. This contest withdrew both him and the Archbishop from Bohemia; and the German Councillors who were left to support the queen were little able to stand against Henry of Lipa. John soon found that his championship of the Bavarian cause was likely to involve him in a dangerous war; and, fearing to leave a disturbed Bohemia behind him, he hastened to satisfy his opponents by dismissing his German advisers and taking Henry of Lipa into his counsels.

A new Hungarian war which broke out at this time enabled Henry to increase his power, and he used it for inflicting new oppressions on the Bohemian towns. But a bolder act of presumption at last exhausted the patience of the Court. Henry ventured, without consulting king or queen, to grant Agnes, the queen’s sister, in marriage to a Duke of Silesia. This insolence at last roused John to action, and Lipa was arrested. Before any further steps could be taken, John was once more called to the German war; and he again left the Archbishop of Mainz as his viceroy. Henry of Lipa once more appealed to Bohemian feeling against the German prelate; and, though many of the better men among the Bohemian nobility were now disposed to stand by their queen, they were not strong enough to hold their own against these intrigues. John was now earnestly entreated to return to Bohemia; but, when he hastened back, at the head of his Rhenish forces, his Bohemian advisers urged him to leave the Germans behind, and to throw himself on the support of his faithful nobles.[123] John rejected this advice; he re-entered Bohemia at the head of his German troops, and proceeded to attack the lands of those nobles who had resisted him.

A general panic now seized the Bohemians; they recalled to their minds the tyranny of Otto of Brandenburg; and the rumour quickly spread that John was about to use German soldiers to crush out Bohemian independence. What had been the intrigue of a mere selfish faction, now swelled into a national opposition; and the war raged fiercely. Henry of Lipa, indeed, remained the ostensible leader of the insurgents; but he had so little sympathy with real national feeling, that he called in Frederick of Austria as his ally; and, when John offered terms to the rebels, Henry refused them, on the ground that any treaty of peace must also include the Austrians. At last the Emperor Louis intervened in the struggle. John was persuaded to send away his Rhenish troops, to renew his promise to appoint only Bohemian advisers, and once more to give high office in the State to Henry of Lipa. To these terms the king consented; but Queen Elizabeth, with keener insight, refused altogether to trust this new Councillor; and Henry thereupon devoted his whole energies to making mischief between the king and queen.

The intriguers had now discovered what manner of man they had to deal with. Vain, profligate, and pleasure-seeking, John was easily persuaded by the young nobles that his wife had gained too much power over him; and, when they had once sown in his mind this suspicion, they were able to develop an[124] elaborate romance of imaginary plots, by which the queen was supposed to be undermining the throne of John, and securing the power to herself and her son. John’s selfish vanity soon drove him into violent action. He hastened to the fortress where the queen was then staying, and used such violent language that she fled in terror from the place. Then he removed from her her favourite attendants, carried off her children, and shut up his eldest son for two months in a dark room.

The indignation which this conduct caused among the citizens of Bohemia was much increased by the various forms of extortion which John now proceeded to inflict both on towns and monasteries—extortions devised solely to obtain money for the pleasures of the King and his courtiers. John, indeed, had been as ready as any other King of Bohemia to promise the citizens exemption from certain forms of taxation; and consequently they now complained, not only of oppression, but also of broken faith. Nor was it merely in the matter of taxes that the privileges of the citizens were violated. In earlier times the nobles had claimed the right of demanding forcible quartering in the houses of citizens for those who were engaged on expeditions in the king’s service. This claim naturally led to great abuses, against which Ottakar and Wenceslaus had tried to protect their subjects. In this matter also John had promised to carry out the policy of his predecessors. But he now encouraged even his own kinsmen to demand this compulsory entertainment. One citizen was seized and crucified because he would not give up his money[125] to these intruders; others were plundered and unjustly imprisoned.

At last the citizens of Prague drew up a formal complaint, which they authorised six of their number to present to John. Some mischief-maker persuaded the king that this protest was a first step to insurrection; and his suspicions were further inflamed by the news that the queen had recently come to Prague, and had been received with great honour. Furious at this supposed conspiracy, the king and Henry of Lipa at once marched against Prague. The citizens, astonished at the interpretation which had been put upon their remonstrance, were at first disposed to admit the king, in the hopes of an easy explanation; but some of the nobles, who had remained faithful to the queen, were opposed to this policy; and they offered such determined resistance, that John was compelled to retreat from the city. A sort of truce was patched up for a time, though John insisted that the six citizens who had drawn up the remonstrance should be expelled from the city. Then he hurried away to finish the war between Louis and Frederick; and Henry of Lipa was left chief ruler of the kingdom. He soon succeeded in bringing to an end the temporary reconciliation between John and Elizabeth; and the queen was forced to fly to Bavaria, where she remained for some time, in dependence on her Bavarian relations, since John would not allow any support to be sent to her from Bohemia.

Then followed many years of oppression and disorder, during which John only appeared in Bohemia when he wished to demand money from the citizens,[126] which he then hastened to spend at Paris or on the Rhine, either in the provision of splendid tournaments, or on some of the many wars which the princes of the Empire were waging against each other or against the Imperial towns. John’s special attraction was to Paris, where the court of King Charles was becoming a centre of pleasure and excitement. It was probably his alliance with this king which gradually separated John from the cause of Louis of Bavaria; for Charles felt himself bound to stand by his dependant at Avignon, Pope John XXII., who had always been opposed to the claims of Louis.

During this time of disorder the nobles had gradually succeeded in drawing into their power many of the royal fortresses; and, the central authority being thus fatally weakened, robbery and violence prevailed throughout the country. Poor Elizabeth ventured back to Prague about 1325; and she used her best efforts for the good of her country. On the occasion of a plague, she arranged processions in which sacred relics of great value were publicly exhibited; she endowed monasteries, and protected them, even with a high hand, against the intrusions of the nobles; while, for her personal consolation, she contemplated a thorn from the Sacred Crown, which King Charles of France had sent her as a present during some of the revels which her husband was enjoying at Paris.

Bishop John of Prague might have given her some help in the government of the country; but he was summoned to Avignon to be tried as a protector of heretics, and detained there for thirteen years before[127] he was tried and acquitted. It was impossible, however, to expect that either the queen or the bishop could hold their own against such men as Henry of Lipa; and, after the death of the queen in 1330, even King John began gradually to realise that some better provision must be made for the government of the country. So, three years later, he consented to send his eldest son, who had hitherto been detained at Paris, to try his hand at the restoration of order in Bohemia.

This son had originally been named Wenceslaus, at the time when John was still hoping to conciliate the national feeling of Bohemia; but he had subsequently been re-named Charles, in honour of John’s model and ally, the King of France. He was now seventeen years old; he was welcomed by the Bohemians as the son of their beloved Elizabeth, and his dignified and straightforward manners tended to increase the attachment of his subjects. He speedily showed that enthusiasm for his mother’s country which was to produce such striking results, when once his hand was free. By judicious economy, he tried to buy back for the Crown those castles which had been mortgaged to the nobles; and he made progresses through his dominions, hearing the grievances of the people and trying to redress them. This policy did not suit those disorderly nobles who had hitherto ruled at their pleasure. They easily succeeded in stirring up John’s suspicions against his son, as they had previously done against his wife; and Charles was deprived of his power and sent off to the Tyrol. Not many years elapsed, however,[128] before John discovered that his son would be still necessary to him, if he wished to gain any advantage from the kingdom of Bohemia. But Charles had now realised that his father was habitually sacrificing the honour and freedom of the country for the sake of his own pleasures; and in 1342 the young prince declared that he would only undertake the government of Bohemia if John would consent to stay away from it for two years, and would be content with the sum of five thousand marks during that period.

The popular feeling in Bohemia was strongly in favour of Charles, as against his father. Indeed, so hated had the latter become, that, when he was shortly after afflicted with blindness, many Bohemians considered that this suffering was a judgment upon him for his cruelty and oppression. He therefore considered it advisable to accept these terms; and Charles’s position was made still easier by the friendship of Pope Clement VI., who, while anxious to conciliate the friendship of John, was keenly alive to the desirability of securing to his side the national sentiment of Bohemia. He therefore raised the Church of Prague into an archbishopric, emancipating it entirely from the archbishopric of Mainz; and he also conceded that often disputed demand for the use of the Slavonic ritual in the monasteries of Bohemia.

Indeed, both John and Clement had a very special reason for desiring to keep the popular young prince in friendly alliance with them. The ambition, which John had once cherished on his own behalf, had now been turned into a desire for the exaltation of his[129] son. For different reasons both the King and the Pope were now eager for the overthrow of Louis of Bavaria; and they heartily agreed that Charles was the most hopeful candidate for the Imperial throne. The other Electors were equally ready for this change; and in July, 1346, Charles was chosen Holy Roman Emperor. Such a step could not long fail to produce dangerous results; but, before the opponents of the new Emperor were prepared for action, the attention of Europe was distracted from their quarrels by a war between England and France. John eagerly rushed to the support of his old ally; and, in August, 1346, he died fighting at the battle of Crecy—a death much admired by the readers of romances, and an infinite relief to the oppressed Bohemians.





In writing the life of men who have played a great part in the affairs of the world, it is generally possible to find some hint in the earlier periods of their life of a preparation for the important work which has distinguished their later years. In the case of Charles IV. this link seems at first sight exceptionally difficult to find. He had been torn away from his mother’s influence in his earliest childhood; treated with exceptional harshness, at that tender age, by his father; kept away so long from the country which he was afterwards to govern, that when he first returned to it he had completely forgotten the Bohemian language; suddenly thrust into a partial government of the country, at the age of seventeen; regarded by his father and those who surrounded him with the utmost suspicion, and snatched away from the government when he was just beginning to get a firm hold of it. Then he was dragged into Italian wars with which he had little sympathy, and[131] where men seemed to fight as much with poison as with swords; a witness of his father’s dissolute life, and surrounded by evil companions; and, to crown all his difficulties, when he had attained to full manhood, but had not yet become king of Bohemia, he had been suddenly raised to the highest dignity in Europe. Such was the preparation which Charles had received for the government of a kingdom which required special knowledge, special sympathies, and somewhat exclusive care.

Karl IV. mit der Kaiserin Anna.


But in the fragment of autobiography which Charles has left us, he has himself supplied the clue to at least some part of this difficulty. That residence in Paris, and intimacy with the King of France, which was to John merely a new opportunity for self-indulgence and luxury, gave to Charles both that interest in the higher education of a people which[132] was of so much service to Bohemia, and a personal zeal for study which doubtless saved him from many of the evils which surrounded him. The King of France took a great fancy to his young namesake; and, though he and most of his family were ignorant of literature, he saw the value of it for others, and urged his chaplain to encourage Charles in his studies. Paris was at that time the centre of learning. It contained the most completely organised University, except that of Bologna; and it attracted students from many parts of Europe. The influence of the king’s chaplain doubtless developed in Charles that reverence for the clergy and the pope which was, perhaps, more of a real moral conviction in him than in any prince of his time. He was also fortunate in the ease with which he acquired new languages; and this gift enabled him to recover his power of speaking Bohemian without losing his knowledge of German. Whence he could have derived that intense Bohemian feeling, which showed itself in all the more important acts of his life, sometimes even to the prejudice of his work as German Emperor, it is very difficult to say; but, doubtless, the fervent and practical piety, which always distinguished him, led him to cling to such traditions as he could gather about the mother of whom he had seen so little; and the zeal for her country, when he saw the wrongs inflicted on it by his father, would have been quickened in him by that hatred of injustice and oppression which was so strong an element in his character. But, be the causes what they may, certain it is that the first important use which he[133] made of his double power of Bohemian king and German emperor was to lay the foundations of a scheme for making Prague the intellectual centre, not only of Bohemia, but of the whole Empire.

In Bohemia, as elsewhere, book-learning had primarily been considered as part of the training of the clergy. Under Ottakar II., indeed, an attempt had been made to enlarge the range of studies, and perhaps to interest in them people of other professions and races. But, after the fall of Ottakar, Rudolf had feared anything which would attract his Austrian subjects to Bohemia; and the Austrian students had been ordered to leave Prague. Wenceslaus II. had tried to revive and develop his father’s ideas; but, as it was not even then understood that a University could be intended for all men, the nobles successfully opposed the scheme, as an attempt to increase the power of the clergy.

Charles soon showed that, while anxious to work with the clergy in this, as in other matters, he yet aimed at something much higher and wider than a mere clerical school. Doctors of law, medicine, and natural science were summoned to join in his new institution; and the Faculties were organised, partly on the model of Paris and partly of Bologna. The Rector, who was elected by masters and students, was the chief judge of the University; but, in the matters which purely related to their own art or science, the elected heads of the Faculties were left to manage their own affairs. Important as the lectures at the University were considered, a great deal of the instruction was conveyed through the[134] medium of public discussions, in some of which all the Masters of Arts were compelled to take part. Questions of the alterations of the Statutes were decided by a general assembly, in which masters and students had equal votes.

But one of the most distinctive points of Charles’s scheme, and one which produced most important effects both for good and evil, was the division of the University into four Nations. These were called respectively the Bohemian, Bavarian, Polish, and Saxon. The Bohemian Nation included Hungary; the Bavarian, most of South Germany; the Polish, Prussia and Silesia; and the Saxon, all the rest of North Germany, with Denmark and Sweden. Each of these Nations chose one Elector; the four Electors chose seven others; the seven chose five; and then these five chose the Rector of the University. For special cases, not dealt with by the general assembly, a council of eight was appointed, containing two representatives from each Nation. How much Charles desired to make his University a centre for the whole Empire may be gathered from the fact that among the first eight professors one was a Saxon, one a Westphalian, and one a Frenchman. The tendency to welcome men of learning was characteristic of Charles’s reign; nor was his welcome confined to teachers and writers; artists also shared his patronage; and his reign was marked by efforts after external splendour and stern morality which are seldom found in combination. The most remarkable outward symbol of these divergent tendencies is the celebrated fortress of Carlstein[135] (Karluv Tyn, Charles’s town), which, in its form, its decoration, and special objects, seems to combine the memories of Charles’s work as king, as moral reformer, and as patron of Art. Devised for the[136] better protection of the crown jewels, and, at a somewhat later period, of the charters of Bohemia, it also afforded a place of retirement for periods of strict and almost ascetic devotion; while the pictures on its walls, and the precious stones which cover its roof, recall the memory of the encouragement which the King gave to the Arts of his time.


But the attempt to combine his work as Emperor with his work as King of Bohemia was to be the great difficulty of his career; and scarcely had he succeeded in bringing the University into working order before the great rush of students began to alarm the inhabitants of Prague. Complaints were made of disorders, of the high price of provisions, and of difficulties arising from the want of accommodation in the city. This last objection Charles proceeded to meet by founding a new suburb of Prague, to be united by ditch, wall, and bridge with the old city, and to enjoy the same privileges as the rest of Prague. This helped forward Charles’s plans for raising Prague into Imperial importance; and the work of uniting all the different parts of the city was undertaken on so splendid a scale that, in a time of famine, Charles was able to solve “the problem of the unemployed,” by setting more than a thousand men to work on the new walls. But there still remained the disorders which had been brought about by the arrival of German students, who distrusted the justice of Bohemian tribunals. In order to restore peace, Charles placed the University directly under his own authority, and allowed no appeal from the decisions of the Rector, except to[137] the highest court. This creation of an independent corporation of learning was a necessary stage in the growth of the University, and contained seeds both of good and evil, to be developed at a later time.

In the founding of this University, Charles had aimed at the accomplishment of two different objects; the establishment of an intellectual centre for the Empire, and the development of a new life in Bohemia. The second of these objects was probably the one nearest to his heart; and it was not only by the encouragement of learning that he hoped to promote it, but by attention to every phase of national well-being. He, like his grandfather Wenceslaus, desired to substitute a written code of laws for the floating mass of customs and traditions by which Bohemia was, in great part, governed. How far Wenceslaus had gone towards the execution of this plan cannot be ascertained; but Charles actually drew up his code, and gave it the name of the Majestas Carolina. If we may judge from his preface, and from the subject which stands first in the code, the cause of oppression and disorder which most impressed him in Bohemia was the alienation of royal lands by the Kings. The power which special nobles had gained, through these grants, had been often used in a most disorderly manner. The efficiency of the central Executive had been unduly weakened; and an excuse had been given for those continual demands for exceptional taxation, which had so painfully marked the reign of King John. Charles therefore drew up a careful list of the cities and lands, which, under no[138] circumstances, should be alienated by the King, nor should any grant of them be asked for by others. Special arrangements were made for the registration, in a public court, of lands sold by the nobles; lands were not to be granted to the “dead hand”; special means of remedy were to be provided against oppression by the King; special restrictions were to be placed on the power of nobles over their dependants. Other provisions of various importance were contained in this document; but the great, and essential, point about it was, that these “Constitutions” were to be read four times a year in Bohemia, before a full assembly of the people, that all might know the laws by which they were governed.


PRAGUE (PRAHA) in 1200.

PRAGUE (PRAHA) in 1388.


This provision pointed to Charles’s chief object in composing the Code; and it was doubtless this very demand which roused to its height the opposition of the nobles. It was not merely this or that privilege which the King was threatening; it was the whole fabric of feudal power, which depended much more on the separate and individual influence of each noble on his estate, than on any decrees of a collective Assembly; and this influence must necessarily give way before a code of written law, set forth by the King, and accepted and supported by the main body of the people.

Charles was no “benevolent despot,” determined to thrust upon his people, by force, principles of government for which they were not prepared. He yielded to the resistance of the nobles, and withdrew the main part of the Majestas Carolina. The concession was undoubtedly a wise one; and, however excellent[141] were many of the changes which he had proposed, there were parts of this remarkable document which make one glad that they were not stereotyped in a code, nor sanctified in the memories of Bohemians by so close a connection with their popular king. Thus, for instance, Charles opens his code with a strong declaration of devotion to the Catholic faith, with a prohibition to Pagans and Saracens against settling in Bohemia, and with a promise to put down heresy with the sword.[4] Again, the declaration of the power of lords over their dependants is only limited by taking from the lords the right of putting out their eyes or cutting off their hands and feet; and though Charles, no doubt, was thinking more of these limitations than of the power which he still left to the nobles; yet it was obvious that such a statement in a code might be used in the very opposite sense to that in which it was written. That is to say, the code might have been appealed to in later times as securing to the nobles all the powers of which it did not expressly deprive them.

But Charles had the statesmanlike instinct which tells a man when to yield and when to stand firm. There was one reform on which he was determined, and which he insisted on carrying out in spite of the opposition of the nobles. This was the abolition of[142] those supposed tests of justice, by which accused persons were compelled to hold, or to walk upon, burning iron, or to prove their innocence by risking drowning. We are so apt to consider these superstitions as bound up with old religious feelings, that we almost instinctively expect to find this kind of abuse supported by the pious and orthodox in those generations, and opposed chiefly by some coldly superior persons who are untouched by the popular feeling of the time. But nothing is clearer than that Charles was stirred to this great reform by an intense sense of piety and reverence. Witness the words by which he had preluded this reform in the Majestas Carolina. “For he who should presume to tempt the omnipotence of God, and to make ridiculous His secret judgment, by forcing his neighbour to perish by means contrary to nature, does not deserve to enjoy the comfort of his own natural life.” In this reform he was steadily supported by Archbishop Arnestus; and, in spite of the opposition of the nobles, he succeeded in getting these terrible abuses suppressed. With regard to the ordeal by battle he was less successful. Indeed he was apparently disposed to accept a rather curious compromise on the subject. Duelling of all kinds he loathed as disorderly; but, in the case of charges of treason, he permitted a prosecutor who could bring nine respectable witnesses to support his charge, to make good his accusation by the final test of the duel. It does not appear, however, that he succeeded in reducing this foolish practice even within these limits.

Lastly, and perhaps best of all, he secured to the[143] peasantry the right of appealing to the King from the feudal courts of their lords. Doubtless the readiness of the nobles to accept this important reform was much increased by Charles’s willingness to do justice as against himself. Thus, in a dispute with some nobles about the possession of a certain castle, he consented to submit the question to two Bohemian nobles chosen for the purpose; and he abode by the compromise which they suggested.

In short, in his position as King of Bohemia, Charles generally appears as one of those exceptional rulers who combine a genuine zeal for reform with a real sense of justice, and that statesmanlike self-restraint which teaches a man the difference between the desirable and the possible, between the ultimate ideal and the immediately practicable. But it is impossible to separate Charles the Emperor from Charles the King of Bohemia. Many of his greatest reforms, such as the establishment of the University and the assertion of the independence of the Prague archbishopric, could not have been carried out so easily, perhaps not at all, unless he had been able to use his authority as Emperor to back his power as King of Bohemia, and to secure also the sympathy and approval of the Pope. So thoroughly was the connection of his Imperial office with his Bohemian kingship recognised by his subjects, that it is the rarest thing to find this popular King mentioned in the chronicles by his proper Bohemian title of Charles I., still less by his early name of Wenceslaus. The Emperor Charles IV. has overshadowed and absorbed Wenceslaus alias Charles I. of Bohemia; and yet so far was he from[144] losing thereby the sympathies of the Bohemians, that it is they and not the Germans who cherish his memory as that of a great and popular ruler.

The German view, indeed, is more nearly represented by the saying of Maximilian I., “Charles was the father of Bohemia, but the stepfather of the Holy Roman Empire.” This saying, like most epigrams that have lived, has a mixture of truth and falsehood. Certainly one of the morals of Charles’s career might seem to be the impossibility of combining these two important offices in a manner which should satisfy the just demands both of Germans and Bohemians. But though, as will presently appear, the weaker and worse part of his policy was connected with his position as Emperor, yet there is evident, even in his plans for Germany, a real enthusiasm for order, good government, and, above all, independence of that Papal power which had paralysed German progress.

The Golden Bull, with which his name is specially connected, shows in many respects these noble aims. The disorderly state into which the Empire had fallen had been largely due to the uncertainty of the Electorate. The titles which carried with them a right of voting for the Emperor, had been so often shared by different claimants, and the lands which originally marked these titles had been so often divided, that few could tell who had really the right of choosing the ruler of Europe; while the irregularity of many elections had given opportunity for the assertion of spurious claims, like those of the Dukes of Bavaria. Charles fixed the Electorate on a clear basis, and settled the lands which gave the right of[145] voting. He also sternly prohibited those private feuds which had done such evil in Germany. Lastly, he boldly asserted the right of the Electors to choose the Emperor, without waiting for confirmation of their choice by the Pope. But, at the same time, he secured for the King of Bohemia the leading position among the Electors of the Empire; he declared his independence of the Imperial courts; and he asserted the right of the Bohemians to choose their own king, as soon as the House of Luxemburg was extinct.

Obviously there was here much to provoke opposition. The smaller princes, fierce at the restriction on their rights of quarrelling, broke into fresh disorders; the dukes of Bavaria took up arms to reassert their suppressed electoral rights; the dukes of Austria were indignant that their claims to the Bohemian succession, founded on the decree passed in King Rudolf’s Assembly, were now definitely repudiated. Charles dealt in different ways with these sets of opponents. The turbulent rioters he forcibly suppressed, but readily admitted to favour when repentant. From Bavaria, however, he thought it necessary to take stronger securities. After he had defeated the Dukes in battle, he succeeded in persuading them to sell to him lands and cities, which he added to the kingdom of Bohemia, and thereby extended that kingdom as far as Nürnberg. It might be plausibly urged that Bohemia needed securities for peace against so turbulent a neighbour as Bavaria; but it was evident, from the additions to his kingdom which Charles carried out at a later time, that this was but part of his scheme for securing[146] to Bohemia that predominance in the Empire which was hinted at in the Golden Bull. Bavaria and the smaller princes being brought to reason, there remained still the struggle with Austria. Here one might have expected that the long-standing feud between Bohemian and Austrian, and between the House of Luxemburg and the House of Hapsburg, would have made the contest deadly in its course and crushing in its results. Strange to say, it ended in a settlement which must, even at the time, have startled some Bohemians, though no doubt they could never have expected that the following century would see the claim then legalised grow into practical results. In consideration of the peaceable abandonment by the House of Hapsburg of its immediate claims, it was promised the succession to the throne of Bohemia as soon as the direct lines of Charles and of his brother John should have come to an end. In all these matters Charles had shown a genuine desire for peace and order, which must surely deserve all recognition.

The same credit cannot be given to another phase of his policy, which arose from his relations with Louis, the son of his former rival, the Emperor Louis of Bavaria. The causes of this quarrel must be shortly told. John, the brother of Charles, had married Margaretha Maultasche, Countess of Tyrol; and he had thereby acquired her lands. Margaretha, who seems to have been as foul in mind as she was ugly in face, made a false charge of impotency against her husband; and, under this excuse, she hastened to welcome the advances of young Louis, the son of the[147] Emperor, who helped her to drive her husband from the Tyrol.

The Emperor recognised a so-called marriage between his son and Margaretha; and this act contributed not a little to the storm of indignation which drove the Bavarian from the throne of the Empire and raised Charles to his place. Charles was scarcely seated on the throne, before he resolved to revenge his brother by a raid on the Tyrol. The raid produced no results but bloodshed and misery; and John was forced to console himself for the loss of his lands by the Margravate of Moravia, and for the loss of Margaretha by marriage with a more faithful wife.

But the quarrel between Charles and Louis was not yet at an end. On the extinction of the line of the former Margraves of Brandenburg, the territory had been granted to Louis by his father, and he had remained in undisturbed possession of it for several years. Suddenly, in 1348, a claimant came forward to the Margravate. This man declared that his name was Waldemar; that he was son of the late Margrave of Brandenburg; that, since 1319, he had been supposed to be dead; that his death had been really pretended, in order to escape from a marriage, which, after its celebration, he had found to be illegal; and lastly that, his wife being now dead, he had come forward to claim his inheritance. The story was sufficiently absurd; and it might have been thought that, even if it were true, a prince who had pretended to be dead for nearly thirty years, might, in the interest of peace, consent to pretend a little longer.[148] Charles’s excuse for crediting the imposture was that, as he was too young to remember the real Waldemar, he trusted in the evidence of the Duke of Saxony and other princes of the Empire, who, after investigating the case, declared their belief in the genuineness of the claim. Encouraged by this evidence, Charles only too gladly seized the opportunity for avenging his brother. He declared war on Louis, removed him from his Margravate, and established Waldemar in his place. Eventually it was proved that the so-called Waldemar was the subject and tool of the Duke of Saxony; and Charles, convinced of the imposture, was forced to reinstate Louis in Brandenburg. But, his attention once fixed on this province, he saw in it a new opportunity for aggrandising his House and Kingdom; and, in restoring it to Louis, he secured to his own son Wenceslaus the succession to the Margravate.

But, if this unfortunate episode illustrates afresh the dangers which Charles had to encounter in combining his positions of German Emperor and Bohemian King, there was at least one side of his policy for which Germans, even more than Bohemians, have cause to thank him. It has already been mentioned that in the Golden Bull Charles had asserted the right of the Electors of the Empire to choose an Emperor without waiting for the confirmation of the Pope. This bold proposal was connected with that desire for a German rather than a Roman Empire, which Rudolf of Hapsburg and other wise rulers had cherished. Charles, as we shall see, had no desire to weaken the Papacy in spiritual matters,[149] and he had been willing enough to go to Rome to be formally crowned in the sacred city; but he wished to free the German princes from that intolerable burden of the rule over Italy which was always involving the Emperors in useless expeditions, and at the same time to prevent the Popes from interfering in German affairs.

In his desire to escape from the burden of Italian politics, Charles had to resist the pressure of two advisers, each remarkable in his special way, and each disposed to revive the memory of that expedition to Italy, which Charles’s grandfather, Henry of Luxemburg, had so rashly attempted. The interview between the first of these advisers and the King must have been most impressive. It was during a temporary coolness between Charles and Pope Clement VI., that Charles, while staying in his palace at Prague, was informed that a merchant, who had recently come to the city, desired to see him on urgent business. The supposed merchant was admitted; but when called on to state his business, replied with the startling words, that he had been sent to Charles by a hermit, to inform him that God the Father and God the Son had hitherto ruled the world; but that in future it would be ruled by the Holy Spirit alone.[5] This formula was apparently familiar to Charles, for he at once recognised the speaker as the ex-tribune Rienzi. Rienzi, when[150] challenged, at once admitted his identity; then he went on to give a sketch of the rise and fall of his government in Rome, and urged Charles to send him back to Rome as his representative. The strain of mysticism in Rienzi’s language, coupled with the Pope’s former warnings, alarmed the orthodox Charles, and he sent at once for Archbishop Arnestus. A few questions from Arnestus soon involved Rienzi in statements which savoured of heresy. The archbishop at once arrested him, and soon after sent him to Avignon, where he was kept as a prisoner for some time. Even from prison Rienzi appealed to Charles for sympathy, on the ground that he was the illegitimate son of the Emperor Henry, and therefore Charles’s uncle. Charles replied that such a consideration would not affect his action, as we all came from Adam; and he urged Rienzi to think of his soul, and not to listen to the friar, whose prophecies would drag him to ruin. The end of Rienzi’s career is well known; how, returning as Senator and Papal representative to the city which he had formerly governed in the name of the People, he was soon after murdered by the Romans, whom he had tried to restore to the “Good State.”

The other adviser, who tried to involve Charles in the responsibilities of the government of Rome, was a man of very different type. This was the poet Petrarch, who had first been interested in Charles by the admiration which the latter had expressed, during a visit to Avignon, for the beautiful Laura. So good a judge of beauty must, of course, be the poet’s ideal ruler; and Petrarch was only too eager to play the[151] part of Dante to the grandson of Henry of Luxemburg. His first appeal to Charles was left unanswered; but, after the fall of Rienzi, the poet returned to the attack, and urged upon the Emperor the duty of coming to Rome, and administering the Holy Roman Empire from its capital. Charles had heard much of Petrarch between the writing of these two letters; and, admiring his graceful style, readily entered into correspondence with him, and pointed out to him the difficulties and dangers of the course which he advised. Petrarch did not cease to urge his proposal, and twice he fancied that his dream was about to be realised; once, when Charles went to Rome to be crowned by the Papal representative, and again, at a later time, when he consented to escort the Pope from Avignon to Rome, and even to compel the Visconti to abandon their opposition to the Papal claims over some of the northern towns of Italy. But the first expedition was merely intended to strengthen his throne by the kind of prestige which the Papal approval was still supposed to give to it; and the second visit was undertaken in the interests of Italian order and Papal dignity. In short, though Charles was anxious for Petrarch’s company, and would have liked him to lecture on literature to the University of Prague, and to the young Wenceslaus, he had no intention of following the poet’s advice in the weighty concerns of government.


Before concluding this general sketch of Charles’s career, it is necessary to refer to a project, the character of which may be easily misunderstood. Even when freed from Italian influence, and united,[152] at least in intellectual interests, with Bohemia, the German Empire might still be exposed to the disorders arising from the contests of its princes, especially at the time of the election of the Emperors. This evil Charles proposed to remove by making the Imperial crown hereditary in the House of Luxemburg. One must not judge this scheme as a mere piece of personal ambition. Doubtless there is always something repugnant to our ideas of strict honesty in those frequent attempts, during the Middle Ages, to turn an elective position to the permanent advantage of the family of its accidental occupant.[153] But we must remember that there is an important difference between the purpose of Charles IV. and other attempts which appear to have the same character. When, for instance, Rudolf of Hapsburg used his Imperial position to turn the Counts of Hapsburg into Dukes of Austria; when the Margrave of Brandenburg made use of his Mastership of the Teutonic knights as a means of uniting East Prussia with Brandenburg; or when the Savoyard Pope Felix used his Papal power to extend the dominions of the House of Savoy; none of these attempts could have profited any one except the ambitious promoters of them. But, if Charles could have made the German Empire hereditary in a House which was already powerful by its position in Bohemia, and could at the same time have delivered it from the terrible encumbrance of the connection with Italy, many a bitter civil war might surely have been spared. His attempt failed; and, from some points of view, one may say that it was well that it failed. But a great design cannot be completely judged by its results alone.




Many causes had paved the way for that revolution, both of thought and action, which marks the fourteenth century. The complete failure of the crusades had shaken the faith of the people generally in the leadership of those princes and nobles who had organised these expeditions. The insurrection of “the Shepherds” in France had been one of the first results of this feeling; while the extraordinary performances of the Flagellants or Scourging Friars showed yet more clearly the extravagances which the popular discontent might produce.

Nor, in the general whirl of thought and feeling, was it easy to foresee on which side any new development of this feeling should be classed; whether it should be condemned as a source of heresy and a disturbance of order, or applauded as a revival of stronger faith and stricter discipline. The Dominicans[155] and Franciscans, called into existence to combat heresy and to strengthen the Papal power, were looked upon by the secular clergy as intruders on their lawful privileges and disturbers of the peace; while the Franciscan renunciation of property gradually led them on to the advocacy of doctrines, which were at least as inconvenient to Popes and Cardinals as to the secular nobles.

It is characteristic of the way in which anxiety for their temporal possessions was colouring all the feelings of the defenders of the Church, that, throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the name with which its champions were most eager to brand their opponents, as indicating the darkest shade of heresy, was the name of “Picard.” This word was a corruption of “Beghard,” the title of a Flemish sect, which had been distinguished for its devotion and zeal for prayer, but which had alarmed the rulers of the world by its advocacy of community of goods.

The confusion produced in men’s minds by the failure of the Church’s armies to recover Palestine, was still further increased by the retirement of the Popes to Avignon, and at a later time by that schism in the Papacy which followed the restoration of the Papal rule in Rome; and, along with the desire for the re-establishment of the unity of the Church, there grew the wish for a revival of peace and purity in the general life of Europe.

Of all the rulers of the fourteenth century Charles IV. seemed the most likely to guide these conflicting movements into channels, which should be at once[156] favourable to the champions of the Papacy, and welcome to the promoters of peace and purity.

As King of Bohemia he had inherited, through his mother’s family, traditions of special devotion to the Church; and most of the circumstances of his career were of a kind to encourage the hopes of the Pope and the clergy. He had been elected to the Imperial throne, in opposition to the most bitterly anti-papal of Emperors, Louis of Bavaria; he had steadily opposed all the proposals which had been made to him, to induce him to assert his Imperial authority over the Italian cities; and he had prefaced the Majestas Carolina with an assertion of his adherence to the Catholic faith, and a denunciation of heresy. No doubt that clause in the Golden Bull which repudiated the necessity of a Papal sanction to the election of an Emperor, had drawn a protest from the Pope; but this error had surely been more than compensated for, by the zeal which Charles had shown for the restoration of the Pope to Rome, and for the maintenance of the Papal authority in Italy.

It must, then, have been with a shock of painful surprise that, in 1359, Pope Innocent VI. found himself suddenly opposed by this orthodox champion of the Church. The first cause of division had been a demand of Charles, that the Pope would repeal some decrees which hindered the Emperor from reforming the discipline of the clergy. Innocent had been so indignant at this demand, that he had tried to rouse the Electors against the Emperor; but he had wholly failed in that attempt, and had been forced to make some concessions to Charles.[157]

The next point of difference was connected with a yet more burning question. Innocent had demanded new tithes from the princes of the Empire. Many of them had refused; and now, at an Assembly at Mainz, the Papal Legate again raised the question, possibly hoping to obtain Charles’s support. But the Emperor answered his demand by an expression of surprise, that the Pope was so much more zealous for collecting money than for reforming the morals of the clergy. Then, turning suddenly to the Dean of Mainz, who was wearing a splendid silken robe ornamented with gold, he made him exchange the magnificent dress for the simple cloth robe which Charles himself wore; and, as he put on the grand dress of the ecclesiastic, he appealed to the spectators to say if he did not now look more like a knight than a dean. This practical exhibition of clerical luxury the Emperor followed by a stern rebuke to the bishops for not enforcing a more strict decorum of life among the clergy; and he even threatened to tax their income for the support of the royal exchequer.

In Germany, unfortunately, there were many nobles who were ready to take advantage of the reforming movement to promote their own ends. That the clergy should live more simply seemed to these nobles a most desirable thing; and to help them to attain so satisfactory a condition, they proceeded to plunder their houses, and lay waste their lands. Such acts were utterly opposed to Charles’s intentions; and he checked these outrages so sternly that the Pope was once more forced to recognise him as his safest and strongest supporter. Perhaps this[158] last circumstance made it easier for Charles to carry out his plans for reformation in Bohemia. In that kingdom, however, he worked by different methods, and with somewhat different objects from those at which he had aimed in his German schemes of reformation; for in Bohemia he trusted rather to the moral effect which could be produced by great preachers than to legislation or forcible repression.

The first of these preachers, whom the King summoned to Prague, was an Austrian named Conrad Waldhauser, who began to come prominently forward in 1360, the year after Charles’s attempt to reform the German clergy. Conrad’s preachings were largely directed against the luxury of women; but he also denounced the tyranny of the nobles and their usurious exactions from the peasantry. His fiercest attacks, however, were aimed against the Mendicant Orders, and specially against their simoniacal attempts to obtain ecclesiastical offices. It was these attacks that brought the greatest danger to the preacher; for the Franciscans were still strong in Papal support; and Conrad was summoned before the Legate to answer a charge of heresy. As both King and Archbishop stood by the accused, the attempts of his enemies were defeated; and he continued till his death in 1369 to exercise great influence in Bohemia.

But Conrad was a German, and preached, of course, in his native language; and Charles felt that, if the reformation were really to take hold of the people, they must be addressed in their own language. He therefore brought forward a preacher[159] of a rather different type from Conrad. This was Milic of Kromĕr̆íz̆, a Moravian of rather plebeian origin. He had early attracted Charles’s attention, and had been already appointed to some office about the court in 1350. He had risen steadily in the king’s favour, and had been raised in 1363 to one of the chief posts in the Chancellery. An ascetic dislike to worldly honours now induced him to resign all these offices, in order to become a preacher. He at first retired to a living in a distant town; but, finding that the beautiful garden which was attached to the pastor’s house gave him too much pleasure, he returned to Prague, and began to preach at the Church of St. Nicholas in the Small District, and afterwards at St. Giles’s in the Old Town.

At first his Moravian accent excited some ridicule; but the eloquence and moral fervour of his preaching soon brought him large audiences; and he was at last called on to preach three times a day in different places. His horror at the evils of the time was so great that he soon began to prophesy the coming of Antichrist; and, at one time, when Charles was, as he considered, falling short of his duty, Milic even denounced the King as Antichrist. The Archbishop of Prague became alarmed at this attack, and put Milic in prison; but Charles himself never resented the opposition of those whom he respected; and Milic was set free again. Like so many of the reformers of the time, he had been greatly distressed at the retirement of the popes to Avignon; and, when Charles was trying to persuade Pope Urban V. to return to Rome, Milic went to Rome, and there[160] also delivered his sermons on the coming of Antichrist. The Roman authorities were alarmed, and Milic was again thrown into prison; but, when the Pope actually returned to Rome, he was again set free and sent back to Prague.

He now abandoned his preaching on Antichrist, and restricted it to the advocacy of moral reforms. The death of Conrad Waldhauser made Milic the undisputed leader among the preachers of Prague; and, while the Teyn Church became the chief scene of his labours, he also prepared discourses for a preacher in another church. His most successful work was in reclaiming fallen women. Of these he had sometimes more than three hundred under his charge, whom he had rescued from an evil life; and he not only built a penitentiary for their residence, but he persuaded the ladies of Prague to give them places in their service. Charles nobly seconded his efforts by pulling down a notorious house of ill-fame, and building a church on the site of it.

But Milic’s fierce denunciations of the sins of the clergy continued to stir up enemies against him; and in 1374 Gregory XI., who had returned to Avignon, sent a warning to the King and Archbishop, as well as to the Bishops of Breslau, Cracow, and Olmütz against the danger of Milic’s teaching. He went to Avignon to defend himself; but, though he succeeded in satisfying the Pope and cardinals of his innocence, he never returned to Bohemia; for he was seized with an illness while at Avignon, and died there on St. Peter’s Day, 1374.

Milic had been assisted by his humble origin in[161] gaining the sympathies of the poor; but even more alarming to the Germans who had gathered in Prague was Milic’s follower Thomas of S̆títný. He was descended from a noble family, and had been one of the earliest pupils of the University of Prague. He was thus able to give a more permanent literary reform to the teachings of the reformers. Nor did he confine himself, as Conrad and Milic had done, to efforts after moral improvement; for he grappled also with those more subtle questions of theology which were coming at that time into prominence. Master Eckhard, the founder of the Mystics, had been appointed at one time as Vicar-General of Bohemia. He had no doubt gained considerable influence in that country; and S̆títný’s utterances, especially about Faith and Love, were coloured by the teaching of the mystical school.

But the chief point of objection urged against S̆títný by his enemies was that he wrote in Bohemian. Since the time of Otto of Brandenburg, the German language had gained much ground in the town councils of Bohemia; and the foundation of the Prague University had brought a rush of German scholars to that city. The arrangements for the votings of the Nations had secured a predominance to the German element in the University; for not only did the Bavarian and Saxon nations represent almost exclusively the German influence; but even in the districts from which the Polish nation was drawn, there was a large German admixture. Of course those students who had come from a great distance had given a special proof of their genuine[162] interest in learning; and they naturally looked upon themselves as the representatives of a higher culture than that of the ordinary townsfolk of Prague. Hence it came that the leading doctors of the University inclined to consider German rather than Bohemian as the suitable language for men of culture, especially when writing on abstruse subjects; and this feeling they were all the more anxious to assert, because, in the general stir of thought, a native Bohemian literature was beginning to attract attention.

Charles himself had studied the language carefully, had favoured the revival of the Slavonic ritual, and, as already mentioned, had chosen Milic of Kromĕr̆íz̆ in order to encourage the popular preaching of Bohemian. Under these circumstances, satirists, poets, and historians began to write in their native language; and the Masters of the University felt that they would have a hard struggle before they could denationalise Bohemia. They were therefore especially irritated when a cultivated nobleman like S̆títný insisted on discussing the most profound and subtle questions of theology in the Bohemian language; and this alarm was certainly not diminished when they found that he coupled these speculations with denunciations of the corruptions of the clergy, the tyrannies of nobles, and even the injustices of kings. Thus, then, a general movement for the reform of morals and the improvement of the clergy was more and more connecting itself with the struggles between German and Bohemian for the supremacy of their respective languages. It is conceivable[163] that even so bitter a controversy as this might have been guided into more peaceable channels by a king who combined zeal for the Church, hearty appreciation of German learning, and a real enthusiasm for Bohemian traditions. But whether or not Charles would have been equal to such a task, there can be little doubt that his death in 1378, and the accession of his son Wenceslaus IV., did prepare the way for the more violent explosion which followed.

A great name is, in any case, a very dangerous inheritance; and when that inheritance implies an obligation on the heir to carry out a great work begun by his predecessor, the tradition generally involves failure and disgrace. In Wenceslaus, as in so many sons of great rulers, some of the qualities which had secured his father’s success were conspicuously wanting. Charles had known when to insist, and when to abstain from insisting, on the reforms which he had most at heart. He had known how far to go in the punishment of offences, and when to pardon graciously; above all, he had known how to respect, and even to utilise, the abilities of honest opponents. None of these lessons of statesmanship could Wenceslaus ever learn; he was absolutely without self-restraint or sense of proportion; and, consequently, though his aims were generally those of a wise and patriotic ruler, he frequently used the methods of a cruel tyrant.

Yet, with all these grave defects, Wenceslaus was far from being the unscrupulous and self-indulgent monster which his enemies delighted to paint him. In the early years of his reign his policy was wise[164] and enlightened, though, even then, it was marked occasionally by that hastiness and uncertainty which belonged to his passionate temperament. But, in the difficult position in which he was placed, every step which he took was a dangerous one, and was certain to encounter fierce opposition.

The first work which his Imperial position imposed on him was the effort to restore order in the Church, by putting an end to the divisions between the rival Popes. In this point he wisely followed the policy of his father, and supported the claims of Pope Urban VI., who was actually living at Rome. The assembly of German princes accepted the decision of the Emperor; and at Prague he received the support both of the University and the Archbishop. But a difficulty at once arose. The Pope of Avignon was, as a matter of course, supported by the King of France; and the old traditions of the House of Luxemburg were in favour of friendly relations with the French kings. Greatly, therefore, to Urban’s indignation, Wenceslaus insisted on renewing his alliance with Charles in the next year to that in which he had recognised Urban as pope; he also refused to support that Pope in his quarrels with the House of Anjou for the possession of Sicily; and an even more vital cause of difference between Urban and Wenceslaus was the determination of the King to assert his authority over the clergy of Bohemia.

It was in these quarrels with his clergy that Wenceslaus first showed that tendency to violent methods, which undermined his own power and inflicted great injury on the cause of Church[165] reformation. In 1385 he was involved in a quarrel with the Dean of Breslau. It appeared that a cask of beer sent to the dean by his brother had been intercepted by the Town Council, on the ground that no foreign beer should be admitted into the town. The dean, therefore, laid an interdict upon Breslau. Wenceslaus came to inquire into the matter, and demanded that the religious services should be celebrated, as long at least as he stayed in the town. The dean refused; and thereupon Wenceslaus banished the whole Chapter of Breslau from the town for two years, and handed over a large part of their property to the citizens.

But the most dangerous of his clerical enemies was the Archbishop of Prague, John of Jenstein. The Archbishop, himself of noble birth, had had a quarrel with the Marshal of the Court about certain rights of fishing on the Elbe; and, in asserting these rights, he had destroyed a weir which the marshal had made. Wenceslaus took the side of his official, and demanded that the Archbishop should make compensation. Jenstein refused; and Wenceslaus thereupon confiscated his property. But these acts, however arbitrary, might possibly have been forgotten, had they not been followed by a more celebrated quarrel.

In the year 1393 the Vice Chamberlain, who was the chief judge of the royal law-court, had put to death two priests. It is uncertain what their offences were; but the Archbishop claimed them as under his jurisdiction, and asserted that they should only have been tried in his court. About the same time, the Archbishop[166] had wished to seize and punish certain Jews, who, after being baptised as Christians, had relapsed into Judaism. As the Jews were under the special protection of the King’s court, the Vice Chamberlain refused to surrender them to the Archbishop. For these two acts of opposition to his power, the Archbishop excommunicated the Vice Chamberlain, and denounced him as a heretic. The King received this news with great indignation; and his anger was still further quickened by a more personal insult. Not long before this time, he had recommended a special favourite to a bishopric in Pomerania; but, as the rulers of Pomerania had resisted the appointment, Wenceslaus had been unable to establish his claim. He was therefore resolved to endow a new bishopric in Bohemia, to which his nominee could be appointed; and the death of the abbot of a monastery in Prague suggested to the King the advisability of suppressing the monastery in order to obtain funds for the endowment of his new bishopric. The Archbishop opposed the creation of this bishopric as a diminution of his own diocese; and he may very likely have considered the suppression of the monastery as an act of injustice. In defiance, therefore, of the King’s order, the Archbishop directed the monks to proceed to the election of a new abbot, which they accordingly did. Wenceslaus hastened back to Prague in great indignation; and the Archbishop fled to the Castle of Raudnice. The King claimed this as a royal castle; and he therefore considered the Archbishop’s flight thither as conclusive proof of an organised conspiracy against the royal authority. Finding that Jenstein would not[167] return to Prague, the king summoned before him the two chief officials of the archbishopric, Puchnic, and John Nepomuc. When they persistently refused to give any evidence against the Archbishop, Wenceslaus ordered them to be tortured. As they continued to defy him, he had them burnt on the hand; and, at last, fixing upon Nepomuc, either as the most defiant or the most important of his victims, he ordered him to be bound hand and foot, and thrown into the Moldau.

This crime was to produce even greater triumphs for the clerical party than those which had followed the murder of Becket; and Wenceslaus seems to have repented of it almost as soon as it was committed. He set Puchnic free, and gave him money compensation for his sufferings; and he recalled Jenstein to Prague. The Archbishop came; a sort of reconciliation was patched up, but its unreality was evident from the first. Jenstein secretly fled to Rome and demanded that the Pope should lay an interdict on Bohemia. At the same time all the clergy appealed to Sigismund, King of Hungary, the brother of Wenceslaus, to come to Bohemia to avenge their wrongs. Strange to say, this second appeal was the only one which produced a result. The new pope, Boniface IX., was eager to obtain the support of Wenceslaus, and therefore took his part against the Archbishop. Sigismund, on the contrary, was always ready to plot against his brother; and he easily found allies among the Bohemian nobility.

For, though the offences of Wenceslaus against the[168] clergy had attracted the most attention, his injuries to the secular nobles had been not less keenly felt. In his desire to weaken the more powerful members of the aristocracy, he had formed a private Council among the small nobility and citizens; and, by their help, he had opposed and counteracted the greater nobles. He had further offended their sense of dignity and decorum by playing the part of Haroun Alraschid, and paying secret visits to the houses of his various subjects, to discover any offences which might have escaped the notice of the ordinary tribunals. This conduct had made him so unpopular with the nobles that, even before Sigismund’s intervention, they had formed a conspiracy against him. The ostensible leader of this conspiracy was the king’s cousin Jodok, the Margrave of Moravia; but perhaps its most powerful member was Henry of Rosenberg. This nobleman, like so many of his time, was a distinguished patron of literature and art; though his influence in such a movement was no doubt due to the more material considerations of his high rank, wide connections, and large territorial influence.


The Rosenbergs were the members of a very powerful group of families called the Vítkovici, who were the practical rulers of the south and south-east of Bohemia. There they exercised an authority which was little short of regal. They had bodies of soldiers at their command; they coined money and built fortresses at their pleasure. They professed to trace their origin to the Italian family of the Orsini; and they had played almost as important a part in the thirteenth century as the Vrs̆ovici had played in the[169] earlier history of Bohemia. Of these Vítkovici the Rosenbergs were the most important branch; and their name shows that they had to a large extent[170] Germanised themselves, even in the time of Ottakar. They had strengthened their position in Bohemia by founding towns and monasteries, planting woods, and building churches; and their fishponds became so important that the town of Prague was mainly supplied from them. So deeply-rooted was their power that the signs of its past greatness are visible even at the present day, in the towns of Krumov, Tr̆ebon̆, Prachatice, the monastery of Hohenfurt, and the castle and village of Rosenberg. It will easily be understood that the leader of so powerful a clan would deeply resent such attempts as those of Wenceslaus to infringe the privileges of the nobility, and to call men of lower rank to his Councils. Nor did the nobles rely solely on Bohemian support. Jodok of Moravia had taken counsel with the Duke of Austria and the Margrave of Meissen, who were always ready for any opportunity of weakening the Bohemian kingdom. Such a combination as this would have been dangerous even to Charles; and Wenceslaus was quite unable to stand against it.

The rebels were quickly ready for action; and in the year 1394, as Wenceslaus was on his way to Prague, he was seized by Jodok and his followers, and imprisoned in the Castle of Prague. The demands of the insurgent nobles were now formulated. They insisted that Wenceslaus should leave them in possession of all the fortresses that had been pledged to them, and that he should appoint Jodok as his Viceroy in Bohemia. Duke John of Görlitz, the youngest brother of Wenceslaus, hastened to the rescue of the king; and, though Jodok succeeded in carrying[171] off his prisoner to Austria, John was welcomed by the citizens of Prague, who swore to recognise him as the administrator of the country till the King should once more be at liberty to act.

In the meantime the princes of the Empire had become indignant at the treatment of their Emperor; and they persuaded the Duke of Austria to set him free. Wenceslaus returned, embittered and suspicious, to his kingdom; and his brother John soon found that the position of liberator and peacemaker was a very difficult one. The rebel nobles had fled to Austria, whence they made raids upon their native country; John attempted to make peace between the king and the insurgents; but, when Wenceslaus found that John had mistaken the extent of the powers entrusted to him by the rebels, he accused his brother of deceiving him, and deprived him of his vice-royalty. Many of the citizens of Prague had become attached to John, and they remonstrated against his deposition. Thereupon Wenceslaus deposed all the members of the Town Council, appointed a new Council in their place, and then went through the town, accompanied by an executioner, who cut off the heads of the King’s leading opponents at the doors of their houses. In his discontent with John, Wenceslaus now appealed to his brother Sigismund. Sigismund came, and John soon after died, not without suspicion of poison. Sigismund at once persuaded Wenceslaus to recognise him as his heir if he should die without sons, to appoint a Council of the nobles, and to promise not to introduce any changes in the government without the consent of that Council.[172]

The hollowness of the peace which followed was very quickly seen. When Jodok came to see the king at Carlstein in the same year, Wenceslaus was so carried away by the recollection of his cousin’s insults, that he had him arrested and imprisoned. Then, suddenly remembering the treaty of peace, he set him free again. But Jodok thought more of his imprisonment than of his liberation; and, though nominally reconciled, the King and the Margrave remained enemies throughout life.

The Bohemian quarrels had, in the meantime, given opportunity for the intrigues of Wenceslaus’s rivals in the Empire. That jealousy which the Electors always felt of the concentration of the Imperial power in any one family, had been for some time directed against the House of Luxemburg. Charles’s extension of Bohemian territory, by the addition of German lands, had caused much suspicion and dislike. But his combination of vigour and self-restraint, and his complete hold over his Bohemian subjects, had prevented the intriguers from making any head during his lifetime. Now, however, the quarrels of Wenceslaus with his subjects had given a double opportunity to his German opponents; for while, on the one hand, they could point to his long detention in Bohemia as a proof of his indifference to Imperial affairs, on the other hand, the disaffection of his Bohemian subjects supplied a hopeful weapon for undermining his power.

His two leading enemies were Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, who aimed at the Imperial dignity, and the Archbishop of Mainz, who had secured his see by a promise to support the intrigues[173] of Rupert. These conspirators succeeded in winning to their side Pope Boniface IX. This Pope had indeed been at first friendly to Wenceslaus; but he had been offended by the readiness with which the King of Bohemia had listened to the French proposals for the election of a new Pope in place of the two rival claimants to the Holy See. Under various pretexts, the Duke of Saxony and the Archbishops of Trier and Köln were drawn into the conspiracy; and so, in February, 1400, the Electors met at Frankfort and resolved to choose a new Emperor.

The most plausible grounds for this deposition were mainly of a negative kind. Wenceslaus was charged with failing to procure a peaceful settlement of the affairs of the Church, and with paying no heed to those wars which were disturbing the Empire. Though Wenceslaus might have found ample excuse for these failures, he could not directly deny them; but the other charges were either false or grossly exaggerated. One of them, however, must be quoted, since it has so much bearing on the troubles which were approaching in the Bohemian kingdom. This was a charge that he “had drowned, burnt, and otherwise murdered and tortured reverend prelates and priests.” This accusation shows that the murder of Nepomuc was to be represented, at the pleasure of Wenceslaus’s enemies, either as part of a general massacre of priests, or as the cruel execution of one specially righteous man.

It was, therefore, as the champion of Holy Church against its oppressor, that Rupert was chosen Holy Roman Emperor. In this character he at once[174] marched into Bohemia and won the support of Jodok and the discontented nobles. Again Wenceslaus was forced to make terms with his enemies; and again Sigismund was called in and appointed Viceroy. But Sigismund gained favour with no party. Jodok and his friends resented the power entrusted to him; the citizens of Bohemia complained of the heavy taxes which he laid upon them; and Wenceslaus resisted his proposal that he should counteract the schemes of Rupert by accompanying Sigismund to Rome, and by accepting the Imperial crown from the Pope. Finding his plans thwarted, Sigismund suddenly seized upon his brother, and carried him off as prisoner to Vienna. From this imprisonment Wenceslaus succeeded in escaping in 1403; and, on his return to Prague, he was welcomed as the liberator of Bohemia from Sigismund.

In the meantime the reform movement had been approaching a crisis. The teacher who, after the death of Milic, had gained most influence in the country, was a Bohemian nobleman named Matthias of Janov. He had not devoted himself so exclusively as Conrad and Milic had done to the denunciation of moral abuses, but had also attacked practices like the worship of images and saints; and he had been the first to bring before the public the question which was afterwards to be so interesting to Bohemians, the granting of the cup to the laity in the Holy Communion. But though this latter fact gives Matthias a kind of historic interest, he seems to have been in the main a source of weakness to the cause which he defended. Never wholly disinterested in his objects,[175] he soon flinched from the attacks of the rulers of the Church; and in 1389 he formally recanted his reforming doctrines.


Along with the movement for ecclesiastical reform, the Bohemian national revival had been steadily making way; and the opposition of the German party had served to deepen the zeal of the reformers for the encouragement of the Bohemian languages. A most important link was formed in 1396 between the linguistic and the moral revival. In that year a man named John of Milheim founded a chapel which was to be entirely devoted to Bohemian preaching, in order, as its founder expressed it, “that the Word of God should not be fettered, and that Bohemian preachers should not be obliged to go from house to house.” The new foundation was to be called the Bethlehem Chapel, and was to be consecrated to the[176] Holy Innocents. Strange to say, the first three preachers seem to have been somewhat hesitating and uncertain in their tendencies; and it was not till 1402 that the appointment of Jan Hus secured to the Bethlehem Chapel a special position in the history of Bohemia.


On July 6, 1369, Jan Hus was born at Husinec, in the south of Bohemia. This village lies in a deep valley among pine-covered hills, and the tiny cottage in which Hus was born still remains. As his parents were poor, he was forced to support himself in his early days by singing in churches; and even after he had been sent to the University he was in such straits that he was at one time compelled to live on dry bread. Nevertheless he made steady way in the University; two years after taking his degree of[177] Master of Arts, he was appointed examiner; in 1401 he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and in 1403 he was chosen Rector of the University. He had thrown himself from the first into the national cause; and he denounced, from his pulpit in the Bethlehem Chapel, the expedition of the rebel nobles against Prague. He showed great zeal in giving new literary expression to the Bohemian language, and expunged from it the Germanisms which had crept into it. He also persistently opposed the encroachments of the Germans in the government of the University. At the same time he always declared that he would prefer a good German to a bad Bohemian, even if the latter were his brother.

It was in this same year, 1403, that the national reform movement began to connect itself generally with questions of ritual and doctrine. The exact point in history at which the doctrines of Wyclif gained influence in Bohemia, is very difficult to fix. The marriage of Anna, the sister of Wenceslaus, in 1381, to Richard II. of England, undoubtedly produced close contact between the two countries. It is clear, from his own statements, that Wyclif was much impressed by the forwardness of the Bohemians in religious knowledge, and specially by the fact that they had already translated the Bible into their native tongue. But, although this experience much affected the work of the English Reformer, it seems doubtful how soon he began to repay the debt, by imparting his ideas to Bohemia. Apparently, neither Matthias of Janov nor Thomas of S̆títný were deeply acquainted with Wyclif’s works; and neither his condemnation[178] in 1382 nor his death in 1385 seem to have excited much interest in Bohemia. Yet, on the other hand, it is evident, from the scene which is about to be described, that both Hus and some of his followers must have given considerable attention to Wyclif’s writings.

It was, however, the enemies of the English Reformer who first publicly called the attention of the Bohemians to his works. A German Silesian, named Hubner, had selected from Wyclif’s writings forty-five propositions which he asked the University of Prague to condemn. The period of Hus’s Rectorship seems to have come to an end before this proposal was made; and on May 28, 1403, the new Rector of the University convoked an assembly of the Masters of Arts, and laid before them the propositions which Hubner had compiled. Hus at once came forward to answer Hubner, but he based his opposition entirely on the inaccuracy of the summaries laid before them. He referred to the burning alive of certain adulterators of saffron, which had recently taken place in Prague; and he declared that such a fate was better deserved by these adulterators of books. But some of his followers went much further. Stephen Pálec̆ threw a book of Wyclif’s on the table, declaring that he was willing to defend it against all attacks; and Stanislaus of Znaym (Znojem) offered to prove that none of the articles attributed to Wyclif were heretical. This statement so offended some of the older Masters that they at once left the room; but, in spite of their retirement, a majority of those who remained condemned the forty-five Articles of Wyclif, and decided that[179] they should not be taught in Bohemia. The influence of Wenceslaus was, for the moment, thrown on the side of reform; and, after the death of the Archbishop of Prague, he appointed to the see an ex-soldier named Zbynĕk Zajíc, who had a great dislike to many of the impostures which had been encouraged by the clergy. The new Archbishop at once sent Hus to inquire into several fictitious miracles which[180] had recently become notorious in the country; and, by his help, these abuses were checked for the time.


But, while Hus was zealous against every form of moral corruption, he had by no means committed himself to those doctrines for which Wyclif had been branded as a heretic. At the same time he had read and studied many of the purely philosophical works of the English Reformer; and he expressed his belief that much good was to be learned from them. With the Englishman’s hatred of moral corruption Hus sympathised yet more warmly; while the national character of the two movements naturally roused a sympathy between their respective supporters. The revival of the English language, as a literary expression of thought, had received considerable impulse from Wyclif’s translation of the Bible; and the use of English, rather than Latin or Norman-French, in theological writings became one of the notes of the Lollard movement. In this tendency Hus could not fail to observe the likeness to his own efforts to maintain the Bohemian language against the inroads of the Germans.

All these considerations produced in Hus so strong a personal admiration for Wyclif that he expressed a wish that his soul might be with his. The combination of such a wish with the rejection of many of Wyclif’s doctrines as heretical, was utterly unintelligible to most of the contemporaries of Hus. This pious expression of moral sympathy was naturally connected by many with the attacks which Stanislaus of Znojem was at the same time making on the doctrine of Transubstantiation; and, consequently,[181] the rashness of Hus’s followers, coupled with his own expressions of personal feeling, caused him to be branded as a heretic, with regard to doctrines about which he held the orthodox belief.

But the opposition to the reform movement could not long be confined to the masters of the University of Prague. In 1405 Pope Innocent VII. became alarmed at the progress of heresy, and issued a Bull against the doctrines of Wyclif. In deference to this denunciation, Wenceslaus ordered an inquiry into these doctrines; and Archbishop Zbynĕk became even more excited on the subject. On May 14, 1408, even the Bohemian nation in the University consented to hold a meeting for the examination of Wyclif’s books; but they could only be induced to come to the harmless conclusion that the Articles of Wyclif should not be taught in any heretical sense, and that his Dialogus and Trialogus should not be studied by members of the University before they had taken their degree. Such a decision could not satisfy the Archbishop; and, in June, 1408, he issued a new decree forbidding the clergy to preach against Transubstantiation. This decree was soon followed by a demand that all who possessed copies of Wyclif’s books should surrender them to the Archbishop; and the majority of the University obeyed this command, only five students refusing.

Hus had openly expressed his dislike of some of the prosecutions, by which the Archbishop attempted to enforce some of his prohibitions; and such a protest from so prominent a reformer could not be allowed to pass unnoticed at such a crisis. So, early in 1408,[182] the clergy of Prague presented to the archbishop certain articles against Hus. Most of these are concerned with his denunciations of the pecuniary greed of the clergy; but they also include a reference to his wish that his soul might be with Wyclif. For the moment, indeed, these complaints produced little result; for just at this time Archbishop Zajíc himself announced that, after inquiry, he could find no heresy in Bohemia. Moreover, it was unavoidable that this smaller controversy should be lost sight of, for a time, in the apparently larger issue of the reunion of Christendom under one Pope.

The division of the Papacy between Rome and Avignon had begun to cause such a scandal in the Church that a new Council was held necessary for the restoration of order and unity. Wenceslaus saw in the meeting of this Council an opportunity for recovering the position of which he had been deprived. He had never admitted the legality of his deposition from the Imperial throne; and, since only a part of the Electors had sanctioned that step, he had plausible grounds for disputing its validity. When, then, the Council of Pisa proposed to deal with the Papal Schism, Wenceslaus consented to send ambassadors to that Council, on condition that they should be recognised as the representatives of the Holy Roman Emperor. To secure the consent of the Council to this proposal, Wenceslaus readily accepted the decision of that body, that, as a preparatory step to the Unity of the Church, the two rival Popes should be required to resign; and he forbade his subjects to recognise the authority of[183] either Gregory XII. or his rival till the Council should have decided on their claims. This demand at once produced a new line of division between the contending parties in the Bohemian Church. Hus and his friends had welcomed the Council of Pisa, as a possible means of accomplishing the reforms which they desired; and they made no difficulty about approving the deposition of the two Popes. The Archbishop, however, and the great body of the Bohemian clergy, maintained that they were bound by their allegiance to Gregory XII.; and in this view the three foreign “Nations” in the University eagerly supported them.

This division of opinion at once brought to a head that desire for reasserting their national independence which the Bohemians had so long cherished. The dislike of being swamped in their own capital by foreigners had been steadily growing in the minds of the Bohemians. This feeling had been at first expressed in complaints about the rise of prices and the overcrowding of the city; but it had gained a much greater intensity when the native population realised that the supremacy of their language in their own country was at stake. The resistance of the Germans to the demands of Wenceslaus enabled the Reformers to join their movement for national independence with the assertion of the royal authority; and, as a means of accomplishing both these ends, they proposed that the Bohemian Nation should in future have three votes in the election of University officials, while each of the three foreign “Nations” should be still limited to one vote. Wenceslaus had[184] already made some concessions to the national party in the University; and they naturally thought that he would at once approve of a concession which would tend to strengthen his hands in his struggle against Gregory XII.

To their great surprise, however, they at first met with a rebuff. Wenceslaus was desirous of recovering his position as Emperor; and for that he needed German support. He also wished to appear as the orthodox champion of the Church; and a recent event had brought home to him the danger into which the Bohemian Reformers were running, in this respect. Stephen Pálec̆ and Stanislaus of Znojem had been sent as commissioners to the Council of Pisa; on their way thither they had been arrested at Bologna and imprisoned as heretics. This so alarmed the king, that when the Bohemian Deputation waited on him at Kutna Hora, he not only rejected their proposals, but sharply rebuked Hus and his friends for bringing discredit on the nation by tainting them with heresy.

Consistency of purpose, however, was never one of the virtues of Wenceslaus. A Bohemian nobleman of the name of Lobkovic had considerable influence with the king; and he was a strong champion of Hus and his party. He pointed out to Wenceslaus that those who proposed this reform at the University were the supporters of the king’s policy in the Council of Pisa. Queen Sophia, with whom Hus had already become a favourite, no doubt used her influence in the same direction. The king was convinced that his interests were, for the time, on the[185] side of the Reformers; and, in January, 1409, he issued the desired decree which granted three votes to the Bohemian Nation in University elections.

But the powerful German party did not yield without a struggle. They pleaded that their oaths as Masters of Arts bound them to maintain the settlement made by Charles IV.; and they pointed out that that Emperor had intended to make his University the centre of all the learning of the Empire. Finally they suggested that, if the Bohemian Nation objected to be swamped by them, it ought to separate from them and have a council, tribunal, and elections of its own.

Of these arguments, the first may be fairly dismissed as one of those pieces of ill-tempered rhetoric which are usually thrust forward on such occasions. If an oath to maintain the laws of an association implies an opposition to any possible change in those laws, there can be few corporations in the world which are not deeply tainted with perjury. But the second argument, which appealed to the wishes and intentions of Charles IV., had undoubtedly some plausibility, especially when one considers that the University was only sixty years old. An answer to this objection could, however, be easily found by the Bohemians. Though Charles IV. had no doubt desired to make the University the centre of the Empire, other words of his could be quoted to show that he had also intended that his Foundation should secure special advantages to the Bohemians.

The explanation was, that Charles’s idea, however grand, was self-contradictory; and, while inconsistent[186] schemes may work very well, as long as all who are interested in them wish them to do so, they must fall to pieces at once if they are administered by two antagonistic parties with directly opposite ideals about the welfare of the institution. Charles had undoubtedly wished, as the Germans said, to make Prague an intellectual centre for Europe; he had also desired, as the Bohemians said, to call out the national life and encourage the national literature of Bohemia. It now appeared that these two objects were incompatible; and the question was, which must yield to the other. Charles IV. was a great statesman; but, as in the case of so many great men, the effect which he ultimately produced was precisely the contrary of that which he desired. He had wished to found a University, which should gratify the feelings both of Bohemians and Germans, and be a centre of unity and peace to the Empire. He had, instead, given an impulse to life, movement, and struggle, which was to overthrow many abuses which he condemned, but also to drag down in their fall much which he desired to maintain.

Finding that their arguments were of no avail, the Germans devoted themselves to more practical forms of obstruction. They insisted on disregarding the decree of the King and on voting in the old fashion at the next election of the Examiners. The Bohemians resisted this attempt; and the consequence was that no examination took place. A similar dispute arose about the election of the Deans of Faculties; and a similar result followed. It was obvious that the continuance of this struggle must end in the destruction[187] of the work of the University. Moreover, whatever doubts Wenceslaus might have on other subjects, he was quite clear about the duty of enforcing his own decrees. So, on May 9, 1409, he summoned an extraordinary meeting of the University, at which he appointed a new Rector and a new Dean of Arts on his own authority. The Germans, finding further resistance hopeless, resolved to abandon the struggle; and, on May 16th, several thousand German students left Prague for ever.





The overthrow of German supremacy in the Bohemian University has been considered by both sides to mark a great crisis in the history of Bohemia. The national character, which had been stamped at so early a time on the reforming movement, now became more visible to the world at large, and at the same time more exclusive and defiant. Nor was its effect on the life and death of Hus less notable. When he became recognised as the most complete embodiment of the principles of the Bohemian Reformation, his German enemies naturally fixed upon him as the chief actor in this important stage of the movement; and wild charges of violence and intimidation towards the Germans helped to increase the hostility which had been roused by the suspicion of heresy.

Nevertheless, it seems clear enough that, though Hus ultimately rejoiced in the change produced by[189] the German secession, he had yet taken but a secondary and hesitating part in producing the change itself. On returning from Kuttenberg (Kutna Hora), after Wenceslaus’s first rejection of this proposal, Hus, disappointed and anxious, was seized with illness; and, while worn with suffering, he asked a friend whether, after all, the change was a just one. This appeal has been quoted by a modern writer as a proof of the duplicity of Hus; and the same antagonist has scornfully contrasted this anxious hesitation with the exulting approval of the change which Hus proclaimed at a later time.

To those who try to weigh both sides of a question, it may not seem so difficult to understand that Hus may have heartily desired, and exulted in, the victory of the reforming party and the freedom of the Bohemians from German domination, and yet may have hesitated in his own mind, especially in sickness, about the justice of the particular step which brought things to a crisis. The point which rather seems to distinguish him from other men in the matter was the candour with which he confessed those previous doubts at a place and in a time when such a confession was certain to be used against him.

But if the charge of duplicity against Hus is founded mainly on ignorance of human nature, the accusation of violence which was brought against the Bohemian reformers may have been partially due to a confusion between two contests which were taking place at the same time, and in which the same parties were to some extent involved. For, while the Germans[190] and Bohemians were struggling for supremacy in the University of Prague, Wenceslaus was devoting his energies to the punishment of the Archbishop and clergy for their championship of Gregory XII. In this, as in every other case, Wenceslaus soon damaged his cause by his utter want of self-restraint. Mobs were let loose upon the clergy, many acts of violence were committed, and a general sense of insecurity prevailed. Zbynĕk, who had plenty of that bull-dog courage which one might expect from an ex-soldier, replied to the king’s violence by putting Prague under an interdict. How the king might have met this defiance one may guess from his previous conduct; but the Archbishop and his clergy were saved from the fate of Nepomuc by a sudden change of circumstances.

The Council of Pisa had agreed to depose the two existing claimants of the Papacy; and, after some discussion, they chose a new Pope, under the name of Alexander V. At first, of course, this Pope was not very favourably inclined to an Archbishop who had steadily opposed his election; but, when Zbynĕk accepted his authority, and showed his appreciation of him by sending him rich gifts, Alexander became alarmed at the spread of heresy in Bohemia, and granted a commission for inquiry into the writings of Wyclif, and a permission to Zbynĕk to remove those writings from the eyes of the faithful.

This commission gave a new opportunity to the enemies of Hus; and they presented a petition against him to the Archbishop, in which they charged him with sixteen acts of heresy and disorder. Some of[191] these charges had already been put forward on former occasions, others alleged against him heresies which he repudiated; but there are four accusations at least that are specially worth noting, both for their own character, and on account of the answers made to them by Hus. The fourth charge was that in a conversation, which took place at the time of the drowning of John Nepomuc and the arrest of the Dean of Prague, Hus had spoken lightly of these acts, and had condemned the proposal to put Prague under an Interdict on account of them. Hus replied to this charge by quoting his actual words. “If,” said he, “he himself, or any other, had been killed or imprisoned, that was no reason why men should cease to give praise to God throughout the kingdom of Bohemia.” The fifth clause he answered by one of those distinctions which seemed to his enemies so dishonest. Hus was accused of saying that anti-Christ had fixed a foot in the Roman Church, which it was difficult to move. To this charge Hus answered that he had never said this of the Roman Church, because he considered that that Church consisted of all those who held the faith preached by St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome; but that he did maintain that anti-Christ had set his foot very firmly in the Roman Court (Curia). Thirdly, he objected to two of the charges against him on the ground that they implied his use of words which had no equivalent in the Bohemian language, and which, therefore, he could not have used in the Bethlehem Chapel. Lastly, in answer to the charge of having stirred up ill-will between Bohemian and German, he denied that he[192] had done this, unless either German or Bohemian had taken unjust occasion from his words; and he reiterated his statement that he loved a good German better than a bad Bohemian.

It was evident that these articles were intended to identify still more closely the struggle of the Archbishop and clergy against secular intrusion and heretical doctrine with the struggles of the Germans for supremacy in Bohemia. But if, by so doing, Zbynĕk secured a stronger following in the outside world, and bound to his cause those Germans who had remained in Bohemia, he irritated against him still more strongly the feeling of the Bohemian nobles and of a large number of the citizens of Prague; and he even alienated from him many of the inferior clergy.

Another powerful influence, which was specially exerted at this time in favour of Hus, was that of the Queen Sophia. She had been greatly impressed by the preacher, and had taken him as her chief adviser, some say her confessor; and, though it may be true of Wenceslaus that he hated Zbynĕk more than he loved Hus, the reverse is true of his wife. Yet in spite of all this force of opposition, Zbynĕk showed very little sign of yielding. He consented, indeed, to postpone any final act until the Margrave of Moravia could be consulted. But, whether Jodok delayed beyond the time proposed, or whether the Archbishop simply grew tired of waiting, he resolved, on June 10, 1410, publicly to burn two hundred of Wyclif’s books; and accordingly they were burnt in great state, in the court[193] of the archiepiscopal palace, the bells of the churches being tolled during the performance.

As if to mark the man against whom this proceeding was specially aimed, the Archbishop followed it up by commanding the closing of all private chapels, a command understood by everybody to be intended especially against the chapel in which Hus preached. Hus and his friends indignantly appealed to the Pope against these proceedings; and they did not fail to point out that many of the works which were burnt were not theological at all, but simply dealt with abstract philosophy. Indeed, the traditions of learning and culture, which the German scholars had hoped to secure to their side, in their first struggle against the Bohemian language, were now appealed to by the opposite party with much more force. Zbynĕk was ridiculed in satirical songs for having burnt books which he had never read; and the University of Bologna, when consulted by the Pope, denounced the burning of the books as an insult to the University of Oxford. Zbynĕk, indeed, would have fought to the last; but Pope Alexander was shaken by the opposition which these proceedings had called forth, and he checked the inquiry into Wyclif’s books, and continued to delay matters, till the decision was taken out of his hands by death.

Both parties made haste to approach the new Pope, John XXIII.; and he demanded that Hus should come to Rome. The danger of the way made a good excuse for refusal; and John, having received rich presents from Zbynĕk, consented to excommunicate Hus for contumacy. This, however, did not affect[194] Wenceslaus’s attitude; for, irritated by Zbynĕk’s opposition, and impressed by the queen’s partiality for Hus, the king had become a zealous champion of the Reformers. He demanded that Zbynĕk should compensate those whose books he had burnt; and, on his refusal, he confiscated his property for the benefit of the owners of the books. At the same time the king and his friends wrote to the Pope to assure him that he had been ill-informed about the circumstances of the case. The Pope being thus politely set on one side, and riot and disorder continuing, there seemed an opportunity for some outsider to step in.

This opportunity was eagerly seized by Sigismund. He had never formally resigned that administrative power which Wenceslaus had granted to him in his time of emergency; and, though he had nominally supported Wenceslaus against Rupert in his claim to the Imperial crown, he was now intriguing to succeed the latter and to set aside his brother. Wenceslaus, on his part, was willing enough to listen to proposals for peace when they did not come from a clerical source; and Zbynĕk consented to accept the arbitration proposed. But, when the arbitrators demanded that the archbishop should write to the Pope to ask him to repeal the excommunication of Hus, Zbynĕk refused to submit to this decision; and he went to Presburg to appeal personally to Sigismund. There, however, he fell ill and died; and, in a few months, the controversy had assumed quite another form.

It will be remembered that the Council of Pisa had[195] professed to put an end to the disunion in the Church by deposing the two claimants of the Papacy, and electing Alexander V. in their place. But, though Alexander V., and his successor, John XXIII., had probably been accepted by a majority of the authorities of the Church, the deposed Popes still, at times, put forward claims which could easily be taken advantage of by those who wished to stir up division in the Church. Ladislaus, the king of Naples, who had a grudge against John, took up the cause of Gregory XII. Therefore, in December, 1411, John proclaimed a crusade against the King of Naples, and promised plenary indulgence to all who would support this expedition, either in purse or person.

The commissioners for promoting this war arrived in Prague in 1412; and they soon set to work, not merely to preach the crusade, but to organise a regular system for the sale of the indulgences. Some attempt to start this trade had been begun in 1393, but it does not seem to have been then carried on on so extensive a scale. Now the Legate farmed out the right of selling these indulgences to other priests, granting them preferment in the Church, and receiving from them a commission on what they raised. As respectable clergymen would not often undertake such an office, the trade fell into the hands of men of disreputable lives, who were thus brought prominently to the front. Hus had objected, from the first, to the attempt to involve the Bohemians in a war which he considered unchristian; and, when to the proposal for the crusade was added the organisation of the sale of indulgences, he determined[196] to raise the question in an assembly of the University.

But he now found that some, who had been hitherto his followers, were prepared to resist and oppose him. Stanislaus of Znojem and Stephen Pálec̆ had been released from their imprisonment at Bologna, at the request of Wenceslaus; and since their return to Prague they had gradually drifted into the ranks of the opponents of reform. Stanislaus had been the first to show this change. The charge of heresy on which he had been arrested had been based on a pamphlet dealing with Wyclif’s doctrines. He pleaded that the apparent Wyclifite tendency of the pamphlet was due to its incompleteness; and, when ordered to finish it, he did so in a sense hostile to the doctrines of Wyclif.

It will be remembered that, though Hus had repudiated many of the doctrines of the English Reformer, he had yet opposed the general condemnation of his works, and had spoken warmly of his character. Therefore Stanislaus’ attack upon Wyclif paved the way for an open opposition to Hus. Pálec̆, indeed, had remained on the side of his old leader during the struggle with Zbynĕk, but the opposition to the Papal Bull drove him also into the orthodox ranks. The cry of cowardice has been raised against him by the friends of Hus, and seems, indeed, to have been sanctioned by Hus himself. But, unscrupulous and malignant as Pálec̆ afterwards showed himself, it may be doubted whether the charge of cowardice was, in this instance, a just one. It must be remembered that in his previous opposition to Popes, Hus[197] had protected himself by the well-recognised formula that the Pope had been misinformed on the condition of affairs in Bohemia. On this occasion the question at issue was not so much one of information about special facts as of clear moral principles; and the issue of the Bull took away all possibility of throwing the blame of the Pope’s action on misleading advisers. Moreover, the opposition of Hus was no longer covered by the authority of the King. Wenceslaus, having once committed himself to opposition to Gregory, was not disposed to inquire too curiously into the methods which were used to suppress the fallen Pope. He had therefore sanctioned John’s Bull, and thereby approved the crusade. It may well, therefore, have been that Pálec̆, though willing to resist the ordinary current of clerical opinion, might yet doubt the lawfulness and propriety of setting himself against his spiritual and temporal rulers. At any rate, when Hus brought before the Masters of the University his proposal to denounce the crusade and its methods, Pálec̆ and Stanislaus headed the opposition to their former leader, and won the majority of the Masters to their side.

But Hus was not to be silenced. He continued to preach and write against the sale of indulgences; and he proposed to hold a discussion on the Papal Bull in the Carolinum, a college founded for the clergy by Charles IV. He was now compelled into a position which seems to anticipate the more advanced Reformers of the following century; for when the new Archbishop, Albik, called on him to[198] obey the Apostolic commands, he answered that the Apostolic commands were those contained in the teaching of Christ and His Apostles; that, so far as the Pope’s commands agreed with them, he would obey them gladly; but that, if they did not agree with them, he would not obey them, if the fire were kindled in his presence.

Hus was now at issue with old friends, with the leaders of learning, and with the rulers of Church and State. It was therefore with special satisfaction that he must have hailed a new supporter who came to his aid at this crisis. This was a young Bohemian nobleman, named Hieronymus, or Jerom. He has often been credited with the first introduction of Wyclif’s works into Bohemia, though some historians have thrown doubt on this claim. Whether it were so or not, he certainly now formed a link between the reforming leaders and the fashionable world, which did not previously exist. His easy circumstances and noble birth gave him entrance to the Court circles of Europe; and his attractive manners, splendid dress, and love of display gained him fame and popularity. Moreover, he had found great delight in exciting discussions on doubtful points of theology in the various Universities which he had visited. He began these discussions at Heidelberg, apparently against the wish of the University authorities. He had visited Oxford, whither a reputation for heresy had preceded him; and he had specially provoked the opposition of Gerson, the Chancellor of the Paris University, by the controversies which he had inaugurated in that famous[199] centre of learning. He now plunged boldly into the dispute about the sale of indulgences. His brilliant and polished oratory threw into shade for the time the simpler eloquence of Hus. He was followed home, on one occasion, by a large crowd of students; and the reforming movement began to attract the sympathies of the younger nobles.

But it soon became evident that the new converts would bring more zeal than dignity to the camp of the reformers. The forms of ridicule of the clerical party indulged in by these fiery spirits can scarcely have been welcome to the soberer reformers who had been first drawn to the teaching of Hus. Thus, for instance, a procession was organised, which marched through the streets of Prague, and in which the chief figure was a student, who was dressed as a woman of ill-fame, wearing round her neck an imitation of the Papal Bulls. Such demonstrations as these, when accompanied by satirical songs, naturally led to disorder and riot. Wenceslaus, who was divided in feeling between his friendliness to Hus and his desire to enforce his own decrees, tried in vain to effect a compromise between the contending parties, and, finding reconciliation or even partial restraint impossible, he forbad the reformers to offer any further opposition to the sale of indulgences.

This decree at once called out the sterner and nobler side of the reforming spirit. In spite of the king’s prohibition, three young men came to the church where the champions of the indulgences were preaching, and made a public protest against the preacher’s words. The intruders were promptly[200] secured by the officials of the town council, and were at once taken to the Great Ring. A large crowd gathered to see what was intended, and Hus came forward to remind the councillors that he was the first promoter of the opposition to the indulgences, and that they ought therefore to punish him before they punished these young men. The Councillors gave an answer which seemed to imply that the prisoners should not be injured; but no sooner had the crowd dispersed than the youths were taken into a side street and summarily executed.

Great excitement followed this treachery; and numbers of people paraded the streets declaring their readiness to die for the truth. Hus, from his pulpit, praised the young men who had been executed, and exhorted his hearers to stand by the truth.

Another opponent now came forward to give new impulse to the attacks on Hus. This was a German priest of questionable antecedents, called Michael de Causis. He drew up a list of articles against the reformer, which revived, more definitely, the charge of sympathising with Wyclif’s doctrine, both as to the Sacraments, and the interference of secular authorities with the property of the clergy. With these charges Michael now combined the accusation of stirring up the people against the bishops, and making ill-feeling in the University. Pope John, already indignant at the opposition to his Bull, was roused by these charges to more decided action. He excommunicated Hus, and laid an Interdict on Prague. Several Germans tried to give practical force to this sentence by rushing armed into the[201] Bethlehem chapel, and attempting to kill Hus; but his friends rallied round him, and the assassins were forced to retire.


[202]During all this time Wenceslaus seems to have shown towards Hus a forbearance such as he hardly ever exhibited towards others who crossed his path. Doubtless one must trace in this conduct the influence of the queen; but, to whatever cause it was due, it did not fail to affect the feelings of Hus. He was shocked at the amount of disorder and bitterness prevailing in Prague; and he was grieved to think that he was, to some extent, the cause of it. The desire for peace and concession which these considerations produced was naturally quickened by personal gratitude to the King; and he now consented to leave Prague for a time, and to retire to Austi, where he remained under the protection of a powerful noble.

It was during this retirement that he composed the book “De Ecclesia,” which was to cost him so dear. In this he declared, more distinctly than before, his disbelief in the necessity of the Pope and Cardinals as a part of the constitution of the Church, and his belief in the essential equality of all Orders of the clergy. But his retirement from Prague brought no cessation to the fierceness of the controversy. Jakaubek of Kladrau, who now took the lead among the friends of Hus, demanded a reformation of the lives of the clergy, and declared that no peace could be made till these were amended. Wenceslaus once more stepped in as peacemaker. He appointed a commission of four, to which the representatives of[203] the opposite parties were to present their different statements for consideration and arbitration. Stanislaus and his friends drew up an address, in which they spoke of the Church, “whose head is the Pope, and whose body is the Cardinals.” For this Jakaubek and his friends proposed to substitute the words, “whose head is Jesus Christ our Saviour, and His representative is the Pope.” When, however, the opposite parties came before the arbitrators, Stanislaus, Pálec̆, and their friends refused to submit to the order of discussion suggested by the commissioners; whereupon Wenceslaus cut short the proceedings by banishing from Bohemia Stanislaus, Pálec̆, and two of their friends, as disturbers of the peace.

In the meantime Hus had been vexed with scruples of conscience, as to whether he had violated his duty in consenting to leave Prague, and to abandon his pulpit at the order of the King; and, after vainly endeavouring to satisfy himself by a comparison of quotations from St. Augustine and others, he at last came back to Prague, though he could not at once make up his mind so far to defy the king as to return to his pulpit in the Bethlehem Chapel. While he was in this hesitating state, the crisis arrived which was to solve his difficulties for him, and give him the longed-for opportunity of vindicating his teaching before the world, without directly defying the King of Bohemia.

In August, 1414, Sigismund once more arrived in Prague. He had contrived, on the death of Count Rupert, to get himself elected Holy Roman Emperor, but had afterwards reconciled Wenceslaus to this[204] arrangement, by promising to recognise the latter as Emperor, during his life, if Wenceslaus would allow him to retain the name of King of the Romans, which implied heirship to the Empire. This promise seems to have been very ill-kept; but probably Wenceslaus was too busy with his Bohemian troubles to care to enforce a claim which had formerly proved so irksome to him. At the period at which we have arrived, he was contented to leave both the dignity and power to his brother.

Circumstances now afforded a splendid opening for the display of both. The quarrel between John and Ladislaus, after being patched up by a temporary peace, had broken out again so fiercely that John had been forced to fly from Rome, and to take refuge in Bologna. From thence he appealed to Sigismund to call a new Council for the settlement of the troubles of the Church, and the final suppression of the schism in the papacy; and he consented that it should be held in the free, Imperial town of Constance. Hus also saw his opportunity in this Council, and he appealed to Sigismund to secure him a public hearing before it. Sigismund readily consented, and promised also to give a safe-conduct for the purpose. Before starting, however, Hus secured from the new Archbishop, Conrad, and from the chief Inquisitor in Bohemia, letters declaring their belief in his orthodoxy. He then put himself under the special care of John of Chlum and Wenceslaus of Duba, and, under their escort, he started from Prague, without waiting for the arrival of the safe-conduct. To judge by some expressions in his letter to Sigismund, and still more[205] by a letter which he left at Prague, to be opened by a friend in case of his death, Hus had already a gloomy anticipation of the fate which awaited him. But his spirits rose as the journey continued; for everywhere he met with kindness and hospitality, even from the Germans, and at Nürnberg he was chosen to preach before the nobles and clergy. So, with raised hopes, on the 3rd of November, 1414, he arrived at the town of Constance.

He and his friends were somewhat startled to find that the inn at which he lodged was close to that already occupied by the Pope, who had so recently excommunicated him. John of Chlum and Henry of Lac̆embok decided that the best course would be to go at once to the Pope, and tell him that Hus had arrived, under the promise of safe-conduct from the Emperor. The Pope answered that he had no desire to hinder Hus in any way; that he had no wish to do him any violence; and that Hus might remain safe in Constance, even if he had killed the Pope’s own brother. The arrival, two days later, of a messenger from Sigismund bearing the safe-conduct must have further confirmed Hus’s sense of security; and, so safe did his friends suppose him, that a rumour even spread among some of them that he was to preach before the Council.

But, in the meantime, there had arrived in Constance two enemies far more deadly to Hus than Pope or King. These were Michael de Causis, the German priest, and Stephen Pálec̆, his former friend and recent opponent, who had so lately been banished from Prague as a disturber of the peace. They[206] agreed to draw up extracts, chiefly compiled from Hus’s book “De Ecclesia,” some of them tolerably accurate, others perverting his meaning. These Pálec̆ carried about among the Cardinals, bishops, and friars, and he stirred them up to take action against Hus. At last, on the 28th of November, while Hus was at dinner, there arrived at his house two bishops, the burgomaster of Constance, and a German gentleman. Not knowing Hus by sight, they first applied to John of Chlum for an opportunity of speaking with Hus, on behalf of the Cardinals. Chlum seems at once to have suspected treachery, and he told them that Hus had come to Constance to speak publicly before the Emperor and Council, and that he was under the protection of the Emperor’s safe-conduct. The bishops answered that they had come in the interests of peace and to prevent disorder. Then Hus, rising from table, came to them, and said that, though he had come to speak to the whole Council and not to the Cardinals only, yet, if the Cardinals desired it, he would come to see them.

When he was brought to the palace, the Cardinals told him that they had been informed that he taught many errors. He answered that he would sooner die than teach errors, and he would amend any if they were shown to him. Then the Cardinals went away for a time, leaving him under the guard of soldiers. Still, they seem to have hesitated, and, in order to obtain clearer proof, they sent a monk to try to entrap him into confession of heresy. But, when this failed, Stephen Pálec̆ and Michael de Causis urged them to arrest him. One point, which they strongly pressed[207] in proof of his heresy, was the practice which Jakaubek of Kladrau had introduced since the departure of Hus, of administration of the Communion in both kinds to the laity. Then they raised against him the charge which he had so often denied, of a sympathy with Wyclif’s opposition to the doctrine of Transubstantiation. They revived the old grievances of the Germans in the matter of the University votes, and then charged him with having incited to the plunder of the clergy, and of having stood alone in the support of the doctrines of Wyclif against both Germans and Bohemians. The Cardinals then sent a messenger to Chlum, who had accompanied Hus to the palace, and told him that he might leave Hus and return home. Chlum hastened to the Pope, reminded him of his former promise, and insisted again on Sigismund’s safe-conduct. Pope John answered that he had not ordered the arrest of Hus, but that he could not resist the Cardinals.

Hus, in the meantime, had been hurried off to a Dominican convent, in a suburb of Constance, and was there thrown into a damp prison. Chlum was not, however, to be silenced; and he put up bills on the great church at Constance, denouncing the Pope and Cardinals for their breach of faith. Then he appealed to the Bohemian nobles who had come to the Council; and they and the leading Polish nobles also prepared a protest against the treatment of Hus, to be presented to Sigismund on his arrival. In the meantime, the treatment of Hus showed a mixture of cruelty and cunning on the part of his opponents. While, on the one hand, the prison in which he was[208] confined was so damp as to produce fever, he was yet allowed to communicate freely with his friends; and two of the letters which he wrote from prison had some influence on his fate. In one of these he defended the practice, which Jakaubek was now introducing, of Communion in both kinds. In the other he declared that, even if he were condemned by false witnesses, his friends were not to believe that he had forsaken the truth. This latter letter seems to have fallen into the hands of Pálec̆, or some other enemy; and it was at once perverted into the statement that, if he revoked and recanted anything at Constance, he would still continue to hold and teach it notwithstanding.

While these intrigues of the enemies of Hus were being reduced into a literary form, Sigismund at last arrived at Constance. Most English readers will remember the scene, as Carlyle has given it, of his splendid appearance on his entrance into the Council, of his pompous address about the need of suppressing the schism in the Church, and of his rebuke to the man who ventured to correct his Latin—“Rex sum Romanus et super grammaticam.”

The question of Hus’s imprisonment was brought before him by the Bohemian and Polish nobles; and he at first protested, with much indignation, against the violation of his safe-conduct. But the necessity of dealing with the question of the Papacy compelled him, for a time, to abandon further inquiry into the Bohemian heresies; for the representatives of the Popes arrived soon after at the Council. At first the discussion was confined to the consideration of the[209] disorders produced by the multiplication of claimants to the Papal throne; and a demand was made for the simultaneous resignation of all the rivals, in order that the ground might be cleared for a new election. But it soon became evident that the case against John XXIII. was based on very different grounds from the opposition to his rivals; and fearing the consequences which might ensue, he fled from Constance. The Duke of Austria, willing enough to hamper a Council presided over by a member of the House of Luxemburg, lent his aid to this scheme, and John escaped to Freyburg. He was, however, seized and brought back; and he was soon after degraded from the Papacy, on account of his horrible crimes.

His attempted escape gave a new opportunity to the enemies of Hus. If, they said, one prisoner of the Council could escape, why not another? Hus was too lightly guarded at the convent; and he must be put under safer charge. Therefore, on the night of March 24th, a guard of a hundred and seventy armed men carried him off to a fortress, outside the city, belonging to the Bishop of Constance; and there he was chained night and day. Again his friends indignantly protested; but Sigismund was now evidently falling under hostile influences. He had been offended already with Hus for having come to the Council without waiting for the safe-conduct; and he was persuaded that the fact that Hus possessed that safe-conduct had been in some way suppressed. Indignant at this rumour, Sigismund, on the 8th of April, by the advice of the Council, revoked all the letters of safe-conduct which he had granted. At[210] last, on April 17th, commissioners were appointed to report on Hus’s case.

It appears to have been about this time that Jerom also arrived at the Council. His career, since the struggle against the indulgences had been very unsatisfactory. He had first gone to Presburg to preach before Sigismund, and had there been imprisoned. Escaping from prison, he had made his way to Vienna; but had again been arrested there, and had consented to submit to an examination by an Austrian bishop. Set free on parole, he had broken his word and fled back to Bohemia, from whence he addressed a taunting letter to the bishop. It was, therefore, under the shadow of some discredit that he came to Constance, and offered to answer any charges of heresy which might be brought against him. At the same time he demanded a safe-conduct from Sigismund; and, not being able to obtain it, he fled from Constance, to which he was forcibly brought back by the officers of the Duke of Bavaria. He was then imprisoned, and kept heavily ironed for nearly a year.

Hus accused him of having disregarded the advice of his friends; and though it is not clear, whether this refers to his coming to the Council, or to his conduct when there, it is certain that his appearance must have made Hus’s position more difficult.

At last, on May 14, 1415, the nobles of Bohemia and Poland were able to make their protest before the Council against the treatment of Hus. They also indignantly complained of the insults and slanders which were being circulated against the[211] Bohemian nation, as if they were profaners of the Sacrament, and guilty of all sorts of indecencies in its celebration. The Bishop of Litomys̆l rose in answer to this to say that he was the author of these reports; and that this desecration of the Sacrament was the natural consequence of granting the cup to the laity. Another bishop answered their reference to Hus’s safe-conduct by saying that Hus only obtained it after his imprisonment. To this the Bohemian lords retorted that John of Chlum had himself shown the safe-conduct to the Pope before the arrest of Hus. They defended his non-appearance at Rome in answer to the summons of the Pope; and they produced the testimony of the University of Prague to his orthodoxy. Then, after reiterating their denial of the charges made by the Bishop of Litomys̆l, they wound up with a rather amusing outburst of aristocratic feeling. The Bishop of Litomys̆l had demanded their names, that he might know to whom he had to give answer. They had fancied that their names were tolerably well known to him; but, for their part, they were perfectly willing to give not only their own names, but those of their ancestors. On a later occasion they produced the certificate which the Bohemian Inquisitor had given to Hus.

At last, after repeated appeals, Hus was granted an audience on June 5th. But no sooner did he try to answer the various charges brought against him, then all the Council howled at him, and, after demanding that he should give a simple answer (Yes! or No!), were proceeding to condemn him on[212] the evidence of the falsified letter to his friends. Fortunately Oldr̆ich and Peter Mladenovich, who had accompanied Hus to Constance, heard the noise of the riot, and hastened to inform John of Chlum and Wenceslaus of Duba. They went at once to Sigismund, who was not present at the Council; and he sent the Count Palatine and Frederick of Hohenzollern to order the Councillors to hear Hus patiently. After some further disorder, the audience was adjourned to the 7th of June.

At the next meeting many new points were raised against Hus, both of doctrine and conduct. He defended his resistance to the condemnation of Wyclif’s books, on the ground that he had been called on to say that every proposition of Wyclif’s was either heretical, scandalous, or erroneous. At the same time he admitted that he had wished his soul to be with Wyclif, on account of Wyclif’s pure life. When charged with having appealed to Christ when condemned by the Pope, he declared that to be a most just and efficacious appeal, a statement which was received with laughter by his judges. At the same time he indignantly denied having encouraged his followers to smite with the material sword. Lastly, while maintaining the justice of the decision about the Bohemian votes, he denied the extraordinary charge of Pálec̆ that he had driven out the Germans.

But he was, unfortunately, doomed to irritate against him on every occasion the intense vanity of Sigismund. One great object of his enemies was to deprive him of any benefit accruing to him from[213] his safe-conduct; and they caught eagerly at an expression of his that he had come, freely and voluntarily, to the Council. Provoked at the constant distortions of his language, he broke out with a boast, which, however true, was most ill-judged. If, he said, he had not wished to come to the Council, neither King nor Emperor could have compelled him; for there were many friends who would have hidden him in their houses, so that neither Wenceslaus nor Sigismund could have found him. When a murmur arose at this, John of Chlum stepped forward and said that, though he was but a poor gentlemen in his own country, he, for one, would have guarded Hus for a year, whoever liked or disliked it; and that there were many others who would have protected him in strong castles. This belittling of his power roused Sigismund’s anger. He exclaimed that he had sent Hus his safe-conduct before he left Prague; and that he had provided the noblemen for his escort; and he now advised Hus to submit himself completely to the Council. Hus at once answered, in his more ordinary tone, that he thanked Sigismund for the safe-conduct; and, for his part, he would be glad to be corrected by the Council if he were shown to be wrong.

On June 8th, he was examined more in detail on thirty-nine Articles gathered from his writings. Some of these dealt with the subtle questions of Predestination; but others were concerned with his assertions in the “De Ecclesia” that a visible head was not necessary to the Church; and that a Pope in mortal sin ceases to be a true Pope. Hus was able, with[214] great force, to appeal to the action of the Council itself in justification of these doctrines. If a Pope in mortal sin did not cease to be a true Pope, by what right had they deposed John XXIII.? If the visible Head was necessary to the Church, who was the Head then, when all the Popes had either resigned or been deposed? Such arguments were probably too forcible to be convincing.

But again, by some strange fatality, Hus was further to irritate against him the suspicion and anger of the Holy Roman Emperor. “Not only,” said Hus, “did a Pope cease to be a true Pope if in mortal sin, but the case of the deposition of Saul by Samuel showed that a King might be treated in a similar way.” Sigismund was sitting at a window in a back part of the room when this utterance was made; but the Cardinals eagerly called him forward and made Hus repeat his statement. Nor was this the only offence which he was doomed to commit against the Emperor on that fatal day. When the examination had concluded, the chief Cardinal asked Hus whether he would submit entirely to the Council, or if he wished to defend any of the Articles alleged against him. But when Hus demanded an opportunity for further discussion, the Cardinal answered that the Council insisted on his abjuration and revocation of the Articles alleged against him, and his promise not to preach them any more. To this Hus answered, that he could not revoke and abjure opinions which he had never held, mentioning as an instance the denial of Transubstantiation. As for the opinions which he had set forth, he would retract[215] them when they had been refuted. Sigismund endeavoured to convince him that he could abjure Articles which he had never held; whereupon Hus ventured to dispute the Emperor’s use of the word “abjurare.” This further denial of the power of the Roman Emperor over the Latin language roused to a still higher pitch the irritation of Sigismund “Super Grammaticam;” and he told Hus that, unless he would abjure and revoke all the errors alleged against him, the Council must deal with him according to its laws.

Upon this a fat and richly dressed priest, who was sitting in the window, cried out that they should not allow him to recant, since he would not keep his word; and again he quoted the falsified version of Hus’s letter. Then Pálec̆ and Michael de Causis pressed upon him a number of charges, some new and some old, mixing up actual writings and doings of Hus with doctrines which he had repudiated; and, after this had continued for some time, the Council decided to send him back to prison, to see if a period of delay would induce him to revoke his heresies.

For the moment Hus seemed to be crushed by the noise and bitterness of his enemies. He was leaving the Council with the sense that the world was entirely against him, when, as he drew near to the door, John of Chlum pressed through the crowd and shook him warmly by the hand. The memory of that handshake seems to have lingered to the last in the mind of Hus. Other friends, too, were still faithful to him; and, after he had left the Council, several of them pressed to the window of the convent where the Council was being held, to hear what should follow.[216]

Sigismund was now thoroughly inflamed against Hus. He had belittled the protection which Sigismund had offered him, and had declared that his friends could protect him against the Emperor; he had quoted a Scriptural instance of the deposition of kings; and, above all, he had disputed Sigismund’s authority over the Latin language. Such a man could not be suffered to live; and the Emperor now declared that he delivered him over to the Council to be burnt, if they so pleased; adding further, that no recantation was to be trusted. He also implied that the death of Jerom must follow that of Hus.

Hus now saw that his fate was sealed; and one observes in his letters to his friends the tone of a man who is preparing for death. He was particularly anxious, lest the more ignorant of his followers should suffer for doctrines which they had not understood, and which they had merely adopted from a sense of personal devotion to their teacher. So he wrote to one of these followers, that, if he should be attacked for his adherence to Hus, he should answer his accusers by saying, “I hope that the Master was a good Christian, but I have not understood or read through the things which he taught in the schools.” The thought of the corruptions of the clergy still weighed upon his mind; and he advised his nephews rather to learn some manual work than to become priests; lest, if they assumed the spiritual office, they should not maintain it as it deserved.

In the meantime, the Council, with singular maladroitness, had singled out for special condemnation the granting of the Cup to the laity; and thus, at one[217] stroke, they changed the doctrine of a few obscure men into the war-cry of an indignant nation. This decree called the attention to Hus to this matter, which, till then, he had not deeply considered; and he wrote to his successor at the Bethlehem Chapel that he ought not to oppose the granting of the Cup to the laity, since there was nothing but custom against it; and that, if he opposed Jakaubek, there would be a division amongst the faithful.

But, while Hus was thus interesting himself in the affairs of his countrymen, the Council were not suffering him to rest in peace. One of the few priests who had shown themselves friendly to Hus at the Council wrote to him urging sophistical arguments in favour of a form of recantation; and Pálec̆ paid him several visits, to worry him into confessions of heresy. Yet, bitterly as he felt the persecutions of his former follower, that same self-distrust and earnest desire for justice which he had shown in the question of the three votes, and again on his retirement from Prague, appeared, even more remarkably, in this last interview. He entreated his enemy to pardon him for having charged him with deliberate falsehood on the occasion of Pálec̆’s first attacks in the Council. The savage apostate was moved even to tears for the moment, though his pity was of short duration.

At last, on July 5th, Wenceslaus of Duba and John of Chlum were sent to the prison to demand Hus’s final answer. But these messengers had been ill-chosen as exponents of the sophistries of Sigismund and the Cardinals. John of Chlum addressed the prisoner as follows: “Master John, we are laymen and[218] cannot advise you. Therefore, see if there is anything in the things which they object to you, in which you feel you are to blame. If so, do not fear to be instructed and to revoke it; but, if you do not feel yourself guilty in your conscience in these things, then by no means act against your conscience, nor lie in the sight of God, but rather continue till the death in the truth which you have acknowledged.” Then Hus answered, “Lord John! know, that if I knew that I had written or preached anything contrary to the law or to our Holy Mother the Church, God is my witness that I would humbly revoke it. But I always desired that they should show me better and more probable Scriptures than those that I had taught; and, if they are shown me, I will most readily recant.” A bishop, who had come with the Bohemian nobles, now introduced the sophistical platitude which is common on such occasions—“Do you wish,” he said, “to be wiser than the whole Council?” “I do not wish,” answered Hus, “to be wiser than the whole Council; but I ask you to give me the least of the Council who can inform me by better and more efficacious Scriptures; and I am ready to revoke what I said.”

On the following day he was brought forth to receive his final condemnation. The articles on which he was to be condemned were read out against him, though he continued to protest against the manner in which his words had been perverted. To his horror, he found that they had added to the charges against him a new article, in which he was accused of saying that he was a fourth person of the[219] Deity. He demanded the name of the author of this slander; but the Council refused to tell him. Then, as a climax to his offences, they quoted his appeal to Christ as against the Pope. At that he cried out “O Lord God! do this Council condemn Thy law and Thy acts as an error? because Thou, when oppressed by Thy enemies, didst commit Thy cause to Thy God and Father, and gavest us thereby an example to appeal to Thee as the justest Judge, humbly demanding Thy help.” Then for the last time he recapitulated the circumstances under which he had come to the Council. When he referred to the safe-conduct, he fixed his eye upon Sigismund; and the Emperor was observed to blush. This blush is worth mentioning as the only sign of grace in that mean and treacherous career. But, of course, neither appeal nor blush could avail Hus anything; and his statement was almost immediately followed by his condemnation to the stake.

Then he knelt down and said, “Lord Jesus Christ, pardon all my enemies for Thy great mercy; Thou knowest that they have falsely accused me, that they have produced false witnesses, and that they have produced false articles against me; pardon them for Thy mercy.” This prayer was received with shouts of laughter. Then they stripped him of his priestly dress, and put on him a crown which declared him to be an Heresiarch. This was followed by a proclamation committing his soul to the devil, to which he answered, “And I commit it to my blessed Lord Jesus Christ.”

He had now quite recovered his composure; and,[220] on his way to the stake, he smiled when he saw the place where his books were being burnt; and he smiled again when the paper crown fell off his head and he saw the three demons which had been painted on it. When they put a heavy chain round his neck to fasten him to the stake, he exclaimed, “The Lord Jesus my Redeemer was bound with a heavier chain for me.” Even after the faggots had been piled round him, the officials came to him, asking him to recant. He answered by repudiating the false charges that had been made against him, and declared that he had only preached the truth of the gospel and the holy Doctors. Then, as they lit the fire round him, he cried out, “Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me;” but, as he added the words, “Who wast born of the Virgin Mary,” a flame struck him on the mouth, and he died praying.

N.B.—For the two stories which are most generally quoted about Hus, I can find no sufficient authority. The beautiful tradition of his comment on the woman who brought the faggot to burn him, seems to belong to a much later date; while the earliest authority, which I have discovered, for the prophecy about the goose and the swan, is Martin Luther himself. But both the stories are eminently characteristic; and they deserve to live as legend, if not as authentic history.



(July 6, 1415-July 28, 1420.)

Few great teachers are ever well represented by their immediate followers and disciples; but hardly any have been distinguished from their followers by so many and such important differences as those which separated John Hus from the men who are known by his name. First of all there was the gulf which separates the man who rejoices to die for his faith from those who delight in killing on its behalf. But that difference between teacher and follower, though much more vital, is, perhaps, also more common than the barrier of doctrinal difference which separated Hus from those who claimed to represent him. The very practice, which supplied the war-cry of the coming struggle, was one which Hus had merely approved with a friendly tolerance, never advocated with any special enthusiasm; and that difference of feeling is characteristic of the whole relations between Hus and his followers. On the[222] one hand the constitutional reforms of the Church, hinted at in the “De Ecclesia,” would certainly have been rejected by the Calixtine party; while, on the other hand, the doctrines and practices of the Taborites would have been opposed by Hus himself. It will therefore be more convenient, in describing the following struggle, to speak of the Reformers by their doctrinal name of “Utraquists,” rather than by the personal but misleading title of “Hussite.”

But, if the spirit of the living Hus could scarcely be said to rest upon those who called themselves by his name, undoubtedly the death of Hus was recognised, on both sides, as the essential cause of the wars which followed. Men might wrangle about this or that doctrine or practice; but the murder of a Bohemian, in a place to which he had been sent under the special protection of the King and the nobles, was a point which could never be forgiven or forgotten against Sigismund or the Council of Constance; especially when this murder was connected with an attempt to brand as heretics the whole Bohemian nation. This feeling breathes through the fiery letter of the nobles of Bohemia, which was sent to the Council on the 2nd of September, 1415. They accused the Councillors of having condemned Hus on false evidence; and they declared him to be a good Catholic. They give the lie to all to dare to assert that there is heresy in Bohemia or Moravia, except only to the Emperor Sigismund, who, they hope, is innocent in the matter; and they declare that they will defend the law of Christ and His preachers, even to the shedding of blood.[223]

While the nobles threw down their gauntlet to the Council in this formal manner, the main body of the people showed their feeling by fierce riots against the monks. Churches and monasteries were burnt; many monks were driven from Prague, and some priests were killed in the riots. The Archbishop of Prague determined to stand by his Order; and he too fixed on the Communion in both kinds as the dividing line between the two parties. Finding that he could neither prohibit this practice nor obtain compensation for the injuries done to the clergy, he laid Prague under an Interdict.

This Interdict became a new source of division. The Utraquists utterly disregarded it, and exposed themselves to the charge of rebellion against the Church. The Catholics, on the other hand, scrupulously recognised the archbishop’s decree, and therefore felt bound to celebrate their services only in the Vys̆ehrad, which was outside the prohibited area. The Catholic visits to that fortress were compared by the Utraquists to the more celebrated pilgrimages to Mecca; and hence the name of Mahometan was added to the other terms of abuse, which were being so freely scattered by the rival theologians.

The attitude of Wenceslaus was wavering and uncertain. He had, indeed, been disposed to accept the Council’s condemnation of the granting of the Cup to the laity; but he had used his best influence to save Hus, and he had resented his execution, as another proof of that faithlessness of Sigismund, of which he had already had such painful[224] experience. He refused, however, to join the League which the nobles had formed to defend the liberties of Bohemia, partly, perhaps, because they connected it with a defence of the practice just condemned by the Council; and he even consented to support an Opposition League formed by the Catholic nobles in defence of the Church.

Sigismund, on his part, began to entertain hopes that he might contrive to sow division between these rival parties; and, feeling that his share in the death of Hus was the point which prevented his success in these intrigues, he wrote to the Bohemian nobles assuring them that he deeply regretted that death, that he had done his best to prevent it, and that, if Hus had only consented to come under the Emperor’s protection to Constance, instead of starting alone from Prague, all would have been well; but he added that he could not have saved Hus at the last, without breaking up the Council altogether. Whether these falsehoods deceived any one may be doubted. At any rate they did not accomplish Sigismund’s immediate purpose; for, when the Bishop of Litomys̆l arrived, with authority from the Council to suppress heresy in Bohemia, he received no encouragement either from king or from nobles, and, when he attempted violence, he was driven out by force.

Indeed, whatever terms the nobles of Bohemia might have thought right to make with Sigismund, as the heir to the Bohemian throne, they could not, with any credit to themselves, come to terms at this time with the Council of Constance. In the[225] same letter in which the nobles had condemned the burning of Hus, they had also complained of the imprisonment of Jerom; and with Jerom it was clear that the Council were determined to proceed to extremities. Worn with starvation and chains, the unfortunate prisoner at last yielded to his persecutors; and, while his countrymen were protesting against his imprisonment, he had consented to recant his errors, and to acknowledge the justice of the death of Hus. The Italian cardinals now desired to set him free; but the German and Bohemian members of the Council, backed by the Chancellor of the University of Paris, insisted that this recantation was not to be trusted, and that Jerom should be further examined as to his doctrines. Michael de Causis and Stephen Pálec̆ fastened with relentless eagerness on their second victim, and, by so doing, they saved his honour and reputation, and gave him an opportunity of showing his better side.

In May, 1416, he was granted a new hearing before the Council; and, after having been for some time pestered with questions, he was at last allowed to speak for himself. His long oration, filled with classical allusions, greatly impressed the Italian scholar, Poggio Bracciolini, who was present on this occasion. But it will scarcely strike modern readers as so edifying as the simpler utterances of Hus. The conclusion, however, was more worthy of the occasion. It contained a manly and straightforward eulogy on Hus, an expression of his deep regret at the weakness which had led him to recant,[226] and a declaration of his adherence to the teaching both of Hus and of Wyclif. Then, on May 14, 1416, he was led out to be burnt, and went singing to the stake.

If this execution had not been sufficient to prevent a reconciliation between the Bohemians and the Council of Constance, another event of the same period would certainly have deepened the division between them. The Bishop of Olmütz died about this time, and Wenceslaus nominated a new bishop in his stead. The Council, however, intervened; and they not only rejected Wenceslaus’s nominee, but they demanded that he should accept instead that Bishop of Litomys̆l whom he had just driven out of the country as a disturber of the peace, and who was so deeply hated for his prominent share in the condemnation of Hus. Wenceslaus of course refused, and thereby widened the gulf between himself and the orthodox Catholics.

Unfortunately, however, the effect of this consolidation of national feeling was speedily weakened by the divisions which had begun to show themselves in the Utraquist party. Teachers were coming to the front who demanded far more sweeping reforms than those which Jakaubek of Kladrau and the other friends of Hus were at all disposed to approve; and they wished to enforce these reforms by the extremest violence. As these reforms were aimed, not only at abuses in the Church, but also at the influence of the wealthy men in the State, the Reformers soon roused against them the fears and anger of the well-to-do citizens of Prague. Nor[227] were these alarms likely to be modified when it became evident that two men, at least, of important position and remarkable ability, were disposed to place themselves at the head of the reforming movement.

The leader who first attracted the attention of the crowd and the fears of the King was Nicholaus of Hus, the Guardian of the Fortress of Hus, and the proprietor of the village of Husinec. He had been a favourite with the King, and was reputed, even by his enemies, to be a man of great ability and insight. He now gathered together such great crowds of people for prayer and preaching that Wenceslaus began to suspect him of aiming at the throne. But the more pacific abilities of Nicholaus were soon to be thrown into the shade by his fiercer and more brilliant ally, John Z̆iz̆ka of Troc̆nov.

Though Z̆iz̆ka, like Nicholaus, had been a favourite at Court, he had already once offended the king by a daring act of independence. Influenced, no doubt, by Sigismund and his friends, Wenceslaus had at one time supported the Order of Teutonic Knights in their struggle against the King of Poland. The anti-German feeling in Bohemia was already running high, even at that time; and sympathy with their Slavonic kinsmen induced many Bohemian officers to hasten to the support of the Poles, in opposition to the wish of the King. In this semi-rebellious movement Z̆iz̆ka had taken a prominent part; but he had, since then, been pardoned and received back into favour. His independent spirit, however, was ill-suited to a Court life, and he was not long in giving new offence to Wenceslaus.



[229]Tradition gives an early date to the first signs of sympathy between Z̆iz̆ka and Hus. Within a walk of the village of Husinec stands the old town of Prachatice, where the ruins are still shown of the school in which Z̆iz̆ka and Hus are said to have studied together. However this may be, there can be no doubt that it was very soon after the death of Hus that Z̆iz̆ka began to assume that position of leadership among the extremer Utraquists, which ultimately gained him such fame both among friends and enemies. This section of Reformers had already discovered that they did not receive that sympathy from the citizens of Prague which they believed to be their due. Many of them were compelled to leave the city; and they gathered together on a mountain near Austi, to which they gave the name of Tabor, and to which their supporters gradually flocked from all parts of the kingdom. These gatherings so alarmed Wenceslaus that they even weakened his hostility to the Council of Constance; and not only the followers of Nicholaus and Z̆iz̆ka, but even some of the more moderate Utraquists became objects of his suspicion.

This change of feeling naturally increased the hopes of Sigismund, and he became even more sanguine of success, and more bitter against the followers of Hus, when the Council of Constance elected, under the name of Pope Martin V., that Cardinal Colonna, who had urged upon John XXIII. the first proposal for the condemnation of Hus.[230] Under the influence of this new Pope, all the schemes of reform, which the Council had once thought of considering, were sacrificed to the one aim of the suppression of heresy; and in April, 1418, the Pope secured himself a freer hand by dissolving the Council of Constance.

Urged, then, by pressure from Emperor and Pope, and by his own fear of Utraquistic excesses, Wenceslaus banished one of the Reformers from Prague, and recalled the Catholic clergy, who had been expelled from the city. He discovered, indeed, that Utraquism had taken so deep a root in Prague that it would be necessary to grant at least three churches to its preachers. But this concession did not satisfy the more zealous champions of the cause; and the favour shown by the King to the Catholics provoked riots among the Reformers. Then Wenceslaus demanded that the citizens should all give up their arms to him.

Z̆iz̆ka now saw that the controversy with the Catholics must sooner or later end in war; and he was determined that his followers should not be unprovided for such a struggle. He therefore resolved to obey the royal summons, but in a peculiar manner of his own. He gathered together his followers, led them into the presence of the King, and assured him that they were ready to stand by him, with life and property, against his enemies. The unfortunate Wenceslaus felt bound to thank Z̆iz̆ka and his followers for this loyal declaration; but Z̆iz̆ka knew well enough that he had thereby forfeited the royal favour. He therefore quickly retired from Court,[231] and joined Nicholaus of Hus in organising their followers on Mount Tabor. The alarm of Wenceslaus was naturally increased by these proceedings; and he began to meet the opposition by deposing the Town Councillors in the different divisions of Prague, and thrusting in their opponents. This was a more arbitrary act of power than he had yet resorted to in this struggle; and it naturally hastened on the violent crisis which had long been approaching.

The quarter in which the outbreak finally took place had a peculiar character of its own, which some historians believe to have affected the character of the coming struggle. It will be remembered that Charles IV. had done much, not merely to develop the intellectual greatness of Prague, but also to increase its physical size. A completely new suburb had been added during that reign, which was known as the New Town of Prague. This division of the city was governed by its own Council, and rapidly assumed a peculiar character. Charles’s policy attracted many Germans to the city; and, while the more prominent struggle between the rival “Nations” of the University had been growing in intensity, it is believed by some that an equally bitter feeling had been springing up among those Bohemian workmen who had fallen under the rule of German employers of labour. The historians who hold this view maintain that the workmen, who desired to escape from this domination, fled from the older parts of Prague, and found new possibilities of life and of organisation in the New Town. Whether this migration can be[232] clearly proved or no, it is certain that, both at this and later crises, there appears a more democratic and, in some respects, a more national spirit in the movements which had their rise in the New Town, than in those of other parts of the city.

It was then, in the church of St. Stephen, in the New Town, that on the 30th of July, 1419, a fiery preacher named John of Seelau (Zelív) delivered a sermon in the presence of an excited crowd of the followers of Z̆iz̆ka. After being worked up by pictures of the coming judgment, these fiery reformers marched in procession through the streets. As they passed the Council House, some insult appears to have been offered them by those who were looking out of the windows; whereupon the infuriated Utraquists rushed upstairs into the council chamber, and hurled the newly-elected Councillors from the window, the crowd below receiving the falling men on the points of their spikes. Then Z̆iz̆ka and his friends proceeded to seize the town into their hands, elected four captains for each district, and appointed Councillors in the place of those who had been killed.

Wenceslaus was furious at this news, and vowed that he would exterminate all Wyclifites and Hussites. Many of his advisers, however, were still in sympathy with the principle of Utraquism; and they persuaded the King to come to terms with the rioters, and to confirm the election of the new Councillors. The excitement of the controversy and the humiliation of this confession were too much for the strength of Wenceslaus. He was seized with a fever; and, in[233] August, 1419, ended at last his long and tragic reign.

The concessions into which Wenceslaus had been persuaded by his queen and his nobles, produced less effect on the minds of the citizens of Prague than the violent threats which had preceded them; and, at the time of his death, the feeling against him was so fierce that his friends did not venture to give him a public funeral, but buried him secretly by night. A still plainer evidence of this feeling was shown in the renewal of the riots against the monks. Altars, organs, and images of saints were destroyed; and many of the monks were driven out of the city.

Several of the nobles who had been hitherto inclined to the Utraquist cause, were so much alarmed at these excesses that they called upon Sigismund, as next heir to the throne, to hasten to Bohemia, to restore order. The messengers found him preparing to start on an expedition against the Turks; and his German and Hungarian councillors persuaded him to delay his visit to Bohemia, until he could enter it at the head of a victorious army. He therefore appointed Wenceslaus’s widow Sophia as regent in his place; and he chose a council to assist her, of which the most prominent member was C̆enĕk of Wartenberg.

C̆enĕk was one of those men who will always receive more condemnation and less pity than are their due. He was evidently a man of some attractive qualities, and, originally at least, of excellent intentions. He had taken the lead in the protest against the execution of Hus; and, if he had shown himself[234] somewhat too tolerant towards the early excesses of Z̆iz̆ka and his friends, he had at least helped to preserve Wenceslaus from being driven by those acts into the arms of Sigismund. But to steer the kingdom through the dangers with which it was threatened by the fierce intolerance of Sigismund on the one hand, and of Z̆iz̆ka on the other, required stronger nerve and clearer purpose than C̆enĕk possessed; and thus his continual changes of party were effected in a manner which have left a deep stain on his memory.

When the Bohemian Assembly first met to consider the position of affairs, it seemed as if the moderate Utraquists would be able to carry the day; for a resolution was passed that the Estates would only consent to the coronation of Sigismund on the following conditions: First, that he would permit the Communion in both kinds to be celebrated in all the churches, and would try to procure the sanction of the Pope to this practice. Secondly, that he would place no clergy in temporal authority. Thirdly, that he would not permit the publication of any Papal Bulls until they had received the approval of the King’s Council. Fourthly, that he would not appoint any foreigners to either temporal or spiritual offices, nor set German magistrates over towns where Bohemians dwelt. Lastly, that the proceedings of the law-courts should be conducted in the Bohemian language. These were the principal demands of the nobles; but the citizens of Prague, who were daily gaining greater influence in the councils of the State, added certain conditions of their own. These were that Sigismund should grant an amnesty for the[235] recent disturbances; that he should not permit the establishment in Prague of any more houses of ill-fame; and that he should permit the reading of at least the Gospel and Epistle in the Bohemian language. Such a programme might seem to unite for the moment all sections of Bohemians who desired peace and independence for their country; but, when Sigismund replied by putting aside the whole of these demands, and declaring that he would only promise to govern as his father had governed before him, the situation was entirely changed.

Strange as it sounds, in speaking of so turbulent a country, it is none the less true that, till this time, there had been no instance of a combined national resistance in Bohemia to a King who was the sole lawful claimant of the throne. There had been plenty of instances of setting up rival members of the royal family against each other; attempts by discontented nobles to call in a foreign King or Emperor to their help; and even something like a provincial insurrection of Moravia against Bohemia; but that the National Assembly of Bohemia should formally commit itself to an attempt to exclude from the country the lawful heir to the throne, who was at once the only living representative of the House of Luxemburg, and the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire—this was a step so unprecedented that it may well have caused hesitation in those who were called upon to take it.

Doubtless this difficulty might have been avoided if Sophia could have ventured on more independent action. But the Queen, though she had exercised so[236] useful an influence over her husband during his lifetime, seems, after his death, to have fallen completely into the background, and to have taken her cue from Sigismund, or from his principal advisers.

The result, then, of the deliberations of the Bohemian Assembly was that the nation was broken up into three parties. These were as follows: (1) The Catholic Party, which was in favour of complete submission to Sigismund. (2) The Moderate Utraquist Party which would have accepted him if he would have granted some amount of religious liberty. (3) The Extreme Reforming Party, which thoroughly distrusted Sigismund, and desired to throw off his authority. The first of these parties found its supporters chiefly in Moravia, and particularly in the German-speaking districts of that province. By a strange irony of fortune, its leader was that Wenceslaus of Duba who had stood so gallantly by Hus at the Council of Constance. But though he, and one or two others of the party, may have cherished some national aspirations, they were, as a body, too much out of sympathy with the keen Slavonic feeling of the country to be reckoned as a Bohemian party at all. The second party, which gradually acquired the name of Calixtines, from the importance which they attached to the custom of granting the Cup to the laity, were really composed of two very different elements. Many of the great nobles, while theoretically zealous for the Cup, were far more anxious to maintain that position in the country which largely depended on the favour of the king; while, on the other hand, learned preachers like Jakaubek of Kladrau were as zealous for the reforms which they desired as many of the extremer Utraquists could be, and would have risked and sacrificed as much to secure them.



[238]But, though men like Jakaubek of Kladrau had an important part to play in the coming struggle, it was from the third Bohemian party that there were to be drawn the most determined fighters, and the most impressive figures, in the struggle of Bohemia against the German Emperor. This party had been founded by those fiery spirits who had been banished from Prague by Wenceslaus; and they derived their name of Taborite from the mountain which they had made their chief place of refuge after their expulsion from Prague. So great was the enthusiasm which they caused that, when Wenceslaus forbade any further visits to Tabor under penalty of death and confiscation of goods, large numbers of the peasantry willingly sacrificed all their possessions, and risked the chance of death, to unite themselves with this chosen band. A community so formed naturally developed very remarkable qualities; and a stern Puritanical gloom, combined with the Puritanical nobleness of aspiration, rapidly showed itself among them. Rich and poor shared their food with each other; no strife or theft was permitted; intoxicating liquors were excluded from the mountain; and not only was gambling forbidden to the elders, but even the children were deprived of their games. Such is the account given of the Taborites by a somewhat hostile chronicler, who thus proceeds to describe their manner of passing the day:

“Having then completed the moderate refreshment[239] of the body, the priests rise with the people to give thanks to God. They march round the Mount of Tabor, bearing the venerable Eucharist—the virgins preceding the Sacrament, and the men and women in their squadrons following, all shouting and singing psalms as seems convenient. When this procession is finished, they exchange farewells with their clergy, not bending to the right or left lest they should trample on the wheat; and so they come to the place whence they started.” These people, already prepared for religious enthusiasm by the stern discipline of such a life as this, were kindled yet further by fiery sermons, founded chiefly on the visions of the Apocalypse, in which prophecies were delivered of the speedy coming of Christ, and the reign of the Saints, which was to be hastened by the putting to death of the enemies of Christ. They were told that they were to bathe and sanctify their hands in the blood of their enemies; and that, while they were to imitate the zeal and indignation of their Master, this was not the time to imitate His gentleness. All human learning, said the fiercer of the preachers, was to be treated with contempt; and the taking of degrees at the University was a vanity.

Nor was it only the training, which they had received from their preachers, that prepared the Taborites for the part which they were to play in the coming struggle. Z̆iz̆ka was eminently fitted to be the hero of a revolutionary party. To a fiery sincerity, and a steady devotion to that high ideal of life which was implied in the Taborite creed, he united a genius for leadership and organisation which[240] the greatest generals might have envied; a statesmanlike instinct for seizing the right moment and the right course of action; and a savage ferocity which none of his opponents could surpass.


But, though this fiery band, and their uncompromising leader, were to give the tone to the struggle which was fast approaching, one passing hint was given, before the outbreak of the war, of the presence among the Bohemians of gentler spirits who would[241] gain a hearing at a later and more appropriate time. One or more of those Taborites, who had not imbibed that contempt for learning which had been inculcated by their wilder preachers, applied to the Masters of the Prague University, to know whether war on behalf of religion was not forbidden by the command to Peter to put up his sword into his sheath. Jakaubek answered, on behalf of his colleagues, that, though a war for the propagation of the Faith was undoubtedly forbidden to Christians, yet a defensive war for the protection of the Faith was certainly lawful.

This question, as has been already suggested, has more importance as a prophecy of future religious developments than as a characteristic utterance of the period. But the answer has a more immediate significance, as indicating a policy which was to separate the learned professors of the University from the more aristocratic section of the Calixtines. This difference has already been referred to above; but it requires to be emphasized and developed. In the case of C̆enek of Wartenberg the difference seems to have been partly due to a sense of loyalty to the House of Luxemburg, and to a shrinking from some of the violences in which the Taborites indulged. But C̆enek’s prominent position in his party was not due solely to his personal qualities or even to his personal rank. It was also largely derived from the guardianship which he possessed over the lands of Rosenberg; and this position must also be considered as colouring the character of his policy.

Ulric von Rosenberg, like his guardian C̆enek,[242] played a somewhat questionable and uncertain part in the coming struggle. But the times and circumstances of his changes of position lead one to attribute to him somewhat different motives of action from those which influenced his guardian. He seems to have begun his career as a decided Utraquist; but his subsequent oppressions of his Utraquist dependents show a bitterer change of feeling than can be laid to the charge of C̆enek; while his special opposition to Z̆iz̆ka seems to mark the real ground of his questionable policy. In mere doctrine he may have had some sympathy with the reforming movement; but he was soon alarmed by the democratic character of the Taborite party and of its leader; and the great power which had been so long wielded by the Rosenbergs, was thrown, in the main, into the defence of aristocratic privileges and feudal rights. For the moment, however, the nobles could put forward the excuse that they were supporting the claims of a Queen, who was not stained with the blood of Hus, nor committed to an anti-national policy; and, it was on her behalf that C̆enek now organised a standing army, and seized into his hands several important fortresses.

Z̆iz̆ka, on his part, felt that no time was to be lost in saving the cause for which he desired to struggle. So, at the head of a band of his drilled peasants, he suddenly marched upon the fortress of the Vys̆ehrad, drove out the royalist garrison, and put his own men in their place. Then, on the 10th of November, the Taborites set out in various bands, from the three or four towns which were occupied by their party; and[243] they marched to Prague, to hold a great meeting there. The main body met at the town of Zinkov, where they organised their forces before proceeding on their march. But three hundred men had started alone from Austi, apparently ill-armed and ill-prepared for attack. This detached body was met on its way by one of the royalist nobles; and on the first attack he put to flight the men of Austi with much slaughter.

The fugitives escaped to Knin, at which point the main body of their friends had now arrived. Baron von Sternberg, the general of the royalists, marched thither to meet the advancing Taborites, and probably hoped to obtain an easy victory. But the sturdy peasants repelled his attack with such vigour that the royalists were forced to retreat; and on the 4th of November, 1419, the Taborites entered Prague without further opposition. The royalist party were at once called to arms; while, on the other side, Nicholaus of Hus and Z̆iz̆ka marched into the Small Division of Prague, and, after a fierce struggle, seized upon the great fortress, which still overlooks the town. The Queen fled from Prague under the protection of Ulric of Rosenberg. C̆enek in the meantime gathered new forces on her behalf, and persuaded several towns to declare for the royalist cause.





Each party was now conscious of the strength of its opponents; and, under such circumstances, those moderate citizens of Prague who combined a zeal for freedom with a desire for peace, were able to hold the balance between the contending parties. So a compromise was effected, by which the queen and the nobles were pledged to protect religious liberty and especially Communion in both kinds; while the citizens, on their part, consented to restore the fortress of Vys̆ehrad to the Queen, and to abstain from any injuries to churches or images. Z̆iz̆ka, however, distrusted the Queen’s party, and was discontented with these terms. So he withdrew with most of his troops to his chief fortress of Pilsen (Plz̆en).



Although the recovery of the Vys̆ehrad was an important gain to the royalist cause, the great centre of the extreme Catholic feeling was the town of Kutna Hora. That town, from its importance as a mining centre, and from the special favour shown to it by the kings, had become a kind of rival to Prague; and in a time of civil war such rivalry naturally ripened into active hostility of the fiercest description. In spite of the occasional fierceness of such outbursts as that which had produced the slaughter of the[247] Councillors of the New Town, there had been, till now, little organised cruelty in the contest between the two parties. Now, however, whether actuated by municipal rivalry or religious hostility, the men of Kutna Hora began to inaugurate a system of persecution which was to produce terrible reprisals. They seized upon all the Utraquists whom they could find, and even paid other towns so much a head to send them victims. Some of these they buried alive in pits; some they burnt, and some they beheaded; so that in a short time more than sixteen hundred had been put to death.

In the meantime Sigismund had returned from Hungary to Moravia; and in Christmas, 1419, he and Queen Sophia held a meeting at Brünn (Brno). The citizens of Prague sent a deputation to this assembly to entreat for terms of peace. Sigismund ordered them at once to pull down all the chains which they had placed across the streets; to destroy all their new fortifications; and to bring back the Catholic priests who had been driven out. The citizens were so anxious to avoid a collision with Sigismund that they consented to these terms; and they destroyed their fortifications amid the jeers of the Catholics and Germans.

Z̆iz̆ka now fully realised the impossibility of any compromise, and he prepared for a desperate struggle. His first intention had been to make the town of Pilsen the centre of his operations. From that town he had succeeded in driving out all the Catholics; and its fortifications were so strong that he hoped to make it good against all comers. But the growing[248] strength of the fortress of Tabor led him to change his opinion; and he decided to withdraw from Pilsen, and to concentrate the whole force of his followers on the mountain from which they took their name. According to one account, the divisions in Pilsen itself were the main cause of this decision. Certainly some special explanation is needed of a step which proved, in one way, so disastrous to the reforming cause; for, during all the victories gained by the Utraquists, they were never able to recover this important fortress again.

It was not, however, unconditionally that Z̆iz̆ka consented to abandon this position. He stipulated that he should be allowed to depart freely to Tabor, and that the granting of the Cup to the laity should be permitted in Pilsen. Wenceslaus of Duba, as leader of the Catholic forces, consented to the terms which Z̆iz̆ka proposed. Unfortunately, however, the doctrine that faith should not be kept with heretics had already taken deep root amongst the opponents of the Utraquists. While Z̆iz̆ka was still on his way from Pilsen to Tabor, he was attacked by Peter of Sternberg, at the head of a royalist force. Unprepared for this attack, and very inferior in the number of his forces, Z̆iz̆ka at first retreated before his enemies; but, finding himself compelled to fight, he took up his position on the bank of a fish-pond near the town of Sudomír. There, for the first time, he adopted the plan which became a special characteristic of his battles. He entrenched himself behind his baggage-waggons, over which his men fired at the advancing foe. The struggle was a fierce one; but[249] at last the royalists were compelled to retreat, and Z̆iz̆ka went on in safety to Tabor.

But though much of the success of the Utraquist wars was due to the energy of Z̆iz̆ka and his followers, the leading citizens of Prague had also a very important influence on the struggle; and Sigismund’s actions soon roused in them that desperate courage which had seemed for a moment to forsake them. The nickname of Sigismund, “Super Grammaticam,” has been fixed on this Emperor by Carlyle; but an even more distinctive name would have been Sigismund “Super Veritatem.” Many other rulers have told lies in their time of emergency; but surely no one ever took so much pains to write himself down a liar as Sigismund did at every stage of his career. It will be remembered that he had written most urgently to the Bohemians, to express his regret for the death of Hus, and to assure them that he had done all he could to prevent it. Yet, as soon as Pope Martin had published his Bull, urging a crusade against the Hussites, Sigismund seized upon a merchant of Prague named Krasa, and publicly burnt him in Breslau, on the express ground that he had disapproved of the burning of Hus and Jerom.

C̆enek of Wartenberg, who had been entrusted by Sigismund with the care of the fortress of Prague, now declared that he could no longer serve the king. At nearly every stage in the career of this unfortunate nobleman, his change of opinion, however excusable in itself, was stained by some act of treachery. On this occasion he invited the subordinate governors of[250] the castle to dinner, and seized that opportunity for arresting and imprisoning them. Having thus mastered the castle, he placed it under the care of the citizens of Prague. He then arrested seventy-six of the clergy, and drove several of the opposing citizens from the town.

But C̆enek was never long of one mind; and he soon began to despair of the struggle on which he had entered. On the one hand the Catholic defenders of the Vys̆ehrad held out successfully against his attacks; and at the same time he seems to have been sincerely shocked at the outrages committed by the Taborites. In the early outbursts, though there had been much plundering and some bloodshed, there had been little deliberate cruelty. Now, however, Z̆iz̆ka began to imitate only too closely the cruelties of the Kuttenberger; for finding a number of monks in a castle which he had stormed, he burnt them alive after the victory was over. When this cruelty was followed by the destruction of many churches and monasteries, C̆enek began to shrink from the cause which he had defended, and to urge the citizens of Prague to come to terms with Sigismund. Finding, however, that he was unable to persuade them to take this course, he resolved secretly to betray the castle to Sigismund, on the understanding that the Communion in both kinds should be permitted on C̆enek’s own estates. Sigismund apparently consented to this arrangement; and C̆enek secretly admitted into the castle four thousand of the royalist soldiers, of whom many were Germans. Furious at this treachery, the citizens made so fierce an attack upon the castle that C̆enek was panic-struck and fled secretly to Sigismund. But the attack was made without organisation or arrangement and the citizens were repelled.



[252]Several noblemen had followed C̆enek in his desertion of the national cause; and at last the citizens decided to send a new embassy to Sigismund, under the protection of Wenceslaus of Duba. Sigismund’s hope and indignation had alike been raised by the recent events; and he demanded that the citizens should surrender all their arms to the defenders of the Vys̆ehrad. On receiving this demand, the Town Council of Prague sent defiance to the king, and resolved to fight till the last.

Both parties now prepared for action; and, while Sigismund was issuing an appeal to all citizens and princes to come to help him against his rebellious subjects, Z̆iz̆ka and Nicholaus of Hus were preparing to march to Prague at the head of their Taborite forces. Many of the workmen and peasants were now beginning to stir themselves for the national cause; and, before Sigismund could secure the help of the Electors of the Empire, he was to have a slight taste of the dangers which he was about to encounter. The Kutna Hora miners had roused much opposition by their cruelties on behalf of the royalist cause; and the charcoal burners, who had hitherto been dependent upon them, had now revolted against them. After vainly attempting to pacify their new opponents, the Kuttenberger appealed to Sigismund, and he sent them a detachment of the royal troops. The charcoal burners met the soldiers with stones[253] and arrows; and, cheered on by a Taborite priest, they drove back the royalists in confusion to the mountains. The priest, however, was wounded; and the charcoal burners then retreated.

In the meantime Z̆iz̆ka and his forces were on their march. Their importance was now recognised by their opponents; and Wenceslaus of Duba attempted to intercept them. Z̆iz̆ka encountered the royalists near Porc̆ic, signally defeated them, and entered Prague in triumph on the 20th of May, 1420.

The powerful help of the new-comers was doubtless welcomed by the citizens of Prague; but they speedily discovered that differences of habit and feeling were likely to produce as many difficulties in the relations of the two parties to each other, as had already been produced by differences of doctrine. Both sections of the Utraquist Party had desired to introduce a purer life and simpler habits; and in many cases they had taken steps to enforce them. But the Taborite ideal, and still more the Taborite methods of realising it, differed considerably from those of the comfortable and orderly citizens of Prague. The latter, it appeared, indulged in delicately trimmed beards and moustachios; their wives wore trains, which seemed to the Taborites unduly long; and the hair of the younger ladies fell in long and curiously made plaits on their shoulders. The sturdy peasant reformers resolved summarily to correct these evils; so they seized the citizens in the streets, and compulsorily shaved them, cut off the trains of their wives’ dresses, and even shortened the locks of the girls. The citizens naturally objected to such strong[254] methods of reform; and the Taborite captains cut short these proceedings by sending their followers to dig trenches for the defence of the town.

But the value of the new defenders was soon proved; for a force of royalist troops on their way to the castle at Prague, were completely cut to pieces by a sally of the Taborites; and when Sigismund at last advanced against the city, the approach of this fierce peasant army, wielding the spiked flails which were generally their only weapon, struck him with such fear that he at once abandoned the siege of Prague, and devoted himself to more easy enterprises. Nor were the nobles of Bohemia more fortunate in their efforts. Ulric of Rosenberg, who had followed C̆enek in his desertion of the popular cause, was driven back from Tabor by Nicholaus of Hus, and confined himself for a time to imprisoning and starving the Utraquist priests whom he found on his lands.

In the meantime, the appeal of the Pope and the Emperor for a crusade against the Utraquists was producing its effect. Not only from Germany, but from various parts of Hungary, Spain, France, England, and Holland, and in some cases even from Poland, trained warriors came to join Sigismund’s army.

Prominent amongst the German princes was Frederick of Hohenzollern. He had been secured to Sigismund’s cause by a transaction which roused new bitterness in Bohemia against the Emperor. It may be remembered that Charles IV. had added Brandenburg to the Bohemian kingdom. Thomas[255] of S̆títný, and other stern moralists, had objected to this acquisition, considering it as a mere act of personal aggrandisement, and of no real benefit to the kingdom. But, in the history of every country, there have been additions of territory which, however questionable in their origin, have afterwards roused on their behalf a strong national feeling. Nor must it be forgotten that the circumstances, under which Sigismund surrendered this territory, certainly justified considerable indignation on the part of the Bohemians. In 1415, four years before he was actually King of Bohemia, without any consultation with Wenceslaus or the Bohemian Assembly, Sigismund handed over Brandenburg to Frederick of Hohenzollern, whose ancestor had so actively assisted Rudolf in the conquest of Bohemia.

It soon appeared that the national feeling against Germans in general, and the Hohenzollerns in particular, was not limited to the Utraquists, but was shared even by those Bohemian nobles who followed Sigismund in battle. So intense was this hatred that the Bohemians and their allies had to be quartered in different parts of the field; and doubtless this disagreement was one cause of the strange delay in the operations of the army which followed their arrival before Prague. Two weeks were spent by the captains of the host in raids upon the neighbouring towns, whence they brought in Utraquist priests whom they burnt in the camp. One occasion is specially noted by the chronicler, in which three old men and four boys were brought in, in company with their priest. These prisoners, after having been[256] struck and insulted for some time, were ordered to abjure the practice of Communion in both kinds, and when they refused, were burnt. During all this time Z̆iz̆ka was working at the fortifications of a hill which overlooks the town, and from which he hoped to conduct the defence.


[257]At last, on the 14th of July, the invading army grew weary of its delays, and prepared for a general attack on various parts of the city. In this plan the invaders were to be aided by the garrisons which occupied respectively the fortress of the Vys̆ehrad and the castle of Prague. The battle began by an attempt to storm the hill which Z̆iz̆ka had fortified. This attack was undertaken by the Margrave of Meissen, the hereditary enemy of the Bohemians. As his soldiers charged up the hill they were encountered, not only by Z̆iz̆ka’s forces, but also by private citizens, and even by women. The stones hurled by these defenders produced such effect that the first attack was repelled. But the Germans quickly returned to the charge; nor could the desperate courage of the defenders wholly prevent their advance. One of the Germans seized on a woman who was defending the hill; but she vowed that she would not yield to anti-Christ, and she was killed in defending herself. Still the invaders pressed on. Z̆iz̆ka was himself wounded and struck down, and was with difficulty rescued by the flails of his followers. The Germans had almost reached the top of the hill, when suddenly the gate of the city, which stood nearest to the hill on the other side, was thrown open, and a priest came out bearing the Sacrament, and followed by fifty archers, and some more of the flail-bearing peasants. At the same moment all the bells in the city were set ringing;[258] and, with a great shout, echoed from within the walls, the new-comers rushed up the hill to meet the advancing enemy. Immediately the invaders were seized with a panic and fled; three hundred of them were killed in the descent, and others dangerously wounded. Sigismund’s forces retreated to their tents, and the citizens of Prague hastened to their churches to return thanks for their victory. The scene of this battle was called by some Bojiste (the battlefield) in consequence of the great slaughter of the Germans; others called it the Hill of the Cup; but the name which has driven out every other is that which connects it with the general of the day; and it is still known as Z̆iz̆kov Hora—the hill of Z̆iz̆ka.

It might have seemed that such a victory, however startling, would scarcely have ended a war, begun with so great preparation, and engaged in by so formidable an army. But the bitter feeling between the German and Bohemian Royalists had now risen to such a height as to make common action impossible. On the one hand, the Germans furiously accused the Bohemians of having betrayed them in the battle; and, in revenge for this supposed treachery, they attacked and burnt some of the houses in the outlying villages, and threw the women and children into the fire. The Bohemians, on the other hand, were more and more disposed to make peace with their countrymen; and it will be remembered that some of the nobles had already shown an inclination to Utraquism. As for Sigismund, his first and main[259] thought was to secure the crown of Bohemia to himself with the smallest amount of trouble.

Under these circumstances the Bohemian part of the army willingly entered into negotiations with the defenders of the city; and the latter proposed, for Sigismund’s acceptance, four Articles of Peace, which were to become very famous in the following years. The first of these was the free preaching of the Word of God; the second, the granting of the Cup to the laity; the third, the removal of the clergy from rule in secular affairs, and their restriction to the apostolic mode of life; the fourth was the public suppression of deadly sins. Sigismund consented to discussion on these points between the Utraquist preachers and the Catholic priests, who had followed his army. The leading orator on the Utraquist side was John Pr̆zibram, a man who was to play a conspicuous part in the coming controversies.

Strangely enough, it was found that the Catholic clergy were willing to make many concessions in the discussion. But the Conference broke down on a point which may be called the main issue of the Later Reformation—the question, namely, whether, in cases of doubt, the deciding authority should be the Church or the Scriptures. Perhaps few could have expected that the clerical disputants would have come to an agreement; and the Bohemian Royalists did not seem to have been shaken by this result in their desire for peace. Indeed, such readiness did they show to accept the Four Articles, that the citizens of Prague considered their cause secure, and consented to elect Sigismund as their King. So on[260] July 28, 1420, Sigismund, having given a general promise to govern better, was solemnly crowned at Prague; and two days later the great army of Crusaders returned, cursing the King as a breaker of his word and a favourer of heretics.





In spite of the dramatic circumstances of Sigismund’s coronation at Prague, any hopes of peace or reconciliation, which the citizens may have entertained, at the moment, were speedily to be frustrated, partly by the bitter divisions in the Utraquist camp, partly by the incurably untrustworthy character of the king whom they had chosen. The former difficulty was the one which first forced itself on public attention. The Taborites had taken the leading part in the victory which had just been won; and they resolved that their will should be felt in the settlement which was to follow it. Furious at the recent burning of their friends before the very eyes of the citizens, they demanded that these murders should be revenged by the burning of the prisoners who had been taken in the battle; and the rulers of the city yielded to their wishes. Elated by this success, the Taborites insisted that twelve new Articles should be added to the four which had been[262] already set forth by the Calixtines. Most of these new proposals were in the direction of more vigorous provisions for punishing self-indulgence and immorality. But the bitter national feeling manifests itself in the demand for the complete establishment of the law of God, in the place of those pagan and Teutonic laws, which do not agree with the laws of God. Further, all the revenues of the priests were to be seized for the public good; usury was to be suppressed; all enemies of the truth to be expelled; all heretical monasteries and all unnecessary churches, altars, and ornaments to be destroyed.

The discussion of these proposals was marked by the first public appearance in Bohemia of a man who was to play a remarkable part in the coming struggle. This was Peter Payne, an English Master of Arts, who had been forced to fly from Oxford on account of his sympathy with the doctrines of Wyclif. He had been welcomed by the scholars of Prague, and had been admitted to a Master’s Degree at their University also. Although his doctrinal Protestantism had led him to conclusions far beyond those adopted by any Bohemian party, yet his English sense of justice and love of compromise often marked him out as a go-between and moderator in the controversies of his adopted countrymen. He now came forward to suggest the senses in which the Articles of the Taborites might be accepted, without injury to either party. But, although the Calixtines were anxious to find a method of reconciliation with the Taborites, the latter were guided on this occasion by much fiercer spirits than Peter Payne.


[264]The chief of these extreme advisers was John of Z̆elív, who had so excited the Utraquists, on the occasion of that first riot, when the Councillors of the New Town were thrown out of the windows. He now demanded the deposition of those Councillors of the Old Town who were opposed to the Taborite doctrines. This point, too, was conceded; yet, for some reason, not clearly ascertainable, the Taborites were still dissatisfied, and on August 22nd they left Prague.

But the second hindrance to the establishment of peace in Bohemia was to have an even more marked effect in hastening on the new war. It was not only the Taborites who distrusted their new ruler; Sigismund soon provoked against him many of those who had been most desirous for peace. One of the first points which roused their opposition, was his demand that the ornaments of the churches and the royal treasure should be used for the payment of the foreign soldiers, who had just been employed in the invasion of Bohemia. He also began to renew the old and evil policy of pledging the monasteries and the royal castles to the nobles. Lastly, although he had encouraged the citizens to hope that he would sanction the Four Articles, he still declined to give them any formal approval, or even to make arrangements for a discussion upon them; nor would he give the citizens any security against the attacks of those fierce Catholics who still held the fortresses of Prague and Vys̆ehrad. These divisions of opinions were obviously too vital to permit of any friendly understanding between the two parties. So Sigismund[265] soon after left Prague; and the suspicions between king and people rapidly ripened to a violent solution of their differences.

Sigismund had now adopted, to the full, the principle that no faith was to be kept with heretics; and, while he assured the Praguer of his desire for peace, he was appealing to the Pope and the electors to join a second crusade for the suppression of the heretics. The citizens first fully realised the treacherous character of Sigismund’s policy when they began to renew their attacks on the Vys̆ehrad. The possession of this fortress by the Catholics was a continual danger to the city; yet, when the Utraquists sent their next deputation to Sigismund, to entreat its acceptance of the Four Articles, he demanded that, even before the Articles should be discussed, the citizens of Prague should abandon their siege of the Vys̆ehrad. This demand received a still more startling interpretation a short time after, when the Town Council intercepted a letter from the king to the defenders of the fortress, urging them to make a sudden attack on the city, which he would second from another point.

With some difficulty the citizens now persuaded Nicholaus of Hus to bring a force of the Taborites to their help. The king had secretly arranged to send ships down the Moldau to the defence of the Vys̆ehrad; and the citizens had put chains across the island which lies below the fortress, so as to hinder the ships from passing. Nicholaus was set to guard this island; but not even the sense of a common danger could stifle the differences between the Calixtine leaders and the captains of the Taborites. The[266] Royalists, in their fear of starvation, offered to surrender the Vys̆ehrad, if the king did not relieve them within a certain time. This proposal the citizens were willing to accept; but Nicholaus was so indignant at the terms granted to the garrison, that he abandoned the island and retired into the city. A nobleman, named Hynek of Crus̆ina, now undertook the defence of the city; and when Sigismund again arrived before it, he found it fortified against him.

Again, the division in his camp between the native nobles and his Hungarian and German followers speedily showed itself. Some Moravian barons advised him to abandon the attack, and frankly owned that they feared the flails of the rustics. Sigismund, whose sympathies were becoming more and more alienated from his countrymen, taunted the Moravians with cowardice and treachery. They thereupon sprang from their horses and declared that they were ready to go where the king would never be. Sigismund then ordered them to occupy a dangerous and marshy position on the low land in front of the city, while the Hungarians were to charge from a higher point. This double attack was at first successful, for the Utraquists fled in some confusion. But Hynek rallied their forces, telling them that the Lord would deliver their enemies into their hands. He and Nicholaus of Hus rushed forward gallantly with the others; and once more the fear of the flails of the rustics caused a panic among the Catholics. About five hundred of the Royalists were either killed or wounded, and the rout was complete. Then the men of Vys̆ehrad consented to surrender. But though their captors succeeded in[267] conveying them safely into Prague, they could not save the church organs and images in the fortress from being destroyed by the crowd.

The war now raged fiercely on both sides; but while, in matters of physical cruelty, the Bohemians were as reckless as their opponents, on two important points there was a marked difference between the conduct of the rival armies. In the first place, the stern morality of the Utraquist leaders prevented any of those outrages on women in which the Hungarian soldiers freely indulged; and, secondly, the doctrine that no faith should be kept with heretics produced an utter unscrupulousness on the Imperialist side, in the observance of terms of truce or surrender, which cannot certainly be alleged, in the same degree, against the Bohemian leaders.

Yet, in the middle of their desperate struggle for national existence against German and Hungarian, the Calixtines and Taborites could not be induced to suspend their internal quarrels. Z̆iz̆ka, indeed, desired at first to adopt a more conciliatory policy than was customary with his colleagues; and he persuaded the Taborites to act with the citizens of Prague in offering the crown of Bohemia to the King of Poland. But even he soon felt compelled to adopt a more aggressive line of action; for the Calixtines had been so alarmed at the power of John of Z̆elív, that they had prohibited the further introduction of novelties in doctrine, and had deposed those Councillors of the Old Town who had been elected under the influence of John. Z̆iz̆ka was so alarmed at these proceedings, that he abandoned a siege which he was conducting[268] in a distant part of Bohemia, and marched against the fortress of R̆íc̆an, which was in the near neighbourhood of Prague.

This fortress had long been a danger to the citizens; but they were perfectly well aware that Z̆iz̆ka’s present motive for marching against it was a desire to control the deliberations of the Town Councillors. Hynek of Crus̆ina was so indignant at Z̆iz̆ka’s conduct that he threw up the captaincy of Prague, and not long after adopted the cause of Sigismund. Z̆iz̆ka had his usual good success in the siege; but there is at least a doubt whether his proceedings were marked by his usual good faith. The Calixtine leaders had promised to spare the lives of the defenders of the fortress if they would surrender; yet, after the surrender was completed, Z̆iz̆ka burnt alive nine of the priests whom he found in the garrison. But neither the undoubted cruelty nor the possible treachery of this proceeding could prevent Z̆iz̆ka’s victory from producing the desired effect on the Calixtines; and they now consented to admit the Taborites to a free discussion of the points of difference between them and their rivals.

This discussion had at least one advantage. It showed clearly what was the point which the Taborites looked upon as the vital difference between themselves and the Calixtines. For, when the Masters of the Prague University brought forward a long list of subjects of controversy, one of the Taborite leaders complained that they had not come there to discuss all those points; but that they simply wished for a decision on the question whether they should or should not wear special vestments at the[269] performance of the Mass. Jakaubek of Kladrau consented to limit the discussion to this one point; and, although no resolution was arrived at, the Taborites clearly saw that the majority in Prague were against them. The fierce spirit of fanaticism, which had already led the Taborites into such excesses, now roused them to fury against the Calixtines; and in one town, at least, they proclaimed that any priest who was found wearing a special dress at the celebration of the Mass, should be burned alive in his vestments.

But this dangerous division between the thinking and the fighting forces of the Utraquist party was checked by two events which were both of considerable importance in the history of the movement. The first of these was the death of Nicholaus of Hus, who was thrown from his horse as he was leaving Prague. This death naturally threw more power into the hands of Z̆iz̆ka; and he had always felt, much more strongly than Nicholaus, the necessity of maintaining the alliance with the Calixtine rulers of Prague. The other event, which drew the more moderate men of the two parties together, was the outbreak of a new division in the ranks of the Taborites themselves.

That a body, with the origin, constitution, and mode of life which have been already described, should develop new and unexpected phases of thought, might have been guessed from the beginning of the movement; but that the particular doctrine now broached should have caused division among any section of the Utraquists must sound very strange to modern ears. In any revolt against excessive priestly power,[270] one would have expected that such a doctrine as Transubstantiation would have been the first to be attacked. Yet, while both Calixtines and Taborites were fiercely denouncing the civil power of the clergy, while they were attacking every outward badge which seemed to separate the clergy from the laity, they had yet shrunk with horror from any attack on the doctrine of Transubstantiation. When, then, Martinek Hauska, a leading Taborite preacher, began to denounce this doctrine, he roused the fiercest opposition among his Taborite colleagues; and two of their more learned members wrote, in February, 1421, to Jakaubek of Kladrau and John Pr̆zibram, to consult them about the best means for opposing this heresy. The answer to that question was only too easily given; for, while each party disagreed with every other on the definition of heresy, there was a striking unanimity about the right method of dealing with it when defined. So, while the Calixtines burnt one of the preachers of the new doctrine in Prague, the Taborites, doubtless finding them too numerous for such treatment, forcibly expelled them from Tabor.

Deserted and repudiated by all their neighbours, these unfortunate exiles wandered about in the woods, till their destitute condition, acting on their already excited fancy, drove them into a state of partial insanity. They plucked off their clothes, and declared that they would return to the state of innocence. That men in such a condition would fall into acts of impurity seems highly probable; but it would surely be unjust to believe all the rumours circulated against people who had no opportunity of stating their own[271] case. The main fact, however, of their living habitually without clothes seems to be generally admitted; it was that peculiarity which gained them their name of Adamites; and it was on that ground that Z̆iz̆ka seized and burnt fifty of them. They entered the fire smiling, declaring that they would reign that day with Christ in heaven.

While these events were weakening the opposition between the Calixtines and the main body of the Taborites, other causes were securing still more positive advantages to the moderate party in Prague. In April, 1421, Kutna Hora at last fell into the hands of the joint armies of the Taborites and Calixtines; and this victory was speedily followed by the capture of the town of Jaromír. Then C̆enĕk of Wartenberg, Ulric of Rosenberg, Hynek of Crus̆ina, and other noblemen who had revolted to Sigismund, came back to the Utraquist camp. John of Z̆elív seems to have been the guide and adviser of the Utraquist forces in this campaign, and he compelled C̆enĕk to make public confession of his wickedness in having betrayed the castle of Prague to the king. When this concession had been made, the nobles returned to Prague, and regained for a time some of their old power. That power was strengthened by the speedy capture of the castle of Prague, which up to this time had held out against the citizens; and the acceptance by the nobles of the Four Articles seemed to complete the reunion of parties.

On July 1, 1421, a great Assembly was held of nobles, knights, and citizens, at which the question was discussed whether they should once more recognise[272] Sigismund as their king. The Moravian nobles were opposed to his deposition, while the stricter Utraquists were equally strong against recalling him; and the Estates at last came to a curious compromise, which was expressed in the following words: “That they will not have Sigismund for their king unless it is the will of God, and unless the famous Masters of Prague, the Bohemian lords, the communities of the Taborites, the knights, soldiers, towns, and other Bohemian communities, give their consent thereto.”

Then a Council of Representatives from all classes of the community was chosen to manage the affairs of State while the throne was vacant. And, if there had been anything of hesitation and compromise in the form of their decree, there was no sign of such feeling in their answer to the envoys whom Sigismund had sent to assert his claim to the throne. They drew up a long list of their reasons for rejecting him as king. The first grounds of complaint were the deaths of Hus, Jerom, and Krasa, and the encouragement which Sigismund had given to the Crusaders against Bohemia. They then dwelt on his surrender of Brandenburg without the consent of the Assembly; and they wound up their indictment by denouncing his rejection of the Four Articles. Sigismund answered this attack by again repudiating any sanction on his part to the deaths of Hus and Jerom; by declaring himself perfectly ready to hear discussions on the Four Articles; and, finally, by taunting the Utraquists with their burning of priests and churches.

[273]But, although a want of confidence in Sigismund might bind together for a time the various sections of the Utraquist party; yet, on the other hand, the intense distrust which the treachery of C̆enĕk and the other nobles had caused, could not be removed by this superficial appearance of reconciliation. John of Z̆elív, though he had admitted the nobles to a kind of absolution, was foremost in mistrusting the repentance which had been accompanied with so much humiliation. A sudden invasion of Bohemia by the Silesians produced a new cause of distrust; for the nobles were suspected of having been very remiss in their resistance of the invaders. This brought to a head the suspicions which had originally been grounded on points of doctrinal difference; and the sterner members of the Utraquist clergy declared that they had no adequate security for the genuineness of the conversion of the nobles. John of Z̆elív followed up this attack by demanding the removal of all the clergy who adhered to the old ritual, and who would not sing in Bohemian. The Town Councils consented to the change, and John succeeded in thrusting into the vacant preacherships some supporters even of those doctrines which had been condemned by both sections of the Utraquist party.

But the fear of foreign invasion was once more to drive into the background for a time the internal divisions of the Utraquist party. The fiery energy of Martin V. had roused the electors of the Empire from the panic into which they had been thrown by the failure of the first crusade; and the Margrave of Meissen, the fiercest of the enemies of Bohemia, had[274] begun a new invasion on his own responsibility. Z̆iz̆ka had been recently wounded in his only sound eye; but, at the rumour of the new attack, he at once hurried out to battle, and the men of Meissen fled before him. The rumours of the divisions between the nobles and the citizens had, however, encouraged the Meissener to renew their attack; and a few successes on their part induced Frederick of Hohenzollern to organise a second crusade among the princes of the Empire. The Bohemian peasants fled before the advance of the new army and took refuge in the town of Z̆atec. So in September, 1421, an army of two thousand Imperialists marched against Z̆atec, and the terrified citizens began to despair of resistance.

But their anxieties and dangers came to an unexpected end. As the watchers were gazing one day from the city walls on the camp of the enemy, their attention was caught by a sudden glow of fire. The flame rapidly spread through the camp, and all the tents of the enemy were consumed. To the astonished eyes of the watchers it seemed as if a miracle had been worked on their behalf; but the real explanation, though wonderful enough, was not connected with those interferences with the order of nature to which conventional phraseology has confined the name of miracle. The fact was that the Electors of the German Empire had heard that the terrible Z̆iz̆ka was approaching; and so the great army of the second crusade had burnt their tents and retreated without striking a blow.



(From an old picture copied in Dr. Toman’s pamphlet.)

Sigismund had been absent in Hungary during this struggle, but he now advanced at the head of a Hungarian army to Brünn (Brno), committing every kind of barbarity on the way. It will be remembered that he had recently announced that he had never[276] objected to a discussion of the Four Articles. He now summoned all the Moravian nobles before him, and threatened to put them to death unless they would abjure all those Articles. Apparently the nobles were not made of the same stuff as the sturdy preachers of Tabor and Prague; for, with two exceptions, all the Utraquist nobles of Moravia consented to abandon their creed and accept that of Sigismund.

Doubtless encouraged by this success, Sigismund marched to Kutna Hora at the head of an army of about eight thousand men. Z̆iz̆ka advanced to the relief of the town, and the townsmen themselves made a gallant defence; but some traitor opened one of the gates to the Imperial soldiers, and the massacre which followed on their entry made so deep an impression on the imagination of the Bohemians, that in later ages it was compared to the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. Z̆iz̆ka’s forces were now completely surrounded; and, on the 22nd of December, 1421, he found himself at the mercy of his opponents in a bitter winter and without any possibility of obtaining food. Sigismund now thought his victory secure; but he little knew with whom he had to deal. In spite of cold and hunger, Z̆iz̆ka kept his troops firm and patient till midnight. Then, having observed the weakest point in the royal army, he made a sudden and unexpected dash, broke through the Royalist lines, and was soon raising new forces and new provisions in the country. The Hungarians now scattered themselves about, plundering and ravishing in the neighbouring villages, when, suddenly, in January, 1422, a party of the[277] plunderers were startled in an outlying village by the appearance of Z̆iz̆ka at the head of a new army. Sigismund was once more panic-struck. He ordered the town of Kutna Hora to be set on fire; fastened the councillors to his carriage, and fled as fast as he could go to the town of Deutschbrod (Nemecky Brod). Z̆iz̆ka, in spite of the hard frost, followed with all his horses and baggage-waggons; and he so completely routed Sigismund that twelve thousand of the Hungarian army were killed, and the King never again entered Bohemia during Z̆iz̆ka’s life.

But, in the meantime, the divisions in Prague were reaching their height. John the Priest (as John of Z̆elív was now called) had, on October 19th, struck a popular coup d’état. He had persuaded the people to depose the nobles from office, and to choose one man as captain of the city, with four others for each division of the town. The new Councillors, who were appointed under this arrangement, proceeded to summon to Prague a certain John Sadlo, who had been a zealous Utraquist, but who happened to have incurred the suspicion of the new rulers of the town. He was promised a safe-conduct; but, on arriving in Prague, he was seized and summarily executed. The moderate men of Prague now felt that a stand must be made; and they called a meeting at which Jakaubek of Kladrau and Peter Payne drew up certain Articles for the government of the clergy. Four directors were to be chosen to regulate the appointment to every church in Prague, and to prevent the introduction of novelties in ritual, unless publicly justified from Scripture. John was urged by his followers to[278] resist this proposal; but he seems to have felt it better to give way, and to accept the three colleagues, who were combined with him in the administration.

But, however much such an arrangement might satisfy the champions of Utraquist orthodoxy, it could not restore the sense of order and stability which had been shaken by John’s overbearing proceedings, and especially by the murder of Sadlo. C̆enĕk of Wartenberg and other nobles again fled to Sigismund; and, although the citizens of Prague and the Masters of the University were far from being disposed to that course, they felt that the security to be obtained by the presence of a King would be their best guarantee against the encroachments of the extreme party. The King of Poland had rejected the offer of the crown; but the Duke of Lithuania seemed more ready to listen to the advances of the Bohemians. Apparently, however, his sympathies arose rather from a general Slavonic feeling, and a personal dislike of Sigismund, than from any doctrinal sympathies with the Utraquists. He had been a comparatively recent convert to Christianity; and he had all the consequent zeal for orthodoxy. The Calixtines assured him that they had no desire for separation from the Romish Church, and that they did not admit the charge of heresy. In the hope, therefore, of defeating Sigismund, and of bringing back the Bohemians to the Catholic Church, Witold of Lithuania consented that his nephew, Sigismund Korybut, should be sent to represent him in Bohemia.

Prince Korybut, however, insisted that, before he[279] would enter Prague, Priest John should be deposed from his power. Those nobles who had remained faithful to the national cause were specially eager to carry out this understanding. They deposed all the Councillors both in the Old and New Town; and they arranged that each quarter should choose new Councillors for a year, of whom none should be priests or Masters of Arts. At the same time Has̆ek of Waldstein was chosen chief captain of the town. But the terror which John had excited among the nobles and richer citizens could not be removed by these arrangements. So on March 8th two councillors were sent to John, to ask him to come to the Town Council to consult with them. When he came, they asked his advice about the plan of campaign, and seemed to listen respectfully. Then they went on to urge him to make peace between the rival parties, before they went to battle. John answered that, if they desired peace, they must not take away houses from those to whom the Community had given them, nor must they depose faithful servants such as the late Captain of the town. Then, whilst they were still speaking, the burgomaster gave a sign; and the soldiers rushed in and seized Priest John and several of his friends, took them into an outer hall, and executed them. As soon as the people of the town heard the news, they rose in fury, broke into the Council House, seized and beheaded the leading Councillors, and compelled Has̆ek of Waldstein to fly for his life.

But it seemed as if the death of John had really deprived the extreme party in Prague of their chances[280] of final success; for, when in May, 1422, Korybut arrived in Prague, he was able, with apparently little trouble, to remove the Councillors of the extreme party, and to restore the Calixtines.

For a time Korybut seemed to give new strength and coherence to the Utraquist movement; but his reign was not of long duration. Martin V. had been extremely alarmed at the sympathies shown in Poland and Lithuania for the Utraquist cause; and by his orders the Polish clergy persuaded King Ladislaus to organise a new expedition against the Utraquists, while they induced Witold of Lithuania to recall Prince Korybut. But, though the summons for a third crusade was sent out to Poles, Lithuanians, Swedes, and Norwegians, yet the Pope soon found that it was easier to cajole kings than to convert peoples. Not only did the Poles and Ruthenians refuse to serve in the crusade; but, in spite of Ladislaus’s rebukes, they hastened to take up arms for the Bohemians; and so the third crusade collapsed even more ignominiously than the former ones.



(From Dr. Toman’s pamphlet.)

The fear of a foreign invasion being thus removed, the nobles resolved on a final struggle for power with the Taborites. Z̆iz̆ka had reluctantly consented to recognise Korybut as king; but the recall of the latter broke this link between the nobles and the Taborite leader. He had resented the treacherous murder of John of Z̆elív; and he had special causes of his own for distrusting the leading nobles. He himself belonged to that Order of Knights, or gentry, which was in continual rivalry with the greater nobility; while his intense religious zeal, and his scorn of caste,[282] had drawn him close to the fiery peasants of Mount Tabor, and increased his contempt for the vacillations and treacheries of C̆enek of Wartenberg and Ulric of Rosenberg. The struggle which now followed was a fierce and bloody one; but it ended in the complete victory of Z̆iz̆ka, and the consent of the nobles to return to the popular cause. They were the more willing to come to terms as the King had just mortally offended Bohemian feeling by granting the province of Moravia to Albert, Duke of Austria, and had recognised him as his heir in Bohemia. Korybut had now escaped from his uncle and returned to Bohemia; and, though he was no longer recognised as their legal ruler, he was welcomed as an ally and a captain in their wars, and he marched with the united Utraquist army into Moravia, to deliver it from Albert of Austria. Z̆iz̆ka, though now completely blind, also led his forces into Moravia.

But in October, 1424, he was seized with a sudden illness and died. His death naturally created a great sensation; and it is a proof of the substantial success of his work that the changes which were expected to take place, in consequence of his death, were much greater than any that actually occurred. A section, indeed, of his more immediate personal followers did form themselves into a separate party under the name of the “Orphans”; but though, like Z̆iz̆ka, they were more moderate in their doctrines than the rest of the Taborites, they continued, for all practical purposes, to act with the latter; nor did Sigismund find that the terror, which the name of Hussite had inspired, had at all diminished. A married priest[283] named Procop rapidly rose to the position which Z̆iz̆ka had held; and so far was he from slackening the zeal of his followers that he soon introduced a more aggressive element into the warfare. Tired of remaining so long on the defensive, he resolved that the Germans and Hungarians should feel something of the misery which they had inflicted on Bohemia; and he began a series of invasions of Austria, Bavaria, and Hungary, which considerably added to the terrors which had been produced by Z̆iz̆ka.

Curiously enough, the changes in the Calixtine party became more noticeable at this time than among those who seemed more likely to be affected by Z̆iz̆ka’s death. Jakaubek fell at this time into the background, and John Pr̆zibram came more to the front. Pr̆zibram was one of those bitter theologians who delight to dwell on the negative side of their doctrines, rather than on those that tend to unity and positive faith. He had been willing enough to maintain the cause of the Four Articles of Prague against the Catholic priests; but, now that the Catholic cause seemed lost in Prague, he began to express so offensively and insultingly his opposition to the Taborites, that he disgusted the more moderate men of his own party; and on Christmas Day, 1426, he demanded, in a further discussion, that the Hussites should specially condemn the doctrines of Wyclif.

This proposal produced a definite change in the position of Peter Payne. Although his doctrinal convictions were probably well known, yet, in the interests of peace and order, he had hitherto been willing to co-operate with the Calixtines in checking[284] the excesses of the Taborites. But the attack on his distinguished countryman, to whose writings he probably looked for guidance more than to those of Hus, was too much for his personal and patriotic sympathies, and he eagerly took up the cause of Wyclif. The decision of the meeting, however, was against the English reformer; and Korybut, who shared his uncle’s dislike to the heretical position into which the Hussites had been forced, seized upon this resolution as a sign of their desire to return to union with the Church. So he sent messengers to Pope Martin to assure him that this decision represented the real feeling of the country.

But this unfortunate step, instead of producing reunion with Rome, only called out new divisions in the Utraquist party. John Rokycana, the preacher at the Teyn Church, heard of these negotiations; and, though a strict and zealous Calixtine, he was a warm patriot, and by no means disposed to put either his faith or his nation at the feet of either Emperor or Pope. So in April, 1427, he preached an alarmist sermon warning the people that their interests were being betrayed. The people sprang to arms; Korybut was imprisoned; and Pr̆zibram and several of his allies were banished from Prague. But, to prove that the movement had a national rather than a doctrinal purpose, Rokycana and his friends passed a resolution in favour of at least a modified form of Transubstantiation. Thus Peter Payne was compelled to take his part with the Taborites, while a new division was formed among the Calixtines themselves.

But in the meantime the aggressive policy of Procop[285] had roused Martin V. to new energy; and since Germans, Hungarians, and Poles had each in turn failed him, he entrusted the management of a fourth crusade to an Englishman. This was the celebrated Cardinal Beaufort, who was now appointed legate for Bohemia, Hungary, and Germany, and under whose auspices a special Hussite tax was raised throughout the Empire. The Margrave of Brandenburg and the Archbishop of Trier took the leading part in the command of the army; and in July, 1427, the new crusaders entered Bohemia and began the siege of Kladrau. While they were almost hoping to capture the town, Procop suddenly advanced against them at the head of the united Utraquist army. Immediately the strange panic, which had become traditional at the approach of the Utraquists, seized upon the enemy; and they fled to the town of Tachov, which was at that time in their hands. Here Beaufort met them, reproached them with their cowardice, and persuaded them to prepare for battle. But no sooner did Procop’s army again appear in sight than the panic once more returned. Beaufort, enraged, seized the banner of the Empire and tore it to pieces in their presence. But the sense of fear was too strong, even for soldierly dignity; and at last the indignant Cardinal was swept away in the flight. Several new victories followed, though Pilsen (Plz̆en) still held out against the Utraquist armies. Beaufort demanded that a new anti-Hussite tax should be raised, and at the same time sent a command to the men of Pilsen that they should abstain from a proposed discussion with the Hussites on points of doctrine. The discussion[286] took place notwithstanding; and Rokycana and Peter Payne were appointed to represent the Utraquist party.

The Cardinal might have spared his fears; for the result of the discussion was to widen the gulf, not between the Catholics and the Utraquists, but between the Calixtines and the Taborites. This led to other discussions between the two Utraquist parties, of so fierce a kind that it seemed as if their enemies might almost succeed in profiting by their divisions. But those enemies were now becoming thoroughly exhausted. The raids of Procop had brought home to Germans and Hungarians the danger of provoking the Bohemians too far; while among many of the German citizens the question was beginning to be asked, whether a cause which enabled untrained peasants to strike terror into the best armies of Europe was not perhaps the cause of God. Under these circumstances the cry for a Church Council to settle these matters by discussion, rather than by force of arms, was becoming general, and, much as the Pope loathed such an idea, he found the ground cut from under his feet by the desertion of his most sturdy supporter. The war between France and England had suddenly received a new turn by the appearance of Joan of Arc; and Cardinal Beaufort’s anxiety for the success of his country decided him on the desperate step of employing the money and men whom he had raised to fight against Bohemia in the war against France. Alarmed as the Pope and his friends were at this sudden desertion, they hoped for a time that the wonderful Maid might herself take up their cause against the heretics. But when this hope was cut short by her defeat and imprisonment, the cry for a Council became again strong, and Martin was even told that, if he sincerely desired to put down the Hussites, he would prove it by granting the discussion.



[288]The fiery Pope, however, was determined to make one last appeal to arms; and this time he chose an Italian cardinal, Giuliano Cesarini, to organise a crusade. Before the crusade could start, Martin V. died; but Cesarini was as determined as the Pope had been on leading the expedition to its triumph. The Margrave of Brandenburg was again appointed commander, though the suspicions which his previous flight had caused were so great, that the Cardinal and the Electors insisted on checking his power by a Council of Nine. Sigismund declared his approval of the crusade, and then wrote to Prague to assure the citizens of his desire for peace.

In the meantime Procop had rallied his forces and advanced to the borders of Bavaria; but they waited so long for the enemy that their food began to fail, and some of the troops dropped off to forage for supplies. The Germans, encouraged by this laxity, once more advanced to the town of Tachov. The Cardinal desired them to storm the town; but the generals decided to delay the attack; and the townsmen succeeded in so well fortifying the town that the German army abandoned the siege, and finally retreated to Taus (Domaz̆lic̆e). In the meantime the Bohemians had collected their forces, and on Aug. 14, 1431, they advanced towards Domaz̆lic̆e, singing one of their favourite hymns, “Kdoz̆ jste Boz̆i bojovnici”—“Ye[289] who are the soldiers of the Lord.” The Cardinal went up the hill to consult the Duke of Saxony about the arrangements of the battle, when suddenly he observed a strange confusion, and heard loud cries in the camp of the Margrave of Brandenburg. Soon after, Frederick himself came hastily to him, to tell him that his army was in full flight and could not be checked. The panic quickly spread; and this time it was so complete, that even the waggons and firearms were left behind; while among the spoil the Bohemians had the satisfaction of finding, not only the coat and crucifix of Cardinal Cesarini, but even the Papal Bull sanctioning the crusade against Bohemia. So ended the fifth and last attempt to crush out the Hussite heresy by force; and it was now to be tried whether the Doctors of the Church could succeed in convincing the heretics who could not be conquered by the sword.





The Council of Basel seemed to many to be the natural result of the Council of Constance. The conception of a constitutional check on the power of the Popes, and of a better provision for the orderly government of the Church, was an idea which had become familiar to the leading theologians of Europe during the bitter ecclesiastical divisions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. And it must be remembered that, however unsatisfactory the results of the Council of Constance may seem to us, the dignity of its members and the apparent vigour of its action left a very different impression on the minds of many of its contemporaries. It had succeeded in deposing and electing Popes; it had burnt the heretics whom it had condemned; it had found princes ready to enforce its decrees by fire and sword. And if that last exercise of its power had ended in failure and disgrace, it might be plausibly urged that the[291] greater part of the war which it had initiated had been carried on after the dissolution of the Council itself; and it was held therefore by many that the summoning of a similar Council would revive an influence in Europe more capable than the Pope’s of crushing out heresy and restoring power to the Church. It was just this consciousness of the popular expectation from the new Council which strengthened the opposition of Martin V. to the demand for its convocation. He may, no doubt, have honestly believed that his personal initiative was more likely to produce the desired effect on the crusaders than the necessarily divided counsels of a large body of princes and clergy. But at the same time he was very anxious that the experiment should not be tried of setting up so dangerous a rival to the Papal authority.

For the time, however, the feeling of the orthodox world seemed, with few exceptions, to be overwhelmingly opposed to his; and, even before his death, the Council of Basel had already begun its deliberations. But, from an early stage in the preparations for the Council, a very different conception had been put forward of the purposes for which it might be used. The Utraquists had from the first maintained that they had not had a fair hearing before the Council of Constance; and their early victories had roused a hope that some less partial tribunal might give them that opportunity of discussion of which they had been defrauded. In the dispute after the battle of the Z̆iz̆ka Hill, they had had a taste of those delights of argument for which they hungered; and the later victories of Z̆iz̆ka had induced Ulric of Rosenberg to[292] demand, and Sigismund to promise, that even the Taborites should have their share in such a discussion.

In 1427 even Frederick of Brandenburg and Cardinal Beaufort had actually prepared the way for a meeting which was to afford opportunities for doctrinal discussion; and, though Pope Martin was able at that time to prohibit the proposed conference, the Utraquists did not lose sight of the prospect then held out to them. But, though this conception of the more pacific purpose to which a Council might be turned, naturally induced the Utraquists to listen with some interest and hope to the arrangements for the meeting at Basel, that hope was strongly mixed with fear and suspicion. To them, at least, the memories of Constance brought nothing but bitterness and loathing; and the evident hostility of those who were calling for the Council, led them to doubt whether their experiences of Basel would be likely to be any more satisfactory than the unforgotten wrongs of Constance. But, above all other causes of discontent, was their ever-deepening distrust of the promises of Sigismund; and at no time had that distrust been more fully justified.

New promises for a fair hearing were despatched by him almost simultaneously with preparations for a new war; and concessions of the most hopeful kind were continually explained away. Even the great overthrow of the last crusade did not bring to an end the fierce desire of Sigismund to re-establish his power by force of arms; and the Duke of Bavaria and the Count Palatine of the Rhine were eager to[293] second his efforts in a cause which most men now recognised as hopeless.

But the growing desire for peace was now increased by a terrible fear. The rulers of Europe remembered that desire to throw off the power of their predecessors, which had shown itself among the peasantry of Europe after the failure of the crusades in the thirteenth century; and which had been renewed after the overthrow of the French nobles by the English invaders of the fourteenth. This same feeling was now again apparent; and this time the hopes which accompanied it were evidently based on more reasonable grounds. That the Saracen generals should defeat the armies of Louis IX., or that the English nobles should overthrow the French at Crecy and Poictiers, might be convincing arguments of the weakness of the defeated parties; but they did not necessarily prove that those who yielded to such opponents, would succumb to the attacks of an untrained peasantry. Now, however, for twelve years past, the peasantry of Bohemia, armed mainly with their thrashing flails, had repeatedly put to flight the greatest armies of Europe, and overawed their own nobility. Surely such an example might give to the peasants of Germany and France some hope that a time was coming in which they too might be the equals of their oppressors! In the South of France the French peasantry rose in large numbers, demanding that the nobles should, for the future, be content to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, and declaring that two priests were all that were required for the spiritual needs of the country.[294] In Dauphiné collections were made on behalf of the Bohemians; while in the Rhine district three thousand peasants near Bonn and Speier declared their determination to overthrow the power of the clergy and nobles. Under these circumstances, there was a general cry that, if the Council did not come to terms with the Hussites, the peasant insurrection would spread throughout Europe.

Nor, on the other hand, were there wanting strong reasons why the Bohemians, on their side, should be eager for a peaceable settlement. On them had fallen the main misery of the war; and it is a curious fact that, in spite of their brilliant successes on the battlefield, much of their country was still in the hands of the enemy. Not only was the greater part of Moravia held down by Albert of Austria, but, in Bohemia itself, the strong fortress of Carlstein, and the important towns of Budweis (Budejóvice), Pilsen (Plz̆en), and Eger (Cheb), still held out against the Utraquists. Moreover, the discontent with the power which Procop had gained by his victories, was working among the more moderate section of the Utraquists in favour of a settlement in which learned men should have more power than soldiers.

Under these circumstances, an understanding was at last brought about; and, in January, 1433, the representatives of the Bohemians arrived in Basel. There seem to have been some five, or possibly six, Utraquists who had been chosen to represent their party; but the burden of the discussion, at any rate, fell upon four people, who were each entrusted with the defence of one of the Articles of Prague. The most important of these champions, and the one who was to gain most credit by the discussion, was, beyond all question, John Rokycana. He had been steadily advancing in reputation, both as a learned disputant and as a moderate and judicious leader. The teacher from whom he had derived his strongest convictions was Jakaubek of Kladrau; and he had, as it were, inherited from him a special devotion to the practice of Communion in both kinds. Rokycana, like Hus, had had great struggles with poverty in acquiring his early education; and, though his doctrines naturally connected him with the Calixtine section of the Utraquists, his obscure origin, combined with his strong will and individuality of character, often brought him out of sympathy with the aristocratic patrons of the movement.



[296]His first public action had been an attempt to make terms between the citizens of Prague and Z̆iz̆ka, in the last year of Z̆iz̆ka’s struggle with the nobles, and he induced the latter to abandon an attack upon the city. His next prominent appearance had been of a less pacific kind; for it was connected with his vehement opposition to the attempt of Prince Korybut to make terms with Sigismund. Though, however, on that occasion, Rokycana had been the chief promoter of the arrest of Korybut, Pr̆zibram, and other champions of compromise; yet he had steadily exerted himself to prevent bloodshed in the collision between the two parties; and he had afterwards encouraged arrangements for the bringing back of the Calixtine priests who had been expelled during the struggles. Since the death of Jakaubek,[297] Rokycana seems to have divided the leadership of the Utraquist clergy of Prague with the Englishman, Peter Payne.

Payne, as has been already pointed out, belonged, in doctrine, to the extremer section of the Utraquists; but by his moderate policy he had often been drawn into sympathy with the Calixtines. Since the death of Z̆iz̆ka, he seems to have been frequently identified with that party of Orphans who claimed to represent, more exactly than the other Taborites, the policy of their leader. This choice of colleagues contributed still further to distinguish Payne from the main body of those who agreed with his doctrines; and lastly, the peculiarity of his position was increased by that reputation for learning which was always an object of suspicion to the peasant soldiers of Tabor.

The other two Utraquist delegates at the Council of Basel were entirely representative of the Taborite party. One was Nicholaus of Pilgram (Pelhr̆imov), the “Bishop,” as he was called, of the Taborites; and the other was Procop the Great, the successor of Z̆iz̆ka on the battlefield. Procop, though less cruel than Z̆iz̆ka, had a more exclusive faith in physical force; and he was less interested in questions of statesmanship, or details of doctrine; but, as the most successful general in the religious wars, he could not be passed over in the election of representatives.

On January 4, 1433, the Bohemian delegates entered Basel, accompanied by a troop of three hundred horsemen. A great crowd came out to meet them; and the windows were full of people of all ages and both sexes, who gazed with astonishment[298] on the strange dresses of their visitors; while those who were determined to assist their eyes by their imagination, discovered that these terrible heretics had repulsive faces and cruel eyes. To most of the spectators the chief object of interest was the famous general, Procop; and all strained their eyes to get a glimpse of the man whose very name had become so great a terror to the armies of the Empire.

Foremost among those who hastened to welcome the strangers was Cardinal Julian Cesarini; and it must be owned that few men ever had a more difficult part to play, or played it with more consummate tact and success. It required some courage to claim the position of impartial arbitrator, where one of the parties to the cause was a body of men against whom he had recently proclaimed a destructive crusade; nor could it be altogether gratifying to him to face in discussion men who had won their right to a hearing by putting him to an ignominious flight. Added to these considerations, was the further difficulty that, while he heartily desired the success of the Council, he took part in its proceedings as the representative of a Pope who had denounced it, and who wished to dissolve it. But the Cardinal was unusually well supplied with that graceful tact and ready wit which so distinguishes his countrymen. He resigned the formal presidency of the Council in deference to the Pope’s opposition; yet he not only remained in the city, but even managed by timely interventions to gain as much control over the proceedings of the Council as if he were still its official[299] chief. With regard to the Bohemian delegates, he evidently set before himself, from the first, two objects, both of which he, in some measure, accomplished. He was determined that the Council should pass off peaceably, and that the Bohemians should have no cause to complain that they had failed to obtain a fair hearing; but he was equally resolved that, if concessions should be made to the heretics, those concessions should be, indirectly, a means of weakening the Utraquist cause. With the keen eye of a diplomatist, he at once noted the points of division between his opponents, and the best means of making use of them. Friendly as was his bearing towards all the representatives of the Bohemians, the one whom he singled out for peculiar attention and flattery was Procop; and the determination which he showed to bring him and his friends to the front betrays a purpose which it is not difficult to understand.

On January 10, 1433, the Council gathered in the Dominican cloister at Basel, to receive their new guests. To most of the orthodox Councillors it must have seemed a most humiliating moment when those, whom they had hoped to exterminate as heretics, were admitted to argue on equal terms, in defence of the orthodoxy of their doctrines. But Cesarini was equal to the occasion; he welcomed the Bohemians as at last returning to the bosom of their mother Church; and, while promising them a fair hearing, managed to emphasise the principle that the authority of Councils and of Fathers of the Church must be accepted as guides in the settlement of points of faith.

[300]Rokycana answered by admitting that the Councils and Fathers would have their due weight with his friends; but he maintained, at the same time, that the Council of Constance had condemned their doctrines without a hearing. On their part, they were prepared to confirm all their doctrines by reference to the Gospels and the other sacred writings; they came to prove their innocence in the presence of the whole Church; and they asked that they should have a fair hearing before laymen as well as clergymen. The Utraquists were then asked what points they wished to discuss in which they differed from the practice of the Romish Church. They answered by enumerating the Four Prague Articles.

Cesarini now saw his opportunity, and he at once asked the Utraquist representatives if there were not other doctrines which had been specially put forth by them; for instance, he had heard it said that they believed the Mendicant Orders to have been founded by the devil. Procop immediately sprang up, and exclaimed that that was perfectly true; for, since these Orders were not founded by Moses, the Patriarchs, or the Prophets, nor yet by Christ, they must have been founded by the devil. This extraordinary argument was naturally received with laughter in the Council; but Cesarini insisted on treating it as serious, and met it by an elaborate refutation.

On the 16th of January, Rokycana opened his speech in defence of the granting of the Cup to the laity. While grounding his argument largely on the custom of the primitive Church, he yet fortified it by reference to decisions of Councils; and he asked[301] whether any Council, before that of Constance, had ever condemned the practice as heretical.

His speech produced a deep impression, even on his opponents; but the effect was somewhat weakened when, a few days later, Nicholaus, the Bishop of Pilgram (Pelhr̆imov), opened the discussion on the second Prague Article, namely, the punishment by the Church of offences against morality. He quickly passed into attacks on the priesthood for the neglect of their duties, and became so fierce that he caused a disturbance in the Assembly; so that Rokycana afterwards rebuked his colleague for his intemperate language.

A less prominent delegate, Oldr̆ich of Znojem, was entrusted with the defence of the doctrine of the free preaching of the Word; and the Fourth Article, on the civil dominion of the clergy, was treated by Peter Payne. Payne had always impressed his opponents with the subtlety of his arguments; but he must somewhat have embarrassed his colleagues by a defence of the doctrines of Wyclif; and, particularly by that claim of the English Reformer that the temporal lords might, in some circumstances, take away the property of the clergy. It was, however, among his own countrymen that Payne’s appearance excited the most irritation; and several of them sprang up to attack him, not only as a condemned heretic, but as a traitor to King Henry VI. The hubbub at last became so great that he was forced to end his argument by handing in a written paper. Then followed the champions of orthodoxy; and very bitter was the feeling provoked[302] by the attacks of John of Ragusa upon the Bohemian nation, as a whole. Cesarini exerted himself to restore order; but he again insisted that the Bohemians should express their opinions, not only on the Four Articles of Prague, but on the Twenty-four Articles of the Taborites, which involved a modified denial of Transubstantiation, and the rejection of many doctrines and rites accepted by the main body of the Utraquists.

The division of opinion, called out by this demand of the Cardinal, tended to weaken the order and decorum of the proceedings, and yet further increased the disturbance; and the orthodox critics of the debates began to demand how it was that the Council had failed as yet to convert the heretics, and to suggest that it would be better to resort to the former method of the sword. The delegates themselves gradually grew tired of the discussion, and desired to return to Bohemia. Even those Councillors who were most anxious for the success of the Council felt that the bitterness, which had arisen, prevented the hope of any useful conclusion in Basel; so, by way of compromise, it was at last decided that Rokycana and his colleagues should return to Prague; but that delegates from the Council should be sent to continue the conference in that city. Thus ended the first stage of the discussion; and, while Rokycana returned to influence affairs in the capital, Procop hastened back to renew the often-attempted siege of Pilsen.

It now became clear that the divisions, which had been so carefully fostered between the Calixtines and[303] the Taborites, were ready to break out into a dangerous flame. On the one hand, Meinhard of Neuhaus, one of the few nobles who had remained partially faithful to the Utraquist cause, called together a meeting of his supporters, and urged them to shake off the yoke of Procop, and to choose a captain from the ranks of the poorer nobility, who should carry on the government with the help of a Council. On the other hand, Lupus, a priest of the Taborites, stirred up the inhabitants of the New Town against Rokycana and his friends, and exhorted them to refuse submission to the newly-elected Captain. Nor did the arrival of the ambassadors from Basel tend to lessen this bitterness; for though they held out hopes of concessions to the Calixtines, they fanned the flame of division between them and the Taborites; and, about the time of their return to Basel, friendly messengers came to Pilsen to urge the Catholics to stand firm, as their victory was approaching.

Indeed, so successfully had the work of division been done, that the ambassadors had found the means of discrediting Rokycana himself with many of the Calixtines, and of bringing to the front the old party of Pr̆zibram, which had been out of favour ever since the time of Prince Korybut. The wedge which they used to make this split was sufficiently ingenious. They proposed that the Communion in both kinds should be allowed to those who wished it; but that the Communion in one kind should be left, in those churches where it was preferred. To modern thinkers, no doubt, such a compromise would seem the ideal settlement; but to those who had been struggling, for[304] so many years, against the invaders who were trying to crush out these practices, it seemed as if such a concession would only sow the seeds of fresh bitterness. Such a compromise, said Rokycana, Wenceslaus IV. had attempted; and the attempt had ended in a bitter fight, in which one party had expelled the other. There was much force in Rokycana’s arguments; but it was easy to represent him as an opponent of reasonable liberty, and (a charge which was more telling at that moment) as a hinderer of peaceable union.

But, in the meantime, the siege of Pilsen was making such progress that the Catholics and moderate Utraquists began to fear that the victory, which seemed almost within their grasp, might be taken from them after all; and Sigismund wrote to Ulric of Rosenberg that the Taborites were actually preparing to send a special embassy of their own to Basel; and that, unless the Calixtines would go to Pilsen, to hinder the progress of Procop, the Council of Basel would after all be compelled to make concessions to the extreme party. While things were in this state, Procop suddenly received news in his camp that the bitterness between the two parties in Prague had at last led to a final outbreak. The Taborites of the New Town had resolved to resist the authority of the newly elected Captain, and had fortified their division of Prague against him; whereupon Meinhard of Neuhaus had suddenly stormed the New Town and put the Taborites to the sword. Thereupon Procop at once resolved to abandon the siege of Pilsen, and to call on all the Taborites to follow him to Prague.[305] Meinhard rallied his forces for the defence; and the two armies met on the 30th of May, 1434, near the town of Lipaný.

The Taborites followed the plan, so often adopted by Z̆iz̆ka, of fortifying their camp by an arrangement of their baggage waggons. From behind these they threw shells into the camp of the enemy, which so irritated the soldiers that they called on the nobles to lead them to the attack. The nobles, however, were resolved to accomplish their purposes by stratagem. The inferior troops were placed in the front, with orders to give way at the first attack. The Taborites fell into that trap; and, seeing the enemy, as they supposed, flying before them, they left their entrenchments and pursued them. The picked troops of the nobles then rushed forward, seized on the deserted waggons, and attacked the Taborites in the rear. The supposed fugitives, at the same time, turned upon their pursuers; the Taborite army, surrounded on all sides, was cut to pieces; and Procop and the other leaders died, fighting to the last.

The immediate results of the battle of Lipaný were of two kinds. One of the chief objects of Meinhard of Neuhaus and his friends had been to pave the way for negotiations with Sigismund, and this object they at once obtained; but the conduct of the negotiations was not altogether left to those who had been the chief promoters of division. The death of Procop and of his immediate followers had given an opportunity to the more moderate party of the Orphans to come to the front; and, as C̆apek, the leading general of the Orphans, was now the most[306] prominent military leader among the advanced section of the Utraquists, the change naturally led to a removal of many of the differences which had so weakened the common cause. C̆apek carried on the policy of Z̆iz̆ka in the matter of maintaining an alliance with those of the Calixtines who were sincerely zealous for their country and their faith.

The man who most embodied that cause, in the eyes of the general body of Bohemian patriots, was undoubtedly Rokycana; and thus he found that his position had been greatly strengthened, for the time, by the apparent victory of his opponents. While, therefore, the leaders of the Assembly were able to organise a deputation to Sigismund, of which Meinhard of Neuhaus was the chief leader, the terms which the deputation offered were considerably coloured by the feeling of Rokycana and his friends; for, on the one hand, they decided to insist on many doctrines and rites which were condemned by the Taborites; and on the other hand, they demanded a strict enforcement of the Four Articles. They even proposed that no one should be received into the city who did not communicate in both kinds; that the king should admit no one into his Councils who did not observe the same rule; and that, if any community was oppressed by the Emperor or his officials on account of Utraquism, they should have the right of meeting force by force. It was impossible to suppose that Sigismund would accept terms of this kind, in so crude a form; but his growing eagerness to recover his crown made him extremely willing to enter into the discussion.

[307]He would, indeed, have been glad to base his claim on grounds independent of the religious controversy; and he even ventured to appeal to the Bohemians to accept him out of respect to his father’s memory, and to remember that his grandmother was a Bohemian princess, descended from the old ploughman king, Pr̆emysl. At the same time he remonstrated so sharply with the delegates of Basel on the slowness of their proceedings, and the quibbling of their arguments, that they began to fear that he would drift away into complete opposition to the Council. They, therefore, urged on both parties the acceptance of an understanding which had been already put into shape in Basel. This compromise involved the acceptance of the Four Articles, under certain conditions; the most important of which were that the Communion in both kinds should only be allowed to those who admitted the complete presence of Christ in the Sacrament; and that, with regard to the punishment of public sins, the clergy should only be permitted to deal with the offences of their own Order.

But Rokycana complained that these and other modifications required further explanation; and, on the other hand, the Basel delegates were alarmed at a proposal put forward by their opponents that no Bohemian should be summoned before any foreign tribunal, whether secular or spiritual.

All difficulties, however, gave way before Sigismund’s inexhaustible power of lying; for, when the delegates found that his promises and concessions had no real meaning, they began to calculate that, if he were restored, he must rely mainly on the[308] Catholics and the Pr̆zibram party, and therefore would find his interest in breaking his word to the Utraquists, and maintaining it towards the Catholics. But, perhaps, neither Sigismund nor the delegates of Basel were quite prepared for the result of one concession which the King was induced to make. The Archbishop and two suffragan bishops were, according to the proposals of the Assembly, to be elected by representatives of all classes. A Council of Sixteen was chosen for this purpose; and they secretly fixed upon Rokycana as Archbishop of Prague. As soon as this election became known, the Emperor and the representatives of Basel were deeply offended at their choice; but Sigismund, as usual, succeeded in evading a direct reply; and, in their zeal for union, the Bohemians consented, for a moment, to overlook this evasion. So on the 14th of August, 1436, Sigismund was once again formally accepted as king by the representatives of all classes, the three towns of Königgrätz (Sadova), Mies (Kladrau), and Kolin alone refusing to admit his claim.

It soon became evident that the King’s acceptance of the Compacts of Basel, and of all the limitations of his power, had been nominal. He speedily dismissed from office the most zealous Calixtines, and encouraged the growth of Catholic ritual. With regard to Rokycana, the King again found a means of evading any direct action. Philibert, Bishop of Coutances, had come to Prague as one of the representatives of the Council of Basel; and, in consideration of his rank and position, he was allowed to perform the duties which should have been entrusted[309] to the Archbishop of Prague. At the same time the King made a formal appeal to the Council of Basel to confirm Rokycana’s election; but he advised them secretly to find excuses for delay in answering this appeal.

Rokycana was not the man to conciliate a prince like Sigismund. He observed with alarm the disreputable courtiers who had gathered round the King; and he soon began to denounce the gambling, profligacy, and drunkenness which were beginning to reappear in the city. It will be remembered that Rokycana had, from the first, prophesied an evil result from the compromise with the Council of Basel; and he now experienced the truth of his own prediction. Mutual recriminations were exchanged between Philibert and himself; each charging the other with violating the Compacts, and enforcing their special form of ritual in a manner contrary to the agreement.

The Praguer soon showed their indignation at the treatment which their elected Archbishop had received; and they indignantly demanded that their nomination should be accepted. Sigismund, however, was now being drawn by his supporters into a complete Catholic reaction. Monasteries and friaries were restored; and ecclesiastical property, which had passed into other hands, was re-demanded. This was a violation, in spirit at least, of the understanding on which Sigismund had been allowed to return. Rokycana’s denunciations grew fiercer than before; and Sigismund answered them by threats which induced the preacher to believe that his life was in danger; so he at last sought safety in flight.

[310]If Sigismund had behaved treacherously and violently towards the leaders of the Calixtines, he was equally faithless in his dealings with the Taborites. The determined opposition which they had offered to him on his first return to the kingdom, had compelled him to make concessions in order to secure their allegiance; and he had promised that they should be allowed the use of their own ritual, for six years, without any disturbance; and that they should also be permitted to choose six Councillors for the government of their town. Doubtless the King had at once looked forward to an opportunity for breaking these promises; but, when they first returned to Prague, it seemed possible to weaken the Taborites by the milder process of stirring up division between them. Soon after the battle of Lipaný, Rokycana had submitted to Peter Payne the question whether Wyclif and Hus had ever held the Taborite doctrines on the seven sacraments and the invocation of saints, and other subjects of dispute. Payne delayed his answers to these questions; and Sigismund found the matter still unsettled on his arrival. He, therefore, peremptorily demanded that the required opinion should at once be given. Payne, thereupon, candidly replied that he could not discover any evidence of the acceptance of these Taborite doctrines by Wyclif or Hus; but that, nevertheless, he (Peter Payne) was prepared to support those doctrines. The answer was a dangerous one; for, while it emphasised the difference between Payne and the Calixtines, it provoked a fierce denunciation from the Taborite Bishop of Pilgram (Pelhr̆imov), who was indignant[311] that his party should be deprived of the protection of two such honoured names. But, though Sigismund might have found it more natural to accomplish the fall of his enemies by sowing division among them, Bishop Philibert, and his colleagues from Basel, required more peremptory measures. So Sigismund once more broke his promises, and threatened to trample out the Taborites with fire and sword.

These repeated acts of duplicity naturally alienated from him many of those who had at first been disposed to support him; and when a man named John Rohac set up a fortress on Mount Sion and denounced the King and his policy, the Assembly of Bohemia actually refused to vote funds for suppressing the insurgents; and they told the King that he might march against Rohac at his own cost. Rohac, indeed, was suppressed after a short struggle; but his example was imitated by many nobles and citizens; and Sigismund at last left Prague in disgust and disappointment and retired into Moravia. He seems to have had some intention of again betaking himself to Basel, partly to hinder the growing quarrel between the Pope and the Council, partly, no doubt, to secure the help of both against his rebellious subjects. But, on his way through Moravia, he was taken ill, and on the 9th of December, 1437, he died at Znojem.

The power which he had gained by his re-conquest of Bohemia, and the fierce hatred which he had excited by his whole career, were alike manifested by the events which immediately followed his death. The champions of Sigismund at once proposed that his son-in-law, Albert of Austria, should be chosen king. This,[312] they said, had been Sigismund’s dying wish; and they backed Albert’s claim, not only by reference to his marriage with Sigismund’s daughter, but by the old promise of Charles IV., that the House of Austria should succeed the House of Luxemburg on the throne of Bohemia. But, on the other hand, the House of Hapsburg had always been looked upon as enemies by all the most patriotic Bohemians, and there were at least three reasons why Albert himself should be specially unpopular in the country. He had tried to use the power which Sigismund had entrusted to him, to drag away Moravia from its connection with Bohemia. He had desired to Germanise all the cities that fell into his hands; and he had taken an active part in the war against the Utraquists. Although, therefore, the champions of Albert succeeded in obtaining a majority in his favour in the Bohemian Assembly, Rokycana and his followers were able to rally round them some of the most active spirits of the nobles and many of the knights and citizens, and to secure the election, at Tabor, of Ladislaus, King of Poland.

Ladislaus was chosen on the ground that, if they could not get a Bohemian prince, the Bohemians should at least secure a king from a nation allied to them in language and race. This King accepted the crown on behalf of his younger brother, Casimir; and a war followed which might have been somewhat uncertain in its results, but that Albert, who had also been chosen King of Hungary, was compelled to hasten to that country to resist the invasion of the Turks. There, too, he found opposition, on the ground of his strong German feeling; many of the Hungarian nobles were disposed to revolt from him; and, worn out with anxiety and illness, he retired to Vienna, and died there, less than two years after his election.



[314]His death at once produced a change in the feeling of Bohemian parties. His widow, Elizabeth, might have been unfortunate in her marriage with a German, and not much more fortunate in being the daughter of Sigismund; but she was, none the less, the granddaughter of Charles IV., and, through the mother of Charles, the most direct descendant of the old Bohemian line. The sentiment which naturally gathers round a widowed queen seems always to have exercised an important influence in Bohemian history, and all parties agreed to suspend their strife until the expected heir should be born. But no sooner was it known that the queen had been delivered of a son than the question at once arose of who was to be his guardian. The new Emperor, Frederick III., at last consented to accept this office; and, both as Emperor and head of the House of Austria, he was considered the rightful protector of the young Ladislaus.

But it was evident that neither party desired that Bohemia should be at the mercy of the Emperor of Germany, and it was therefore necessary to choose two Councillors to govern the kingdom during Ladislaus’ minority. Ulric of Rosenberg, who had now become the leader of the Catholic party, decided to hold aloof, for a time, from politics; and, consequently, Meinhard of Neuhaus, who had represented the ultra-moderate party of the Utraquists, was[315] chosen as the best protector of the Catholic interests in the Council, while a nobleman named Ptac̆ek represented the party of Rokycana.

The disorder which naturally arose in a country divided by factions, and without a recognised king, was further increased by the revival of those theological disputes, which had fallen, for a time, into the background. The Taborites, whom their enemies had, no doubt, supposed to have been crushed at the battle of Lipaný, had proved themselves a still vigorous force in the struggle against Albert; and Ptac̆ek became extremely jealous of their power, and desired to suppress them. A quarrel between one of the leading Taborites and some of the Silesians led to a Silesian invasion of Bohemia, and gave Ptac̆ek an excuse for demanding the suppression of the Taborite League. Rokycana for the moment intervened to make peace among the parties, and attempted to secure a free discussion of points of difference. At first the Taborites were unwilling to come to these discussions, declaring that they were afraid of Ptac̆ek’s tyranny, and appealing to Sigismund’s former promise that they should not be compelled to change their ritual; but at last, after actual violence had been resorted to, and the Taborite town of Vodnian had been taken by storm, both parties consented to a meeting at Kutna Hora for a final discussion of the points at issue. Two presidents were chosen for the conference, Wenceslaus of Drachov, as representing the Calixtines, and Peter Payne, as the champion of the Taborites.

Payne had recently called out an unexpected burst[316] of enthusiasm among his Bohemian friends. Returning, apparently, from a visit to Basel, he had been seized at Nürnberg by a nobleman named Burian von Gutenstein, and held as a prisoner. Burian offered to surrender him to Henry VI. of England; but Henry feared that he might be intercepted and rescued at Basel. That Council was now openly at war with Eugenius IV.; and, while the Pope was summoning an opposition Council at Ferrara, the Baseler, on their side, had declared Eugenius deposed, and had set up an anti-pope of their own. Many of those who had most earnestly wished for the meeting of the Council were now withdrawing their support from it; and Henry VI., who had been one of the first to urge its convocation, now denounced and feared it. He, therefore, advised Burian to send his prisoner direct to the Pope at Ferrara or Florence. This Burian was willing enough to do; but Eugenius was occupied with his contest with the Council of Basel, and with his attempt to help the Greeks against the Turks; and he found it difficult to deal properly with his proposed prisoner. Under these circumstances the Taborite towns cut the knot by offering to raise a large ransom for Payne. This was accepted by Eugenius, and Payne was restored to the Taborites amid great enthusiasm.

Thus, in spite of his foreign origin and of the offence which he had given by his recent decision, Payne was readily accepted by the Taborites as their spokesman at this, their final appearance as controversialists. Nay, so ready were they to abandon, in his favour, some of their[317] strongest feelings, that they actually rebuked Pr̆zibram for disputing with Payne in the Bohemian language, since the Englishman was unable to understand it. The questions in dispute seem mainly to have turned upon the nature of the presence of Christ in the Sacrament; and the controversy grew so hot that Koranda, the Taborite priest, made the same challenge to Pr̆zibram which Hus had formerly made to the Masters who wished to condemn Wyclif; namely, that, if convicted, he would be willing to be burnt as a heretic, provided that his opponents would consent to the same punishment in case of conviction. Finally, the discussion was referred to the next Assembly of the Estates of Bohemia, an Assembly which, under Ptac̆ek’s influence, readily decided in favour of the Calixtines, as against the Taborites.

Ulric of Rosenberg, who had previously held aloof from the discussions of the Assembly, now saw his opportunity in the division of his enemies; and he hoped to use the Calixtines as allies in crushing out their more formidable opponents. But, while this scheme was still in a state of preparation, Ptac̆ek died, and the discussion of the Utraquists was temporarily brought to an end by the rise of a new leader.

This leader was a young man of twenty-four named George of Podĕbrad. His father had been a friend and protector of Z̆iz̆ka; and his family had been more steadily identified with the Utraquist cause than most of the nobles of Bohemia. He was the godson of Z̆iz̆ka, had distinguished himself in the war between[318] Ladislaus and Albert, and had since been made the captain of the Bunzlau (Boleslav) Circle, a specially Protestant district. He seems to have had a singular gift of inspiring confidence, and a diplomatic power of seizing opportunities. Although he defended the claims of Rokycana to the archbishopric, the Taborites were at first as zealous as the Calixtines in welcoming him as a leader; and he adroitly contrived to bring to the front once more that proposal for the recognition of the Compacts of Basel, which appeared to be a bond between the different sections of the Utraquists. Nor was it to the Utraquists alone that he at first appealed for support; for his demand that the Emperor should surrender Ladislaus to the Bohemians attracted the sympathies of the more patriotic Catholics. By his help negotiations were opened with Emperor and Pope; and the death of Eugenius IV. seemed to open a new chance for the concession by the Papacy of some of the Utraquist demands. But, though Pope Nicholaus might be willing, for a time, to use friendly words, the Emperor Frederick was more uncompromising, and he absolutely refused to restore the young king to the Bohemians.

George of Podĕbrad now decided to make himself more completely master of the situation; and a quarrel which had recently broken out between the Bohemians and Duke William of Saxony gave him an excuse for raising a large force of soldiers. His work was soon simplified by the action of his opponents. Cardinal Carvajal, coming to Prague to negotiate about the demands of the Bohemians, expressed a desire to[319] see a copy of the actual Compacts of Basel; and, on getting it into his hands, he tried to carry it away from the city. Several of the Utraquist leaders followed him, and forced him to surrender the document; but this attempt finally destroyed any hope which the Utraquists might have cherished of a compromise with the Catholics. The sincere Utraquists at once drew together; while Meinhard of Neuhaus openly took the Catholic side. The excitement in Prague became intense, and George of Podĕbrad seized the moment to march to the city. After a short pretence of negotiation, he suddenly attacked the town on the 3rd of September, 1448, and captured it by assault. Rokycana was welcomed back in triumph, and Meinhard of Neuhaus was thrown into prison, where he soon after died.

Although George had acted as the champion of the Utraquists in their struggle against Albert and Neuhaus, his first object in seizing the power into his hands was to restore order in the country. For that purpose, he wished to conciliate the Catholics, as much as the Utraquists; and he brought into office Zdenek of Sternberg, one of the fiercest of the Catholic party. He even succeeded in gradually drawing the Rosenbergs to his side; though, at the same time, he always treated Rokycana as his chief adviser, and was urgent for his recognition as archbishop. This policy was extremely resented by the Taborites, and they were ready to combine, even with the discontented Catholics, against him.

When, then, in 1452, George was at last chosen Administrator of the kingdom, he found opposition to[320] his authority, not only in the extreme Roman Catholic centres of Budweis (Budejóvice) and Pilsen (Plz̆en), but also in Tabor, and other Taborite towns. George, however, had now risen to the position of a national leader, accepted by all those who preferred the order and unity of Bohemia to the triumph of any particular party. Rokycana, on his side, had gained an influence among the Utraquists, as a whole, which made the resistance of any section of them far less formidable than it had been in former days. Moreover, the chief interest of the country was, for the moment, centred rather in the recovery of their king than in the decision of any theological doctrine; and, in their desire to rescue Ladislaus from Frederick, the Bohemians received the sympathy of the Hungarians, and even of the Austrians.

This discontent with Frederick led to actual preparations for war on the part of the three nations aggrieved by his action; and George, in his capacity of Governor of Bohemia, had an excuse for raising forces without at once declaring the purpose for which they were to be used. When, however, his preparations were complete, in August, 1452, he suddenly marched against Tabor. At first the Taborite priests were disposed to rouse the citizens to their usual attitude of determined resistance; but, as soon as George appeared before the town, the old unconquerable spirit vanished; the citizens were seized with a panic, and consented to recognise George as Governor. Still, it might have seemed as if this recognition was to be merely a part of a compromise, according to which the rights and liberties of the[321] Taborites were still to be recognised; but when, in pursuance of this belief, they sent their Bishop Nicholaus and their favourite priest, Koranda, to Prague, to discuss their points of difference with the Calixtines, Nicholaus and Koranda were suddenly seized and imprisoned, until they would consent to yield to Rokycana’s authority. Even this did not kindle the old spirit of the Taborites; and, in December, 1452, the Calixtine priests entered Tabor, and celebrated Mass with those rites and ornaments which the Taborites had fought so hard to suppress.

The fall of Tabor marks a great crisis in the Utraquist movement; and though there is another phase of that movement which has yet to be recorded, the distinctive character, that had given it such life and force, must evidently have been doomed to destruction before such an event could have occurred. Important as was the element contributed to the Utraquist cause by the learned scholars of the University of Prague, they could never have produced so vivid an effect on Europe had they not been backed by the fiery enthusiasm, the high ideals, and the ferociously combative spirit of the flail-bearing peasants of Tabor. It was the flails of the Taborites which made the Moravian nobles flinch from the battle of Vys̆ehrad; it was they who had scared every army which came against them, from the time of the first battle of the Z̆iz̆ka Hill to the day when Cardinal Cesarini fled in panic from the country which he had been so certain of conquering. The zeal of the Taborites for purity and simplicity of life had supplied an impulse which no theological doctrine could of itself contribute; while[322] their intolerance of priestly forms, and their belief in the superiority of the Congregation of the Faithful to the decrees of any learned society, had given that democratic colouring to the movement which has made their traditions such a lasting force in Bohemia, even to the present day. At the same time their turbulent savagery and fierce intolerance made it necessary that, at some time or other, they should be absorbed in a broader and more orderly organisation. The Independents had now found their Cromwell; and to him they were obliged to sacrifice much of the liberties for which they had originally fought.





The parallel suggested at the end of the last chapter between Cromwell and George of Podĕbrad must, like all such parallels, be taken with very considerable modifications; and it was perhaps not one of the least points of difference between these two rulers that George’s first object, after the establishment of his power, was to bring back the King, who was still detained by the Emperor of Germany. As a concession to one of the complaining nations, and very likely with the hope of exciting jealousy between them, Frederick had brought the young Ladislaus to Vienna; but, if this step conciliated the Austrians, it does not appear to have excited any opposition on their part to the return of Ladislaus to Bohemia. Nor were the Catholic nobles able to make use of his restoration for weakening the power of George; they could not even prevent the Utraquists of the Assembly from resolving that Ladislaus should be asked, before his coronation, to accept the Compacts of Basel.

[324]The feelings of the boy king were evidently somewhat painfully divided. The education which Frederick had given him had produced in him a great zeal for the Catholic cause; but the zeal was modified, and somewhat counteracted, by his deeply rooted conviction that it was to George of Podĕbrad alone that he owed the possibility of becoming King of Bohemia. Both these feelings were made manifest on his arrival in Prague. When Rokycana came out at the head of the clergy to welcome the young king, Ladislaus turned away and would hardly notice the Archbishop, until George induced him to thank Rokycana for his address. But, when the procession reached the Catholic College, the king sprang from his horse and did special reverence to those clergy who had been restored to their livings on the occasion of Sigismund’s coronation. The struggle between Ladislaus and his strong-willed viceroy was of short duration. George was resolved not to yield on the question of Rokycana’s position; and the young king left Prague in great indignation. He did not, indeed, at once abandon his efforts for effecting a reconciliation between the Pope and the Bohemians, at the expense of the popular Archbishop; but, on his second visit to Prague in 1457, he found both George and Rokycana still obstinate in their resistance; and the poor boy’s efforts at the settlement of the difficulties of the Church were cut short by illness and death. On his deathbed he again renewed to George his admission that he owed the crown to his influence; and he entreated him to govern the dependent provinces justly, and to secure that those, who had followed the[325] young King from Austria to Bohemia, should be allowed to return peaceably to their own country.

The death of Ladislaus extinguished the last claim to direct descent from the old Bohemian kings; and the consequence was that a larger number of candidates than usual came forward to claim the Bohemian crown. Charles VII., King of France, based his pretensions to the throne on the ground that, had Ladislaus lived, he would have been married to Charles’s daughter. The Duke of Saxony pleaded that he had actually married the sister of Ladislaus. The Dukes of Austria tried to revive the recollection of the promise of Charles IV.; while the King of Poland appealed to the fact of his former election, which had fallen into abeyance after the birth of Ladislaus. Of these candidates, the King of France and the Duke of Saxony seem to have been by far the most pressing and sanguine in their candidature; and both of them paid court to George; while both of them hoped, by securing a dependency of Bohemia, to get a footing in the kingdom before their actual election. The King of France declared his intention of taking Luxemburg under his special protection, while William of Saxony appealed to the desire of some of the Silesians to choose him as their ruler.

But both these candidates had reckoned their chances without knowing the wishes of the two most important men in Bohemia. George was determined that Silesia should never be separated from the Bohemian crown; and he had equally little wish that any foreigner should again become king of Bohemia. Rokycana, on his part, was not less[326] determined that no one but George should be the King. In addressing the Bohemian Assembly in March, 1459, the Archbishop boldly grounded his appeal for George not only on his Bohemian birth, the purity of his life, and his proved power to defend them against their enemies, but also on his devotion to the Utraquist cause. Openly as this claim was put forward, it does not seem to have alienated the Roman Catholic nobles. George’s conciliatory policy towards the Catholics, and his personal friendship for some of their leaders, readily induced them to acquiesce in an election which would secure a strong national king to Bohemia. Yet from the very first Rokycana succeeded in giving a Utraquist colouring to the decision. While the envoys of Duke William of Saxony were eagerly expecting the election of their master, their meditations were interrupted by a simultaneous burst of ringing from all the churches in Prague; George speedily issued from the Town Council House with the sword of honour borne before him; and he was led across the square to the Teyn Church, where, after a general singing of the Te Deum, Rokycana called on the people to thank God for giving them a king who would stand by their faith.



Thus the election of George of Podĕbrad to the throne of Bohemia marks the accession of the first heretic king in the history of Europe. Doubtless the name of heretic had been freely thrown at Henry IV. by Hildebrand, at Barbarossa by Alexander III., and at Frederick II. and Louis of Bavaria by every Pope who came in contact with them; but every one knew[328] that that name was a mere term of abuse, of no more special significance than “knave” or “ruffian”; and that the real point at issue in those quarrels was the question of the exercise of some form of secular authority. George of Podĕbrad, on the other hand, was deliberately recommended to the Assembly of Bohemia, on account of his championship of a purely ecclesiastical practice, which had been condemned by one Council of the Church, and by one Pope at least; and, although a later Council might have partially and hesitatingly sanctioned the practice, that Council had itself perished in an odour of heresy and resistance to Papal authority.

Yet, strange to say, it was not till about four years after George’s election that the Pope and the leaders of the Church recognised the full significance of the event which had taken place. This delay was due to various causes. In the first place, George, who was evidently conscious of the difficulties of his position, and anxious to maintain his character of national king, had begun his reign by making concessions to the Catholics. Remembering that Rokycana had never been formally recognised as Archbishop by any ecclesiastical authority, he looked about for some more legally appointed bishop, to consecrate him as king. In this matter he was assisted by one whom he had good reason to look to as his friend.

Immediately on the death of Ladislaus, the Hungarians had decided to choose, as their king, Matthias, the son of their great general Huniades. He had been opposed to the rule of Ladislaus, and had even raised insurrection against him. In one of the battles[329] which followed, Matthias had been taken prisoner by George, and brought to Prague. On the announcement, however, of the Hungarian election, George at once set his prisoner free, and sent him back to Hungary as King. George now in turn appealed to Matthias to send him over two bishops to crown him King of Bohemia. Matthias readily consented; and George promised at his coronation to suppress heresy. A more satisfactory concession to Roman Catholic feeling was the new arrangement for the government of the diocese of Prague. The Dean of Prague had claimed to administer the diocese, on account of the heresies of Rokycana. The Archbishop, naturally enough, protested; and George settled the matter by granting the Dean authority over the Catholic priests, while Rokycana was to retain his authority over the Utraquists.

But apart from these concessions to Catholic feeling, the position and policy of the Pope tended more than anything else to delay, for a time, the collision between him and the heretic king. In the very same year in which George was chosen King of Bohemia, Æneas Silvius Piccolomini was elected Pope of Rome under the title of Pius II. He had been a zealous champion of the Council of Basel, and had vainly tried to make peace between it and Eugenius IV. He was therefore not prepared at once to condemn a practice which the Council of Basel had, at least conditionally, sanctioned. Moreover, there was another reason, which operated still more strongly to induce him to make friends with the King of Bohemia. For several years past, the most zealous Catholics of[330] Europe had been turning their attention away from the divisions in their own Church, to watch with terror the advance of the Turks in Europe; and, since the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the sense of the relative insignificance of every other question, in comparison with the expulsion of the Mahometan invaders, had been growing in the minds of all true champions of Christendom. If, then, Pius II. could succeed in winning to this cause the strong championship of the new King, he might well wink, for a time, at a few little heresies in doctrine and practice.

But, unfortunately, there were other grounds of opposition to George which were not so easily put aside as mere suspicions of heresy might be. William of Saxony was determined to make good his claim on Silesia; and he was able to appeal to that sentiment of provincial independence which had been growing during the previous century. Neither Z̆iz̆ka nor Procop had ever been able thoroughly to establish the power of the Bohemians over Moravia and Silesia; but the accession of a ruler, who seemed to be acceptable to all parties in Bohemia, was likely to strengthen the central power at the expense of local aspirations. The Silesians and Moravians complained that neither of their Assemblies had been consulted in the election of George; and the towns of Moravia, always jealous of the power of Prague, and containing a strong admixture of German and Catholic elements, were eager to resist the centralising power of the heretic king. Albert of Austria was able to give them little assistance; and one after another the great cities of Moravia were reduced to obedience.[331] Znaym (Znojem) was the first to open its gates to George. Brünn (Brno), more strongly fortified, was at first disposed to resist; but it soon yielded to the threat of a siege; and Olmütz speedily followed its example. In Iglau (Jíhlava) the Catholic reaction had risen to a greater height than in any of the other towns of Moravia; and the leaders of the party had deposed the Town Council and appointed one of their own; but, on being convinced that George intended no persecution of the Catholics, Jíhlava also surrendered to the king.

The resistance in Silesia was of a more determined kind. Broken up as it was into little Dukedoms, containing a strong German element, and often influenced by its near neighbourhood to Saxony, Silesia had probably at no time felt that strong sympathy with the Bohemians which still existed in Moravia, in spite of the apparent triumph of the Catholic reaction. But the strongest opposition in Silesia came, not from the provincial dukes, but from the town of Breslau. The Bishop of Breslau seems to have been a more zealous Catholic than most of his neighbours; while the citizens had continual causes of rivalry with Prague, both on account of trade differences and of exceptional municipal privileges. Breslau, therefore, held out against George, long after the rest of Silesia had practically submitted to him. The Pope, still hoping to secure the help of George against the Turks, tried to persuade the Breslauer to submit to the King, and answered to their complaints of George’s heresy that it was for the Pope, and not for the town of Breslau, to decide that question. At last, in 1460[332] George succeeded in bringing the Breslauer to terms; but not till he had promised them considerable ecclesiastical and municipal privileges, and had allowed them to defer their homage to him for three years.

Bohemia, however, was not the sole obstacle to the union of Christendom against the Turks. The Emperors of Germany had been growing steadily weaker during the last century; and many princes had wearied of Frederick III.’s government, and were looking about for a strong ruler who might put down the divisions of the Empire, before leading them against the Turks. Under these circumstances many considered that George of Bohemia would be the right man for the place. In Hungary, too, Matthias had found great difficulty in holding his own against the nobles; and there again, though much against his will, George was looked upon as a possible substitute for the unpopular king. In his own country he seemed to be gaining steadily in power. He had restored, to a great extent, the influence of the towns which had been decaying during the Hussite wars, and he gathered round him, not only the most eminent men in Bohemia, but also the most distinguished foreigners from Germany and Italy.

But, in the meantime, Pius II. was becoming alarmed at the power of this king. He had hoped that George would have come to Rome to declare himself a true son of the Church. He found that no progress was being made in the anti-Turkish crusade; and he heard, with alarm, that the Archbishop of Mainz and other German ecclesiastics were preparing to demand the fulfilment of that decree of the Council[333] of Constance, according to which a new Council was to be summoned every ten years. These suspicions of the Pope were much encouraged by one of his advisers, Fantinus de Valle, who tried to convince him that heresy had recently gained new life, and that there was a special revival of the teaching of Wyclif. At last in January, 1462, George consented to send an embassy to Rome, stating the terms on which he would make the necessary submission to the Pope. This submission was to be given, practically, on the recognition by Pius of the Compacts of Basel. The Pope was, in the first place, indignant that George should send representatives instead of coming himself to Rome; and he was perhaps not more favourably disposed to the deputation, that Koranda, the Taborite preacher, was one of the members of it; for Koranda dwelt with considerable enthusiasm on the victories of the Taborites in the Utraquist wars, and maintained that they had acted by the grace of God, and by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

At last on March 31st the Pope, in a large assembly, declared that the Communion in both kinds, having been condemned by the Council of Constance, and at one time by the Council of Basel, must be considered as a disorderly and heretical arrangement; that the Compacts had been only a temporary provision; and he now declared them at an end. The Bohemian ambassadors, accompanied by Fantinus de Valle, returned to Prague to report the news to the Assembly. When they had delivered their report, George declared that the Pope had no right to take away what the[334] Council of Basel had conceded, and what Eugenius had indirectly sanctioned. If any Pope, he said, may undo what his predecessors have done, what security is there for justice? Then, referring to the charge that he had violated his coronation oath in not suppressing heresy, he ordered the oath to be read publicly. Then he proceeded to say that, in declaring he would suppress heretical wickedness, he had never meant that he would suppress Utraquism, since, said he, “it is founded in the Gospel of Christ, according to the institution of the primitive Church, and has been conceded to us as a privilege of our virtue and devotion, by the Council of Basel. And as to swearing to oppose the practice, no indeed! But know for certain that, since we were born in that Communion, since we were nurtured in it, and since, by God’s help, we have been raised to the royal dignity in it, so we promise to guard and defend it, and to live and die for it; and our wife and children, and all who do any thing for the love of us, ought to live and die in the defence of the Compacts; nor do we believe that there is any other way of salvation for our souls than the Communion in both kinds, according to the institution of our Saviour.” Then he turned to the nobles who stood about him, and asked them for their decision on the question.

But it was no longer possible to maintain the former unity in the face of this declaration; and while the Utraquist nobles promised readily to stand by the King, Sternberg declared, on behalf of the Catholics, that, while they were willing to support the King in all that concerned the honour of his kingdom, they[335] had not been consulted about the acceptance of the Compacts, and that George must not look to them to defend them. The next day Fantinus de Valle was admitted to speak on behalf of the Pope. He at once announced the revocation of the Compacts by Pius, and the deposition from the clerical office of all who gave the cup to the laity. Finally he wound up his speech by fiercely threatening George with deposition from his throne, if he did not obey the Pope. George thereupon turned to the lords, who stood round him, and said, “Noble lords, you chose me as your king and protector; and since you have the power of choosing a lord to protect you, you ought to work with him.” He then burst out into a fierce denunciation of the Roman see, declaring that it was a seat of pestilence; and on the following day Fantinus was seized and imprisoned.

The declaration of hostility seemed now sufficiently clear on both sides; but again new considerations delayed the final outburst. The Emperor Frederick had just been engaged in a war with his brother Albert about some claims in the Archduchy of Austria. Albert succeeded in defeating the Emperor, and imprisoning him at Vienna; but George hastened to Vienna, rescued the Emperor, and restored him to the throne. Frederick was full of gratitude; and, while confirming all the liberties of Bohemia, he persuaded the Pope to abstain from excommunicating George. Pius, still bent on the Turkish war, and knowing probably that Frederick would find some sympathy for an anti-Papal policy, consented to a curious compromise. He would not issue a formal Bull of anathema[336] against George; but he sent messengers to the citizens of Breslau, releasing them from the treaty which they had recently made, and encouraging them to rebel. At the same time he tried to stir up discontent among the nobles. Many of these had already become alarmed at the growing power of their king. Although he had strictly recognised the Constitutional rights of the Assembly, yet the expedition to Vienna had given an opportunity for reasserting one of the privileges about which the Bohemian nobles were most sensitive; namely, the power of refusing to follow the King when he made war outside the country. The opposition to this expedition was speedily followed by fiercer attacks; and the lords now accused George of illegal taxation, of interference with the coinage, and of manipulating the land register, so as to reduce to feudal submission those who were legally independent. With regard to most of the nobles, however, there seemed an unwillingness at first to push things to an extremity; but a Moravian named Hynek of Lichtenberg, who had long cherished a personal jealousy against the king, broke out into open insurrection, and set on fire some of the towns in Moravia. Hoping to secure the Pope’s sympathy in this rebellion, Hynek sent to Rome for advice as to the course that he should pursue; but, before Pius could commit himself to a distinct answer to this question, he was taken ill, and died in August, 1464.

George was well pleased to hear that a Venetian Cardinal had been elected Pope. But Paul II., though at first apparently friendly to George, was irritated at some delay in the formal congratulation on his accession[337] which was due to him from the King of Bohemia. Hynek soon succeeded in getting a ready hearing from those Cardinals who were most opposed to George; and, in spite of the protest of the Bishop of Olmütz and of many leading people in Moravia, Paul was induced to command George to withdraw his forces from the siege of Hynek’s castle. George remonstrated with the Pope; but the previous irritation was revived by the rumour that George had refused to send ambassadors for fear of their being ill-treated at Rome. The continued attempts on Hynek’s castle, and the renewal of the siege of Breslau, were treated as acts of contumacy; and at last, on August 6, 1465, Paul issued a Bull deposing George from the throne, and authorising the legate to punish all who should still adhere to him.

In the meantime the growing bitterness of the Catholic nobles had been increased by a personal quarrel between George and Zdenek of Sternberg. Although George had been forced to rely upon this nobleman in his attempts to conciliate the Catholics, he soon found that Zdenek’s character was not deserving of confidence; and he was forced to refuse him a wardship, for which he applied, on the ground that he had abused his trust on a former occasion. This reproach roused Zdenek to still further opposition; and he induced the lords to found a League in defence of the Pope. The immediate object of Paul and the rebel lords was to find a king for Bohemia; and they fixed on Matthias of Hungary, who, though he owed much friendship and help to George, was easily attracted by the hope of a new kingdom. Many of the important[338] towns of Bohemia fell away from the King, and joined the lords against him. The four great towns of Moravia formed a special League for the defence of the Catholic faith. Pilsen and Budweis, always inclined to the Catholic cause, speedily joined this League; and the town of Görlitz, the centre of a special district in Silesia, was hard pressed, on account of its loyalty to the king. George was so eager for peace that he consented to a meeting with the rebels at Prague, at which he defended himself from the various charges brought against him by the nobles; and he produced some of the charters from Carlstein to prove the legality of his actions. Sternberg refused to believe George’s assertion that he had shown them all the charters which concerned their rights; and he demanded that Carlstein and its contents should be handed over to himself and his friends, and that the charters should be submitted to the Emperor for confirmation. George indignantly refused these proposals, which apparently went beyond the wishes of many of the lords; but the Pope frightened the rebels into new opposition, by another Bull which placed Bohemia under an interdict.

George now appealed from the Pope to a new Council, and called on Casimir of Poland to intercede between him and Paul. Casimir willingly undertook this negotiation, to which some victories of George seemed to give a hope of success; but the attempt at compromise completely broke down; and the Poles joined the anti-Utraquist alliance. Rosenberg, who had stood by the King for some time, now went over to Sternberg; and, when George advanced to besiege Olmütz, his own soldiers deserted his banner. George[339] was now compelled to retreat to Prague in April, 1469; and the Legate supposed him to be so completely crushed that he offered him the following terms of peace. He was to return, with all his servants, to the Catholic faith; to give up all Articles which the Church condemned; to restore all ecclesiastical property; to recognise Matthias as his son and successor, and allow him to appoint the Archbishop and the heads of all the churches in Prague; and, finally, to give up to the Legate the arch-heretic Rokycana.

Not many even of George’s enemies could have expected him to accept these terms; and the consequence of their proposal was an exchange of fierce defiances between the two parties, ending in a formal election of Matthias as king of Bohemia, by the rebel nobles. But the heretic King was not so easily to be beaten. On January 1, 1470, he sent a letter to the princes of the German Empire, which reads more like the manifesto of a conqueror than the appeal of a defeated and deposed king. He set forth in bitter language the treatment which he had received from the Pope; and he warned the princes that unless they would support him in this crisis, he would break off all connection between Bohemia and the Empire, and stand alone.

In the meantime his enemies had begun to be divided among themselves. The six towns, of which Görlitz was the centre, had been forced to yield for a time to the Catholic League and had been placed under the rule of Sternberg’s son. They had soon found him so oppressive that they revolted against him and drove him out; and when Zdenek appealed to Matthias,[340] Matthias treated his complaints with contempt. Rosenberg and Gutenstein returned to their allegiance to George; and many of the towns of Silesia and Moravia began to cry out against the government of the League. Seizing this opportunity, George once more invaded Moravia, and gained victory after victory over Matthias.

The King of Hungary tried to redeem his cause by making an inroad into Bohemia; but the cruelties of the Hungarian soldiers led the common people to rise against Matthias’s army; and the Poles seemed once more friendlily disposed to their old allies. The Bohemian lords gradually drifted back to George; and the complaints of the Interdict were so loud in the country that the Cardinals began to consider the advisability of suspending it. But, before the victory of the Bohemians could be secured, the struggle was cut short by the death of King George, preceded, only a few weeks earlier, by the death of his friend and supporter, Archbishop Rokycana.





Reference has already been made in the previous chapters to a possible historical parallel between the Bohemian struggle of the fifteenth century and the English revolution of the seventeenth; but the most startling point of that parallel has still to be mentioned. Whatever likenesses or differences there may be between the Calixtines and the Presbyterians, the Taborites and the Independents, or between George of Podĕbrad and Oliver Cromwell, there can, at least, be no doubt that George Fox and his followers found their prototypes in Bohemia in the fifteenth century; and that the treatment which the Bohemian Quakers received from the Utraquists, exactly foreshadowed the persecution of the English Society of Friends by their Puritan countrymen.

Yet even here we must note, by anticipation, an important difference between the Bohemian and the[342] English story. It is perfectly possible to give an intelligent and connected account of the English history of the seventeenth century, without making more than a casual reference to the Quaker movement. For, important as the life of George Fox would be in a general sketch of European philanthropy, it can scarcely be said to form a necessary link between any two periods of English history. On the other hand, it is impossible to give a clear impression of the Bohemian history of the sixteenth century without calling considerable attention to the work and influence of the Bohemian Brotherhood.

One reason for this difference is that the movement for peace, and all the ideas that gather round such a movement, were more in harmony with the traditions of Bohemia than with those of England. This statement may sound startling and paradoxical, when it follows so closely on the account of the Utraquist wars. They, more than any other event, have brought Bohemia into prominence in European history; and it was chiefly as fighters that the Bohemians were known to the surrounding nations at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Nevertheless, early traditions, whether legendary or historical, never entirely lose their influence on the character of a nation.

The gentle figure of Libus̆a presiding over a peaceable community is a marked contrast to the figures of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table; and the essentially combative character of St. George suggests directly opposite ideas of saintship to those represented by St. Wenceslaus and St. Adalbert. Nor, when the stream of religious tradition divides into[343] the two branches of Catholic and Protestant, does the contrast cease between the English and Bohemian models. The legendary picture of St. John Nepomuc is more gentle and suffering than even the historical facts would justify, and it offers a strange contrast to all the traditions that gather round the name of Becket; while the loving and hesitating character of Jan Hus is almost equally unlike the sternly defiant figure of Wyclif.

There is, however, another reason for the difference exercised on their respective countries by the Bohemian and the English Society. While the stern idealism of the Quakers hindered them from directly influencing the ordinary course of public life, the more accommodating character of the Bohemian Brothers enabled them to affect the general policy of their country by sacrificing something of their perfection as a Christian community. This point of difference will become more clearly evident as the story proceeds; it will now be sufficient to have called attention to the fact that, on both these grounds, the followers of Peter of Chelc̆ic are more closely connected with the course of Bohemian history than the followers of George Fox with the history of England.

Peter of Chelc̆ic, like George Fox, was a shoemaker by trade; but he educated himself carefully, both in the Latin language and in the history of his country. He does not seem ever to have wandered far from the little village of Chelc̆ic, in the Prachin district; though the narrowness of his geographical outlook did not hinder him from plunging tolerably early into the important controversies with which his life was concerned.[344] It was he who in 1419 propounded to the Masters of the Prague University his doubts on the lawfulness of religious wars. He was not satisfied with the answer which he received; and the weakness which he detected in Jakaubek’s arguments doubtless strengthened him in his previous convictions.

He gradually adopted all those doctrines which we specially associate with the name of George Fox. He rejected all rank and property for Christians; declared that the conversion of Constantine was the ruin of the Church; condemned oaths in law courts, and advocated the passive endurance of injuries.

He soon began to attract attention; and when Peter Payne was driven out of Prague, after the restoration of Sigismund, he took refuge at Chelc̆ic with his namesake. Apparently a dislike of the new teaching began, a little later, to show itself amongst the Utraquists; for in 1443 we find that Peter was summoned before an Assembly at Kutna Hora to answer for his doctrines. Nothing seems to have come of this examination, for Peter was soon after allowed to publish his first book; and others speedily followed, in which he attacked the Pope and the clergy.

Just at this time Rokycana was engaged in a controversy with the Franciscan Capistran; and, as he had completely triumphed over the Taborites, he felt ready to sympathise with a new ally against Rome. He even recommended the writings of Peter to many of his hearers in the Teyn Church; and Peter was suffered to found a community which took the name of the Chelc̆ic Brothers. Many of those who were desiring[345] to lead a purer and more self-denying life drew near to the Brotherhood; and the protection and encouragement of Rokycana gave the Society for a time the means of easy development.

But after the coronation of George of Podĕbrad, Rokycana’s feeling towards the Brothers underwent a rapid change. His increase of power made him more determined to assert that power at all hazards. Had the Brothers, indeed, been contented to settle under the priests whom the Archbishop chose for them, Rokycana might still have suffered them to remain unmolested; but he was irritated by their desire to form a separate community of their own, independent of all other ecclesiastical organisations. While this controversy was still in its early stage, Peter died, and his nephew Gregory succeeded to the chief position in the society. The new movement had now begun to include men of all classes, although the nobles were expected to give up their rank if they actually joined the Brotherhood.

But a more trying time was coming. In 1461, Gregory came to Prague and held a meeting of his friends in the New Town. This was the time when Fantinus de Valle was beginning to excite the suspicions of the Pope against the Bohemian heresies; and, urged on doubtless by Rokycana, the King ordered the arrest of the organisers of this meeting on the charge of being engaged in a conspiracy. The attempts to convict them of political intrigue entirely broke down; and they were then denounced as heretics, because of their denial of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Under pressure of torture, some of[346] them recanted, but Gregory remained firm. He reminded Rokycana of his recommendation of the works of Peter of Chelc̆ic, and he complained of the Archbishop’s inconsistency in now denouncing them. Rokycana, however, persisted in the course on which he had entered, and he refused to allow the Brothers any of the sacraments of the Church. The Brothers now fled to the hills of Reichenau, and resolved to form a stronger organisation for carrying on their work.

With the curious inconsistency which naturally attaches to such movements, they showed a great desire to connect themselves, in tradition if not in organisation, with the older churches; and they chose as their chief president a regularly ordained priest, named Michael. They elected a small council to support him in his management of the Brotherhood; and then they chose their priests by lot, and requested them to rebaptise all the Brotherhood. Although, too, they rejected Episcopacy as a separate dignity, they practically entrusted to Michael the special duties of a bishop. They now became known as “Jednota Bratrska,” or the Unity of Brothers; and they speedily began to attract attention from those who were out of sympathy with the existing churches. These were not confined to pure-minded and earnest men like themselves, but included wild sects like the Adamites, whom the Brotherhood were obliged to repel from their body.

In the meantime Rokycana’s fury increased. He stirred up both King and People against the Brotherhood, and persuaded the Assembly to pass a decree[347] ordering the suppression or compulsory conversion of the Brothers. Again Gregory protested, and Rokycana now answered that no new Church could be founded without a special revelation from Heaven. But when the Brothers offered to explain the nature of their revelation, they were answered by imprisonment, torture, and in some cases by burning. They were now compelled to meet in woods, ditches, and clefts of the rock to carry on their religious services; yet they still stood firm, and Gregory and a woman named Katerina succeeded in keeping up methods of communication between them in various parts of Bohemia and Moravia.

The deaths of King George and of Rokycana released them for a time from persecution. The new King showed himself more kindly towards them. This King was Ladislaus, the son of the King of Poland. He had been chosen King of Bohemia, in spite of the resistance of Matthias. He was only sixteen years old when he began to reign, and he seems to have speedily left on people around him the impression of a youth of mild and weak temperament. He released the Brothers who were still in prison, and they renewed their propaganda.

But their troubles were not yet at an end. Joanna, the widow of King George, fiercely demanded their suppression; and when they asked for a free discussion on the points at issue, the Masters of the Prague University informed them that they might come to Prague to state their doctrines, and then submit to be convinced of their errors by the Masters. This was precisely what the Council of Basel had proposed to[348] the Utraquists themselves, a proposal which they had scornfully rejected; and the inconsistent character of the claim made by the Utraquist leaders seems forcibly to have impressed, not only their Catholic enemies, but even some of their supporters.

Therefore, under the pressure of public opinion, the Masters of the Prague University consented, in 1473, to a discussion with the Brothers. Strangely enough, the points which the Masters proposed for discussion did not refer to the distinctive doctrines of Peter of Chelc̆ic, but were rather concerned with the meaning of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the right means of obtaining salvation. The Brotherhood denied the doctrine of the Real Presence, and maintained that salvation was only to be found in a virtuous life; they were consequently denounced by the Masters of Prague, and very little real discussion took place. The Masters soon after issued a letter, in which they declared that the Brothers were the chief enemies of the Church; and they further complained of them for choosing workmen for the office of priests.

It was during this phase of the controversy that Gregory died. He had combined remarkable courage with an unselfish devotion to the cause of the Brotherhood. He had willingly resigned the first place in favour of the priest Michael; but he had, none the less, stamped his special convictions on the minds of certain members of the Brotherhood; and, for a time, on the constitution of the whole society. He warned the Brothers very strongly against the dangerous influence of learned scholars, declaring that such people were given to subtle intrigues, inconsistent[349] with simplicity of life. At the same time he gave enormous power into the hands of the Bishop of the Church. He was to have the right of changing at will the members of the Council who acted with him; and no Brother was to be allowed to publish any book without the sanction of the Bishop and this Council of his nominees. More general questions of faith and doctrine were to be decided by synods of the Brotherhood.

Though Gregory’s immediate successor in the Brotherhood was a man of like feelings with himself, neither he nor any one else could ultimately maintain so strict an organisation in its original form. It has, indeed, already been hinted that the Bohemian Brotherhood, unlike their English successors, came, after a short time, into friendly contact with the outer world; and they suffered in simplicity, while they gained in influence.

They had now spread over a hundred and eighty square miles of territory; and though they still for a time maintained the exclusion of worldly rank and worldly power from their body, they did not object to accept the protection of friendly nobles, who remained outside their body. Of these the most prominent and sympathetic was Kostka of Postupic, whose father had endeavoured to protect the Brothers against King George, and whose great-grandfather had fought for Z̆iz̆ka. Through his influence many nobles were induced to modify that attitude of hostility which the democratic tendencies of the Brotherhood had naturally produced in them. But this connection could not fail in time to produce a[350] corresponding change in the feelings of the Brothers themselves; and some of them began, before long, to propose a modification of the stern principles which Gregory had enforced. Might not oaths be used on certain occasions? Say, for instance, to free a Brother from unjust charges in a law-court? And might not worldly offices be held, if they were administered in a right spirit? These questions of practice, together with others of pure doctrine, began gradually to excite divisions in the Brotherhood; and, though it was some time before the more moderate creed could gain much ground, it soon found a powerful and eloquent supporter, who knew how to make it acceptable.

About the year 1480, Lukas of Prague, a young and learned theologian, was admitted into the Brotherhood. He had studied the old classics and the Fathers of the Church; and he was strongly in favour of a relaxation of those stern simplicities on which Gregory had insisted. He also desired to give greater prominence to the doctrine of Justification by Faith, as distinguished from that exclusive advocacy of good life which had hitherto been the mark of the Brotherhood. Under the influence of Lukas, it was resolved in 1490 that the heads of the congregations should be allowed to relax the severity of the rules, on certain occasions, in regard both to questions of luxury and to the appeals to the secular power.

Amos of S̆tekna strongly denounced this compromise, and declared that the devil of worldliness had entered as thoroughly into the Brotherhood as he had entered into the Church in the time of Constantine[351] and Sylvester. Mathias of Kunvald, the successor of Gregory in the leadership of the Brotherhood, sympathised with the sterner party; and, by his influence, the relaxing decrees were repealed.

A project was then started for sending expeditions to various parts of the world, in order to find out where the simplicity of faith was still maintained. Nothing, however, seems to have resulted from these visits; and the party of Lukas continued to gain ground. Mathias was unable to hold his own against the pressure of the new Reformers; so at last he resigned his judgeship in despair, and consented to the abolition of the Small Council. Thereupon Amos of S̆tekna and his followers revolted from the Brotherhood, and founded a new sect which was called, after its founder, the Amosites. At the same time the old society became generally known as the Bunzlau Brothers, after the town of Jungbunzlau (Mláda Boleslav) which was now their chief centre.

Two results followed from this separation; first, an intensity of bitterness between the old Society and the seceders, greater than that between the Utraquists and the Brothers; and, secondly, the adoption of new modifications and compromises by those who adhered to the old Society. All compromises have a certain want of logic about them; and compromises between the Church and the World on such questions as war and peace, simplicity and luxury, equality and distinctions of rank, must necessarily produce results which, while painful and pathetic to those who realise the state of mind of their framers, will strike an unsympathising world as grotesque and even ludicrous.

[352]Under the new arrangements, the members of the Brotherhood were allowed to wear dress in proportion to their rank, if they did not become luxurious; but silk and embroidery were still strictly forbidden. The compromise about war was still stranger. If a Brother considered that the war which his king had made was a just one, he should not refuse to take part in it if the lot fell upon him; but he was to try, whenever possible, to find a substitute, or to get some office about the Court which would excuse him from military duty, or to find some service in connection with the army which did not involve fighting; but if he could not find any such means of escape, then let him fight in God’s name; but let him not fight for idle fame, and let him draw the sword with reluctance.

Some of the other modifications of principle seem more in accordance with ordinary conceptions of life. Trade might now be practised, but usury was to be avoided. Beer might be sold, if pure; but it was only to be sold in a public manner to travellers. Oaths, again, might be taken by witnesses if they were convinced of the justice of the cause in which they appeared.

But though such relaxations permitted the extension of membership to those who had hitherto been excluded from the Brotherhood, the bonds of the Society were drawn closer than ever round those members who had entered it. Strict arrangements were made for the visitation of the Brothers by their clergy, and for inquiry into the morals of each family; more rigid limitations than before were[353] placed on the acquirement of property by the clergy themselves, while the appeals to worldly law-courts were more carefully guarded against by the provision of Courts of Appeal within the Brotherhood. Lastly, the exclusive position of the Brotherhood was strengthened by a most startling provision; if a husband or wife joined the Brotherhood without the sympathy of their partner, and were afterwards interfered with by him or her in matters of faith, the brother or sister so hampered might claim a divorce, and make a new marriage. Thus, then, the Brotherhood seemed to be strengthened and consolidated, both by the facilities of admission to those who had been repelled by its sterner rules, and by the stricter organisation which separated the enlarged Society more distinctly from the outer world.

But an additional source of strength was soon to be provided by the renewal of persecution. This persecution was due to three causes. Soon after the changes above mentioned, Lukas and some of the other Brothers had made an expedition to Italy to investigate the condition of the Waldensian Communities. It was the time of the struggle between Alexander VI. and Savonarola, and some of the Bohemian missionaries were actually present in Florence at the burning of the great Dominican. They returned to Bohemia, offended at the laxity of many of the Bohemian Communities, and more embittered than before against a Catholic Church which was ruled by Alexander Borgia. Alexander, on his side, had been roused by his struggle against Florence to a fervid zeal for the suppression of[354] heresy, and his attention had evidently been called to these strange visitors to Italy. So in 1500 he despatched inquisitors to Moravia with orders to burn all heretical books, and especially those of Peter of Chelc̆ic. So effectively was this part of the work performed, that of the book which Peter had specially written against the Pope, only one copy is to be found at this day. The inquisitor, indeed, found it easier to burn books than to convert the Brothers, but his efforts in that direction were soon supported by men of a very different type.

The first of these was Bohuslav Hassenstein of Lobkovic, a learned and cultivated scholar, who had gained some reputation as a poet. He had quarrelled with Pope Alexander, in consequence of the Pope’s refusal to confirm him in the bishopric of Olmütz; and he was at first disposed to look rather to King Ladislaus than to any ecclesiastical authority for the restoration of unity and order in the Church. He seems indeed to have had some genuine zeal for moral reform; for he denounced the luxury and pride of the nobility; the gluttony, drunkenness, and debauchery of all classes; and the general decline of art and literature. For all these evils he suggested the one remedy—that Ladislaus should restore religious unity to the Church. But, like every earnest man who came in contact with this unfortunate king, Hassenstein began by admiring his gentleness, and ended by despising his weakness and incapacity. Since the death of Matthias, Ladislaus had been elected King of Hungary; and, if he had been unable to govern Bohemia effectively from[355] Prague, he was still less able to govern it from Presburg. Hassenstein, in despair, turned to his clerical brethren for help; and they resolved to promote religious unity by a friendly compromise with the Utraquists, which was to be a preparation for a joint persecution of the Brotherhood.

But a third enemy of the Brothers proved more efficacious than Borgia or Hassenstein in stirring up the embers of persecution. Amos of S̆tekna had heard with renewed indignation of the later modification of their creed introduced by the Brothers after his secession; and he had particularly resented the compromises with regard to war, and the completer recognition of the civil power. He, therefore, wrote to Ladislaus that the Brothers were now taking up the position of the old Taborites. The suggestion was the one best fitted to alarm such a man. “What!” exclaimed the king, “are they going to imitate Z̆iz̆ka?” (Z̆iz̆kovati), and he at once rushed into action with all the irritable energy of a weak nature.

Orders were now sent out to all those towns and country districts which were directly dependent upon the King, directing them to suppress the meetings of the Brothers, to arrest all their teachers, and to send them to Prague, where they would either be forced to recant, or else be burnt alive; and these measures were to be followed by the expulsion of the rest of the Brotherhood from Bohemia. Many wholesale arrests were made; and one nobleman burnt some of the Brothers whom he found on his estate.

But these summary proceedings of the King roused[356] against him the constitutional feelings both of the nobility and of the representatives of the towns. They disputed his right to act in so arbitrary a manner, even in the districts dependent upon him; and they feared that he would soon exert the same power in the independent towns and on the estates of the nobles.

Apart from these general objections, there were three noblemen, at least, who were disposed to extend their protection to the Brothers; and it was on their estates that the largest number of the Brothers were to be found. Different motives actuated the nobles who took this course. Kostka, who has been already referred to, sympathised personally with the teaching of the Brotherhood; Schellenberg wished to spare them, because his wife was a member of their society; Pernstein was entirely indifferent to all theological disputes, and therefore saw no reason for the persecution. But all the three were united in the determination to assert their feudal rights for the protection of their dependants; and they insisted that, if any Brothers were summoned to Prague from their estates, they should be secured complete protection and a fair hearing.

When, however, the Brothers arrived in Prague, they found that the Committee of the Masters of Arts intended to administer a rebuke, without hearing the defence of the accused parties. Against this injustice the Brothers protested; and at last the nobles and citizens succeeded in persuading the Masters to withdraw, before the accused persons were introduced. When, then, the Brothers appeared to answer the[357] charges against them, they found themselves in the presence only of the nobles and citizens, who informed them that their mere appearance in Prague was all that was required of them, and that they might now go home again. This result was considered to be, in the main, a victory for the Brothers. But some of them were more indignant at the time which had been wasted than pleased at their escape from condemnation; and Lukas and his friends followed up this visit by an energetic war of pamphlets.

A new weapon, it must be remembered, was now at the service of all promoters of new teaching. The invention of printing had quickly spread to Bohemia; and, in 1468, the fourth printing-press ever established in Europe had begun to work at Pilsen. The Brothers quickly saw the advantage of the new discovery; and, in 1500, they established a printing-press at Mláda Boleslav. More than one lady of rank joined the Brotherhood; and at least one Catholic noble found the new creed rapidly spreading among his dependants.

Ladislaus now recognised the mistake which he had made in ignoring the constitutional methods of procedure. He therefore resolved to appeal to the regular Assemblies for support in his war against heresy; and he believed that he would find his best chance in Moravia. The Moravian Assembly, unlike the Bohemian, admitted the clergy to a special representation as a fourth estate; the Bishop of Olmütz had been active in the propaganda against the Brotherhood; and the great power which the Germans and Catholics had obtained in Moravia during[358] the wars, seemed to point to an easy victory in the Moravian Assembly.

But again the King had miscalculated. The victories of the Germans and Catholics had excited against them a bitterness, both national and religious, far more intense than was to be found in other parts of the kingdom. The cruelties of Sigismund, the Germanising zeal of Albert of Austria, and the many injustices of Sternberg and the Catholic League, had consolidated against them a mass of Moravian feeling, which, if unable to secure victories on the battlefield, was eminently calculated to give strength to an opposition in the Assembly. To the Bohemians of the western province the Catholics and Germans were enemies, whom they had met on equal terms and often thoroughly routed; to the Moravians they were victorious tyrants, whose rule was to be thrown off at the first opportunity.

When, then, the Catholics demanded that the Assembly should unite in suppressing the “Picard” heresy, they were startled to find that the Utraquists made common cause with the Brothers in opposing this motion, and that they actually chose as their spokesman a member of the Brotherhood named John of Z̆erotin. This nobleman demanded that the complaints already made by the Utraquists should be attended to before the question of supposed heresy was dealt with. The Bishop of Olmütz taunted Z̆erotin with professing a sympathy with the Utraquists which he did not feel; but the Opposition remained firm; and the Assembly broke up without coming to any decision.

[359]In Bohemia the Catholic party had an easier task. The opposition to Ladislaus’s former proceedings had been mainly based on constitutional grounds; and it now appeared that there was little religious sympathy with the Brotherhood amongst the leaders of public opinion. The power which the Utraquists had gained during the reign of King George had drawn them into sympathy with the leading nobles; and Rokycana had inspired them with a special dislike of the Brotherhood. The Bohemian Assembly, therefore, consented to a decree, which ordered the burning of the books of the Brotherhood, the suppression of their meetings, and the punishment of their teachers. Elated by this victory, the Bishop of Olmütz hurried back to Moravia, intending to summon the Assembly for a second meeting, and to secure the reversal of its former decision; but he was taken ill on his way, and died before the Assembly could meet; nor, from that time till the fall of Bohemian independence in 1620, did any Moravian Assembly consent to the suppression of the Brotherhood.

Nevertheless, the Catholic party found full compensation for their failure in Moravia in a specially fierce enforcement of the law just passed in Bohemia. Indeed, the former patrons of the Brotherhood became so much alarmed, that even Kostka forbade the Brothers to hold any further meetings on his estates. In spite of this opposition, the Brothers still maintained their ground, and even extended their preaching further; and but few of them could be persuaded, even by the most cruel tortures, to submit to the authorities of the Church. In 1511 the[360] Brothers hoped, for a short time, to secure the protection of the greatest scholar of the time, Erasmus of Rotterdam. They had heard of some private letters of his, in which he had defended them against the attacks of their enemies; and they now prepared a Defence in Latin, which they sent to him. He thanked them for their communication, and expressed approval of at least part of their defence; but he declined to publish his opinion, on the ground that it would not help them, and might injure his work. So the persecution went on. Even Peter of Rosenberg found himself unable to protect a Brother, in whom he was interested, from being imprisoned and nearly starved to death. He succeeded, indeed, in getting him released before death had actually occurred, and he then urged him to submit to the Church; but the Brother, though almost too exhausted to speak, steadily refused to submit; and he was set free without further persecution. Lukas, who was now the most prominent member of the Brotherhood, succeeded for a long time in escaping the vigilance of his persecutors; but, in 1515, he was treacherously seized under false pretences, brought to Prague, and subjected to the torture. When nothing could be obtained from him by this means, he was set free, on the understanding that he was to appear before the Utraquist Consistory in April, 1516; but in the month before this appearance was to take place King Ladislaus died, and the persecution again slackened for a time.

In the meantime, the long absence of the King in Hungary, and the growing sense of his weakness of[361] character, had been producing other divisions in Bohemia which gradually turned men’s minds away from the religious controversies. The wars of the fifteenth century, like all wars, had tended to draw the people away from their ordinary occupations, and to make them dependent on their military leaders. As long as the Taborite organisation lasted, its democratic spirit provided at least some check on the oppressions of the military nobles; and the alliance between the peasants and the Order of Knights, to which Z̆iz̆ka had belonged, counteracted any advantages which the nobles might have gained by their military prowess. But the fall of Tabor had destroyed any hopes, which the peasantry and townsmen might have had, of strengthening their position through war.

Under these circumstances the peasantry gradually fell back into the condition from which they had been escaping in the fourteenth century. The right of leaving their masters at their pleasure, of settling in towns, and of becoming priests without the sanction of their landlords, were gradually taken from them; and at last they were deprived even of that right of appeal to the King’s Court by which Charles had protected them against the absolute power of their lords.

But, though the peasantry were thus crushed back into a state of serfdom, the organisation of the towns was too strong to yield at once to the attacks of the nobles. Unfortunately, however, the lords gained about this time a new and important ally in their struggle for supremacy. The knights, or independent[362] country gentlemen, who had been such zealous rivals of the higher Order in the fifteenth century, had lately consented to a reconciliation with their opponents; and these two classes were thus able to combine their forces against the towns.

The new king was little able to give the weaker party any assistance in the struggle. Ladislaus had succeeded in securing to his son Louis the succession to the crown, and he had even had him crowned during his lifetime. But Louis was a boy of ten; he was in the main under Hungarian influences; and he was of course utterly unfitted to control the fierce factions which were struggling in Bohemia.

The three chief points at issue between the Towns and the other Orders were, firstly, the right of the Town Tribunals to summon before them the nobles and knights in cases specially affecting the towns; secondly, the monopoly claimed by the towns in the brewing trade; thirdly, the right of the towns to send representatives to the Bohemian Assembly. In 1517, indeed, a nominal settlement was effected on all these points by the treaty of St. Wenceslaus. By that treaty the towns surrendered their monopoly of brewing, but were secured the peaceable possession of their other privileges. Such treaties had little effect in a time of discord, and it was not long before a new violation of town rights led to the outbreak of a civil war, in which the citizens gained some victories. Both parties, however, soon began to desire peace, and the king was called in to arbitrate between them.

When Louis arrived in Prague to inquire into the circumstances of the contest, he found that the disturbances[363] of the country had been largely increased by the rise of certain self-seeking politicians, who had made their profit out of the difficulties of the kingdom. Of these the most powerful and unscrupulous was Lev of Roz̆mital, the brother-in-law of King George. He had induced Ladislaus to mortgage to him some of the royal property. By this and other means he had gained a great control over the finances of the kingdom, and he refused to give any account of his use of that power. He was supported in most of his intrigues by a citizen who had recently been ennobled, and who had taken the name of Pas̆ek of Wrat. These two men had gradually gained complete power over the government of Prague; and, on one occasion, a man who had opposed Lev in the Town Council had been dragged out and beaten to death.

Fortunately, however, there were powerful influences in the country which worked in favour of the young king. One of the Rosenbergs of Krumov was a rival and enemy of Lev; and an equally formidable opponent of these schemes was found in Karl, Duke of Münsterberg, and nephew of King George. Louis’s uncle, King Sigismund of Poland readily supported his nephew by advice and encouragement. The respectable citizens of Prague were willing to rally round him; and, with such friends as these, the boy could venture to act vigorously. He deposed Lev from his office, raised a citizen named Hlavsa to the place which Pas̆ek had formerly held on the Council, and made Karl of Münsterberg the chief governor of the kingdom.

[364]This change of government was intended by Louis and his nearest advisers simply as a means of restoring order and honesty in public affairs; but, besides that result, his action produced another effect, of which neither the King nor his uncle Sigismund would have approved. In choosing his new Councillors from the most respectable politicians whom he could find, Louis had unintentionally singled out men who were in sympathy with the movement for religious reform.

That movement had recently entered on an entirely new phase. In the middle of the exciting political struggles in their own country, many of the Utraquists and Bohemian Brothers had heard with the greatest interest that a German monk had come forward to denounce that very practice of the Sale of Indulgences which had first brought Hus into direct collision with the Papacy; and a rapid approximation followed between a section of the Bohemian Reformers and the new German teacher.

Luther’s attitude towards the followers of Hus is made clear enough by his own statements. He had been induced to read the story of Hus’s career before he had entered on his actual contest with Rome. He had even then been impressed by the greatness of the Bohemian Reformer, but he had thrust the book aside as likely to lead him into evil. Something of this old feeling still hung about him in the early part of his struggle. And, when Eck brought against him the charge of favouring the Bohemian heresy, he had been inclined to repel it with indignation. Yet it was that very charge which had induced him to return to the study of Hus; and he soon began to express so[365] earnest an admiration for the Bohemian leader that his enemies spread the rumour that he was himself a Bohemian, who had been educated in Prague on the writings of Wyclif. Nay, they even went so far as to Bohemianise his name—a change in which they doubtless took a malicious pleasure, for the Bohemian word “Lŭtr̆e” means a scoundrel. Several letters of encouragement from scholars and clergymen at Prague were addressed to Luther in the earliest years of his struggle; and he declared that he would himself have come to Bohemia had he not feared that such a visit would have seemed like a flight from his enemies.

But he very soon began to recognise the distinction between his own position and that of Hus. This difference he has referred to in several of his writings; and perhaps the passage in his “Table Talk” is the one which will be best remembered, from the vigorous metaphor by which he illustrates his opinion: “Hus,” he said, “cut down and rooted out some thorns, thickets, and chips from the vineyard of Christ, and chastised the abuses and evil life of the Pope. But I, Dr. Martin Luther, have come into an open, flat, and well-ploughed field, and have attacked and overthrown the doctrine of the Pope.”

If this distinction between the attacks of Hus on the immorality of the Papacy, and his own attack on its doctrines, seemed to Luther to put the earlier Reformer in a less important position than that which he himself occupied, he must have felt this difference still more strongly with regard to the later Utraquistic movement. Very few of the leaders of[366] that movement had ever desired that complete separation from Rome which Luther soon perceived to be an absolute necessity. They had been driven, against their will, to combine the assertion of their national independence with resistance to the authority of the Pope; but, when the deaths of King George and Rokycana had removed at once the main ground of Papal hostility to Bohemia, and the most determined asserters of an independent national Church, the Utraquists began to show an even painful eagerness for a reconciliation with the Papacy. They felt the need of a priesthood which possessed the dignity and legal stability secured by the consecration of Romanist bishops; and they not only sent their clergy to Italy to obtain this privilege, but they even welcomed in priests of other countries, who had been appointed to their offices in the orthodox manner.

Luther, in his desire to win the Bohemians to his side, energetically protested against this practice. He pointed out to them the dangers to morality and order which they were incurring by letting in priests of whom they knew nothing, except that they had been consecrated; men who, in many cases, had left their country from discreditable reasons. Finally, he appealed to them not to sacrifice that Bohemian independence for which they had struggled so long, nor to compromise with the representatives of those who had shed the blood of Hus and Jerom.

Unfortunately, Luther himself fell into the very same error against which he had so energetically warned the Bohemians. During these negotiations he put his chief trust in a man who was totally unworthy[367] of his confidence. This was Gallus Cahera, the son of a butcher of Prague, who had studied in the University and gained a Master’s degree. He had then taken Holy Orders, and been appointed parish priest of Litmerice. From thence he had gone to Wittenberg; and so completely did he gain the confidence of the Reformers that, in 1523, Luther sent him back to Prague with letters to the Utraquistic congregation, urging them to choose him as their leader in the work of reform. He arrived there just when Louis was accomplishing his changes in the administration of Bohemia. In the following year the Utraquists elected Cahera as the Administrator of their Consistory; and he proceeded to draw up a series of Articles for their acceptance, which approached nearer than any of their previous formularies to the Lutheran creed. A proposal, indeed, to condemn the celibacy of the clergy was rejected by the Assembly; but the Articles which were adopted were sufficiently extreme to alarm the old-fashioned Utraquists; and Pas̆ek and his friends began at once to make use of this feeling.

It must be remembered that Utraquism had always been most powerful when it had been connected with efforts for Bohemian independence; and, unfortunately, the national feeling of Bohemia was generally closely connected with a hatred of all German influence. Pas̆ek had been able to appeal to this prejudice, in resisting the appointment of Karl of Münsterberg, who was not a Bohemian by birth; and, though the hatred of the tyranny of Lev and Pas̆ek had been strong enough for the moment[368] to destroy the effect of this appeal, yet the dread of a German heresy was easily awakened in the citizens of Prague. Louis had already called on the Moravian Assembly to condemn the new doctrines; and that body, which had defended the national movement of the Bohemian Brotherhood, readily denounced the teaching of the monk of Wittenberg.

Pas̆ek soon succeeded in gaining help from an unexpected quarter. Cahera was a weak and unprincipled man, and his opponents were easily able to work upon his vanity. They proposed to him the splendid task of reconciling the Utraquists to the Pope; and Cahera was so dazzled by the prospect of the fame and dignity which such an undertaking promised him, that he quickly drifted away from his former friends and helped forward Pas̆ek’s intrigues. In vain did Luther remonstrate with Cahera on this desertion of his principles. The reaction steadily went on. Pas̆ek was re-elected to the Council; Louis, forgetful of his former distrust, encouraged the town in its new course; Karl of Münsterberg came over to the Catholic side; and the Assembly of Bohemia once more appealed to the Pope to ratify the Compacts of Basel.

But Pas̆ek was not yet satisfied. He and Lev of Roz̆mital were determined to recover the power which they had lost; and they found that the discovery and denunciation of heretics were the easiest means of obtaining this end. They therefore seized the opportunity of Cahera’s change of policy to pass laws to strengthen the position of the Administrator of the Consistory. At the same time some Lutheran[369] sympathisers were expelled from Prague, and a regular organisation was formed in the Small Division to crush opposition. The Reformers soon began to complain of the armed men who were allowed to parade the streets. But these complaints were quoted by Pas̆ek’s friends as evidence of an heretical plot. Suspicion was stirred up against those reforming clergy who still remained in Prague, and at last a tradesman named Zika appeared before the Council to denounce all those leading councillors who were opposed to Pas̆ek. Hlavsa and his friends were seized and thrown into prison, and Pas̆ek endeavoured to obtain evidence against his leading opponents by putting their followers to the torture. Lev of Roz̆mital was restored to all his former power, and a system of terror was gradually established, under which the Brothers and all Lutheran sympathisers were subjected to various kinds of persecution. Karl of Münsterberg tried at first to check the progress of this tyranny; but the intriguers had succeeded for a time in winning to their side the king and the Hungarian bishops, and by their influence the opposition of the governor was silenced.

A general atmosphere of suspicion now began to dominate the city and its neighbourhood. Private avarice and vindictiveness found their opportunity under the plea of orthodoxy. Men stopping to speak to each other in the streets were accused of heretical conspiracies, and the enforcement of a more rigorous form of confession put a powerful weapon into the hands of the persecutors. Many workmen were deprived of their means of livelihood by the[370] espionage to which they were subjected, and citizens coming to Prague to claim their debts were thrown into prison on a charge of heresy.

Such a tyranny necessarily overshot its mark. Many of the nobles were indignant at the power which Roz̆mital had gained, and he soon received a startling proof of their hostility. Remembering the bait by which they had drawn Cahera to their side, Pas̆ek and Roz̆mital despatched an embassy to the king, who was then at Presburg, to persuade him to second them in an appeal to the Pope to ratify the Compacts of Basel. The Rosenbergs seized this opportunity for a blow at the new rulers of Prague. They despatched a counter embassy to the king, in which they denied Roz̆mital’s right to speak in the name of the nobles of Bohemia.

A still more impressive protest followed. Hlavsa and one of his friends had escaped from prison, and they now appeared in Presburg to convince the king of the injustice of their imprisonment. They showed, too, that Roz̆mital and his friends had exceeded the powers granted to them, and had inflicted sentences which were greater than any that the king had permitted. Louis was impressed by these statements, and he at once wrote to Roz̆mital, ordering him to reverse his illegal sentences, to give Hlavsa and his friends a fair trial, and to restore order and justice in Prague.

Karl of Münsterberg and Lev of Roz̆mital combined to defy the king’s commands; and after vainly appealing to the Town Council of Prague to resist this act of rebellion, the king summoned a Bohemian[371] Assembly to meet at the town of Kolin on the Elbe, and excluded from its deliberations Karl, Lev, and all their supporters. He then secured the trial and acquittal of Hlavsa and his friends, and punished Prague for its contumacy by depriving it of its civic rights. So far, however, were the Praguer from yielding that they now expelled from the city the wives of the men whom they had been ordered to recall; and they even imprisoned a citizen whom Louis had sent to Prague to recover the property of which the Town Council had deprived him.

But, absolute as was Roz̆mital’s rule within the walls of Prague, a curious story of the time reminds us of the formidable influences which were counteracting his power in other parts of Bohemia. Peter of Rosenberg had bequeathed to Roz̆mital the castle and town of Krumov; but Peter’s nephew, Henry of Rosenberg, maintained that such an alienation of the property was contrary to the settlements under which it was held. Lev thereupon summoned Henry to appear before the law court in Prague, to answer for his resistance to his uncle’s will. When the messengers appeared at Krumov with the letters of summons, Henry of Rosenberg at once threw them into prison. He then summoned them before him, made them eat the letters which they had brought, gave them wine to enable them to swallow this strange food, and then hunted them with dogs from the gates of his castle.

Although this story shows that Roz̆mital’s power was confined within certain local limits, yet, within those limits, he could not only resist the remonstrances[372] and commands of Louis, but could even hamper in an important way his general schemes of policy. This power for evil was shortly to receive a terrible manifestation. While the Bohemians and Hungarians had been wrangling, the Turks had been steadily advancing in Europe. Soliman the Great had considerably increased the military prestige of his race; and Louis was startled, in the middle of his domestic troubles, by the news that Belgrade had been captured by the Turks. Then the young king appealed to the Bohemians to stand by him and his Hungarian subjects in their resistance to this terrible invader. The Rosenbergs and other nobles responded to this appeal; but Roz̆mital and the Council of Prague, while ashamed to give a direct refusal, yet succeeded in inventing all manner of delays, so as to prevent their troops from coming in time to the king’s help. Some of the Bohemian nobles wished to wait till their whole forces were gathered, but the Hungarians soon grew impatient of delay, and on the 29th of August, 1526, they insisted on joining battle with the Turks at Mohács. Louis, anticipating a certain defeat, fled from the field before the battle began; but, in his flight, his horse fell into a swamp, and his unfortunate life of failure was cut short at the age of twenty.

The result of the battle was as Louis had foreseen. The Hungarians were signally defeated, and the Turks speedily followed up their victory by the capture of the fortress of Buda. A long series of intrigues followed in Bohemia. The Austrian party were supported by the Rosenbergs, and the Saxon[373] party were led by Lev of Roz̆mital; but the opposition of Lev was finally bought off, and the Archduke Ferdinand, brother of the Emperor Charles, and brother-in-law of the unfortunate Louis, was elected king of Bohemia.





Although Ferdinand was known, and to some extent feared, as a stern and rigid Spaniard, yet a belief in his desire for justice, and a wish to secure any strong protector against the champions of disorder in Bohemia, quite overbalanced any fears that might be caused by his Catholic tendencies. Indeed, although many stipulations were made before he was accepted as king, the fears of his subjects were far less excited about those religious liberties for which they had so long struggled than about questions of national independence. The dangers which seemed most to threaten Bohemian liberty were the possibility of Ferdinand’s election to the throne of Spain, and the extreme probability of his election to the throne of Hungary; while the subjects which ranked next in importance to these were the maintenance of the right of the Assembly to elect their future King, and the preservation of the supremacy of Bohemia over the dependent crown lands.

Never, perhaps, did the controversies at the beginning[375] of a reign more completely fail to foreshadow the events which should make it memorable. Ferdinand himself was as blind to the issues before him as were the people whom he came to rule. He thought that in the local independence of Moravia and Silesia, which had been so much increased by their frequent separation from Bohemia in the late wars, he would find an admirable opportunity for strengthening his position at the expense of the Bohemians. At first his theory appeared plausible enough; for the Moravians and Silesians, indignant at not being consulted in the first election of Ferdinand, were easily flattered by his apparent tenderness for their provincial feelings; and they consented to a concession to his wishes, which the Bohemians had refused to make; for while the Bohemians would only recognise Ferdinand as their freely elected King, the Moravians and Silesians consented to admit his hereditary claim to the throne, and consequently fixed the crown more permanently on the House of Hapsburg. But even the Bohemians finally agreed that, if Ferdinand should find himself incapacitated by old age or ill-health, he might commit the task of government to his son Maximilian. Ferdinand doubtless hoped that both these concessions would tend to consolidate the power of the House of Hapsburg, and to strengthen his personal influence, as well as his legal claims; but before the end of his reign he had cause to regret most bitterly the increase of the Moravian independence, and to grudge the power which he had conferred on a son, who seemed determined to reverse the most important points of his father’s policy.

[376]For the moment, however, his own thoughts and those of the country which he governed were concentrated on the struggle in Hungary. John Zapolya, the Voyvode of Transylvania, had begun, even before the death of Louis, to show signs of an ambition which would carry him far beyond the limits of his small principality; and he was strongly suspected of having intrigued with the Turks at the battle of Mohács. After the death of Louis, the intrigues and claims of Zapolya rapidly increased, and he was at last crowned king of Hungary. Ferdinand, however, as brother-in-law of Louis, was resolved to dispute Zapolya’s claim; nor was this desire due to a mere greed of territory. The growing power of Soliman the Great was becoming a serious danger to the peace and liberty of Europe; and Ferdinand felt that the possession of the crown of Hungary would enable him to protect his hereditary dominions, and, indeed, the whole Empire, against the aggressions of the Turk. It must be owned that, considering Zapolya’s evident inclination to intrigue with Soliman, Ferdinand’s conception of duty was not by any means unreasonable.

On the other hand, the feeling in Bohemia was considerably divided. In spite of the dislike of the Turk, which was then common to all Christian nations, the Bohemians looked with alarm on any increase in those burdens of taxation which already weighed so heavily upon them; and, as already hinted, they dreaded the rule of a King, who might find it more convenient to reign at Presburg than at Prague. So strong was this feeling, that the[377] Bavarians, who had hoped to win the crown of Bohemia for their Duke, now believed that they could form a Bohemian party, which should commit itself openly to the side of Zapolya. On the other hand, the men of Prague, who groaned under the tyranny of Pas̆ek and Cahera, had reason for hoping that Ferdinand would come to deliver them from their sufferings. He had already set free a friar who had been imprisoned by Pas̆ek for denouncing his government; and he had given the citizens good reason to believe that nothing but the Hungarian war was preventing him from doing justice and restoring order in Prague. Those citizens, therefore, eagerly desired his success; and as long as the struggle was mainly between Ferdinand and Zapolya, the victory seemed likely to fall to the Austrians.

Ferdinand returned in triumph to Prague; and, as the first step towards the restoration of order, he deposed the Councillors, who had been governing the city, and restored the separate jurisdictions of the Old and New Towns. In previous times, indeed, the union of the different quarters of the city had been looked upon as a means of securing the liberties of Prague; but Pas̆ek and Cahera had turned this union into so effective a means of tyranny over the freer spirits of the New Town, that the citizens of the latter district hailed the separation with enthusiasm; and they declared that their beloved King Charles had returned to earth in the form of their new ruler. This exultation was soon cut short by a new, and far more dangerous, outbreak of the Hungarian war. Soliman, no longer relying mainly on the intrigues of Zapolya,[378] poured his forces anew into Hungary, reconquered all the territory which had been lost, marched into Austria, and rapidly approached Vienna. Even now, though they sent troops to the defence of Vienna, the help of the Bohemians was grudgingly given, and was hindered by their old suspicion of the power of the Germans. Nevertheless, they joined in the war. The Viennese were roused to an heroic resistance; and, after a fierce struggle, the Turks were driven back from the walls of Vienna. The ships which Soliman had brought into the Danube were destroyed; and he was compelled, for a time, to make peace.

Ferdinand now hastened back to Prague, and found that Pas̆ek and Cahera had recovered their power in the city. Although Hlavsa and his friends had been allowed by Ferdinand to return from exile, Pas̆ek’s party had succeeded in hampering their freedom and annoying them in various ways. Knowing the King’s strong Catholic feelings, Pas̆ek had hoped to conciliate his favour by giving a religious colouring to his persecution; and several of the Bohemian Brothers had been singled out for torture and burning. But Ferdinand seems to have thoroughly understood the self-seeking character of the intriguers who were governing Prague; and, resolving to show that he was not to be trifled with, he banished Pas̆ek and Cahera from Prague, and pronounced the formal acquittal of Hlavsa and his friends. Even those against whom there was reasonable suspicion of heresy were allowed to escape by the use of elastic formulæ; and it seemed for the moment as if a happier and better government were really to be introduced into Bohemia.

[379]But his Catholic training, strengthened by the circumstances of his brother’s struggle against the German Protestants, had produced in Ferdinand two strong aspirations, which had been enormously strengthened by the difficulties of the Turkish wars. These were the desire for the consolidation of the power of the Hapsburgs, by the union of the different hereditary dominions of their House; and the desire for union of the Church by the crushing down of the various sects. These two objects were to be carried out side by side, and each was to be brought into prominence as opportunity occurred. It was to the latter object that he first desired to address himself; and certain circumstances had at this time specially directed his attention to the Bohemian Brotherhood.

The peasant rising in Germany had produced great dread of the teaching of the Anabaptists; and, after the peasants had been crushed, many of this sect had fled to Bohemia to escape persecution. The Brotherhood had noticed that the new-comers agreed with them on the question of the necessity of a second baptism; and Lukas and other leaders of the Brotherhood had desired, on this ground, to negotiate further with the Anabaptists. A closer inspection proved that no two bodies had less of spiritual sympathy than the fiery revolutionists who followed Thomas Münzer and the peaceable and orderly inheritors of the traditions of Peter of Chelc̆ic. But this negotiation had called unfriendly attention to the proceedings of the Brothers; and the alarm which it excited was further increased by the action of one of those noblemen who had begun to patronise the[380] Brotherhood. This was Conrad of Krajek, the member of a family who had defended the Brotherhood against Ladislaus. Conrad had granted to the Brotherhood a church on his estate, which had long been left without a pastor, and the new clergyman had removed from it the ornaments which the Brothers considered idolatrous. Ferdinand demanded the restoration of the ornaments, and Conrad refused to obey. The Turkish wars hindered Ferdinand from pressing his demand at this time; but Conrad felt his danger, and resolved to take further steps for the protection of the Brotherhood. He saw that the German Protestants had greatly strengthened their position by their recent publication of the Confession of Augsburg; and it occurred to him that, if a similar publicity were given to the doctrines of the Brotherhood, they also might be placed in a better position in the eyes of the world.



The drawing up of this Confession brought into prominence a man whose career was to have an important influence, both on the history of the Brotherhood and on the policy of Ferdinand. This was John Augusta, the son of a hatter in Prague. He had been born in 1500; and, though without any regular learned education, he had acquired a useful knowledge of Latin. He speedily made his mark in the Society; and in 1532 he was admitted into the smaller governing council. It was just at this time that Conrad of Krajek had been convinced of the need of a formal Confession of Faith for the Brotherhood; and Augusta was appointed to undertake this work. This document was not only intended for[382] circulation among the immediate friends and acquaintances of the Brotherhood; but it was also hoped that it would attract the sympathies of the German princes, and particularly of the Margrave of Brandenburg. There was also another ally whom Augusta was particularly anxious to win to the side of the Brothers. Luther, as it will be remembered, had, in the early period of his public career, made somewhat eager advances towards the Utraquists; but, when the treachery of Gallus Cahera had disgusted and repelled him, he had turned for sympathy to the Bohemian Brotherhood. Lukas and other leaders had been well disposed to meet his advances; but, on closer contact, they found three barriers apparently insurpassable. The Brothers, like many other people, had been startled and shocked by Luther’s doctrine of Justification by Faith alone. They believed their fears of this doctrine to be justified by personal observation; for it seemed to be leading, in many cases, to carelessness and even immorality of life, however much it might seem to Luther to be the assertion of a more spiritual creed against the belief in mere dead works. Secondly, the Brotherhood came far nearer to the Zwinglian doctrine of the Sacrament than Luther could at all approve; and, thirdly, the same ascetic tone which induced them to shrink from the Lutheran laxity of life, made the Brothers unwilling to accept a married priesthood. The contention had become so sharp between Lukas and Luther, that Luther, who showed himself the more moderate of the two disputants, had felt it better to break off the correspondence.

[383]Nevertheless, there were many, both in the ranks of the Brotherhood and of the German Protestants, who desired a renewal of this intercourse; and, as Lukas was now dead, there seemed less difficulty in beginning a new correspondence. Augusta, therefore, went to Wittenberg, and presented the Confession to Luther. Luther seems throughout to have shown a generosity and breadth of sympathy towards the Brothers which were not always characteristic of him. He readily praised a great part of the Confession; he rejoiced in their agreement about the main doctrines of Christianity and the rejection of many Papal superstitions; and he declared that their mistakes about the Sacraments and the question of Faith and Works were to be attributed partly to differences of language, and partly to a want of clear perception on their part of the points at issue. With regard to the married clergy, it soon became clear that the difference between Luther and the Brothers was not one of doctrine; but that it was due partly to circumstances arising out of the persecution which the Brotherhood had suffered, partly to a certain ascetic tendency which inclined them to look upon celibacy as the higher state. Luther therefore consented readily and warmly to recommend the study of the Confession to his friends; and a few years later he even agreed that it should be printed and published for them at Wittenberg.

Encouraged by Luther’s sympathy, both Krajek and Augusta thought that the time had come for presenting their Confession of Faith to Ferdinand himself, and asking for a milder judgment than he[384] had at first been disposed to pass upon them. But the temporary retirement of Soliman from Europe had now left Ferdinand at liberty to carry out his plans of uniformity. Although the Brotherhood had now broken off their intercourse with the Anabaptists, yet Ferdinand still remembered that attempt against them; and he was even more embittered by the recollection of Krajek’s disobedience. He therefore not only refused to consider the Confession, but early in 1535 he issued an order for the expulsion of the Brothers from all the towns immediately dependent on the king’s authority. The Utraquists eagerly seconded the Catholics in this persecution; and the towns of Vodnian, Klattov, and Taus (Domaz̆lic̆e) were the first to carry out the order. The expelled Brothers were also summoned before the royal Court in Prague to answer for their offences. Amongst others, two young lords of Janovic, who had been known as patrons of the Brotherhood, were summoned to Prague, and condemned to imprisonment in the Black Tower of the Castle. A Brother named John Zbornik, generally known as John the Hermit, was summoned at the same time. Conrad of Krajek, however, maintained that Zbornik was his serf, and that the young lords of Janovic were not responsible for him. Then Conrad was ordered to appear himself, to answer for his interference with the law, and at the same time to produce Zbornik. Conrad came with Zbornik, and also with a large attendance of knights and lords; but, in spite of their protests, Zbornik was condemned without any regular trial, and imprisoned in the Castle for three years.

[385]Conrad did not yet abandon the cause; and he persuaded Augusta to draw up an additional statement of their Faith for presentation to Ferdinand. In this copy the original Article about the Sacraments was modified, so as not to offend the Lutherans; and Luther himself expressed his approval of this second document. Conrad now hastened to Vienna, to entreat for the liberation of Zbornik and the young lords of Janovic. He dwelt much on the illegality of the proceedings connected with their imprisonment; but Ferdinand maintained the most despotic principles of authority, declared that he was only bound to protect the Catholics and the Utraquists, and told Krajek that the devil had led him to his present faith. Krajek retorted that it was Christ, and not the devil, who had led him there; and that, if Christ was a “Picard,” then he (Conrad) was so too. Yet, in spite of his defiant tone, Ferdinand seems to have been impressed by Conrad’s protest; for, in the following year, Zbornik and the young lords were released from prison.

This release, however, was rather a concession to the principle of legality than an abandonment by Ferdinand of his plans for ecclesiastical uniformity; and he fully hoped, by securing firmer support amongst the Utraquists, to crush the extreme Protestant sects. He had promised, at his coronation, to support the Compacts of Basel; and, in May, 1537, he appealed to the Bohemian Assembly so to enforce the Compacts as to suppress those sects who did not accept them. After a sharp discussion, the representatives of the Brotherhood were[386] persuaded to withdraw from the Assembly; but it was soon found that the attempts at union had been brought no nearer to their realisation by this exclusion. Many of the Utraquists objected to the Compacts of Basel, as an attempt to substitute a new document for the words of Scripture. Others maintained that the Catholic bishops had violated the Compacts, and that they were still eager to suppress the Utraquists. Though, therefore, the Catholics and Utraquists agreed in hating the Brothers, they were not able to combine their forces for their suppression; and a new outbreak of the Turkish war still further hindered the designs of Ferdinand.

In the meantime Augusta had been trying to strengthen the union between the Brotherhood and the foreign Protestants. He had visited Bucer and Calvin at Geneva, had received a kindly welcome from them, and had accepted many of Calvin’s doctrines about Predestination. But his greatest hope and his strongest personal sympathies were always directed to Wittenberg; and his translation and eulogy of a pamphlet written by Luther excited Ferdinand’s indignant attention even during the Turkish war. Threatened with arrest and imprisonment in consequence of this publication, Augusta fled once more to Wittenberg. There he was again welcomed by Luther and Melancthon; and he complained to them of the growing corruptions of the Church in Bohemia, and of the increase of luxury, even in the Brotherhood. Finally, he implored Luther to interfere in these matters, and to establish[387] a new system of church discipline in Bohemia. Some suggestion of the kind had apparently been made by other Bohemian exiles; but Luther was far too wise to listen to the proposal. He had been willing enough to discuss matters of doctrine with the Brothers, and to welcome them as friends and allies; but he had none of the national mania for Germanising other countries; and he recognised to the full the necessity for a variety of customs, and even for modifications in the expression of doctrine. “Do you,” He said to Augusta and his friends, “be the Apostles of the Bohemians; I and mine will be the Apostles of the Germans. Do you act according to the opportunities presented to you, and so will we.” If Joseph II., in the eighteenth century, had been half as wise as Luther was in the sixteenth, the relations of Germans and Bohemians to each other might even now be considerably more friendly than they are. After this interview Augusta returned to Bohemia, and devoted himself, for the next year or two, partly to a defence of the Brothers against the attacks of the Utraquists, partly to an effort to restore the Brotherhood itself to that simpler mode of life from which it was drifting away.

In the meantime, the progress of Protestant doctrine in Germany had produced considerable influence on many of the old-fashioned Utraquists in Bohemia; and they now offered fresh hindrances to Ferdinand’s efforts after uniformity. Mistopol, the Administrator of the Utraquist Consistory, and Mitmánek, a leading preacher, had been particularly prominent in their attacks on the Catholics; and when, in 1543, Ferdinand[388] once more called together the Bohemian Assembly, he found that his offer to enforce the Compacts of Basel was met by a reaffirmation of the Four Articles of Prague in their simplest and extremest form. This roused him to great indignation; and he now insisted on further restrictions, both in ritual and preaching, and even forbade any general meeting of the Utraquists, under penalty to person and property. He insisted, however, that the celebration of the anniversary of the death of Hus should be maintained as one of the ordinary observances of the Church. But Mistopol succeeded in seizing the opportunity of this anniversary for a violent sermon against the Catholics, which he preached in the old Bethlehem chapel of Hus. For this defiance Mistopol was summoned before the Court of Prague; and though his sentence was deferred for a time, Mitmánek, his chief supporter, was banished from the country. The attempt to conciliate the Utraquists having thus failed, Ferdinand opened negotiations with the Pope, which were to lead to the calling of the Council of Trent. Such was the relation of parties to each other when, in 1546, the death of Luther removed the last hindrance to the outbreak which was to change the conditions both of Germany and Bohemia.

The formation of the Schmalkaldic League, in 1542, had already prepared the Protestants for collective action; and the threatening attitude of Charles V., coupled with the proposal for a Council, which would undoubtedly condemn Protestantism, seemed to many of the more eager spirits to justify immediate[389] action. The Landgrave of Hesse and John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, determined to anticipate the attacks of Charles; and, not many months after Luther’s death, they marched into Bavaria and attacked the town of Ingolstadt. But, scarcely was this step taken, when it was discovered that Charles had provided against the attacks of his enemies, by bringing to his side one of the most formidable of them. Moritz of Saxony had been induced, by the promise of his cousin’s lands, to desert the cause of the Protestants, and to secure his new possession by force of arms. Ferdinand hoped to reconcile the Bohemians to Moritz by persuading him to renew a former treaty of hereditary alliance between Saxony and Bohemia.

But the Protestant feeling of Bohemia was too strong to be juggled with in this manner; and, on March 18, 1546, a League had already been formed for the protection of the civil and religious liberties of Bohemia. They even went so far as to appoint a Committee of Eight, who were to manage the affairs of the kingdom, and to raise arms and men without asking the leave of the king. When, then, John Frederick of Saxony suddenly entered Silesia, and seized on the monastery of Dobrilug, Ferdinand found that large numbers of the Bohemians refused to repel this invasion of Bohemian territory; and even those who went to the war were unwilling to fight. Though Ferdinand at once sentenced to death the leading mutineers, he could not hinder the citizens of Prague from further negotiations with John Frederick. From refusal to fight they rapidly passed into more active[390] opposition; and at last they even enabled Caspar Pflug to raise forces for the assistance of the Elector.

As the struggle went on, the enthusiasm of the Bohemians rose; and on April 7, 1547, the fiercer spirits of Prague suddenly seized the Town Council Houses and bridges into their own hands, demanded a safe-conduct for one of the men whom Ferdinand had just condemned for mutiny, and insisted on the imprisonment of one of Ferdinand’s Councillors, and the recall to the Teyn Church of a preacher who had been expelled for heresy. They even compelled many of the Catholic leaders to give in their adherence to the League; and all seemed ready for an actual revolution. Suddenly, while the excitement was still at its height, the news came that John Frederick of Saxony had been completely overthrown at the battle of Mühlberg. Instantly the more timid of the conspirators deserted the League, and even sent congratulations to Ferdinand on his victory. But the fiercer spirits desired to fight it out; and, as the troops of Ferdinand and Charles advanced upon Prague, the citizens rang the alarm bell, and the peasants flocked in with their flails from the neighbouring villages, and repelled the first advance of the royal forces. The Burgomasters and leading Councillors had had no desire to resist the King; but they were completely overborne by the fiercer citizens; and, on the 6th of July, the anniversary of the death of Jan Hus, an appeal was sent round to the nearest Circles, calling on all the citizens to come to the defence of Prague. Yet, in spite of this apparent vigour, there was little real vitality in the movement; the leaders of the[391] League had hoped for the help of the Saxons; and when that failed, they had had no desire to continue the struggle. The men who had now undertaken the defence were utterly unorganised, and without any capable leaders. The first forces, who came in from the neighbouring districts were defeated by the troops of Charles; and, on the 8th of July, the city consented to submit unconditionally to Ferdinand.

The first acts of Ferdinand on the recapture of Prague were marked by an unexpected moderation. Comparatively few of the conspirators were put to death; the great bulk of them were let off with fines, or the surrender of lands; and most of the liberties of Bohemia were confirmed. But it was felt, nevertheless, that all who had sympathised with the insurrection were in a difficult and dangerous situation; and the Utraquists, who had begun the movement, combined with the Catholics, who had in many cases yielded to it, to lay the whole guilt upon the Bohemian Brotherhood.

The Bunzlau district had no doubt been conspicuous in its refusal to send forces to the Saxon war. Three or four of the lords, who were condemned for their share in the insurrection, had been known for their protection of the Brothers; and some of the Elders of the Brotherhood had ordered a day for prayer and fasting during the insurrection. It was resolved, therefore, to seize this opportunity for crushing this unpopular sect, and the chief suspicion was directed against John Augusta. He had indeed protested against the insurrection from the first, but it was proved that he had come to Prague while it was[392] still going on; a visit to Liegnitz in Silesia was also looked upon as suspicious; while undoubtedly the chief charges against him were his known influence in the Brotherhood and his connection with Wittenberg. Even the lords who had hitherto been favourable now disowned the accused; and the Captain of Moravia, himself a member of the Society, told Augusta that he ought to have prevented the insurrection.

The Archduke Ferdinand was ordered to take measures for carrying out the intended persecution; and in the following year a Commission was appointed, which reconstituted the Town Councils in various districts, and ordered the new Councillors to proceed rigorously against the Brothers. The chief persecution began at Litomys̆l, where several men were arrested for singing hymns at the funeral of a Brother. On their refusal to abandon the Brotherhood they were imprisoned in the White Tower of the Castle of Prague; and, when threats and entreaties were found to be of no avail, they were taken from the tower and thrust into a hole into which the filth from the castle discharged itself. After some months of this treatment several of them gave way; but the others remained firm, and were at last set free on condition of withdrawing into Prussia.

During the early part of their imprisonment, Augusta, from his place of concealment, continually supplied them with money and letters of encouragement. But the organisers of the persecution were resolved, at all hazards, to make him their prisoner; and one of the most active of them persuaded a[393] leader of the Brotherhood to secure him a private interview. Augusta had been taunted by some of the prisoners with taking too much care for his own safety, and he therefore resolved to risk the interview. Instead of the man who had appointed it, three others appeared, who at once arrested Augusta and his secretary Bilek, and carried them off to the White Tower of Prague. Thence he was speedily removed to a wine-cellar, where he was chained hand and foot. Soon after he was placed on the rack, and his side was burnt with boiling pitch. The Archduke Ferdinand himself doubted the legality of these proceedings; but the King was rigorous in the enforcement of his plans, and he wrote to his son suggesting further means of torture. Augusta, he said, was not to be allowed a moment for rest or sleep; and, as one means for obtaining this end, an insect was to be fastened near him which would worry him continually; or, as another means of causing the same misery, he might be allowed food, but never anything to quench his thirst. But, before the letter containing these barbarous instructions arrived, Augusta had been removed from Prague to Kr̆ivoklát, where he seems for a time to have fallen under a more humane gaoler.

Nor was the persecution directed solely against a few leaders of the Society. In the same month in which Augusta was arrested, a general Edict had been issued for the expulsion of the Brotherhood and the arrest of their clergy. As they were ordered to leave Bohemia within six weeks, the Brothers in Litomys̆l entreated that a longer time might be allowed for the sake of the sick and of the women who were in[394] labour; and they pointed out that a similar relaxation had been granted in the case of the Jews and Anabaptists. This concession was, however, refused; and the unfortunate people gathered together at Rychnov to march over the Silesian hills. But though the lords, who had formerly posed as patrons of the Brothers, now deserted their cause and joined in the persecution, help for the journey was, nevertheless, provided by the richer members of the Society; and the members of the Brotherhood, who lived in those Silesian towns through which the exiles passed, guided them securely through the dangers of the hills; nay, even many of the Utraquists and Catholics were so touched by their sufferings that they joined in this assistance.

At last the procession entered Poland, and the Brothers settled for a time in the town of Posen. But, though many of the Polish nobles welcomed them heartily, the Bishop of Posen stirred up the King of Poland against them, and put them to such inconveniences, that many of the Brotherhood accepted the invitation of the Elector of Brandenburg to settle in his newly conquered province of Prussia. Not even in Prussia, however, were the troubles of the exiles at an end. Mitmánek, the Utraquist preacher who had been banished by Ferdinand, excited the suspicions of the Elector of Brandenburg against the new-comers, and even assured him that the Confession which Augusta had taken to Luther was not really the composition of the Brothers at all; but that, in truth, they were Arians and Novatians. An inquiry was set on foot into the real doctrines of[395] the Brotherhood; and, though the decision of the inquisitors was mainly in favour of the Brothers, yet the restrictions placed on them by the Elector were so galling, and the pressure upon them to accept the Confession of Augsburg was so persistent, that many preferred to take their chance once more among their Slavonic kinsmen of Poland, rather than to accept the nominal protection of the Elector, when accompanied with so many practical inconveniences.

Ferdinand’s schemes, for the unification both of State and Church, seemed now ripe for further development. With regard to the question of civil government many difficulties had arisen during the Turkish wars, from the claims for local privileges put forward by various towns and districts of Bohemia. When Ferdinand had required money for the purposes of these wars, he had been forced to consider not merely the constitutional rights of the Assemblies of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and the Lausitz, but also the peculiar privileges of the district of Loket, the miners’ rights in Joachims Thal and Kutna Hora, and, above all, the extremely anomalous position of the town and district of Eger (Cheb), which had claimed, ever since the fourteenth century, to be more nearly connected with the German Empire than with the kingdom of Bohemia. And even more embarrassing than any of these legal privileges were the claims of the Assemblies of the Districts or Circles. These were perhaps the most important check, which still existed, on the power of the king. As the nobles gradually sank into mere courtiers, and as the towns became, in many instances[396] specially dependent upon the King, that Order of Knights, which had played so important a part in the Utraquist struggles, found it more convenient to deliberate in their own districts, where they held an independent position, rather than in Prague, where they might be outvoted by lords and citizens, and overruled by officers of the King. These meetings of the Circles were gradually gaining a kind of legal authority; and, both in the Turkish and Saxon wars, they had formed an important check on the action of the Assembly at Prague, and had considerably hampered the designs of Ferdinand. They had even identified their interest at that time with the provincial claims of Moravia and Silesia; and they had maintained that an Assembly, composed only of those Bohemians who met at Prague, could not decide on so weighty a question as the war against John Frederick. Ferdinand, therefore, had come to look upon these Assemblies as his most dangerous opponents; and, though he could not at once suppress them completely, he contrived to limit their powers and control their actions.

But Ferdinand had a special device of his own for counteracting local independence and increasing the royal power. This was the creation of a Chamber of Finance, called in German “Hof-Kammer,” and in Bohemian “Komora Dvorska.” This institution was primarily introduced to meet the difficulties of the King’s private income. During the reigns of Ladislaus and Louis the royal lands had been heavily burdened with debts; and Ferdinand’s relations with the lords, to whom these estates had been mortgaged,[397] had made it difficult for him to ascertain the exact state of the royal finances. The duty of the new Court was to inquire into the condition of the king’s Bohemian lands, and to base upon this inquiry an annual statement of his needs. This statement was to be followed by a demand from the various Assemblies of the exact amount required. When this central Chamber of Finance was supplemented by other chambers of a similar kind in the different districts of Bohemia, it was clear that an organisation had been formed which might bring considerable increase to the King’s power. The inquiry into the condition of his finances would be accompanied by questions about the inclination of each Assembly to concede the money required; and thus questions of taxation would be to a large extent settled before they had been submitted to the lawful authority. Such a scheme, however, could only come gradually into operation; and it was during the reigns of Ferdinand’s successors that the significance of the Hof-Kammer began to be realised. In the meantime the King did not forget to provide a more immediate security for the stability of the House of Hapsburg; and, in 1549, the Bohemian Assembly was persuaded to accept Maximilian as the future King of Bohemia.

But the union of the Church was as much a part of Ferdinand’s scheme as the centralisation of the royal power; and Ferdinand supposed that since the Catholics and Utraquists had united in persecuting the Brotherhood, they would have no objection to accept the same bishop as their spiritual ruler. But again he was mistaken. The Utraquists were as[398] determined as ever to assert their independence; and they resented extremely the attempt to bring them under the rule of the Catholic bishop. Indeed, so strong was the opposition which was roused by this proposal, that many of the Utraquists began to repent of their persecution of the Brotherhood, and even to show signs of sympathy with them.

Ferdinand at once sprang to the conclusion that a new plot was on foot; and, with a suspiciousness little short of insane, he assumed that Augusta must be at the bottom of it. The torturers were sent down to the prison at Kr̆ivoklát; and both Augusta and his secretary were again stretched upon the rack. But, when no conspiracy was discovered by this method, Ferdinand had to look elsewhere for the source of opposition to his wishes; and it was now for the first time that he became conscious of a weak point in his plans, which till then he had strangely overlooked.

It will be remembered that, when Ladislaus was trying to coerce the Brotherhood, he had failed to obtain from the Moravian Estates that assent to his wishes which the Bohemians had been willing to grant. The consequence was that, while Ferdinand had been so successful in expelling the Brotherhood from his western province, the members of that society had still met undisturbed in the province of Moravia. A special circumstance had induced Ferdinand, for the time, to overlook this evasion of his commands. Wenceslaus of Ludanic, the Captain of Moravia, had been a member of the Brotherhood; but he had strongly opposed the revolt of 1547, had prevented the Moravians from joining in it, and had even rebuked[399] Augusta for not opposing it more actively. Doubtless the loyalty of so influential a Brother had had for a short time its effect on Ferdinand. But the growing opposition which he encountered amongst the Utraquists, and his increasing fears of the Brotherhood, now led him to abandon this policy of compromise. He called together the Moravian Assembly at Brünn (Brno); and he ordered them, and especially their Captain, to take steps for the immediate suppression of the Brotherhood.

Ludanic answered by entreating Ferdinand not to put down those who had attained to the knowledge of the purified Gospel; and he assured the King that Moravia would sooner perish in fire and ashes than submit to violence in this matter. He then appealed to the members of the Assembly; and the main body of them confirmed his words in a loud voice. Ferdinand then asked if any, there present, were ready to obey him. Only seven members of the Assembly responded to this appeal—five of them lords and two knights. Then Ludanic once more rose, and read to Ferdinand the oath which the King had taken, as Margrave of Moravia, to defend the liberties of that province. Ferdinand indignantly answered that he had kept his oath, and intended to keep it; upon which Ludanic explained that he had not accused the King of having yet broken his oath; but that he had read it to him as a reminder for future use. Unable to accomplish his ends, Ferdinand was at last obliged to dismiss the Assembly, and to retire to his house. But, when he looked from his window a little later, he saw the members of the Assembly[400] carrying Ludanic home in triumph. Thus, while crushed out in the province of Bohemia, the Bohemian Brotherhood grew and flourished in Moravia.

About this time, the Brothers were enabled to renew their correspondence with Augusta, by the help of one of his gaolers whom they had succeeded in bribing. Unfortunately, this correspondence did not strengthen the friendly relations between the prisoner and the Elders of the Society. Always of a rather imperious disposition, and now embittered by his sufferings, Augusta attempted to assert his authority in a way which the Elders often resented. Indeed, they had begun to think that the exclusion of Augusta from the outer world disqualified him for his office as Elder of the Brotherhood. They consented indeed, in deference to his earnest appeals, to retain him a little longer in his former dignity; and at one time there seemed a hope that this painful dispute might end in the release of the imprisoned Brother, and his return to his former life. The second treachery of Moritz of Saxony had overthrown the hopes of the Imperialists; the treaty of Passau had raised anew the Protestant expectations of religious liberty; and in 1552 the Catholic and Protestant leaders of the Moravian Assembly united in such an earnest appeal for mercy to Ferdinand, that he consented to consider the question of the release of his Protestant prisoners.

But once more the tide turned against the unfortunate Augusta. In February, 1553, his correspondence with the Brotherhood was suddenly discovered. Again Ferdinand was seized with an attack of his[401] conspiracy-mania; Augusta and Bilek were once more hurried off to Prague, and chained together in the White Tower. When no treasonable sense could by any means be extorted from their letters, they were allowed to return to their prison in Kr̆ivoklát; but all further correspondence with the outer world was forbidden; and the Elders of the Brotherhood, having heard that Augusta had been put to death, elected a new Elder in his place.

Nevertheless, the hopes which had been raised by the treaty of Passau were considerably strengthened at this time, by the rumour, which was rapidly gaining ground, that Maximilian, the future king of Bohemia, was opposed to the policy of his father. Ernest of Krajek, a member of that family which had already offered such opposition to Ladislaus and Ferdinand, eagerly welcomed back the Brothers to their old quarters at Mláda Boleslav; and at the same time he despatched a messenger to Vienna, to make sure of the sympathies of Maximilian. This messenger was John Blahoslav, a writer and artist, who was afterwards to attain some celebrity as an historian of the Brotherhood. When he arrived at Vienna he found Maximilian in active sympathy with the Lutherans; and he received much encouragement for the Brotherhood from the preacher who had most influence with the prince.

On the other hand, however, Blahoslav soon discovered that a new power had sprung up in Europe, more dangerous to the hopes of the Protestants than any kings or generals. This was the Order of the Jesuits, who had recently settled in Vienna, and who[402] had gained great influence over the mind of Ferdinand. That powerful body had soon directed their attention to Bohemia; and, a few years after Blahoslav’s visit to Vienna, they secured a settlement in Prague. Even before that time, the persecution of the Brotherhood had again been renewed. The death of Ernest of Krajek gave Ferdinand an opportunity for venting his hatred on the sons of his late opponent; and they were forced, after a vain opposition, to close those meeting-houses of the Brotherhood which their father had re-opened. Blahoslav and other influential Brothers were once more forced to hide themselves; and many Protestants, who had been favourable to them, were gradually persuaded to desert their cause.

Unfortunately, it was during this period of persecution that the relations between Augusta and the Brotherhood became once more severely strained. He had succeeded in finding another messenger, through whom he re-opened the correspondence with his colleagues; and he sent the Elders some Commentaries which he had just written upon the Gospels. These he begged them to use as part of the teaching of the Brotherhood. The Elders answered that they had no time properly to examine the book; and the bitterness caused by this ungracious answer was further increased by their subsequent publication of the book in a somewhat altered form. In addition to these causes of disagreement, Augusta now heard, for the first time, of his deposition from the office of Elder; and, when he remonstrated with the Brotherhood on the subject, they refused to reconsider their decision.

[403]Whether Ferdinand heard of this controversy or not, something prompted him at this time to renew his efforts for the conversion of Augusta; and he offered to release him on condition of his joining either the Catholics or the Utraquists. To the first of these proposals Augusta returned an unhesitating refusal; to the suggestion of a reunion with the Utraquists he gave at first a more evasive answer. When, indeed, he was asked for a more definite statement, he drew up a declaration of his firm adherence to the Brotherhood; but an unexpected event prevented him from sending off this declaration, and brought about a change in his position, which was ultimately to produce the most painful results.

Phillippina, the beautiful wife of the Archduke Ferdinand, was anxious to act as a moderating influence in the counsels of the family. She visited Augusta in prison, and expressed a wish to serve him. He eagerly asked that he and Bilek might be allowed to spend Easter with their friends; and he mentioned that they had been now about twelve years in prison, and that he had not seen Bilek for eight years. Phillippina succeeded in persuading King Ferdinand to yield to this proposal; and both she and her husband hoped that, by this means, they might pave the way for Augusta’s conversion to the Catholic Faith. With this view, after his Easter visit was over, he was sent to a Jesuit convent in Prague. There, while well treated in other respects, he was not allowed to see any one but the chiefs of the Order; and they carried on daily theological arguments with him. Their first propositions they managed to state in so colourless a[404] form, that he was forced to agree to them; but, when they raised the question of the possibility of error in the Church, they found that they and their intended disciple were hopelessly at variance. Finding that the Catholics had failed, the Utraquists now summoned him before their Consistory, and tried to persuade him to join their organisation. At first he absolutely resisted their attempts; but he consented at last to use expressions, which were afterwards strangely perverted by some of his opponents. He admitted that “he belonged to the Utraquistic Bohemian Church, and that he agreed with them in all those essential doctrines which they had derived from Scripture.” These expressions were, very likely, a greater concession to the Utraquists than he would have made at a previous time; but it is abundantly clear, from his subsequent action, that he did not intend his words to imply the abandonment of any doctrine which he had formerly held. Nor did the authorities so consider them; for, though Bilek was shortly afterwards set free, Augusta was sent back to his prison at Kr̆ivoklát.

But the Elders of the Brotherhood chose to treat these utterances as a complete abandonment of their cause; and they wrote a fierce and taunting letter to Augusta, in which they accused him of first attempting to exercise Papal power over the Brotherhood, and then abandoning them in order to obtain his release. Even this injustice did not drive Augusta to abandon his convictions. When, two years later, he was again required to make submission to the Utraquists, he refused to admit that he had held any heretical[405] doctrines; nor would he accept the Utraquistic view of the Sacraments; and, in 1563, he explicitly declared that he believed the teaching of the Brotherhood to be nearer to Holy Scripture than that of either the Lutherans or the Utraquists. But the release, which he would not obtain by concession, was shortly to be granted to him gratuitously. In the year following this declaration, Ferdinand felt that his end was approaching; and, as if seized with remorse for his injustice, he consented to set Augusta free, without any further conditions. A few months later the king died; and the accession of Maximilian produced a further change in the fortunes of Bohemia.





In describing a struggle between two rival powers in a State, it is extremely difficult to give a correct impression of the exact balance of success on either side at a particular crisis in the controversy; and this difficulty is enormously increased when the struggle is concerned partly with the question of spiritual (and therefore mainly individual) liberty; and partly with the growth of those more material forms of centralisation which check constitutional freedom and local self-government. When we hear of Ferdinand yielding on his deathbed to the prisoner whom he had been trying for so many years to crush into obedience, we feel that the victory lies, in the main, with those spiritual forces which were working against ecclesiastical uniformity. Nor does the resistance of the Moravian Estates seem less important as a victory of constitutional freedom, than the firmness of Augusta as a security for spiritual independence.

[407]But the real importance of such episodes as these lies in the contrast which they offer to the main tendencies of Bohemian history during the sixteenth century; and the proof which they consequently give of the survival of forces which seem elsewhere to be crushed out. For centralisation was, after all, steadily growing in the dominions of Ferdinand; and national life, however it might struggle for existence, was being sapped by arbitrary power.

Nor must we forget that there was one moral consideration which worked on the side of Ferdinand. The terrible danger to which Europe was exposed by the Turkish invader was not really removed until the latter part of the seventeenth century; and even Vienna itself was to be once more endangered, before the barbarian could be induced to settle down peaceably beside his neighbours, and confine himself to the oppression of his Christian subjects. When, therefore, Ferdinand found that the local assemblies of the different provinces grudged him their help in this important struggle, and that even at Prague he had difficulty in obtaining both money and soldiers, it was not unnatural that he should feel a growing indifference to liberties which seemed to him so dangerous to the peace and order of Europe.

So when in 1555 he had summoned representatives from all his dominions to meet at Vienna, to devise a common scheme of action against the Turk, he must have bitterly resented the absence of the Bohemians, who refused to attend an Assembly where they might be swamped by Germans and Hungarians. An even more fatal point of opposition between the[408] National desire for peace and independence, and the Imperial scheme for the defence of Europe, was found in the question of military organisation. The old privilege of the Bohemians, to refuse their services for foreign wars, was continually insisted on by them in opposition to Ferdinand; and he was almost unavoidably compelled to raise armies which should be independent of national sentiment, and to garrison the frontier towns of Moravia with soldiers drawn from all parts of his dominions.

Nor, while he was so successful in his schemes of State centralisation, was Ferdinand wholly worsted in his struggle for ecclesiastical unity. One victory at least he gained; and by a curious irony of fortune, he won it by granting a concession which had once been most ardently desired by the Bohemian leaders, but which had now, by change of circumstances, become worse than useless. Just at the close of the Council of Trent, he succeeded in obtaining from the Pope a formal concession to the Bohemians of their right to grant the Cup to the laity. Thus the old watchword of the Hussite wars, separated from all that had given it life and force, now became a step towards the absorption of the Utraquists by the Catholics. When once this concession was granted, Ferdinand insisted that the Utraquists could no longer refuse to accept the authority of the Roman Catholic Archbishop. From this time forward, Utraquism ceases to be a force in Bohemian history. Their separate Consistory was indeed revived by Maximilian; and from time to time the members of it continued to assert themselves in the religious controversies of the day; but[409] every such effort tended more and more plainly to show that the champions of the old faith were but the impotent and unworthy representatives of traditions of former greatness. With the death of Ferdinand, all these questions enter on a new phase. The strength and weakness of the late king’s ideals were to be put to new tests during the reign of his son.

Maximilian is one of those men who seem to the careful student of history all the more pathetic, because their failures are not of that striking and dramatic kind which at once excite the sympathy of the observer; but are rather gathered from a careful comparison of the objects aimed at with those actually accomplished. Hampered by the continual distrust and the domineering influence of his father, half inclined to the extremer doctrines of Protestantism, and yet never able to shake off the recollection that he was the heir of a Catholic tradition; angry with the Jesuits for their intriguing interference with his affairs, and no less angry with the Protestants for those divisions which prevented a completely artistic settlement of the ecclesiastical question; anxious to recognise the local and other liberties of his Bohemian subjects, but conscious of the difficulties which those liberties placed in the way of the struggle against the Turk, Maximilian was continually drifting backwards and forwards in a way which tended to weaken the system of government which his father had tried to establish, without substituting anything freer or more national in its place.

Nor must we forget that Maximilian had to deal[410] with the same insoluble problem for which Charles IV. had only provided a temporary solution. Ferdinand had reigned for nearly thirty years as King of Bohemia, before he had been forced to assume the burden of the German Empire. Maximilian had to take up both these responsibilities at the same time; and, apart from the enormous intellectual and moral difference between Maximilian of Austria and Charles of Luxemburg, the problem with which the later Emperor had to deal was infinitely more complicated than any which presented itself to the statesmen of the fourteenth century. The difference between Protestant and Catholic was in itself enough to introduce years of division and war into the Empire; but that element of confusion was now trebly increased by the new sects into which Lutheranism had been divided, and by the still keener political divisions between the Lutherans and Calvinists. In Bohemia, again, the same difficulties presented themselves in an even more complicated form; for, while many of the Bohemian Reformers had identified their cause with that of the Lutherans, the old feeling of national distinction was driving many into opposition to the aggressive character of the German movement, and compelling them to seek for a new religious centre which should be neither Papal nor German. As the Utraquists could no longer supply such a centre, the championship of Bohemian feeling rapidly passed to the leaders of the Bohemian Brotherhood. The great defender of the national and distinctive position of the Brotherhood, against the encroachments of the Lutherans, was that Blahoslav who had already[411] become prominent as a negotiator with foreign Protestants, and who was ultimately to become the historian of the Brotherhood. He had already vindicated the specially Bohemian character of the Brotherhood against a critic who had tried to identify them with the Franco-Italian sect of the Waldenses; and so keen had Blahoslav and his friends been in the assertion of their national position, that they had been willing sometimes to speak of themselves as “the remains of the Taborites,” choosing rather to identify their cause with a Bohemian sect so different from them both in spirit and doctrine, than with a French or Italian community, however like them in every respect but race.

When, then, the Lutherans demanded that the Bohemian Brothers should accept the Augsburg Confession, and practically consent to absorption in the Lutheran body, Blahoslav and his friends resolved to offer a steady resistance to this proposal. Unfortunately, Blahoslav was forced to encounter, in this controversy, the most distinguished member of his own community. John Augusta, after his release from prison, had been welcomed back to his friends by the main body of the Brotherhood; but he soon found that the power which he desired to exercise over them was still resisted and resented. He proposed that, instead of the free exercise of preaching in the Brotherhood, certain definite parts of the gospel should be chosen for exposition each Sunday in the year; and he himself drew up a plan on which these discourses should be founded. Some of the Brothers objected that the doctrines suggested in his[412] book were not altogether those held by the Brothers; while, no doubt, a still larger number resented the restrictions which such an arrangement would impose on the preachers. Irritated at the general opposition offered to his proposals, Augusta came to the conclusion that the Brotherhood was in a radically unsatisfactory condition; and he threw himself into the movement for union with the Lutherans, as a means of reform. So bitter was the opposition which he roused by this conduct, that he became entirely separated from the rest of the Brotherhood; and, when he died in 1572, his death passed almost unnoticed by those for whom he had done and suffered so much.

In the meantime Maximilian was endeavouring to take up a neutral position in this controversy. Personally in sympathy with the Brothers, but afraid of offending Catholics and Lutherans, he continually assured all parties that he was unable to assent to any legal sanction for religious liberty, since he had bound himself to oppose novelties; but that, if they would only settle their differences between themselves, nobody would interfere with the performance of their religion. Even this statement was more definite and consistent than his actual practice; for, when the Catholic or Utraquist priests applied to him for powers to suppress novelties or heresies, he assented to their proposals, though, when either Brothers or Lutherans complained to him, he assured them of his personal sympathy for them, and his desire to leave them untouched.

His great hope for the solution of these difficulties[413] seems to have lain in some scheme of union among Protestants. If only the Lutheran sects, Bohemian Brothers, and Calvinists would give up their quarrels with one another, religious toleration would become such an easy affair. He therefore sympathised particularly with the new proposal, which was gradually shaping itself in the discussions between the Lutherans and the Brothers. This was a plan for a new Bohemian creed, to be drawn up at a combined meeting of the various sects. The Brothers looked upon this movement with great suspicion. They saw in it an attempt of the Lutherans to secure the acceptance of the Augsburg Confession by indirect means; and they noted their persistent attempts to exclude the Brothers from those Assemblies where ecclesiastical questions were discussed. Nevertheless, when Maximilian, on his return to Bohemia in 1575, consented to preside at the Assembly in which this new creed was to be proposed, the Brothers were willing to take part in the discussion. Doctor Crato, Maximilian’s physician, secretly urged the Brothers to stand firm, assuring them that the Emperor was really in sympathy with them. Encouraged by this hint, they not only resisted a motion for the acceptance of the Augsburg Confession, but they even objected to the appointment of a committee for the preparation of formulæ which were to unite all parties.

The committee was, nevertheless, appointed, and its actions soon justified the fears of the Brothers. In the introduction to the proposed creed, the committee pronounced an anathema against a number of heretics, and, amongst others, against all Calvinists.[414] Now many of the Brothers had embraced Calvinistic doctrines; and their friendship with the champions of those doctrines had been strengthened by motives, both of personal resentment and of moral sympathy. The treatment of the exiled Brothers by the Lutherans of Prussia had repelled the Brotherhood generally from the creed of their unfriendly hosts; while the strict moral discipline maintained in the Calvinistic University of Heidelberg was more attractive to the followers of Peter of Chelc̆ic than the growing laxity of Wittenberg. They therefore offered a successful opposition to that sweeping condemnation of Calvinism to which the Lutherans desired to commit them. But this was, after all, but a minor point in the objections of the Brothers to the proposed creed. Apart from every detail, the proposal to surrender their own Confession in favour of any new form of words whatsoever, was wholly inconsistent with the position which they desired to maintain. They therefore offered such steady resistance to the proposed Confession, that they at last induced the Lutherans to consent to a petition to the King and the Assembly asking them to recognise each sect as a separate organisation. This result, however, was not reached till the controversy had become so fierce that the rival theologians came to blows in the streets.

Maximilian was heartily disgusted with the whole proceeding. He saw his hope of union among the Bohemian Protestants annihilated. He felt that he had injured his position with the Catholics by the concessions which he had already made; and he was further irritated that the Assembly should waste its[415] time in these theological discussions, when he was wanting it to consider the acceptance of his son Rudolf as the future king of Bohemia, and to vote money for the Turkish war. He laid the chief blame of these failures upon the Brothers, who had resisted the new Confession, and on the towns, which had always made difficulties about the Turkish vote; and he sent down orders to the governors to suppress the meetings of the Brotherhood, and to forbid the towns to introduce any novelties. He even went so far as to order prosecutions of various Brothers for having attended meetings forbidden by the law; but, before these prosecutions could be carried out, this new policy was suddenly cut short by the death of Maximilian in 1576.

Few kings had more thoroughly disappointed the expectations formed of them than Maximilian II. had done; but, in a different way, his son Rudolf was to disappoint the hopes of the Catholics as completely as his father had done those of the Protestants. Brought up in Spain, and believed to be a strict Catholic in convictions, shy and repellent in manner, he seemed exactly the man to revive the reactionary policy of his grandfather. But in Rudolf, as in the majority of men, temperament and taste had a greater influence over his actions than either religious or political convictions. The same feelings which made him so repellent in general intercourse, led him also to shrink from the burdens of public life; and his fondness for art and science led him in the earlier part of his reign to leave politics to men of more active character. The interest, therefore, of this[416] part of Rudolf’s reign, so far as his own influence is concerned, centres rather in the revival of literature and art, than in political or religious controversy. This revival was of a varied character, for it included not only poetry and history, but every kind of art and science. Carving, statuary, and mosaic work were brought to great perfection: while the presence of Tycho Brahe at Court shows the interest which Rudolf always maintained in astronomical science. The preference of the new Emperor for Prague as a place of residence naturally attracted all this brilliant company to the Bohemian Court; and it seemed as if, in this respect, the age of Charles IV. were to return.

At the same time, it should be noted that this revival, though generally connected with the name of Rudolf, had been already growing since the accession of Ferdinand. The greater security for life and property, which was gradually introduced by the House of Austria, had given more opportunity for quiet study than had been possible in the turbulent Bohemia of the fifteenth century; while the greater intercourse with foreign countries, which the renewed connection with the Empire had produced, naturally attracted a large number of foreign celebrities to the Court of Prague.

The reign of Ferdinand had been marked by the works of two most picturesque though untrustworthy historians—Wenceslaus Hajek of Libocany, and Dubravsky, better known as Dubravius, the Bishop of Olmütz; while Matthæus Collinus of Choterina called out an interest in the study of the great Greek and Latin authors, who had till then been rather[417] neglected. The interest felt by Maximilian and Rudolf in the revival of poetry was much keener than that of Ferdinand; though they both, doubtless, stunted more than one poetical intellect by the absurd practice of turning poets into nobles, and crowning them as Court Laureates. A more curious result of this revival, considering the origin and sympathies of the ruling House, was the steady development of the Bohemian language during this period. Dictionaries and other scientific works were produced; and Daniel Adam, who was Professor of History at Prague in the time of Maximilian, was said to have done much to bring the language to great perfection. Nor did Maximilian and Rudolf fail to encourage scientific discovery. Thaddæus Hajek, who had studied, not only at Prague, but also at Vienna and Bologna, actually discovered a new star in 1572; and he showed himself so far in advance of his age, that he used his learning to expose and ridicule the astrological speculations which were then so popular.

It might be expected, perhaps, that all this stirring of thought and life would be favourable to the revival of civic and religious liberty; and some of the men who were eminent in the literature and art of the time did take an active part in the struggles at the beginning of the seventeenth century. But a power had arisen in Bohemia, which continued steadily to gain ground during the reign of Rudolf, that could turn even literature and art into the cause of opposition to reform. This was the Order of the Jesuits, which, since the time of Ferdinand, had been steadily gaining ground in Bohemia. They[418] eagerly seized upon the literary and artistic revival, and made use of it for their own purposes. George Bartold Pontanus, one of the poets who were crowned by Rudolf, fell into the hands of the Jesuits, and became one of their most eloquent preachers. William of Rosenberg, who was a great patron of the Order, founded an institution for poor scholars, which must have greatly forwarded the Catholic reaction. Even students of languages, and men engaged in foreign discoveries, were made use of by the Order. Moreover their great power then, as ever, was through the education of children. Many of these came from the poorest ranks, and were educated gratuitously by the Jesuits; and, through them, an influence was prepared which it was very difficult to resist. But the Jesuits were intended by Ignatius Loyola to be, before everything, a fighting body; and, as they looked round on the forces opposed to them in Bohemia, they speedily marked the Bohemian Brotherhood as the foemen most worthy of their steel.

The Utraquists, as already mentioned, had been reduced almost to impotence in the time of Ferdinand. The Lutherans, divided among themselves, weak in organisation, and without any hold on the feeling of Bohemia, were almost equally an object of contempt to the Jesuits; but in the Brotherhood they saw a power of organisation, a capacity for intense self-devotion, and great educational faculties, which made them dangerous rivals even to the followers of Loyola. Just at this time the Brothers had taken a step which, while infinitely to their own credit, had yet raised up against them enemies whom the Jesuits could easily[419] call in as their allies. The Brotherhood, as already hinted, had found, even more than most religious communities, a perpetual difficulty in solving that painful problem of the proper relation of the Church to the World; for, while they would never consent to drift tamely into the conventional morality of a comfortable and generally accepted Church, they were yet continually forced to make concessions to the prejudices of the world around them, which endangered the spiritual life of their community. Their concessions in the matter of war had, as we have seen, driven from their ranks some of the stricter members of the Society at a very early stage of their history; and a difficulty which was an even greater vexation to the minds of the Brothers, was the relation between the Community and the nobles.

The original conception of the Brotherhood, as a Society of equals working in the main with their hands for their livelihood, had never been wholly lost sight of; and the clergy were still expected to support themselves largely by their own handiwork. But the necessity for protection against the continual outbursts of persecution from other sects had compelled the Brothers to accept the patronage of certain lords who were inclined to their doctrines. The most zealous of these noblemen desired a closer union with the Brotherhood than the position of outside patron could give them; and yet they were by no means willing to make that surrender of their rank and position which the rules of the Brotherhood required. The Brothers had not seen their way to exclude these aristocratic members from an entrance into the Community;[420] and the difficulties of the position naturally increased, when the son or grandson of some zealous nobleman accepted the hereditary connection with the Brotherhood without any of the moral enthusiasm which had led his ancestor to join it. The opposition which the plebeian preachers of the Brotherhood encountered in their attempts to exercise a spiritual control over these aristocratic followers was of course specially great in a century when even champions of religious liberty claimed the right to dictate their creed to their tenants and dependants. Serfdom, it cannot too often be remembered, had gained a new footing in Bohemia at the close of the fifteenth century; and Krajek, in his championship of so eminent a Brother as Augusta, had insisted much on his right, as a feudal landlord, to protect his dependant against the King. In such a condition of society, it ought not to surprise us that the leaders of the Brotherhood may have sometimes seemed to wink at offences in the nobles which they condemned severely in their more plebeian members.

But there was a recuperative force in this Community which showed itself continually at critical moments, and, in 1578, the Bohemian nobility were startled by the news that the Brothers had expelled from their Society, for acts of immorality, two members of that very family of Krajek who had been the steadiest patrons of the Brotherhood. A fierce outburst of indignation and scorn followed; and the Bohemian nobles asked how “Chlapi” (serfs), like the leaders of the Brotherhood, could venture to deal thus with the members of a noble family? Nor was[421] it only the protest of the nobles which showed how far the ideal of the Brothers transcended that of the rest of the Community. A Lutheran congregation at once invited one of the expelled Brothers to join their body, and urged upon him that such a step would be a fit revenge on the ungrateful Brotherhood.

The Jesuits saw their opportunity in the sudden unpopularity of the Brotherhood; and they pressed upon several of the nobles to expel these revolutionary heretics from their estates. The Chancellor, Vratislav of Pernstein, was one of those to whom the Jesuits made special advances; and they were able to influence him not only through his prejudices as a nobleman, but through his affection as a husband. Pernstein, like so many of the Bohemian nobles since their country had passed under the rule of the Hapsburgs, had married a Spanish lady; and these wives were, as a rule, zealous champions and obedient pupils of the Jesuits. Frau von Pernstein had a special influence, not only over her husband, but over many of the younger Bohemian women; and, with her help, the Jesuits succeeded in making many converts, even in that town of Litomys̆l where Augusta had once had so much influence. Both there and on other parts of the estate Pernstein now proceeded to close the meeting-houses of the Brothers, and he opened a Jesuit college on the site of their former labours. Adam of Neuhaus and William of Rosenberg carried out the same policy on their estates, and many other nobles followed their example. The Bishop of Olmütz, Stanislaus Pavlavsky, now hoped to rouse Rudolf to give active assistance to this[422] movement. At the bishop’s request, the Emperor issued an order that no book should be sold in Moravia without Pavlavsky’s special permission; and, in order to secure the practical working of this prohibition, he decreed that not more than two printing-presses should be allowed at Olmütz.

At the same time a blow was aimed at the Brotherhood in a still more important part of their work. Ezrom Rüdiger, a leading Brother, had opened a school at Ivanc̆ic̆e, which had gained so high a reputation that men of other denominations sent their children to be taught by Rüdiger, and the managers of a rival Lutheran school in the city of Velké Mezir̆íc̆í attempted to decoy Rüdiger away by the offering of a higher salary. Of course these bribes had failed of their effect, and a decree had been obtained by the Jesuits for the closing of both these schools. This order, however, had been disregarded; and Rüdiger had gained further reputation by defending the Brotherhood against the attacks of the leader of another sect. This controversy, however, gave a handle to the Bishop of Olmütz, and he denounced both Rüdiger and his opponent to Rudolf as disturbers of the peace. A warrant was sent down for the arrest of Rüdiger, and about the same time Herr von Pernstein imprisoned two of the Brothers on his own Moravian estates.

But now, as in the time of Ferdinand, attempts at persecution, which had succeeded in Bohemia, broke down before the opposition of the Moravian Estates. At the meeting of the Moravian Assembly, the Bishop of Olmütz was so roughly treated by his[423] colleagues, that he left Brünn before the meeting was over. The two clergy on the Pernstein lands were released. Rüdiger, who had taken refuge with Frederick of Z̆erotin, was allowed to submit his case to the Moravian Estates; and the Assembly not only disregarded the Edict about the books and the printing, but passed a vote of censure on those who had made attacks on the Brotherhood. This and other failures soon persuaded the leaders of the Catholic reaction that they had little hope of support from the Emperor; and the Jesuits were forced to carry on their struggles through the help of individual noblemen.

But, in 1592, even this form of propagandism encountered an unexpected obstacle. In that year William of Rosenberg died, and his nephew, Peter Vok von Rosenberg, succeeded to the estates. He had gained some distinction as a soldier under Ferdinand and Maximilian; but soon after Maximilian’s death he had married Caterina of Ludanic, a member of the family of that Wenceslaus of Ludanic who had defended the rights of the Brotherhood and the liberties of Moravia against Ferdinand. Under her influence Peter Vok rapidly drifted to Calvinism; and in 1582 he had formally joined the Brotherhood. On coming into his estates he soon gave signs of his change of creed; and, as a first step, he so harassed the Jesuits of the college which his uncle had founded at Krumov, that they left that town and fled to Neuhaus. About the same time, George of Lobkovic, another champion of the Jesuits, was deprived of his office by Rudolf for fraudulent use of his[424] power; and, his estates being forfeited to the Crown, Rudolf handed them over to a man whom he supposed to be a zealous Catholic, but who soon proved to be a friend and favourer of the Lutherans. Thus, then, a general struggle was going on throughout Bohemia, which, from the apparent indifference of the Emperor, was tending more and more to loosen the bonds of the central government, and was in many cases leading to open acts of violence and disorder. But, just as the sixteenth century was closing on this condition of things, a series of events occurred which roused the Emperor from his lethargy, and produced a complete change in the course of Bohemian history.





However indifferent Rudolf might have seemed to his duties as King of Bohemia, he was as anxious as most of his predecessors had been to maintain his ground in Hungary both against Turks and rebels. And during the closing years of the sixteenth century he had gained new hopes of success in the struggle, from the submission which was at last offered to him by the Prince of Transylvania. Unfortunately, however, for Rudolf, the cruelty of his general, Basta, produced such disorders in the newly conquered province, that the Transylvanians rose against the Emperor, joined themselves to the discontented nobles of Hungary, and once more called in the Turks, who gained several victories over the Imperial forces. Rudolf, like his predecessors, had been irritated at the opposition which had been offered by the various Assemblies of the Bohemian kingdom to his continual demands for money for the Turkish[426] war; and this opposition had been greatly increased by his attempt to extend the powers of that Hof-Kammer which had been instituted by Ferdinand. That body, no longer contented with inquiring into the debts and credits of the king, now wished to pry into the incomes of his subjects, and even to make its own arrangements for the collecting of taxes. These encroachments were naturally resented by the Bohemians; and the continual friction thus produced roused Rudolf to more energetic action.

Nor were the differences with his subjects and the danger from the Turk the only causes of this apparent change of disposition in the sluggish Emperor. The Austrian Archdukes had noticed the growing disorders in Bohemia, as well as the neglect by Rudolf of the affairs of the Empire; and, on further inquiries, they found evidence that much of this neglect was due to the strange state of mind into which the Emperor was falling. That shy and melancholy disposition which had led him, in the early part of his reign, to withdraw so much from public life, was now ripening into a condition of morbid suspicion which had in it a strong taint of insanity. It is a curious sign of the extent to which superstition affected even great minds in the sixteenth century, that this tendency in Rudolf was largely encouraged by a prophecy of the great Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe. The recent murder of Henry III. of France by the monk, Jacques Clément, had impressed the imagination both of the Emperor and the astronomer; and the latter had prophesied that the same fate which had overtaken the French king also awaited Rudolf.[427] This prophecy had increased the Emperor’s tendency to morbid suspicion, and had led him still further to withdraw from the public gaze. The Archdukes now inclined to believe that the only hope for good government was in the removal of Rudolf from power, and the substitution of his brother Matthias on the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary and Austria. Rudolf resented this proposal with all the fierceness of a half crazy man; and this interference of his brothers, combined with the advance of the Turks into Hungary, determined him to adopt a new policy.

Both in Hungary and Bohemia he saw, or believed, that the Protestants were the main cause of the opposition to his power. He knew that in the kingdom of Bohemia they had continually resisted his decrees; and he believed them to be the prime movers of the Hungarian insurrections. Therefore, in 1602, he suddenly revived the old decree of Ladislaus which commanded the suppression of all sects in Bohemia. In pursuance of this decree, the chief meeting-house of the Bohemian Brotherhood in Mláda Boleslav was closed; and Cardinal Dietrichstein began a regular persecution of the Protestants.

In 1604 the same policy was extended to Hungary; and when the Hungarians endeavoured to protest, Rudolf issued a decree that all who tried to bring forward religious grievances in the Hungarian Assembly should be treated as disorderly persons. Thereupon the Hungarians rose in insurrection, and chose as their leader Stephen Bocksay, a Transylvanian nobleman. Rudolf’s inability to provide payment for his troops soon produced a mutiny among[428] them; Bocksay succeeded, not only in conquering Transylvania, but in overrunning Hungary, and at last entering Moravia. Bocksay had hoped to persuade the Moravian Estates to join him in defending the cause of civil and religious liberty. This the Moravians were unwilling to do, as they hoped to come to terms with Rudolf. But the unpopularity of Cardinal Dietrichstein, and the cruelties of Rudolf’s German troops, gradually weakened the sympathies of the Moravians for their king; and in the general state of misery and confusion which followed, two movements began to be developed for the counteraction of Rudolf’s policy—movements widely different in character and methods, but both intended to promote the cause of civil and religious liberty—and each of them finding its ablest and most earnest supporter in a member of the Bohemian Brotherhood.

Of these the first to ripen into action was the movement which had its centre in Moravia, and its best and ablest champion in Charles of Z̆erotin. The life of this nobleman was a striking illustration of that effort after compromise, which has already been spoken of as so characteristic of the Brotherhood—an effort which makes it so interesting to the student of human nature, and which enabled it to gain so great an influence in the history of its country; though it produced a somewhat disappointing effect, if one looks to the Brotherhood for the highest embodiment of Christian life.



The Z̆erotin family had long been established in Moravia, and had had many claims to distinction, especially on the battlefield. They had eagerly[430] adopted the cause of Hus, and boasted that, since that time, they had never had a Roman Catholic in their family. They had accepted the principles of the Brotherhood, so far as they were consistent with noble rank and the military profession; and John of Z̆erotin, the father of Charles, had played as prominent a part in Moravia, in the character of protector of the poorer Brothers, as Conrad of Krajek had played in Bohemia. He had fallen under the influence of Blahoslav, and had imbibed something of his zeal for learning and his keenly patriotic feelings. Charles had been sent, as a boy, to study at Strasburg, Basel, and Geneva; and his interest in the foreign Protestant communities had led him to desire that they should unite to resist the encroachments of Rome and Spain. He submitted strictly to the rules of the Brotherhood in the choice of a wife, not venturing to ask in marriage the lady whom he had chosen, till he had consulted the bishop and other leading members of the Brotherhood. In his zeal for resistance to the power of Spain, he assisted Henry of Navarre in his war against the Catholic League. But his disgust at the profligacy of Henry’s court ripened into absolute disapproval of the cause, when Henry was received back into the Catholic Church. Soon after this event Z̆erotin took service under the Archduke Matthias in the war against the Turks; and thus he gained the favour of Rudolf, and obtained an appointment in the Land Court of Moravia. Here he soon found that Cardinal Dietrichstein and Ladislaus of Berka were making great efforts to strengthen the power of the Jesuits in Moravia, and to weaken the influence of the Protestants.[431] Just at the time when Charles of Z̆erotin began to devote himself to the local government of Moravia, Charles of Lichtenstein, a member of an old Protestant family of Moravia, was converted to the Catholic faith; and soon after this Dietrichstein was chosen Bishop of Olmütz.

It will be remembered that the last Bishop had made ineffectual attempts to suppress the freedom of the press, and to crush out Protestantism. But Dietrichstein was so far from being warned by this failure that he speedily set himself to restore a clause in the oath administered to the officials in the Land Court, which recognised as necessary the worship of the Virgin and the Saints. Z̆erotin soon became recognised as the opponent of the new Bishop; and once again comes to the front the ever-reviving question of the Bohemian language. Dietrichstein had been brought up in Spain, and spoke Spanish by preference; and though he could on occasion speak German, he had very little knowledge of Bohemian. Z̆erotin declared that if Dietrichstein was to be allowed to take his seat in the Land Court of Moravia, he must speak the language of that country; and the Cardinal in vain attempted to overrule this decision, and to obtain a hearing in German.

This struggle took place at the time when Rudolf was gradually resolving on a more oppressive policy; and Dietrichstein succeeded in bringing against Z̆erotin charges of treason, which induced the Emperor to summon him to Prague. His support of Henry IV., whom Rudolf considered his enemy; his sympathy with the Count Palatine of the Rhine, who was already[432] suspected of aiming at the Bohemian crown; and his refusal, in deference to the religious principles of the Brotherhood, to drink the Emperor’s health at a banquet, were all brought forward by Dietrichstein in proof of the charge; and the evident sympathy of the Moravian Estates for Z̆erotin was not likely to make him more welcome to the Emperor. When, indeed, Z̆erotin was tried for these offences in 1601, he was acquitted on all the charges against him; but when Rudolf revived the enactment of Ladislaus against the sects, Z̆erotin was deprived of his office.

He now, for a time, retired from public life, and devoted himself to the study of theology and the education of young noblemen. But his study of Calvinism, and his continual correspondence with those who still maintained their interest in politics, prepared him for a return to public life. At the time of the invasion of Bocksay, Z̆erotin’s sympathies had been somewhat divided. He was, of course, zealous for religious freedom; and he had a warm personal friendship for Stephen Illyezhazy, a leading Hungarian Protestant, who had great influence in Bocksay’s councils; but, on the other hand, he must have strongly disliked the Turkish alliance; and he had a great personal loyalty to the House of Hapsburg.

Under these circumstances, the hopes of Z̆erotin were more and more directed to the proposal for putting forward Matthias in the place of Rudolf. This arrangement would secure the crown of Bohemia to the House of Hapsburg, and would gain for the oppressed Protestants a leader who might protect them at once against Rudolf and against the Turk.[433] Z̆erotin’s Hungarian friend, Illyezhazy, was willing to accept this policy; and even Lichtenstein, though a Catholic, consented to act with the Protestant leaders in their championship of the candidature of Matthias. As Rudolf still resisted any proposal for compromise, the Archdukes decided to give power to Matthias to act as their chief in Hungary and elsewhere; and he succeeded in making peace with Bocksay, by granting to the Hungarians full religious freedom and the election of their own Palatine. Rudolf, however, though he had been compelled to recognise Matthias as his general in Hungary, refused to consent to the terms of peace; and the miseries of Moravia were increased by the cruelties of the troops sent to protect them, by the difficulties which Dietrichstein and Berka threw in the way of order, and by the unwillingness of Rudolf to take any decided action of a useful character.

At last, therefore, in December, 1607, a meeting took place at Z̆erotin’s castle in Rosice, to which he invited, not only his Moravian friends, but also the Hungarian Illyezhazy, and the leader of the Protestants in Upper Austria, George Erasmus von Tschernembl. They resolved to insist on the enforcement of the terms of peace in Hungary; and they demanded that the princes of the Empire should compel Rudolf to confirm the concessions of Matthias. Rudolf became alarmed, and prepared to suppress the movement by force of arms. Ladislaus von Berka persuaded the forces of General Tilly to come secretly into Moravia and concentrate themselves near Brünn (Brno). On March 7, 1608, the Land Court of Moravia held its sittings; and, on[434] the night before its meetings, Tilly’s troops were secretly introduced into the town. The champions of Moravian liberty were, however, on the watch; and, when the Land Court assembled, Carl von Lichtenstein suddenly entered it, at the head of sixty armed men, informed Berka of the introduction of the foreign soldiers, and demanded that, before they proceeded to further business, the Moravian nobles should take into consideration the defence of their country. Berka declared that there was no danger, and demanded that they should proceed to the ordinary business of the court; whereupon Lichtenstein and his friends denounced Berka as a traitor, drove him from the court, and sent fifty of the young nobles to guard the streets against the foreign troops.

But the old rivalry between the nobles and the towns suddenly showed itself at this crisis. The Town Council of Brünn refused to support the lords in their action; and, when the lords adjourned to Ivanc̆ic̆e, the leading Moravian towns refused to send representatives to their discussions. Rudolf now summoned to Brünn the regular Assembly of the Moravian Estates; but he forbade them to consider any propositions, except those which should be laid before them by the royal Commissioners. Z̆erotin, however, protested so strongly against this limitation, that the commissioners left Brünn without being able to get their propositions considered.

Z̆erotin now looked about for further allies in the struggle, and thereby became aware of the very different schemes which were being formed against the power of Rudolf. The Brotherhood had already shown an[435] inclination to an alliance with the German Calvinistic princes, and particularly with the Elector Palatine of the Rhine; and they had excited some alarm, in 1577, by consenting to send representatives to a meeting of the Calvinists at Heidelberg. Z̆erotin had maintained a personal friendship with the Elector Palatine; but the policy of that Court was now being largely guided and controlled by a prince of another house, whose zeal for religious liberty was mixed with motives of a very different character. This was Christian, Prince of Anhalt, the most prominent and active of the Calvinistic leaders of Germany, whose restless personal ambition seemed almost to overshadow his zeal for Protestantism; and who might be considered one of the chief causes of the ruin of Bohemian independence and the miseries of the Thirty Years War. His great aim was to overthrow the House of Hapsburg; and he would have been willing, for that purpose, to absorb Bohemia and Hungary in the German Empire. Z̆erotin, though at first willing to negotiate with Christian as the leader of the German Protestants, soon found that his aims and those of that prince were totally opposed. For the present, however, everything was subordinated to the determination of the champions of constitutional liberty to combine against Rudolf.

The meeting took place at Ivanc̆ic̆e, in spite of the opposition of the Emperor and Berka. Berka was deprived of his captaincy; a provisional government was established; and Charles of Lichtenstein was called upon to act as provisional Dictator. In proposing Lichtenstein, Z̆erotin was actuated partly[436] by political, partly by religious, considerations. As a statesman, Z̆erotin felt that it was necessary to win the support of men of all creeds, by putting the question of orderly constitutional government before the question of religious liberty; and he therefore preferred the choice of a Roman Catholic leader. But this political instinct was strengthened by a religious scruple, which showed the strong hold that the doctrine of the Brotherhood still maintained over Z̆erotin. He was still convinced that war in defence of his country or of constitutional government might be justified; but, as a follower of Peter of Chelc̆ic̆, he could not admit that it was lawful to stain the cause of religious liberty by the shedding of blood. This scruple, however, did not diminish his sense of the necessity of vigorous action. The leaders of the meeting at Ivanc̆ic̆e resisted Rudolf’s attempts to disperse them, commanded Tilly to leave the country, and succeeded in rousing such a feeling among the Moravians of the poorer towns, that the Town Councils were overborne; and, with the exception of Olmütz, all the towns declared themselves on the constitutional side. Finally, the Assembly sent an invitation to Matthias, to ask him to undertake the government; and they hastened to Znojem to greet him on his arrival.

But, although Z̆erotin had succeeded in effecting an alliance between Moravia, Hungary, and Austria, he had not yet succeeded in winning to his side the leaders of the Bohemian Assembly; and it was in his attempts to form this union that he was encountered by the opposition of another member of the Brotherhood,[437] who followed a tradition somewhat different from Z̆erotin’s. This was Wenceslaus Budovĕc of Budova, a leader among the Knights in the Assembly. He, like Z̆erotin, had studied much in foreign countries, and had gained such favour with Rudolf, that he had obtained a place on his Council. He soon became prominent in the Assembly; and, on the issue of Rudolf’s new decree against the Protestants, he led the opposition to it in the Assembly. He was unwilling, however, to proceed to any extreme measures at first; and he even consented to vote the tax demanded by Rudolf, without making the repeal of the decree a condition precedent to the vote. He pointed out that, since the setting aside of the Compacts of Basel, there was no further pretence for saying that the Utraquists were the only non-Catholics who were entitled to toleration. He dwelt on the services done by the Brotherhood in the Turkish war; and he succeeded in carrying a petition for the repeal of the decree; but before the petition could be presented, Rudolf dissolved the Assembly, and summoned Budovĕc before him. Budovĕc maintained that he had only exercised his lawful privilege as a Bohemian knight; and Rudolf thought it better to dismiss him for a time.

Budovĕc now entered into friendly relations with Z̆erotin; but, when the latter urged him to support the candidature of Matthias, Budovĕc maintained that it was more advisable to appeal again to Rudolf. His reasons may be easily imagined. Matthias, like Rudolf, was a Roman Catholic; and his chief adviser was Khlesl, Bishop of Vienna, who was by no means[438] inclined to measures of toleration. It was true that Matthias had granted liberties to the Protestants of Hungary; but it was by no means certain that, if he were suffered to dictate his terms to Bohemia and Moravia at the point of the sword, backed by the whole support of his family, he might then grant equal liberties to them. Budovĕc therefore preferred to see what the Protestants could gain from Rudolf when under the fear of Matthias’s advance, rather than to trust to what Matthias would do if he came as a conqueror. When, then, Matthias, at the head of a Moravian, Austrian, and Hungarian army, marched into Bohemia, Budovĕc and his friends declared their willingness to stand by Rudolf.

When, on May 19, 1608, Rudolf, for the first time for many years, met the Assembly of Bohemia, Budovĕc at once demanded that, as Rudolf had already made concessions to the Protestants of Hungary, he should now grant the liberties required by the Protestants of Bohemia. The Bohemian Confession of 1575 was to be recognised. Defenders were to be chosen to protect the interests of the Protestants. Offices were to be granted in equal proportion to Protestants and Catholics. No foreigners were to be allowed to manage Bohemian affairs. And, above all, no one of any rank was to be interfered with in matters of religious liberty. The importance of this last clause is not perhaps easy to realise in our time; for, in fact, this is one of the very first assertions of the rights of all men to religious liberty. Although it is probable that expressions may have been often used which, if logically interpreted, would have involved[439] principles of the most complete spiritual independence, yet both in Germany and Bohemia the maxim “Cujus regio ejus religio,” had always been accepted as the legal and natural rule in religious affairs.

In Bohemia, as already mentioned, the condition of the peasantry had become more dependent during the 16th century; and, in 1585, the Estates had distinctly forbidden servants to leave their masters for the purpose of entering trades, unless with the written permission of those masters. The struggle described above, in the earlier years of Rudolf’s reign, had been mainly a struggle between landed proprietors; and even a lady, who professed allegiance to the Brotherhood, had so far misunderstood their doctrines as to drive a Utraquist preacher from her estates, and to compel her peasantry to attend the sermons of a member of the Brotherhood. The principle, therefore, which Budovĕc asserted, was emphatically a new one; and he connected it, as will be seen, with appeals to the national feeling of Bohemia.

Besides the revival of the old and often repeated claim for the exclusion of foreigners from Bohemian offices, the petitioners emphasised their national position by a reference to the memories of their last national king. They demanded that the sword and crown which had been taken from the statue of King George, in the Teyn Church, should at once be restored to it. On this point alone Rudolf yielded. To the other demands he refused to give an immediate answer. Yet even this failure could not at once induce the Bohemian Estates to abandon the[440] cause of Rudolf for that of a prince who was invading Bohemia at the head of a Hungarian army. This feeling was shared by the peasantry of Bohemia; and several collisions took place between them and the soldiers of Matthias.

But, though Matthias could not succeed in the conquest of Bohemia, Rudolf, on his part, was unable to defend or recover the rest of his hereditary dominions; nor is it probable that Budovĕc and his friends were at all prepared to engage in a war against their fellow-Protestants in Moravia, Hungary, and Austria. Rudolf, therefore, after vainly attempting a compromise, consented to renounce Hungary and Austria in favour of Matthias, and to allow him to administer Moravia during his lifetime. Matthias thereupon evacuated Bohemia; but Rudolf’s resistance was not yet at an end. He resented bitterly both the loss of his territories and the demands of the Bohemian Protestants; and, as he was not yet able to take any steps to recover his lost lands, he proceeded to turn his bitterness against Budovĕc and his allies.

In this course he was encouraged by three councillors, who were to play a memorable part in the history of Bohemia—the Chancellor Lobkovic and the ministers Slavata and Martinic. The first proposal of the Emperor was not merely to reject the petition of the Protestants, but to treat their agreement to stand by each other as a conspiracy; and he demanded that the document which contained the agreement should be handed to him to be destroyed. The Protestants chose a Committee of Twelve to[441] remonstrate with Rudolf on this demand; and at the head of that committee they placed a man who was to become only too well known in Bohemian history, Count Matthias of Thurn. They waited on the King with the document for which he had asked, but told him that they had only produced it that he might know the names of his faithful subjects. Rudolf seems, for the moment, to have been impressed with this protest, and consented not to destroy the petition.

Budovĕc, however, and his friends were determined on using their opportunity to the utmost; and they were all the more eager in their pressure, because they found that the official leader of the Assembly, Adam of Sternberg, was entirely out of sympathy with their efforts, and that he was continually endeavouring, on the one hand, to make divisions between the Utraquists, the Lutherans, and the Brotherhood; while, on the other hand, he represented the Assembly to the Emperor as really willing to accept as satisfactory the offers which they in reality repudiated. The difficulties, which might have arisen from this latter part of Sternberg’s policy, were obviated by the attitude of uncompromising resistance which was taken up by Lobkovic, Slavata, and Martinic. At last, on the advice of these councillors, Rudolf decided to dissolve the Assembly. Then Budovĕc saw that the time for constitutional agitation was nearly over; and on April 1, 1609, he gathered his friends together, and gave notice to the chief Burggraf of Prague that they were resolved to use force to resist all injustice.

[442]Although they were now obviously compelled to accept, in some respects, that leadership of Matthias which they had previously opposed, the Bohemian Protestants were not yet prepared to rely wholly on the King of Hungary. The Estates of Silesia and Lausitz, though largely in sympathy with the Protestant movement, had agreed with the Bohemians, in the previous year, in refusing to repudiate Rudolf. The Silesians were now ready to follow the Bohemians in their more determined policy; and the Bohemians, on their part, were disposed to strengthen this alliance, by granting to Silesia that position of independent equality which they had hitherto refused. A league was therefore formed between the Bohemian and Silesian Assemblies, of such a kind as might have been agreed upon between two independent Powers; and the Silesians were ready enough to co-operate under these circumstances.

But it was not only on their immediate neighbours that the Bohemians relied. They appealed also to the Protestant princes of Germany, both Lutheran and Calvinistic; and from them, too, they received encouraging answers. It was now evident that both sides were within a measurable distance of war; but it was also clear that Rudolf might still have a chance of preventing the insurrection from actually breaking out, by dividing the forces of his opponents, and depriving the movement of any legal centre. For greater security, the Assembly were now meeting in the Council House of the New Town of Prague; and Rudolf, therefore, ordered the Councillors of that part of the town to exclude the Assembly from their[443] hall. The Town Council pleaded that they had given their promise, and were obliged to abide by it; but the Estates offered to meet even in the Castle itself, if a room were provided for them; and when Rudolf refused their proposal, they gathered in the open place between All Saints’ Church and the cathedral. There Rudolf came to them, and rebuked them for continuing to meet. They answered by requesting him to summon a General Assembly, which should represent not only Bohemia, but all its dependent provinces. After some hesitation, Rudolf consented to this proposal; but, as he persisted in forbidding the Estates to hold any meetings in the interval, they returned to their former position in the Council House of the New Town.

Adam von Sternberg had now been practically thrust aside by the Assembly; and Budovĕc was recognised not only as their actual but also as their official leader. He impressed on the movement that zealously religious character which the Brotherhood always endeavoured to maintain. He always opened the proceedings with prayer, and sternly repressed all immorality or disorder among the followers of the nobles, who were now flocking into the town. The Assembly felt that the use of physical force could not be much longer avoided; they attended the meetings ready armed; and on one occasion, when an attack from the king’s forces was expected, even the workmen hastened into the square and brandished their tools for the fray.

In the meantime the appeals of the Assembly for foreign help had been producing their effect. Matthias,[444] indeed, seemed for a time unwilling to press his victories further, and declined to interfere between Rudolf and the Estates; but the German princes were so zealous in their appeals to the Emperor to make concessions, that he seemed at last disposed to set aside the opinion of his more fiery Councillors, and he summoned a General Assembly for the 25th of May, 1609. No sooner, however, did the Assembly meet, than Lobkovic recovered his former influence over the Emperor; and Rudolf began to hope that he might make divisions between the Catholics and Protestants. On the other hand, the demands of the Protestants appear to have grown more extreme at this time; for they not only required the free profession of their creed and the right to build churches, but they also insisted that the University of Prague and the Utraquist Consistory should be placed under the control of the Estates.

This last demand excited more interest than the fallen condition of Utraquism might have led one to expect. But traditions of former greatness have an incalculable influence; and many of the Protestants believed that the failure of Utraquism had been due as much to the control which the king exercised over the Consistory as to any internal weakness. Therefore the Assembly’s demand for control over the Consistory excited considerable sympathy among all classes of Protestants. Rudolf, while unwilling to surrender his power in this matter, was yet willing to propose a compromise, to the effect that the Consistory should be managed by a special tribunal composed half of Protestants and half of Catholics. As,[445] however, he no doubt intended that these should be appointed by himself, the Assembly considered this answer as a complete rejection of their proposal; and on June 22, 1609, the Estates resolved, on the motion of Count Thurn, to make arrangements for the arming of the whole population. Their indignation was still further roused by the oppression inflicted on the Protestants of Braunau by the abbot of that town; and the resolution for universal arming was soon followed by the election of thirty Defenders for carrying on the struggle.

It is a curious proof of the aristocratic influences which still prevailed in the Assembly, that Peter Vok of Rosenberg was the first Defender chosen. He had been the only prominent Bohemian who had sympathised with Matthias’s invasion of Bohemia; and, though he had not supported him by force of arms, he had supplied money to his troops. Apart also from this difference of policy, Rosenberg must have been a distasteful ally to the stricter Protestants, on account of his profligate life. Other names of powerful families also appear in the list, and at the same time Count Thurn was made general of the forces.

The Protestants now withdrew from their attendance at the Assembly; Count Thurn quickly gathered five hundred men together in three days; the alliance with the Silesians was formally confirmed; and application was made to Christian of Anhalt for further help.

Rudolf, alarmed at these proceedings, was yet further startled by the news that Matthias had just[446] granted to the Austrian Assembly all its demands for religious freedom. Moreover he found that the Roman Catholic part of the Assembly, which had at first been disposed to resist Budovĕc, were now ready to make terms with the Protestants. He therefore declared his willingness to accept the proposals of the Assembly on three conditions: (1) That they would substitute “Utraquist” for “Evangelical” in their description of the Protestants; (2) that they would accept the present concessions as a provisional arrangement, until the general peace could be made with the Protestants; and (3) that they would abandon the proposal for universal arming. Budovĕc answered by accepting the two first conditions; but he declared that the Defenders could not consent, at present, to lay down their arms without special authority from the Estates, and special sanction from the Silesians. Even this refusal Rudolf was obliged to accept; and on the 9th of July he signed the Letter of Majesty which practically decreed the points demanded by the Protestants. For the moment it seemed as if the victory of religious freedom was complete; for while, on the one hand, the power of the Estates was extended over the University and the Consistory, and was still supported by an armed force, on the other hand the concession of religious liberty was no longer confined to communities or privileged classes, but extended to every man and woman in the Bohemian kingdom.

Nevertheless, the apparent peace was a very hollow one. Christian of Anhalt, arriving in Prague very[447] shortly after this decision, was at first somewhat startled to find the matter settled without his intervention; but he soon discovered that neither Rudolf nor the Assembly were satisfied. Budovĕc and his friends were eager to follow up their victory by securing the removal of Lobkovic from the councils of Rudolf, while they wished to guard themselves against future attacks by an amnesty for any offences committed during the struggle. Rudolf, on his part, while conceding the amnesty, tried hard to throw difficulties in the way of the complete equality between Protestants and Catholics; and he further hoped to stir up division between the different sections of the Protestants. Had Rudolf been left to himself, these intrigues might have proved the mere fitful caprices of a weak mind, and might have been followed by equally startling concessions. But he had now fallen into the hands of a much more daring and unscrupulous adviser than any who had hitherto swayed his counsels.

This was his young kinsman, the Archduke Leopold, who had stood by him when the rest of the family had demanded his submission to Matthias, and who now flattered him with the hopes of recovering his power in Bohemia. Leopold seems, from first to last, to have been as self-seeking in his objects as he was unscrupulous in his methods. His first wish was to secure for himself that province of Jülich which was the subject of so much controversy between several of the Protestant princes, and which Leopold had been allowed by Rudolf to occupy in the Emperor’s name. Soon, however, he discovered that[448] his hopes of Jülich would be frustrated even by Powers to whom he had looked for support; and, from that time, he fixed his hopes on the succession to the Bohemian crown. Rudolf, while listening to the violent proposals of Leopold, was anxious to secure, if possible, the recovery of the lands which Matthias had conquered; and for that recovery he expected help from the discontented Austrian Protestants and from some of the princes of the Empire. He therefore summoned a Convention of princes to Prague, and distinctly demanded the restoration to him of Austria, Hungary, and Moravia.

The times were terribly critical. The occupation of Donauwörth by the Elector of Bavaria, the controversy about the succession to Jülich, the formation of the Protestant Union by Christian of Anhalt, and of the Catholic League by Maximilian of Bavaria, all seemed to point to an approaching war in the Empire; while the military preparations which Henry IV. was making in France foreshadowed a European character for any conflict that might take place. Under these circumstances, however, the wiser statesmen in the Empire were anxious to minimise the evil as far as possible, and to make efforts for the preservation of peace.

Foremost among the peacemakers was the Archbishop of Köln; but unfortunately he was too much in advance of his age to produce the results which a more commonplace politician might have accomplished. He proposed a scheme of universal disarmament, and he suggested the reference of the Jülich controversy to the arbitration of the Universities.[449] These proposals were cut short by a new outbreak of war between some of the claimants to the Jülich estate; while the assassination of Henry IV. once more raised the hopes of Rudolf and his friends, and made them disinclined to concession. But others besides the Archbishop of Köln desired to reconcile Rudolf to Matthias; and in spite of evasions and resistances, Rudolf was forced, in September, 1610, to recognise his brother as holding under him the lands of Hungary, Moravia, and Austria.

This concession was, if possible, even less honest in intention than the confirmation of the Letter of Majesty had been; for the coldness with which he had been treated by the princes of the Empire had made Rudolf even more inclined than before to throw himself into the dangerous plans of the Archduke Leopold. Even while the Convention of Princes was sitting and the negotiations with Matthias were proceeding, Leopold was raising troops in the Bavarian district of Passau, and by the time that the agreement was concluded this force had grown to a considerable size. Peter Vok of Rosenberg had called attention to the danger incurred by his town of Krumov through the neighbourhood of these soldiers; and the Bohemian Assembly demanded that, since peace had now been made, this force should be disbanded. Rudolf pleaded that he could not yet dismiss them, because he had no money for the payment of their wages; and he proposed that, to secure them better quarters, they should be sent to Krumov and Budweis (Budejóvice). The Bohemian Assembly indignantly[450] protested against the introduction of foreign troops into their country, and they refused to vote any money for their support.

Rudolf thereupon appealed to the Duke of Brunswick to advance him money; and the Duke succeeded in getting various promises which soon amounted to the sum required. When he arrived at Passau, he found that Leopold and several of the other commanders had left for Prague; that Colonel Ramée, who was in command, would not listen to proposals of delay; and that the paymaster of the forces was being hindered from receiving the money which had been raised for the troops. At last, when the soldiers had been worked up to a state of frenzy by the non-fulfilment of the promises of payment, Ramée suddenly led them into Upper Austria, where they committed every kind of cruelty on the defenceless inhabitants. Rudolf had cherished the wild hope that the discontent of the Austrian Protestants with Matthias would make them willing to revolt from him; but he soon found that, whatever might be their disagreements with their present ruler, they at any rate preferred him to Rudolf. So, after failing to obtain any success in Austria, Leopold suddenly changed his plans; and in February, 1611, the Bohemian Assembly were startled by the news that the Passau forces had entered Bohemia, had seized Krumov, and had soon after captured Budejóvice and Tabor. A little later came the news that Ramée was on his march to Prague.

Leopold offered to go out to meet the troops, and to order them to return to Krumov; but on February[451] 13th he suddenly reappeared before Prague at the head of the very forces that he had pretended to disband. Two days later they broke into the Small Division of the town; and, though gallantly resisted by Count Thurn at the head of both soldiers and citizens, Leopold succeeded in mastering that division of the city. But in the Old and New Town the citizens rallied and drove back the Passauer. The old fierce spirit now awoke in Prague; and, as soon as Leopold and his forces had been expelled from the Old Town, the citizens attacked and destroyed several of the monasteries; and the troops of the Assembly with difficulty succeeded in saving the Jesuit College from a similar fate. Leopold now marched against the Castle, and, after a short parley, persuaded the troops to surrender. A herald was next despatched to the Karlsbrücke to demand that the Old Town should receive a Passau garrison. Count Thurn and two of the other generals were wounded, and prisoners in the hands of the enemy; and Budovĕc had been sent into Moravia shortly before the advance of the Passauer. But though deprived of their leaders, both military and spiritual, the Praguer still held out against the enemy. The Imperial herald was dismissed with scorn; and when Ramée threatened to fire upon the town, several workmen announced that, at the first shot, every Catholic in the city should be put to death. Rudolf himself became shocked at the cruelties which had been committed, and refused to allow Ramée to set the town on fire. The peasantry flocked in from the surrounding districts to help in the defence; while[452] they cut off and killed all the supporters of the Passauer whom they could find in the outskirts of the town. Budovĕc returned from Moravia at this crisis, and encouraged the Praguer by promises of fresh help, and it soon became known that Matthias was on his march to Prague.

Leopold, as cowardly as he was cruel, now proposed to desert the cause of Rudolf, and offered his services to Matthias. The latter, however, would have nothing to say to him; and Ramée, in his turn becoming alarmed, tried to make sure of his spoil by sending it in waggons out of the city. The Praguer, however, succeeded in intercepting these waggons, and in arresting, at the same time, one of Leopold’s intriguers. The prisoner at once confessed the whole plot; and Ramée, fearing the results of the discovery, secretly marched away from the city. In order to persuade his troops to go the more readily, he produced a portion of their long withheld pay. This suddenly revealed to them the base intrigue of which they had been at once the victims and the tools; and they called upon their colonel to lead them back to Prague, to execute vengeance on Leopold. Leopold however, succeeded in escaping secretly from the city, and went to Budejóvice, where he still hoped to make a stand; but when the Pope himself wrote to tell him that he had injured and disgraced the Catholic cause, the miserable creature felt the helplessness of his position, and tried to convince the Pope that he had been in no way responsible for the march of the Passauer.

In the meantime, Matthias was welcomed as a[453] deliverer. On April 12, 1611, the Bohemian Assembly once more met; and, after some wrangling between the Estates of the different provinces, about the language to be used and the methods to be followed, they deposed Rudolf from the throne of Bohemia; and on May 22nd he himself consented to free his subjects from their allegiance, and to allow Matthias to be crowned in his place. Even now the unfortunate Emperor still hoped to redeem his position by fresh intrigues; and he seems actually to have entertained the idea of appealing to Christian of Anhalt, and the Protestants, against Matthias; but ill health, misfortunes, and growing old age interfered to cut short any further plots; and his miserable life at last ended in January, 1612.





Although Matthias seemed now to be securely seated on the throne of Bohemia, he was quite aware that his difficulties were by no means at an end. He had been put forward, originally, as the candidate rather of his family than of the Bohemian people; and his necessary concessions to popular feeling, in the matter of civil and religious liberty, had often roused the opposition of his kinsmen.

The difficulties of his position had been somewhat mitigated during his first triumphs in Moravia by the judicious statesmanship, administrative ability, and personal popularity of Z̆erotin. On the one hand he had persuaded his friends to keep in the background their extremer demands for religious liberty; and on the other hand he had contrived, by ingenious exercises of administrative power, to strain the actual concessions of the new ruler to such an extent that they proved a better check on the tyranny of nobles and[455] priests than the (verbally) larger concessions of Rudolf’s Letter of Majesty. Illyezhazy and the Hungarian Protestants had consented to follow the lead of Z̆erotin in these matters; but in Austria Matthias had already had a foretaste of the embarrassments which were to be increased by his conquest of Bohemia.

Tschernembl, who led the Protestants of Upper Austria, was by no means disposed to be content with half measures, either in civil or religious liberty. He was a strong Calvinist; and while he had none of Z̆erotin’s scruples about religious wars, he was also far more indifferent than the Moravian noble to kings in general, and to the House of Hapsburg in particular. Under his leadership the Protestants of Upper Austria demanded the fullest securities for their liberties, before they would accept Matthias as their Duke; and they seized on a castle in Linz, as a pledge for future concessions. In Lower Austria the Protestants were, at this time, less numerous or less determined; for when, in September, 1608, Matthias summoned representatives of both the Austrian provinces to meet at Vienna, he found himself able to resist and defeat the demands of the Protestants. Upon this, Tschernembl and his friends at once left the city, and took up their quarters at Horn, from which step they became known as the “Horner.” This policy of Tschernembl’s produced some coolness between him and Z̆erotin; Tschernembl was in consequence thrown into closer relations with the German Protestants; so when, in November, 1608, Peter Vok von Rosenberg invited Christian of Anhalt to meet Z̆erotin and Tschernembl[456] at Tr̆ebon̆, the Austrian consented to come, but the Moravian refused.

Z̆erotin, however, while anxious to hinder violent opposition to Matthias, had no wish to hinder the growth of Austrian liberty nor to break the link between the Austrian and Bohemian Protestants; so he strongly urged Matthias to concede the demands of Tschernembl and his friends, in a peaceable manner. This advice was the more important because Tschernembl was inclined, in a moment of irritation, to listen to advances from Rudolf; but he soon discovered the folly of that course, and at the same time he began to lose faith in the promises of Christian of Anhalt. Thus Z̆erotin was able once more to bring his king and his friend together; and in March, 1609, Matthias granted much wider liberties to the Austrian Protestants than he had yet conceded in Moravia.

But this triumph of Z̆erotin’s policy brought on him the fierce hostility of Bishop Khlesl, who even refused to give the Sacrament to Matthias and his councillors, on the occasion of the festival of reconciliation between the Duke of Austria and his subjects. Nor was Z̆erotin contented with Matthias’s own action; for the latter began to show signs, at that time, of an inclination to treat with Rudolph; and a proposal of the Moravian Assembly to disband some of its forces just before the outbreak of the Passau rising, was in vain resisted by Z̆erotin. When, then, Matthias finally succeeded in winning the crown of Bohemia, he found himself surrounded by Councillors who were bitterly opposed to each other, and who had each their own reasons for distrusting their King.

[457]Nor were Matthias’s difficulties confined to those larger questions of civil and religious liberty which affected the whole kingdom. The reunion of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia under one king, at once reawakened controversies which had, for some time, fallen into the background. Silesia was by no means disposed to abandon that position of equal alliance with Bohemia which had been granted in the hour of danger; and Moravia did not desire to exchange the complete independence which she had gained by separation, for the subordinate condition in which the Bohemians wished to place her. Concessions therefore had to be made to the local feeling of the dependent provinces—concessions which might conceivably have worked well in a time of complete peace, but which, in a time of continual disorder and mutual suspicion, led necessarily to further difficulties.

But Khlesl saw that these local divisions, though they might at first sight seem to embarrass Matthias, could yet be made, by judicious management, to promote those schemes for the increase of the royal power which the ambitious bishop had been always devising. It was in Hungary that he specially hoped to lay the foundations of a firmer despotism; and the method by which he hoped to accomplish it was a war for the conquest and annexation of Transylvania. For this purpose he stirred up the Transylvanians against their Prince, and then backed the insurgents by an invasion of their territory. The suspicions of the Hungarian Protestants were, however, quickly aroused; and Matthias was deserted by his troops. Then he appealed to Moravia for help, on the ground of the[458] dangers to which their province would be exposed by a Turkish invasion, and the consequent need of consolidating the Hungarian power for their protection.

Here again Khlesl was, for the time, defeated by Z̆erotin, who opposed the war on the ground that no Hungarian Assembly had sanctioned it; but when Z̆erotin followed up this victory by attempting to revive his scheme for a common Assembly of all Matthias’s subjects, he was successfully opposed by the Bohemians, who declined any close union with Austria or Hungary.

But if, for the time, Khlesl’s hopes for strengthening Matthias, by the divisions among his subjects, had been scarcely realised to the full, he soon found a new encouragement in the increased power and dignity which the King of Bohemia gained by his election to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. Z̆erotin, indeed, had himself supported Matthias’s candidature in order to exclude a more dangerous claimant; but, nevertheless, the election was felt to be a distinct gain to the Catholic and despotic party; and Khlesl took advantage of it to renew his attacks on the Protestants. In these attacks he was backed by Dietrichstein, the Bishop of Olmütz, who hoped that Matthias would help him to increase his power over the clergy and their dependants.

But again Z̆erotin succeeded in resisting the clerical encroachments in Moravia; and his opposition so impressed the Archduke Maximilian that he used his influence with Matthias to obtain concessions to the Protestants. Matthias, however, soon found that no concessions would induce the Moravian Estates[459] to sanction the Hungarian war; and even an appeal to the Presburg Assembly had no better success.

Imperial authority having thus failed, Matthias once more fell back on his old attempt to sow division among his subjects. This time, however, he appealed not to provincial jealousies, but to the old class rivalries between citizen and noble. He had, no doubt, heard how his original conquest of Moravia had been hindered by the opposition of the city burgomasters to the decision of the nobles; and he therefore hoped that, now that the nobles were his most dangerous enemies, the municipal authorities might be induced to rally round him. He was further strengthened in this belief by the recollection that his aristocratic supporters had been willing to abandon on behalf of the towns those religious liberties which they had claimed to exercise on their own estates.

This time he hit the mark. The Town Councils of Brünn and Olmütz readily responded to his appeal to support him against his rebellious nobles; and they even denounced to the King those citizens who had complained of the exclusion of Protestants from the government of the towns. Matthias encouraged these appeals, and disregarded the protest of Z̆erotin, who maintained that the towns could only approach the King through the Captain of Moravia.

Having secured this weapon, Matthias determined to use it to the uttermost. Hitherto, the houses of the nobles had been free from any interference, in the matter of religious worship; and citizens, who had been excluded from Protestant services elsewhere, had been allowed to attend them when celebrated in[460] a nobleman’s house. Now, however, Matthias not only took away this liberty, but summoned to Vienna some of the citizens who attended these services.

Yet no threats nor tyrannies could induce the Estates to sanction the Transylvanian war; and Matthias’s insistence on this expedition only roused the suspicion of the German Princes, and once more drew Christian of Anhalt into alliance with the Protestants of Bohemia, Austria, and Hungary.

Had Matthias been a shrewder politician, he would have abstained from giving artificial stimulus to the local jealousies of his subjects, and would have suffered them to grow into importance of their own accord. It soon appeared that, whatever reaction might be exerted by the king’s mischief-making policy, the rivalry between Moravia and Bohemia was still an important force in national politics. It is not easy to estimate the exact force of all the considerations which influenced the leaders of the rival provinces. The name of liberty, for instance, could be appealed to, with some sincerity, on either side of the controversy. Z̆erotin, for his part, was thoroughly convinced that a centralised administration at Prague would hinder the free play of the local institutions of Moravia, and would also weaken the possibilities of that independent alliance between Austria, Bohemia, Silesia, Moravia, and Hungary, which seemed to him the best protection for the Protestants against the encroachments of the Catholic party.

On the other hand, the Bohemians could justly maintain that Rudolf’s Letter of Majesty gave them, and all who united with them, wider liberties than[461] any which were secured by the laws of Moravia; and, curiously enough, the most dependent classes of Moravia had been deprived by their separation from Bohemia of a right of appeal to a court at Prague which still gave them some slight protection against the power of their lords.

But, important as all these questions were, they were gradually driven into the background by one of more immediate interest to the rival leaders. Z̆erotin had, as already mentioned, a special feeling of loyalty to the House of Hapsburg, which was not shared in the same degree by the leaders of the Bohemian Protestants. So Budovĕc and his friends were rapidly arriving at the conclusion that the best security for their liberties was to be found, not in the substitution of one Hapsburg for another, but in the deposition of the whole family in favour of some king who had a real respect for religious liberty. To such a step Z̆erotin could not consent; and it was no doubt because he was aware of this difference, that Matthias now began to recognise the Bohemian leaders as his chief enemies, and to devote himself to the special oppression of their province.

In 1613, the freedom of the press was suspended in Bohemia, and a censorship was re-established. A Jesuit preacher denounced the Letter of Majesty, declaring that it had never been formally sanctioned by Rudolf. The Archbishop of Prague began to close Protestant churches and to turn out Protestant priests. But a still more ominous hint of the bitterness of the approaching struggle was to be found in the character of the man whom the Archdukes now chose as the[462] representative of their family in the controversy. The conciliatory policy of the Archduke Maximilian seemed a hopeless failure. Matthias, in the opinion of his kinsmen, was becoming as incapable as Rudolf had been. They therefore resolved to choose from their family a man of strong and determined character, who would be willing if necessary to take the most extreme measures for enforcing their policy.

This champion of the family reaction was found in Ferdinand, Duke of Styria. He had been trained by the Jesuits in a fierce enthusiasm for the Catholic faith. He had carried out a ruthless policy in Styria against the Protestant preachers; and he had there compelled both citizens and peasants to attend the Catholic services. He had already been proposed by the extremer Catholics as a candidate for the Imperial throne; and it was to hinder his election that Z̆erotin supported the election of Matthias. Matthias, indeed, was now weary of his position, and he was particularly glad that Ferdinand should take his place in facing the hostility of the Moravian Assembly; but a new, and perhaps unexpected, opponent came forward at the next meeting of that Assembly, to resist the policy of the Emperor and his champion. Bishop Khlesl had never been popular with the main body of the House of Hapsburg. They considered that his personal influence over Matthias tended to separate the policy of that prince from the general schemes of the House. The Bishop therefore understood that the rise of Ferdinand to power would be the prelude to his own fall. His recent elevation to the rank of Cardinal encouraged him to venture on a more independent[463] policy; and, with the help of Z̆erotin, he succeeded in defeating another proposal for a grant in aid of the Transylvanian war.

But Matthias’s old policy of ruling by dividing was at last to obtain an unexpected and signal success. It will be remembered that Silesia, like Moravia, had secured, after Matthias’s coronation in Prague, a much more independent position than had been conceded to it in earlier days; and it was one result of the new position of these provinces, that they were now able and eager to contend against each other, like independent kingdoms, for the possession of territory which might have been previously accepted by them as a part of their common Kingdom of Bohemia. The land specially in dispute was the district of Troppau, which appears to have had some separate Assembly of its own, but which some of the dukes of Silesia considered to be closely connected with their province. The Moravians, on the other hand, believed that Troppau more properly belonged to them; and, as they were more ready to recognise the rights of the Troppau Assembly, it seems probable that the popular feeling in that district would incline to the Moravian side. But Matthias, remembering that Moravia had successfully opposed his military projects, eagerly advocated the cause of Silesia; and, while securing to that province a more complete independence of the Bohemian Chancellor, he declared at the same time that the ruler of Troppau must be a prince of Silesia. To weaken the Moravians still further, by sowing division in their own ranks, he chose Karl von Lichtenstein as Duke of Troppau and[464] Prince of Silesia. The bitter quarrel which followed this decision had an important effect on the future of the country; for Charles of Z̆erotin was thereby convinced that his hope for a peaceful league between the three provinces had become a vain dream; and, in February, 1615, he resigned his Captaincy of Moravia, and was succeeded by a member of the Catholic party.

While this increasing separation between the differing provinces was bringing further weakness to the Protestant cause, the Archdukes were being driven forward to an extremer Catholic policy. The new attitude of Khlesl had irritated against him even the moderate Maximilian, and had decided the Archdukes to demand the deposition of Khlesl’s patron and pupil, first from the Bohemian, and afterwards from the Imperial, throne; and the substitution of Ferdinand for him in both those dignities.

It is difficult to understand how it was that, in June, 1617, the Catholic party seem to have gained a power in Bohemia greater than they possessed either in the previous or the following year; though no doubt the surprise at Matthias’s decision, and the absence of any possible successor, had placed the Estates in a position of great difficulty. At any rate, so it was, that Count Thurn and Colonna von Fels were the only members of the Assembly who ventured to oppose Ferdinand’s election; while the majority not only raised no objection, but even abandoned that right of free election on which they had insisted in the time of Ferdinand I.; and they “accepted” their new sovereign as the necessary heir to the kingdom.[465] Some little remnant of spirit, however, was shown in the demand that Ferdinand should confirm the privileges of the Estates before he was crowned; and, after consulting with his Jesuit advisers, he gave his approval, even to Rudolf’s Letter of Majesty.

But no sooner was Ferdinand seated on the throne, than he proceeded to violate the principle, if not the letter, of the promises which he had just made. He directed the judges of his chief tribunal to preside at the meetings of the Church Congregations in Prague; to inquire into all their accounts, and to allow no decision to be passed by them which the judges had not approved. Further they were to examine all the institutions connected with each church; to find out if they carried out the purposes of their founders and, if not, to compel them to do so. This decree was intended as a step towards the restoration to the Catholics of all the churches which had passed into Utraquist hands. At the same time, the Archbishop of Prague, who had already demanded the closing of a Protestant church at Hroby, now insisted that that church should be pulled down. Sometimes, as in the case of the monastery of Braunau, the encroachments of the Catholics were defended on the ground of some peculiar interpretation of Rudolf’s Letter of Majesty; but it was evident that the attacks on the Protestants would not long be limited by any legal pretences. The Defenders of the Protestants, who had been chosen during the struggle against Rudolf, still retained their offices; and they now summoned a Protestant Assembly to meet in Prague on March 5, 1618. The towns, however,[466] would not venture to send representatives to this Assembly; and the nobles who did come decided to defer action until the Estates of all the Crown Lands could meet on the 21st of May.

The Royalist Party resolved to counteract this movement by every means in their power. They tried hard to separate the towns still further from the nobles; and they hoped to draw the representatives of the old Utraquists away from the other Protestants. The attempt to influence the towns had some partial success; but nevertheless six of them (including Kutna Hora and Mláda Boleslav) consented to send representatives to the new Assembly. The attempt to separate the Utraquists from their fellow Protestants was a complete failure, for all the parish clergy of Prague consented to announce from their pulpits the meeting of the Assembly.

It was now clear that a violent crisis was unavoidable; and no sooner did the Assembly meet in the Carolinum than two officials of the Emperor entered the building, and announced that Matthias forbad them to continue their discussions. The Protestants were seriously alarmed; and Count Thurn demanded that, as they had been summoned to the Castle to meet the representatives of the Emperor, they should be allowed to wear arms on that occasion. The official representative of Matthias consented to this proposal; and on May 22nd Count Thurn had a special meeting with Budovĕc, Colonna von Fels, and a few others, at which they resolved on their plan of action. A rumour rapidly spread that the Protestants[467] were planning some violent attack; and one of the officials fled secretly to Vienna.

On May 23rd the Estates gathered in the great Hall of Assembly at the Castle; and, as soon as the letter of the Emperor had been read, the Protestants read their letter of protest against his prohibition of their meeting. Then they demanded to know who had advised the Emperor to threaten the Estates. Adam of Sternberg, who was now chief Burggraf of Prague, refused to answer this question, on the ground that Privy Councillors were not bound to reveal the advice which they had given to the Emperor. Count Thurn replied that the Estates would not leave that place till they had received an answer to their question. Then a number of charges were fiercely poured out against the advisers of the Emperor; and Martinic and Slavata were reminded of their resistance to the Assembly of 1609, and especially of their refusal to sign the Letter of Majesty. One of Count Thurn’s followers denounced them as enemies of the commonwealth; and this charge was received with shouts of applause by the other members of the Estates. Sternberg entreated the Assembly to be calm; but he was urged to retire from the Hall, and was at last forced out of it, with one of the other officials. Then William of Lobkovic suddenly seized upon Martinic, and, after a fierce struggle, flung him from the window down into the castle ditch, which was twenty-eight ells below; and Thurn threw Slavata after him. Their secretary, Fabricius, protested, and was in his turn thrown out of the window. Wonderful to say, none of the three were[468] killed; and only Fabricius seems to have been seriously injured. They succeeded in taking refuge in the house of the Chancellor; and afterwards they escaped secretly from the city.


A provisional government was at once formed of thirty Defenders. Wenceslaus of Ruppa, who had taken a leading part in this plot, was chosen President, and Count Thurn was once more appointed General of the Bohemian forces. The towns now gathered courage to join the movement; and only Budweis (Budejóvice), Pilsen (Plz̆en), and Krumov remained on the side of the Emperor. Matthias would even now have wished to conciliate his opponents; and, on the 6th of June, a messenger arrived in Prague announcing the Emperor’s willingness once more to confirm the[469] Letter of Majesty. But this message was speedily followed by a letter from Ferdinand, announcing that he would only observe the Letter of Majesty in the same way that he had done hitherto; and he further threatened punishment against all who would not keep the peace. The Assembly saw the significance of this letter, and continued their preparations for war.

Ferdinand was now eager for action; but he found that Matthias still hindered his proceedings. This opposition the Archdukes attributed to the influence of Khlesl; and Maximilian was entrusted with the office of suppressing the Cardinal. For this purpose he paid a visit of apparent friendliness to Khlesl; but, when the cardinal returned the call, he found himself suddenly seized by Maximilian’s servants, stripped of his Cardinal’s robe, forced into a carriage, and driven off to Innsbrück, where he was kept a prisoner till the end of the Bohemian struggle.

But there were still other advisers, who claimed to be heard against the war. Both in Hungary and Upper Austria, the Estates, though unwilling to take active part with the Bohemians, urged Matthias to take peaceable measures for the restoring of order in Bohemia. In the Moravian Assembly, a resolution in favour of a similar policy was carried by Z̆erotin’s influence; though many of his colleagues would have preferred to give more active support to the Bohemians. The Protestant princes of Germany, however, and particularly the Elector Palatine, were eager for forcible resistance to Matthias; and a son of the Margrave of Brandenburg, who was also a[470] prince of Silesia, persuaded his Silesian colleagues to assist the Bohemians. It was evident that war could no longer be avoided, and Matthias despatched Count Bucquoi to Bohemia. Count Mansfeld and the Elector Palatine had already sent troops to assist the Protestants; and Bucquoi was so thoroughly defeated at Lomnice, near Budejóvice, that he urged Matthias to make peace. The hopes of the Bohemians were further encouraged by Count Mansfeld’s capture of Pilsen; and Count Thurn resolved to invade Austria, and to attack Ferdinand at his headquarters. Now, however, there arose new difficulties. Tschernembl, indeed, tried to rouse the Austrians in defence of the Protestant cause; but he found only a very partial support; while an attempt to persuade the Moravians to assist the Bohemian invasion was defeated by the influence of Z̆erotin, who bitterly denounced Thurn and Ruppa for making a religious movement the cover for their political intrigues. These rebuffs impressed on the Bohemians the necessity of strengthening their alliances with the German Protestants; and Ruppa sent a message to the Elector Palatine, to invite him to become king of Bohemia. Frederick V. was unwilling to accept this proposal. He understood that the Duke of Savoy was likely to dispute his claim to the Bohemian throne; and he also believed that his father-in-law, James I. of England, would object to his acceptance of that dignity. He did not, however, directly refuse; and the necessity for decisive action was still further shown by two deaths which took place about this time; that of the Archduke Maximilian, the one[471] conciliatory member of the House of Hapsburg, and that of the Emperor Matthias a few months later.

Ferdinand was now face to face with his enemies, without any check upon his purposes. The alarm among the Protestants was all the greater for these events. The Silesian Assembly joined with their princes in support of Bohemia; Lausitz followed their lead; in spite of the resistance of Z̆erotin, many of the Moravian nobles also joined the cause; and the citizens of Jíhlava welcomed Count Thurn into their town. Carl von Lichtenstein, who was generally on the winning side, joined the Protestants in their support of the Bohemians; two attempts on the part of colonels to carry off their troops to Ferdinand met with complete failure; and at last Z̆erotin was put under arrest in his own house, and a provisional government was proclaimed in Moravia, and entrusted with power to co-operate with the Bohemians. The hopes of the Austrian Protestants were roused by this new phase of the movement; and Tschernembl at last persuaded the Estates of Upper Austria to declare in favour of the insurgents.

Thurn’s opportunity now seemed to have come; in May, 1619, he entered Austria, defeated some of Ferdinand’s forces, and marched to Vienna. But Ferdinand remained undaunted. He summoned before him the representatives of the Lower Austrian Estates, appealed to their sense of patriotism, and tried to persuade them to resist the Bohemians. He had been arguing in vain for some time, when suddenly the scene was changed by the entrance into the Hall of four cornets of horse, who had been secretly[472] summoned by Ferdinand. The resistance of the Protestants was suddenly paralysed; and, when Thurn appeared before Vienna the next day, he found the citizens so unwilling to help him that he was forced to abandon the siege, and hastened back to defend Bohemia. There the contest had continued with various fortune; but it is believed that Bucquoi might soon have carried the day, had not a new ally appeared on the Bohemian side.

Bethlen Gabor, the new Prince of Transylvania, saw from the first that the success of Ferdinand would naturally lead to those renewed invasions of Transylvania which had played so important a part in the policy both of Rudolf and Matthias. The Hungarian Assembly had been at first unwilling to co-operate with the Bohemians; but, during his expedition to Vienna, Count Thurn had made the acquaintance of a leading Hungarian Protestant, whom he had roused to sympathy with the Bohemian cause. When this leader returned to Hungary, he soon convinced his friends that the cause of Protestantism was bound up with the effort for Bohemian independence; and, when Bethlen Gabor openly declared war on Ferdinand, large districts of Hungary rose on his behalf, and he speedily found himself in occupation of Presburg.

This encouraging news reached the Bohemians just as they were entering on one of the most important stages of their movement. The representatives of all the Bohemian provinces had met at Prague, and, after a declaration in favour of the Protestant cause, had formally deposed Ferdinand[473] from the throne of Bohemia. Three candidates for the throne now offered themselves—the Duke of Savoy, the Elector of Saxony, and the Elector Palatine of the Rhine. But the first of the three had very much cooled in his friendship towards the Bohemian cause, since he had found that neither France nor England would support his claim to the crown. The Elector of Saxony, though popular with a small minority of Bohemians, had never been a zealous supporter of their liberties; and he was suspected of being a tyrannical ruler in his own dominions. So, on the 26th of August, 1619, the Elector Palatine of the Rhine was chosen King of Bohemia.

But, during the discussions of the Assembly, a sign had been given which might have warned the leaders of the insurrection of one fatal weakness in their position. The unfortunate peasantry, pressed down by the burdens of serfdom, greatly feared the additional evils of war. They had hoped that the concession of spiritual freedom, which Budovĕc had won for them, would have been followed by the grant of other liberties, more directly improving their material position; and they were proportionately bitter with their favourite leader, whom they accused of deserting them from motives of selfish ambition. They now assured the Estates that they could not hope for a blessing on a movement which ignored the wrongs of the peasantry. The charge against Budovĕc seems to have been wholly unjust. He was now past seventy; and, though his name was still useful to the leaders of the insurrection, his[474] influence on their policy was extremely small. Had it been otherwise, the Council might have taken a different view of this vital question. As it was, the wrongs of the serfs were again ignored; and not only did the Protestant leaders lose thereby a popular basis for their movement, but they soon provoked against them a most dangerous opposition. When the peasantry found that the mercenary troops which the Protestants employed were as dangerous to natives as to foreigners, they began to think that Ferdinand was preferable to Frederick; and peasant risings hindered the progress of the Protestant army.

Frederick, of course, knew nothing as yet of this cause of weakness in his new position. Nevertheless, it was with a hesitating mind that he had listened to the proposal of the Bohemian Assembly. He had wished to wait until he could have secured the approval of his father-in-law, King James of England; and he knew already that he had to encounter the opposition of France. A still more dangerous omen for his future career had been given only two days after this election. The Electors of the Empire on the 28th of August had chosen Ferdinand Emperor of Germany; and on that occasion the Elector Palatine had been the only one who voted in the minority.

But two powerful counsellors urged Frederick on to his fate—his wife Elizabeth, and Christian of Anhalt. The latter promised him the support of the Protestant Union; but, though that support was most welcome, it was believed in Bohemia that his wife’s opinion had more weight on Frederick’s final decision.[475] Therefore, on September 28, 1619, he resolved on accepting the crown, without waiting further for the opinion of his father-in-law. The victories of Bethlen Gabor doubtless encouraged Frederick in his dangerous course; and the enthusiasm with which he was received in Prague must have raised his hopes still further. His queen, indeed, though publicly thanked for her influence on his decision, soon became unpopular from her English dress and ways, and her ignorance of the Bohemian language; but this unpopularity does not seem to have affected her husband’s position.

A more serious difficulty was the inability of the Assembly to raise money for the payment of the troops; an evil which drove the soldiers to mutiny and robbery, and eventually caused the rising of the peasants against them. These evils the Bohemian Government attempted to meet, partly by debasement of the coinage, and partly by borrowing money from foreign powers; but the great hope of the Bohemians still lay in the support of Bethlen Gabor.

About three weeks after the coronation of Frederick, Bethlen had invaded Austria, and was on his march to Vienna. The Austrians were again panic-struck; and when the peasantry discovered that they suffered as much from the forces of Ferdinand as from the Hungarian army, they refused to bestir themselves on the side of the Emperor. Suddenly, however, the news arrived that a Roman Catholic nobleman, who had been defeated by Bethlen in the earlier part of the struggle, had now returned to Hungary at the head of a Polish force, and had gained a signal[476] victory over some of Bethlen’s supporters. Bethlen thereupon hastened back to Hungary, and Ferdinand hoped to get rid of this formidable opponent on moderate terms. But this hope speedily disappeared. Bethlen’s return to the scene of action at once restored success to his supporters. In January, 1620, the Hungarian Assembly formally deposed Ferdinand, and declared Bethlen Prince of Hungary; nor could even the acceptance of this election by his deposed rival detach Bethlen from the Bohemian cause; and he refused to make terms with Ferdinand until the latter had abandoned his claim on Bohemia. This encouraged the Bohemians yet further in their resistance; and the Austrian Protestants also showed considerable zeal in their cause. Tschernembl even came to Prague and took an active part in the organisation of the war; but he saw plainly that the oppressed condition of the peasantry prevented the struggle from assuming that popular character which alone could make it successful. He therefore strongly urged upon his colleagues the abolition of serfdom, as a means of securing the sympathy of the peasantry. But it was one of the weaknesses of the movement that the Bohemian nobles were hampered throughout by their class prejudices; and Tschernembl’s proposals were rejected.

About the same time Ferdinand strengthened his cause by the complete union of his forces with those of the Catholic League. Maximilian of Bavaria, the founder of that League, had cherished for some time his hereditary suspicion and dislike to the House of Austria; and he had been even mentioned as a rival[477] when Ferdinand was first proposed as Emperor. But the increase of the power of the Protestants gradually brought the Catholic rivals together; and towards the end of July, Maximilian had already consented to assist in suppressing an Austrian rising. Now, in September, he entered Bohemia; and his general, Tilly, became the chief person in the Imperialist army. This seems to have been the turning-point in the war. Christian of Anhalt, who had joined the Bohemian forces, was compelled to retreat to Moravia; while one of Ferdinand’s generals was despatched to Presburg to prevent Bethlen from marching to the assistance of the Bohemians. One of the ablest generals on the Bohemian side was Count Mansfeld, a lawless soldier of fortune. He, unable to pay his troops, had taken to plundering the Bohemian peasantry; and, finding that Frederick and Anhalt were both opposed to this method of warfare, he consented to accept a bribe from the Imperialists, which kept him quiet during their advance to Prague. This at once led Maximilian to hope for a speedy conquest; and, abandoning the siege of Pilsen, Bucquoi and Tilly at once marched forward to Prague.

Anhalt, who had been defending Pilsen, hastened to Rakonic, a town about thirty miles west of Prague, in order to cut off the advance of the Imperialists. But, in spite of his energy, the Imperialist forces came upon the Bohemians at Rakonic before they expected them, and utterly routed them. Frederick at once lost heart, and sent off a messenger to Elizabeth to tell her to fly from Prague, as all was lost. But the Queen seems to have inherited something[478] of the courage, as well as of the beauty, of her unfortunate grandmother, Mary Queen of Scots; and she indignantly refused to accept this advice. Anhalt in the meantime had succeeded in rallying his forces, and holding the Imperialists in check before Rakonic. But on the 3rd of November, Maximilian received a new supply of provisions; and, encouraged by this refreshment, the Imperial army once more broke up their camp, and continued their march to Prague. Anhalt again attempted to anticipate their march; and, on the night of the 7th of November, he reached the White Hill, about an hour’s journey from Prague.

Some of the Hungarian forces, whom Bethlen had previously despatched to the aid of the Bohemians, remained at the village of Rusin, at the foot of the hill; but they were there attacked and driven into flight by the cavalry of the Imperialists, neither their German nor their Bohemian allies attempting to rescue them. Again the wretched King of Bohemia was seized with a panic; and this time he actually fled from the army, and did not stop till he reached Prague. Bucquoi desired to leave the enemy unattacked, and to advance straight to Prague; but Tilly did not think it safe to leave Anhalt’s army in the rear; and, while they were still discussing the point, Dr. Angelini, a chaplain of Maximilian’s, exhorted them to fight, as God would protect them. This at once decided the Generals; and, as Bucquoi was wounded, Tiefenbach took his place at the head of his forces. The first opening of the battle was favourable to the Bohemians. Count Thurn repelled an attack of the Imperialist cavalry, and Anhalt[479] followed up this success by advancing in his turn. But Tilly came to the rescue, drove back Anhalt’s forces, and stormed the fortifications which had just been erected. Then a complete panic seized the Protestant army; the soldiers fled in confusion, and many were drowned in the Moldau in their endeavour to escape from the Imperialists. Anhalt did his best to rally the fugitives; but he soon found that further resistance was hopeless. Tschernembl, indeed, still wished to defend Prague, and even to organise a new attack; but the rest of the Council decided to open negotiations with Ferdinand. It was resolved, however, that the Queen and her child should at once be sent away into safety; and Frederick went to make arrangements for this purpose. But, with the departure of his wife, the wretched King had lost all remains of hope; and, no sooner had he despatched her on her journey, than he suddenly mounted his horse and galloped off after her, followed by Ruppa and other members of the Provisional Government. Count Thurn’s son endeavoured, indeed, to rally his forces once more for the defence of the Karlsbrücke; but the soldiers were too terrified to fight; the Imperialist army entered the town with little resistance; and on November 23rd Ferdinand received, at Vienna, a chest containing the charters of all the Bohemian privileges.

Of the causes of this final collapse of Bohemian independence there are three which stand out with special vividness: the first connected solely with the events of the insurrection; the second, with the condition of Bohemia ever since the fall of Tabor; the[480] third, with a fatal weakness that had reappeared continually through the greater part of Bohemian history. The first was the character of the leaders who undertook to guide this movement. With the exception of Budovĕc and Tschernembl there seem to be none of those heroic figures at the helm of affairs which are indispensable for a struggle for independence; and, of these two exceptions, Budovĕc had been speedily thrust into the background by his more ambitious colleagues, and Tschernembl’s advice was disregarded in most vital points. Of the rest, Ruppa seems to have been cowardly and colourless; Count Thurn, rash and unscrupulous to the last degree; Christian of Anhalt, an ambitious self-seeker; Mansfeld, a mere soldier of fortune, with rather less principle than Dugald Dalgetty; and as for the Elector Palatine, the story has shown how deficient he was in every kingly quality.

The second cause of weakness was the fatally aristocratic character of the movement. The rejection of the petitions of the serfs was in only too faithful harmony with the course of Bohemian history since the fall of Tabor. The Brotherhood alone had witnessed for wider sympathies and a higher conception of humanity and religion; but, as we have seen, even the Brotherhood had often found it difficult to resist the encroachment of aristocratic principles on its own organisation. The cry for freedom for a class could not animate a nation to resist the enthusiasm of sincere bigots like Ferdinand of Austria and Maximilian of Bavaria, nor the military ability of Tilly.

The third error, which hastened the ruin of Bohemia,[481] was the connection which the Bohemian leaders had formed with the alien policy and the unsympathetic schemes of the German intriguers.

From the time when Vratislav received his crown from Henry IV., to the time when Budovĕc and Thurn called Christian of Anhalt into their counsels, this seems to have been the fatal mistake running through the history of Bohemia. Doubtless both Vratislav and Vladislav meant well by their country, and they secured it a more brilliant position for a time; but they involved that country in many wars and disputes which hindered its progress, and which often encouraged unpatriotic intrigues. Doubtless, too, Wenceslaus and Ottakar promoted the trade and, for a time, even the freedom of Bohemia, by the introduction of German laws and German settlers into their towns; but this innovation, intended by them as a development of good government in Bohemia, was easily perverted by Otto of Brandenburg into a means of new tyranny. Still more unquestionably well-meant was the attempt of Charles IV. to combine the greatness of the German Empire with the growth of culture and learning in Bohemia; but, as unquestionably, it ended in failure, and its benefit chiefly consisted in the preparation that it afforded for the purely Bohemian movement which rose from its ruins. Hus in the fourteenth century, Peter of Chelc̆ic and his followers in the fifteenth and sixteenth, were the people through whom Bohemia was really able to develop a distinctive life, and thereby to do most essential service to the other nations of Europe; and we shall see, from the fragments of[482] national history which still remain to be told, that it is through such representatives as these that Bohemia, even after the loss of its political independence, could still do some work, which other countries may be the better for studying.





Few crises in the history of a country are so dramatically complete, or mark so clear a division between past and future, as the Battle of the White Hill. Though Mansfeld still held out for a time in some towns of Bohemia, and though the victories of Gustavus Adolphus in 1631 led to a temporary return of the Protestants, such partial checks could not hinder the establishment of a stifling despotism, nor remove its traces when established. That Ferdinand II. desired only to crush rebellion, and to restore the orthodox Roman Catholic faith, may be true enough; but he soon found that civil and religious liberty were bound up together, and that a centralised despotism at Vienna was the only means of securing that outward appearance of orthodoxy which is all that the most energetic despot can produce. The first part of his efforts was no doubt naturally directed to the punishment of the insurgents. On the 21st of June, 1621, twenty-seven of the leaders of the insurrection were executed in the Great Ring of Prague, the[484] noblest and best of them being old Wenceslaus of Budova; and many trials, confiscations, and fines followed, the last of them taking place in 1626.

But Ferdinand soon abandoned the pretext of repressing insurrection, and proceeded to the great work of restoring Catholic orthodoxy. At first his hostility was almost confined to the Protestant preachers, and his positive schemes were mainly directed to the exaltation of the Jesuits. Several preachers had been tortured and killed by the soldiers in the first heat of victory, and, in 1621, the great bulk of the Protestant clergy of Prague were ordered to sell their goods and to migrate to Saxony. Promises had, indeed, been made to the Elector of Saxony that the Lutherans should be gently dealt with. Moderate terms had been offered to the Utraquists, and Tabor had only surrendered on condition of its liberties being secured. But all these promises were swept aside by the eagerness of the Jesuits to recover their lost ground. They had been expelled and persecuted during the insurrection, and now their turn was come. Gradually all schools, books, and newspapers were placed under their care. The old liberties of Charles IV.’s University were crushed out, and at last the University itself was absorbed in a Jesuit college in which the name of Ferdinand was to be connected with that of Charles. The censorship of the press was to be enforced by the careful limitation of the number of printing-presses, and by the most rigorous inquiries into faith. Nor was the danger left unmarked which might arise from the reverence paid to the Protestant heroes of the past. The statues of Hus were either destroyed or turned into statues of John Nepomuc; Z̆iz̆ka’s dust was dug up from his grave at C̆aslau, and the figure above it was broken to pieces; a memorial of Rokycana shared the same fate; while the statue of King George protecting the Cup was removed from the Teyn Church, and a figure of the Virgin substituted for it.





But it must not be supposed that no resistance was offered to this scheme of persecution. Loc̆ika, the preacher at the Teyn Church, persisted, even in 1622, in administering the Cup to the laity. He was rebuked for this proceeding; but he appealed to his congregation to stand by him, and he repeated the[487] offence on the following Sunday. Then soldiers came into the church to seize him; he escaped by a back door, and a thousand men gathered to defend his house. In spite of this defence, however, the soldiers broke into the house and carried Loc̆ika to prison, where he soon after died.

More notable still, in its consequences to Bohemia, was the resistance of Kutna Hora. Even Ferdinand’s champions and followers had warned him that the mining industry was of vital importance to the welfare of Bohemia, and that it could only be maintained by respecting those powers of self-government which had been granted for so many centuries to the miners. But Ferdinand cared little for the material prosperity of Bohemia. Ever since Z̆iz̆ka had rescued it from Sigismund, Kutna Hora had remained enthusiastically Protestant; and it now offered special resistance to the attempt to Catholicise Bohemia. Ferdinand resolved at all hazards to crush this opposition. In defiance of the special liberties of the town he quartered soldiers upon it; and, when even this did not crush its spirit, he sent the Jesuits to celebrate Mass at the church of St. Barbara. Forcible expulsion seemed at last the only hope for conversion, and, by the end of 1626, no Protestant was left in Kutna Hora. Two hundred and eight out of five hundred and ninety houses were deserted, and the mining industry was ruined in its chief centre.



But there was one Protestant whose claims to consideration even Ferdinand could not deny. Charles of Z̆erotin had stood faithfully by the king at the height of the insurrection, and he had sacrificed position, and suffered imprisonment, in his cause. Ferdinand had promised to respect his convictions, and not to interfere with the Protestants who resided on his estate. Z̆erotin, therefore, was naturally indignant[489] when he found the Commissioners of Cardinal Dietrichstein carrying out, on his lands, their schemes for the suppression of Protestant worship. He hastened to Vienna and warmly remonstrated with the Emperor on his breach of faith. Ferdinand admitted the promises which he had given, and the services which he had received from Z̆erotin; but he said that the Pope was his master in matters of conscience, and the Pope had forbidden him to keep his promises. Z̆erotin was not satisfied with this answer. He hastened back to his own estate, and found that the Commissioners had just closed a Protestant church and sealed up the doors. Z̆erotin indignantly tore off the seal, re-opened the church, and took under his special protection several of the preachers who had fled from other districts. A Bohemian nobleman named George Sabovsky followed Z̆erotin’s example; and thus, both in Bohemia and Moravia, Protestantism was still kept alive in certain small districts.

Ferdinand now saw that it was not only the preachers whom he had to fear; and that to attack the clergy and destroy the privileges of towns, while he spared the nobles, was an extremely inadequate policy. He therefore now issued decrees, which were partly aimed against the landed proprietors, partly against Protestants of every class. In 1624 Protestants were forbidden to register their lands in that Land Court which alone secured them a good title to their estates; their children might not inherit the lands of their fathers unless they deserted their fathers’ faith; and marriages between Protestants and Catholics were to be no longer recognised. Even[490] these remedies failed. Z̆erotin still openly defied the royal Commissioners; and at last, in 1627, all Protestants were ordered to sell their estates and to leave the country, under pain of severe punishments.

But, before this climax had been reached, Ferdinand had discovered how hopelessly entangled with each other were the principles of civil and of religious liberty. He had wished merely to Catholicise Bohemia; in order to effect this, he now found that he must crush out its national feeling and its constitutional liberties. The towns had resisted him, therefore the towns must be deprived of their charters. The Land Court might evade the decisions against Protestant registration; the decisions of the Land Court must in future be overruled by the king. The Estates might make Protestant laws, and refuse to vote necessary taxes for his wars; their power must therefore be practically suppressed; the king must be allowed to re-model the Constitution, to appoint officials, to raise forces, and to levy taxes, without interference from any other authority. Nay, might not Prague rise, again, against his authority? Therefore the king must carry off the Bohemian crown to Vienna, and govern Bohemia by the advice of Austrian councillors. Even in that most tender point, his language, the Bohemian was to receive severe wounds. Ferdinand, indeed, had talked only of equalising the German and Bohemian languages in the practice of the law courts; but, as German officials and judges gradually took the place of Bohemians, and as a German aristocracy rapidly rose on the ruins of the exiled Bohemian nobles, this equalisation steadily developed into the exaltation of[491] German at the expense of Bohemian, while, in the University and the schools, both these living languages gave way before the Latin of the Jesuits. The study of history and physical science almost died out. Trade steadily decayed, and the population of the country diminished.

It is obvious that, in such a period as this, the real history of Bohemia should be rather studied in the lives of its exiles, than in the dreary records of its home life. Fortunately, one can find among these exiles a man who is trebly interesting to the historian; first, as embodying the highest ideal then possible to a Bohemian; secondly, as linking together, in a remarkable manner, the earlier and later stages of the Bohemian Brotherhood; thirdly, as one of the founders of the modern methods of education. John Amos Komensky (better known by his Latin name of Comenius) was born at Nivnice in Moravia in 1592. His father and mother died early, and the guardians, to whose care he was left, are said to have neglected their charge. However, he was sent to the school of the Brotherhood at Prerov, where he soon developed a great love of learning; and, at the age of thirty-two, he was appointed by Charles of Z̆erotin to the headship of the school in which he had formerly studied. He soon became impressed with the unsatisfactory character of the accepted methods of teaching Latin; and he suggested an easier and simpler plan. From Prerov he was removed to Fulnec, the oldest Moravian settlement of the Brotherhood; but, before he could carry his reforms any further, he was interrupted in his work by the[492] Bohemian insurrection. In 1621 a Spanish army burnt Fulnec; and all Comenius’s books and manuscripts were destroyed. In the time of persecution he, like other preachers of the Brotherhood, took refuge with Charles of Z̆erotin. The sufferings and uncertainties of his life naturally turned his attention to theological and moral problems, and his first important book took the form of an allegory. In this he describes a journey through scenes of vanity and confusion, ending in the return to the inner life, and the realisation of a stronger sympathy with the poor and suffering.


[493]But the final expulsion of the Protestants from Bohemia brought Comenius back to the real work of his life. He and other members of the Brotherhood now formed a kind of colony at Lissa in Poland. In that town he resumed his profession of schoolmaster, and he once more became vividly conscious of the defects in existing methods of education. In 1631 he published the book which embodies his strongest convictions on these matters—“Janua aurea reserrata quatuor linguarum.” In this book he points out that “boys are being stuffed with the names of things without the things.” The boy learns to recite by heart a thousand words; if he does not know how to apply them to things, of what use will all this provision of words be? Moreover, the books chosen are too restricted in their character; and, however excellent in quality, they do not deal with nearly all the subjects which a boy should learn. Comenius therefore proposes to arrange sentences in four languages (Latin, German, French, and Italian). These sentences deal with a large variety of subjects, ranging from the creation of the world to the mechanical arts and the practice of the law-courts; and they are followed by a vocabulary of the most necessary words. Comenius, indeed, very generously admitted that the Jesuits had made a useful beginning in this matter of the vocabulary; but he did not consider that their vocabulary was complete enough for his purpose.

[494]In a later book called the “Didactica,” he further explained his principles. The intellect, he urged, should be developed before mere language is taught. Language should be learnt from authors, rather than from grammatical rules. Things should be taught before organisms; examples before rules. Pictures should be largely used to bring out the meaning of the teacher; and children should not be forced to commit to memory what they do not understand. The first teaching should be given in the vernacular; the Latin equivalents should be learnt later. “Nature,” said Comenius, “cannot be forced, but must be led willingly. All the senses must be called into play by the lesson; and the later lessons should be the natural development of the earlier ones. Whatever is to be known should be taught. Whatever is taught should be taught as a present thing of definite use.”

Comenius had now gained a high reputation in the Brotherhood; and he was chosen to write the history of its trials and sufferings. At the same time his educational works had attracted attention outside his own circle, and Gustavus Adolphus invited him to Sweden, to reform the schools in that country. This invitation Comenius at first refused; but, ten years later, when his books were in a more advanced condition, he accepted a proposal, of a somewhat similar kind, from another country.

Samuel Hartlib, a merchant of London, had been much interested in the works of Comenius; and, in his desire to reform English education, he invited the Bohemian to come over to London. Hartlib had[495] shown great liberality to the Bohemian exiles; and Comenius had already been interested in several English books. Moreover, one of his own books had been written at Hartlib’s suggestion, and published, at Hartlib’s own expense, in London. Comenius, therefore, decided to accept this invitation, and he arrived in London in the critical year 1641. The Long Parliament readily responded to Hartlib’s proposals; and they voted money for the founding of three colleges, in which the principles of Comenius might at once be applied. One of these was to be at the Savoy, one at Chelsea, and one at Winchester. Unfortunately, the Irish insurrection turned the attention of Parliament away from these matters; and the rapid succession of events, which culminated in the civil war, convinced the Bohemian that there was no further possibility, at that time, for the development of his purposes in England.

But, though Comenius left our country in some disappointment, it must be remembered that he left one very eminent disciple behind him. Four years later, when the hopes of the Puritans had gained further strength, Hartlib appealed to Milton to second him in the promotion of his schemes. Milton turned, somewhat unwillingly, from the composition of the Areopagitica to the discussion of Hartlib’s plans; but he was impressed by his friend’s enthusiasm; and it is evidently of Comenius that he speaks so warmly in his letter. He there describes him as “a person sent hither by some good Providence from a far country, to be the occasion and incitement of great good to this Island.” Though,[496] therefore, the poet had not time “to search out what many modern Januas and Didactics, more than ever I shall read, have projected,” he yet consented in this letter to express his sympathy with the plans of Comenius and Hartlib. The following words, perhaps, best sum up his teaching. “If, after some preparatory grounds of speech, by their certain forms got into memory, children were led to the praxis thereof, in some chosen short book lessened thoroughly to them, they might then learn the substance of good things and arts in due order, which would bring the whole language quickly into their power.”

In the meantime, Comenius, eager for those spheres of work, had accepted a second invitation to Sweden, this time from a Swedish nobleman named De Geer. The famous Chancellor, Oxenstierna, readily welcomed the Bohemian to Sweden; though, at the same time, he complained that previous educational reformers had pointed out faults without suggesting remedies. When Comenius produced his schemes, the Chancellor subjected them to a searching criticism; and, finding that Comenius was ready to meet his objections, he consented to place the reform of Swedish education under his guidance. Comenius, however, ultimately chose the Prussian town of Elbing as the centre of his experiments; probably because he was there nearer to the settlements of the Brotherhood, and could intervene at times to mitigate their quarrels or intercede for their rights.

The relation of literary patron to protected man of genius has never been an easy or a happy one; and Comenius often found that De Geer complained[497] of the slowness of his work, and, still more, perhaps, of that wide range of sympathies which often distracted him from the interests to which his patron desired him to confine himself. Once De Geer even withdrew his support, for a time, from the needy Bohemian; and Comenius must have felt this desertion the more keenly, because his applications for money had been far oftener made on behalf of others than for his own needs. But a bitterer blow awaited him in 1648. He had hoped that the enthusiasm of Gustavus Adolphus for the Protestant Cause had been shared by his Councillors, and by his countrymen generally; and that they would insist on the restoration of the Protestant Bohemians to their country, before the final conclusion of the peace. It was, therefore, a terrible shock to find that Oxenstierna cared more for the possession of Pomerania than for the liberties of German or Bohemian Protestants; and Comenius bitterly reproached the Swedish Chancellor with his desertion of the cause of the exiles.

But this year of disappointment brought one consolation. Comenius was elected Chief Bishop of the Bohemian Brotherhood; and his exhortations and encouragements seemed for a time to put new life into the Society. More noteworthy still is the effect which these addresses produced in the following century; for it was they that decided Count Zinzendorf to welcome the Brethren to Herrnhut, and to inaugurate that later period of their career during which they have been known by the name of “Moravians.” It is interesting, too, to find that[498] Comenius was actuated by that Slavonic feeling which was always so powerful in Bohemia; and that he conceived the idea of translating the Bible into Turkish, so that, by turning the Sultan to the true faith, he might secure an easier life for those Slavs who were suffering under the Mahommedan tyranny. His educational labours were also carried on with some effect in Poland and Hungary; and it should be specially remembered that the German Real-Schule is as much due to the inspiration of Comenius as the Universities of Leipzic and Wittenberg are to the model provided for them, and the scholars trained in the University of Prague.

But, though the career of Comenius shows that there were still Bohemians who tried to keep alive the intellectual and moral life of their nation, such instances are but rare interruptions to the dreary record of stifling tyranny which stretched over the last years during which the male line of the Hapsburgs governed Bohemia. Doubtless, occasionally, energetic students, like the Jesuits, Balbin and Pes̆ina, give hopes of an ultimate revival of interest in the national history; sometimes an insurrection of the peasantry, like that of 1680, seems to hint that tyranny may become intolerable at last. Joseph I., indeed, is credited with a desire for reform; but at any rate there is no sign of a realisation of his ideas; and it is only when the male Hapsburgs make way for the one female ruler of their race that a day of better things seems just about to dawn. Even that dawn was very slow in breaking. Some encouragement was given to culture by Maria Theresa, and a literary[499] society was founded; but it soon became apparent that even literary discussions involved an awkward revival of the past; and the censors again interfered to check intellectual progress. The Empress-Queen relaxed the feudal oppression of the peasantry; but only enough was granted to excite, without satisfying, the desire for liberty. One step, however, was gained during this reign, which cleared the ground for future progress. Popes and kings at last realised that that great Order, before which they had bowed, might become as dangerous to them as to the people whom they governed; and, in 1773, Clement XIV. dissolved the Society of Jesus. This dissolution struck a blow at that monopoly of education which had stunted the intellectual life of Bohemia, and it prepared the way for the changes of the following reign.

In 1780, Joseph II. of Germany, the first king of the House of Lorraine, succeeded his mother as ruler of all the dominions of the House of Austria. He at once signalised his accession to power by an Edict of Toleration, which allowed all Protestants to return to Bohemia, and to settle there freely. But, with all his zeal for enlightenment, Joseph was hampered by those old traditions of uniformity which he had received from his mother’s family. He soon found that Protestants could not be all rolled together in compact bundles and kept quiet there. Not only the Bohemian Brothers, but a number of very strange sects, would come in under the new Edict. Some of these did not even profess Christianity; and Joseph was yet more irritated to find that men who had special convictions sometimes wished to express them[500] in ways of which their neighbours disapproved. The Protestants were therefore called upon to accept either the Augsburg Confession or the Calvinistic Formulæ; and, when he at last realised that there was a growing body in the country who refused to accept any definite Christian creed, Joseph’s feelings of toleration gave way. Children were torn from their parents to be educated in sounder principles, and the parents were banished to Transylvania.

A blot, that created even more general indignation in Bohemia, stained Joseph’s schemes of educational reform. Here, too, he wished to remove restrictions and to extend knowledge; but here again the Hapsburg instinct was too strong for eighteenth-century enlightenment. The Latin of the Jesuits was, indeed, to be deposed from its supremacy. Printing-presses were to be established. Studies previously rejected were to be encouraged. But the tyranny of Latin only made way for the tyranny of German. That was to be the one recognised language of education; and Bohemian was to yield to it even more completely than it had yielded to the language of an older civilisation.

Nor had Parliaments or municipalities any chance of life. No laws were to be passed by the Bohemian Estates without the sanction of an Austrian Board; the censorship of Bohemian books was to be conducted from Vienna; a brand-new municipal code was to check the free play of the old Town Rights. Only in one matter was freedom to be unhampered in its progress, and untainted by any of those inconsistent arrangements which took back with one hand[501] what the other hand had given. The power of the lord over the serf was to be completely broken; and the freed peasants might move as they pleased from place to place, and might choose whatever trade or study they desired, unhampered by the authority of their former masters.

But the opposition to the denationalising plans of Joseph, which assumed so violent a form in Hungary and the Netherlands, encouraged the Bohemians also to protest in a milder fashion; and, when Leopold succeeded Joseph as King of Bohemia, he was forced to reconsider his brother’s policy, to convoke the Bohemian Assembly once more, and to make concessions to the national feeling in the matter of language. For, in spite of all repressions and discouragements, that feeling had never ceased to have its influence in Bohemia; and it was well illustrated by three men of very different type, who had begun their efforts in the discouraging times of repression, and who lived on into more hopeful days.

Of these the eldest was Frantis̆ek Pelc̆el, who was born at Rychnov (Reichenau) in 1735. He was a man of obscure birth, and he was intended by his parents for the medical profession. But he did not like this occupation; so he went to Prague to study in the High School, where he partly supported himself by teaching the children of rich citizens. Finding, however, that logic was better taught at Králové Dvůr (Königinhof), he went there to study; but, while he was there, the school was placed more completely under Jesuit control. The strange mixture of repulsion and attraction which that wonderful Society seems[502] generally to excite in its pupils, had its influence over Pelc̆el; and the attraction proving, for the time, the stronger feeling, he was inclined to give himself to theology; but the Seven Years War cut short his studies, and he left Bohemia for Vienna.

It was on his return to Prague that he fell in with the second of the men who were to be the great promoters of the new movement. This was Count Caspar of Sternberg, the son of an officer who had served under Maria Theresa. He, like Pelc̆el, had been attracted to the study of theology; but his audacious speculations had startled the professors at the German College in Rome, and the Jesuits had produced on him a purely repellent effect. After the dissolution of the German College, Sternberg had returned to Prague, and had given himself to the study of art. He soon took notice of Pelc̆el, and entrusted to him the education of his children. This turned Pelc̆el from his theological speculations; but it was not till his transfer to the family of another nobleman that he devoted himself wholly to the study and writing of history. His life of Charles IV. and his short history of Bohemia may be wanting in the wide views and deeper insight of later historians; but the evidence of enormous industry and hearty interest in the subject make a distinct mark in the progress of national feeling.

The most remarkable of the leaders of the movement, and the one who seems to be the most looked back to by the historians of the present day, was Josef Dobrovsky. He, too, was intended by his Jesuit teachers for a theological career; and it was[503] only the suppression of that Order which turned him for a time to the study of the language. He did not, however, abandon theology. In 1778 he brought out a commentary on Bohemian literature; and in 1779 he began to edit a journal in which contemporary Bohemian literature was noticed and criticised. Curiously enough, his conclusions about Bohemian history were rather opposed to those of modern national historians. He threw doubts on the existence of the common Slavonic language; and he rather discredited the extent of the influence of Cyril and Methodius, as compared with that of the Roman Church. But for the Bohemian language he was keenly zealous, and when, in 1790, Leopold appeared at a meeting of the Bohemian Society of Sciences, Dobrovsky appealed to him to protect his countrymen in the use of their mother-tongue. The Emperor was so much impressed by this appeal, that he sent six thousand gulden to the society, for the promotion of journeys for inquiry into the Bohemian history and language. Dobrovsky was chosen to travel in Sweden and Russia, both for the recovery of lost manuscripts and for the collection of further information about Slavonic literature.

In the meantime, Count Caspar von Sternberg had been forced to abandon official life, and had begun to devote himself more exclusively to the promotion of art, literature, and science. The Emperor Francis showed himself almost as friendly as Leopold had been to the revival of Bohemian literature and art; and, in 1818, he assented to the foundation of the National Museum at Prague for the collection of all[504] kinds of literary, artistic, and scientific antiquities of Bohemia. The foundation of this museum was almost contemporaneous with events which excited, to the highest pitch, the champions of Bohemian language and literature.

A man named Hanka, in hunting for some ecclesiastical documents in the vault of the church of Králové Dvůr, found an old chest in the wall, in which church ornaments were kept. Hidden behind this were some curious old manuscripts, which, on examination, proved to be Bohemian songs of a comparatively early date. They were at once despatched to Prague, and were handed over by Count Sternberg to two men who were now gaining much reputation. These were Josef S̆afarik, a Slovak from that district of Hungary where a dialect of the Bohemian language is usually spoken, and Frantis̆ek Palacký, the son of a Calvinist minister, who had been marked out for an important post in the new museum. They examined the manuscript, and, after long consideration, pronounced it genuine. This discovery seemed to open a new world of life and thought to the champions of national literature. Most of the songs, it was true, dealt mainly with battles; but the power of expression seemed to indicate a condition of culture in the ninth or tenth century which led the Bohemians to believe in an early development of national life, uninfluenced by Teutonic intruders.


Count Sternberg now issued an appeal to the possessors of all antiquities, whether literary, artistic, or scientific, to send them to the National Museum. One of the first answers to this appeal was an[505] anonymous letter, in which the writer announced that he had discovered another Bohemian manuscript in a certain castle; but that he feared to give his name or call public attention to the place, as the owner of the castle was a German “Michel”[6] who would destroy any Bohemian manuscript if he found it. The writer, therefore, forwarded the manuscript secretly, without waiting for the lord’s permission. The manuscript was found to be the poem of the Libus̆in Saud described in the first chapter of this history; and the writer, on inquiry, was discovered to be Kovar, the bailiff of Count Colloredo-Mansfeld. The manuscript, it appeared, had been discovered in a vault of the Castle of Zelená hora (Grünberg),[506] in Nepomuc, where the bailiff had been examining a number of business papers. This manuscript was also examined, and was pronounced by Palacký and S̆afarik to be of earlier date than the Königinhof manuscript.

These discoveries, however, were not suffered to pass unchallenged. At first, indeed, the controversy seemed likely to be conducted on scientific principles. The chief opponent of their authenticity was the zealous patriot Dobrovsky; and he disputed their claim to historic worth on philological grounds. But soon the controversy passed out of the serene air of scientific discussion. The eager enthusiasm with which most Bohemian patriots had hailed the discovery of the manuscripts, aroused an equally eager desire on the part of the enemies of their language to dispute the authenticity of these discoveries; and savage German critics accused Hanka and Kovar of forgery, and denounced as absurd the suggestion of any possible Bohemian civilisation which had not come from Germany. The writings of S̆afarik on the various Slavonic languages kept the discussion alive; and the appearance, in 1836, of the early volumes of Palacký’s history roused still angrier attacks.



Even before this literary revival had taken place, discoveries had been made which seemed to point to an early culture even amongst the Bohemian peasantry. Bronzes and earthenware ornaments had been dug up, the antiquity of which was proved by the heathen symbols marked upon them; and it was noticed that these devices corresponded to the designs which were produced in later ages by the peasantry[508] in Bohemia and Moravia. This curious fact gave a new impulse to investigation, and numerous specimens of the peasant art were collected. The beauty of colouring and design in this work is the more striking because it was not learnt in any school, but is the fruit of native genius. About the same time a similar interest was roused in the music produced by the peasantry, and the songs and dances of the peasants have been embodied in the operas of S̆metana.

The revolution of 1848 naturally brought to a head the struggle between the Germans and Bohemians: and the demand then made for the further protection of the Bohemian language was strengthened at a later stage by the meeting of the Slavonic Congress, which was to protect the Slavs against the threatened encroachment of the Frankfort Parliament.[7] The unfortunate rising of June, 1848, led to the downfall of the newly-born liberty of Bohemia; but, when German and Magyar revolutions were alike crushed, questions of race-division naturally ceased for a time to be interesting to those who had suffered a common loss of liberty. The idea of a federative union of the Austrian dominions was, however, kept steadily before the public by Palacký; and the old fear of sinking to an equality with other races gradually roused the Germans to renewed action. In 1858 the controversy about the manuscripts of Králové Dvůr and Zelená hora was renewed in all its fierceness; and when, after the Austrian collapse in 1859, the talk about Constitutional government once more began,[509] it was soon found that the new liberties were not to produce equality of race. The wars of 1866 and 1870 gave a new impulse to the German claim for supremacy in Austria; and so the struggle has gone on with varying fortune, but ever circling round the central point of language and literature.




[1] The following account of the legend of Libus̆a is taken partly from the translation of the Libus̆in Saud by Mr. A. H. Wratislaw, partly from the version of the story given by Cosmas. I have not the least desire to enter here into the burning question of the authenticity of the original poem. I have heard every degree and variety of opinion on that subject, even from patriotic Bohemians. But the only two points that concern me here are, first, that Cosmas must have had before him some old legend containing a version of the story, not unlike that edited and translated by Mr. Wratislaw; secondly, that Cosmas accepted this story as embodying his conception of the beginnings of Bohemian history. No one, as far as I know, disputes the genuineness of Cosmas’s history; into the sources of his information it is not necessary to go.

[2] A new word in the Bohemian language fitly marks this period. This word is Kostel, which is obviously formed from the German Castell, and ultimately from Castellum; but which was used to signify church, since the military Christianity introduced by the Franks was marked by the use of castles as churches.

[3] In the English carol the story has evidently been adapted to modern feeling; for the saint’s barefoot walk to the church has been changed into a mission of practical benevolence.

[4] Since writing the above I have found a curious confirmation of my opinion of the danger of this utterance in one of the decrees of Ferdinand II., issued at the time when he was practically destroying the foundation of Charles IV. He appeals to the memory of Charles as a justification of his proceedings, on the ground that he was only restoring that unity of the Catholic religion, of which Charles was so ardent a champion.

[5] These words are curiously like those of a later popular ruler of Rome—“Mankind has worshipped in the name of the Father and the Son. Give place to the religion of the Spirit.”—From the Pope to the Council.Giuseppe Mazzini.

[6] “Michel” is an embodiment of certain ideas about the typical German, much as the name “John Bull” embodies certain conceptions about the average Englishman.

[7] I have treated this part of the subject in full in my account of the Bohemian Revolution in the “Revolutions of 1848 and 1849.”






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