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Title: Historical Tales, Vol 5 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality, German
Author: Morris, Charles, 1833-1922
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Édition d'Élite

Historical Tales

The Romance of Reality



_Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the
Dramatists," etc._


Volume V




Copyright, 1893, by J.B. Lippincott Company.

Copyright, 1904, by J.B. Lippincott Company.

Copyright, 1908, by J.B. Lippincott Company.



HERMANN, THE HERO OF GERMANY                                 7

ALBION AND ROSAMOND                                         19

THE CAREER OF GRIMOALD                                      28

WITTEKIND, THE SAXON PATRIOT                                37

THE RAIDS OF THE SEA-ROVERS                                 47

THE CAREER OF BISHOP HATTO                                  58

THE MISFORTUNES OF DUKE ERNST                               64

THE REIGN OF OTHO II                                        69

THE FORTUNES OF HENRY THE FOURTH                            77

THE ANECDOTES OF MEDIÆVAL GERMANY                           92

FREDERICK BARBAROSSA AND MILAN                             105

THE CRUSADE OF FREDERICK II                                118

THE FALL OF THE GHIBELLINES                                129

THE TRIBUNAL OF THE HOLY VEHM                              138

WILLIAM TELL AND THE SWISS PATRIOTS                        148

THE BLACK DEATH AND THE FLAGELLANTS                        162

THE SWISS AT MORGARTEN                                     170

A MAD EMPEROR                                              176

SEMPACH AND ARNOLD WINKELRIED                              187

ZISKA, THE BLIND WARRIOR                                   198

THE SIEGE OF BELGRADE                                      210

LUTHER AND THE INDULGENCES                                 217

SOLYMAN THE MAGNIFICENT AT GUNTZ                           229

THE PEASANTS AND THE ANABAPTISTS                           238

THE FORTUNES OF WALLENSTEIN                                252

THE END OF TWO GREAT SOLDIERS                              265

THE SIEGE OF VIENNA                                        277

THE YOUTH OF FREDERICK THE GREAT                           288

VOLTAIRE AND FREDERICK THE GREAT                           305

SCENES FROM THE SEVEN YEARS' WAR                           315

THE PATRIOTS OF THE TYROL                                  328

THE OLD EMPIRE AND THE NEW                                 343






THE BAPTISM OF WITTEKIND                                    43

THE MOUSE-TOWER ON THE RHINE                                61

PEASANT WEDDING PROCESSION                                  65

SCENE OF MONASTIC LIFE                                      78

THUSNELDA IN THE GERMANICUS TRIUMPH                         94

THE AMPHITHEATRE AT MILAN                                  109

STATUE OF WILLIAM TELL                                     153

THE CASTLE OF PRAGUE                                       175

STATUE OF ARNOLD WINKELRIED                                193

STATUE OF LUTHER AT WORMS                                  225


OLD HOUSES AT MÜNSTER                                      246

WALLENSTEIN                                                252

THE PARLIAMENT HOUSE IN VIENNA                             278



THE LAST DAY OF ANDREAS HOFER                              340

A GERMAN MILK WAGON                                        347



In the days of Augustus, the emperor of Rome in its golden age of
prosperity, an earnest effort was made to subdue and civilize barbarian
Germany. Drusus, the step-son of the emperor, led the first army of
invasion into this forest-clad land of the north, penetrating deeply
into the country and building numerous forts to guard his conquests. His
last invasion took him as far as the Elbe. Here, as we are told, he
found himself confronted by a supernatural figure, in the form of a
woman, who waved him back with lofty and threatening air, saying, "How
much farther wilt thou advance, insatiable Drusus? It is not thy lot to
behold all these countries. Depart hence! the term of thy deeds and of
thy life is at hand." Drusus retreated, and died on his return.

Tiberius, his brother, succeeded him, and went far to complete the
conquest he had begun. Germany seemed destined to become a Roman
province. The work of conquest was followed by efforts to civilize the
free-spirited barbarians, which, had they been conducted wisely, might
have led to success. One of the Roman governors, Sentius, prefect of the
Rhine, treated the people so humanely that many of them adopted the arts
and customs of Rome, and the work of overcoming their barbarism was
well begun. He was succeeded in this office by Varus, a friend and
confidant of the emperor, but a man of very different character, and one
who not only lacked military experience and mental ability, but utterly
misunderstood the character of the people he was dealing with. They
might be led, they could not be driven into civilization, as the new
prefect was to learn.

All went well as long as Varus remained peacefully in his head-quarters,
erecting markets, making the natives familiar with the attractive wares
of Rome, instructing them in civilized arts, and taking their sons into
the imperial army. All went ill when he sought to hasten his work by
acts of oppression, leading his forces across the Weser into the land of
the Cherusci, enforcing there the rigid Roman laws, and chastising and
executing free-born Germans for deeds which in their creed were not
crimes. Varus, who had at first made himself loved by his kindness, now
made himself hated by his severity. The Germans brooded over their
wrongs, awed by the Roman army, which consisted of thirty thousand
picked men, strongly intrenched, their camps being impregnable to their
undisciplined foes. Yet the high-spirited barbarians felt that this army
was but an entering wedge, and that, if not driven out, their whole
country would gradually be subdued.

A patriot at length arose among the Cherusci, determined to free his
country from the intolerable Roman yoke. He was a handsome and athletic
youth, Arminius, or Hermann as the Germans prefer to name him, of noble
descent, and skilled alike in the arts of war and of oratory, his
eloquence being equal to his courage. He was one of the sons of the
Germans who had served in the Roman armies, and had won there such
distinction as to gain the honors of knighthood and citizenship. Now,
perceiving clearly the subjection that threatened his countrymen, and
filled with an ardent love of liberty, he appeared among them, and
quickly filled their dispirited souls with much of his own courage and
enthusiasm. At midnight meetings in the depths of the forests a
conspiracy against Varus and his legions was planned, Hermann being the
chosen leader of the perilous enterprise.

It was not long before this conspiracy was revealed. The German control
over the Cherusci had been aided by Segestus, a treacherous chief, whose
beautiful and patriotic daughter, Thusnelda, had given her hand in
marriage to Hermann, against her father's will. Filled with revengeful
anger at this action, and hoping to increase his power, Segestus told
the story of the secret meetings, which he had discovered, to Varus, and
bade him beware, as a revolt against him might at any moment break out.
He spoke to the wrong man. Pride in the Roman power and scorn of that of
the Germans had deeply infected the mind of Varus, and he heard with
incredulous contempt this story that the barbarians contemplated rising
against the best trained legions of Rome.

Autumn came, the autumn of the year 9 A.D. The long rainy season of the
German forests began. Hermann decided that the time had arrived for the
execution of his plans. He began his work with a deceitful skill that
quite blinded the too-trusting Varus, inducing him to send bodies of
troops into different parts of the country, some to gather provisions
for the winter supply of the camps, others to keep watch over some
tribes not yet subdued. The Roman force thus weakened, the artful German
succeeded in drawing Varus with the remainder of his men from their
intrenchments, by inducing one of the subjected tribes to revolt.

The scheme of Hermann had, so far, been completely successful. Varus,
trusting to his representations, had weakened his force, and now
prepared to draw the main body of his army out of camp. Hermann remained
with him to the last, dining with him the day before the starting of the
expedition, and inspiring so much confidence in his faithfulness to Rome
that Varus refused to listen to Segestus, who earnestly entreated him to
take Hermann prisoner on the spot. He even took Hermann's advice, and
decided to march on the revolted tribe by a shorter than the usual
route, oblivious to the fact that it led through difficult mountain
passes, shrouded in forests and bordered by steep and rocky acclivities.

The treacherous plans of the patriotic German had fully succeeded. While
the Romans were toiling onward through the straitened passes, Hermann
had sought his waiting and ambushed countrymen, to whom he gave the
signal that the time for vengeance had come. Then, as if the dense
forests had borne a sudden crop of armed men, the furious barbarians
poured out in thousands upon the unsuspecting legionaries.

A frightful storm was raging. The mountain torrents, swollen by the
downpour of rain, over--flowed their banks and invaded the passes, along
which the Romans, encumbered with baggage, were wearily dragging onward
in broken columns. Suddenly, to the roar of winds and waters, was added
the wild war-cry of the Germans, and a storm of arrows, javelins, and
stones hurtled through the disordered ranks, while the barbarians,
breaking from the woods, and rushing downward from the heights, fell
upon the legions with sword and battle-axe, dealing death with every

Only the discipline of the Romans saved them from speedy destruction.
With the instinct of their training they hastened to gather into larger
bodies, and their resistance, at first feeble, soon became more
effective. The struggle continued until night-fall, by which time the
surviving Romans had fought their way to a more open place, where they
hastily intrenched. But it was impossible for them to remain there.
Their provisions were lost or exhausted, thousands of foes surrounded
them, and their only hope lay in immediate and rapid flight.

Sunrise came. The soldiers had recovered somewhat from the fatigue of
the day before. Setting fire to what baggage remained in their hands,
they began a retreat fighting as they went, for the implacable enemy
disputed every step. The first part of their route lay through an open
plain, where they marched in orderly ranks. But there were mountains
still to pass, and they quickly found themselves in a wooded and
pathless valley, in whose rugged depths defence was almost impossible.
Here they fell in thousands before the weapons of their foes. It was but
a small body of survivors that at length escaped from that deadly defile
and threw up intrenchments for the night in a more open spot.

With the dawn of the next day they resumed their progress, and were at
no great distance from their stronghold of Aliso when they found their
progress arrested by fresh tribes, who assailed them with murderous
fury. On they struggled, fighting, dying, marking every step of the
route with their dead. Varus, now reduced to despair, and seeing only
slaughter or captivity before him, threw himself on his sword, and died
in the midst of those whom his blind confidence had led to destruction.
Of the whole army only a feeble remnant reached Aliso, which fort they
soon after abandoned and fought their way to the Rhine. While this was
going on, the detachments which Varus had sent out in various directions
were similarly assailed, and met the same fate as had overtaken the main
body of the troops.


No more frightful disaster had ever befallen the Roman arms. Many
prisoners had been taken, among them certain judges and lawyers, who
were the chief objects of Hermann's hate, and whom he devoted to a
painful death. He then offered sacrifices to the gods, to whom he
consecrated the booty, the slain, and the leading prisoners, numbers of
them being slain on the altars of his deities. These religious
ceremonies completed, the prisoners who still remained were distributed
among the tribes as slaves. The effort of Varus to force Roman customs
and laws upon the Germans had led to a fearful retribution.

When the news of this dreadful event reached Rome, that city was filled
with grief and fear. The heart of Augustus, now an old man, was stricken
with dismay at the slaughter of the best soldiers of the empire. With
neglected dress and person he wandered about the rooms and halls of the
palace, his piteous appeal, "Varus, give me back my legions!" showing
how deeply the disaster had pierced his soul. Hasty efforts were at once
made to prevent the possible serious consequences of the overthrow of
the slain legions. The Romans on the Rhine intrenched themselves in all
haste. The Germans in the imperial service were sent to distant
provinces, and recruits were raised in all parts of the country, their
purpose being to protect Gaul from an invasion by the triumphant tribes.
Yet so great was the fear inspired by the former German onslaughts, and
by this destructive outbreak, that only threats of death induced the
Romans to serve. As it proved, this defensive activity was not needed.
The Germans, satisfied, as it seemed, with expelling the Romans from
their country, destroyed their forts and military roads, and settled
back into peace, with no sign of a desire to cross the Rhine.

For six years peace continued. Augustus died, and Tiberius became
emperor of Rome. Then, in the year 14 A.D., an effort was made to
reconquer Germany, an army commanded by the son of Drusus, known to
history under the name of Germanicus, attacking the Marsi, when
intoxicated and unarmed after a religious feast. Great numbers of the
defenceless tribesmen were slain, but the other tribes sprung to arms
and drove the invader back across the Rhine.

In the next year Hermann was again brought into the fray. Segestus had
robbed him of his wife, the beautiful patriot Thusnelda, who hitherto
had been his right hand in council in his plans against the Roman foe.
Hermann besieged Segestus to regain possession of his wife, and pressed
the traitor so closely that he sent his son Sigismund to Germanicus, who
was again on the German side of the Rhine, imploring aid. The Roman
leader took instant advantage of this promising opportunity. He advanced
and forced Hermann to raise the siege, and himself took possession of
Thusnelda, who was destined soon afterwards to be made the leading
feature in a Roman triumph. Segestus was rewarded for his treason, and
was given lands in Gaul, his life being not safe among the people he had
betrayed. As for the daughter whom he had yielded to Roman hands, her
fate troubled little his base soul.

Thusnelda is still a popular character in German legend, there being
various stories extant concerning her. One of these relates that, when
she lay concealed in the old fort of Schellenpyrmont, she was warned by
the cries of a faithful bird of the coming of the Romans, who were
seeking stealthily to approach her hiding-place.

The loss of his beloved wife roused Hermann's heroic spirit, and spread
indignation among the Germans, who highly esteemed the noble-hearted
consort of their chief. They rose hastily in arms, and Hermann was soon
at the head of a large army, prepared to defend his country against the
invading hosts of the Romans. But as the latter proved too strong to
face in the open field, the Germans retreated with their families and
property, the country left by them being laid waste by the advancing

Germanicus soon reached the scene of the late slaughter, and caused the
bones of the soldiers of Varus to be buried. But in doing this he was
obliged to enter the mountain defiles in which the former army had met
its fate. Hermann and his men watched the Romans intently from forest
and hilltop. When they had fairly entered the narrow valleys, the adroit
chief appeared before them at the head of a small troop, which retreated
as if in fear, drawing them onward until the whole army had entered the

Then the fatal signal was given, and the revengeful Germans fell upon
the legionaries of Germanicus as they had done upon those of Varus,
cutting them down in multitudes. But Germanicus was a much better
soldier than Varus. He succeeded in extricating the remnant of his men,
after they had lost heavily, and in making an orderly retreat to his
ships, which awaited him upon the northern coast whence he had entered
the country. There were two other armies, one of which had invaded
Germany from the coast of Friesland, and was carried away by a flood,
narrowly escaping complete destruction. The third had entered from the
Rhine. This was overtaken by Hermann while retreating over the long
bridges which the Romans had built across the marshes of Münsterland,
and which were now in a state of advanced decay. Here it found itself
surrounded by seemingly insuperable dangers, being, in part of its
route, shut up in a narrow dell, into which the enemy had turned the
waters of a rapid stream. While defending their camp, the waters poured
upon the soldiers, rising to their knees, and a furious tempest at the
same time burst over their heads. Yet discipline, again prevailed. They
lost heavily, but succeeded in cutting their way through their enemies
and reaching the Rhine.

In the next year, 17 A.D., Germanicus again invaded Germany, sailing
with a thousand ships through the northern seas and up the Ems. Flavus,
the brother of Hermann, who had remained in the service of Rome, was
with him, and addressed his patriotic brother from the river-side,
seeking to induce him to desert the German cause, by painting in
glowing colors the advantage of being a Roman citizen. Hermann, furious
at his desertion of his country, replied to him with curses, as the only
language worthy to use to a traitor, and would have ridden across the
stream to kill him, but that he was held back by his men.

A battle soon succeeded, the Germans falling into an ambuscade artfully
laid by the Roman leader, and being defeated with heavy loss. Germanicus
raised a stately monument on the spot, as a memorial of his victory. The
sight of this Roman monument in their country infuriated the Germans,
and they attacked the Romans again, this time with such fury, and such
slaughter on both sides, that neither party was able to resume the fight
when the next day dawned. Germanicus, who had been very severely
handled, retreated to his ships and set sail. On his voyage the heavens
appeared to conspire against him. A tempest arose in which most of the
vessels were wrecked and many of the legionaries lost. When he returned
to Rome, shortly afterwards, a fort on the Taunus was the only one which
Rome possessed in Germany. Hermann had cleared his country of the foe.
Yet Germanicus was given a triumph, in which Thusnelda walked, laden
with chains, to the capitol.

The remaining events in the life of this champion of German liberty were
few. While the events described had been taking place in the north of
Germany, there were troubles in the south. Here a chieftain named
Marbodius, who, like Hermann, had passed his youth in the Roman armies,
was the leader of several powerful tribes. He lacked the patriotism of
Hermann, and sought to ally himself with the Romans, with the hope of
attaining to supreme power in Germany.

Hermann sought to rouse patriotic sentiments in his mind, but in vain,
and the movements of Marbodius having revealed his purposes, a coalition
was formed against him, with Hermann at its head. He was completely
defeated, and southern Germany saved from Roman domination, as the
northern districts had already been.

Peace followed, and for several years Hermann remained general-in-chief
of the German people, and the acknowledged bulwark of their liberties.
But envy arose; he was maligned, and accused of aiming at sovereignty,
as Marbodius had done; and at length his own relations, growing to hate
and fear him, conspired against and murdered him.

Thus ignobly fell the noblest of the ancient Germans, the man whose
patriotism saved the realm of the Teutonic tribes from becoming a
province of the empire of Rome. Had not Hermann lived, the history of
Europe might have pursued a different course, and the final downfall of
the colossus of the south been long averted, Germany acting as its
bulwark of defence instead of becoming the nursery of its foes.


Of the Teutonic invaders of Italy none are invested with more interest
than the Lombards,--the Long Beards, to give them their original title.
Legend yields us the story of their origin, a story of interest enough
to repeat. A famine had been caused in Denmark by a great flood, and the
people, to avoid danger of starvation, had resolved to put all the old
men and women to death, in order to save the food for the young and
strong. This radical proposition was set aside through the advice of a
wise woman, named Gambara, who suggested that lots should be drawn for
the migration of a third of the population. Her counsel was taken and
the migration began, under the leadership of her two sons. These
migrants wore beards of prodigious length, whence their subsequent name.

They first entered the land of the Vandals, who refused them permission
to settle. This was a question to be decided at sword's point, and war
was declared. Both sides appealed to the gods for aid, Gambara praying
to Freya, while the Vandals invoked Odin, who answered that he would
grant the victory to the party he should first behold at the dawn of the
coming day.

The day came. The sun rose. In front of the Danish host were stationed
their women, who had loosened their long hair, and let it hang down over
their faces. "Who are these with long beards?" demanded Odin, on seeing
these Danish amazons. This settled the question of victory, and also
gave the invaders a new name, that of Longobardi,--due, in this legend,
to the long hair of the women instead of the long beards of the men.
There are other legends, but none worth repeating.

The story of their king Alboin, with whom we have particularly to deal,
begins, however, with a story which may be in part legendary. They were
now in hostile relations with the Gepidæ, the first nation to throw off
the yoke of the Huns. Alboin, son of Audoin, king of the Longobardi,
killed Thurismund, son of Turisend, king of the Gepidæ, in battle, but
forgot to carry away his arms, and thus returned home without a trophy
of his victory. In consequence, his stern father refused him a seat at
his table, as one unworthy of the honor. Such was the ancient Lombard
custom, and it must be obeyed.

The young prince acknowledged the justice of this reproof, and
determined to try and obtain the arms which were his by right of
victory. Selecting forty companions, he boldly visited the court of
Turisend, and openly demanded from him the arms of his son. It was a
daring movement, but proved successful. The old king received him
hospitably, as the custom of the time demanded, though filled with grief
at the loss of his son. He even protected him from the anger of his
subjects, whom some of the Lombards had provoked by their insolence of
speech. The daring youth returned to his father's court with the arms
of his slain foe, and won the seat of honor of which he had been

Turisend died, and Cunimund, his son, became king. Audoin died, and
Alboin became king. And now new adventures of interest occurred. In his
visit to the court of Turisend, Alboin had seen and fallen in love with
Rosamond, the beautiful daughter of Cunimund. He now demanded her hand
in marriage, and as it was scornfully refused him, he revenged himself
by winning her honor through force and stratagem. War broke out in
consequence, and the Gepidæ were conquered, Rosamond falling to Alboin
as part of the trophies of victory.

We are told that in this war Alboin sought the aid of Bacan, chagan of
the Avars, promising him half the spoil and all the land of the Gepidæ
in case of victory. He added to this a promise of the realm of the
Longobardi, in case he should succeed in winning for them a new home in
Italy, which country he proposed to invade.

About fifteen years before, some of his subjects had made a warlike
expedition to Italy. Their report of its beauty and fertility had
kindled a spirit of emulation in the new generation, and inspired the
young and warlike king with ambitious hopes. His eloquence added to
their desire. He not only described to them in glowing words the land of
promise which he hoped to win, but spoke to their senses as well, by
producing at the royal banquets the fairest fruits that grew in that
garden land of Europe. His efforts were successful. No sooner was his
standard erected, and word sent abroad that Italy was his goal, than the
Longobardi found their strength augmented by hosts of adventurous youths
from the surrounding peoples. Germans, Bulgarians, Scythians, and others
joined in ranks, and twenty thousand Saxon warriors, with their wives
and children, added to the great host which had flocked to the banners
of the already renowned warrior.

It was in the year 568 that Alboin, followed by the great multitude of
adventurers he had gathered, and by the whole nation of the Longobardi,
ascended the Julian Alps, and looked down from their summits on the
smiling plains of northern Italy to which his success was thenceforward
to give the name of Lombardy, the land of the Longobardi.

Four years were spent in war with the Romans, city after city, district
after district, falling into the hands of the invaders. The resistance
was but feeble, and at length the whole country watered by the Po, with
the strong city of Pavia, fell into the hands of Alboin, who divided the
conquered lands among his followers, and reduced their former holders to
servitude. Alboin made Pavia his capital, and erected strong
fortifications to keep out the Burgundians, Franks, and other nations
which were troubling his new-gained dominions. This done, he settled
down to the enjoyment of the conquest which he had so ably made and so
skilfully defended.

History tells us that the Longobardi cultivated their new lands so
skilfully that all traces of devastation soon vanished, and the realm
grew rich in its productions. Their freemen distinguished themselves
from the other German conquerors by laboring to turn the waste and
desert tracts into arable soil, while their king, though unceasingly
watchful against his enemies, lived among his people with patriarchal
simplicity, procuring his supplies from the produce of his farms, and
making regular rounds of inspection from one to another. It is a picture
fitted for a more peaceful and primitive age than that turbulent period
in which it is set.

But now we have to do with Alboin in another aspect,--his domestic
relations, his dealings with his wife Rosamond, and the tragic end of
all the actors in the drama of real life which we have set out to tell.
The Longobardi were barbarians, and Alboin was no better than his
people; a strong evidence of which is the fact that he had the skull of
Cunimund, his defeated enemy and the father of his wife, set in gold,
and used it as a drinking cup at his banquets.

Doubtless this brutality stirred revengeful sentiments in the mind of
Rosamond. An added instance of barbarian insult converted her outraged
feelings into a passion for revenge. Alboin had erected a palace near
Verona, one of the cities of his new dominion, and here he celebrated
his victories with a grand feast to his companions in arms. Wine flowed
freely at the banquet, the king emulating, or exceeding, his guests in
the art of imbibing. Heated with his potations, in which he had drained
many cups of Rhætian or Falernian wine, he called for the choicest
ornament of his sideboard, the gold-mounted skull of Cunimund, and drank
its full measure of wine amid the loud plaudits of his drunken guests.

"Fill it again with wine," he cried; "fill it to the brim; carry this
goblet to the queen, and tell her that it is my desire and command that
she shall rejoice with her father."

Rosamond's heart throbbed with grief and rage on hearing this inhuman
request. She took the skull in trembling hands, and murmuring in low
accents, "Let the will of my lord be obeyed," she touched it to her
lips. But in doing so she breathed a silent prayer, and resolved that
the unpardonable insult should be washed out in Alboin's blood.

If she had ever loved her lord, she felt now for him only the bitterness
of hate. She had a friend in the court on whom she could depend,
Helmichis, the armor-bearer of the king. She called on him for aid in
her revenge, and found him willing but fearful, for he knew too well the
great strength and daring spirit of the chief whom he had so often
attended in battle. He proposed, therefore, that they should gain the
aid of a Lombard of unequalled strength, Peredeus by name. This
champion, however, was not easily to be won. The project was broached to
him, but the most that could be gained from him was a promise of

Failing in this, more shameful methods were employed. Such was
Rosamond's passion for revenge that the most extreme measures seemed to
her justifiable. Peredeus loved one of the attendants of the queen.
Rosamond replaced this frail woman, sacrificed her honor to her
vengeance, and then threatened to denounce Peredeus to the king unless
he would kill the man who had so bitterly wronged her.

Peredeus now consented. He must kill the king or the king would kill
him, for he felt that Rosamond was quite capable of carrying out her
threat. Having thus obtained the promise of the instruments of her
vengeance, the queen waited for a favorable moment to carry out her dark
design. The opportunity soon came. The king, heavy with wine, had
retired from the table to his afternoon slumbers. Rosamond, affecting
solicitude for his health and repose, dismissed his attendants, closed
the palace gates, and then, seeking her spouse, lulled him to rest by
her tender caresses.

Finding that he slumbered, she unbolted the chamber door, and urged her
confederates to the instant performance of the deed of blood. They
entered the room with stealthy tread, but the quick senses of the
warrior took the alarm, he opened his eyes, saw two armed men advancing
upon him, and sprang from his couch. His sword hung beside him, and he
attempted to draw it, but the cunning hand of Rosamond had fastened it
securely in the scabbard. The only weapon remaining was a small
foot-stool. This he used with vigor, but it could not long protect him
from the spears of his assailants, and he quickly fell dead beneath
their blows. His body was buried beneath the stairway of the palace, and
thus tragically ended the career of the founder of the kingdom of

But the story of Rosamond's life is not yet at an end. The death of
Alboin was followed by another tragic event, which brought her guilty
career to a violent termination. The wily queen had not failed to
prepare for the disturbances which might follow the death of the king.
The murder of Alboin was immediately followed by her marriage with
Helmichis, whose ambition looked to no less a prize than the throne of
Lombardy. The queen was surrounded by a band of faithful Gepidæ, with
whose aid she seized the palace and made herself mistress of Verona, the
Lombard chiefs flying in alarm. But the assassination of the king who
had so often led them to victory filled the Longobardi with indignation,
the chiefs mustered their bands and led them against the stronghold of
the guilty couple, and they in their turn, were forced to fly for their
lives. Helmichis and Rosamond, with her daughter, her faithful Gepidæ,
and the spoils of the palace, took ship down the Adige and the Po, and
were transported in a Greek vessel to the port of Ravenna, where they
hoped to find shelter and safety.

Longinus, the Greek governor of Ravenna, gave willing refuge to the
fugitives, the more so as the great beauty of Rosamond filled him with
admiration. She had not been long there, indeed, before he offered her
his hand in marriage. Rosamond, moved by ambition or a return of his
love, accepted his offer. There was, it is true, an obstacle in the way.
She was already provided with a husband. But the barbarian queen had
learned the art of getting rid of inconvenient husbands. Having,
perhaps, grown to detest the tool of her revenge, now that the purpose
of her marriage with him had failed, she set herself to the task of
disposing of Helmichis, this time using the cup instead of the sword.

As Helmichis left the bath he received a wine-cup from the hands of his
treacherous wife, and lifted it to his lips. But no sooner had he tasted
the liquor, and felt the shock that it gave his system, than he knew
that he was poisoned. Death, a speedy death, was in his veins, but he
had life enough left for revenge. Seizing his dagger, he pressed it to
the breast of Rosamond, and by threats of instant death compelled her to
drain the remainder of the cup. In a few minutes both the guilty
partners in the death of Alboin had breathed their last.

When Longinus was, at a later moment, summoned into the room, it was to
find his late guests both dead upon the floor. The poison had faithfully
done its work. Thus ended a historic tragedy than which the stage
possesses few of more striking dramatic interest and opportunities for
histrionic effect.


The Avars, led by Cacan, their king, crossed, in the year 611, the
mountains of Illyria and Lombardy, killed Gisulph, the grand duke, with
all his adherents, in battle, and laid siege to the city of Friuli,
behind whose strong walls Romilda, the widow of Gisulph, had taken
refuge. These events formed the basis of the romantic, and perhaps
largely legendary, story we have to tell.

One day, so we are told, Romilda, gazing from the ramparts of the city,
beheld Cacan, the young khan of the Avars, engaged in directing the
siege. So handsome to her eyes appeared the youthful soldier that she
fell deeply in love with him at sight, her passion growing until, in
disregard of honor and patriotism, she sent him a secret message,
offering to deliver up to him the city on condition of becoming his
wife. The khan, though doubtless despising her treachery to her people,
was quick to close with the offer, and in a short time Friuli was in his

This accomplished, he returned to Hungary, taking with him Romilda and
her children, of whom there were four sons and four daughters. Cacan
kept his compact with the traitress, marrying her with the primitive
rites of the Hungarians. But her married life was of the shortest. He
had kept his word, and such honor as he possessed was satisfied. The
morning after his marriage, moved perhaps by detestation of her
treachery, he caused the hapless Romilda to be impaled alive. It was a
dark end to a dark deed, and the perfidy of the woman had been matched
by an equal perfidy on the part of the man.

The children of Romilda were left in the hands of the Avars. Of her
daughters, one subsequently married a duke of Bavaria and another a duke
of Allemania. The four sons, one of whom was Grimoald, the hero of our
story, managed to escape from their savage captors, though they were
hotly pursued. In their flight, Grimoald, the youngest, was taken up
behind Tafo, the oldest; but in the rapid course he lost his hold and
fell from his brother's horse.

Tafo, knowing what would be the fate of the boy should he be captured,
turned and galloped upon him lance in hand, determined that he should
not fall alive into the hands of his cruel foes. But Grimoald's
entreaties and Tafo's brotherly affection induced him to change his
resolution, and, snatching up the boy, he continued his flight, the
pursuing Avars being now close at hand.

Not far had they ridden before the same accident occurred. Grimoald
again fell, and Tafo was now obliged to leave him to his fate, the
fierce pursuers being too near to permit him either to kill or save the
unlucky boy. On swept Tafo, up swept the Avars, and one of them,
halting, seized the young captive, threw him behind him on his horse,
and rode on after his fellows.

Grimoald's peril was imminent, but he was a child with the soul of a
warrior. As his captor pushed on in the track of his companions, the
brave little fellow suddenly snatched a knife from his belt, and in an
instant had stabbed him to the heart with his own weapon Tossing the
dead body from the saddle, Grimoald seized the bridle and rode swiftly
on, avoiding the Avars, and in the end rejoining his flying brothers. It
was a deed worthy the childhood of one who was in time to become a
famous warrior.

The fugitives reached Lombardy, where Tafo was hospitably received by
the king, and succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Friuli. Grimoald was
adopted by Arigil, Duke of Benevento, in whose court he grew to manhood,
and in whose service his courage and military ability were quickly
shown. There were wars between Benevento and the Greeks of southern
Italy, and in these the young soldier so greatly distinguished himself
that on the death of Arigil he succeeded him as Duke of Benevento.

Meanwhile, troubles arose in Lombardy. Tafo had been falsely accused, by
an enemy of the queen, of criminal relations with her, and was put to
death by the king. Her innocence was afterwards proved, and on the death
of Ariowald the Lombards treated her with the greatest respect, and
raised Rotharis, her second husband, to the throne. He, too, died, and
Aribert, uncle of the queen, was next made king. On his death, his two
sons, Bertarit and Godebert, disputed the succession. A struggle ensued
between the rival brothers, in the course of which Grimoald was brought
into the dispute.

The events here briefly described had taken place while Grimoald was
engaged in the Greek wars of his patron, Duke Arigil. When he succeeded
the latter in the ducal chair, the struggle between Bertarit and
Godebert was going on, and the new Duke of Benevento declared in favor
of the latter, who was his personal friend.

A scheme of treachery, of a singular character, put an end to their
friendship and to the life of Godebert. A man who was skilled in the
arts of dissimulation, and who was secretly in the pay of Bertarit,
persuaded Godebert that his seeming friend, Duke Grimoald, was really
his enemy, and was plotting his destruction. He told the same story to
Grimoald, making him believe that Godebert was his secret foe. In proof
of his words he told each of them that the other wore armor beneath his
clothes, through fear of assassination by his assumed friend.

The suspicion thus artfully aroused produced the very state of things
which the agent of mischief had declared to exist. Each of the friends
put on armor, as a protection against treachery from the other, and when
they sought to test the truth of the spy's story it seemed fully
confirmed. Each discovered that the other wore secret armor, without
learning that it had just been assumed.

The two close friends were thus converted by a plotting Iago into
distrustful enemies, each fearing and on guard against assassination by
the other. The affair ended tragically. Grimoald was no sooner fully
convinced of the truth of what had been told him than he slew his
supposed enemy, deeming it necessary to save his own life. The dark
scheme had succeeded. Treason and falsehood had sown death between two

Bertarit, his rival removed, deemed the throne now securely his. But the
truth underlying the tragedy we have described became known, and the
Lombards, convinced of the innocence of Grimoald, and scorning the
treachery by which he had been led on to murder, dismissed Bertarit's
pretensions and placed Grimoald on the throne. His career had been a
strange but highly successful one. From his childhood captivity to the
Avars he had risen to the high station of King of Lombardy, a position
fairly earned by his courage and ability.

We are not yet done with the story of this distinguished warrior.
Bertarit had taken the field against him, and civil war desolated
Lombardy, an unhappy state of affairs which was soon taken advantage of
by the foes of the distracted kingdom. The enemy who now appeared in the
field was Constans, the Greek emperor, who laid siege to Benevento,
hoping to capture it while Grimoald was engaged in hostilities with
Bertarit in the north.

Grimoald had left his son, Romuald, in charge of the city. On learning
of the siege he despatched a trusty friend and officer, Sesuald by
name, with some troops, to the relief of the beleaguered stronghold,
proposing to follow quickly himself with the main body of his army.

And now occurred an event nobly worthy of being recorded in the annals
of human probity and faithfulness, one little known, but deserving to be
classed with those that have become famous in history. When men erect
monuments to courage and virtue, the noble Sesuald should not be

This brave man fell into the hands of the emperor, who sought to use him
in a stratagem to obtain possession of Benevento. He promised him an
abundance of wealth and honors if he would tell Romuald that his father
had died in battle, and persuade him to surrender the city. Sesuald
seems to have agreed, for he was led to the walls of the city that he
might hold the desired conference with Romuald. Instead, however, of
carrying out the emperor's design, he cried out to the young chief, "Be
firm, Grimoald approaches"; then, hastily telling him that he had
forfeited his life by those words, he begged him in return to protect
his wife and children, as the last service he could render him.

Sesuald was right. Constans, furious at his words, had his head
instantly struck off; and then, with a barbarism worthy of the times,
had it flung from a catapult into the heart of the city. The ghastly
trophy was brought to Romuald, who pressed it to his lips, and deeply
deplored the death of his father's faithful friend.

This was the last effort of the emperor. Fearing to await the arrival
of Grimoald, he raised the siege and retreated towards Naples, hotly
pursued by the Lombards. The army of Grimoald came up with the
retreating Greeks, and a battle was imminent, when a Lombard warrior of
giant size, Amalong by name, spurring upon a Greek, lifted him from the
saddle with his lance, and rode on holding him poised in the air. The
sight of this feat filled the remaining Greeks with such terror that
they broke and fled, and their hasty retreat did not cease till they had
found shelter in Sicily.

After this event Bertarit, finding it useless to contend longer against
his powerful and able opponent, submitted to Grimoald. Yet this did not
end their hostile relations. The Lombard king, distrusting his late foe,
of whose treacherous disposition he already had abundant evidence, laid
a plan to get rid of him by murdering him in his bed. This plot was
discovered by a servant of the imperilled prince, who aided his master
to escape, and, the better to secure his retreat, placed himself in his
bed, being willing to risk death in his lord's service.

Grimoald discovered the stratagem of the faithful fellow, but, instead
of punishing him for it, he sought to reward him, attempting to attach
him to his own service as one whose fidelity would make him valuable to
any master. The honest servant refused, however, to desert his old lord
for a new service, and entreated so earnestly for permission to join
his master, who had taken refuge in France, that Grimoald set him free,
doubtless feeling that such faithfulness was worthy of encouragement.

In France Bertarit found an ally in Chlotar II., who took up arms
against the Lombards in his aid. Grimoald, however, defeated him by a
shrewd stratagem. He feigned to retreat in haste, leaving his camp,
which was well stored with provisions, to fall into the hands of the
enemy. Deeming themselves victorious, the Franks hastened to enjoy the
feast of good things which the Lombards had left behind. But in the
midst of their repast Grimoald suddenly returned, and, falling upon them
impetuously, put most of them to the sword.

In the following year (666 A.D.) he defeated another army by another
stratagem. The Avars had invaded Lombardy, with an army which far
out-numbered the troops which Grimoald could muster against them. In
this state of affairs he artfully deceived his foes as to the strength
of his army by marching and countermarching his men within their view,
each time dressed in uniform of different colors, and with varied
standards and insignia of war. The invaders, deeming that an army
confronted them far stronger than their own, withdrew in haste, leaving
Grimoald master of the field.

We are further told of the king of the Lombards whose striking history
we have concisely given, that he gave many new laws to his country, and
that in his old age he was remarkable for his bald head and long white
beard. He died in 671, sixty years after the time when his mother acted
the traitress, and suffered miserably for her crime. After his death,
the exiled Bertarit was recalled to the throne of Lombardy, and Romuald
succeeded his father as Duke of Benevento, the city which he had held so
bravely against the Greeks.


As Germany, in its wars with the Romans, found its hero in the great
Arminius, or Hermann; and as England, in its contest with the Normans,
found a heroic defender in the valiant Hereward; so Saxony, in its
struggle with Charlemagne, gave origin to a great soul, the indomitable
patriot Wittekind, who kept the war afoot years after the Saxons would
have yielded to their mighty foe, and, like Hereward, only gave up the
struggle when hope itself was at an end.

The career of the defender of Saxony bears some analogy to that of the
last patriot of Saxon England. As in the case of Hereward, his origin is
uncertain, and the story of his life overlaid with legend. He is said to
have been the son of Wernekind, a powerful Westphalian chief,
brother-in-law of Siegfried, a king of the Danes; yet this is by no
means certain, and his ancestry must remain in doubt. He came suddenly
into the war with the great Frank conqueror, and played in it a
strikingly prominent part, to sink again out of sight at its end.

The attempt of Charlemagne to conquer Saxony began in 772. Religion was
its pretext, ambition its real cause. Missionaries had been sent to the
Saxons during their great national festival at Marclo. They came back
with no converts to report. As the Saxons had refused to be converted by
words, fire and sword were next tried as assumed instruments for
spreading the doctrines of Christ, but really as effective means for
extending the dominion of the monarch of the Franks.

In his first campaign in Saxony, Charlemagne marched victoriously as far
as the Weser, where he destroyed the celebrated Irminsúl, a famous
object of Saxon devotion, perhaps an image of a god, perhaps a statue of
Hermann that had become invested with divinity. The next year, Charles
being absent in Italy, the Saxons broke into insurrection, under the
leadership of Wittekind, who now first appears in history. With him was
associated another patriot, Alboin, Duke of Eastphalia.

Charles returned in the succeeding year, and again swept in conquering
force through the country. But a new insurrection called him once more
to Italy, and no sooner had he gone than the eloquent Wittekind was
among his countrymen, entreating them to rise in defence of their
liberties. A general levy took place, every able man crowded to the
ranks, and whole forests were felled to form abatis of defence against a
marching enemy.

Again Charles came at the head of his army of veterans, and again the
poorly-trained Saxon levies were driven in defeat from his front. He now
established a camp in the heart of the country, and had a royal
residence built at Paderborn, where he held a diet of the great vassals
of the crown and received envoys from foreign lands. Hither came
delegates from the humbled Saxons, promising peace and submission, and
pledging themselves by oaths and hostages to be true subjects of Charles
the Great. But Wittekind came not. He had taken refuge at the court of
Siegfried, the pagan king of the Danes, where he waited an opportunity
to strike a new blow for liberty.

Not content with their pledges and promises, the conqueror sought to win
over his new subjects by converting them to Christianity in the
wholesale way in which this work was then usually performed. The Saxons
were baptized in large numbers, the proselyting method pursued being, as
we are told, that all prisoners of war _must_ be baptized, while of the
others all who were reasonable _would_ be baptized, and the inveterately
unreasonable might be _bribed_ to be baptized. Doubtless, as a historian
remarks, the Saxons found baptism a cool, cleanly, and agreeable
ceremony, while their immersion in the water had little effect in
washing out their old ideas and washing in new ones.

The exigencies of war in his vast empire now called Charlemagne to
Spain, where the Arabs had become troublesome and needed chastisement.
Not far had he marched away when Wittekind was again in Saxony, passing
from tribe to tribe through the forests of the land, and with fiery
eloquence calling upon his countrymen to rise against the invaders and
regain the freedom of which they had been deprived. Heedless of their
conversion, disregarding their oaths of allegiance, filled with the
free spirit which had so long inspired them, the chiefs and people
listened with approval to his burning words, seized their arms, and flew
again to war. The priests were expelled from the country, the churches
they had built demolished, the castles erected by the Frank monarch
taken and destroyed, and the country was laid waste up to the walls of
Cologne, its Christian inhabitants being exterminated.

But unyielding as Wittekind was, his great antagonist was equally
resolute and persistent. When he had finished his work with the Arabs,
he returned to Saxony with his whole army, fought a battle in 779 in the
dry bed of the Eder, and in 780 defeated Wittekind and his followers in
two great battles, completely disorganizing and discouraging the Saxon
bands, and again bringing the whole country under his control. This
accomplished, he stationed himself in their country, built numerous
fortresses upon the Elbe, and spent the summer of 780 in missionary
work, gaining a multitude of converts among the seemingly subdued
barbarians. The better to make them content with his rule he treated
them with great kindness and affability, and sent among them
missionaries of their own race, being the hostages whom he had taken in
previous years, and who had been educated in monasteries. All went well,
the Saxons were to all appearance in a state of peaceful satisfaction,
and Charles felicitated himself that he had finally added Saxony to his

He deceived himself sadly. He did not know the spirit of the free-born
Saxons, or the unyielding perseverance of their patriotic leader. In the
silent depths of their forests, and in the name of their ancient gods,
they vowed destruction to the invading Franks, and branded as traitors
all those who professed Christianity except as a stratagem to deceive
their powerful enemy. Entertaining no suspicion of the true state of
affairs, Charlemagne at length left the country, which he fancied to be
fully pacified and its people content. With complete confidence in his
new subjects, he commissioned his generals, Geil and Adalgis, to march
upon the Slavonians beyond the Elbe, who were threatening France with a
new barbarian invasion.

They soon learned that there was other work to do. In a brief time the
irrepressible Wittekind was in the field again, with a new levy of
Saxons at his back, and the tranquillity of the land, established at
such pains, was once more in peril. Theoderic, one of Charlemagne's
principal generals, hastily marched towards them with what men he could
raise, and on his way met the army sent to repel the Slavonians. They
approached the Saxon host where it lay encamped on the Weser, behind the
Sundel mountain, and laid plans to attack it on both sides at once. But
jealousy ruined these plans, as it has many other well-laid schemes. The
leaders of the Slavonian contingent, eager to rob Theoderic of glory,
marched in haste on the Saxons, attacked them in their camp, and were so
completely defeated and overthrown that but a moity of their army
escaped from the field. The appearance of these fugitives in the camp of
Theoderic was the first he knew of the treachery of his fellow generals
and their signal punishment.

The story of this dreadful event was in all haste borne to Charlemagne.
His army had been destroyed almost as completely as that of Varus on a
former occasion, and in nearly the same country. The distressing tidings
filled his soul with rage and a bitter thirst for revenge. He had done
his utmost to win over the Saxons by lenity and kindness, but this
course now seemed to him useless, if not worse than useless. He
determined to adopt opposite measures and try the effect of cruelty and
severe retribution. Calling together his forces until he had a great
army under his command, he marched into Saxony torch and sword in hand,
and swept the country with fire and steel. All who would not embrace
Christianity were pitilessly exterminated. Thousands were driven into
the rivers to be baptized or drowned. Carnage, desolation, and
destruction marked the path of the conqueror. Never had a country been
more frightfully devastated by the hand of war.

All who were concerned in the rebellion were seized, so far as Charles
could lay hands on them. When questioned, they lay all the blame on
Wittekind. He was the culprit, they but his instruments. But Wittekind
had vanished, the protesting chiefs and people were in the conqueror's
hands, and, bent on making an awful example, he had no less than four
thousand five hundred of them beheaded in one day. It was a frightful
act of vengeance, which has ever since remained an ineradicable blot on
the memory of the great king.


Its effect was what might have been anticipated. Instead of filling the
Saxons with terror, it inspired them with revengeful fury. They rose as
one man, Wittekind and Alboin at their head, and attacked the French
with a fury such as they had never before displayed. The remorseless
cruelty with which they had been treated was repaid in the blood of the
invaders, and in the many petty combats that took place the hardy and
infuriated barbarians proved invincible against their opponents. Even in
a pitched battle, fought at Detmold, in which Wittekind led the Saxons
against the superior forces of Charlemagne, they held their own against
all his strength and generalship, and the victory remained undecided.
But they were again brought to battle upon the Hase, and now the
superior skill and more numerous army of the great conqueror prevailed.
The Saxons were defeated with great slaughter, and the French advanced
as far as the Elbe. The war continued during the succeeding year, by the
end of which the Saxons had become so reduced in strength that further
efforts at resistance would have been madness.

The cruelty which Charlemagne had displayed, and which had proved so
signally useless, was now replaced by a mildness much more in conformity
with his general character; and the Saxons, exhausted with their
struggles, and attracted by the gentleness with which he treated them,
showed a general disposition to submit. But Wittekind and his
fellow-chieftain Alboin were still at large, and the astute conqueror
well knew that there was no security in his new conquest unless they
could be brought over. He accordingly opened negotiations with them,
requesting a personal conference, and pledging his royal word that they
should be dealt with in all faith and honesty. The Saxon chiefs,
however, were not inclined to put themselves in the power of a king
against whom they had so long and desperately fought without stronger
pledge than his bare word. They demanded hostages. Charlemagne, who
fully appreciated the value of their friendship and submission, freely
acceded to their terms, sent hostages, and was gratified by having the
indomitable chiefs enter his palace at Paderborn.

Wittekind was well aware that his mission as a Saxon leader was at an
end. The country was subdued, its warriors slain, terrorized, or won
over, and his single hand could not keep up the war with France. He,
therefore, swore fealty to Charlemagne, freely consented to become a
Christian, and was, with his companion, baptized at Attigny in France.
The emperor stood his sponsor in baptism, received him out of the font,
loaded him with royal gifts, and sent him back with the title of Duke of
Saxony, which he held as a vassal of France. Henceforward he seems to
have observed good faith to Charlemagne, for his name now vanishes from
history, silence in this case being a pledge of honor and peacefulness.

But if history here lays him down, legend takes him up, and yields us a
number of stories concerning him not one of which has any evidence to
sustain it, but which are curious enough to be worth repeating. It gives
us, for instance, a far more romantic account of his conversion than
that above told. This relates that, in the Easter season of 785,--the
year of his conversion,--Wittekind stole into the French camp in the
garb of a minstrel or a mendicant, and, while cautiously traversing it,
bent on spying out its weaknesses, was attracted to a large tent within
which Charlemagne was attending the service of the mass. Led by an
irresistible impulse, the pagan entered the tent, and stood gazing in
spellbound wonder at the ceremony, marvelling what the strange and
impressive performance meant. As the priest elevated the host, the
chief, with astounded eyes, beheld in it the image of a child, of
dazzling and unearthly beauty. He could not conceal his surprise from
those around him, some of whom recognized in the seeming beggar the
great Saxon leader, and took him to the emperor. Wittekind told
Charlemagne of his vision, begged to be made a Christian, and brought
over many of his countrymen to the fold of the true church by the
shining example of his conversion.

Legend goes on to tell us that he became a Christian of such hot zeal
as to exact a bloody atonement from the Frisians for their murder of
Boniface and his fellow-priests a generation before. It further tells us
that he founded a church at Enger, in Westphalia, was murdered by
Gerold, Duke of Swabia, and was buried in the church he had founded, and
in which his tomb was long shown. In truth, the people came to honor him
as a saint, and though there is no record of his canonization, a saint's
day, January 7, is given him, and we are told of miracles performed at
his tomb.

So much for the dealings of Christian legend with this somewhat
unsaintly personage. Secular legend, for it is probably little more, has
contented itself with tracing his posterity, several families of Germany
deriving their descent from him, while he is held to have been the
ancestor of the imperial house of the Othos. Some French genealogists go
so far as to trace the descent of Hugh Capet to this hero of the Saxon
woods. In truth, he has been made to some extent the Roland or the
Arthur of Saxony, though fancy has not gone so far in his case as in
that of the French paladin and the Welsh hero of knight-errantry, for,
though he and his predecessor Hermann became favorite characters in
German ballad and legend, the romance heroes of that land continued to
be the mythical Siegfried and his partly fabulous, partly historical
companions of the epical song of the Nibelung.


While Central and Southern Europe was actively engaged in wars by land,
Scandinavia, that nest of pirates, was as actively engaged in wars by
sea, sending its armed galleys far to the south, to plunder and burn
wherever they could find footing on shore. Not content with plundering
the coasts, they made their way up the streams, and often suddenly
appeared far inland before an alarm could be given. Wherever they went,
heaps of the dead and the smoking ruins of habitations marked their
ruthless course. They did not hesitate to attack fortified cities,
several of which fell into their hands and were destroyed. They always
fought on foot, but such was their strength, boldness, and activity that
the heavy-armed cavalry of France and Germany seemed unable to endure
their assault, and was frequently put to flight. If defeated, or in
danger of defeat, they hastened back to their ships, from which they
rarely ventured far and rowed away with such speed that pursuit was in
vain. For a long period they kept the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts
of Europe in such terror that prayers were publicly read in the churches
for deliverance from them, and the sight of their dragon beaked ships
filled the land with terror.

In 845 a party of them assailed and took Paris, from which they were
bought off by the cowardly and ineffective method of ransom, seven
thousand pounds of silver being paid them. In 853 another expedition,
led by a leader named Hasting, one of the most dreaded of the Norsemen,
again took Paris, marched into Burgundy, laying waste the country as he
advanced, and finally took Tours, to which city much treasure had been
carried for safe-keeping. Charles the Bald, who had bought off the
former expedition with silver, bought off this one with gold, offering
the bold adventurer a bribe of six hundred and eighty-five pounds of the
precious metal, to which he added a ton and a half of silver, to leave
the country.

From France, Hasting set sail for Italy, where his ferocity was aided by
a cunning which gives us a deeper insight into his character. Rome, a
famous but mystical city to the northern pagans, whose imaginations
invested it with untold wealth and splendor, was the proposed goal of
the enterprising Norseman, who hoped to make himself fabulously wealthy
from its plunder. With a hundred ships, filled with hardy Norse pirates,
he swept through the Strait of Gibraltar and along the coasts of Spain
and France, plundering as he went till he reached the harbor of Lucca,

As to where and what Rome was, the unlettered heathen had but the
dimmest conception. Here before him lay what seemed a great and rich
city, strongly fortified and thickly peopled. This must be Rome, he told
himself; behind those lofty walls lay the wealth which he so earnestly
craved; but how could it be obtained? Assault on those strong
fortifications would waste time, and perhaps end in defeat. If the city
could be won by stratagem, so much the better for himself and his men.

The shrewd Norseman quickly devised a promising plan within the depths
of his astute brain. It was the Christmas season, and the inhabitants
were engaged in the celebration of the Christmas festival, though,
doubtless, sorely troubled in mind by that swarm of strange-shaped
vessels in their harbor, with their stalwart crews of blue-eyed

Word was sent to the authorities of the city that the fleet had come
thither from no hostile intent, and that all the mariners wished was to
obtain the favor of an honorable burial-place for their chieftain, who
had just died. If the citizens would grant them this, they would engage
to depart after the funeral without injury to their courteous and
benevolent friends. The message--probably not expressed in quite the
above phrase--was received in good faith by the unsuspecting Lombards,
who were glad enough to get rid of their dangerous visitors on such
cheap terms, and gratified to learn that these fierce pagans wished
Christian burial for their chief. Word was accordingly sent to the ships
that the authorities granted their request, and were pleased with the
opportunity to oblige the mourning crews.

Not long afterwards a solemn procession left the fleet, a coffin, draped
in solemn black, at its head, borne by strong carriers. As mourners
there followed a large deputation of stalwart Norsemen, seemingly
unarmed, and to all appearance lost in grief. With slow steps they
entered the gates and moved through the streets of the city, chanting
the death-song of the great Hasting, until the church was reached, and
they had advanced along its crowded aisle to the altar, where stood the
priests ready to officiate at the obsequies of the expired freebooter.

The coffin was set upon the floor, and the priests were about to break
into the solemn chant for the dead, when suddenly, to the surprise and
horror of the worshippers, the supposed corpse sprang to life, leaped up
sword in hand, and with a fierce and deadly blow struck the officiating
bishop to the heart. Instantly the seeming mourners, who had been chosen
from the best warriors of the fleet, flung aside their cloaks and
grasped their arms, and a carnival of death began in that crowded

It was not slaughter, however, that Hasting wanted, but plunder. Rushing
from the church, the Norsemen assailed the city, looting with free hand,
and cutting down all who came in their way. No long time was needed by
the skilful freebooters for this task, and before the citizens could
recover from the mortal terror into which they had been thrown, the
pagan plunderers were off again for their ships, laden with spoil, and
taking with them as captives a throng of women and maidens, the most
beautiful they could find.

This daring affair had a barbarous sequel. A storm arising which
threatened the loss of his ships, the brutal Hasting gave orders that
the vessels should be lightened by throwing overboard plunder and
captives alike. Saved by this radical method, the sea-rovers quickly
repaid themselves for their losses by sailing up the Rhone, and laying
the country waste through many miles of Southern France.

The end of this phase of Hasting's career was a singular one. In the
year 860 he consented to be baptized as a Christian, and to swear
allegiance to Charles the Bald of France, on condition of receiving the
title of Count of Chartres, with a suitable domain. It was a wiser
method of disarming a redoubtable enemy than that of ransoming the land,
which Charles had practised with Hasting on a previous occasion. He had
converted a foe into a subject, upon whom he might count for defence
against those fierce heathen whom he had so often led to battle.

While France, England, and the Mediterranean regions formed the favorite
visiting ground of the Norsemen, they did not fail to pay their respects
in some measure to Germany, and during the ninth century, their period
of most destructive activity, the latter country suffered considerably
from their piratical ravages. Two German warriors who undertook to guard
the coasts against their incursions are worthy of mention. One of these,
Baldwin of the Iron Arm, Count of Flanders, distinguished himself by
seducing Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald of France, who, young as
she was, was already the widow of two English kings, Ethelwolf and his
son Ethelbold. Charles was at first greatly enraged, but afterwards
accepted Baldwin as his son-in-law, and made him lord of the district.
The second was Robert the Strong, Count of Maine, a valiant defender of
the country against the sea-kings. He was slain in a bloody battle with
them, near Anvers, in 866. This distinguished warrior was the ancestor
of Hugh Capet, afterwards king of France.

For some time after his death the Norsemen avoided Germany, paying their
attentions to England, where Alfred the Great was on the throne. About
880 their incursions began again, and though they were several times
defeated with severe slaughter, new swarms followed the old ones, and
year by year fresh fleets invaded the land, leaving ruin in their paths.

Up the rivers they sailed, as in France, taking cities, devastating the
country, doing more damage each year than could be repaired in a decade.
Aix-la-Chapelle, the imperial city of the mighty Charlemagne, fell into
their hands, and the palace of the great Charles, in little more than
half a century after his death, was converted by these marauders into a
stable. Well might the far-seeing emperor have predicted sorrow and
trouble for the land from these sea-rovers, as he is said to have done,
on seeing their many-oared ships from a distance. Yet even his foresight
could scarcely have imagined that, before he was seventy years in the
grave, the vikings of the north would be stabling their horses in the
most splendid of his palaces.

The rovers attacked Metz, and Bishop Wala fell while bravely fighting
them before its gates. City after city on the Rhine was taken and burned
to the ground. The whole country between Liège, Cologne, and Mayence was
so ravaged as to be almost converted into a desert. The besom of
destruction, in the hands of the sea-kings, threatened to sweep Germany
from end to end, as it had swept the greater part of France.

The impunity with which they raided the country was due in great part to
the indolent character of the monarch. Charles the Fat, as he was
entitled, who had the ambitious project of restoring the empire of
Charlemagne, and succeeded in combining France and Germany under his
sceptre, proved unable to protect his realm from the pirate rovers. Like
his predecessor, Charles the Bald of France, he tried the magic power of
gold and silver, as a more effective argument than sharpened steel, to
rid him of these marauders. Siegfried, their principal leader, was
bought off with two thousand pounds of gold and twelve thousand pounds
of silver, to raise which sum Charles seized all the treasures of the
churches. In consideration of this great bribe the sea-rover consented
to a truce for twelve years. His brother Gottfried was bought off in a
different method, being made Duke of Friesland and vassal of the

These concessions, however, did not put an end to the depredations of
the Norsemen. There were other leaders than the two formidable brothers,
and other pirates than those under their control, and the country was
soon again invaded, a strong party advancing as far as the Moselle,
where they took and destroyed the city of Treves. This marauding band,
however, dearly paid for its depredations. While advancing through the
forest of Ardennes, it was ambushed and assailed by a furious multitude
of peasants and charcoal-burners, before whose weapons ten thousand of
the Norsemen fell in death.

This revengeful act of the peasantry was followed by a treacherous deed
of the emperor, which brought renewed trouble upon the land. Eager to
rid himself of his powerful and troublesome vassal in Friesland, Charles
invited Gottfried to a meeting, at which he had the Norsemen
treacherously murdered, while his brother-in-law Hugo was deprived of
his sight. It was an act sure to bring a bloody reprisal. No sooner had
news of it reached the Scandinavian north than a fire of revengeful rage
swept through the land, and from every port a throng of oared galleys
put to sea, bent upon bloody retribution. Soon in immense hordes they
fell upon the imperial realm, forcing their way in mighty hosts up the
Rhine, the Maese, and the Seine, and washing out the memory of
Gottfried's murder in torrents of blood, while the brand spread ruin far
and wide.

The chief attack was made on Paris, which the Norsemen invested and
besieged for a year and a half. The march upon Paris was made by sea and
land, the marauders making Rouen their place of rendezvous. From this
centre of operations Rollo--the future conqueror and Duke of Normandy,
now a formidable sea-king--led an overland force towards the French
capital, and on his way was met by an envoy from the emperor, no less a
personage than the Count of Chartres, the once redoubtable Hasting, now
a noble of the empire.

"Valiant sirs," he said to Rollo and his chiefs, "who are you that come
hither, and why have you come?"

"We are Danes," answered Rollo, proudly; "all of us equals, no man the
lord of any other, but lords of all besides. We are come to punish these
people and take their lands. And you, by what name are you called?"

"Have you not heard of a certain Hasting," was the reply, "a sea-king
who left your land with a multitude of ships, and turned into a desert a
great part of this fair land of France?"

"We have heard of him," said Rollo, curtly. "He began well and ended

"Will you submit to King Charles?" asked the envoy, deeming it wise,
perhaps, to change the subject.

"We will submit to no one, king or chieftain. All that we gain by the
sword we are masters and lords of. This you may tell to the king who has
sent you. The lords of the sea know no masters on land."

Hasting left with his message, and Rollo continued his advance to the
Seine. Not finding here the ships of the maritime division of the
expedition, which he had expected to meet, he seized on the boats of the
French fishermen and pursued his course. Soon afterwards a French force
was met and put to flight, its leader, Duke Ragnold, being killed. This
event, as we are told, gave rise to a new change in the career of the
famous Hasting. A certain Tetbold or Thibaud, of Northman birth, came to
him and told him that he was suspected of treason, the defeat of the
French having been ascribed to secret information furnished by him.
Whether this were true, or a mere stratagem on the part of his
informant, it had the desired effect of alarming Hasting, who quickly
determined to save himself from peril by joining his old countrymen and
becoming again a viking chief. He thereupon sold his countship to
Tetbold, and hastened to join the army of Norsemen then besieging Paris.
As for the cunning trickster, he settled down into his cheaply bought
countship, and became the founder of the subsequent house of the Counts
of Chartres.

The siege of Paris ended in the usual manner of the Norseman invasions
of France,--that of ransom. Charles marched to its relief with a strong
army, but, instead of venturing to meet his foes in battle, he bought
them off as so often before, paying them a large sum of money, granting
them free navigation of the Seine and entrance to Paris, and confirming
them in the possession of Friesland. This occurred in 887. A year
afterwards he lost his crown, through the indignation of the nobles at
his cowardice, and France and Germany again fell asunder.

The plundering incursions continued, and soon afterwards the new
emperor, Arnulf, nephew of Charles the Fat, a man of far superior energy
to his deposed uncle, attacked a powerful force of the piratical
invaders near Louvain, where they had encamped after a victory over the
Archbishop of Mayence. In the heat of the battle that followed, the
vigilant Arnulf perceived that the German cavalry fought at a
disadvantage with their stalwart foes, whose dexterity as foot-soldiers
was remarkable. Springing from his horse, he called upon his followers
to do the same. They obeyed, the nobles and their men-at-arms leaping to
the ground and rushing furiously on foot upon their opponents. The
assault was so fierce and sudden that the Norsemen gave way, and were
cut down in thousands, Siegfried and Gottfried--a new Gottfried
apparently--falling on the field, while the channel of the Dyle, across
which the defeated invaders sought to fly, was choked with their

This bloody defeat put an end to the incursions of the Norsemen by way
of the Rhine. Thenceforward they paid their attention to the coast of
France, which they continued to invade until one of their great leaders,
Rollo, settled in Normandy as a vassal of the French monarch, and served
as an efficient barrier against the inroads of his countrymen.

As to Hasting, he appears to have returned to his old trade of
sea-rover, and we hear of him again as one of the Norse invaders of
England, during the latter part of the reign of Alfred the Great.


We have now to deal with a personage whose story is largely legendary,
particularly that of his death, a highly original termination to his
career having arisen among the people, who had grown to detest him. But
Bishop Hatto played his part in the history as well as in the legend of
Germany, and the curious stories concerning him may have been based on
the deeds of his actual life. It was in the beginning of the tenth
century that this notable churchman flourished as Archbishop of Mayence,
and the emperor-maker of his times. In connection with Otho, Duke of
Saxony, he placed Louis, surnamed the Child,--for he was but seven years
of age,--on the imperial throne, and governed Germany in his name. Louis
died in 911, while still a boy, and with him ended the race of
Charlemagne in Germany. Conrad, Duke of Franconia, was chosen king to
succeed him, but the astute churchman still remained the power behind
the throne.

In truth, the influence and authority of the church at that time was
enormous, and many of its potentates troubled themselves more about the
affairs of the earth than those of heaven. Hatto, while a zealous
churchman, was a bold, energetic, and unscrupulous statesman, and
raised himself to an almost unlimited power in France and Southern
Germany by his arts and influence, Otho of Saxony aiding him in his
progress to power. Two of his opponents, Henry and Adelhart, of
Babenberg, took up arms against him, and came to their deaths in
consequence. Adalbert, the opponent of the Norsemen, was his next
antagonist, and Hatto, through his influence in the diet, had him put
under the ban of the empire.

Adalbert, however, vigorously resisted this decree, taking up arms in
his own defence, and defeating his opponent in the field. But soon,
being closely pressed, he retired to his fortress of Bamberg, which was
quickly invested and besieged. Here he defended himself with such energy
that Hatto, finding that the outlawed noble was not to be easily subdued
by force, adopted against him those spiritual weapons, as he probably
considered them, in which he was so trained an adept.

Historians tell us that the priest, with a pretence of friendly purpose,
offered to mediate between Adalbert and his enemies, promising him, if
he would leave his stronghold to appear before the assembled nobles of
the diet, that he should have a free and safe return. Adalbert accepted
the terms, deeming that he could safely trust the pledged word of a high
dignitary of the church. Leaving the gates of his castle, he was met at
a short distance beyond by the bishop, who accosted him in his
friendliest tone, and proposed that, as their journey would be somewhat
long, they should breakfast together within the castle before starting.

Adalbert assented and returned to the fortress with his smooth-tongued
companion, took breakfast with him, and then set out with him for the
diet. Here he was sternly called to answer for his acts of opposition to
the decree of the ruling body of Germany, and finding that the tide of
feeling was running strongly against him, proposed to return to his
fortress in conformity with the plighted faith of Bishop Hatto. Hatto,
with an aspect of supreme honesty, declared that he had already
fulfilled his promise. He had agreed that Adalbert should have a free
and safe return to his castle. This had been granted him. He had
returned there to breakfast without opposition of any sort. The word of
the bishop had been fully kept, and now, as a member of the diet, he
felt free to act as he deemed proper, all his obligations to the accused
having been fulfilled. Just how far this story accords with the actual
facts we are unable to say, but Adalbert, despite his indignant protest,
was sentenced to death and beheaded.

Hatto had reached his dignity in the church by secular instead of
ecclesiastic influence, and is credited with employing his power in this
and other instances with such lack of honor and probity that he became
an object of the deepest popular contempt and execration. His name was
derided in the popular ballads, and he came to be looked upon as the
scapegoat of the avarice and licentiousness of the church in that
irreligious mediæval age. Among the legends concerning him is one
relating to Henry, the son of his ally, Otho of Saxony, who died in 912.
Henry had long quarrelled with the bishop, and the fabulous story goes
that, to get rid of his high-spirited enemy, the cunning churchman sent
him a gold chain, so skilfully contrived that it would strangle its


The most famous legend about Hatto, however, is that which tells the
manner of his death. The story has been enshrined in poetry by
Longfellow, but we must be content to give it in plain prose. It tells
us that a famine occurred in the land, and that a number of peasants
came to the avaricious bishop to beg for bread. By his order they were
shut up in a great barn, which then was set on fire, and its miserable
occupants burned to death.

And now the cup of Hatto's infamy was filled, and heaven sent him
retribution. From the ruins of the barn issued a myriad of mice, which
pursued the remorseless bishop, ceaselessly following him in his every
effort to escape their avenging teeth. At length the wretched sinner,
driven to despair, fled for safety to a strong tower standing in the
middle of the Rhine, near Bingen, with the belief that the water would
protect him from his swarming foes. But the mice swam the stream,
invaded the tower, and devoured the miserable fugitive. As evidence of
the truth of this story we are shown the tower, still standing, and
still known as the Mäusethurm, or Mouse Tower. It must be said, however,
that this tradition probably refers to another Bishop Hatto, of
somewhat later date. Its utterly fabulous character, of course, will be
recognisable by all.

So much for Bishop Hatto and his fate. It may be said, in conclusion,
that his period was one of terror and excitement in Germany, sufficient
perhaps to excuse the overturning of ideas, and the replacement of
conceptions of truth and honor by their opposites. The wild Magyars had
invaded and taken Hungary, and were making savage inroads into Germany
from every quarter. The resistance was obstinate, the Magyars were
defeated in several severe battles, yet still their multitudes swarmed
over the borders, and carried terror and ruin wherever they came. These
invaders were as ferocious in disposition, as fierce in their onsets, as
invincible through contempt of death, and as formidable through their
skilful horsemanship, as the Huns had been before them. So rapid were
their movements, and so startling the suddenness with which they would
appear in and vanish from the heart of the country, that the terrified
people came to look upon them as possessed of supernatural powers. Their
inhuman love of slaughter and their destructive habits added to the
terror with which they were viewed. They are said to have been so
bloodthirsty, that in their savage feasts after victory they used as
tables the corpses of their enemies slain in battle. It is further said
that it was their custom to bind the captured women and maidens with
their own long hair as fetters, and drive them, thus bound, in flocks
to Hungary.

We may conclude with a touching story told of these unquiet and
misery-haunted times. Ulrich, Count of Linzgau, was, so the story goes,
taken prisoner by the Magyars, and long held captive in their hands.
Wendelgarde, his beautiful wife, after waiting long in sorrow for his
return, believed him to be dead, and resolved to devote the remainder of
her life to charity and devotion. Crowds of beggars came to her castle
gates, to whom she daily distributed alms. One day, while she was thus
engaged, one of the beggars suddenly threw his arms around her neck and
kissed her. Her attendants angrily interposed, but the stranger waved
them aside with a smile, and said,--

"Forbear, I have endured blows and misery enough during my imprisonment
without needing more from you; I am Ulrich, your lord."

Truly, in this instance, charity brought its reward.


In the reign of Conrad II., Emperor of Germany, took place the event
which we have now to tell, one of those interesting examples of romance
which give vitality to history. On the death of Henry II., the last of
the great house of the Othos, a vast assembly from all the states of the
empire was called together to decide who their next emperor should be.
From every side they came, dukes, margraves, counts and barons, attended
by hosts of their vassals; archbishops, bishops, abbots, and other
churchmen, with their proud retainers; Saxons, Swabians, Bavarians,
Bohemians, and numerous other nationalities, great and small; all
marching towards the great plain between Worms and Mayence, where they
gathered on both sides of the Rhine, until its borders seemed covered by
a countless multitude of armed men. The scene was a magnificent one,
with its far-spreading display of rich tents, floating banners, showy
armor, and everything that could give honor and splendor to the

We are not specially concerned with what took place. There were two
competitors for the throne, both of them Conrad by name. By birth they
were cousins, and descendants of the emperor Conrad I. The younger of
these, but the son of the elder brother, and the most distinguished for
ability, was elected, and took the throne as Conrad II. He was to prove
one of the noblest sovereigns that ever held the sceptre of the German
empire. The election decided, the great assembly dispersed, and back to
their homes marched the host of warriors who had collected for once with
peaceful purpose.


Two years afterwards, in 1026, Conrad crossed the Alps with an army, and
marched through Italy, that land which had so perilous an attraction for
German emperors, and so sadly disturbed the peace and progress of the
Teutonic realm. Conrad was not permitted to remain there long. Troubles
in Germany recalled him to his native soil. Swabia had broken out in hot
troubles. Duke Ernst, step-son of Conrad, claimed Burgundy as his
inheritance, in opposition to the emperor himself, who had the better
claim. He not only claimed it, but attempted to seize it. With him were
united two Swabian counts of ancient descent, Rudolf Welf, or Guelph,
and Werner of Kyburg.

Swabia was in a blaze when Conrad returned. He convoked a great diet at
Ulm, as the legal means of settling the dispute. Thither Ernst came, at
the head of his Swabian men-at-arms, and still full of rebellious
spirit, although his mother, Gisela, the empress, begged him to submit
and to return to his allegiance.

The angry rebel, however, soon learned that his followers were not
willing to take up arms against the emperor. They declared that their
oath of allegiance to their duke did not release them from their higher
obligations to the emperor and the state, that if their lord was at feud
with the empire it was their duty to aid the latter, and that if their
chiefs wished to quarrel with the state, they must fight for themselves.

This defection left the rebels powerless. Duke Ernst was arrested and
imprisoned on a charge of high treason. Eudolf was exiled. Werner, who
took refuge in his castle, was besieged there by the imperial troops,
against whom he valiantly defended himself for several months. At
length, however, finding that his stronghold was no longer tenable, he
contrived to make his escape, leaving the nest to the imperialists empty
of its bird.

Three years Ernst remained in prison. Then Conrad restored him to
liberty, perhaps moved by the appeals of his mother Gisela, and promised
to restore him to his dukedom of Swabia if he would betray the secret of
the retreat of Werner, who was still at large despite all efforts to
take him.

This request touched deeply the honor of the deposed duke. It was much
to regain his ducal station; it was more to remain true to the fugitive
who had trusted and aided him in his need.

"How can I betray my only true friend?" asked the unfortunate duke, with
touching pathos.

His faithfulness was not appreciated by the emperor and his nobles. They
placed Ernst under the ban of the empire, and thus deprived him of rank,
wealth, and property, reducing him by a word from high estate to abject
beggary. His life and liberty were left him, but nothing more, and,
driven by despair, he sought the retreat of his fugitive friend Werner,
who had taken refuge in the depths of the Black Forest.

Here the two outlaws, deprived of all honest means of livelihood, became
robbers, and entered upon a life of plunder, exacting contributions from
all subjects of the empire who fell into their hands. They soon found a
friend in Adalbert of Falkenstein, who gave them the use of his castle
as a stronghold and centre of operations, and joined them with his
followers in their freebooting raids.

For a considerable time the robber chiefs maintained themselves in their
new mode of life, sallying from the castle, laying the country far and
wide under contribution, and returning to the fortress for safety from
pursuit. Their exactions became in time so annoying, that the castle was
besieged by a strong force of Swabians, headed by Count Mangold of
Veringen, and the freebooters were closely confined within their walls.
Impatient of this, a sally in force was made by the garrison, headed by
the two robber chiefs, and an obstinate contest ensued. The struggle
ended in the death of Mangold on the one side and of Ernst and Werner on
the other, with the definite defeat and dispersal of the robber band.

Thus ended an interesting episode of mediæval German history. But the
valor and misfortunes of Duke Ernst did not die unsung. He became a
popular hero, and the subject of many a ballad, in which numerous
adventures were invented for him during his career as an opponent of the
emperor and an outlaw in the Black Forest. For the step-son of an
emperor to be reduced to such a strait was indeed an event likely to
arouse public interest and sympathy, and for centuries the doings of the
robber duke were sung.

In the century after his death the imagination of the people went to
extremes in their conception of the adventures of Duke Ernst, mixing up
ideas concerning him with fancies derived from the Crusades, the whole
taking form in a legend which is still preserved in the popular ballad
literature of Germany. This strange conception takes Ernst to the East,
where he finds himself opposed by terrific creatures in human and brute
form, they being allegorical representations of his misfortunes. Each
monster signifies an enemy. He reaches a black mountain, which
represents his prison. He is borne into the clouds by an old man; this
is typical of his ambition. His ship is wrecked on the Magnet mountain;
a personification of his contest with the emperor. The nails fly out of
the ship and it falls to pieces; an emblem of the falling off of his
vassals. There are other adventures, and the whole circle of legends is
a curious one, as showing the vagaries of imagination, and the strong
interest taken by the people in the fortunes and misfortunes of their


Otho II., Emperor of Germany,--Otho the Red, as he was called, from his
florid complexion,--succeeded to the Western Empire in 973, when in his
eighteenth year of age. His reign was to be a short and active one, and
attended by adventures and fluctuations of fortune which render it
worthy of description. Few monarchs have experienced so many of the ups
and downs of life within the brief period of five years, through which
his wars extended.

As heir to the imperial title of Charlemagne, he was lord of the ancient
palace of the great emperor, at Aix-la-Chapelle, and here held court at
the feast of St. John in the year 978. All was peace and festivity
within the old imperial city, all war and threat without it. While Otho
and his courtiers, knights and ladies, lords and minions, were enjoying
life with ball and banquet, feast and frivolity, in true palatial
fashion, an army was marching secretly upon them, with treacherous
intent to seize the emperor and his city at one full swoop. Lothaire,
King of France, had in haste and secrecy collected an army, and, without
a declaration of hostilities, was hastening, by forced marches, upon

It was an act of treachery utterly undeserving of success. But it is not
always the deserving to whom success comes, and Otho heard of the rapid
approach of this army barely in time to take to flight, with his
fear-winged flock of courtiers at his heels, leaving the city an easy
prey to the enemy. Lothaire entered the city without a blow, plundered
it as if he had taken it by storm, and ordered that the imperial eagle,
which was erected in the grand square of Charles the Great, should have
its beak turned westward, in token that Lorraine now belonged to France.

Doubtless the great eagle turned creakingly on its support, thus moved
by the hand of unkingly perfidy, and impatiently awaited for time and
the tide of affairs to turn its beak again to the east. It had not long
to wait. The fugitive emperor hastily called a diet of the princes and
nobles at Dortmund, told them in impassioned eloquence of the faithless
act of the French king, and called upon them for aid against the
treacherous Lothaire. Little appeal was needed. The honor of Germany was
concerned. Setting aside all the petty squabbles which rent the land,
the indignant princes gathered their forces and placed them under Otho's
command. By the 1st of October the late fugitive found himself at the
head of a considerable army, and prepared to take revenge on his
perfidious enemy.

Into France he marched, and made his way with little opposition, by
Rheims and Soissons, until the French capital lay before his eyes. Here
the army encamped on the right bank of the Seine, around Montmartre,
while their cavalry avenged the plundering of Aix-la-Chapelle by laying
waste the country for many miles around. The French were evidently as
little prepared for Otho's activity as he had been for Lothaire's
treachery, and did not venture beyond the walls of their city, leaving
the country a defenceless prey to the revengeful anger of the emperor.

The Seine lay between the two armies, but not a Frenchman ventured to
cross its waters; the garrison of the city, under Hugh Capet,--Count of
Paris, and soon to become the founder of a new dynasty of French
kings,--keeping closely within its walls. These walls proved too strong
for the Germans, and as winter was approaching, and there was much
sickness among his troops, the emperor retreated, after having
devastated all that region of France. But first he kept a vow that he
had made, that he would cause the Parisians to hear a _Te Deum_ such as
they had never heard before. In pursuance of this vow, he gathered upon
the hill of Montmartre all the clergymen whom he could seize, and forced
them to sing his anthem of victory with the full power of their lungs.
Then, having burned the suburbs of Paris, and left his lance quivering
in the city gate, he withdrew in triumph, having amply punished the
treacherous French king. Aix-la-Chapelle fell again into his hands; the
eyes of the imperial eagle were permitted once more to gaze upon
Germany, and in the treaty of peace that followed Lorraine was declared
to be forever a part of the German realm.

Two years afterwards Otho, infected by that desire to conquer Italy
which for centuries afterwards troubled the dreams of German emperors,
and brought them no end of trouble, crossed the Alps and descended upon
the Italian plains, from which he was never to return. Northern Italy
was already in German hands, but the Greeks held possessions in the
south which Otho claimed, in view of the fact that he had married
Theophania, the daughter of the Greek emperor at Constantinople. To
enforce this claim he marched upon the Greek cities, which in their turn
made peace with the Arabs, with whom they had been at war, and gathered
garrisons of these bronzed pagans alike from Sicily and Africa.

For two years the war continued, the advantage resting with Otho. In 980
he reached Rome, and there had a secret interview with Hugh Capet, whom
he sustained in his intention to seize the throne of France, still held
by his old enemy Lothaire. In 981 he captured Naples, Taranto, and other
cities, and in a pitched battle near Cotrona defeated the Greeks and
their Arab allies. Abn al Casem, the terror of southern Italy, and
numbers of his Arab followers, were left dead upon the field.

On the 13th of July, 982, the emperor again met the Greeks and their
Arab allies in battle, and now occurred that singular adventure and
reverse of fortune which has made this engagement memorable. The battle
took place at a point near the sea-shore, in the vicinity of Basantello,
not far from Taranto, and at first went to the advantage of the
imperial forces. They attacked the Greeks with great impetuosity, and,
after a stubborn defence, broke through their ranks, and forced them
into a retreat, which was orderly conducted.

It was now mid-day. The victors, elated with their success and their
hopes of pillage, followed the retreating columns along the banks of the
river Corace, feeling so secure that they laid aside their arms and
marched leisurely and confidently forward. It was a fatal confidence. At
one point in their march the road led between the river and a ridge of
serried rocks, which lay silent beneath the mid-day sun. But silent as
they seemed, they were instinct with life. An ambuscade of Arabs
crouched behind them, impatiently waiting the coming of the unsuspecting

Suddenly the air pealed with sound, the "Allah il Allah!" of the
fanatical Arabs; suddenly the startled eyes of the imperialists saw the
rugged rocks bursting, as it seemed, into life; suddenly a horde of
dusky warriors poured down upon them with scimitar and javelin,
surrounding them quickly on all sides, cutting and slashing their way
deeply into the disordered ranks. The scattered troops, stricken with
dismay, fell in hundreds. In their surprise and confusion they became
easy victims to their agile foes, and in a short time nearly the whole
of that recently victorious army were slain or taken prisoners. Of the
entire force only a small number broke through the lines of their
environing foes.

The emperor escaped almost by miracle. His trusty steed bore him
unharmed through the crowding Arabs. He was sharply pursued, but the
swift animal distanced the pursuers, and before long he reached the
sea-shore, over whose firm sands he guided his horse, though with little
hope of escaping his active foes. Fortunately, he soon perceived a Greek
vessel at no great distance from the shore, a vision which held out to
him a forlorn hope of escape. The land was perilous; the sea might be
more propitious; he forced his faithful animal into the water, and swam
towards the vessel, in the double hope of being rescued and remaining

He was successful in both particulars. The crew willingly took him on
board, ignorant of his high rank, but deeming him to be a knight of
distinction, from whom they could fairly hope for a handsome ransom. His
situation was still a dangerous one, should he become known, and he
could not long hope to remain incognito. In truth, there was a slave on
board who knew him, but who, for purposes of his own, kept the perilous
secret. He communicated by stealth with the emperor, told him of his
recognition, and arranged with him a plan of escape. In pursuance of
this he told the Greeks that their captive was a chamberlain of the
emperor, a statement which Otho confirmed, and added that he had
valuable treasures at Rossano, which, if they would sail thither, they
might take on board as his ransom.

The Greek mariners, deceived by the specious tale, turned their vessel's
prow towards Rossano, and on coming near that city, shifted their
course towards the shore. Otho had been eagerly awaiting this
opportunity. When they had approached sufficiently near to the land, he
suddenly sprang from the deck into the sea, and swam ashore with a
strength and swiftness that soon brought him to the strand. In a short
time afterwards he entered Rossano, then held by his forces, and joined
his queen, who had been left in that city.

This singular adventure is told with a number of variations by the
several writers who have related it, most of them significant of the
love of the marvellous of the old chroniclers. One writer tells us that
the escaping emperor was pursued and attacked by the Greek boatmen, and
that he killed forty of them with the aid of a soldier, named Probus,
whom he met on the shore. By another we are told that the Greeks
recognized him, that he enticed them to the shore by requesting them to
take on board his wife and treasures, which had been left at Rossano,
and that he sent young men on board disguised as female attendants of
his wife, by whose aid he seized the vessel. All the stories agree,
however, in saying that Theophania jeeringly asked the emperor whether
her countrymen had not put him in mortal fear,--a jest for which the
Germans never forgave her.

To return to the domain of fact, we have but further to tell that the
emperor, full of grief and vexation at the loss of his army, and the
slaughter of many of the German and Italian princes and nobles who had
accompanied him, returned to upper Italy, with the purpose of collecting
another army.

All his conquests in the south had fallen again into the hands of the
enemy, and his work remained to be done over again. He held a grand
assembly in Verona, in which he had his son Otho, three years old,
elected as his successor. From there he proceeded to Rome, in which city
he was attacked by a violent fever, brought on by the grief and
excitement into which his reverses had thrown his susceptible and
impatient mind. He died December 7, 983, and was buried in the church of
St. Peter, at Rome.

The fancy of the chroniclers has surrounded his death with legends,
which are worth repeating as curious examples of what mediæval writers
offered and mediæval readers accepted as history. One of them tells the
story of a naval engagement between Otho and the Greeks, in which the
fight was so bitter that the whole sea around the vessels was stained
red with blood. The emperor won the victory, but received a mortal

Another story, which does not trouble itself to sail very close to the
commonplace, relates that Otho met his end by being whipped to death on
Mount Garganus by the angels, among whom he had imprudently ventured
while they were holding a conclave there. These stories will serve as
examples of the degree of credibility of many of the ancient chronicles
and the credulity of their readers.


At the festival of Easter, in the year 1062, a great banquet was given
in the royal palace at Kaiserswerth, on the Rhine. The Empress Agnes,
widow of Henry III., and regent of the empire, was present, with her
son, then a boy of eleven. A pious and learned woman was the empress,
but she lacked the energy necessary to control the unquiet spirits of
her times. Gentleness and persuasion were the means by which she hoped
to influence the rude dukes and haughty archbishops of the empire, but
qualities such as these were wasted on her fierce subjects, and served
but to gain her the contempt of some and the dislike of others. A plot
to depose the weakly-mild regent and govern the empire in the name of
the youthful monarch was made by three men, Otto of Norheim, the
greatest general of the state, Ekbert of Meissen, its most valiant
knight, and Hanno, Archbishop of Cologne, its leading churchman. These
three men were present at the banquet, which they had fixed upon as the
occasion for carrying out their plot.

The feast over, the three men rose and walked with the boy monarch to a
window of the palace that overlooked the Rhine. On the waters before
them rode at anchor a handsome vessel, which the child looked upon with
eyes of delight.


"Would you like to see it closer?" asked Hanno. "I will take you on
board, if you wish."

"Oh, will you?" pleaded the boy. "I shall be so glad."

The three conspirators walked with him to the stream, and rowed out to
the vessel, the empress viewing them without suspicion of their design.
But her doubts were aroused when she saw that the anchor had been raised
and that the sails of the vessel were being set. Filled with sudden
alarm she left the palace and hastened to the shore, just as the
kidnapping craft began to move down the waters of the stream.

At the same moment young Henry, who had until now been absorbed in
gazing delightedly about the vessel, saw what was being done, and heard
his mother's cries. With courage and resolution unusual for his years he
broke, with a cry of anger, from those surrounding him, and leaped into
the stream, with the purpose of swimming ashore. But hardly had he
touched the water when Count Ekbert sprang in after him, seized him
despite his struggles, and brought him back to the vessel.

The empress entreated in pitiful accents for the return of her son, but
in vain; the captors of the boy were not of the kind to let pity
interfere with their plans; on down the broad stream glided the vessel,
the treacherous vassals listening in silence to the agonized appeals of
the distracted mother, and to the mingled prayers and demands of the
young emperor to be taken back. The country people, furious on learning
that the emperor had been stolen, and was being carried away before
their eyes, pursued the vessel for some distance on both sides of the
river. But their cries and threats were of no more avail than had been
the mother's tears and prayers. The vessel moved on with increasing
speed, the three kidnappers erect on its deck, their only words being
those used to cajole and quiet their unhappy prisoner, whom they did
their utmost to solace by promises and presents.

The vessel continued its course until it reached Cologne, where the
imperial captive was left under the charge of the archbishop, his two
confederates fully trusting him to keep close watch and ward over their
precious prize. The empress was of the same opinion. After vainly
endeavoring to regain her lost son from his powerful captors, she
resigned the regency and retired with a broken heart to an Italian
convent, in which the remainder of her sad life was to be passed.

The unhappy boy soon learned that his new lot was not to be one of
pleasure. He had a life of severe discipline before him. Bishop Hanno
was a stern and rigid disciplinarian, destitute of any of the softness
to which the lad had been accustomed, and disposed to rule all under his
control with a rod of iron. He kept his youthful captive strictly
immured in the cloister, where he had to endure the severest discipline,
while being educated in Latin and the other learning of the age.

The regency given up by Agnes was instantly assumed by the ambitious
churchman, and a decree to that effect was quickly passed by the lords
of the diet, on the grounds that Hanno was the bishop of the diocese in
which the emperor resided. The character of Hanno is variously
represented by historians. While some accuse him of acts of injustice
and cruelty, others speak of him as a man of energy, yet one whose holy
life, his paternal care for his see, and his zealous reformation of
monasteries and foundation of churches, gained him the character of a

Young Henry remained but a year or two in the hands of this stern
taskmaster. An imperative necessity called Hanno to Italy, and he was
obliged to leave the young monarch under the charge of Adalbert,
Archbishop of Bremen, a personage of very different character from
himself. Adalbert, while a churchman of great ability, was a courtier
full of ambitious views. He was one of the most polished and learned men
of his time, at once handsome, witty, and licentious, his character
being in the strongest contrast to the stern harshness of Hanno and the
coarse manners of the nobles of that period.

It would have been far better, however, for Henry could he have remained
under the control of Hanno, with all his severity. It is true that the
kindness and gentleness of Adalbert proved a delightful change to the
growing boy, and the unlimited liberty he now enjoyed was in pleasant
contrast to his recent restraint, while the gravity and severe study of
Hanno's cloister were agreeably replaced by the gay freedom of
Adalbert's court, in which the most serious matters were treated as
lightly as a jest. But the final result of the change was that the boy's
character became thoroughly corrupted. Adalbert surrounded his youthful
charge with constant alluring amusements, using the influence thus
gained to obtain new power in the state for himself, and places of honor
and profit for his partisans. He inspired him also with a contempt for
the rude-mannered dukes of the empire, and for what he called the stupid
German people, while he particularly filled the boy's mind with a
dislike for the Saxons, with whom the archbishop was at feud. All this
was to have an important influence on the future life of the growing

It was more Henry's misfortune than his fault that he grew up to manhood
as a compound of sensuality, levity, malice, treachery, and other mean
qualities, for his nature had in it much that was good, and in his
after-life he displayed noble qualities which had been long hidden under
the corrupting faults of his education. The crime of the ambitious
nobles who stole him from his pious and gentle mother went far to ruin
his character, and was the leading cause of the misfortunes of his life.

As to the character of the youthful monarch, and its influence upon the
people, a few words may suffice. His licentious habits soon became a
scandal and shame to the whole empire, the more so that the mistresses
with whom he surrounded himself were seen in public adorned with gold
and precious stones which had been taken from the consecrated vessels of
the church. His dislike of the Saxons was manifested in the scorn with
which he treated this section of his people, and the taxes and enforced
labors with which they were oppressed.

The result of all this was an outbreak of rebellion. Hanno, who had
beheld with grave disapproval the course taken by Adalbert, now exerted
his great influence in state affairs, convoked an assembly of the
princes of the empire, and cited Henry to appear before it. On his
refusal, his palace was surrounded and his person seized, while Adalbert
narrowly escaped being made prisoner. He was obliged to remain in
concealment during the three succeeding years, while the indignant
Saxons, taking advantage of the opportunity for revenge, laid waste his

The licentious young ruler found his career of open vice brought to a
sudden end. The stern Hanno was again in power. Under his orders the
dissolute courtiers were dispersed, and Henry was compelled to lead a
more decorous life, a bride being found for him in the person of Bertha,
daughter of the Italian Margrave of Susa, to whom he had at an earlier
date been affianced. She was a woman of noble spirit, but,
unfortunately, was wanting in personal beauty, in consequence of which
she soon became an object of extreme dislike to her husband, a dislike
which her patience and fidelity seemed rather to increase than to

The feeling of the young monarch towards his dutiful wife was overcome
in a singular manner, which is well worth describing. Henry at first was
eager to free himself from the tie that bound him to the unloved Bertha,
a resolution in which he was supported by Siegfried, Archbishop of
Mayence, who offered to assist him in getting a divorce. At a diet held
at Worms, Henry demanded a separation from his wife, to whom he
professed an unconquerable aversion. His efforts, however, were
frustrated by the pope's legate, who arrived in Germany during these
proceedings, and the licentious monarch, finding himself foiled in these
legal steps, sought to gain his end by baser means. He caused beautiful
women and maidens to be seized in their homes and carried to his palace
as ministers to his pleasure, while he exposed the unhappy empress to
the base solicitations of his profligate companions, offering them large
sums if they could ensnare her, in her natural revulsion at his
shameless unfaithfulness.

But the virtue of Bertha was proof against all such wiles, and the story
goes that she turned the tables on her vile-intentioned husband in an
amusing and decisive manner. On one occasion, as we are informed, the
empress appeared to listen to the solicitations of one of the would-be
seducers, and appointed a place and time for a secret meeting with this
profligate. The triumphant courtier duly reported his success to Henry,
who, overjoyed, decided to replace him in disguise. At the hour fixed he
appeared and entered the chamber named by Bertha, when he suddenly found
himself assailed by a score of stout servant-maids, armed with rods,
which they laid upon his back with all the vigor of their arms. The
surprised Lothario ran hither and thither to escape their blows, crying
out that he was the king. In vain his cries; they did not or would not
believe him; and not until he had been most soundly beaten, and their
arms were weary with the exercise, did they open the door of the
apartment and suffer the crest-fallen reprobate to escape.

This would seem an odd means of gaining the affection of a truant
husband, but it is said to have had this effect upon Henry, his wronged
wife from that moment gaining a place in his heart, into which she had
fairly cudgelled herself. The man was really of susceptible disposition,
and her invincible fidelity had at length touched him, despite himself.
From that moment he ceased his efforts to get rid of her, treated her
with more consideration, and finally settled down to the fact that a
beautiful character was some atonement for a homely face, and that
Bertha was a woman well worthy his affection.

We have now to describe the most noteworthy event in the life of Henry
IV., and the one which has made his name famous in history,--his contest
with the great ecclesiastic Hildebrand, who had become pope under the
title of Gregory VII. Though an aged man when raised to the papacy,
Gregory's vigorous character displayed itself in a remarkable activity
in the enhancement of the power of the church. His first important step
was directed against the scandals of the priesthood in the matter of
celibacy, the marriage of priests having become common. A second decree
of equal importance followed. Gregory forbade the election of bishops by
the laity, reserving this power to the clergy, under confirmation by the
pope. He further declared that the church was independent of the state,
and that the extensive lands held by the bishops were the property of
the church, and free from control by the monarch.

These radical decrees naturally aroused a strong opposition, in the
course of which Henry came into violent controversy with the pope.
Gregory accused Henry openly of simony, haughtily bade him to come to
Rome, and excommunicated the bishops who had been guilty of the same
offence. The emperor, who did not know the man with whom he had to deal,
retorted by calling an assembly of the German bishops at Worms, in which
the pope was declared to be deposed from his office.

The result was very different from that looked for by the volatile young
ruler. The vigorous and daring pontiff at once placed Henry himself
under interdict, releasing his subjects from their oath of allegiance,
and declaring him deprived of the imperial dignity. The scorn with which
the emperor heard of this decree was soon changed to terror when he
perceived its effect upon his people. The days were not yet come in
which the voice of the pope could be disregarded. With the exception of
the people of the cities and the free peasantry, who were opposed to
the papal dominion, all the subjects of the empire deserted Henry,
avoiding him as though he were infected with the plague. The Saxons flew
to arms; the foreign garrisons were expelled; the imprisoned princes
were released; all the enemies whom Henry had made rose against him; and
in a diet, held at Oppenheim, the emperor was declared deposed while the
interdict continued, and the pope was invited to visit Augsburg; in
order to settle the affairs of Germany. The election of a successor to
Henry was even proposed, and, to prevent him from communicating with the
pope, his enemies passed a decree that he should remain in close
residence at Spires.

The situation of the recently great monarch had suddenly become
desperate. Never had a decree of excommunication against a crowned ruler
been so completely effective. The frightened emperor saw but one hope
left, to escape to Italy before the princes could prevent him, and
obtain release from the interdict at any cost, and with whatever
humiliation it might involve. With this end in view he at once took to
flight, accompanied by Bertha, his infant son, and a single knight, and
made his way with all haste towards the Alps.

The winter was one of the coldest that Germany had ever known, the Rhine
remaining frozen from St. Martin's day of 1076 to April, 1077. About
Christmas of this severe winter the fugitives reached the snow-covered
Alps, having so far escaped the agents of their enemies, and crossed
the mountains by the St. Bernard pass, the difficulty of the journey
being so great that the empress had to be slid down the precipitous
paths by ropes in the hands of guides, she being wrapped in an ox-hide
for protection.

Italy was at length reached, after the greatest dangers and hardships
had been surmounted. Here Henry, much to his surprise, found prevailing
a very different spirit from that which he had left behind him. The
nobles, who cordially hated Gregory, and the bishops, many of whom were
under interdict, hailed his coming with joy, with the belief "that the
emperor was coming to humiliate the haughty pope by the power of the
sword." He might soon have had an army at his back, but that he was too
thoroughly downcast to think of anything but conciliation, and to the
disgust of the Italians insisted on humiliating himself before the
powerful pontiff.

Gregory was little less alarmed than the emperor on learning of Henry's
sudden arrival in Italy. He was then on his way to Augsburg, and, in
doubt as to the intentions of his enemy, took hasty refuge in the castle
of Canossa, then held by the Countess Matilda, recently a widow, and the
most powerful and influential princess in Italy.

But the alarmed pope was astonished and gratified when he learned that
the emperor, instead of intending an armed assault upon him, had applied
to the Countess Matilda, asking her to intercede in his behalf with the
pontiff. Gregory's acute mind quickly perceived the position in which
Henry stood, and, with great severity, he at first refused to speak of a
reconciliation, but referred all to the diet; then, on renewed
entreaties, he consented to receive Henry at Canossa, if he would come
alone, and as a penitent. The castle was surrounded with three walls,
within the second of which Henry was admitted, his attendants being left
without. He had laid aside every badge of royalty, being clothed in
penitential dress and barefoot, and fasting and praying from morning to
evening. For a second and even a third day was he thus kept, and not
until the fourth day, moved at length by the solicitations of Matilda
and those about him, did Gregory grant permission for Henry to enter his
presence. An interview now took place, in which the pope consented to
release the penitent emperor from the interdict. One of the conditions
of this release was he should leave to Gregory the settlement of affairs
in Germany, and to give up all exercise of his imperial power until he
should be granted permission to exercise it again.

This agreement was followed by a solemn mass, after which Gregory spoke
to the following effect: As regarded the crimes of which Henry had
accused him, he could easily bring evidence in disproof of the charges
made, but he would invoke the judgment of God alone. "May the body of
Jesus Christ, which I am about to receive," he said, "be the witness of
my innocence. I beseech the Almighty thus to dispel all suspicions, if
I am innocent; to strike me dead on the spot, if guilty."

He then received one-half the Sacred Host, and turning to the king,
offered him the remaining half, bidding him to follow his example, if he
held himself to be guiltless. Henry refused the ordeal, doubtless
because he did not dare to risk the penalty, and was glad enough to
escape from the presence of the pope, a humble penitent.

This ended Henry's career of humiliation. It was followed by a period of
triumph. On leaving the castle of Canossa he found the people of
Lombardy so indignant at his cowardice, that their scorn induced him to
break the oath he had just taken, gather an army, and assail the castle,
in which he shut up the pope so closely that he could neither proceed to
Augsburg nor return to Rome.

This siege, however, was not of long continuance. Henry soon found
himself recalled to Germany, where his enemies had elected Rudolf, Duke
of Swabia, emperor in his stead. A war broke out, which continued for
several years, at the end of which Gregory, encouraged by a temporary
success of Rudolf's party, pronounced in his favor, invested him with
the empire as a fief of the papacy, and once more excommunicated Henry.
It proved a false move. Henry had now learned his own power, and ceased
to fear the pope. He had strong support in the cities and among the
clergy, whom Gregory's severity had offended, and immediately convoked a
council, by which the pope was again deposed, and the Archbishop of
Ravenna elected in his stead, under the title of Clement III.

In this year, 1080, a battle took place in which Rudolf was mortally
wounded, and the party opposed to Henry left without a leader, though
the war continued. And now Henry, seeing that he could trust his cause
in Germany to the hands of his lieutenants, determined to march upon his
pontifical foe in Italy, and take revenge for his bitter humiliation at

He crossed the Alps, defeated the army which Matilda had raised in the
pope's cause, and laid siege to Rome, a siege which continued without
success for the long period of three years. At length the city was
taken, Wilprecht von Groitsch, a Saxon knight, mounting the walls, and
making his way with his followers into the city, aided by treachery from
within. Gregory hastily shut himself up in the castle of St. Angelo, in
which he was besieged by the Romans themselves, and from which he bade
defiance to Henry with the same inflexible will as ever. Henry offered
to be reconciled with him if he would crown him, but the vigorous old
pontiff replied that, "He could only communicate with him when he had
given satisfaction to God and the church." The emperor, thereupon,
called the rival pope, Clement, to Rome, was crowned by him, and
returned to Germany, leaving Clement in the papal chair and Gregory
still shut up in St. Angelo.

But a change quickly took place in the fortunes of the indomitable old
pope. Robert Guiscard, Duke of Normandy, who had won for himself a
principality in lower Italy, now marched to the relief of his friend
Gregory, stormed and took the city at the head of his Norman
freebooters, and at once began the work of pillage, in disregard of
Gregory's remonstrances. The result was an unusual one. The citizens of
Rome, made desperate by their losses, gathered in multitudes and drove
the plunderers from their city, and Gregory with them. The Normans, thus
expelled, took the pope to Salerno, where he died the following year,
1085, his last words being, "I have loved justice and hated iniquity,
therefore do I die in exile."

As for his imperial enemy, the remainder of his life was one of
incessant war. Years of battle were needed to put down his enemies in
the state, and his triumph was quickly followed by the revolt of his own
son, Henry, who reduced his father so greatly that the old emperor was
thrown into prison and forced to sign an abdication of the throne. It is
said that he became subsequently so reduced that he was forced to sell
his boots to obtain means of subsistence, but this story may reasonably
be doubted. Henry died in 1106, again under excommunication, so that he
was not formally buried in consecrated ground until 1111, the interdict
being continued for five years after his death.



In the year of grace 1140 a German army, under Conrad III., emperor,
laid siege to the small town of Weinsberg, the garrison of which
resisted with a most truculent and disloyal obstinacy. Germany, which
for centuries before and after was broken into warring factions, to such
extent that its emperors could truly say, "uneasy lies the head that
wears a crown," was then divided between the two strong parties of the
Welfs and the Waiblingers,--or the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, as
pronounced by the Italians and better known to us. The Welfs were a
noble family whose ancestry could be traced back to the days of
Charlemagne. The Waiblingers derived their name from the town of
Waiblingen, which belonged to the Hohenstaufen family, of which the
Emperor Conrad was a representative.

And now, as often before and after, the Guelphs, and Ghibellines were at
war, Duke Welf holding Weinsberg vigorously against his foes of the
imperial party, while his relative, Count Welf of Altorf, marched to his
relief. A battle ensued between emperor and count, which ended in the
triumph of the emperor and the flight of the count. And this battle is
worthy of mention, as distinguished from the hundreds of battles which
are unworthy of mention, from the fact that in it was first heard a
war-cry which continued famous for centuries afterwards. The German
war-cry preceding this period had been "Kyrie Eleison" ("Lord, have
mercy upon us!" a pious invocation hardly in place with men who had
little mercy upon their enemies). But now the cry of the warring
factions became "Hie Weif," "Hie Waiblinger," softened in Italy into
"The Guelph," "The Ghibelline," battle-shouts which were long afterwards
heard on the field of German war, and on that of Italy as well, for the
factions of Germany became also the factions of this southern realm.

So much for the origin of Guelph and Ghibelline, of which we may further
say that a royal representative of the former party still exists, in
King Edward VII. of England, who traces his descent from the German
Welfs. And now to return to the siege of Weinsberg, to which Conrad
returned after having disposed of the army of relief. The garrison still
were far from being in a submissive mood, their defence being so
obstinate, and the siege so protracted, that the emperor, incensed by
their stubborn resistance, vowed that he would make their city a
frightful example to all his foes, by subjecting its buildings to the
brand and its inhabitants to the sword. Fire and steel, he said, should
sweep it from the face of the earth.


Weinsberg at length was compelled to yield, and Conrad, hot with anger,
determined that his cruel resolution should be carried out to the
letter, the men being put to the sword, the city given to the flames.
This harsh decision filled the citizens with terror and despair. A
deputation was sent to the angry emperor, humbly praying for pardon, but
he continued inflexible, the utmost concession he would make being that
the women might withdraw, as he did not war with them. As for the men,
they had offended him beyond forgiveness, and the sword should be their
lot. On further solicitation, he added to the concession a proviso that
the women might take away with them all that they could carry of their
most precious possessions, since he did not wish to throw them destitute
upon the world.

The obdurate emperor was to experience an unexampled surprise. When the
time fixed for the departure of the women arrived, and the city gates
were thrown open for their exit, to the astonishment of Conrad, and the
admiration of the whole army, the first to appear was the duchess, who,
trembling under the weight, bore upon her shoulders Duke Welf, her
husband. After her came a long line of other women, each bending beneath
the heavy burden of her husband, or some dear relative among the
condemned citizens.

Never had such a spectacle been seen. So affecting an instance of
heroism was it, and so earnest and pathetic were the faces appealingly
upturned to him, that the emperor's astonishment quickly changed to
admiration, and he declared that women like these had fairly earned
their reward, and that each should keep the treasure she had borne.
There were those around him with less respect for heroic deeds, who
sought to induce him to keep his original resolution, but Conrad, who
had it in him to be noble when not moved by passion, curtly silenced
them with the remark, "An emperor keeps his word." He was so moved by
the scene, indeed, that he not only spared the men, but the whole city,
and the doom of sword and brand, vowed against their homes, was
withdrawn through admiration of the noble act of the worthy wives of


From an old chronicle we extract the following story, which is at once
curious and interesting, as a picture of mediæval manners and customs,
though to all seeming largely legendary.

Henry, the bishop of Utrecht, was at sword's point with two lords, those
of Aemstel and Woerden, who hated him from the fact that a kinsman of
theirs, Goswin by name, had been deposed from the same see, through the
action of a general chapter. In reprisal these lords, in alliance with
the Count of Gebria, raided and laid waste the lands of the bishopric.
Time and again they visited it with plundering bands, Henry manfully
opposing them with his followers, but suffering much from their
incursions. At length the affair ended in a peculiar compact, in which
both sides agreed to submit their differences to the wager of war, in a
pitched battle, which was to be held on a certain day in the green
meadows adjoining Utrecht.

When the appointed day came both sides assembled with their vassals, the
lords full of hope, the bishop exhorting his followers to humble the
arrogance of these plundering nobles. The Archbishop of Cologne was in
the city of Utrecht at the time, having recently visited it. He, as
warlike in disposition as the bishop himself, gave Henry a precious
ring, saying to him,--

"My son, be courageous and confident, for this day, through the
intercession of the holy confessor St. Martin, and through the virtue of
this ring, thou shalt surely subdue the pride of thy adversaries, and
obtain a renowned victory over them. In the meantime, while thou art
seeking justice, I will faithfully defend this city, with its priests
and canons, in thy behalf, and will offer up prayers to the Lord of
Hosts for thy success."

Bishop Henry, his confidence increased by these words, led from the
gates a band of fine and well armed warriors to the sound of warlike
trumpets, and marched to the field, where he drew them up before the
bands of the hostile lords.

Meanwhile, tidings of this fray had been borne to William, king of the
Romans, who felt it his duty to put an end to it, as such private
warfare was forbidden by law. Hastily collecting all the knights and
men-at-arms he could get together without delay, he marched with all
speed to Utrecht, bent upon enforcing peace between the rival bands. As
it happened, the army of the king reached the northern gate of the city
just as the bishop's battalion had left the southern gate, the one party
marching in as the other marched out.

The archbishop, who had undertaken the defence of the city, and as yet
knew nothing of this royal visit, after making an inspection of the city
under his charge, gave orders to the porters to lock and bar all the
gates, and keep close guard thereon.

King William was not long in learning that he was somewhat late, the
bishop having left the city. He marched hastily to the southern gate to
pursue him, but only to find that he was himself in custody, the gates
being firmly locked and the keys missing. He waited awhile impatiently.
No keys were brought. Growing angry at this delay, he gave orders that
the bolts and bars should be wrenched from the gates, and efforts to do
this were begun.

While this was going on, the archbishop was in deep affliction. He had
just learned that the king was in Utrecht with an army, and imagined
that he had come with hostile purpose, and had taken the city through
the carelessness of the porters. Followed by his clergy, he hastened to
where the king was trying to force a passage through the gates, and
addressed him appealingly, reminding him that justice and equity were
due from kings to subjects.

"Your armed bands, I fear, have taken this city," he said, "and you have
ordered the locks to be broken that you may expel the inhabitants, and
replace them with persons favorable to your own interests. If you
propose to act thus against justice and mercy, you injure me, your
chancellor, and lessen your own honor. I exhort you, therefore, to
restore me the city which you have unjustly taken, and relieve the
inhabitants from violence."

The king listened in silence and surprise to this harangue, which was
much longer than we have given it. At its end, he said,--

"Venerable pastor and bishop, you have much mistaken my errand in
Utrecht. I come here in the cause of justice, not of violence. You know
that it is the duty of kings to repress wars and punish the disturbers
of peace. It is this that brings us here, to put an end to the private
war which we learn is being waged. As it stands, we have not conquered
the city, but it has conquered us. To convince you that no harm is meant
to Bishop Henry and his good city of Utrecht, we will command our men to
repair to their hostels, lay down their arms, and pass their time in
festivity. But first the purpose for which we have come must be
accomplished, and this private feud be brought to an end."

That the worthy archbishop was delighted to hear these words, need not
be said. His fears had not been without sound warrant, for those were
days in which kings were not to be trusted, and in which the cities
maintained a degree of political independence that often proved
inconvenient to the throne. As may be imagined, the keys were quickly
forthcoming and the gates thrown open, the king being relieved from his
involuntary detention, and given an opportunity to bring the bishop's
battle to an end.

He was too late; it had already reached its end. While King William was
striving to get out of the city, which he had got into with such ease,
the fight in the green meadows between the bishops and the lords had
been concluded, the warlike churchman coming off victor. Many of the
lords' vassals had been killed, more put to flight, and themselves taken
prisoners. At the vesper-bell Henry entered the city with his captives,
bound with ropes, and was met at the gates by the king and the
archbishop. At the request of King William he pardoned and released his
prisoners, on their promise to cease molesting his lands, and all ended
in peace and good will.


Frederick von Stauffen, known as the One-eyed, being desirous of
providing his son Frederick (afterwards the famous emperor Frederick
Barbarossa) with a wife, sent as envoy for that purpose a handsome young
man named Johann von Würtemberg, whose attractions of face and manner
had made him a general favorite. It was the beautiful daughter of Rudolf
von Zähringen who had been selected as a suitable bride for the future
emperor, but when the handsome ambassador stated the purpose of his
visit to the father, he was met by Rudolf with the joking remark, "Why
don't you court the damsel for yourself?"

The suggestion was much to the taste of the envoy. He took it seriously,
made love for himself to the attractive Princess Anna, and won her love
and the consent of her father, who had been greatly pleased with his
handsome and lively visitor, and was quite ready to confirm in earnest
what he had begun in jest.

Frederick, the One-eyed, still remained to deal with, but that worthy
personage seems to have taken the affair as a good joke, and looked up
another bride for his son, leaving to Johann the maiden he had won. This
story has been treated as fabulous, but it is said to be well founded.
It has been repeated in connection with other persons, notably in the
case of Captain Miles Standish and John Alden, in which case the fair
maiden herself is given the credit of admonishing the envoy to court for
himself. It is very sure, however, that this latter story is a fable. It
was probably founded on the one we have given.


Adalbert of Treves was a bandit chief of note who, in the true fashion
of the robber barons of mediæval Germany, dwelt in a strong-walled
castle, which was garrisoned by a numerous band of men-at-arms, as fond
of pillage as their leader, and equally ready to follow him on his
plundering expeditions and to defend his castle against his enemies.
Our noble brigand paid particular heed to the domain of Peppo, Bishop of
Treves, whose lands he honored with frequent unwelcome visits,
despoiling lord and vassal alike, and hastening back from his raids to
the shelter of his castle walls.

This was not the most agreeable state of affairs for the worthy bishop,
though how it was to be avoided did not clearly appear. It probably did
not occur to him to apply to the emperor, Henry II., the mediæval German
emperors having too much else on hand to leave them time to attend to
matters of minor importance. Peppo therefore naturally turned to his own
kinsmen, friends, and vassals, as those most likely to afford him aid.

Bishop Peppo could wield sword and battle-axe with the best bishop,
which is almost equivalent to saying with the best warrior, of his day,
and did not fail to use, when occasion called, these carnal weapons. But
something more than the battle-axes of himself and vassals was needed to
break through the formidable walls of Adalbert's stronghold, which
frowned defiance to the utmost force the bishop could muster. Force
alone would not answer, that was evident. Stratagem was needed to give
effect to brute strength. If some way could only be devised to get
through the strong gates of the robber's stronghold, and reach him
behind his bolts and bars, all might be well; otherwise, all was ill.

In this dilemma, a knightly vassal of the bishop, Tycho by name,
undertook to find a passage into the castle of Adalbert, and to punish
him for his pillaging. One day Tycho presented himself at the gate of
the castle, knocked loudly thereon, and on the appearance of the guard,
asked him for a sup of something to drink, being, as he said, overcome
with thirst.

He did not ask in vain. It is a pleasant illustration of the hospitality
of that period to learn that the traveller's demand was unhesitatingly
complied with at the gate of the bandit stronghold, a brimming cup of
wine being brought for the refreshment of the thirsty wayfarer.

"Thank your master for me," said Tycho, on returning the cup, "and tell
him that I shall certainly repay him with some service for his good

With this Tycho journeyed on, sought the bishopric, and told Peppo what
he had done and what he proposed to do. After a full deliberation a
definite plan was agreed upon, which the cunning fellow proceeded to put
into action. The plan was one which strongly reminds us of that adopted
by the bandit chief in the Arabian story of the "Forty Thieves," the
chief difference being that here it was true men, not thieves, who were
to be benefited.

Thirty wine casks of capacious size were prepared, and in each was
placed instead of its quota of wine a stalwart warrior, fully armed with
sword, shield, helmet, and cuirass. Each cask was then covered with a
linen cloth, and ropes were fastened to its sides for the convenience of
the carriers. This done, sixty other men were chosen as carriers, and
dressed as peasants, though really they were trained soldiers, and each
had a sword concealed in the cask he helped to carry.

The preparations completed, Tycho, accompanied by a few knights and by
the sixty carriers and their casks, went his way to Adalbert's castle,
and, as before, knocked loudly at its gates. The guard again appeared,
and, on seeing the strange procession, asked who they were and for what
they came.

"I have come to repay your chief for the cup of wine he gave me," said
Tycho. "I promised that he should be well rewarded for his good will,
and am here for that purpose."

The warder looked longingly at the array of stout casks, and hastened
with the message to Adalbert, who, doubtless deeming that the gods were
raining wine, for his one cup to be so amply returned, gave orders that
the strangers should be admitted. Accordingly the gates were opened, and
the wine-bearers and knights filed in.

Reaching the castle hall, the casks were placed on the floor before
Adalbert and his chief followers, Tycho begging him to accept them as a
present in return for his former kindness. As to receive something for
nothing was Adalbert's usual mode of life, he did not hesitate to accept
the lordly present, and Tycho ordered the carriers to remove the
coverings. In a very few seconds this was done, when out sprang the
armed men, the porters seized their swords from the casks, and in a
minute's time the surprised bandits found themselves sharply attacked.
The stratagem proved a complete success. Adalbert and his men fell
victims to their credulity, and the fortress was razed to the ground.

The truth of this story we cannot vouch for. It bears too suspicious a
resemblance to the Arabian tale to be lightly accepted as fact. But its
antiquity is unquestionable, and it may be offered as a faithful picture
of the conditions of those centuries of anarchy when every man's hand
was for himself and might was right.


A proud old city was Milan, heavy with its weight of years, rich and
powerful, arrogant and independent, the capital of Lombardy and the lord
of many of the Lombard cities. For some twenty centuries it had existed,
and now had so grown in population, wealth, and importance, that it
could almost lay claim to be the Rome of northern Italy. But its day of
pride preceded not long that of its downfall, for a new emperor had come
to the German throne, Frederick the Red-bearded, one of the ablest,
noblest, and greatest of all that have filled the imperial chair.

Not long had he been on the throne before, in the long-established
fashion of German emperors, he began to interfere with affairs in Italy,
and demanded from the Lombard cities recognition of his supremacy as
Emperor of the West. He found some of them submissive, others not so.
Milan received his commands with contempt, and its proud magistrates
went so far as to tear the seal from the imperial edict and trample it

In 1154 Frederick crossed the Alps and encamped on the Lombardian plain.
Soon deputations from some of the cities came to him with complaints
about the oppression of Milan, which had taken Lodi, Como, and other
towns, and lorded it over them exasperatingly. Frederick bade the proud
Milanese to answer these complaints, but in their arrogance they refused
even to meet his envoys, and he resolved to punish them severely for
their insolence.

But the time was not yet. He had other matters to attend to. Four years
passed before he was able to devote some of his leisure to the Milanese.
They had in the meantime managed to offend him still more seriously,
having taken the town of Lodi and burnt it to the ground, for no other
crime than that it had yielded him allegiance. After him marched a
powerful army, nearly one hundred and twenty thousand strong, at the
very sight of whose myriad of banners most of the Lombard cities
submitted without a blow. Milan was besieged. Its resistance was by no
means obstinate. The emperor's principal wish was to win it over to his
side, and probably the authorities of the city were aware of his lenient
disposition, for they held out no long time before his besieging

All that the conqueror now demanded was that the proud municipality
should humble itself before him, swear allegiance, and promise not to
interfere with the freedom of the smaller cities. On the 6th of
September a procession of nobles and churchmen defiled before him,
barefooted and clad in tattered garments, the consuls and patricians
with swords hanging from their necks, the others with ropes round their
throats, and thus, with evidence of the deepest humility, they bore to
the emperor the keys of the proud city.

"You must now acknowledge that it is easier to conquer by obedience than
with arms," he said. Then, exacting their oaths of allegiance, placing
the imperial eagle upon the spire of the cathedral, and taking with him
three hundred hostages, he marched away, with the confident belief that
the defiant resistance of Milan was at length overcome.

He did not know the Milanese. When, in the following year, he attempted
to lay a tax upon them, they rose in insurrection and attacked his
representatives with such fury that they could scarcely save their
lives. On an explanation being demanded, they refused to give any, and
were so arrogantly defiant that the emperor pronounced their city
outlawed, and wrathfully vowed that he would never place the crown upon
his head again until he had utterly destroyed this arrant nest of

It was not to prove so easy a task. Frederick began by besieging
Cremona, which was in alliance with Milan, and which resisted him so
obstinately that it took him seven months to reduce it to submission. In
his anger he razed the city to the ground and scattered its inhabitants
far and wide.

Then came the siege of Milan, which was so vigorously defended that
three years passed before starvation threw it into the emperor's hands.
So virulent were the citizens that they several times tried to rid
themselves of their imperial enemy by assassination. On one occasion,
when Frederick was performing his morning devotions in a solitary spot
upon the river Ada, a gigantic fellow attacked him and tried to throw
him into the stream. The emperor's cries for help brought his attendants
to the spot, and the assailant, in his turn, was thrown into the river.
On another occasion an old, misshapen man glided into the camp, bearing
poisoned wares which he sought to dispose of to the emperor. Frederick,
fortunately, had been forewarned, and he had the would-be assassin
seized and executed.

It was in the spring of 1162 that the city yielded, hunger at length
forcing it to capitulate. Now came the work of revenge. Frederick
proceeded to put into execution the harsh vow he had made, after
subjecting its inhabitants to the greatest humiliations which he could

For three days the consuls and chief men of the city, followed by the
people, were obliged to parade before the imperial camp, barefooted and
dressed in sackcloth, with tapers in their hands and crosses, swords,
and ropes about their necks. On the third day more than a hundred of the
banners of the city were brought out and laid at the emperor's feet.
Then, in sign of the most utter humiliation, the great banner of their
pride, the Carocium--a stately iron tree with iron leaves, drawn on a
cart by eight oxen--was brought out and bowed before the emperor.
Frederick seized and tore down its fringe, while the whole people cast
themselves on the ground, wailing and imploring mercy.

The emperor was incensed beyond mercy, other than to grant them their
lives. He ordered that a part of the wall should be thrown down, and
rode through the breach into the city. Then, after deliberation, he
granted the inhabitants their lives, but ordered their removal to four
villages, several miles away, where they were placed under the care of
imperial functionaries. As for Milan, he decided that it should be
levelled with the ground, and gave the right to do this, at their
request, to the people of Lodi, Cremona, Pavia, and other cities which
had formerly been oppressed by proud Milan.


The city was first pillaged, and then given over to the hands of the
Lombards, who--such was the diligence of hatred--are said to have done
more in six days than hired workmen would have done in as many months.
The walls and forts were torn down, the ditches filled up, and the once
splendid city reduced to a frightful scene of ruin and desolation. Then,
at a splendid banquet at Pavia, in the Easter festival, the triumphant
emperor replaced the crown upon his head.

His triumph was not to continue, nor the humiliation of Milan to remain
permanent. Time brings its revenges, as the proud Frederick was to
learn. For five years Milan lay in ruins, a home for owls and bats, a
scene of desolation to make all observers weep; and then arrived its
season of retribution. Frederick's downfall came from the hand of God,
not of man. A frightful plague broke out in the ranks of the German
army, then in Rome, carrying off nobles and men alike in such numbers
that it looked as if the whole host might be laid in the grave.
Thousands died, and the emperor was obliged to retire to Pavia with but
a feeble remnant of his numerous army, nearly the whole of it having
been swept away. In the following spring he was forced to leave Italy
like a fugitive, secretly and in disguise, and came so nearly falling
into the hands of his foes, that he only escaped by one of his
companions placing himself in his bed, to be seized in his stead, while
he fled under cover of the night.

Immediately the humbled cities raised their heads. An alliance was
formed between them, and they even ventured to conduct the Milanese back
to their ruined homes. At once the work of rebuilding was begun. The
ditches, walls, and towers were speedily restored, and then each man
went to work on his own habitation. So great was the city that the work
of destruction had been but partial. Most of the houses, all the
churches, and portions of the walls remained, and by aid of the other
cities Milan soon regained its old condition.

In 1174 Frederick reappeared in Italy, with a new army, and with hostile
intentions against the revolted cities. The Lombards had built a new
city, in a locality surrounded by rivers and marshes, and had enclosed
it with walls which they sought to make impregnable. This they named
Alexandria, in honor of the pope and in defiance of the emperor, and
against this Frederick's first assault was made. For seven months he
besieged it, and then broke into the very heart of the place, through a
subterranean passage which the Germans had excavated. To all appearance
the city was lost, yet chance and courage saved it. The brave defenders
attacked the Germans, who had appeared in the market-place; the tunnel,
through great good fortune, fell in; and in the end the emperor was
forced to raise the siege in such haste that he set fire to his own
encampment in his precipitate retreat.

On May 29, 1176, a decisive battle was fought at Lignano, in which Milan
revenged itself on its too-rigorous enemy. The Carocium was placed in
the middle of the Lombard army, surrounded by three hundred youths, who
had sworn to defend it unto death, and by a body of nine hundred picked
cavalry, who had taken a similar oath.

Early in the battle one wing of the Lombard army wavered under the sharp
attack of the Germans, and threw into confusion the Milanese ranks.
Taking advantage of this, the emperor pressed towards their centre,
seeking to gain the Carocium, with the expectation that its capture
would convert the disorder of the Lombards into a rout. On pushed the
Germans until the sacred standard was reached, and its decorations torn
down before the eyes of its sworn defenders.

This indignity to the treasured emblem of their liberties gave renewed
courage to the disordered band. Their ranks re-established, they charged
upon the Germans with such furious valor as to drive them back in
disorder, cut through their lines to the emperor's station, kill his
standard-bearer by his side, and capture the imperial standard.
Frederick, clad in a splendid suit of armor, rushed against them at the
head of a band of chosen knights. But suddenly he was seen to fall from
his horse and vanish under the hot press of struggling warriors that
surged back and forth around the standard.

This dire event spread instant terror through the German ranks. They
broke and fled in disorder, followed by the death-phalanx of the
Carocium, who cut them down in multitudes, and drove them back in
complete disorder and defeat. For two days the emperor was mourned as
slain, his unhappy wife even assuming the robes of widowhood, when
suddenly he reappeared, and all was joy again. He had not been seriously
hurt in his fall, and had with a few friends escaped in the tumult of
the defeat, and, under the protection of night, made his way with
difficulty back to Pavia.

This defeat ended the efforts of Frederick against Milan, which had,
through its triumph over the great emperor, regained all its old proud
position and supremacy among the Lombard cities. The war ended with the
battle of Lignano, a truce of six years being concluded between the
hostile parties. For the ensuing eight years Frederick was fully
occupied in Germany, in wars with Henry the Lion, of the Guelph faction.
At the end of that time he returned to Italy, where Milan, which he had
sought so strenuously to humiliate and ruin, now became the seat of the
greatest honor he could bestow. The occasion was that of the marriage of
his son Henry to Constanza, the last heiress of Naples and Sicily of the
royal Norman race. This ceremony took place in Milan, in which city the
emperor caused the iron crown of the Lombards to be placed upon the head
of his son and heir, and gave him away in marriage with the utmost pomp
and festivity. Milan had won in its great contest for life and death.

We may fitly conclude with the story of the death of the great
Frederick, who, in accordance with the character of his life, died in
harness. In his old age, having put an end to the wars in Germany and
Italy, he headed a crusade to the Holy Land, from which he was never to
return. It was the most interesting in many of its features of all the
crusades, the leaders of the host being, in addition to Frederick
Barbarossa, Richard Coeur de Lion of England, the hero of romance, the
wise Philip Augustus of France, and various others of the leading
potentates of Europe.

It is with Frederick alone that we are concerned. In 1188 he set out, at
the head of one hundred and fifty thousand trained soldiers, on what was
destined to prove a disastrous expedition. Entering Hungary, he met with
a friendly reception from Bela, its king. Reaching Belgrade, he held
there a magnificent tournament, hanged all the robber Servians he could
capture for their depredations upon his ranks, and advanced into Greek
territory, where he punished the bad faith of the emperor, Isaac, by
plundering his country. Several cities were destroyed in revenge for the
assassination of pilgrims and of sick and wounded German soldiers by
their inhabitants. This done, Frederick advanced on Constantinople,
whose emperor, to save his city from capture, hastened to place his
whole fleet at the disposal of the Germans, glad to get rid of these
truculent visitors at any price.

Reaching Asia Minor, the troubles of the crusaders began. They were
assailed by the Turks, and had to cut their way forward at every step.
Barbarossa had never shown himself a greater general. On one occasion,
when hard pressed by the enemy, he concealed a chosen band of warriors
in a large tent, the gift of the Queen of Hungary, while the rest of the
army pretended to fly. The Turks entered the camp and began pillaging,
when the ambushed knights broke upon them from the tent, the flying
soldiers turned, and the confident enemy was disastrously defeated.

But as the army advanced its difficulties increased. A Turkish prisoner
who was made to act as a guide, being driven in chains before the army,
led the Christians into the gorges of almost impassable mountains,
sacrificing his life for his cause. Here, foot-sore and weary, and
tormented by thirst and hunger, they were suddenly attacked by ambushed
foes, stones being rolled upon them in the narrow gorges, and arrows and
javelins poured upon their disordered ranks. Peace was here offered
them by the Turks, if they would pay a large sum of money for their
release. In reply the indomitable emperor sent them a small silver coin,
with the message that they might divide this among themselves. Then,
pressing forward, he beat off the enemy, and extricated his army from
its dangerous situation.

As they pushed on, the sufferings of the army increased. Water was not
to be had, and many were forced to quench their thirst by drinking the
blood of their horses. The army was now divided. Frederick, the son of
the emperor, led half of it forward at a rapid march, defeated the Turks
who sought to stop him, and fought his way into the city of Iconium.
Here all the inhabitants were put to the sword, and the crusaders gained
an immense booty.

Meanwhile the emperor, his soldiers almost worn out with hunger and
fatigue, was surrounded with the army of the sultan. He believed that
his son was lost, and tears of anguish flowed from his eyes, while all
around him wept in sympathy. Suddenly rising, he exclaimed, "Christ
still lives, Christ conquers!" and putting himself at the head of his
knights, he led them in a furious assault upon the Turks. The result was
a complete victory, ten thousand of the enemy falling dead upon the
field. Then the Christian army marched to Iconium, where they found
relief from their hunger and weariness.

After recruiting they marched forward, and on June 10, 1190, reached
the little river Cydnus, in Cilicia. Here the road and the bridge over
the stream were so blocked up with beasts of burden that the progress of
the army was greatly reduced. The bold old warrior, impatient to rejoin
his son Frederick, who led the van, would not wait for the bridge to be
cleared, but spurred his war-horse forward and plunged into the stream.
Unfortunately, he had miscalculated the strength of the current. Despite
the efforts of the noble animal, it was borne away by the swift stream,
and when at length assistance reached the aged emperor he was found to
be already dead.

Never was a man more mourned than was the valiant Barbarossa by his
army, and by the Germans on hearing of his death. His body was borne by
the sorrowing soldiers to Antioch, where it was buried in the church of
St. Peter. His fate was, perhaps, a fortunate one, for it prevented him
from beholding the loss of the army, which was almost entirely destroyed
by sickness at the city in which his body was entombed. His son
Frederick died at the siege of Acre, or Ptolemais.

As regards the Germans at home, they were not willing to believe that
their great emperor could be dead. Their superstitious faith gave rise
to legendary tales, to the effect that the valiant Barbarossa was still
alive, and would, some day, return to yield Germany again a dynasty of
mighty sovereigns. The story went that the noble emperor lay asleep in a
deep cleft of Kylfhaüser Berg, on the golden meadow of Thuringia. Here,
his head resting on his arm, he sits by a granite block, through which,
in the lapse of time, his red beard has grown. Here he will sleep until
the ravens no longer fly around the mountain, when he will awake to
restore the golden age to the world.

Another legend tells us that the great Barbarossa sits, wrapped in deep
slumber, in the Untersberg, near Salzberg. His sleep will end when the
dead pear-tree on the Walserfeld, which has been cut down three times
but ever grows anew, blossoms. Then will he come forth, hang his shield
on the tree, and begin a tremendous battle, in which the whole world
will join, and in whose end the good will overcome the wicked, and the
reign of virtue return to the earth.


A remarkable career was that of Frederick II. of Germany, grandson of
the great Barbarossa, crowned in 1215 under the immediate auspices of
the papacy, yet during all the remainder of his life in constant and
bitter conflict with the popes. He was, we are told, of striking
personal beauty, his form being of the greatest symmetry, his face
unusually handsome, and marked by intelligence, benevolence, and
nobility. Born in a rude age, his learning would have done honor to our
own. Son of an era in which poetry was scarcely known, he cultivated the
gay science, and was one of the earliest producers of the afterwards
favorite form known as the sonnet. An emperor of Germany, nearly his
whole life was spent in Sicily. Though ruler of a Christian realm, he
lived surrounded by Saracens, studying diligently the Arabian learning,
dwelling in what was almost a harem of Arabian beauties, and hesitating
not to give expression to the most infidel sentiments. The leader of a
crusade, he converted what was ordinarily a tragedy into a comedy,
obtained possession of Jerusalem without striking a blow or shedding a
drop of blood, and found himself excommunicated in the holy city which
he had thus easily restored to Christendom. Altogether we may repeat
that the career of Frederick II. was an extraordinary one, and amply
worthy our attention.

The young monarch had grown up in Sicily, of which charming island he
became guardian after the death of his mother, Constanza. He was crowned
at Aix-la-Chapelle, having defeated his rival, Otho IV.; but spent the
greater part of his life in the south, holding his pleasure-loving court
at Naples and Palermo, where he surrounded himself with all the
refinements of life then possessed by the Saracens, but of which the
Christians of Europe were lamentably deficient.

It was in 1220 that Frederick returned from Germany to Italy, leaving
his northern kingdom in the hands of the Archbishop of Cologne, as
regent. At Rome he received the imperial crown from the hands of the
pope, and, his first wife dying, married Yolinda de Lusignan, daughter
of John, ex-king of Jerusalem, in right of whom he claimed the kingdom
of the East.

Shortly afterwards a new pope came to the papal chair, the gloomy
Gregory IX., whose first act was to order a crusade, which he desired
the emperor to lead. Despite the fact that he had married the heiress of
Jerusalem, Frederick was very reluctant to seek an enforcement of his
claim upon the holy city. He had pledged himself when crowned at
Aix-la-Chapelle, and afterwards on his coronation at Rome, to undertake
a crusade, but Honorius III., the pope at that time, readily granted him
delay. Such was not the case with Gregory, who sternly insisted on an
immediate compliance with his pledge, and whose rigid sense of decorum
was scandalized by the frivolities of the emperor, no less than was his
religious austerity by Frederick's open intercourse with the Sicilian

The old contest between emperor and pope threatened to be opened again
with all its former virulence. It was deferred for a time by Frederick,
who, after exhausting all excuses for delay, at length yielded to the
exhortations of the pope and set sail for the Holy Land. The crusade
thus entered upon proved, however, to be simply a farce. In three days
the fleet returned, Frederick pleading illness as his excuse, and the
whole expedition came to an end.

Gregory was no longer to be trifled with. He declared that the illness
was but a pretext, that Frederick had openly broken his word to the
church, and at once proceeded to launch upon the emperor the thunders of
the papacy, in a bull of excommunication.

Frederick treated this fulmination with contempt, and appealed from the
pope to Christendom, accusing Rome of avarice, and declaring that her
envoys were marching in all directions, not to preach the word of God,
but to extort money from the people.

"The primitive church," he said, "founded on poverty and simplicity,
brought forth numberless saints. The Romans are now rolling in wealth.
What wonder that the walls of the church are undermined to the base, and
threaten utter ruin."

For this saying the pope launched against him a more tremendous
excommunication. In return the partisans of Frederick in Rome, raising
an insurrection, expelled the pope from that city. And now the
free-thinking emperor, to convince the world that he was not trifling
with his word, set sail of his own accord for the East, with as numerous
an army as he was able to raise.

A remarkable state of affairs followed, justifying us in speaking of
this crusade as a comedy, in contrast with the tragic character of those
which had preceded it. Frederick had shrewdly prepared for success, by
negotiations, through his Saracen friends, with the Sultan of Egypt. On
reaching the Holy Land he was received with joy by the German knights
and pilgrims there assembled, but the clergy and the Knight Templars and
Hospitallers carefully kept aloof from him, for Gregory had despatched a
swift-sailing ship to Palestine, giving orders that no intercourse
should be held with the imperial enemy of the church.

It was certainly a strange spectacle, for a man under the ban of the
church to be the leader in an expedition to recover the holy city. Its
progress was as strange as its inception. Had Frederick been the leader
of a Mohammedan army to recover Jerusalem from the Christians, his camp
could have been little more crowded with infidel delegates. He wore a
Saracen dress. He discussed questions of philosophy with Saracen
visitors. He received presents of elephants and of dancing-girls from
his friend the sultan, to whom he appealed: "Out of your goodness, and
your friendship for me, surrender to me Jerusalem as it is, that I may
be able to lift up my head among the kings of Christendom."

Camel, the sultan, consented, agreeing to deliver up Jerusalem and its
adjacent territory to the emperor, on the sole condition that Mohammedan
pilgrims might have the privilege of visiting a mosque within the city.
These terms Frederick gladly accepted, and soon after marched into the
holy city at the head of his armed followers (not unarmed, as in the
case of Coeur de Lion), took possession of it with formal ceremony,
allowed the Mohammedan population to withdraw in peace, and repeopled
the city with Christians, A.D. 1229.

He found himself in the presence of an extraordinary condition of
affairs. The excommunication against him was not only maintained, but
the pope actually went so far as to place Jerusalem and the Holy
Sepulchre under interdict. So far did the virulence of priestly
antipathy go that the Templars even plotted against Frederick's life.
Emissaries sent by them gave secret information to the sultan of where
he might easily capture the emperor. The sultan, with a noble
friendliness, sent the letter to Frederick, cautioning him to beware of
his foes.

The break between emperor and pope had now reached its highest pitch of
hostility. Frederick proclaimed his signal success to Europe. Gregory
retorted with bitter accusations. The emperor, he said, had presented to
the sultan of Babylon the sword given him for the defence of the faith;
he had permitted the Koran to be preached in the Holy Temple itself; he
had even bound himself to join the Saracens, in case a Christian army
should attempt to cleanse the city and temple from Mohammedan

In addition to these charges, accusations of murder and other crimes
were circulated against him, and a false report of his death was
industriously circulated. Frederick found it necessary to return home
without delay. He crowned himself at Jerusalem, as no ecclesiastic could
be found who would perform the ceremony, and then set sail for Italy,
leaving Richard, his master of the horse, in charge of affairs in

Reaching Italy, he soon brought his affairs into order. He had under his
command an army of thirty thousand Saracen soldiers, with whom it was
impossible for his enemies to tamper. A bitter recrimination took place
with the pope, in which the emperor managed to bring the general
sentiment of Europe to his side, offering to convict Gregory of himself
entering into negotiations with the infidels. Gregory, finding that he
was getting the worst of the controversy with his powerful and alert
enemy, now prudently gave way, having a horror of the shedding of blood.
Peace was made in 1230, the excommunication removed from the emperor,
and for nine years the conflict between him and the papacy was at an

We have told the story of Frederick's crusade, but the remainder of his
life is of sufficient interest to be given in epitome. In his government
of Sicily he showed himself strikingly in advance of the political
opinions of his period. He enacted a system of wise laws, instituted
representative parliaments, asserted the principle of equal rights and
equal duties, and the supremacy of the law over high and low alike. All
religions were tolerated, Jews and Mohammedans having equal freedom of
worship with Christians. All the serfs of his domain were emancipated,
private war was forbidden, commerce was regulated, cheap justice for the
poor was instituted, markets and fairs were established, large libraries
collected, and other progressive institutions organized. He established
menageries for the study of natural history, founded in Naples a great
university, patronized medical study, provided cheap schools, aided the
development of the arts, and in every respect displayed a remarkable
public spirit and political foresight.

Yet splendid as was his career of development in secular affairs, his
private life, as well as his public conduct, was stained with flagrant
faults, and there was much in his doings that was frowned upon by the
pope. New quarrels arose; new wars broke out; the emperor was again
excommunicated; the unfortunate closing years of Frederick's career
began. Again there were appeals to Christendom; again Frederick's
Saracens marched through Italy; such was their success that the pope
only escaped by death from falling into the hands of his foe. But with a
new pope the old quarrel was resumed, Innocent IV. flying to France to
get out of reach of the emperor's hands, and desperately combating him
from this haven of refuge.

The incessant conflict at length bowed down the spirit of the emperor,
now growing old. His good fortune began to desert him. In 1249 his son
Enzio, whom he had made king of Sicily, and who was the most chivalrous
and handsome of his children, was taken prisoner by the Bolognese, who
refused to accept ransom for him, although his father offered in return
for his freedom a silver ring equal in circumference to their city. In
the following year his long-tried friend and councillor, Peter de
Vincis, who had been the most trusted man in the empire, was accused of
having joined the papal party and of attempting to poison the emperor.
He offered Frederick a beverage, which he, growing suspicious, did not
drink, but had it administered to a criminal, who instantly expired.

Whether Peter was guilty or not, his seeming defection was a sore blow
to his imperial patron. "Alas!" moaned Frederick, "I am abandoned by my
most faithful friends; Peter, the friend of my heart, on whom I leaned
for support, has deserted me and sought my destruction. Whom can I
trust? My days are henceforth doomed to pass in sorrow and suspicion."

His days were near their end. Not long after the events narrated, while
again in the field at the head of a fresh army of Saracens, he was
suddenly seized with a mortal illness at Firenzuola, and died there on
the 13th of December, 1250, becoming reconciled with the church on his
deathbed. He was buried at Palermo.

Thus died one of the most intellectual, progressive, free-thinking, and
pleasure-loving emperors of Germany, after a long reign over a realm in
which he seldom appeared, and an almost incessant period of warfare
against the head of a church of which he was supposed to be the imperial
protector. Seven crowns were his,--those of the kingdom of Germany and
of the Roman empire, the iron diadem of Lombardy, and those of Burgundy,
Sicily, Sardinia, and Jerusalem. But of all the realms under his rule
the smiling lands of Sicily and southern Italy were most to his liking,
and the scene of his most constant abode. Charming palaces were built by
him at Naples, Palermo, Messina, and several other places, and in these
he surrounded himself with the noblest bards and most beautiful women of
the empire, and by all that was attractive in the art, science, and
poetry of his times. Moorish dancing-girls and the arts and learning of
the East abounded in his court. The Sultan Camel presented him with a
rare tent, in which, by means of artfully contrived mechanism, the
movements of the heavenly bodies were represented. Michael Scott, his
astrologer, translated Aristotle's "History of Animals." Frederick
studied ornithology, on which he wrote a treatise, and possessed a
menagerie of rare animals, including a giraffe, and other strange
creatures. The popular dialect of Italy owed much to him, being elevated
into a written language by his use of it in his love-sonnets. Of the
poems written by himself, his son Enzio, and his friends, several have
been preserved, while his chancellor, Peter de Vincis, is said to have
originated the sonnet.

We have already spoken of his reforms in his southern kingdom. It was
his purpose to introduce similar reforms into the government of Germany,
abolishing the feudal system, and creating a centralized and organized
state, with a well-regulated system of finance. But ideas such as these
were much too far in advance of the age. State and church alike opposed
them, and Frederick's intelligent views did not long survive him.
History must have its evolution, political systems their growth, and the
development of institutions has never been much hastened or checked by
any man's whip or curb.

In 1781, when the tomb of Frederick was opened, centuries after his
death, the institutions he had advocated were but in process of being
adopted in Europe. The body of the great emperor was found within the
mausoleum, wrapped in embroidered robes, the feet booted and spurred,
the imperial crown on its head, in its hand the ball and sceptre, on its
finger a costly emerald. For five centuries and more Frederick had
slept in state, awaiting the verdict of time on the ideas in defence of
which his life had been passed in battle. The verdict had been given,
the ideas had grown into institutions, time had vouchsafed the
far-seeing emperor his revenge.


The death of Frederick II., in 1250, was followed by a series of
misfortunes to his descendants, so tragical as to form a story full of
pathetic interest. His son Enzio, a man of remarkable beauty and valor,
celebrated as a Minnesinger, and of unusual intellectual qualities, had
been taken prisoner, as we have already told, by the Bolognese, and
condemned by them to perpetual imprisonment, despite the prayers of his
father and the rich ransom offered. For twenty-two years he continued a
tenant of a dungeon, and in this gloomy scene of death in life survived
all the sons and grandsons of his father, every one of whom perished by
poison, the sword, or the axe of the executioner. It is this dread story
of the fate of the Hohenstauffen imperial house which we have now to

No sooner had Frederick expired than the enemies of his house arose on
every side. Conrad IV., his eldest son and successor, found Germany so
filled with his foes that he was forced to take refuge in Italy, where
his half-brother, Manfred, Prince of Taranto, ceded to him the
sovereignty of the Italian realm, and lent him his aid to secure it. The
royal brothers captured Capua and Naples, where Conrad signalized his
success by placing a bridle in the mouth of an antique colossal horse's
head, the emblem of the city. This insult made the inhabitants his
implacable foes. His success was but temporary. He died suddenly, as
also did his younger brother Henry, poisoned by his half-brother
Manfred, who succeeded to the kingship of the South. But with the
Guelphs in power in Germany, and the pope his bitter foe in Italy, he
was utterly unable to establish his claim, and was forced to cede all
lower Italy, except Taranto, to the pontiff. But a new and less
implacable pope being elected, the fortunes of Manfred suddenly changed,
and he was unanimously proclaimed king at Palermo in 1258.

But the misfortunes of his house were to pursue him to the end. In
northern Italy, the Guelphs were everywhere triumphant. Ezzelino, one of
Frederick's ablest generals, was defeated, wounded, and taken prisoner.
He soon after died. His brother Alberich was cruelly murdered, being
dragged to death at a horse's tail. The other Ghibelline chiefs were
similarly butchered, the horrible scenes of bloodshed so working on the
feelings of the susceptible Italians that many of them did penance at
the grave of Alberich, arrayed in sackcloth. From this circumstance
arose the sect of the Flagellants, who ran through the streets,
lamenting, praying, and wounding themselves with thongs, as an atonement
for the sins of the world.

In southern Italy, Manfred for a while was successful. In 1259 he
married Helena, the daughter of Michael of Cyprus and Ætolia, a maiden
of seventeen years, and famed far and wide for her loveliness. So
beautiful were the bridal pair, and such were the attractions of their
court, which, as in Frederick's time, was the favorite resort of
distinguished poets and lovely women, that a bard of the times declared,
"Paradise has once more appeared upon earth."

Manfred, like his father and his brother Enzio, was a poet, being
classed among the Minnesingers. His marriage gave him the alliance of
Greece, and the marriage of Constance, his daughter by a former wife, to
Peter of Aragon, gained him the friendship of Spain. Strengthened by
these alliances, he was able to send aid to the Ghibellines in Lombardy,
who again became victorious.

The Guelphs, alarmed at Manfred's growing power, now raised a Frenchman
to the papal throne, who induced Charles of Anjou, the brother of the
French monarch, to strike for the crown of southern Italy. Charles, a
gloomy, cold-blooded and cruel prince, gladly accepted the pope's
suggestions, and followed by a powerful body of French knights and
soldiers of fortune, set sail for Naples in 1266. Manfred had unluckily
lost the whole of his fleet in a storm, and was not able to oppose this
threatening invasion, which landed in Italy in his despite.

Nor was he more fortunate with his land army. The clergy, in the
interest of the Guelph faction, tampered with his soldiers and sowed
treason in his camp. No sooner had Charles landed, than a mountain pass
intrusted to the defence of Riccardo di Caseta was treacherously
abandoned, and the French army allowed to advance unmolested as far as
Benevento, where the two armies met.

In the battle that followed, Manfred defended himself gallantly, but,
despite all his efforts, was worsted, and threw himself desperately into
the thick of the fight, where he fell, covered with wounds. The bigoted
victor refused him honorable burial, on the score of heresy, but the
French soldiers, nobler-hearted than their leader, and touched by the
beauty and valor of their unfortunate opponent, cast each of them a
stone upon his body, which was thus buried under a mound which the
natives still know as the "rock of roses."

The wife and children of Manfred met with a pitiable fate. On learning
of the sad death of her husband Helena sought safety in flight, with her
daughter Beatrice and her three infant sons, Henry, Frederick, and
Anselino; but she was betrayed to Charles, who threw her into a dungeon,
in which she soon languished and died. Of her children, her daughter
Beatrice was afterwards rescued by Peter of Aragon, who exchanged for
her a son of Charles of Anjou, whom he held prisoner; but the three boys
were given over to the cruellest fate. Immured in a narrow dungeon, and
loaded with chains, they remained thus half-naked, ill-fed, and untaught
for the period of thirty-one years. Not until 1297 were they released
from their chains and allowed to be visited by a priest and a physician.
Charles of Anjou, meanwhile, filled with the spirit of cruelty and
ambition, sought to destroy every vestige of the Hohenstauffen rule in
southern Italy, the scene of Frederick's long and lustrous reign.

The death of Manfred had not extinguished all the princes of Frederick's
house. There remained another, Conradin, son of Conrad IV., Duke of
Swabia, a youthful prince to whom had descended some of the intellectual
powers of his noted grand-sire. He had an inseparable friend, Frederick,
son of the Margrave of Baden, of his own age, and like him enthusiastic
and imaginative, their ardent fancies finding vent in song. One of
Conradin's ballads is still extant.

As the young prince grew older, the seclusion to which he was subjected
by his guardian, Meinhard, Count von Görtz, became so irksome to him
that he gladly accepted a proposal from the Italian Ghibellines to put
himself at their head. In 1267 he set out, in company with Frederick,
and with a following of some ten thousand men, and crossed the Alps to
Lombardy, where he met with a warm welcome at Verona by the Ghibelline

Treachery accompanied him, however, in the presence of his guardian
Meinhard and Louis of Bavaria, who persuaded him to part with his German
possessions for a low price, and then deserted him, followed by the
greater part of the Germans. Conradin was left with but three thousand

The Italians proved more faithful. Verona raised him an army; Pisa
supplied him a large fleet; the Moors of Luceria took up arms in his
cause; even Rome rose in his favor, and drove out the pope, who
retreated to Viterbo. For the time being the Ghibelline cause was in the
ascendant. Conradin marched unopposed to Rome, at whose gates he was met
by a procession of beautiful girls, bearing flowers and instruments of
music, who conducted him to the capitol. His success on land was matched
by a success at sea, his fleet gaining a signal victory over that of the
French, and burning a great number of their ships.

So far all had gone well with the youthful heir of the Hohenstauffens.
Henceforth all was to go ill. Conradin marched from Rome to lower Italy,
where he encountered the French army, under Charles, at Scurcola, drove
them back, and broke into their camp. Assured of victory, the Germans
grew careless, dispersing through the camp in search of booty, while
some of them even refreshed themselves by bathing.

While thus engaged, the French reserve, who had watched their movements,
suddenly fell upon them and completely put them to rout. Conradin and
Frederick, after fighting bravely, owed their escape to the fleetness of
their steeds. They reached the sea at Astura, boarded a vessel, and were
about setting sail for Pisa, when they were betrayed into the hands of
their pursuers, taken prisoners, and carried back to Charles of Anjou.

They had fallen into fatal hands; Charles was not the man to consider
justice or honor in dealing with a Hohenstauffen. He treated Conradin
as a rebel against himself, under the claim that he was the only
legitimate king, and sentenced both the princes, then but sixteen years
of age, to be publicly beheaded in the market-place at Naples.

Conradin was playing at chess in prison when the news of this unjust
sentence was brought to him. He calmly listened to it, with the courage
native to his race. On October 22, 1268, he, with Frederick and his
other companions, was conducted to the scaffold erected in the
market-place, passing through a throng of which even the French
contingent looked on the spectacle with indignation. So greatly were
they wrought up, indeed, by the outrage, that Robert, Earl of Flanders,
Charles's son-in-law, drew his sword, and cut down the officer
commissioned to read in public the sentence of death.

"Wretch!" he cried, as he dealt the blow, "how darest thou condemn such
a great and excellent knight?"

Conradin met his fate with unyielding courage, saying, in his address to
the people,--

"I cite my judge before the highest tribunal. My blood, shed on this
spot, shall cry to heaven for vengeance. Nor do I esteem my Swabians and
Bavarians, my Germans, so low as not to trust that this stain on the
honor of the German nation will be washed out by them in French blood."

Then, throwing his glove to the ground, he charged him who should raise
it to bear it to Peter, King of Aragon, to whom, as his nearest
relative, he bequeathed all his claims. The glove was raised by Henry,
Truchsess von Waldberg, who found in it the seal ring of the unfortunate
wearer. Thence-forth he bore in his arms the three black lions of the

In a minute more the fatal axe of the executioner descended, and the
head of the last heir of the Hohenstauffens rolled upon the scaffold.
His friend, Frederick, followed him to death, nor was the bloodthirsty
Charles satisfied until almost every Ghibelline in his hands had fallen
by the hand of the executioner.

Enzio, the unfortunate son of Frederick who was held prisoner by the
Bolognese, was involved in the fate of his unhappy nephew. On learning
of the arrival of Conradin in Italy he made an effort to escape from
prison, which would have been successful but for an unlucky accident. He
had arranged to conceal himself in a cask, which was to be borne out of
the prison by his friends, but by an unfortunate chance one of his long,
golden locks fell out of the air-hole which had been made in the side of
the cask, and revealed the stratagem to his keepers.

During his earlier imprisonment Enzio had been allowed some alleviation,
his friends being permitted to visit him and solace him in his
seclusion; but after this effort to escape he was closely confined, some
say, in an iron cage, until his death in 1272.

Thus ended the royal race of the Hohenstauffen, a race marked by
unusual personal beauty, rich poetical genius, and brilliant warlike
achievements, and during whose period of power the mediæval age and its
institutions attained their highest development.

As for the ruthless Charles of Anjou, he retained Apulia, but lost his
possessions in Sicily through an event which has become famous as the
"Sicilian Vespers." The insolence and outrages of the French had so
exasperated the Sicilians that, on the night of March 30, 1282, a
general insurrection broke out in this island, the French being
everywhere assassinated. Constance, the grand-daughter of their old
ruler, and Peter of Aragon, her husband, were proclaimed their
sovereigns by the Sicilians, and Charles, the son of Charles of Anjou,
fell into their hands.

Constance was generous to the captive prince, and on hearing him remark
that he was happy to die on a Friday, the day on which Christ suffered,
she replied,--

"For love of him who suffered on this day I will grant thee thy life."

He was afterwards exchanged for Beatrice, the daughter of the unhappy
Helena, whose sons, the last princes of the Hohenstauffen race, died in
the prison in which they had lived since infancy.


The ideas of law and order in mediæval Germany were by no means what we
now understand by those terms. The injustice of the strong and the
suffering of the weak were the rule; and men of noble lineage did not
hesitate to turn their castles into dens of thieves. The title "robber
baron," which many of them bore, sufficiently indicates their mode of
life, and turbulence and outrage prevailed throughout the land.

But wrong did not flourish with complete impunity; right had not
entirely vanished; justice still held its sword, and at times struck
swift and deadly blows that filled with terror the wrong-doer, and gave
some assurance of protection to those too weak for self-defence. It was
no unusual circumstance to behold, perhaps in the vicinity of some
baronial castle, perhaps near some town or manorial residence, a group
of peasants gazing upwards with awed but triumphant eyes; the spectacle
that attracted their attention being the body of a man hanging from the
limb of a tree above their heads.

Such might have been supposed to be some act of private vengeance or
bold outrage, but the exulting lookers-on knew better. For they
recognized the body, perhaps as that of the robber baron of the
neighboring castle, perhaps that of some other bold defier of law and
justice, while in the ground below the corpse appeared an object that
told a tale of deep meaning to their experienced eyes. This was a knife,
thrust to the hilt in the earth. As they gazed upon it they muttered the
mysterious words, "_Vehm gericht_," and quickly dispersed, none daring
to touch the corpse or disturb the significant signal of the vengeance
of the executioners.

But as they walked away they would converse in low tones of a dread
secret tribunal, which held its mysterious meetings in remote places,
caverns of the earth or the depths of forests, at the dread hour of
midnight, its members being sworn by frightful oaths to utter secrecy.
Before these dark tribunals were judged, present or absent, the
wrong-doers of the land, and the sentence of the secret Vehm once given,
there was no longer safety for the condemned. The agents of vengeance
would be put upon his track, while the secret of his death sentence was
carefully kept from his ears. The end was sure to be a sudden seizure, a
rope to the nearest tree, a writhing body, the signal knife of the
executioners of the Vehm, silence and mystery.

Such was the visible outcome of the workings of this dreaded court, of
whose sessions and secrets the common people of the land had exaggerated
conceptions, but whose sudden and silent deeds in the interest of
justice went far to repress crime in that lawless age. We have seen the
completion of the sentence, let us attend a session of this mysterious

Seeking the Vehmic tribunal, we do not find ourselves in a midnight
forest, nor in a dimly-lighted cavern or mysterious vault, as peasant
traditions would tell us, but in the hall of some ancient castle, or on
a hill-top, under the shade of lime-trees, and with an open view of the
country for miles around. Here, on the seat of justice, presides the
graf or count of the district, before him the sword, the symbol of
supreme justice, its handle in the form of the cross, while beside it
lies the _Wyd_, or cord, the sign of his power of life or death. Around
him are seated the _Schöffen_, or ministers of justice, bareheaded and
without weapons, in complete silence, none being permitted to speak
except when called upon in the due course of proceedings.

The court being solemnly opened, the person cited to appear before it
steps forward, unarmed and accompanied by two sureties, if he has any.
The complaint against him is stated by the judge, and he is called upon
to clear himself by oath taken on the cross of the sword. If he takes
it, he is free. "He shall then," says an ancient work, "take a farthing
piece, throw it at the feet of the court, turn round and go his way.
Whoever attacks or touches him, has then, which all freemen know, broken
the king's peace."

This was the ancient custom, but in later times witnesses were examined,
and the proceedings were more in conformity with those of modern
courts. If sentence of death was passed, the criminal was hanged at
once on the nearest tree. The minor punishments were exile and fine. If
the defendant refused to appear, after being three times cited, the
sentence of the Vehm was pronounced against him, a dreadful sentence,
ending in,--

"And I hereby curse his flesh and his blood; and may his body never
receive burial, but may it be borne away by the wind, and may the ravens
and crows, and wild birds of prey, consume and destroy him. And I
adjudge his neck to the rope, and his body to be devoured by the birds
and beasts of the air, sea, and land; but his soul I commend to our dear
Lord, if He will receive it."

These words spoken, the judge cast forth the rope beyond the limits of
the court, and wrote the name of the condemned in the book of blood,
calling on the princes and nobles of the land, and all the inhabitants
of the empire, to aid in fulfilling this sentence upon the criminal,
without regard to relationship or any ties of kindred or affection

The condemned man was now left to the work of the ministers of justice,
the Schöffen of the court. Whoever should shelter or even warn him was
himself to be brought before the tribunal. The members of the court were
bound by a terrible oath, to be enforced by death, not to reveal the
sentence of the Holy Vehm, except to one of the initiated, and not to
warn the culprit, even if he was a father or a brother. Wherever the
condemned was found, whether in a house, a street, the high-road, or the
forest, he was seized and hanged to the nearest tree or post, if the
servants of the court could lay hands on him. As a sign that he was
executed by the Holy Vehm, and not slain by robbers, nothing was taken
from his body, and the knife was thrust into the ground beneath him. We
may further say that any criminal taken in the act by the Vehmic
officers of justice did not need to be brought before the court, but
might be hanged on the spot, with the ordinary indications that he was a
victim to the secret tribunal.

A citation to appear before the Vehm was executed by two Schöffen, who
bore the letter of the presiding count to the accused. If they could not
reach him because he was living in a city or a fortress which they could
not safely enter, they were authorized to execute their mission
otherwise. They might approach the castle in the night, stick the
letter, enclosing a farthing piece, in the panel of the castle gate, cut
off three chips from the gate as evidence to the count that they had
fulfilled their mission, and call out to the sentinel on leaving that
they had deposited there a letter for his lord. If the accused had no
regular dwelling-place, and could not be met, he was summoned at four
different cross-roads, where was left at the east, west, north, and
south points a summons, each containing the significant farthing coin.

It must not be supposed that the administration of justice in Germany
was confined to this Vehmic court. There were open courts of justice
throughout the land. But what were known as _Freistuhls,_ or free
courts, were confined to the duchy of Westphalia. Some of the sessions
of these courts were open, some closed, the Vehm constituting their
secret tribunal.

Though complaints might be brought and persons cited to appear from
every part of Germany, a free court could only be held on Westphalian
ground, on the red earth, as it was entitled. Even the emperor could not
establish a free court outside of Westphalia. When the Emperor Wenceslas
tried to establish one in Bohemia, the counts of the empire decreed that
any one who should take part in it would incur the penalty of death. The
members of these courts consisted of Schöffen, nominated by the graf, or
presiding judge, and composed of ordinary members and the Wissenden or
Witan, the higher membership. The initiation of these members was a
singular and impressive ceremony. It could only take place upon the red
earth, or within the boundaries of Westphalia. Bareheaded and ungirt,
the candidate was conducted before the tribunal, and strictly questioned
as to his qualifications to membership. He must be free-born, of
Teutonic ancestry, and clear of any accusation of crime.

This settled, a deep and solemn oath of fidelity was administered, the
candidate swearing by the Holy Law to guard the secrets of the Holy Vehm
from wife and child, father and mother, sister and brother, fire and
water, every creature on whom rain falls or sun shines, everything
between earth and heaven; to tell to the tribunal all offences known to
him, and not to be deterred therefrom by love or hate, gold, silver, or
precious stones. He was now intrusted with the very ancient password and
secret grip or other sign of the order, by which the members could
readily recognize each other wherever meeting, and was warned of the
frightful penalty incurred by those who should reveal the secrets of the
Vehm. This penalty was that the criminal should have his eyes bound and
be cast upon the earth, his tongue torn out through the back of his
neck, and his body hanged seven times higher than ordinary criminals. In
the history of the court there is no instance known of the oath of
initiation being broken. For further security of the secrets of the
Vehm, no mercy was given to strangers found within the limits of the
court. All such intruders were immediately hung.

The number of the Schöffen, or members of the free courts, was very
great. In the fourteenth century it exceeded one hundred thousand.
Persons of all ranks joined them, princes desiring their ministers,
cities their magistrates, to apply for membership. The emperor was the
supreme presiding officer, and under him his deputy, the stadtholder of
the duchy of Westphalia, while the local courts, of which there were one
or more in each district of the duchy, were under the jurisdiction of
the grafs or counts of their districts.

The Vehm could consider criminal actions of the greatest diversity,
cases of mere slander or defamation of character being sometimes brought
before it. Any violation of the ten commandments was within its
jurisdiction. It particularly devoted itself to secret crimes, such as
magic, witchcraft, or poisoning. Its agents of justice were bound to
make constant circuits, night and day, with the privilege, as we have
said, if they caught a thief or murderer in the act, or obtained his
confession, to hang him at once on the nearest tree, with the knife as
signal of their commission.

Of the origin of this strange court we have no certain knowledge.
Tradition ascribes it to Charlemagne, but that needs confirmation. It
seems rather to have been an outgrowth of an old Saxon system, which
also left its marks in the systems of justice of Saxon England, where
existed customs not unlike those of the Holy Vehm.

Mighty was the power of these secret courts, and striking the traditions
to which they have given rise, based upon their alleged nocturnal
assemblies, their secret signs and solemn oaths, their mysterious
customs, and the implacable persistency with which their sentences
sought the criminal, pursuing him for years, and in whatever corner of
the empire he might take refuge, while there were none to call its
ministers of justice to account for their acts if the terrible knife had
been left as evidence of their authority.

Such an association, composed of thousands of men of all classes, from
the highest to the lowest,--for common freemen, mechanics, and citizens
shared the honor of membership with knights and even princes,--bound
together by a band of inviolable secrecy, and its edicts carried out so
mysteriously and ruthlessly, could not but attain to a terrible power,
and produce a remarkable effect upon the imagination of the people. "The
prince or knight who easily escaped the judgment of the imperial court,
and from behind his fortified walls defied even the emperor himself,
trembled when in the silence of the night he heard the voices of the
_Freischöffen_ at the gate of his castle, and when the free count
summoned him to appear at the ancient _malplatz_, or plain, under the
lime-tree, or on the bank of a rivulet upon that dreaded soil, the
Westphalian or red ground. And that the power of those free courts was
not exaggerated by the mere imagination, excited by terror, nor in
reality by any means insignificant, is proved by a hundred undeniable
examples, supported by records and testimonies, that numerous princes,
counts, knights, and wealthy citizens were seized by these Schöffen of
the secret tribunal, and, in execution of its sentence, perished by
their hands."

An institution so mysterious and wide-spread as this could not exist
without some degree of abuse of power. Unworthy persons would attain
membership, who would use their authority for the purpose of private
vengeance. This occasional injustice of the Vehmic tribunal became more
frequent as time went on, and by the end of the fifteenth century many
complaints arose against the free courts, particularly among the clergy.
Civilization was increasing, and political institutions becoming more
developed, in Germany; the lords of the land grew restive under the
subjection of their people to the acts of a secret and strange tribunal,
no longer supported by imperial power. Alliances of princes, nobles, and
citizens were made against the Westphalian courts, and their power
finally ceased, without any formal decree of abrogation.

In the sixteenth century the Vehm still possessed much strength; in the
seventeenth it had grown much weaker; in the eighteenth only a few
traces of it remained; at Gehmen, in Münster, the secret tribunal was
only finally extinguished by a decree of the French legislature in 1811.
Even to the present day there are peasants who have taken the oath of
the Schöffen, whose secrecy they persistently maintain, and who meet
annually at the site of some of the old free courts. The principal signs
of the order are indicated by the letters S.S.G.G., signifying _stock,
stein, gras, grein_ (stick, stone, grass, tears), though no one has been
able to trace the mysterious meaning these words convey as symbols of
the mystic power of the ancient _Vehm gericht_.


"In the year of our Lord 1307," writes an ancient chronicler, "there
dwelt a pious countryman in Unterwald beyond the Kernwald, whose name
was Henry of Melchthal, a wise, prudent, honest man, well to do and in
good esteem among his country-folk, moreover, a firm supporter of the
liberties of his country and of its adhesion to the Holy Roman Empire,
on which account Beringer von Landenberg, the governor over the whole of
Unterwald, was his enemy. This Melchthaler had some very fine oxen, and
on account of some trifling misdemeanor committed by his son, Arnold of
Melchthal, the governor sent his servant to seize the finest pair of
oxen by way of punishment, and in case old Henry of Melchthal said
anything against it, he was to say that it was the governor's opinion
that the peasants should draw the plough themselves. The servant
fulfilled his lord's commands. But as he unharnessed the oxen, Arnold,
the son of the countryman, fell into a rage, and striking him with a
stick on the hand, broke one of his fingers. Upon this Arnold fled, for
fear of his life, up the country towards Uri, where he kept himself long
secret in the country where Conrad of Baumgarten from Altzelen lay hid
for having killed the governor of Wolfenschiess, who had insulted his
wife, with a blow of his axe. The servant, meanwhile, complained to his
lord, by whose order old Melchthal's eyes were torn out. This tyrannical
action rendered the governor highly unpopular, and Arnold, on learning
how his good father had been treated, laid his wrongs secretly before
trusty people in Uri, and awaited a fit opportunity for avenging his
father's misfortune."

Such was the prologue to the tragic events which we have now to tell,
events whose outcome was the freedom of Switzerland and the formation of
that vigorous Swiss confederacy which has maintained itself until the
present day in the midst of the powerful and warlike nations which have
surrounded it. The prologue given, we must proceed with the main scenes
of the drama, which quickly followed.

As the story goes, Arnold allied himself with two other patriots, Werner
Stauffacher and Walter Fürst, bold and earnest men, the three meeting
regularly at night to talk over the wrongs of their country and consider
how best to right them. Of the first named of these men we are told that
he was stirred to rebellion by the tyranny of Gessler, governor of Uri,
a man who forms one of the leading characters of our drama. The rule of
Gessler extended over the country of Schwyz, where in the town of
Steinen, in a handsome house, lived Werner Stauffacher. As the governor
passed one day through this town he was pleasantly greeted by Werner,
who was standing before his door.

"To whom does this house belong?" asked Gessler.

Werner, fearing that some evil purpose lay behind this question,
cautiously replied,--

"My lord, the house belongs to my sovereign lord the king, and is your
and my fief."

"I will not allow peasants to build houses without my consent," returned
Gessler, angered at this shrewd reply, "or to live in freedom as if they
were their own masters. I will teach you better than to resist my

So saying, he rode on, leaving Werner greatly disturbed by his
threatening words. He returned into his house with heavy brow and such
evidence of discomposure that his wife eagerly questioned him. Learning
what the governor had said, the good lady shared his disturbance, and

"My dear Werner, you know that many of the country-folk complain of the
governor's tyranny. In my opinion, it would be well for some of you, who
can trust one another, to meet in secret, and take counsel how to throw
off his wanton power."

This advice seemed so judicious to Werner that he sought his friend
Walter Fürst, and arranged with him and Arnold that they should meet and
consider what steps to take, their place of meeting being at Rütli, a
small meadow in a lonely situation, closed in on the land side by high
rocks, and opening on the Lake of Lucerne. Others joined them in their
patriotic purpose, and on the night of the Wednesday before Martinmas,
in the year 1307, each of the three led to the place of meeting ten
others, all as resolute and liberty-loving as themselves. These
thirty-three good and true men, thus assembled at the midnight hour in
the meadow of Rütli, united in a solemn oath that they would devote
their lives and strength to the freeing of their country from its
oppressors. They fixed the first day of the coming year for the
beginning of their work, and then returned to their homes, where they
kept the strictest secrecy, occupying themselves in housing their cattle
for the winter and in other rural labors, with no indication that they
cherished deeper designs.

During this interval of secrecy another event, of a nature highly
exasperating to the Swiss, is said to have happened. It is true that
modern critics declare the story of this event to be solely a legend and
that nothing of the kind ever took place. However that be, it has ever
since remained one of the most attractive of popular tales, and the
verdict of the critics shall not deter us from telling again this
oft-repeated and always welcome story.

We have named two of the many tyrannical governors of Switzerland, the
deputies there of Albert of Austria, then Emperor of Germany, whose
purpose was to abolish the privileges of the Swiss and subject the free
communes to his arbitrary rule. The second named of these, Gessler,
governor of Uri and Schwyz, whose threats had driven Werner to
conspiracy, occupied a fortress in Uri, which he had built as a place of
safety in case of revolt, and a centre of tyranny. "Uri's prison" he
called this fortress, an insult to the people of Uri which roused their
indignation. Perceiving their sullenness, Gessler resolved to give them
a salutary lesson of his power and their helplessness.

On St. Jacob's day he had a pole erected in the market-place at Altdorf,
under the lime-trees there growing, and directed that his hat should be
placed on its top. This done, the command was issued that all who passed
through the market-place should bow and kneel to this hat as to the king
himself, blows and confiscation of property to be the lot of all who
refused. A guard was placed around the pole, whose duty was to take note
of every man who should fail to do homage to the governor's hat.

On the Sunday following, a peasant of Uri, William Tell by name, who, as
we are told, was one of the thirty-three sworn confederates, passed
several times through the market-place at Altdorf without bowing or
bending the knee to Gessler's hat. This was reported to the governor,
who summoned Tell to his presence, and haughtily asked him why he had
dared to disobey his command.

"My dear lord," answered Tell, submissively, "I beg you to pardon me,
for it was done through ignorance and not out of contempt. If I were
clever, I should not be called Tell. I pray your mercy; it shall not
happen again."


The name Tell signifies dull or stupid, a meaning in consonance with his
speech, though not with his character. Yet stupid or bright, he had the
reputation of being the best archer in the country, and Gessler, knowing
this, determined on a singular punishment for his fault. Tell had
beautiful children, whom he dearly loved. The governor sent for these,
and asked him,--

"Which of your children do you love the best?"

"My lord, they are all alike dear to me," answered Tell.

"If that be so," said Gessler, "then, as I hear that you are a famous
marksman, you shall prove your skill in my presence by shooting an apple
off the head of one of your children. But take good care to hit the
apple, for if your first shot miss you shall lose your life."

"For God's sake, do not ask me to do this!" cried Tell in horror. "It
would be unnatural to shoot at my own dear child. I would rather die
than do it."

"Unless you do it, you or your child shall die," answered the governor

Tell, seeing that Gessler was resolute in his cruel project, and that
the trial must be made or worse might come, reluctantly agreed to it. He
took his cross-bow and two arrows, one of which he placed in the bow,
the other he stuck behind in his collar. The governor, meanwhile, had
selected the child for the trial, a boy of not more than six years of
age, whom he ordered to be placed at the proper distance, and himself
selected an apple and placed it on the child's head.

Tell viewed these preparations with startled eyes, while praying
inwardly to God to shield his dear child from harm. Then, bidding the
boy to stand firm and not be frightened, as his father would do his best
not to harm him, he raised the perilous bow.

The legend deals too briefly with this story. It fails to picture the
scene in the market-place. But there, we may be sure, in addition to
Gessler and his guards, were most of the people of Uri, their hearts
burning with sympathy for their countryman and hatred of the tyrant,
their feelings almost wrought up to the point of attacking Gessler and
his guards, and daring death in defence of their liberties. There also
we may behold in fancy the brave child, scarcely old enough to
appreciate the magnitude of his peril, but looking with simple faith
into the kind eyes of his father, who stands firm of frame but trembling
in heart before him, the death-dealing bow in his hand.

In a minute more the bow is bent, Tell's unerring eye glances along the
shaft, the string twangs sharply, the arrow speeds through the air, and
the apple, pierced through its centre, is borne from the head of the
boy, who leaps forward with a glad cry of triumph, while the unnerved
father, with tears of joy in his eyes, flings the bow to the ground and
clasps his child to his heart.

"By my faith, Tell, that is a wonderful shot!" cried the astonished
governor. "Men have not belied you. But why have you stuck another arrow
in your collar?"

"That is the custom among marksmen," Tell hesitatingly answered.

"Come, man, speak the truth openly and without fear," said Gessler, who
noted Tell's hesitancy. "Your life is safe; but I am not satisfied with
your answer."

"Then," said Tell, regaining his courage, "if you would have the truth,
it is this. If I had struck my child with the first arrow, the other was
intended for you; and with that I should not have missed my mark."

The governor started at these bold words, and his brow clouded with

"I promised you your life," he exclaimed, "and will keep my word; but,
as you cherish evil intentions against me, I shall make sure that you
cannot carry them out. You are not safe to leave at large, and shall be
taken to a place where you can never again behold the sun or the moon."

Turning to his guards, he bade them seize the bold marksman, bind his
hands, and take him in a boat across the lake to his castle at Küssnach,
where he should do penance for his evil intentions by spending the
remainder of his life in a dark dungeon. The people dared not interfere
with this harsh sentence; the guards were too many and too well armed.
Tell was seized, bound, and hurried to the lake-side, Gessler

The water reached, he was placed in a boat, his cross-bow being also
brought and laid beside the steersman. As if with purpose to make sure
of the disposal of his threatening enemy, Gessler also entered the
boat, which was pushed off and rowed across the lake towards Brunnen,
from which place the prisoner was to be taken overland to the governor's

Before they were half-way across the lake, however, a sudden and violent
storm arose, tossing the boat so frightfully that Gessler and all with
him were filled with mortal fear.

"My lord," cried one of the trembling rowers to the governor, "we will
all go to the bottom unless something is done, for there is not a man
among us fit to manage a boat in this storm. But Tell here is a skilful
boatman, and it would be wise to use him in our sore need."

"Can you bring us out of this peril?" asked Gessler, who was no less
alarmed than his crew. "If you can, I will release you from your bonds."

"I trust, with God's help, that I can safely bring you ashore," answered

By Gessler's order his bonds were then removed, and he stepped aft and
took the helm, guiding the boat through the storm with the skill of a
trained mariner. He had, however, another object in view, and had no
intention to let the tyrannical governor bind his free limbs again. He
bade the men to row carefully until they reached a certain rock, which
appeared on the lake-side at no great distance, telling them that he
hoped to land them behind its shelter. As they drew near the spot
indicated, he turned the helm so that the boat struck violently against
the rock, and then, seizing the cross-bow which lay beside him, he
sprang nimbly ashore, and thrust the boat with his foot back into the
tossing waves. The rock on which he landed is, says the chronicler,
still known as Tell's Rock, and a small chapel has been built upon it.

The story goes on to tell us that the governor and his rowers, after
great danger, finally succeeded in reaching the shore at Brunnen, at
which point they took horse and rode through the district of Schwyz,
their route leading through a narrow passage between the rocks, the only
way by which they could reach Küssnach from that quarter. On they went,
the angry governor swearing vengeance against Tell, and laying plans
with his followers how the runaway should be seized. The deepest dungeon
at Küssnach, he vowed, should be his lot.

He little dreamed what ears heard his fulminations and what deadly peril
threatened him. On leaving the boat, Tell had run quickly forward to the
passage, or hollow way, through which he knew that Gessler must pass on
his way to the castle. Here, hidden behind the high bank that bordered
the road, he waited, cross-bow in hand, and the arrow which he had
designed for the governor's life in the string, for the coming of his
mortal foe.

Gessler came, still talking of his plans to seize Tell, and without a
dream of danger, for the pass was silent and seemed deserted. But
suddenly to his ears came the twang of the bow he had heard before that
day; through the air once more winged its way a steel-barbed shaft, the
heart of a tyrant, not an apple on a child's head, now its mark. In an
instant more Gessler fell from his horse, pierced by Tell's fatal shaft,
and breathed his last before the eyes of his terrified servants. On that
spot, the chronicler concludes, was built a holy chapel, which is
standing to this day.

Such is the far-famed story of William Tell. How much truth and how much
mere tradition there is in it, it is not easy to say. The feat of
shooting an apple from a person's head is told of others before Tell's
time, and that it ever happened is far from sure. But at the same time
it is possible that the story of Tell, in its main features, may be
founded on fact. Tradition is rarely all fable.

We are now done with William Tell, and must return to the doings of the
three confederates to whom fame ascribes the origin of the liberty of
Switzerland. In the early morning of January 1, 1308, the date they had
fixed for their work to begin, as Landenberg was leaving his castle to
attend mass at Sarnen, he was met by twenty of the mountaineers of
Unterwald, who, as was their custom, brought him a new-year's gift of
calves, goats, sheep, fowls, and hares. Much pleased with the present,
he asked the men to take the animals into the castle court, and went on
his way towards Sarnen.

But no sooner had the twenty men passed through the gates than a horn
was loudly blown, and instantly each of them drew from beneath his
doublet a steel blade, which he fixed upon the end of his staff. At the
sound of the horn thirty other men rushed from a neighboring wood, and
made for the open gates. In a very few minutes they joined their
comrades in the castle, which was quickly theirs, the garrison being

Landenberg fled in haste on hearing the tumult, but was pursued and
taken. But as the confederates had agreed with each other to shed no
blood, they suffered this arch villain to depart, after making him swear
to leave Switzerland and never return to it. The news of the revolt
spread rapidly through the mountains, and so well had the confederates
laid their plans, that several other castles were taken by stratagem
before the alarm could be given. Their governors were sent beyond the
borders. Day by day news was brought to the head-quarters of the
patriots, on Lake Lucerne, of success in various parts of the country,
and on Sunday, the 7th of January, a week from the first outbreak, the
leading men of that part of Switzerland met and pledged themselves to
their ancient oath of confederacy. In a week's time they had driven out
the Austrians and set their country free.

It must be admitted that there is no contemporary proof of this story,
though the Swiss accept it as authentic history, and it has not been
disproved. The chief peril to the new confederacy lay with Albert of
Austria, the dispossessed lord of the land, but the patriotic Swiss
found themselves unexpectedly relieved from the execution of his
threats of vengeance. His harshness and despotic severity had made him
enemies alike among people and nobles, and when, in the spring of 1308,
he sought the borders of Switzerland, with the purpose of reducing and
punishing the insurgents, his career was brought to a sudden and violent

A conspiracy had been formed against him by his nephew, the Duke of
Swabia, and others who accompanied him in this journey. On the 1st of
May they reached the Reuss River at Windisch, and, as the emperor
entered the boat to be ferried across, the conspirators pushed into it
after him, leaving no room for his attendants. Reaching the opposite
shore, they remounted their steeds and rode on while the boat returned
for the others. Their route lay through the vast cornfields at the base
of the hills whose highest summit was crowned by the great castle of

They had gone some distance, when John of Swabia suddenly rushed upon
the emperor, and buried his lance in his neck, exclaiming, "Such is the
reward of injustice!" Immediately two others rode upon him, Rudolph of
Balm stabbing him with his dagger, while Walter of Eschenbach clove his
head in twain with his sword. This bloody work done, the conspirators
spurred rapidly away, leaving the dying emperor to breathe his last with
his head supported in the lap of a poor woman, who had witnessed the
murder and hurried to the spot.

This deed of blood saved Switzerland from the vengeance which the
emperor had designed. The mountaineers were given time to cement the
government they had so hastily formed, and which was to last for
centuries thereafter, despite the efforts of ambitious potentates to
reduce the Swiss once more to subjection and rob them of the liberty
they so dearly loved.


The middle of the fourteenth century was a period of extraordinary
terror and disaster to Europe. Numerous portents, which sadly frightened
the people, were followed by a pestilence which threatened to turn the
continent into an unpeopled wilderness. For year after year there were
signs in the sky, on the earth, in the air, all indicative, as men
thought, of some terrible coming event. In 1337 a great comet appeared
in the heavens, its far-extending tail sowing deep dread in the minds of
the ignorant masses. During the three succeeding years the land was
visited by enormous flying armies of locusts, which descended in myriads
upon the fields, and left the shadow of famine in their track. In 1348
came an earthquake of such frightful violence that many men deemed the
end of the world to be presaged. Its devastations were widely spread.
Cyprus, Greece, and Italy were terribly visited, and it extended through
the Alpine valleys as far as Bâsle. Mountains sank into the earth. In
Carinthia thirty villages and the tower of Villach were ruined. The air
grew thick and stifling. There were dense and frightful fogs. Wine
fermented in the casks. Fiery meteors appeared in the skies. A gigantic
pillar of flame was seen by hundreds descending upon the roof of the
pope's palace at Avignon. In 1356 came another earthquake, which
destroyed almost the whole of Bâsle. What with famine, flood, fog,
locust swarms, earthquakes, and the like, it is not surprising that many
men deemed the cup of the world's sins to be full, and the end of the
kingdom of man to be at hand.

An event followed that seemed to confirm this belief. A pestilence broke
out of such frightful virulence that it appeared indeed as if man was to
be swept from the earth. Men died in hundreds, in thousands, in myriads,
until in places there were scarcely enough living to bury the dead, and
these so maddened with fright that dwellings, villages, towns, were
deserted by all who were able to fly, the dying and dead being left
their sole inhabitants. It was the pestilence called the "Black Death,"
the most terrible visitation that Europe has ever known.

This deadly disease came from Asia. It is said to have originated in
China, spreading over the great continent westwardly, and descending in
all its destructive virulence upon Europe, which continent it swept as
with the besom of destruction. The disease appears to have been a very
malignant type of what is known as the plague, a form of pestilence
which has several times returned, though never with such virulence as on
that occasion. It began with great lassitude of the body, and rapid
swellings of the glands of the groin and armpits, which soon became
large boils. Then followed, as a fatal symptom, large black or
deep-blue spots over the body, from which came the name of "Black
Death." Some of the victims became sleepy and stupid; others were
incessantly restless. The tongue and throat grew black; the lungs
exhaled a noisome odor; an insatiable thirst was produced. Death came in
two or three days, sometimes on the very day of seizure. Medical aid was
of no avail. Doctors and relatives fled in terror from what they deemed
a fatally contagious disease, and the stricken were left to die alone.
Villages and towns were in many places utterly deserted, no living
things being left, for the disease was as fatal to dogs, cats, and swine
as to men. There is reason to believe that this, and other less
destructive visitations of plague, were due to the action of some of
those bacterial organisms which are now known to have so much to do with
infectious diseases. This particular pestilence-breeder seems to have
flourished in filth, and the streets of the cities of Europe of that day
formed a richly fertile soil for its growth. Men prayed to God for
relief, instead of cleaning their highways and by-ways, and relief came

Such was its character, what were its ravages? Never before or since has
a pestilence brought such desolation. Men died by millions. At Bâsle it
found fourteen thousand victims; at Strasburg and Erfurt, sixteen
thousand; in the other cities of Germany it flourished in like
proportion. In Osnabrück only seven married couples remained unseparated
by death. Of the Franciscan Minorites of Germany, one hundred and
twenty-five thousand died.

Outside of Germany the fury of the pestilence was still worse; from east
to west, from north to south, Europe was desolated. The mortality in
Asia was fearful. In China there are said to have been thirteen million
victims to the scourge; in the rest of Asia twenty-four millions. The
extreme west was no less frightfully visited. London lost one hundred
thousand of its population; in all England a number estimated at from
one-third to one-half the entire population (then probably numbering
from three to five millions) were swept into the grave. If we take
Europe as a whole, it is believed that fully a fourth of its inhabitants
were carried away by this terrible scourge. For two years the pestilence
raged, 1348 and 1349. It broke out again in 1361-62, and once more in

The mortality caused by the plague was only one of its disturbing
consequences. The bonds of society were loosened; natural affection
seemed to vanish; friend deserted friend, mothers even fled from their
children; demoralization showed itself in many instances in reckless
debauchery. An interesting example remains to us in Boccaccio's
"Decameron," whose stories were told by a group of pleasure-lovers who
had fled from plague-stricken Florence.

In many localities the hatred of the Jews by the people led to frightful
excesses of persecution against them, they being accused by their
enemies of poisoning the wells. From Berne, where the city councils
gave orders for the massacre, it spread over the whole of Switzerland
and Germany, many thousands being murdered. At Mayence it is said that
twelve thousand Jews were massacred. At Strasburg two thousand were
burned in one pile. Even the orders of the emperor failed to put an end
to the slaughter. All the Jews who could took refuge in Poland, where
they found a protector in Casimir, who, like a second Ahasuerus,
extended his aid to them from love for Esther, a beautiful Jewess. From
that day to this Poland has swarmed with Jews.

This persecution was discountenanced by Pope Clement VI. in two bulls,
in the first of which he ordered that the Jews should not be made the
victims of groundless charges or injured in person or property without
the sentence of a lawful judge. The second affirmed the innocence of the
Jews in the persecution then going on and ordered the bishops to
excommunicate all those who should continue it.

Of the beneficial results of the religious excitement may be named the
earnest labors of the order of Beguines, an association of women for the
purpose of attending the sick and dying, which had long been in
existence, but was particularly active and useful during this period. We
may name also the Beghards and Lollards, whose extravagances were to
some extent outgrowths of earnest piety, and their lives strongly
contrasted with the levity and luxury of the higher ecclesiastics. These
societies of poor and mendicant penitents were greatly increased by the
religious excitement of the time, which also gave special vitality to
another sect, the Flagellants, which, as mentioned in a former article,
first arose in 1260, during the excesses of bloodshed of the Guelphs of
northern Italy, and thence spread over Europe. After a period of
decadence they broke out afresh in 1349, as a consequence of the deadly

The members of this sect, seeing no hope of relief from human action,
turned to God as their only refuge, and deemed it necessary to
propitiate the Deity by extraordinary sacrifices and self-tortures. The
flame of fanaticism, once started, spread rapidly and widely. Hundreds
of men, and even boys, marched in companies through the roads and
streets, carrying heavy torches, scourging their naked shoulders with
knotted whips, which were often loaded with lead or iron, singing
penitential hymns, parading in bands which bore banners and were
distinguished by white hats with red crosses.

Women as well as men took part in these fanatical exercises, marching
about half-naked, whipping each other frightfully, flinging themselves
on the earth in the most public places of the towns and scourging their
bare backs and shoulders till the blood flowed. Entering the churches,
they would prostrate themselves on the pavement, with their arms
extended in the form of a cross, chanting their rude hymns. Of these
hymns we may quote the following example:

    "Now is the holy pilgrimage.
    Christ rode into Jerusalem,
    And in his hand he bore a cross;
    May Christ to us be gracious.
    Our pilgrimage is good and right."

The Flagellants did not content themselves with these public
manifestations of self-sacrifice. They formed a regular religious order,
with officers and laws, and property in common. At night, before
sleeping, each indicated to his brothers by gestures the sins which
weighed most heavily on his conscience, not a word being spoken until
absolution was granted by one of them in the following form:

    "For their dear sakes who torture bore,
    Rise, brother, go and sin no more."

Had this been all they might have been left to their own devices, but
they went farther. The day of judgment, they declared, was at hand. A
letter had been addressed from Jerusalem by the Creator to his sinning
creatures, and it was their mission to spread this through Europe. They
preached, confessed, and forgave sins, declared that the blood shed in
their flagellations had a share with the blood of Christ in atoning for
sin, that their penances were a substitute for the sacraments of the
church, and that the absolution granted by the clergy was of no avail.
They taught that all men were brothers and equal in the sight of God,
and upbraided the priests for their pride and luxury.

These doctrines and the extravagances of the Flagellants alarmed the
pope, Clement VI., who launched against the enthusiasts a bull of
excommunication, and ordered their persecution as heretics. This course,
at first, roused their enthusiasm to frenzy. Some of them even pretended
to be the Messiah, one of these being burnt as a heretic at Erfurt.
Gradually, however, as the plague died away, and the occasion for this
fanatical outburst vanished, the enthusiasm of the Flagellants went with
it, and they sunk from sight. In 1414 a troop of them reappeared in
Thuringia and Lower Saxony, and even surpassed their predecessors in
wildness of extravagance. With the dying out of this manifestation this
strange mania of the middle ages vanished, probably checked by the
growing intelligence of mankind.


On a sunny autumn morning, in the far-off year 1315, a gallant band of
horsemen wound slowly up the Swiss mountains, their forest of spears and
lances glittering in the ruddy beams of the new-risen sun, and extending
down the hill-side as far as the eye could reach. In the vanguard rode
the flower of the army, a noble cavalcade of knights, clad in complete
armor, and including nearly the whole of the ancient nobility of
Austria. At the head of this group rode Duke Leopold, the brother of
Frederick of Austria, and one of the bravest knights and ablest generals
of the realm. Following the van came a second division, composed of the
inferior leaders and the rank and file of the army.

Switzerland was to be severely punished, and to be reduced again to the
condition from which seven years before it had broken away; such was the
dictum of the Austrian magnates. With the army came Landenberg, the
oppressive governor who had been set free on his oath never to return to
Switzerland. He was returning in defiance of his vow. With it are also
said to have been several of the family of Gessler, the tyrant who fell
beneath Tell's avenging arrow. The birds of prey were flying back, eager
to fatten on the body of slain liberty in Switzerland.

Up the mountains wound the serried band, proud in their panoply,
confident of easy victory, their voices ringing out in laughter and
disdain as they spoke of the swift vengeance that was about to fall on
the heads of the horde of rebel mountaineers. The duke was as gay and
confidant as any of his followers, as he proudly bestrode his noble
war-horse, and led the way up the mountain slopes towards the district
of Schwyz, the head-quarters of the base-born insurgents. He would
trample the insolent boors under his feet, he said, and had provided
himself with an abundant supply of ropes with which to hang the leaders
of the rebels, whom he counted on soon having in his power.

All was silent about them as they rode forward; the sun shone
brilliantly; it seemed like a pleasure excursion on which they were

"The locusts have crawled to their holes," said the duke, laughingly;
"we will have to stir them out with the points of our lances."

"The poor fools fancied that liberty was to be won by driving out one
governor and shooting another," answered a noble knight. "They will find
that the eagle of Hapsburg does not loose its hold so easily."

Their conversation ceased as they found themselves at the entrance to a
pass, through which the road up the mountains wound, a narrow avenue,
wedged in between hills and lakeside. The silence continued unbroken
around the rugged scene as the cavalry pushed in close ranks through the
pass, filling it, as they advanced, from side to side. They pushed
forward; beyond this pass of Morgarten they would find open land again
and the villages of the rebellious peasantry; here all was solitude and
a stillness that was almost depressing.

Suddenly the stillness was broken. From the rugged cliffs which bordered
the pass came a loud shout of defiance. But more alarming still was the
sound of descending rocks, which came plunging down the mountain side,
and in an instant fell with a sickening thud on the mail-clad and
crowded ranks below. Under their weight the iron helmets of the knights
cracked like so many nut-shells; heads were crushed into shapeless
masses, and dozens of men, a moment before full of life, hope, and
ambition, were hurled in death to the ground.

Down still plunged the rocks, loosened by busy hands above, sent on
their errand of death down the steep declivities, hurling destruction
upon the dense masses below. Escape was impossible. The pass was filled
with horsemen. It would take time to open an avenue of flight, and still
those death-dealing rocks came down, smashing the strongest armor like
pasteboard, strewing the pass with dead and bleeding bodies.

And now the horses, terrified, wounded, mad with pain and alarm, began
to plunge and rear, trebling the confusion and terror, crushing fallen
riders under their hoofs, adding their quota to the sum of death and
dismay. Many of them rushed wildly into the lake which bordered one side
of the pass, carrying their riders to a watery death. In a few minutes'
time that trim and soldierly array, filled with hope of easy victory and
disdain of its foes, was converted into a mob of maddened horses and
frightened men, while the rocky pass beneath their feet was strewn
thickly with the dying and the dead.

Yet all this had been done by fifty men, fifty banished patriots, who
had hastened back on learning that their country was in danger, and
stationing themselves among the cliffs above the pass, had loosened and
sent rolling downwards the stones and huge fragments of rock which lay
plentifully there.

While the fifty returned exiles were thus at work on the height of
Morgarten, the army of the Swiss, thirteen hundred in number, was posted
on the summit of the Sattel Mountain opposite, waiting its opportunity.
The time for action had come. The Austrian cavalry of the vanguard was
in a state of frightful confusion and dismay. And now the mountaineers
descended the steep hill slopes like an avalanche, and precipitated
themselves on the flank of the invading force, dealing death with their
halberds and iron-pointed clubs until the pass ran blood.

On every side the Austrian chivalry fell. Escape was next to impossible,
resistance next to useless. Confined in that narrow passage, confused,
terrified, their ranks broken by the rearing and plunging horses,
knights and men-at-arms falling with every blow from their vigorous
assailants, it seemed as if the whole army would be annihilated, and not
a man escape to tell the tale.

Numbers of gallant knights, the flower of the Austrian, nobility, fell
under those vengeful clubs. Numbers were drowned in the lake. A
halberd-thrust revenged Switzerland on Landenberg, who had come back to
his doom. Two of the Gesslers were slain. Death held high carnival in
that proud array which had vowed to reduce the free-spirited
mountaineers to servitude.

Such as could fled in all haste. The van of the army, which had passed
beyond those death-dealing rocks, the rear, which had not yet come up,
broke and fled in a panic of fear. Duke Leopold narrowly escaped from
the vengeance of the mountaineers, whom he had held in such contempt.
Instead of using the ropes he had brought with him to hang their chiefs,
he fled at full speed from the victors, who were now pursuing the
scattered fragments of the army, and slaying the fugitives in scores.
With difficulty the proud duke escaped, owing his safety to a peasant,
who guided him through narrow ravines and passes as far as Winterthur,
which he at length reached in a state of the utmost dejection and
fatigue. The gallantly-arrayed army which he had that morning led, with
blare of trumpets and glitter of spears, with high hope and proud
assurance of victory, up the mountain slopes, was now in great part a
gory heap in the rocky passes, the remainder a scattered host of wearied
and wounded fugitives. Switzerland had won its freedom.

The day before the Swiss confederates, apprised of the approach of the
Austrians, had come together, four hundred men from Uri, three hundred
from Unterwald, the remainder from Schwyz. They owed their success to
Rudolphus Redin, a venerable patriot, so old and infirm that he could
scarcely walk, yet with such reputation for skill and prudence in war
that the warriors halted at his door in their march, and eagerly asked
his advice.

[Illustration: THE CASTLE OF PRAGUE.]

"Our grand aim, my sons," said he, "as we are so inferior in numbers,
must be to prevent Duke Leopold from gaining any advantage by his
superior force."

He then advised them to occupy the Morgarten and Sattel heights, and
fall on the Austrians when entangled in the pass, cutting their force in
two, and assailing it right and left. They obeyed him implicitly, with
what success we have seen. The fifty men who had so efficiently begun
the fray had been banished from Schwyz through some dispute, but on
learning their country's danger had hastily returned to sacrifice their
lives, if need be, for their native land.

Thus a strong and well-appointed army, fully disciplined and led by
warriors famed for courage and warlike deeds, was annihilated by a small
band of peasants, few of whom had ever struck a blow in war, but who
were animated by the highest spirit of patriotism and love of liberty,
and welcomed death rather than a return to their old state of slavery
and oppression. The short space of an hour and a half did the work.
Austria was defeated and Switzerland was free.


If genius to madness is allied, the same may be said of eccentricity,
and certainly Wenceslas, Emperor of Germany and King of Bohemia, had an
eccentricity that approached the vagaries of the insane. The oldest son
of Charles IV., he was brought up in pomp and luxury, and was so
addicted to sensual gratification that he left the empire largely to
take care of itself, while he gave his time to the pleasures of the
bottle and the chase. Born to the throne, he was crowned King of Bohemia
when but three years of age, was elected King of the Romans at fifteen,
and two years afterwards, in 1378, became Emperor of Germany, when still
but a boy, with regard for nothing but riot and rude frolic.

So far as affairs of state were concerned, the volatile youth either
totally neglected them or treated them with a ridicule that was worse
than neglect. Drunk two-thirds of his time, he now dismissed the most
serious matters with a rude jest, now met his councillors with brutal
fits of rage. The Germans deemed him a fool, and were not far amiss in
their opinion; but as he did not meddle with them, except in holding an
occasional useless diet at Nuremberg, they did not meddle with him. The
Bohemians, among whom he lived, his residence being at Prague, found his
rule much more of a burden. They were exposed to his savage caprices,
and regarded him as a brutal and senseless tyrant.

That there was method in his madness the following anecdote will
sufficiently show. Former kings had invested the Bohemian nobles with
possessions which he, moved by cupidity, determined to have back. This
is the method he took to obtain them. All the nobles of the land were
invited to meet him at Willamow, where he received them in a black tent,
which opened on one side into a white, and on the other into a red one.
Into this tent of ominous hue the waiting nobles were admitted, one at a
time, and were here received by the emperor, who peremptorily bade them
declare what lands they held as gifts from the crown.

Those who gave the information asked, and agreed to cede these lands
back to the crown, were led into the white tent, where an ample feast
awaited them. Those who refused were dismissed with frowns into the red
tent, where they found awaiting them the headsman's fatal block and axe.
The hapless guests were instantly seized and beheaded.

This ghastly jest, if such it may be considered, proceeded for some time
before the nobles still waiting learned what was going on. When at
length a whisper of the frightful mystery of the red tent was borne to
their ears, there were no longer any candidates for its favors. The
emperor found them eagerly willing to give up the ceded lands, and all
that remained found their way to the white tent and the feast.

The emperor's next act of arbitrary tyranny was directed against the
Jews. One of that people had ridiculed the sacrament, in consequence of
which three thousand Jews of Prague were massacred by the populace of
that city. Wenceslas, instead of punishing the murderers, as justice
would seem to have demanded, solaced his easy conscience by punishing
the victims, declaring all debts owed by Christians to Jews to be null
and void.

His next act of injustice and cruelty was perpetrated in 1393, and arose
from a dispute between the crown and the church. One of the royal
chamberlains had caused two priests to be executed on the accusation of
committing a flagrant crime. This action was resented by the Archbishop
of Prague, who declared that it was an encroachment upon the prerogative
of the church, which alone had the right to punish an ecclesiastic. He,
therefore, excommunicated the chamberlain.

This action of the daring churchman threw the emperor into such a
paroxysm of rage that the archbishop, knowing well the man he had to
deal with, took to flight, saving his neck at the expense of his
dignity. The furious Wenceslas, finding that the chief offender had
escaped, vented his wrath on the subordinates, several of whom were
seized. One of them, the dean, moved by indignation, dealt the emperor
so heavy a blow on the head with his sword-knot as to bring the blood.
It does not appear that he was made to suffer for his boldness, but two
of the lower ecclesiastics, John of Nepomuk and Puchnik, were put to
the rack to make them confess facts learned by them in the confessional.
They persistently refused to answer. Wenceslas, infuriated by their
obstinacy, himself seized a torch and applied it to their limbs to make
them speak. They were still silent. The affair ended in his ordering
John of Nepomuk to be flung headlong, during the night, from the great
bridge over the Moldau into the stream. A statue now marks the spot
where this act of tyranny was performed.

The final result of the emperor's cruelty was one which he could not
have foreseen. He had made a saint of Nepomuk. The church, appreciating
the courageous devotion of the murdered ecclesiastic to his duty in
keeping inviolate the secrets of the confessional, canonized him as a
martyr, and made him the patron saint of Bohemia.

Puchnik escaped with his life, and eventually with more than his life.
The tyrant's wrath was followed by remorse,--a feeling, apparently,
which rarely troubled his soul,--and he sought to atone for his cruelty
to one churchman by loading the other with benefits. But his mad fury
changed to as mad a benevolence, and he managed to make a jest of his
gratuity. Puchnik was led into the royal treasury, and the emperor
himself, thrusting his royal hands into his hoards of gold, filled the
pockets, and even the boots, of the late sufferer with the precious
coin. This done, Puchnik attempted to depart, but in vain. He found
himself nailed to the floor, so weighed down with gold that he was
unable to stir. Before he could move he had to disgorge much of his
new-gained wealth, a proceeding to which churchmen in that age do not
seem to have been greatly given. Doubtless the remorseful Wenceslas
beheld this process with a grim smile of royal humor on his lips.

The emperor had a brother, Sigismund by name, a man not of any high
degree of wisdom, but devoid of his wild and immoderate temper.
Brandenburg was his inheritance, though he had married the daughter of
the King of Hungary and Poland, and hoped to succeed to those countries.
There was a third brother, John, surnamed "Von Görlitz." Sigismund was
by no means blind to his brother's folly, or to the ruin in which it
threatened to involve his family and his own future prospects. This last
exploit stirred him to action. Concerting with some other princes of the
empire, he suddenly seized Wenceslas, carried him to Austria, and
imprisoned him in the castle of Wiltberg, in that country.

A fair disposal, this, of a man who was scarcely fit to run at large,
most reasonable persons would say; but all did not think so. John von
Görlitz, the younger brother of the emperor, fearing public scandal from
such a transaction, induced the princes who held him to set him free. It
proved a fatal display of kindness and family affection for himself. The
imperial captive was no sooner free than, concealing the wrath which he
felt at his incarceration, he invited to a banquet certain Bohemian
nobles who had aided in it. They came, trusting to the fact that the
tiger's claws seemed sheathed. They had no sooner arrived than the claws
were displayed. They were all seized, by the emperor's order, and
beheaded. Then the dissimulating madman turned on his benevolent brother
John, who had taken control of affairs in Bohemia during his
imprisonment, and poisoned him. It was a new proof of the old adage, it
is never safe to warm a frozen adder.

The restoration of Wenceslas was followed by other acts of folly. In the
following year, 1395, he sold to John Galcazzo Visconti, of Milan, the
dignity of a duke in Lombardy, a transaction which exposed him to
general contempt. At a later date he visited Paris, and here, in a
drunken frolic, he played into the hands of the King of France by ceding
Genoa to that country, and by recognizing the antipope at Avignon,
instead of Boniface IX. at Rome. These acts filled the cup of his folly.
The princes of the empire resolved to depose him. A council was called,
before which he was cited to appear. He refused to come, and was
formally deposed, Rupert, of the Palatinate, being elected in his stead.
Ten years afterwards, in 1410, Rupert died, and Sigismund became Emperor
of Germany.

Meanwhile, Wenceslas remained King of Bohemia, in spite of his brother
Sigismund, who sought to oust him from this throne also. He took him
prisoner, indeed, but trusted him to the Austrians, who at once set him
free, and the Bohemians replaced him on the throne. Some years
afterwards, war continuing, Wenceslas sought to get rid of his brother
Sigismund in the same manner as he had disposed of his brother John, by
poison. He was successful in having it administered to Sigismund and his
ally, Albert of Austria, in their camp before Zuaym. Albert died, but
Sigismund was saved by a rude treatment which seems to have been in
vogue in that day. He was suspended by the feet for twenty-four hours,
so that the poison ran out of his mouth.

The later events in the life of Wenceslas have to do with the most
famous era in the history of Bohemia, the reformation in that country,
and the stories of John Huss and Ziska. The fate of Huss is well known.
Summoned before the council at Constance, and promised a safe-conduct by
the Emperor Sigismund, he went, only to find the emperor faithless to
his word and himself condemned and burnt as a heretic. This base act of
treachery was destined to bring a bloody retribution. It infuriated the
reformers in Bohemia, who, after brooding for several years over their
wrongs, broke out into an insurrection of revenge.

The leader of this outbreak was an officer of experience, named John
Ziska, a man who had lost one eye in childhood, and who bitterly hated
the priesthood for a wrong done to one of his sisters. The martyrdom of
Huss threw him into such deep and silent dejection, that one day the
king, in whose court he was, asked him why he was so sad.

"Huss is burnt, and we have not yet avenged him," replied Ziska.

"I can do nothing in that direction," said Wenceslas; adding,
carelessly, "you might attempt it yourself."

This was spoken as a jest, but Ziska took it in deadly earnest. He,
aided by his friends, roused the people, greatly to the alarm of the
king, who ordered the citizens to bring their arms to the royal castle
of Wisherad, which commanded the city of Prague.

Ziska heard the command, and obeyed it in his own way. The arms were
brought, but they came in the hands of the citizens, who marched in long
files to the fortress, and drew themselves up before the king, Ziska at
their head.

"My gracious and mighty sovereign, here we are," said the bold leader;
"we await your commands; against what enemy are we to fight?"

Wenceslas looked at those dense groups of armed and resolute men, and
concluded that his purpose of disarming them would not work. Assuming a
cheerful countenance, he bade them return home and keep the peace. They
obeyed, so far as returning home was concerned. In other matters they
had learned their power, and were bent on exerting it.

Nicolas of Hussinez, Huss's former lord, and Ziska's seconder in this
outbreak, was banished from the city by the king. He went, but took
forty thousand men with him, who assembled on a mountain which was
afterwards known by the biblical name of Mount Tabor. Here several
hundred tables were spread for the celebration of the Lord's Supper,
July 22, 1419.

Wenceslas, in attempting to put a summary end to the disturbance in the
city, quickly made bad worse. He deposed the Hussite city council in the
Neustadt, the locality of greatest disturbance, and replaced it by a new
one in his own interests. This action filled Prague with indignation,
which was redoubled when the new council sent two clamorous Hussites to
prison. On the 30th of July Ziska led a strong body of his partisans
through the streets to the council-house, and sternly demanded that the
prisoners should be set free.

The councillors hesitated,--a fatal hesitation. A stone was flung from
one of the windows. Instantly the mob stormed the building, rushed into
the council-room, and seized the councillors, thirteen of whom, Germans
by birth, were flung out of the windows. They were received on the pikes
of the furious mob below, and the whole of them murdered.

This act of violence was quickly followed by others. The dwelling of a
priest, supposed to have been that of the seducer of Ziska's sister, was
destroyed and its owner hanged; the Carthusian monks were dragged
through the streets, crowned with thorns, and other outrages perpetrated
against the opponents of the party of reform.

A few days afterwards the career of Wenceslas, once Emperor of Germany,
now King of Bohemia, came to an abrupt end. On August 16 he suddenly
died,--by apoplexy, say some historians, while others say that he was
suffocated in his palace by his own attendants. The latter would seem a
fitting end for a man whose life had been marked by so many acts of
tyrannous violence, some of them little short of insanity.

Whatever its cause, his death removed the last restraint from the mob.
On the following day every church and monastery in Prague was assailed
and plundered, their pictures were destroyed, and the robes of the
priests were converted into flags and dresses. Many of these buildings
are said to have been splendidly decorated, and the royal palace, which
was also destroyed, had been adorned by Wenceslas and his father with
the richest treasures of art. We are told that on the walls of a garden
belonging to the palace the whole of the Bible was written. While the
work of destruction went on, a priest formed an altar in the street of
three tubs, covered by a broad table-top, from which all day long he
dispensed the sacrament in both forms.

The excesses of this outbreak soon frightened the wealthier citizens,
who dreaded an assault upon their wealth, and, in company with Sophia,
the widow of Wenceslas, they sent a deputation to the emperor, asking
him to make peace. He replied by swearing to take a fearful revenge on
the insurgents. The insurrection continued, despite this action of the
nobles and the threats of the emperor. Ziska, finding the citizens too
moderate, invited into the city the peasants, who were armed with
flails, and committed many excesses.

Forced by the moderate party to leave the city, Ziska led his new
adherents to Mount Tabor, which he fortified and prepared to defend.
They called themselves the "people of God," and styled their Catholic
opponents "Moabites," "Amalekites," etc., declaring that it was their
duty to extirpate them. Their leader entitled himself "John Ziska, of
the cup, captain, in the hope of God, of the Taborites."

But having brought the story of the Emperor Wenceslas to an end, we must
stop at this point. The after-life of John Ziska was of such stir and
interest, and so filled with striking events, that we shall deal with it
by itself, in a sequel to the present story.


Seventy years had passed since the battle of Morgarten, through which
freedom came to the lands of the Swiss. Throughout that long period
Austria had let the liberty-loving mountaineers alone, deterred by the
frightful lesson taught them in the bloody pass. In the interval the
confederacy had grown more extensive. The towns of Berne, Zurich,
Soleure, and Zug had joined it; and now several other towns and
villages, incensed by the oppression and avarice of their Austrian
masters, threw off the foreign yoke and allied themselves to the Swiss
confederacy. It was time for the Austrians to be moving, if they would
retain any possessions in the Alpine realm of rocks.

Duke Leopold of Austria, a successor to the Leopold who had learned so
well at Morgarten how the Swiss could strike for liberty, and as bold
and arrogant as he, grew incensed at the mountaineers for taking into
their alliance several towns which were subject to him, and vowed not
only to chastise these rebels, but to subdue the whole country, and put
an end to their insolent confederacy. His feeling was shared by the
Austrian nobles, one hundred and sixty-seven of whom joined in his
warlike scheme, and agreed to aid him in putting down the defiant

War resolved upon, the Austrians laid a shrewd plan to fill the Swiss
confederates with terror in advance of their approach. Letters declaring
war were sent to the confederate assembly by twenty distinct expresses,
with the hope that this rapid succession of threats would overwhelm them
with fear. The separate nobles followed with their declarations. On St.
John's day a messenger arrived from Würtemberg bearing fifteen
declarations of war. Hardly had these letters been read when nine more
arrived, sent by John Ulric of Pfirt and eight other nobles. Others
quickly followed; it fairly rained declarations of war; the members of
the assembly had barely time to read one batch of threatening
fulminations before another arrived. Letters from the lords of Thurn
came after those named, followed by a batch from the nobles of
Schaffhausen. This seemed surely enough, but on the following day the
rain continued, eight successive messengers arriving, who bore no less
than forty-three declarations of war.

It seemed as if the whole north was about to descend in a cyclone of
banners and spears upon the mountain land. The assembly sat breathless
under this torrent of threats. Had their hearts been open to the
invasion of terror they must surely have been overwhelmed, and have
waited in the supineness of fear for the coming of their foes.

But the hearts of the Swiss were not of that kind. They were too full of
courage and patriotism to leave room for dismay. Instead of awaiting
their enemies with dread, a burning impatience animated their souls. If
liberty or death were the alternatives, the sooner the conflict began
the more to their liking it would be. The cry of war resounded through
the country, and everywhere, in valley and on mountain, by lake-side and
by glacier's rim, the din of hostile preparation might have been heard,
as the patriots arranged their affairs and forged and sharpened their
weapons for the coming fray.

Far too impatient were they to wait for the coming of Leopold and his
army. There were Austrian nobles and Austrian castles within their land.
No sooner was the term of the armistice at an end than the armed
peasantry swarmed about these strongholds, and many a fortress, long the
seat of oppression, was taken and levelled with the ground. The war-cry
of Leopold and the nobles had inspired a different feeling from that
counted upon.

It was not long before Duke Leopold appeared. At the head of a large and
well-appointed force, and attended by many distinguished knights and
nobles, he marched into the mountain region and advanced upon Sempach,
one of the revolted towns, resolved, he said, to punish its citizens
with a rod of iron for their daring rebellion.

On the 9th of July, 1386, the Austrian cavalry, several thousands in
number, reached the vicinity of Sempach, having distanced the
foot-soldiers in the impatient haste of their advance. Here they found
the weak array of the Swiss gathered on the surrounding heights, and as
eager as themselves for the fray. It was a small force, no stronger
than that of Morgarten, comprising only about fourteen hundred
poorly-armed men. Some carried halberds, some shorter weapons, while
some among them, instead of a shield, had only a small board fastened to
the left arm. It seemed like madness for such a band to dare contend
with the thousands of well-equipped invaders. But courage and patriotism
go far to replace numbers, as that day was to show.

Leopold looked upon his handful of foes, and decided that it would be
folly to wait for the footmen to arrive. Surely his host of nobles and
knights, with their followers, would soon sweep these peasants, like so
many locusts, from their path. Yet he remembered the confusion into
which the cavalry had been thrown at Morgarten, and deeming that
horsemen were ill-suited to an engagement on those wooded hill-sides, he
ordered the entire force to dismount and attack on foot.

The plan adopted was that the dismounted knights and soldiers should
join their ranks as closely as possible, until their front presented an
unbroken wall of iron, and thus arrayed should charge the enemy spear in
hand. Leaving their attendants in charge of their horses, the serried
column of footmen prepared to advance, confident of sweeping their foes
to death before their closely-knit line of spears.

Yet this plan of battle was not without its critics. The Baron of
Hasenburg, a veteran soldier, looked on it with disfavor, as contrasted
with the position of vantage occupied by the Swiss, and cautioned the
duke and his nobles against undue assurance.

"Pride never served any good purpose in peace or war," he said. "We had
much better wait until the infantry come up."

This prudent advice was received with shouts of derision by the nobles,
some of whom cried out insultingly,--

"Der Hasenburg hat ein Hasenherz" ("Hasenburg has a hare's heart," a
play upon the baron's name).

Certain nobles, however, who had not quite lost their prudence, tried to
persuade the duke to keep in the rear, as the true position for a
leader. He smiled proudly in reply, and exclaimed with impatience,--

"What! shall Leopold be a mere looker-on, and calmly behold his knights
die around him in his own cause? Never! here on my native soil with you
I will conquer or perish with my people." So saying, he placed himself
at the head of the troops.

And now the decisive moment was at hand. The Swiss had kept to the
heights while their enemy continued mounted, not venturing to face such
a body of cavalry on level ground. But when they saw them forming as
foot-soldiers, they left the hills and marched to the plain below. Soon
the unequal forces confronted each other; the Swiss, as was their
custom, falling upon their knees and praying for God's aid to their
cause; the Austrians fastening their helmets and preparing for the fray.
The duke even took the occasion to give the honor of knighthood to
several young warriors.

The day was a hot and close one, the season being that of harvest, and
the sun pouring down its unclouded and burning rays upon the combatants.
This sultriness was a marked advantage to the lightly-dressed
mountaineers as compared with the armor-clad knights, to whom the heat
was very oppressive.

The battle was begun by the Swiss, who, on rising from their knees,
flung themselves with impetuous valor on the dense line of spears that
confronted them. Their courage and fury were in vain. Not a man in the
Austrian line wavered. They stood like a rock against which the waves of
the Swiss dashed only to be hurled back in death. The men of Lucerne, in
particular, fought with an almost blind rage, seeking to force a path
through that steel-pointed forest of spears, and falling rapidly before
the triumphant foe.

Numbers of the mountaineers lay dead or wounded. The line of spears
seemed impenetrable. The Swiss began to waver. The enemy, seeing this,
advanced the flanks of his line so as to form a half-moon shape, with
the purpose of enclosing the small body of Swiss within a circle of
spears. It looked for the moment as if the struggle were at an end, the
mountaineers foiled and defeated, the fetters again ready to be locked
upon the limbs of free Switzerland.

But such was not to be. There was a man in that small band of patriots
who had the courage to accept certain death for his country, one of
those rare souls who appear from time to time in the centuries and win
undying fame by an act of self-martyrdom. Arnold of Winkelried was his
name, a name which history is not likely soon to forget, for by an
impulse of the noblest devotion this brave patriot saved the liberties
of his native land.


Seeing that there was but one hope for the Swiss, and that death must be
the lot of him who gave them that hope, he exclaimed to his comrades, in
a voice of thunder,--

"Faithful and beloved confederates, I will open a passage to freedom and
victory! Protect my wife and children!"

With these words, he rushed from his ranks, flung himself upon the
enemy's steel-pointed line, and seized with his extended arms as many of
the hostile spears as he was able to grasp, burying them in his body,
and sinking dead to the ground.

His comrades lost not a second in availing themselves of this act of
heroic devotion. Darting forward, they rushed over the body of the
martyr to liberty into the breach he had made, forced others of the
spears aside, and for the first time since the fray began reached the
Austrians with their weapons.

A hasty and ineffective effort was made to close the breach. It only
added to the confusion which the sudden assault had caused. The line of
hurrying knights became crowded and disordered. The furious Swiss broke
through in increasing numbers. Overcome with the heat, many of the
knights fell from exhaustion, and died without a wound, suffocated in
their armor. Others fell below the blows of the Swiss. The line of
spears, so recently intact, was now broken and pierced at a dozen
points, and the revengeful mountaineers were dealing death upon their
terrified and feebly-resisting foes.

The chief banner of the host had twice sunk and been raised again, and
was drooping a third time, when Ulric, a knight of Aarburg, seized and
lifted it, defending it desperately till a mortal blow laid him low.

"Save Austria! rescue!" he faltered with his dying breath.

Duke Leopold, who was pushing through the confused throng, heard him and
caught the banner from his dying hand. Again it waved aloft, but now
crimsoned with the blood of its defender.

The Swiss, determined to capture it, pressed upon its princely bearer,
surrounded him, cut down on every side the warriors who sought to defend
him and the standard.

"Since so many nobles and knights have ended their days in my cause, let
me honorably follow them," cried the despairing duke, and in a moment he
rushed into the midst of the hostile ranks, vanishing from the eyes of
his attendants. Blows rained on his iron mail. In the pressure of the
crowd he fell to the earth. While seeking to raise himself again in his
heavy armor, he cried, in his helpless plight, to a Swiss soldier, who
had approached him with raised weapon,--

"I am the Prince of Austria."

The man either heard not his words, or took no heed of princes. The
weapon descended with a mortal blow. Duke Leopold of Austria was dead.

The body of the slain duke was found by a knight, Martin Malterer, who
bore the banner of Freiburg. On recognizing him, he stood like one
petrified, let the banner fall from his hand, and then threw himself on
the body of the prince, that it might not be trampled under foot by the
contending forces. In this position he soon received his own

By this time the state of the Austrians was pitiable. The signal for
retreat was given, and in utter terror and dismay they fled for their
horses. Alas, too late! The attendants, seeing the condition of their
masters, and filled with equal terror, had mounted the horses, and were
already in full flight.

Nothing remained for the knights, oppressed with their heavy armor,
exhausted with thirst and fatigue, half suffocated with the scorching
heat, assailed on every side by the light-armed and nimble Swiss, but to
sell their lives as dearly as possible. In a short time more all was at
an end. The last of the Austrians fell. On that fatal field there had
met their death, at the hands of the small body of Swiss, no less than
six hundred and fifty-six knights, barons, and counts, together with
thousands of their men-at-arms.

Thus ended the battle of Sempach, with its signal victory to the Swiss,
one of the most striking which history records, if we consider the great
disproportion in numbers and in warlike experience and military
equipment of the combatants. It secured to Switzerland the liberty for
which they had so valiantly struck at Morgarten seventy years before.

But all Switzerland was not yet free, and more blows were needed to win
its full liberty. The battle of Næfels, in 1388, added to the width of
the free zone. In this the peasants of Glarus rolled stones on the
Austrian squadrons, and set fire to the bridges over which they fled,
two thousand five hundred of the enemy, including a great number of
nobles, being slain. In the same year the peasants of Valais defeated
the Earl of Savoy at Visp, putting four thousand of his men to the
sword. The citizens of St. Gall, infuriated by the tyranny of the
governor of the province of Schwendi, broke into insurrection, attacked
the castle of Schwendi, and burnt it to the ground. The governor
escaped. All the castles in the vicinity were similarly dealt with, and
the whole district set free.

Shortly after 1400 the citizens of St. Gall joined with the peasants
against their abbot, who ruled them with a hand of iron. The Swabian
cities were asked to decide the dispute, and decided that cities could
only confederate with cities, not with peasants, thus leaving the
Appenzellers to their fate. At this decision the herdsmen rose in arms,
defeated abbot and citizens both, and set their country free, all the
neighboring peasantry joining their band of liberty. A few years later
the people of this region joined the confederation, which now included
nearly the whole of the Alpine country, and was strong enough to
maintain its liberty for centuries thereafter. It was not again subdued
until the legions of Napoleon trod over its mountain paths.


Sigismund, Emperor of Germany, had sworn to put an end to the Hussite
rebellion in Bohemia, and to punish the rebels in a way that would make
all future rebels tremble. But Sigismund was pursuing the old policy of
cooking the hare before it was caught. He forgot that the indomitable
John Ziska and the iron-flailed peasantry stood between him and his vow.
He had first to conquer the reformers before he could punish them, and
this was to prove no easy task.

The dreadful work of religious war began with the burning of Hussite
preachers who had ventured from Bohemia into Germany. This was an
argument which Ziska thoroughly understood, and he retorted by
destroying the Bohemian monasteries, and burning the priests alive in
barrels of pitch. "They are singing my sister's wedding song," exclaimed
the grim barbarian, on hearing their cries of torture. Queen Sophia,
widow of Wenceslas, the late king, who had garrisoned all the royal
castles, now sent a strong body of troops against the reformers. The
army came up with the multitude, which was largely made up of women and
children, on the open plain near Pilsen. The cavalry charged upon the
seemingly helpless mob. But Ziska was equal to the occasion. He ordered
the women to strew the ground with their gowns and veils, and the
horses' feet becoming entangled in these, numbers of the riders were
thrown, and the trim lines of the troops broken.

Seeing the confusion into which they had been thrown, Ziska gave the
order to charge, and in a short time the army that was to defeat him was
flying in a panic across the plain, a broken and beaten mob. Another
army marched against him, and was similarly defeated; and the citizens
of Prague, finding that no satisfactory terms could be made with the
emperor, recalled Ziska, and entered into alliance with him. The
one-eyed patriot was now lord of the land, all Bohemia being at his beck
and call.

Meanwhile Sigismund, the emperor, was slowly gathering his forces to
invade the rebellious land. The reign of cruelty continued, each side
treating its prisoners barbarously. The Imperialists branded theirs with
a cup, the Hussites theirs with a cross, on their foreheads. The
citizens of Breslau joined those of Prague, and emulated them by
flinging their councillors out of the town-house windows. In return the
German miners of Kuttenberg threw sixteen hundred Hussites down the
mines. Such is religious war, the very climax of cruelty.

In June, 1420, the threatened invasion came. Sigismund led an army, one
hundred thousand strong, into the revolted land, fulminating vengeance
as he marched. He reached Prague and entered the castle of Wisherad,
which commanded it. Ziska fortified the mountain of Witlow (now called
Ziskaberg), which also commanded the city. Sigismund, finding that he
had been outgeneralled, and that his opponent held the controlling
position, waited and temporized, amusing himself meanwhile by assuming
the crown of Bohemia, and sowing dissension in his army by paying the
Slavonian and Hungarian troops with the jewels taken from the royal
palaces and the churches, while leaving the Germans unpaid. The Germans,
furious, marched away. The emperor was obliged to follow. The
ostentatious invasion was at an end, and scarcely a blow had been

But Sigismund had no sooner gone than trouble arose in Prague. The
citizens, the nobility, and Ziska's followers were all at odds. The
Taborites--those strict republicans and religious reformers who had made
Mount Tabor their head-quarters--were in power, and ruled the city with
a rod of iron, destroying all the remaining splendor of the churches and
sternly prohibiting every display of ostentation by the people. Death
was named as the punishment for such venial faults as dancing, gambling,
or the wearing of rich attire. The wine-cellars were rigidly closed.
Church property was declared public property, and it looked as if
private wealth would soon be similarly viewed. The peasants declared
that it was their mission to exterminate sin from the earth.

This tyranny so incensed the nobles and citizens that they rose in
self-defence, and Ziska, finding that Prague had grown too hot to hold
him, deemed it prudent to lead his men away. Sigismund took immediate
advantage of the opportunity by marching on Prague. But, quick as he
was, there were others quicker. The more moderate section of the
reformers, the so-called Horebites,--from Mount Horeb, another place of
assemblage,--entered the city, led by Hussinez, Huss's former lord, and
laid siege to the royal fortress, the Wisherad. Sigismund attempted to
surprise him, but met with so severe a repulse that he fled into
Hungary, and the Wisherad was forced to capitulate, this ancient palace
and its church, both splendid works of art, being destroyed. Step by
step the art and splendor of Bohemia were vanishing in this despotic
struggle between heresy and the papacy.

As the war went on, Ziska, its controlling spirit, grew steadily more
abhorrent of privilege and distinction, more bitterly fanatical. The
ancient church, royalty, nobility, all excited his wrath. He was
republican, socialist, almost anarchist in his views. His idea of
perfection lay in a fraternity composed of the children of God, while he
trusted to the strokes of the iron flail to bear down all opposition to
his theory of society. The city of Prachaticz treated him with mockery,
and was burnt to the ground, with all its inhabitants. The Bishop of
Nicopolis fell into his hands, and was flung into the river. As time
went on, his war of extermination against sinners--that is, all who
refused to join his banner--grew more cruel and unrelenting. Each city
that resisted was stormed and ruined, its inhabitants slaughtered, its
priests burned. Hussite virtue had degenerated into tyranny of the worst
type. Yet, while thus fanatical himself, Ziska would not permit his
followers to indulge in insane excesses of religious zeal. A party arose
which claimed that the millennium was at hand, and that it was their
duty to anticipate the coming of the innocence of Paradise, by going
naked, like Adam and Eve. These Adamites committed the maddest excesses,
but found a stern enemy in Ziska, who put them down with an unsparing

In 1421 Sigismund again roused himself to activity, incensed by the
Hussite defiance of his authority. He incited the Silesians to invade
Bohemia, and an army of twenty thousand poured into the land, killing
all before them,--men, women, and children. Yet such was the terror that
the very name of Ziska now excited, that the mere rumor of his approach
sent these invaders flying across the borders.

But, in the midst of his career of triumph, an accident came to the
Bohemian leader which would have incapacitated any less resolute man
from military activity. During the siege of the castle of Raby a
splinter struck his one useful eye and completely deprived him of sight.
It did not deprive him of power and energy. Most men, under such
circumstances, would have retired from army leadership, but John Ziska
was not of that calibre. He knew Bohemia so thoroughly that the whole
land lay accurately mapped out in his mind. He continued to lead his
army, to marshal his men in battle array, to command them in the field
and the siege, despite his blindness, always riding in a carriage, close
to the great standard, and keeping in immediate touch with all the
movements of the war.

Blind as he was, he increased rather than diminished the severity of his
discipline, and insisted on rigid obedience to his commands. As an
instance of this we are told that, on one occasion, having compelled his
troops to march day and night, as was his custom, they murmured and

"Day and night are the same to you, as you cannot see; but they are not
the same to us."

"How!" he cried. "You cannot see! Well, set fire to a couple of

The blind warrior was soon to have others to deal with than his Bohemian
foes. Sigismund had sent forward another army, which, in September,
1421, invaded the country. It was driven out by the mere rumor of
Ziska's approach, the soldiers flying in haste on the vague report of
his coming. But in November the emperor himself came, leading a horde of
eighty thousand Hungarians, Servians, and others, savage fellows, whose
approach filled the moderate party of the Bohemians with terror. Ziska's
men had such confidence in their blind chief as to be beyond terror.
They were surrounded by the enemy, and enclosed in what seemed a trap.
But under Ziska's orders they made a night attack on the foe, broke
through their lines, and, to the emperor's discomfiture, were once more

On New Year's day, 1422, the two armies came face to face near Zollin.
Ziska drew up his men in battle array and confidently awaited the attack
of the enemy. But the inflexible attitude of his men, the terror of his
name, or one of those inexplicable influences which sometimes affect
armies, filled the Hungarians with a sudden panic, and they vanished
from the front of the Bohemians without a blow. Once more the emperor
and the army which he had led into the country with such high confidence
of success were in shameful flight, and the terrible example which he
had vowed to make of Bohemia was still unaccomplished.

The blind chief vigorously and relentlessly pursued, overtaking the
fugitives on January 8 near Deutschbrod. Terrified at his approach, they
sought to escape by crossing the stream at that place on the ice. The
ice gave way, and numbers of them were drowned. Deutschbrod was burned
and its inhabitants slaughtered in Ziska's cruel fashion.

This repulse put an end to invasions of Bohemia while Ziska lived. There
were intestine disturbances which needed to be quelled, and then the
army of the reformers was led beyond the boundaries of the country and
assailed the imperial dominions, but the emperor held aloof. He had had
enough of the blind terror of Bohemia, the indomitable Ziska and his
iron-flailed peasants. New outbreaks disturbed Bohemia. Ambitious nobles
aspired to the kingship, but their efforts were vain. The army of the
iron flail quickly put an end to all such hopes.

In 1423 Ziska invaded Moravia and Austria, to keep his troops employed,
and lost severely in doing so. In 1424 his enemies at home again made
head against him, led an army into the field, and pursued him to
Kuttenberg. Here he ordered his men to feign a retreat, then, while the
foe were triumphantly advancing, he suddenly turned, had his
battle-chariot driven furiously down the mountain-side upon their lines,
and during the confusion thus caused ordered an attack in force. The
enemy were repulsed, their artillery was captured, and Kuttenberg set in
flames, as Ziska's signal of triumph.

Shortly afterwards, his enemies at home being thoroughly beaten, the
indomitable blind chief marched upon Prague, the head-quarters of his
foes, and threatened to burn this city to the ground. He might have done
so, too, but for his own men, who broke into sedition at the threat.

Procop, Ziska's bravest captain, advised peace, to put an end to the
disasters of civil war. His advice was everywhere re-echoed, the demand
for peace seemed unanimous, Ziska alone opposing it. Mounting a cask,
and facing his discontented followers, he exclaimed,--

"Fear internal more than external foes. It is easier for a few, when
united, to conquer, than for many, when disunited. Snares are laid for
you; you will be entrapped, but it will not be my fault."

Despite his harangue, however, peace was concluded between the
contending factions, and a large monument raised in commemoration
thereof, both parties heaping up stones. Ziska entered the city in
solemn procession, and was met with respect and admiration by the
citizens. Prince Coribut, the leader of the opposite party and the
aspirant to the crown, came to meet him, embraced him, and called him
father. The triumph of the blind chief over his internal foes was

It seemed equally complete over his external foes. Sigismund, unable to
conquer him by force of arms, now sought to mollify him by offers of
peace, and entered into negotiations with the stern old warrior. But
Ziska was not to be placated. He could not trust the man who had broken
his plighted word and burned John Huss, and he remained immovable in his
hostility to Germany. Planning a fresh attack on Moravia, he began his
march thither. But now he met a conquering enemy against whose arms
there was no defence. Death encountered him on the route, and carried
him off October 12, 1424.

Thus ends the story of an extraordinary man, and the history of a series
of remarkable events. Of all the peasant outbreaks, of which there were
so many during the mediæval period, the Bohemian was the only one--if we
except the Swiss struggle for liberty--that attained measurable success.
This was due in part to the fact that it was a religious instead of an
industrial revolt, and thus did not divide the country into sharp ranks
of rich and poor; and in greater part to the fact that it had an able
leader, one of those men of genius who seem born for great occasions.
John Ziska, the blind warrior, leading his army to victory after
victory, stands alone in the gallery of history. There were none like
him, before or after.

He is pictured as a short, broad-shouldered man, with a large, round,
and bald head. His forehead was deeply furrowed, and he wore a long
moustache of a fiery red hue. This, with his blind eye and his final
complete blindness, yields a well-defined image of the man, that
fanatical, remorseless, indomitable, and unconquerable avenger of the
martyred Huss, the first successful opponent of the doctrines of the
church of Rome whom history records.

The conclusion of the story of the Hussites may be briefly given. For
years they held their own, under two leaders, known as Procop Holy and
Procop the Little, defying the emperor, and at times invading the
empire. The pope preached a crusade against them, but the army of
invasion was defeated, and Silesia and Austria were invaded in reprisal
by Procop Holy.

Seven years after the death of Ziska an army of invasion again entered
Bohemia, so strong in numbers that it seemed as if that war-drenched
land must fall before it. In its ranks were one hundred and thirty
thousand men, led by Frederick of Brandenburg. Their purposes were seen
in their actions. Every village reached was burned, till two hundred had
been given to the flames. Horrible excesses were committed. On August
14, 1431, the two armies, the Hussite and the Imperialist, came face to
face near Tauss. The disproportion in numbers was enormous, and it
looked as if the small force of Bohemians would be swallowed up in the
multitude of their foes. But barely was the Hussite banner seen in the
distance when the old story was told over again, the Germans broke into
sudden panic, and fled _en masse_ from the field. The Bavarians were the
first to fly, and all the rest speedily followed. Frederick of
Brandenburg and his troops took refuge in a wood. The Cardinal Julian,
who had preached a crusade against Bohemia, succeeded for a time in
rallying the fugitives, but at the first onset of the Hussites they
again took to flight, suffering themselves to be slaughtered without
resistance. The munitions of war were abandoned to the foe, including
one hundred and fifty cannon.

It was an extraordinary affair, but in truth the flight was less due to
terror than to disinclination of the German soldiers to fight the
Hussites, whose cause they deemed to be just and glorious, and the
influence of whose opinions had spread far beyond the Bohemian border.
Rome was losing its hold over the mind of northern Europe outside the
limits of the land of Huss and Ziska.

Negotiations for peace followed. The Bohemians were invited to Bâsle,
being granted a safe-conduct, and promised free exercise of their
religion coming and going, while no words of ridicule or reproach were
to be permitted. On January 9, 1433, three hundred Bohemians, mounted on
horseback, entered Bâsle, accompanied by an immense multitude. It was a
very different entrance from that of Huss to Constance, nearly twenty
years before, and was to have a very different termination. Procop Holy
headed the procession, accompanied by others of the Bohemian leaders. A
signal triumph had come to the party of religious reform, after twenty
years of struggle.

For fifty days the negotiations continued. Neither side would yield. In
the end, the Bohemians, weary of the protracted and fruitless debate,
took to their horses again, and set out homewards. This brought their
enemies to terms. An embassy was hastily sent after them, and all their
demands were conceded, though with certain reservations that might prove
perilous in the future. They went home triumphant, having won freedom of
religious worship according to their ideas of right and truth.

They had not long reached home when dissensions again broke out. The
emperor took advantage of them, accepted the crown of Bohemia, entered
Prague, and at once reinstated the Catholic religion. The fanatics flew
to arms, but after a desperate struggle were annihilated. The Bohemian
struggle was at an end. In the following year the emperor Sigismund
died, having lived just long enough to win success in his long conflict.
The martyrdom of Huss, the valor and zeal of Ziska, appeared to have
been in vain. Yet they were not so, for the seeds they had sown bore
fruit in the following century in a great sectarian revolt which
affected all Christendom and permanently divided the Church.


The empire of Rome finally reached its end, not in the fifth century, as
ordinarily considered, but in the fifteenth; not at Rome, but at
Constantinople, where the Eastern empire survived the Western for a
thousand years. At length, in 1453, the Turks captured Constantinople,
set a broad foot upon the degenerate empire of the East, and crushed out
the last feeble remnants of life left in the pygmy successor of the
colossus of the past.

And now Europe, which had looked on with clasped hands while the Turks
swept over the Bosphorus and captured Constantinople, suddenly awoke to
the peril of its situation. A blow in time might have saved the Greek
empire. The blow had not been struck, and now Europe had itself to save.
Terror seized upon the nations which had let their petty intrigues stand
in the way of that broad policy in which safety lay, for they could not
forget past instances of Asiatic invasion. The frightful ravages wrought
by the Huns and the Avars were far in the past, but no long time had
elapsed since the coming of the Magyars and the Mongols, and now here
was another of those hordes of murderous barbarians, hanging like a
cloud of war on the eastern skirt of Europe, and threatening to rain
death and ruin upon the land. The dread of the nations was not amiss.
They had neglected to strengthen the eastern barrier to the Turkish
avalanche. Now it threatened their very doors, and they must meet it at

The Turks were not long in making their purpose evident. Within two
years after the fall of Constantinople they were on the march again, and
had laid siege to Belgrade, the first obstacle in their pathway to
universal conquest. The Turkish cannons were thundering at the doors of
Europe. Belgrade fallen, Vienna would come next, and the march of the
barbarians might only end at the sea.

And yet, despite their danger, the people of Germany remained supine.
Hungary had valiantly defended itself against the Turks ten years
before, without aid from the German empire. It looked now as if Belgrade
might be left to its fate. The brave John Hunyades and his faithful
Hungarians were the only bulwarks of Europe against the foe, for the
people seemed incapable of seeing a danger a thousand miles away. The
pope and his legate John Capistrano, general of the Capuchins, were the
only aids to the valiant Hunyades in his vigorous defence. They preached
a crusade, but with little success. Capistrano traversed Germany,
eloquently calling the people to arms against the barbarians. The result
was similar to that on previous occasions, the real offenders were
neglected, the innocent suffered. The people, instead of arming against
the Turks, turned against the Jews, and murdered them by thousands.
Whatever happened in Europe,--a plague, an invasion, a famine, a
financial strait,--that unhappy people were in some way held
responsible, and mediæval Europe seemed to think it could, at any time,
check the frightful career of a comet or ward off pestilence by
slaughtering a few thousands of Jews. It cannot be said that it worked
well on this occasion; the Jews died, but the Turks surrounded Belgrade

Capistrano found no military ardor in Germany, in princes or people. The
princes contented themselves with ordering prayers and ringing the
Turkish bells, as they were called. The people were as supine as their
princes. He did, however, succeed, by the aid of his earnest eloquence,
in gathering a force of a few thousands of peasants, priests, scholars,
and the like; a motley host who were chiefly armed with iron flails and
pitchforks, but who followed him with an enthusiasm equal to his own.
With this shadow of an army he joined Hunyades, and the combined force
made its way in boats down the Danube into the heart of Hungary, and
approached the frontier fortress which Mahomet II. was besieging with a
host of one hundred and sixty thousand men, and which its defender, the
brother-in-law of John Hunyades, had nearly given up for lost.

On came the flotilla,--the peasants with their flails and forks and
Hunyades with his trained soldiers,--and attacked the Turkish fleet with
such furious energy that it was defeated and dispersed, and the allied
forces made their way into the beleaguered city. Capistrano and his
followers were full of enthusiasm. He was a second Peter the Hermit,
his peasant horde were crusaders, fierce against the infidels,
disdaining death in God's cause; neither leader nor followers had a
grain of military knowledge or experience, but they had, what is
sometimes better, courage and enthusiasm.

John Hunyades _had_ military experience, and looked with cold disfavor
on the burning and blind zeal of his new recruits. He was willing that
they should aid him in repelling the furious attacks of the Turks, but
to his trained eyes an attack on the well-intrenched camp of the enemy
would have been simple madness, and he sternly forbade any such suicidal
course, even threatening death to whoever should attempt it.

In truth, his caution seemed reasonable. An immense host surrounded the
city on the land side, and had done so on the water side, also, until
the Christian flotilla had sunk, captured, and dispersed its boats. Far
as the eye could see, the gorgeously-embellished tents of the Turkish
army, with their gilded crescents glittering in the sun, filled the
field of view. Cannon-mounted earthworks threatened the walls from every
quarter. Squadrons of steel-clad horsemen swept the field. The crowding
thousands of besiegers pressed the city day and night. Even defence
seemed useless. Assault on such a host appeared madness to experienced
eyes. Hunyades seemed wise in his stern disapproval of such an idea.

Yet military knowledge has its limitations, when it fails to take into
account the power of enthusiasm. Blind zeal is a force whose
possibilities a general does not always estimate. It is capable of
performing miracles, as Hunyades was to learn. His orders, his threats
of death, had no restraining effect on the minds of the crusaders. They
had come to save Europe from the Turks, and they were not to be stayed
by orders or threats. What though the enemy greatly outnumbered them,
and had cannons and scimitars against their pikes and flails, had they
not God on their side, and should God's army pause to consider numbers
and cannon-balls? They were not to be restrained; attack they would, and
attack they did.

The siege had made great progress. The reinforcement had come barely in
time. The walls were crumbling under the incessant bombardment.
Convinced that he had made a practicable breach, Mahomet, the sultan,
ordered an assault in force. The Turks advanced, full of barbarian
courage, climbed the crumbled walls, and broke, as they supposed, into
the town, only to find new walls frowning before them. The vigorous
garrison had built new defences behind the old ones, and the
disheartened assailants learned that they had done their work in vain.

This repulse greatly discouraged the sultan. He was still more
discouraged when the crusaders, irrepressible in their hot enthusiasm,
broke from the city and made a fierce attack upon his works. Capistrano,
seeing that they were not to be restrained, put himself at their head,
and with a stick in one hand and a crucifix in the other, led them to
the assault. It proved an irresistible one. The Turks could not sustain
themselves against these flail-swinging peasants. One intrenchment after
another fell into their hands, until three had been stormed and taken.
Their success inspired Hunyades. Filled with a new respect for his
peasant allies, and seeing that now or never was the time to strike, he
came to their aid with his cavalry, and fell so suddenly and violently
upon the Turkish rear that the invaders were put to rout.

Onward pushed the crusaders and their allies; backward went the Turks.
The remaining intrenchments were stubbornly defended, but that storm of
iron flails, those pikes and pitchforks, wielded by the zeal of
enthusiasts, were not to be resisted, and in the end all that remained
of the Turkish army broke into panic flight, the sultan himself being
wounded, and more than twenty thousand of his men left dead upon the

It was a signal victory. Miraculous almost, when one considers the great
disproportion of numbers. The works of the invaders, mounted with three
hundred cannon, and their camp, which contained an immense booty, fell
into the hands of the Christians, and the power of Mahomet II. was so
crippled that years passed before he was in condition to attempt a
second invasion of Europe.

The victors were not long to survive their signal triumph. The valiant
Hunyades died shortly after the battle, from wounds received in the
action or from fatal disease. Capistrano died in the same year (1456).
Hunyades left two sons, and the King of Hungary repaid his services by
oppressing both, and beheading one of these sons. But the king himself
died during the next year, and Matthias Corvinus, the remaining son of
Hunyades, was placed by the Hungarians on their throne. They had given
their brave defender the only reward in their power.

If the victory of Hunyades and Capistrano--the nobleman and the
monk--had been followed up by the princes of Europe, the Turks might
have been driven from Constantinople, Europe saved from future peril at
their hands, and the tide of subsequent history gained a cleaner and
purer flow. But nothing was done; the princes were too deeply interested
in their petty squabbles to entertain large views, and the Turks were
suffered to hold the empire of the East, and quietly to recruit their
forces for later assaults.


Late in the month of April, in the year 1521, an open wagon containing
two persons was driven along one of the roads of Germany, the horse
being kept at his best pace, while now and then one of the occupants
looked back as if in apprehension. This was the man who held the reins.
The other, a short but presentable person, with pale, drawn face, lit by
keen eyes, seemed too deeply buried in thought to be heedful of
surrounding affairs. When he did lift his eyes they were directed ahead,
where the road was seen to enter the great Thuringian forest. Dressed in
clerical garb, the peasants who passed probably regarded him as a monk
on some errand of mercy. The truth was that he was a fugitive, fleeing
for his life, for he was a man condemned, who might at any moment be
waylaid and seized.

On entering the forest the wagon was driven on until a shaded and lonely
dell was reached, seemingly a fitting place for deeds of violence.
Suddenly from the forest glades rode forth four armed and masked men,
who stopped the wagon, sternly bade the traveller to descend and mount a
spare horse they had with them, and rode off with him, a seeming
captive, through the thick woodland.

As if in fear of pursuit, the captors kept at a brisk pace, not drawing
rein until the walls of a large and strong castle loomed up near the
forest border. The gates flew open and the drawbridge fell at their
demand, and the small cavalcade rode into the powerful stronghold, the
entrance to which was immediately closed behind them. It was the castle
of Wartburg, near Eisenach, Saxony, within whose strong walls the man
thus mysteriously carried off was to remain hidden from the world for
the greater part of the year that followed.

The monk-like captive was just then the most talked of man in Germany.
His seemingly violent capture had been made by his friends, not by his
foes, its purpose being to protect him from his enemies, who were many
and threatening. Of this he was well aware, and welcomed the castle as a
place of refuge. He was, in fact, the celebrated Martin Luther, who had
just set in train a religious revolution of broad aspect in Germany, and
though for the time under the protection of a safe-conduct from the
emperor Charles V., had been deemed in imminent danger of falling into
an ambush of his foes instead of one of his friends.

That he might not be recognised by those who should see him at Wartburg,
his ecclesiastic robe was exchanged for the dress of a knight, he wore
helmet and sword instead of cassock and cross and let his beard grow
freely. Thus changed in appearance, he was known as Junker George
(Chevalier George) to those in the castle, and amused himself at times
by hunting with his knightly companions in the neighborhood. The
greater part of his time, however, was occupied in a difficult literary
task, that of translating the Bible into German. The work thus done by
him was destined to prove as important in a linguistic as in a
theological sense, since it fixed the status of the German language for
the later period to the same extent as the English translation of the
Bible in the time of James I. aided to fix that of English speech.

Leaving Luther, for the present, in his retreat at Wartburg Castle, we
must go back in his history and tell the occasion of the events just
narrated. No man, before or after his time, ever created so great a
disturbance in German thought, and the career of this fugitive monk is
one of great historical import.

A peasant by birth, the son of a slate-cutter named Hans Luther, he so
distinguished himself as a scholar that his father proposed to make him
a lawyer, but a dangerous illness, the death of a near friend, and the
exhortations of an eloquent preacher, so wrought upon his mind that he
resolved instead to become a monk, and after going through the necessary
course of study and mental discipline was ordained priest in May, 1507.
The next year he was appointed a professor in the university of
Wittenberg. There he remained for the next ten years of his life, when
an event occurred which was to turn the whole current of his career and
give him a prominence in theological history which few other men have
ever attained.

In 1517 Pope Leo X. authorized an unusually large issue of indulgences,
a term which signifies a remission of the temporal punishment due to
sin, either in this life or the life to come; the condition being that
the recipient shall have made a full confession of his sins and by his
penitence and purpose of amendment fitted himself to receive the pardon
of God, through the agency of the priest. He was also required to
perform some service in the aid of charity or religion, such as the
giving of alms.

At the time of the Crusades the popes had granted to all who took part
in them remission from church penalties. At a later date the same
indulgence was granted to penitents who aided the holy wars with money
instead of in person. At a still later date remission from the penalties
of sin might be obtained by pious work, such as building churches, etc.
When the Turks threatened Europe, those who fought against them obtained
indulgence. In the instance of the issue of indulgences by Leo X. the
pious work required was the giving of alms in aid of the completion of
the great cathedral of St. Peter's at Rome.

This purpose did not differ in character from others for which
indulgences had previously been granted, and there is nothing to show
that any disregard of the requisite conditions was authorized by the
pope; but there is reason to believe that some of the agents for the
disposal of these indulgences went much beyond the intention of the
decree. This was especially the case in the instance of a Dominican
monk named Tetzel, who is charged with openly asserting what few or no
other Catholics appear to have ever claimed, that the indulgences not
only released the purchasers from the necessity of penance, but absolved
them from all the consequences of sin in this world or the next.

We shall not go into the details of the venalities charged against
Tetzel, whose field of labor was in Saxony, but they seem to have been
sufficient to cause a strong feeling of dissatisfaction, which at length
found a voice in Martin Luther, who preached vigorously against Tetzel
and his methods and wrote to the princes and bishops begging them to
refuse this irreligious dealer in indulgences a passage through their

The near approach of Tetzel to Wittenberg roused Luther to more decided
action. He now wrote out ninety-five propositions in which he set forth
in the strongest language his reasons for opposing and his view of the
pernicious effects of Tetzel's doctrine of indulgences. These he nailed
to the door of the Castle church of Wittenberg. The effect produced by
them was extraordinary. The news of the protest spread with the greatest
rapidity and within a fortnight copies of it had been distributed
throughout Germany. Within five or six weeks it was being read over a
great part of Europe. On all sides it aroused a deep public interest and
excitement and became the great sensation of the day.

We cannot go into the details of what followed. Luther's propositions
were like a thunderbolt flung into the mind of Germany. Everywhere deep
thought was aroused and a host of those who had been displeased with
Tetzel's methods sustained him in his act. Other papers from his pen
followed in which his revolt from the Church of Rome grew wider and
deeper. His energetic assault aroused a number of opponents and an
active controversy ensued; ending in Luther's being cited to appear
before Cajetan, the pope's legate, at Augsburg. From this meeting no
definite result came. After a heated argument Cajetan ended the
controversy with the following words:

"I can dispute no longer with this beast; it has two wicked eyes and
marvellous thoughts in its head."

Luther's view of the matter was much less complimentary. He said of the

"He knows no more about the Word than a donkey knows of harp-playing."

In the next year, 1519, a discussion took place at Leipzig, between
Luther on the one hand, aided by his friends Melanchthon and Carlstadt,
and a zealous and talented ecclesiastic, Dr. Eck, on the other. Eck was
a vigorous debater,--in person, in voice, and in opinion,--but as Luther
was not to be silenced by his argument, he ended by calling him "a
gentile and publican," and wending his way to Borne, where he expressed
his opinion of the new movement, demanded that the heretic should be
made to feel the heavy hand of church discipline.

Back he came soon to Germany, bearing a bull from the pope, in which
were extracts from Luther's writings stated to be heretical, and which
must be publicly retracted within sixty days under threat of
excommunication. This the ardent agent tried to distribute through
Germany, but to his surprise he found that Germany was in no humor to
receive it. Most of the magistrates forbade it to be made public. Where
it was posted upon the walls of any town, the people immediately tore it
down. In truth, Luther's heresy had with extraordinary rapidity become
the heresy of Germany, and he found himself with a nation at his back, a
nation that admired his courage and supported his opinions.

His most decisive step was taken on the 10th of December, 1520. On that
day the faculty and students of the University of Wittenberg, convoked
by him, met at the Elster gate of the town. Here a funeral pile was
built up by the students, one of the magistrates set fire to it, and
Luther, amid approving shouts from the multitude, flung into the flames
the pope's bull, and with it the canonical law and the writings of Dr.
Eck. In this act he decisively broke loose from and defied the Church of
Rome, sustained in his radical step of revolt apparently by all
Wittenberg, and by a large body of converts to his views throughout

The bold reformer found friends not only among the lowly, but among the
powerful. The Elector of Saxony was on his side, and openly accused the
pope of acting the unjust judge, by listening to one side and not the
other, and of needlessly agitating the people by his bull. Ulrich von
Hutten, a favorite popular leader, was one of the zealous proselytes of
the new doctrines. Franz von Sickingen, a knight of celebrity, was
another who offered Luther shelter, if necessary, in his castles.

And now came a turning-point in Luther's career, the most dangerous
crisis he was to reach, and the one that needed the utmost courage and
most inflexible resolution to pass it in safety. It was that which has
become famous as the "Diet of Worms." Germany had gained a new emperor,
Charles V., under whose sceptre the empire of Charlemagne was in great
part restored, for his dominions included Germany, Spain, and the
Netherlands. This young monarch left Spain for Germany in 1521, and was
no sooner there than he called a great diet, to meet at Worms, that the
affairs of the empire might be regulated, and that in particular this
religious controversy, which was troubling the public mind, should be

Thither came the princes and potentates of the realm, thither great
dignitaries of the church, among them the pope's legate, Cardinal
Alexander, who was commissioned to demand that the emperor and the
princes should call Luther to a strict account, and employ against him
the temporal power. But to the cardinal's astonishment he found that the
people of Germany had largely seceded from the papal authority.
Everywhere he met with writings, songs, and pictures in which the holy
father was treated with contempt and mockery. Even himself, as the
pope's representative, was greeted with derision, and his life at times
was endangered, despite the fact that he came in the suite of the


The diet assembled, the cardinal, as instructed, demanded that severe
measures should be taken against the arch-heretic: the Elector of
Saxony, on the contrary, insisted that Luther should be heard in his own
defence; the emperor and the princes agreed with him, silencing the
cardinal's declaration that the diet had no right or power to question
the decision of the pope, and inviting Luther to appear before the
imperial assembly at Worms, the emperor granting him a safe-conduct.

Possibly Charles thought that the insignificant monk would fear to come
before that august body, and the matter thus die out. Luther's friends
strongly advised him not to go. They had the experience of John Huss to
offer as argument. But Luther was not the man to be stopped by dread of
dignitaries or fear of penalties. He immediately set out from Wittenberg
for Worms, saying to his protesting friends, "Though there were as many
devils in the city as there are tiles on the roofs, still I would go."

His journey was an ovation. The people flocked by thousands to greet and
applaud him. On his arrival at Worms two thousand people gathered and
accompanied him to his lodgings. When, on the next day, April 18, 1521,
the grand-marshal of the empire conducted him to the diet, he was
obliged to lead him across gardens and through by-ways to avoid the
throng that filled the streets of the town.

When entering the hall, he was clapped on the shoulder by a famous
knight and general of the empire, Georg von Frundsberg, who said, "Monk,
monk, thou art in a strait the like of which myself and many leaders, in
the most desperate battles, have never known. But if thy thoughts are
just, and thou art sure of thy cause, go on, in God's name; and be of
good cheer; He will not forsake thee."

Luther was not an imposing figure as he stood before the proud assembly
in the imperial hall. He had just recovered from a severe fever, and was
pale and emaciated. And standing there, unsupported by a single friend,
before that great assembly, his feelings were strongly excited. The
emperor remarked to his neighbor, "This man would never succeed in
making a heretic of _me_."

But though Luther's body was weak, his mind was strong. His air quickly
became calm and dignified. He was commanded to retract the charges he
had made against the church. In reply he acknowledged that the writings
produced were his own, and declared that he was not ready to retract
them, but said that "If they can convince me from the Holy Scriptures
that I am in error, I am ready with my own hands to cast the whole of my
writings into the flames."

The chancellor replied that what he demanded was retraction, not
dispute. This Luther refused to give. The emperor insisted on a simple
recantation, which Luther declared he could not make. For several days
the hearing continued, ending at length in the threatening declaration
of the emperor, that "he would no longer listen to Luther, but dismiss
him at once from his presence, and treat him as he would a heretic."

There was danger in this, the greatest danger. The emperor's word had
been given, it is true; but an emperor had broken his word with John
Huss, and his successor might with Martin Luther. Charles was, indeed,
importuned to do so, but replied that his imperial word was sacred, even
if given to a heretic, and that Luther should have an extension of the
safe-conduct for twenty-one days, during his return home.

Luther started home. It was a journey by no means free from danger. He
had powerful and unscrupulous enemies. He might be seized and carried
off by an ambush of his foes. How he was saved from peril of this sort
we have described. It was his friend and protector, Frederick, the
Elector of Saxony, who had placed the ambush of knights, his purpose
being to put Luther in a place of safety where he could lie concealed
until the feeling against him had subsided. Meanwhile, at Worms, when
the period of the safe-conduct had expired, Luther was declared out of
the ban of the empire, an outlaw whom no man was permitted to shelter,
his works were condemned to be burned wherever found, and he was
adjudged to be seized and held in durance subject to the will of the

What had become of the fugitive no one knew. The story spread that he
had been murdered by his enemies. For ten months he remained in
concealment and when he again appeared it was to combat a horde of
fanatical enthusiasts who had carried his doctrines to excess and were
stirring up all Germany by their wild opinions. The outbreak drew Luther
back to Wittenberg, where for eight days he preached with great
eloquence against the fanatics and finally succeeded in quelling the

From that time forward Luther continued the guiding spirit of the
Protestant revolt and was looked upon with high consideration by most of
the princes of Germany, his doctrines spreading until, during his
lifetime, they extended to Moravia, Bohemia, Denmark and Sweden. Then,
in 1546, he died at Eisleben, near the castle in which he had dwelt
during the most critical period of his life.


Solyman the Magnificent, Sultan of Turkey, had collected an army of
dimensions as magnificent as his name, and was on his march to overwhelm
Austria and perhaps subject all western Europe to his arms. A few years
before he had swept Hungary with his hordes, taken and plundered its
cities of Buda and Pesth, and made the whole region his own. Belgrade,
which had been so valiantly defended against his predecessor, had fallen
into his infidel hands. The gateways of western Europe were his; he had
but to open them and march through; doubtless there had come to him
glorious dreams of extending the empire of the crescent to the western
seas. And yet the proud and powerful sultan was to be checked in his
course by an obstacle seemingly as insignificant as if the sting of a
hornet should stop the career of an elephant. The story is a remarkable
one, and deserves to be better known.

Vast was the army which Solyman raised. He had been years in gathering
men and equipments. Great work lay before him, and he needed great means
for its accomplishment. It is said that three hundred thousand men
marched under his banners. So large was the force, so great the quantity
of its baggage and artillery, that its progress was necessarily a slow
one, and sixty days elapsed during its march from Constantinople to

Here was time for Ferdinand of Austria to bring together forces for the
defence of his dominions against the leviathan which was slowly moving
upon them. He made efforts, but they were not of the energetic sort
which the crisis demanded, and had the Turkish army been less unwieldly
and more rapid, Vienna might have fallen almost undefended into
Solyman's hands. Fortunately, large bodies move slowly, and the sultan
met with an obstacle that gave the requisite time for preparation.

On to Belgrade swept the grand army, with its multitude of standards and
all the pomp and glory of its vast array. The slowness with which it
came was due solely to its size, not in any sense to lack of energy in
the warlike sultan. An anecdote is extant which shows his manner of
dealing with difficulties. He had sent forward an engineer with orders
to build a bridge over the river Drave, to be constructed at a certain
point, and be ready at a certain time. The engineer went, surveyed the
rapid stream, and sent back answer to the sultan that it was impossible
to construct a bridge at that point.

But Solyman's was one of those magnificent souls that do not recognize
the impossible. He sent the messenger back to the engineer, in his hand
a linen cord, on his lips this message:

"Your master, the sultan, commands you, without consideration of the
difficulties, to complete the bridge over the Drave. If it be not ready
for him on his arrival, he will have you strangled with this cord."

The bridge was built. Solyman had learned the art of overcoming the
impossible. He was soon to have a lesson in the art of overcoming the

Belgrade was in due time reached. Here the sultan embarked his artillery
and heavy baggage on the Danube, three thousand vessels being employed
for that purpose. They were sent down the stream, under sufficient
escort, towards the Austrian capital, while the main army, lightened of
much of its load, prepared to march more expeditiously than heretofore
through Hungary towards its goal.

Ferdinand of Austria, alarmed at the threatening approach of the Turks,
had sent rich presents and proposals of peace to Solyman at Belgrade;
but those had the sole effect of increasing his pride and making him
more confidant of victory. He sent an insulting order to the ambassadors
to follow his encampment and await his pleasure, and paid no further
heed to their pacific mission.

The Save, an affluent of the Danube, was crossed, and the army lost
sight of the great stream, and laid its course by a direct route through
Sclavonia towards the borders of Styria, the outlying Austrian province
in that direction. It was the shortest line of march available, the
distance to be covered being about two hundred miles. On reaching the
Styrian frontier, the Illyrian mountain chain needed to be crossed, and
within it lay the obstacle with which Solyman had to contend.

The route of the army led through a mountain pass. In this pass was a
petty and obscure town, Guntz by name, badly fortified, and garrisoned
by a mere handful of men, eight hundred in all. Its principal means of
defence lay in the presence of an indomitable commander, Nicholas
Jurissitz, a man of iron nerve and fine military skill.

Ibrahim Pasha, who led the vanguard of the Turkish force, ordered the
occupation of this mountain fortress, and learned with anger and
mortification that Guntz had closed its gates and frowned defiance on
his men. Word was sent back to Solyman, who probably laughed in his
beard at the news. It was as if a fly had tried to stop an ox.

"Brush it away and push onward," was probably the tenor of his orders.

But Guntz was not to be brushed away. It stood there like an awkward
fact, its guns commanding the pass through which the army must march, a
ridiculous obstacle which had to be dealt with however time might press.

The sultan sent orders to his advance-guard to take the town and march
on. Ibrahim Pasha pushed forward, assailed it, and found that he had not
men enough for the work. The little town with its little garrison had
the temper of a shrew, and held its own against him valiantly. A few
more battalions were sent, but still the town held out. The sultan,
enraged at this opposition, now despatched what he considered an
overwhelming force, with orders to take the town without delay, and to
punish the garrison as they deserved for their foolish obstinacy. But
what was his surprise and fury to receive word that the pigmy still held
out stubbornly against the leviathan, that all their efforts to take it
were in vain, and that its guns commanded and swept the pass so that it
was impossible to advance under its storm of death-dealing balls.

Thundering vengeance, Solyman now ordered his whole army to advance,
sweep that insolent and annoying obstacle from the face of the earth,
and then march on towards the real goal of their enterprise, the still
distant city of Vienna, the capital and stronghold of the Christian

Upon Guntz burst the whole storm of the war, against Guntz it thundered,
around Guntz it lightened; yet still Guntz stood, proud, insolent,
defiant, like a rock in the midst of the sea, battered by the waves of
war's tempest, yet rising still in unyielding strength, and dashing back
the bloody spray which lashed its walls in vain.

Solyman's pride was roused. That town he must and would have. He might
have marched past it and left it in the rear, though not without great
loss and danger, for the pass was narrow and commanded by the guns of
Guntz, and he would have had to run the gantlet of a hailstorm of iron
balls. But he had no thought of passing it; his honor was involved.
Guntz must be his and its insolent garrison punished, or how could
Solyman the Magnificent ever hold up his head among monarchs and
conquerors again?

On every side the town was assailed; cannon surrounded it and poured
their balls upon its walls; they were planted on the hills in its rear;
they were planted on lofty mounds of earth which overtopped its walls
and roofs; from every direction they thundered threat; to every
direction Guntz thundered back defiance.

An attempt was made to undermine the walls, but in vain; the commandant,
Jurissitz, was far too vigilant to be reached by burrowing. Breach after
breach was made in the walls, and as quickly repaired, or new walls
built. Assault after assault was made and hurled back. Every effort was
baffled by the skill, vigor, and alertness of the governor and the
unyielding courage of his men, and still the days went by and still
Guntz stood.

Solyman, indignant and alarmed, tried the effect of promises, bribes,
and threats. Jurissitz and his garrison should be enriched if they
yielded; they should die under torture if they persisted. These efforts
proved as useless as cannon-balls. The indomitable Jurissitz resisted
promises and threats as energetically as he had resisted shot and balls.

The days went on. For twenty-eight days that insignificant fortress and
its handful of men defied the great Turkish army and held it back in
that mountain-pass. In the end the sultan, with all his pride and all
his force, was obliged to accept a feigned submission and leave
Jurissitz and his men still in possession of the fortress they had held
so long and so well.

They had held it long enough to save Austria, as it proved. While the
sultan's cannon were vainly bombarding its walls, Europe was gathering
around Vienna in defence. From every side troops hurried to the
salvation of Austria from the Turks. Italy, the Netherlands, Bohemia.
Poland, Germany, sent their quotas, till an army of one hundred and
thirty thousand men were gathered around Vienna, thirty thousand of them
being cavalry.

Solyman was appalled at the tidings brought him. It had become a
question of arithmetic to his barbarian intellect. If Guntz, with less
than a thousand men, could defy him for a month, what might not Vienna
do with more than a hundred thousand? Winter was not far away. It was
already September. He was separated from his flotilla of artillery. Was
it safe to advance? He answered the question by suddenly striking camp
and retreating with such haste that his marauding horsemen, who were out
in large numbers, were left in ignorance of the movement, and were
nearly all taken or cut to pieces.

Thus ingloriously ended one of the most pretentious invasions of Europe.
For three years Solyman had industriously prepared, gathering the
resources of his wide dominion to the task and fulminating infinite
disaster to the infidels. Yet eight hundred men in a petty mountain town
had brought this great enterprise to naught and sent back the mighty
army of the grand Turk in inglorious retreat.


The story of Guntz has few parallels in history; the courage and ability
of its commander were of the highest type of military worthiness; yet
its story is almost unknown and the name of Jurissitz is not classed
among those of the world's heroes. Such is fame.

There is another interesting story of the doings of Solyman and the
gallant defence of a Christian town, which is worthy of telling as an
appendix to that just given. The assault at Guntz took place in the year
1532. In 1566, when Solyman was much older, though perhaps not much
wiser, we find him at his old work, engaged in besieging the small
Hungarian town of Szigeth, west of Mohacs and north of the river Drave,
a stronghold surrounded by the small stream Almas almost as by the
waters of a lake. It was defended by a Croatian named Zrinyr and a
garrison of twenty-five hundred men.

Around this town the Turkish army raged and thundered in its usual
fashion. Within it the garrison defended themselves with all the spirit
and energy they could muster. Step by step the Turks advanced. The
outskirts of the town were destroyed by fire and the assailants were
within its walls. The town being no longer tenable, Zrinyr took refuge,
with what remained of the garrison, in the fortress, and still bade
defiance to his foes.

Solyman, impatient at the delay caused by the obstinacy of the defender,
tried with him the same tactics he had employed with Jurissitz many
years before,--those of threats and promises. Tempting offers of wealth
proving of no avail, the sultan threatened the bold commander with the
murder of his son George, a prisoner in his hands. This proved equally
unavailing, and the siege went on.

It went on, indeed, until Solyman was himself vanquished, and by an
enemy he had not taken into account in his thirst for glory--the grim
warrior Death. Temper killed him. In a fit of passion he suddenly died.
But the siege went on. The vizier concealed his death and kept the
batteries at work, perhaps deeming it best for his own fortunes to be
able to preface the announcement of the sultan's death with a victory.

The castle walls had been already crumbling under the storm of balls.
Soon they were in ruins. The place was no longer tenable. Yet Zrinyr was
as far as ever from thoughts of surrender. He dressed himself in his
most magnificent garments, filled his pockets with gold, "that they
might find something on his corpse," and dashed on the Turks at the head
of what soldiers were left. He died, but not unrevenged. Only after his
death was the Turkish army told that their great sultan was no more and
that they owed their victory to the shadow of the genius of Solyman the


Germany, in great part, under the leadership of Martin Luther, had
broken loose from the Church of Rome, the ball which he had set rolling
being kept in motion by other hands. The ideas of many of those who
followed him were full of the spirit of fanaticism. The pendulum of
religious thought, set in free swing, vibrated from the one extreme of
authority to the opposite extreme of license, going as far beyond Luther
as he had gone beyond Rome. There arose a sect to which was given the
name of Anabaptists, from its rejection of infant baptism, a sect with a
strange history, which it now falls to us to relate.

The new movement, indeed, was not confined to matters of religion. The
idea of freedom from authority once set afloat, quickly went further
than its advocates intended. If men were to have liberty of thought, why
should they not have liberty of action? So argued the peasantry, and not
without the best of reasons, for they were pitifully oppressed by the
nobility, weighed down with feudal exactions to support the luxury of
the higher classes, their crops destroyed by the horses and dogs of
hunting-parties, their families ill-treated and insulted by the
men-at-arms who were maintained at their expense, their flight from
tyranny to the freedom of the cities prohibited by nobles and citizens
alike, everywhere enslaved, everywhere despised, it is no wonder they
joined with gladness in the revolutionary sentiment and made a vigorous
demand for political liberty.

As a result of all this an insurrection broke out,--a double
insurrection in fact,--here of the peasantry for their rights, there of
the religious fanatics for their license. Suddenly all Germany was
upturned by the greatest and most dangerous outbreak of the laboring
classes it had ever known, a revolt which, had it been ably led, might
have revolutionized society and founded a completely new order of

In 1522 the standard of revolt was first raised, its signal a golden
shoe, with the motto, "Whoever will be free let him follow this ray of
light." In 1524 a fresh insurrection broke out, and in the spring of the
following year the whole country was aflame, the peasants of southern
Germany being everywhere in arms and marching on the strongholds of
their oppressors.

Their demands were by no means extreme. They asked for a board of
arbitration, to consist of the Archduke Ferdinand, the Elector of
Saxony, Luther, Melanchthon, and several preachers, to consider their
proposed articles of reform in industrial and political concerns. These
articles covered the following points. They asked the right to choose
their own pastors, who were to preach the word of God from the Bible;
the abolition of dues, except tithes to the clergy; the abolition of
vassalage; the rights of hunting and fishing, and of cutting wood in the
forests; reforms in rent, in the administration of justice, and in the
methods of application of the laws; the restoration of communal property
illegally seized; and several other matters of the same general

They asked in vain. The princes ridiculed the idea of a court in which
Luther should sit side by side with the archduke. Luther refused to
interfere. He admitted the oppression of the peasantry, severely
attacked the princes and nobility for their conduct, but deprecated the
excesses which the insurgents had already committed, and saw no safety
from worse evils except in putting down the peasantry with a strong

The rejection of the demands of the rebellious peasants was followed by
a frightful reign of license, political in the south, religious in the
north. Everywhere the people were in arms, destroying castles, burning
monasteries, and forcing numbers of the nobles to join them, under pain
of having their castles plundered and burned. The counts of Hohenlohe
were made to enter their ranks, and were told, "Brother Albert and
brother George, you are no longer lords but peasants, and we are the
lords of Hohenlohe." Other nobles were similarly treated. Various
Swabian nobles fled for safety, with their families and treasures, to
the city and castle of Weinsberg. The castle was stormed and taken, and
the nobles, seventy in number, were forced to run the gantlet between
two lines of men armed with spears, who stabbed them as they passed. It
was this deed that brought out a pamphlet from Luther, in which he
called on all the citizens of the empire to put down "the furious
peasantry, to strangle, to stab them, secretly and openly, as they can,
as one would kill a mad dog."

There was need for something to be done if Germany was to be saved from
a revolution. The numbers of the insurgents steadily increased. Many of
the cities were in league with them, several of the princes entered in
negotiation concerning their demands; in Thuringia the Anabaptists,
under the lead of a fanatical preacher named Thomas Münzer, were in full
revolt; in Saxony, Hesse, and lower Germany the peasantry were in arms;
there was much reason to fear that the insurgents and fanatics would
join their forces and pour like a rushing torrent through the whole
empire, destroying all before them. Of the many peasant revolts which
the history of mediævalism records this was the most threatening and
dangerous, and called for the most strenuous exertions to save the
institutions of Germany from a complete overthrow.

At the head of the main body of insurgents was a knight of notorious
character, the famed Goetz von Berlichingen,--Goetz with the Iron Hand,
as he is named,--a robber baron whose history had been one of feud and
contest, and of the plunder alike of armed foes and unarmed travellers.
Goethe has honored him by making him the hero of a drama, and the
peasantry sought to honor him by making him the leader of their march of
destruction. This worthy had lost his hand during youth, and replaced it
with a hand of iron. He was bold, daring, and unscrupulous, but scarcely
fitted for generalship, his knowledge of war being confined to the
tactics of highway robbery. Nor can it be said that his leadership of
the peasants was voluntary. He was as much their prisoner as their
general, his service being an enforced one.

With the redoubtable Goetz at their head the insurgents poured onward,
spreading terror before them, leaving ruin behind them. Castles and
monasteries were destroyed, until throughout Thuringia, Franconia,
Swabia, and along the Rhine as far as Lorraine the homes of lords and
clergy were destroyed, and a universal scene of smoking ruins replaced
the formerly stately architectural piles.

We cannot go further into the details of this notable outbreak. The
revolt of the southern peasantry was at length brought to an end by an
army collected by the Swabian league, and headed by George Truchsess of
Waldburg. Had they marched against him in force he could not have
withstood their onset. But they occupied themselves in sieges,
disregarding the advice of their leaders, and permitted themselves to be
attacked and beaten in detail. Seeing that all was at an end, Goetz von
Berlichingen secretly fled from their ranks and took refuge in his
castle. Many of the bodies of peasantry dispersed. Others made head
against the troops and were beaten with great slaughter. All was at an

Truchsess held a terrible court of justice in the city of Würzburg, in
which his jester Hans acted as executioner, and struck off the heads of
numbers of the prisoners, the bloody work being attended with laughter
and jests, which added doubly to its horror. All who acknowledged that
they had read the Bible, or even that they knew how to read and write,
were instantly beheaded. The priest of Schipf, a gouty old man who had
vigorously opposed the peasants, had himself carried by four of his men
to Truchsess to receive thanks for his services. Hans, fancying that he
was one of the rebels, slipped up behind him, and in an instant his head
was rolling on the floor.

"I seriously reproved my good Hans for his untoward jest," was the easy
comment of Truchsess upon this circumstance.

Throughout Germany similar slaughter of the peasantry and wholesale
executions took place. In many places the reprisal took the dimensions
of a massacre, and it is said that by the end of the frightful struggle
more than a hundred thousand of the peasants had been slain. As for its
political results, the survivors were reduced to a deeper state of
servitude than before. Thus ended a great struggle which had only needed
an able leader to make it a success and to free the people from feudal
bonds. It ended like all the peasant outbreaks, in defeat and renewed
oppression. As for the robber chief Goetz, while he is said by several
historians to have received a sentence of life imprisonment, Menzel
states that he was retained in prison for two years only.

In Thuringia, as we have said, the revolt was a religious one, it being
controlled by Thomas Münzer, a fanatical Anabaptist. He pretended that
he had the gift of receiving divine revelations, and claimed to be
better able to reveal Christian truth than Luther. God had created the
earth, he said, for believers, all government should be regulated by the
Bible and revelation, and there was no need of princes, priests, or
nobles. The distinction between rich and poor was unchristian, since in
God's kingdom all should be alike. Nicholas Storch, one of Münzer's
preachers, surrounded himself with twelve apostles and seventy-two
disciples, and claimed that an angel brought him divine messages.

Driven from Saxony by the influence of Luther, Münzer went to Thuringia,
and gained such control by his preaching and his doctrines over the
people of the town of Mülhausen that all the wealthy people were driven
away, their property confiscated, and the sole control of the place fell
into his hands.

So great was the disturbance caused by his fanatical teachings and the
exertions of his disciples that Luther again bestirred himself, and
called on the princes for the suppression of Münzer and his fanatical
horde. A division of the army was sent into Thuringia, and came up with
a large body of the Anabaptists near Frankenhausen, on May 15, 1525.
Münzer was in command of the peasants. The army officers, hoping to
bring them to terms by lenient measures, offered to pardon them if they
would give up their leaders and peacefully retire to their homes. This
offer might have been effective but for Münzer, who, foreseeing danger
to himself, did his utmost to awaken the fanaticism of his followers.

It happened that a rainbow appeared in the heavens during the
discussion. This, he declared, was a messenger sent to him from God. His
ignorant audience believed him, and for the moment were stirred up to a
mad enthusiasm which banished all thoughts of surrender. Rushing in
their fury on the ambassadors of peace and pardon, they stabbed them to
death, and then took shelter behind their intrenchments, where they
prepared for a vigorous defence.

Their courage, however, did not long endure the vigorous assault made by
the troops of the elector. In vain they looked for the host of angels
which Münzer had promised would come to their aid. Not the glimpse of an
angel's wing appeared in the sky. Münzer himself took to flight, and his
infatuated followers, their blind courage vanished, fell an easy prey to
the swords of the soldiers.

The greater part of the peasant horde were slain, while Münzer, who had
concealed himself from pursuit in the loft of a house in Frankenhausen,
was quickly discovered, dragged forth, put to the rack, and beheaded,
his death putting an end to that first phase of the Anabaptist outbreak.

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES AT MÜNSTER.]

After this event, several years passed during which the Anabaptists kept
quiet, though their sect increased. Then came one of the most remarkable
religious revolts which history records. Persecution in Germany had
caused many of the new sectarians to emigrate to the Netherlands, where
their preachings were effective, and many new members were gained. But
the persecution instigated by Charles V. against heretics in the
Netherlands fell heavily upon them and gave rise to a new emigration,
great numbers of the Anabaptists now seeking the town of Münster, the
capital of Westphalia. The citizens of this town had expelled their
bishop, and had in consequence been treated with great severity by
Luther, in his effort to keep the cause of religious reform separate
from politics. The new-comers were received with enthusiasm, and the
people of Münster quickly fell under the influence of two of their
fanatical preachers, John Matthiesen, a baker, of Harlem, and John
Bockhold, or Bockelson, a tailor, of Leyden.

Münster soon became the seat of an extraordinary outburst of profligacy,
fanaticism, and folly. The Anabaptists took possession of the town,
drove out all its wealthy citizens, elected two of themselves--a
clothier named Knipperdolling and one Krechting--as burgomasters, and
started off in a remarkable career of self-government under Anabaptist

A community of property was the first measure inaugurated. Every person
was required to deposit all his possessions, in gold, silver, and other
articles of value, in a public treasury, which fell under the control of
Bockelson, who soon made himself lord of the city. All the images,
pictures, ornaments, and books of the churches, except their Bibles,
were publicly burned. All persons were obliged to eat together at public
tables, all made to work according to their strength and without regard
to their former station, and a general condition of communism was
established. Bockelson gave himself out as a prophet, and quickly gained
such influence over the people that they were ready to support him in
the utmost excesses of folly and profligacy.

One of the earliest steps taken was to authorize each man to possess
several wives, the number of women who had sought Münster being six
times greater than the men. John Bockelson set the example by marrying
three at once. His licentious example was quickly followed by others,
and for a full year the town continued a scene of unbridled profligacy
and mad license. One of John's partisans, claiming to have received a
divine communication, saluted him as monarch of the whole globe, the
"King of Righteousness," his title of royalty being "John of Leyden,"
and declared that heaven had chosen him to restore the throne of David.
Twenty-eight apostles were selected and sent out, charged to preach the
new gospel to the whole earth and to bring its inhabitants to
acknowledge the divinely-commissioned king. Their success was not
great, however. Wherever they came they were seized and immediately
executed, the earth showing itself very unwilling to accept John of
Leyden as its king.

In August, 1534, an army, led by Francis of Waldeck, the expelled
bishop, who was supported by the landgrave of Hesse and several other
princes, advanced and laid siege to the city, which the Anabaptists
defended with furious zeal. In the first assault, which was made on
August 30, the assailants were repulsed with severe loss. They then
settled down to the slower but safer process of siege, considering it
easier to starve out than to fight out their enthusiastic opponents.

One of the two leaders of the citizens, John Matthiesen, made a sortie
against the troops with only thirty followers, filled with the idea that
he was a second Gideon, and that God would come to his aid to defeat the
oppressors of His chosen people. The aid expected did not come, and
Matthiesen and his followers were all cut down. His death left John of
Leyden supreme. He claimed absolute authority in the new "Zion,"
received daily fresh visions from heaven, which his followers implicitly
believed and obeyed, and indulged in wild excesses which only the insane
enthusiasm of his followers kept them from viewing with disgust. Among
his mad freaks was that of running around the streets naked, shouting,
"The King of Zion is come." His lieutenant Knipperdolling, not to be
outdone in fanaticism, followed his example, shouting, "Every high place
shall be brought low." Immediately the mob assailed the churches and
pulled down all the steeples. Those who ventured to resist the monarch's
decrees were summarily dealt with, the block and axe, with
Knipperdolling as headsman, quickly disposing of all doubters and

Such was the doom of Elizabeth, one of the prophet's wives, who declared
that she could not believe that God had condemned so many people to die
of hunger while their king was living in abundance. John beheaded her
with his own hands in the market-place, and then, in insane frenzy,
danced around her body in company with his other wives. Her loss was
speedily repaired. The angels were kept busy in picking out new wives
for the inspired tailor, till in the end he had seventeen in all, one of
whom, Divara by name, gained great influence by her spirit and beauty.

While all this was going on within the city, the army of besiegers lay
encamped about it, waiting patiently till famine should subdue the
stubborn courage of the citizens. Numbers of nobles flocked thither by
way of pastime, in the absence of any other wars to engage their
attention. Nor were the citizens without aid from a distance. Parties of
their brethren from Holland and Friesland sought to relieve them, but in
vain. All their attempts were repelled, and the siege grew straiter than

The defence from within was stubborn, women and boys being enlisted in
the service. The boys stood between the men and fired arrows effectively
at the besiegers. The women poured lime and melted pitch upon their
heads. So obstinate was the resistance that the city might have held out
for years but for the pinch of famine. The effect of this was
temporarily obviated by driving all the old men and the women who could
be spared beyond the walls; but despite this the grim figure of
starvation came daily nearer and nearer, and the day of surrender or
death steadily approached.

A year at length went by, the famine growing in virulence with the
passing of the days. Hundreds perished of starvation, yet still the
people held out with a fanatical courage that defied assault, still
their king kept up their courage by divine revelations, and still he
contrived to keep himself sufficiently supplied with food amid his
starving dupes.

At length the end came. Some of the despairing citizens betrayed the
town by night to the enemy. On the night of June 25, 1535, two of them
opened the gates to the bishop's army, and a sanguinary scene ensued.
The betrayed citizens defended themselves desperately, and were not
vanquished until great numbers of them had fallen and the work of famine
had been largely completed by the sword. John of Leyden was made
prisoner, together with his two chief men,--Knipperdolling, his
executioner, and Krechting, his chancellor,--they being reserved for a
slower and more painful fate.

For six months they were carried through Germany, enclosed in iron
cages, and exhibited as monsters to the people. Then they were taken
back to Münster, where they were cruelly tortured, and at length put to
death by piercing their hearts with red-hot daggers.

Their bodies were placed in iron cages, and suspended on the front of
the church of St. Lambert, in the market-place of Münster, while the
Catholic worship was re-established in that city. The cages, and the
instruments of torture, are still preserved, probably as salutary
examples to fanatics, or as interesting mementos of Münster's past

The Münster madness was the end of trouble with the Anabaptists. They
continued to exist, in a quieter fashion, some of them that fled from
persecution in Germany and Holland finding themselves exposed to almost
as severe a persecution in England. As a sect they have long since
vanished, while the only trace of their influence is to be seen in those
recent sects that hold the doctrine of adult baptism.

The history of mankind presents no parallel tale to that we have told.
It was an instance of insanity placed in power, of lunacy ruling over
ignorance and fanaticism; and the doings of John of Leyden in Münster
may be presented as an example alike of the mad extremes to which
unquestioned power is apt to lead, and the vast capabilities of faith
and trust which exist in uneducated man.


[Illustration: WALLENSTEIN.]

Wallenstein was in power, Wallenstein the mysterious, the ambitious, the
victorious; soldier of fortune and arbiter of empires; reader of the
stars and ally of the powers of darkness; poor by birth and rich by
marriage and imperial favor; an extraordinary man, surrounded by mystery
and silence, victorious through ability and audacity, rising from
obscurity to be master of the emperor, and falling at length by the hand
of assassination. In person he was tall and thin, in countenance sallow
and lowering, his eyes small and piercing, his forehead high and
commanding, his hair short and bristling, his expression dark and
sinister. Fortune was his deity, ambition ruled him with the sway of a
tyrant; he was born with the conquering instinct, and in the end handed
over all Germany, bound and captive, to his imperial master, and retired
to brood new conquests.

Albert von Wallenstein was Bohemian by birth, Prague being his native
city. His parents were Lutherans, but they died, and he was educated as
a Catholic. He travelled with an astrologer, and was taught cabalistic
lore and the secrets of the stars, which he ever after believed to
control his destiny. His fortune began in his marriage to an aged but
very wealthy widow, who almost put an end to his career by
administering to him a love-potion. He had already served in the army,
fought against the Turks in Hungary, and with his wife's money raised a
regiment for the wars in Bohemia. A second marriage with a rich countess
added to his wealth; he purchased, at a fifth of their value, about
sixty estates of the exiled Bohemian nobility, and paid for them in
debased coin; the emperor, in recognition of his services, made him Duke
of Friedland, in which alone there were nine towns and fifty-seven
castles and villages; his wealth, through these marriages, purchases,
and gifts, steadily increased till he became enormously rich, and the
wealthiest man in Germany, next to the emperor.

This extraordinary man was born in an extraordinary time, a period
admirably calculated for the exercise of his talents, and sadly suited
to the suffering of mankind in consequence. It was the period of the
frightful conflict known as the Thirty Years' War. A century had passed
since the Diet of Worms, in which Protestantism first boldly lifted its
head against Catholicism. During that period the new religious doctrines
had gained a firm footing in Germany. Charles V. had done his utmost to
put them down, and, discouraged by his failure, had abdicated the
throne. In his retreat he is said to have amused his leisure in seeking
to make two watches go precisely alike. The effort proved as vain as
that to make two people think alike, and he exclaimed, "Not even two
watches, with similar works, can I make to agree, and yet, fool that I
was, I thought I should be able to control like the works of a watch
different nations, living under diverse skies, in different climes, and
speaking varied languages." Those who followed him were to meet with a
similar result.

The second effort to put down Protestantism by arms began in 1618, and
led to that frightful outbreak of human virulence, the Thirty Years'
War, which made Germany a desert, but left religion as it found it. The
emperor, Ferdinand II., a rigid Catholic, bitterly opposed to the spread
of Protestantism, had ordered the demolition of two new churches built
by the Bohemian Protestants. His order led to instant hostilities. Count
Thurn, a fierce Bohemian nobleman, had the emperor's representatives,
Slawata and Martinitz by name, flung out of the window of the
council-chamber in Prague, a height of seventy or more feet, and their
secretary Fabricius flung after them. It was a terrible fall, but they
escaped, for a pile of litter and old papers lay below. Fabricius fell
on Martinitz, and, polite to the last, begged his pardon for coming down
upon him so rudely. This act of violence, which occurred on May 23,
1618, is looked upon as the true beginning of the dreadful war.

Matters moved rapidly. Bohemia was conquered by the imperial armies, its
nobles exiled or executed, its religion suppressed. This victory gained,
an effort was made to suppress Lutheranism in Upper Austria. It led to a
revolt, and soon the whole country was in a flame of war. Tilly and
Pappenheim, the imperial commanders, swept all before them, until they
suddenly found themselves opposed by a man their equal in ability, Count
Mansfeld, who had played an active part in the Bohemian wars.

A diminutive, deformed, sickly-looking man was Mansfeld, but he had the
soul of a soldier in his small frame. No sooner was his standard raised
than the Protestants flocked to it, and he quickly found himself at the
head of twenty thousand men. But as the powerful princes failed to
support him he was compelled to subsist his troops by pillage, an
example which was followed by all the leaders during that dreadful

And now began a frightful struggle, a game of war on the chess-board of
a nation, in which the people were the helpless pawns and suffered alike
from friends and foes. Neither side gained any decisive victory, but
both sides plundered and ravaged, the savage soldiery, unrestrained and
unrestrainable, committing cruel excesses wherever they came.

Such was the state of affairs which preceded the appearance of
Wallenstein on the field of action. The soldiers led by Tilly were those
of the Catholic League; Ferdinand, the emperor, had no troops of his own
in the field; Wallenstein, discontented that the war should be going on
without him, offered to raise an imperial army, paying the most of its
expenses himself, but stipulating, in return, that he should have
unlimited control. The emperor granted all his demands, and made him
Duke of Friedland as a preliminary reward, Wallenstein agreeing to raise
ten thousand men.

No sooner was his standard raised than crowds flocked to it, and an army
of forty thousand soldiers of fortune were soon ready to follow him to
plunder and victory. His fame as a soldier, and the free pillage which
he promised, had proved irresistible inducements to war-loving
adventurers of all nations and creeds. In a few months the army was
raised and fully equipped, and in the autumn of 1625 took the field,
growing as it marched.

Christian IV., the Lutheran king of Denmark, had joined in the war, and
Tilly, jealous of Wallenstein, vigorously sought to overcome his new
adversaries before his rival could reach the field of conflict. He
succeeded, too, in great measure, reducing many of the Protestant towns
and routing the army of the Danish king.

Meanwhile, Wallenstein came on, his army growing until sixty thousand
men--a wild and undisciplined horde--followed his banners. Mansfeld, who
had received reinforcements from England and Holland, opposed him, but
was too weak to face him successfully in the field. He was defeated on
the bridge of Dessau, and marched rapidly into Silesia, whither
Wallenstein, much to his chagrin, was compelled to follow him.

From Silesia, Mansfeld marched into Hungary, still pursued by
Wallenstein. Here he was badly received, because he had not brought the
money expected by the king. His retreat cut off, and without the means
of procuring supplies in that remote country, the valiant warrior found
himself at the end of his resources. Return was impossible, for
Wallenstein occupied the roads. In the end he was forced to sell his
artillery and ammunition, disband his army, and proceed southward
towards Venice, whence he hoped to reach England and procure a new
supply of funds. But on arriving at the village of Urakowitz, in Bosnia,
his strength, worn out by incessant struggles and fatigues, gave way,
and the noble warrior, the last hope of Protestantism in Germany, as it
seemed, breathed his last, a disheartened fugitive.

On feeling the approach of death, he had himself clothed in his military
coat, and his sword buckled to his side. Thus equipped, and standing
between two friends, who supported him upright, the brave Mansfeld
breathed his last. His death left his cause almost without a supporter,
for the same year his friend, Duke Christian of Brunswick, expired, and
with them the Protestants lost their only able leaders; King Christian
of Denmark, their principal successor, being greatly wanting in the
requisites of military genius.

Ferdinand seemed triumphant and the cause of his opponents lost. All
opposition, for the time, was at an end. Tilly, whose purposes were the
complete restoration of Catholicism in Germany, held the provinces
conquered by him with an iron hand. Wallenstein, who seemingly had in
view the weakening of the power of the League and the raising of the
emperor to absolutism, broke down all opposition before his irresistible

His army had gradually increased till it numbered one hundred thousand
men,--a host which it cost him nothing to support, for it subsisted on
the devastated country. He advanced through Silesia, driving all his
enemies before him; marched into Holstein, in order to force the King of
Denmark to leave Germany; invaded and devastated Jutland and Silesia;
and added to his immense estate the duchy of Sagan and the whole of
Mecklenburg, which latter was given him by the emperor in payment of his
share of the expenses of the war. This raised him to the rank of prince.
As for Denmark, he proposed to get rid of its king and have Ferdinand
elected in his stead.

The career of this incomprehensible man had been strangely successful.
Not a shadow of reverse had met him. What he really intended no one
knew. As his enemies decreased he increased his forces. Was it the
absolutism of the emperor or of himself that he sought? Several of the
princes appealed to Ferdinand to relieve their dominions from the
oppressive burden of war, but the emperor was weaker than his general,
and dared not act against him. The whole of north Germany lay prostrate
beneath the powerful warrior, and obeyed his slightest nod. He lived in
a style of pomp and ostentation far beyond that of the emperor himself.
His officers imitated him in extravagance. Even his soldiers lived in
luxury. To support this lavish display many thousands of human beings
languished in misery, starvation threatened whole provinces, and
destitution everywhere prevailed.

From Mecklenburg, Wallenstein fixed his ambitious eyes on Pomerania,
which territory he grew desirous of adding to his dominions. Here was an
important commercial city, Stralsund, a member of the Hanseatic League,
and one which enjoyed the privilege of self-government. It had
contributed freely to the expenses of the imperial army, but
Wallenstein, in furtherance of his designs upon Pomerania, now
determined to place in it a garrison of his own troops.

This was an interference with their vested rights which roused the wrath
of the citizens of Stralsund. They refused to receive the troops sent
them: Wallenstein, incensed, determined to teach the insolent burghers a
lesson, and bade General Arnim to march against and lay siege to the
place, doubting not that it would be quickly at his mercy.

He was destined to a disappointment. Stralsund was to put the first
check upon his uniformly successful career. The citizens defended their
walls with obstinate courage. Troops, ammunition, and provisions were
sent them from Denmark and Sweden, and they continued to oppose a
successful resistance to every effort to reduce them.

This unlooked for perversity of the Stralsunders filled the soul of
Wallenstein with rage. It seemed to him unexampled insolence that these
merchants should dare defy his conquering troops. "Even if this
Stralsund be linked by chains to the very heavens above," he declared,
"still I swear it shall fall!"

He advanced in person against the city and assailed it with his whole
army, bringing all the resources at his command to bear against its
walls. But with heroic courage the citizens held their own. Weeks
passed, while he continued to thunder upon it with shot and shell. The
Stralsunders thundered back. His most furious assaults were met by them
with a desperate valor which in time left his ranks twelve thousand men
short. In the end, to his unutterable chagrin, he was forced to raise
the siege and march away, leaving the valiant burghers lords of their

The war now seemingly came to its conclusion. The King of Denmark asked
for peace, which the emperor granted, and terms were signed at Lübeck on
May 12, 1629. The contest was, for the time being, at an end, for there
was no longer any one to oppose the emperor. For twelve years it had
continued, its ravages turning rich provinces into deserts, and making
beggars and fugitives of wealthy citizens. The opposition of the
Protestants was at an end, and there were but two disturbing elements of
the seemingly pacific situation.

One of these was the purpose which the Catholic party soon showed to
suppress Protestantism and bring what they considered the heretical
provinces again under the dominion of the pope. The other was the army
of Wallenstein, whose intolerable tyranny over friends and foes alike
had now passed the bounds of endurance. From all sides complaints
reached the emperor's ears, charges of pillage, burnings, outrages, and
shameful oppressions of every sort inflicted by the imperial troops upon
the inhabitants of the land. So many were the complaints that it was
impossible to disregard them. The whole body of princes--every one of
whom cordially hated Wallenstein--joined in the outcry, and in the end
Ferdinand, with some hesitation, yielded to their wishes, and bade the
general to disband his forces.

Would he obey? That was next to be seen. The mighty chief was in a
position to defy princes and emperor if he chose. The plundering bands
who followed him were his own, not the emperor's soldiers; they knew but
one master and were ready to obey his slightest word; had he given the
order to advance upon Vienna and drive the emperor himself from his
throne, there is no question but that they would have obeyed. As may be
imagined, then, the response of Wallenstein was awaited in fear and
anxiety. Should ambition counsel him to revolution, the very foundations
of the empire might be shaken. What, then, was the delight of princes
and people when word came that he had accepted the emperor's command
without a word, and at once ordered the disbanding of his troops.

The stars were perhaps responsible for this. Astrology was his passion,
and the planetary conjunctions seemed then to be in favor of submission.
The man was superstitious, with all his clear-sighted ability, and
permitted himself to be governed by influences which have long since
lost their force upon men's minds.

"I do not complain against or reproach the emperor," he said to the
imperial deputies; "the stars have already indicated to me that the
spirit of the Elector of Bavaria holds sway in the imperial councils.
But his majesty, in dismissing his troops, is rejecting the most
precious jewel of his crown."

The event which we have described took place in September, 1630.
Wallenstein, having paid off and dispersed his great army to the four
winds, retired to his duchy of Friedland, and took up his residence at
Gitschen, which had been much enlarged and beautified by his orders.
Here he quietly waited and observed the progress of events.

He had much of interest to observe. The effort of Ferdinand and his
advisers to drive Protestantism out of Germany had produced an effect
which none of them anticipated. The war, which had seemed at an end, was
quickly afoot again, with a new leader of the Protestant cause, new
armies, and new fortunes. Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, had come to
the rescue of his threatened fellow-believers, and before the army of
Wallenstein had been dissolved the work of the peace-makers was set
aside, and the horrors of war returned.

The dismissed general had now left Gitschen for Bohemia, where he dwelt
upon his estates in a style of regal luxury, and in apparent disregard
of the doings of emperors and kings. His palace in Prague was royal in
its adornments, and while his enemies were congratulating themselves on
having forced him into retirement, he had Italian artists at work
painting on the walls of this palace his figure in the character of a
conqueror, his triumphal car drawn by four milk-white steeds, while a
star shone above his laurel-crowned head. Sixty pages, of noble birth,
richly attired in blue and gold velvet, waited upon him, while some of
his officers and chamberlains had served the emperor in the same rank.
In his magnificent stables were three hundred horses of choice breeds,
while the daily gathering of distinguished men in his halls was not
surpassed by the assemblies of the emperor himself.

Yet in his demeanor there was nothing to show that he entertained a
shadow of his former ambition. He affected the utmost ease and
tranquillity of manner, and seemed as if fully content with his present
state, and as if he cared no longer who fought the wars of the world.

But inwardly his ambition had in no sense declined. He beheld the
progress of the Swedish conqueror with secret joy, and when he saw Tilly
overthrown at Leipsic, and the fruits of twelve years of war wrested
from the emperor at a single blow, his heart throbbed high with hope.
His hour of revenge upon the emperor had come. Ferdinand must humiliate
himself and come for aid to his dismissed general, for there was not
another man in the kingdom capable of saving it from the triumphant foe.

He was right. The emperor's deputies came. He was requested, begged, to
head again the imperial armies. He received the envoys coldly. Urgent
persuasions were needed to induce him to raise an army of thirty
thousand men. Even then he would not agree to take command of it. He
would raise it and put it at the emperor's disposal.

He planted his standard; the men came; many of them his old followers.
Plenty and plunder were promised, and thousands flocked to his tents. By
March of 1632 the thirty thousand men were collected. Who should command
them? There was but one, and this the emperor and Wallenstein alike
knew. They would follow only the man to whose banner they had flocked.

The emperor begged him to take command. He consented, but only on
conditions to which an emperor has rarely agreed. Wallenstein was to
have exclusive control of the army, without interference of any kind,
was to be given irresponsible control over all the provinces he might
conquer, was to hold as security a portion of the Austrian patrimonial
estates, and after the war might choose any of the hereditary estates of
the empire for his seat of retirement. The emperor acceded, and
Wallenstein, clothed with almost imperial power, marched to war. His
subsequent fortunes the next narrative must declare.


Two armies faced each other in central Bavaria, two armies on which the
fate of Germany depended, those of Gustavus Adolphus, the right hand of
Protestantism, and of Wallenstein, the hope of Catholic imperialism.
Gustavus was strongly intrenched in the vicinity of Nuremberg, with an
army of but sixteen thousand men. Wallenstein faced him with an army of
sixty thousand, yet dared not attack him in his strong position. He
occupied himself in efforts to make his camp as impregnable as that of
his foeman, and the two great opponents lay waiting face to face, while
famine slowly decimated their ranks.

It was an extraordinary position. Both sides depended for food on
foraging, and between them they had swept the country clean. The
peasantry fled in every direction from Wallenstein's pillaging troops,
who destroyed all that they could not carry away. It had become a
question with the two armies which could starve the longest, and for
three months they lay encamped, each waiting until famine should drive
the other out. Surely such a situation had never before been known.

What had preceded this event? A few words will tell. Ferdinand the
emperor had, with the aid of Tilly and Wallenstein, laid all Germany
prostrate at his feet. Ferdinand the zealot had, by this effort to
impose Catholicism on the Protestant states, speedily undone the work of
his generals, and set the war on foot again. Gustavus Adolphus, the hero
of Sweden, had come to the aid of the oppressed Protestants of Germany,
borne down all before him, and quickly won back northern Germany from
the oppressor's hands.

And now the cruelty of that savage war reached its culminating point.
When Germany submitted to the emperor, one city did not submit.
Magdeburg still held out. All efforts to subdue it proved fruitless, and
it continued free and defiant when all the remainder of Germany lay
under the emperor's control.

It was to pay dearly for the courage of its citizens. When the war broke
out again, Magdeburg was besieged by Tilly with his whole force. After a
most valiant defence it was taken by storm, and a scene of massacre and
ruin followed without a parallel in modern wars. When it ended,
Magdeburg was no more. Of its buildings all were gone, except the
cathedral and one hundred and thirty-seven houses. Of its inhabitants
all had perished, except some four thousand who had taken refuge in the
cathedral. Man, woman, and child, the sword had slain them all, Tilly
being in considerable measure responsible for the massacre, for he was
dilatory in ordering its cessation. When at length he did act there was
little to save. All Europe thrilled with horror at the dreadful news,
and from that day forward fortune fled from the banners of Count Tilly.

On September 7, 1631, the armies of Gustavus and Tilly met at Leipsic,
and a terrible battle ensued, in which the imperialists were completely
defeated and all the fruits of their former victories torn from their
hands. In the following year Tilly had his thigh shattered by a
cannon-ball at the battle of the Lech, and died in excruciating agonies.

Such were the preludes to the scene we have described. The Lutheran
princes everywhere joined the victorious Gustavus; Austria itself was
threatened by his irresistible arms; and the emperor, in despair, called
Wallenstein again to the command, yielding to the most extreme demands
of this imperious chief.

The next scene was that we have described, in which the armies of
Gustavus and Wallenstein lay face to face at Nuremberg, each waiting
until starvation should force the other to fight or to retreat.

Gustavus had sent for reinforcements, and his army steadily grew. That
of Wallenstein dwindled away under the assaults of famine and
pestilence. A large convoy of provisions intended for Wallenstein was
seized by the Swedes. Soon afterwards Gustavus was so strongly
reinforced that his army grew to seventy thousand men. At his back lay
Nuremberg, his faithful ally, ready to aid him with thirty thousand
fighting men besides. As his force grew that of Wallenstein shrank,
until by the end of the siege pestilence and want had reduced his army
to twenty-four thousand men.

The Swedes were the first to yield in this game of starvation. As their
numbers grew their wants increased, and at length, furious with famine,
they made a desperate assault upon the imperial camp. They were driven
back, with heavy loss. Two weeks more Gustavus waited, and then,
despairing of drawing his opponent from his works, he broke camp and
marched with sounding trumpets past his adversary's camp, who quietly
let him go. The Swedes had lost twenty thousand men, and Nuremberg ten
thousand of her inhabitants, during this period of hunger and slaughter.

This was in September, 1632. In November of the same year the two armies
met again, on the plain of Lützen, in Saxony, not far from the scene of
Tilly's defeat, a year before. Wallenstein, on the retreat of Gustavus,
had set fire to his own encampment and marched away, burning the
villages around Nuremberg and wasting the country as he advanced, with
Saxony as his goal. Gustavus, who had at first marched southward into
the Catholic states, hastened to the relief of his allies. On the 15th
of November the two great opponents came once more face to face,
prepared to stake the cause of religious freedom in Germany on the issue
of battle.

Early in the morning of the 16th Gustavus marshalled his forces,
determined that that day should settle the question of victory or
defeat. Wallenstein had weakened his ranks by sending Count Pappenheim
south on siege duty, and the Swedish king, without waiting for
reinforcements, decided on an instant attack.

Unluckily for him the morning dawned in fog. The entire plain lay
shrouded. It was not until after eleven o'clock that the mist rose and
the sun shone on the plain. During this interval Count Pappenheim, for
whom Wallenstein had sent in haste the day before, was speeding north by
forced marches, and through the chance of the fog was enabled to reach
the field while the battle was at its height.

The troops were drawn up in battle array, the Swedes singing to the
accompaniment of drums and trumpets Luther's stirring hymn, and an ode
composed by the king himself: "Fear not, thou little flock." They were
strongly contrasted with the army of their foe, being distinguished by
the absence of armor, light colored (chiefly blue) uniforms, quickness
of motion, exactness of discipline, and the lightness of their
artillery. The imperialists, on the contrary, wore old-fashioned,
close-fitting uniforms, mostly yellow in color, cuirasses, thigh-pieces,
and helmets, and were marked by slow movements, absence of discipline,
and the heaviness and unmanageable character of their artillery. The
battle was to be, to some extent, a test of excellence between the new
and the old ideas in war.

At length the fog rose and the sun broke out, and both sides made ready
for the struggle. Wallenstein, though suffering from a severe attack of
his persistent enemy, the gout, mounted his horse and prepared his
troops for the assault. His infantry were drawn up in squares, with the
cavalry on their flanks, in front a ditch defended by artillery. His
purpose was defensive, that of Gustavus offensive. The Swedish king
mounted in his turn, placed himself at the head of his right wing, and,
brandishing his sword, exclaimed, "Now, onward! May our God direct us!
Lord! Lord! help me this day to fight for the glory of Thy name!" Then,
throwing aside his cuirass, which annoyed him on account of a slight
wound he had recently received, he cried, "God is my shield!" and led
his men in a furious charge upon the cannon-guarded ditch.

The guns belched forth their deadly thunders, many fell, but the
remainder broke irresistibly over the defences and seized the battery,
driving the imperialists back in disorder. The cavalry, which had
charged the black cuirassiers of Wallenstein, was less successful. They
were repulsed, and the cuirassiers fiercely charged the Swedish infantry
in flank, driving it back beyond the trenches.

This repulse brought on the great disaster of the day. Gustavus, seeing
his infantry driven back, hastened to their aid with a troop of horse,
and through the disorder of the field became separated from his men,
only a few of whom accompanied him, among them Francis, Duke of
Saxe-Lauenburg. His short-sightedness, or the foggy condition of the
atmosphere, unluckily brought him too near a party of the black
cuirassiers, and in an instant a shot struck him, breaking his left arm.

"I am wounded; take me off the field," he said to the Duke of Lauenburg,
and turned his horse to retire from the perilous vicinity.

As he did so a second ball struck him in the back. "My God! My God!" he
exclaimed, falling from the saddle, while his horse, which had been
wounded in the neck, dashed away, dragging the king, whose foot was
entangled in the stirrup, for some distance.

The duke fled, but Luchau, the master of the royal horse, shot the
officer who had wounded the king. The cuirassiers advanced, while
Leubelfing, the king's page, a boy of eighteen, who had alone remained
with him, was endeavoring to raise him up.

"Who is he?" they asked.

The boy refused to tell, and was shot and mortally wounded.

"I am the King of Sweden!" Gustavus is said to have exclaimed to his
foes, who had surrounded and were stripping him.

On hearing this they sought to carry him off, but a charge of the
Swedish cavalry at that moment drove them from their prey. As they
retired they discharged their weapons at the helpless king, one of the
cuirassiers shooting him through the head as he rushed past his
prostrate form.

The sight of the king's charger, covered with blood, and galloping with
empty saddle past their ranks, told the Swedes the story of the
disastrous event. The news spread rapidly from rank to rank, carrying
alarm wherever it came. Some of the generals wished to retreat, but Duke
Bernhard of Weimar put himself at the head of a regiment, ran its
colonel through for refusing to obey him, and called on them to follow
him to revenge their king.

His ardent appeal stirred the troops to new enthusiasm. Regardless of a
shot that carried away his hat, Bernhard charged at their head, broke
over the trenches and into the battery, retook the guns, and drove the
imperial troops back in confusion, regaining all the successes of the
first assault.

The day seemed won. It would have been but for the fresh forces of
Pappenheim, who had some time before reached the field, only to fall
before the bullets of the foe. His men took an active part in the fray,
and swept backward the tide of war. The Swedes were again driven from
the battery and across the ditch, with heavy loss, and the imperialists
regained the pivotal point of the obstinate struggle.

But now the reserve corps of the Swedes, led by Kniphausen, came into
action, and once more the state of the battle was reversed. They charged
across the ditch with such irresistible force that the position was for
the third time taken, and the imperialists again driven back. This ended
the desperate contest. Wallenstein ordered the retreat to be sounded.
The dead Gustavus had won the victory.

A thick fog came on as night fell and prevented pursuit, even if the
weariness of the Swedes would have allowed it. They held the field,
while Wallenstein hastened away, his direction of retreat being towards
Bohemia. The Swedes had won and lost, for the death of Gustavus was
equivalent to a defeat, and the emperor, with unseemly rejoicing,
ordered a Te Deum to be sung in all his cities.

On the following day the Swedes sought for the body of their king. They
found it by a great stone, which is still known as the Swedish stone. It
had been so trampled by the hoofs of charging horses, and was so covered
with blood from its many wounds, that it was difficult to recognize. The
collar, saturated with blood, which had fallen into the hands of the
cuirassiers, was taken to Vienna and presented to the emperor, who is
said to have shed tears on seeing it. The corpse was laid in state
before the Swedish army, and was finally removed to Stockholm, where it
was interred.

Thus perished one of the great souls of Europe, a man stirred deeply by
ambition, full of hopes greater than he himself acknowledged, a military
hero of the first rank, and one disposed to prosecute war with a
humanity far in advance of his age. He severely repressed all excesses
of his soldiery, was solicitous for the security of citizens and
peasantry, and strictly forbade any revengeful reprisals on Catholic
cities for the frightful work done by his opponents upon the
Protestants. Seldom has a conqueror shown such magnanimity and nobility
of sentiment, and his untimely death had much to do with exposing
Germany to the later desolation of that most frightful of religious

His defeated foe, Wallenstein, was not long to survive him. After his
defeat he acted in a manner that gave rise to suspicions that he
intended to play false to the emperor. He executed many of his officers
and soldiers in revenge for their cowardice, as he termed it, recruited
his ranks up to their former standard, but remained inactive, while
Bernhard of Weimar was leading the Swedes to new successes.

His actions were so problematical, indeed, that suspicion of his motives
grew more decided, and at length a secret conspiracy was raised against
him with the connivance of the emperor. Wallenstein, as if fearful of an
attempt to rob him of his power, had his superior officers assembled at
a banquet given at Pilsen, in January, 1634. A fierce attack of gout
prevented him from presiding, but his firm adherents, Field-Marshals
Illo and Terzka, took his place, and all the officers signed a compact
to adhere faithfully to the duke in life and death as long as he should
remain in the emperor's service. Some signed it who afterwards proved
false to him, among them Field-Marshal Piccolomini, who afterwards
betrayed him.

Just what designs that dark and much revolving man contemplated it is
not easy to tell. It may have been treachery to the emperor, but he was
not the man to freely reveal his secrets. The one person he trusted was
Piccolomini, whose star seemed in favorable conjunction with his own.
To him he made known some of his projected movements, only to find in
the end that his trusted confidant had revealed them all to the emperor.

The plot against Wallenstein was now put into effect, the emperor
ordering his deposition from his command, and appointing General Gablas
to replace him, while a general amnesty for all his officers was
announced. Wallenstein was quickly taught how little he could trust his
troops and officers. Many of his generals fell from him at once. A few
regiments only remained faithful, and even in their ranks traitors
lurked. With but a thousand men to follow him he proceeded to Eger, and
from there asked aid of Bernhard of Weimar, as if he purposed to join
with those against whom he had so long fought. Bernhard received the
message with deep astonishment, and exclaimed, moved by his belief that
Wallenstein was in league with the devil,--

"He who does not trust in God can never be trusted by man!"

The great soldier of fortune was near his end. The stars were powerless
to save him. It was not enough to deprive him of his command, his
enemies did not deem it safe to let him live. One army gone, his wealth
and his fame might soon bring him another, made up of those mercenary
soldiers of all nations, and of all or no creeds, who would follow Satan
if he promised them plunder. His death had been resolved upon, and the
agent chosen for its execution was Colonel Butler, one of the officers
who had accompanied him to Eger.

It was late in February, 1634. On the night fixed for the murder,
Wallenstein's faithful friends, Illo, Terzka, Kinsky, and Captain
Neumann were at a banquet in the castle of Eger. The agents of death
were Colonel Butler, an Irish officer named Lesley, and a Scotchman
named Gordon, while the soldiers employed were a number of dragoons,
chiefly Irish.

In the midst of the dinner the doors of the banqueting hall were burst
open, and the assassins rushed upon their victims, killing them as they
sat, with the exception of Terzka, who killed two of his assailants
before he was despatched.

From this scene of murder the assassins rushed to the quarters of
Wallenstein. It was midnight and he had gone to bed. He sprang up as his
door was burst open, and Captain Devereux, one of the party, rushed with
drawn sword into the room.

"Are you the villain who would sell the army to the enemy and tear the
crown from the emperor's head?" he shouted.

Wallenstein's only answer was to open his arms and receive the blow
aimed at his breast. He died without a word. Thus, with a brief interval
between, had fallen military genius and burning ambition in two
forms,--that of the heroic Swede and that of the ruthless Bohemian.


Once more the Grand Turk was afoot. Straight on Vienna he had marched,
with an army of more than two hundred thousand men. At length he had
reached the goal for which he had so often aimed, the Austrian capital,
while all western Europe was threatened by his arms. The grand vizier,
Kara Mustapha, headed the army, which had marched straight through
Hungary without wasting time in petty sieges, and hastened towards the
imperial city with scarce a barrier in its path.

Consternation filled the Viennese as the vast army of the Turks rolled
steadily nearer and nearer, pillaging the country as it came, and moving
onward as irresistibly and almost as destructively as a lava flow. The
emperor and his court fled in terror. Many of the wealthy inhabitants
followed, bearing with them such treasures as they could convey. The
land lay helpless under the shadow of terror which the coming host threw
far before its columns.

But pillage takes time. The Turks, through the greatness of their
numbers, moved slowly. Some time was left for action. The inhabitants of
the city, taking courage, armed for defence. The Duke of Lorraine, whose
small army had not ventured to face the foe, left twelve thousand men in
the city, and drew back with the remainder to wait for reinforcements.
Count Rüdiger of Stahrenberg was left in command, and made all haste to
put the imperilled city in a condition of defence.


On came the Turks, the smoke of burning villages the signal of their
approach. On the 14th of June, 1683, their mighty army appeared before
the walls, and a city of tents was built that covered a space of six
leagues in extent.

Their camp was arranged in the form of a crescent, enclosing within its
boundaries a promiscuous mass of soldiers and camp-followers, camels,
and baggage-wagons, which seemed to extend as far as the eye could
reach. In the centre was the gorgeous tent of the vizier, made of green
silk, and splendid with its embroidery of gold, silver, and precious
stones, while inside it was kept the holy standard of the prophet.
Marvellous stories are told of the fountains, baths, gardens, and other
appliances of Oriental luxury with which the vizier surrounded himself
in this magnificent tent.

Two days after the arrival of the Turkish host the trenches were opened,
the cannon placed, and the siege of Vienna began. For more than two
centuries the conquerors of Constantinople had kept their eyes fixed on
this city as a glorious prize. Now they had reached it, and the thunder
of their cannon around its walls was full of threat for the West. Vienna
once theirs, it was not easy to say where their career of conquest would
be stayed.

Fortunately, Count Rüdiger was an able and vigilant soldier, and
defended the city with a skill and obstinacy that baffled every effort
of his foes. The Turks, determined on victory, thundered upon the walls
till they were in many parts reduced to heaps of ruins. With incessant
labor they undermined them, blew up the strongest bastions, and laid
their plans to rush into the devoted city, from which they hoped to gain
a glorious booty. But active as they were the besieged were no less so.
The damage done by day was repaired by night, and still Vienna turned a
heroic face to its thronging enemies.

Furious assaults were made, multitudes of the Turks rushing with savage
cries to the breaches, only to be hurled back by the obstinate valor of
the besieged. Every foot of ground was fiercely contested, the struggle
at each point being desperate and determined. It was particularly so
around the Löbel bastion, where scarcely an inch of ground was left
unstained by the blood of the struggling foes.

Count Rüdiger, although severely wounded, did not let his hurt reduce
his vigilance. Daily he had himself carried round the circle of the
works, directing and cheering his men. Bishop Kolonitsch attended the
wounded, and with such active and useful zeal that the grand vizier sent
him a threat that he would have his head for his meddling. Despite this
fulmination of fury, the worthy bishop continued to use his threatened
head in the service of mercy and sympathy.

But the numbers of the garrison grew rapidly less, and their incessant
duty wore them out with fatigue. The commandant was forced to threaten
death to any sentinel found asleep upon his post. A fire broke out
which was only suppressed with the greatest exertion. Famine also began
to invade the city, and the condition of the besieged grew daily more
desperate. Their only hope lay in relief from without, and this did not

Two months passed slowly by. The Turks had made a desert of the
surrounding country, and held many thousands of its inhabitants as
prisoners in their camp. Step by step they gained upon the defenders. By
the end of August they possessed the moat around the city walls. On the
4th of September a mine was sprung under the Burg bastion, with such
force that it shook half the city like an earthquake. The bastion was
rent and shattered for a width of more than thirty feet, portions of its
walls being hurled far and wide.

Into the great breach made the assailants poured in an eager multitude.
But the defenders were equally alert, and drove them back with loss. On
the following day they charged again, and were again repulsed by the
brave Viennese, the ruined bastion becoming a very gulf of death.

The Turks, finding their efforts useless, resumed the work of mining,
directing their efforts against the same bastion. On the 10th of
September the new mine was sprung, and this time with such effect that a
breach was made through which a whole Turkish battalion was able to
force its way.

This city now was in the last extremity of danger; unless immediate
relief came all would soon be lost. The garrison had been much reduced
by sickness and wounds, while those remaining were so completely
exhausted as to be almost incapable of defence. Rüdiger had sent courier
after courier to the Duke of Lorraine in vain. In vain the lookouts
swept the surrounding country with their eyes in search of some trace of
coming aid. All seemed at an end. During the night a circle of rockets
was fired from the tower of St. Stephen's as a signal of distress. This
done the wretched Viennese waited for the coming day, almost hopeless of
repelling the hosts which threatened to engulf them. At the utmost a few
days must end the siege. A single day might do it.

That dreadful night of suspense passed away. With the dawn the wearied
garrison was alert, prepared to strike a last blow for safety and
defence, and to guard the yawning breach unto death. They waited with
the courage of despair for an assault which did not come. Hurried and
excited movements were visible in the enemy's camp. Could succor be at
hand? Yes, from the summit of the Kahlen Hill came the distant report of
three cannon, a signal that filled the souls of the garrison with joy.
Quickly afterwards the lookouts discerned the glitter of weapons and the
waving of Christian banners on the hill. The rescuers were at hand, and
barely in time to save the city from its almost triumphant foes.

During the siege the Christian people outside had not been idle.
Bavaria, Saxony, and the lesser provinces of the empire mustered their
forces in all haste, and sent them to the reinforcement of Charles of
Lorraine. To their aid came Sobieski, the chivalrous King of Poland,
with eighteen thousand picked men at his back. He himself was looked
upon as a more valuable reinforcement than his whole army. He had
already distinguished himself against the Turks, who feared and hated
him, while all Europe looked to him as its savior from the infidel foe.

There were in all about seventy-seven thousand men in the army whose
vanguard ascended the Kahlen Hill on that critical 11th of September,
and announced its coming to the beleaguered citizens by its three signal
shots. The Turks, too confident in their strength, had thoughtlessly
failed to occupy the heights, and by this carelessness gave their foes a
position of vantage. In truth, the vizier, proud in his numbers, viewed
the coming foe with disdain, and continued to pour a shower of bombs and
balls upon the city while despatching what he deemed would be a
sufficient force to repel the enemy.

On the morning of September 12, Sobieski led his troops down the hill to
encounter the dense masses of the Moslems in the plain below. This
celebrated chief headed his men with his head partly shaved, in the
Polish fashion, and plainly dressed, though he was attended by a
brilliant retinue. In front went an attendant bearing the king's arms
emblazoned. Beside him was another who carried a plume on the point of
his lance. On his left rode his son James, on his right Charles of
Lorraine. Before the battle he knighted his son and made a stirring
address to his troops, in which he told them that they fought not for
Vienna alone, but for all Christendom; not for an earthly sovereign, but
for the King of kings.

Early in the day the left wing of the army had attacked and carried the
village of Nussdorf, on the Danube, driving out its Turkish defenders
after an obstinate resistance. It was about mid-day when the King of
Poland led the right wing into the plain against the dense battalions of
Turkish horsemen which there awaited his assault.

The ringing shouts of his men told the enemy that it was the dreaded
Sobieski whom they had to meet, their triumphant foe on many a
well-fought field. At the head of his cavalry he dashed upon their
crowded ranks with such impetuosity as to penetrate to their very
centre, carrying before him confusion and dismay. So daring was his
assault that he soon found himself in imminent danger, having ridden
considerably in advance of his men. Only a few companions were with him,
while around him crowded the dense columns of the foe. In a few minutes
more he would have been overpowered and destroyed, had not the German
cavalry perceived his peril and come at full gallop to his rescue,
scattering with the vigor of their charge the turbaned assailants, and
snatching him from the very hands of death.

So sudden and fierce was the assault, so poorly led the Turkish
horsemen, and so alarming to them the war-cry of Sobieski's men, that in
a short time they were completely overthrown, and were soon in flight
in all directions. This, however, was but a partial success. The main
body of the Turkish army had taken no part. Their immense camp, with its
thousands of tents, maintained its position, and the batteries continued
to bombard the city as if in disdain of the paltry efforts of their

Yet it seems to have been rather rage and alarm than disdain that
animated the vizier. He is said to have, in a paroxysm of fury, turned
the scimitars of his followers upon the prisoners in his camp,
slaughtering thirty thousand of these unfortunates, while bidding his
cannoneers to keep up their assault upon the city.

These evidences of indecision and alarm in their leader filled the Turks
with dread. They saw their cavalry battalions flying in confusion, heard
the triumphant trumpets of their foes, learned that the dreaded Polish
king was at the head of the irresistible charging columns, and yet
beheld their commander pressing the siege as if no foe were in the
field. It was evident that the vizier had lost his head through fright.
A sudden terror filled their souls. They broke and fled. While Sobieski
and the other leaders were in council to decide whether the battle
should be continued that evening or left till the next morning, word was
brought them that the enemy was in full flight, running away in every

They hastened out. The tidings proved true. A panic had seized the
Turks, and, abandoning tents, cannon, baggage, everything, they were
flying in wild haste from the beleaguered walls. The alarm quickly
spread through their ranks. Those who had been firing on the city left
their guns and joined in the flight. From rank to rank, from division to
division, it extended, until the whole army had decamped and was
hastening in panic terror over the plain, hotly pursued by the
death-dealing columns of the Christian cavalry, and thinking only of
Constantinople and safety.

The booty found in the camp was immense. The tent of the grand vizier
alone was valued at nearly half a million dollars, and the whole spoil
was estimated as worth fifteen million dollars. The king wrote to his
wife as follows:

"The whole of the enemy's camp, together with their artillery and an
incalculable amount of property, has fallen into our hands. The camels
and mules, together with the captive Turks, are driven away in herds,
while I myself am become the heir of the grand vizier. The banner which
was usually borne before him, together with the standard of Mohammed,
with which the sultan had honored him in this campaign, and the tents,
wagons, and baggage, are all fallen to my share; even some of the
quivers captured among the rest are alone worth several thousand
dollars. It would take too long to describe all the other objects of
luxury found in his tents, as, for instance, his baths, fountains,
gardens, and a variety of rare animals. This morning I was in the city,
and found that it could hardly have held out more than five days. Never
before did the eye of man see a work of equal magnitude despatched with
a vigor like that with which they blew up, and shattered to pieces, huge
masses of stone and rocks."

Sobieski, on entering Vienna, was greeted with the warmest gratitude and
enthusiasm by crowds of people, who looked upon him as their deliverer.
The governor, Count Rüdiger, grasped his hand with affection, the
populace followed him in his every movement, while cries of "Long live
the king!" everywhere resounded. Never had been a more signal delivery,
and the citizens were beside themselves with joy.

In this siege the Turks had lost forty-eight thousand men. Twenty
thousand more fell on the day of battle, and an equal number during the
retreat. It is said that in the tent of the grand vizier were found
letters from Louis XIV. containing the full plan of the siege, and to
the many crimes of ambition of this monarch seems to be added that of
bringing this frightful peril upon Europe for his own selfish ends. As
for the unlucky vizier, he was put to death by strangling, by order of
the angry sultan, on his reaching Belgrade. It is said that his head,
found on the taking of Belgrade by Eugene, years afterwards, was sent to
Bishop Kolonitsch, whose own head the vizier had threatened to take in
revenge for his labors among the wounded of Vienna.

The war with the Turks continued, with some few intermissions, for
fifteen years afterwards. It ended to the great advantage of the
Christian armies. One after another the fortresses of Hungary were
wrested from their hands, and in the year 1687 they were totally
defeated at Mohacz by the Duke of Lorraine and Prince Eugene, and the
whole of Hungary torn from their grasp.

In 1697 another great victory over them was won by Eugene, at Zenta, by
which the power of the Turks was completely broken. Belgrade, which they
had long held, fell into his hands, and a peace was signed which
confirmed Austria in the possession of all Hungary. From that time
forward the terror which the Turkish name had so long inspired vanished,
and the siege of Vienna may be looked upon as the concluding act in the
long array of invasions of Europe by the Mongolian hordes of Asia. It
was to be followed by the gradual recovery, now almost consummated, of
their European dominions from their hands.


An extraordinarily rude, coarse, and fierce old despot was Frederick
William, first King of Prussia, son of the great Elector and father of
Frederick the Great. He hated France and the French language and
culture, then so much in vogue in Europe; he despised learning and
science; ostentation was to him a thing unknown; and he had but two
passions, one being to possess the tallest soldiers in Europe, the other
to have his own fierce will in all things on which he set his mind.
About all that we can say in his favor is that he paid much attention to
the promotion of education in his realm, many schools being opened and
compulsory attendance enforced.

Of the fear with which he inspired many of his subjects, and the methods
he took to overcome it, there is no better example than that told in
relation to a Jew, whom the king saw as he was riding one day through
Berlin. The poor Israelite was slinking away in dread, when the king
rode up, seized him, and asked in harsh tones what ailed him.

"Sire, I was afraid of you," said the trembling captive.

"Fear me! fear me, do you?" exclaimed the king in a rage, lashing his
riding-whip across the man's shoulders with every word. "You dog! I'll
teach you to love me!"


It was in some such fashion that he sought to make his son love him, and
with much the same result. In fact, he seemed to entertain a bitter
dislike for the beautiful and delicate boy whom fortune had sent him as
an heir, and treated him with such brutal severity that the unhappy
child grew timid and fearful of his presence. This the harsh old despot
ascribed to cowardice, and became more violent accordingly.

On one occasion when young Frederick entered his room, something having
happened to excite his rage against him, he seized him by the hair,
flung him violently to the floor, and caned him until he had exhausted
the strength of his arm on the poor boy's body. His fury growing with
the exercise of it, he now dragged the unresisting victim to the
windows, seized the curtain cord, and twisted it tightly around his
neck. Frederick had barely strength enough to grasp his father's hand
and scream for help. The old brute would probably have strangled him had
not a chamberlain rushed in and saved him from the madman's hands.

The boy, as he grew towards man's estate, developed tastes which added
to his father's severity. The French language and literature which he
hated were the youth's delight, and he took every opportunity to read
the works of French authors, and particularly those of Voltaire, who was
his favorite among writers. This predilection was not likely to
overcome the fierce temper of the king, who discovered his pursuits and
flogged him unmercifully, thinking to cane all love for such enervating
literature, as he deemed it, out of the boy's mind. In this he failed.
Germany in that day had little that deserved the name of literature, and
the expanding intellect of the active-minded youth turned irresistibly
towards the tabooed works of the French.

In truth, he needed some solace for his expanding tastes, for his
father's house and habits were far from satisfactory to one with any
refinement of nature. The palace of Frederick William was little more
attractive than the houses of the humbler citizens of Berlin. The floors
were carpetless, the rooms were furnished with common bare tables and
wooden chairs, art was conspicuously absent, luxury wanting, comfort
barely considered, even the table was very parsimoniously served.

The old king's favorite apartment in all his places of residence was his
smoking-room, which was furnished with a deal table covered with green
baize and surrounded by hard chairs. This was his audience-chamber, his
hall of state, the room in which the affairs of the kingdom were decided
in a cloud of smoke and amid the fumes of beer. Here sat generals in
uniform, ministers of state wearing their orders, ambassadors and noble
guests from foreign realms, all smoking short Dutch pipes and breathing
the vapors of tobacco. Before each was placed a great mug of beer, and
the beer-casks were kept freely on tap, for the old despot insisted that
all should drink or smoke whether or not they liked beer and tobacco,
and he was never more delighted than when he could make a guest drunk or
sicken him with smoke. For food, when they were in need of it, bread and
cheese and similar viands might be had.

A strange picture of palatial grandeur this. Fortune had missed
Frederick William's true vocation in not making him an inn-keeper in a
German village instead of a king. Around this smoke-shrouded table the
most important affairs of state were discussed. Around it the rudest
practical jokes were perpetrated. Gundling, a beer-bibbing author, whom
the king made at once his historian and his butt, was the principal
sufferer from these frolics, which displayed abundantly that absence of
wit and presence of brutality which is the characteristic of the
practical joke. As if in scorn of rank and official dignity, Frederick
gave this sot and fool the title of baron and created him chancellor and
chamberlain of the palace, forcing him always to wear an absurdly
gorgeous gala dress, while to show his disdain of learned pursuits he
made him president of his Academy of Sciences, an institution which, in
its condition at that time, was suited to the presidency of a Gundling.

For these dignities he made the poor butt suffer. On one occasion the
kingly joker had a brace of bear cubs laid in Gundling's bed, and the
drunken historian tossed in between them, with little heed of the danger
to which he exposed the poor victim of his sport. On another occasion,
when Gundling grew sullen and refused to leave his room, the king and
his boon companions besieged him with rockets and crackers, which they
flung in at the open window. A third and more elaborate trick was the
following. The king had the door of Gundling's room walled up, so that
the drunken dupe wandered the palace halls the whole night long, vainly
seeking his vanished door, getting into wrong rooms, disturbing sleepers
to ask whither his room had flown, and making the palace almost as
uncomfortable for its other inmates as for himself. He ended his journey
in the bear's den, where he got a severe hug for his pains.

Such were the ideas of royal dignity, of art, science, and learning, and
of wit and humor, entertained by the first King of Prussia, the
coarse-mannered and brutal-minded progenitor of one of the greatest of
modern monarchs. His ideas of military power were no wiser or more
elevated. His whole soul was set on having a play army, a brigade of
tall recruits, whose only merit lay in their inches above the ordinary
height of humanity. Much of the revenues of the kingdom were spent upon
these giants, whom he had brought from all parts of Europe, by strategy
and force where cash and persuasion did not avail. His agents were
everywhere on the lookout for men beyond the usual stature, and on more
than one occasion blood was shed in the effort to kidnap recruits, while
some of his crimps were arrested and executed. More than once Prussia
was threatened with war for the practices of its king, yet so eager was
he to add to the number of his giants that he let no such difficulties
stand in his way.

His tall recruits were handsomely paid and loaded with favors. To one
Irishman of extraordinary stature he paid one thousand pounds, while the
expense of watching and guarding him while bringing him from Ireland was
two hundred pounds more. It is said that in all twelve million dollars
left the country in payment for these showy and costly giants.

By his various processes of force, fraud, and stratagem he collected
three battalions of tall show soldiers, comprising at one time several
thousand men. Not content with the unaided work of nature in providing
giants, he attempted to raise a gigantic race in his own dominions,
marrying his grenadiers to the tallest women he could find. There is
nothing to show that the result of his efforts was successful.

The king's giants found life by no means a burden. They enjoyed the
highest consideration in Berlin, were loaded with favors, and presented
with houses, lands, and other evidences of royal grace, while their only
duties were show drills and ostentatious parades. They were too costly
and precious to expose to the dangers of actual war. When Frederick
William's son came to the throne the military career of the giants
suddenly ended. They were disbanded, pensioned off, or sent to invalid
institutions, with secret instructions to the officers that if any of
them tried to run away no hinderance should be placed in their path to

It is, however, with Frederick William's treatment of his son that we
are principally concerned. As the boy grew older his predilection for
the culture and literature of France increased, and under the influence
of his favorite associates, two young men named Katte and Keith, a
degree of licentiousness was developed in his habits. To please his
father he accepted a position in the army, but took every opportunity to
throw aside the hated uniform, dress in luxurious garments, solace
himself with the flute, bury himself among his books, and enjoy the
society of the women he admired and the friends he loved. He was
frequently forced to attend the king's smoking-parties, where he seems
to have avoided smoking and drinking as much as possible, escaping from
the scene before it degenerated into an orgy of excess, in which it was
apt to terminate.

These tastes and tendencies were not calculated to increase the love of
the brutal old monarch for his son, and the life of the boy became
harder to bear as he grew older. His sister Wilhelmina was equally
detested by the harsh old king, who treated them both with shameful
brutality, knocking them down and using his cane upon them on the
slightest provocation, confining them and sending them food unfit to
eat, omitting to serve them at table, and using disgusting means to
render their food unpalatable.

"The king almost starved my brother and me," says the princess. "He
performed the office of carver, and helped everybody excepting us two,
and when there happened to be something left in a dish, he would spit
upon it to prevent us from eating it. On the other hand, I was treated
with abundance of abuse and invectives, being called all day long by all
sorts of names, no matter who was present. The king's anger was
sometimes so violent that he drove my brother and me away, and forbade
us to appear in his presence except at meal-times."

This represented the state of affairs when they were almost grown up,
and is a remarkable picture of court habits and manners in Germany in
the early part of the eighteenth century. The scene we have already
described, in which the king attempted to strangle his son with the
curtain cord, occurred when Frederick was in his nineteenth year, and
was one of the acts which gave rise to his resolution to run away, the
source of so many sorrows.

Poor Frederick's lot had become too hard to bear. He was bent on flight.
His mother was the daughter of George I. of England, and he hoped to
find at the English court the happiness that failed him at home. He
informed his sister of his purpose, saying that he intended to put it
into effect during a journey which his father was about to make, and in
which opportunities for flight would arise. Katte, he said, was in his
interest; Keith would join him; he had made with them all the
arrangements for his flight. His sister endeavored to dissuade him, but
in vain. His father's continued brutality, and particularly his use of
the cane, had made the poor boy desperate. He wrote to Lieutenant

"I am off, my dear Katte. I have taken such precautions that I have
nothing to fear. I shall pass through Leipsic, where I shall assume the
name of Marquis d'Ambreville. I have already sent word to Keith, who
will proceed direct to England. Lose no time, for I calculate on finding
you at Leipsic. Adieu, be of good cheer."

The king's journey took place. Frederick accompanied him, his mind full
of his projected flight. The king added to his resolution by
ill-treatment during the journey, and taunted him as he had often done
before, saying,--

"If my father had treated me so, I would soon have run away; but you
have no heart; you are a coward."

This added to the prince's resolution. He wrote to Katte at Berlin,
repeating to him his plans. But now the chapter of accidents, which have
spoiled so many well-laid plots, began. In sending this letter he
directed it "_via_ Nürnberg," but in his haste or agitation forgot to
insert Berlin. By ill luck there was a cousin of Katte's, of the same
name, at Erlangen, some twelve miles off. The letter was delivered to
and read by him. He saw the importance of its contents, and, moved by an
impulse of loyalty, sent it by express to the king at Frankfort.

Another accident came from Frederick's friend Keith being appointed
lieutenant, his place as page to the prince being taken by his brother,
who was as stupid as the elder Keith was acute. The royal party had
halted for the night at a village named Steinfurth. This the prince
determined to make the scene of his escape, and bade his page to call
him at four in the morning, and to have horses ready, as he proposed to
make an early morning call upon some pretty girls at a neighboring
hamlet. He deemed the boy too stupid to trust with the truth.

Young Keith managed to spoil all. Instead of waking the prince, he
called his valet, who was really a spy of the king's, and who,
suspecting something to be amiss, pretended to fall asleep again, while
heedfully watching. Frederick soon after awoke, put on a coat of French
cut instead of his uniform, and went out. The valet immediately roused
several officers of the king's suite, and told them his suspicions. Much
disturbed, they hurried after the prince.

After searching through the village, they found him at the horse-market
leaning against a cart. His dress added to their suspicions, and they
asked him respectfully what he was doing there. He answered sharply,
angry at being discovered.

"For God's sake, change your coat!" exclaimed Colonel Rochow. "The king
is awake, and will start in half an hour. What would be the consequence
if he were to see you in this dress?"

"I promise you that I will be ready before the king," said Frederick.
"I only mean to take a little turn."

While they were arguing, the page arrived with the horses. The prince
seized the bridle of one of them, and would have leaped upon it but for
the interference of those around him, who forced him to return to the
barn in which the royal party had found its only accommodation for that
night. Here he was obliged to put on his uniform, and to restrain his

During the day the valet and others informed the king of what had
occurred. He said nothing, as there were no proofs of the prince's
purpose. That night they reached Frankfort. Here the king received, the
next morning, the letter sent him by Katte's cousin. He showed it to two
of his officers, and bade them on peril of their heads to keep a close
watch on the prince, and to take him immediately to the yacht on which
the party proposed to travel the next day by water to Wesel.

The king embarked the next morning, and as soon as he saw the prince his
smothered rage burst into fury. He grasped him violently by the collar,
tore his hair out by the roots, and struck him in the face with the knob
of his stick till the blood ran. Only by the interference of the two
officers was the unhappy youth saved from more extreme violence.

His sword was taken from him, his effects were seized by the king, and
his papers burned by his valet before his face,--in which he did all
concerned "an important service."

At the request of his keepers the prince was taken to another yacht. On
reaching the bridge of boats at the entrance to Wesel, he begged
permission to land there, so that he might not be known. His keepers
acceded, but he was no sooner on land than he ran off at full speed. He
was stopped by a guard, whom the king had sent to meet him, and was
conducted to the town-house. Not a word was said to the king about this
attempt at flight.

The next day Frederick was brought before his father, who was in a
raging passion.

"Why did you try to run away?" he furiously asked.

"Because," said Frederick, firmly, "you have not treated me like your
son, but like a base slave."

"You are an infamous deserter, and have no honor."

"I have as much as you," retorted the prince. "I have done no more than
I have heard you say a hundred times that you would do if you were in my

This answer so incensed the old tyrant that he drew his sword in fury
from its scabbard, and would have run the boy through had not General
Mosel hastily stepped between, and seized the king's arm.

"If you must have blood, stab me," he said; "my old carcass is not good
for much; but spare your son."

These words checked the king's brutal fury. He ordered them to take the
boy away, and listened with more composure to the general, who entreated
him not to condemn the prince without a hearing, and not to commit the
unpardonable crime of becoming his son's executioner.

Events followed rapidly upon this discovery. Frederick contrived to
despatch a line in pencil to Keith. "Save yourself," he wrote; "all is
discovered." Keith at once fled, reached the Hague, where he was
concealed in the house of Lord Chesterfield, the English ambassador, and
when searched for there, succeeded in escaping to England in a
fishing-boat. He was hung in effigy in Prussia, but became a major of
cavalry in the service of Portugal.

Katte was less fortunate. He was warned in time to escape, and the
marshal who was sent to arrest him purposely delayed, but he lost
precious time in preparation, and was seized while mounting his horse.

His arrest filled the queen with terror. Numerous letters were in his
possession which had been written by herself and her daughter to the
prince royal. In these they had often spoken with great freedom of the
king. It might be ruinous should these letters fall into his hands.

Some friend sent the portfolio supposed to contain them to the queen. It
was locked, corded, and sealed. The trouble about the seal was overcome
by an old valet, who had found in the palace garden one just like it.
The portfolio was opened, and the queen's fears found to be correct. It
contained the letters, not less than fifteen hundred in all. They were
all hastily thrown into the fire,--too hastily, for many of them were
innocent of offence.

But it would not do to return an empty portfolio. The queen and her
daughter immediately began to write letters to replace the burned ones,
taking paper of each year's manufacture to prevent discovery. For three
days they diligently composed and wrote, and in that period fabricated
no less than six or seven hundred letters. These far from filled the
portfolio, but the queen packed other things into it, and then locked
and sealed it, so that no change in its appearance could be perceived.
This done, it was restored to its place.

We must hasten over what followed. On the king's return his first
greeting to his wife was, "Your good-for-nothing son is dead." He
immediately demanded the portfolio, tore it open, and carried away the
letters which had been so recently concocted. In a few minutes he
returned, and on seeing his daughter broke out into a fury of rage, his
eyes glaring, his mouth foaming.

"Infamous wretch!" he shouted; "dare you appear in my presence? Go keep
your scoundrel of a brother company."

He seized her as he spoke and struck her several times violently in the
face, one blow on the temple hurling her to the floor. Mad with rage, he
would have trampled on her had not the ladies present got her away. The
scene was a frightful one. The queen, believing her son dead, and
completely unnerved, ran wildly around the room, shrieking with agony.
The king's face was so distorted with rage as to be frightful to look
at. His younger children were around his knees, begging him with tears
to spare their sister. Wilhelmina, her face bruised and swollen, was
supported by one of the ladies of the court. Rarely had insane rage
created a more distressing spectacle.

In the end the king acknowledged that Frederick was still alive, but
vowed that he would have his head off as a deserter, and that
Wilhelmina, his confederate, should be imprisoned for life. He left the
room at length to question Katte, who was being brought before him,
harshly exclaiming as he did so, "Now I shall have evidence to convict
the scoundrel Fritz and that blackguard Wilhelmina. I shall find plenty
of reasons to have their heads off."

But we must hasten to the conclusion. Both the captives were tried by
court-martial, on the dangerous charge of desertion from the army. The
court which tried Frederick proved to be subservient to the king's will.
They pronounced sentence of death on the prince royal. Katte was
sentenced to imprisonment for life, on the plea that his crime had been
only meditated, not committed. The latter sentence did not please the
despot. He changed it himself from life imprisonment to death, and with
a refinement of cruelty ordered the execution to take place under the
prince's window, and within his sight.

On the 5th of November, 1730, Frederick, wearing a coarse prison dress,
was conducted from his cell in the fortress of Cüstrin to a room on the
lower floor, where the window-curtains, let down as he entered, were
suddenly drawn up. He saw before him a scaffold hung with black, which
he believed to be intended for himself, and gazed upon it with
shuddering apprehension. When informed that it was intended for his
friend, his grief and pain became even more acute. He passed the night
in that room, and the next morning was conducted again to the window,
beneath which he saw his condemned friend, accompanied by soldiers, an
officer, and a minister of religion.

"Oh," cried the prince, "how miserable it makes me to think that I am
the cause of your death! Would to God I were in your place!"

"No," replied Katte; "if I had a thousand lives, gladly would I lay them
down for you."

Frederick swooned as his friend moved on. In a few minutes afterwards
Katte was dead. It was long before the sorrowing prince recovered from
the shock of that cruel spectacle.

Whether the king actually intended the execution of his son is
questioned. As it was, earnest remonstrances were addressed to him from
the Kings of Sweden and Poland, the Emperor of Germany, and other
monarchs. He gradually recovered from the insanity of his rage, and, on
humble appeals from his son, remitted his sentence, requiring him to
take a solemn oath that he was converted from his infidel beliefs, that
he begged a thousand pardons from his father for his crimes, and that
he repented not having been always obedient to his father's will.

This done, Frederick was released from prison, but was kept under
surveillance at Cüstrin till February, 1732, when he was permitted to
return to Berlin. He had been there before on the occasion of his
sister's marriage, in November, 1731, the poor girl gladly accepting
marriage to a prince she had never seen as a means of escape from a king
of whom she had seen too much. With this our story ends. Father and son
were reconciled, and lived to all appearance as good friends until 1740,
when the old despot died, and Frederick succeeded him as king.


Voltaire, who was an adept in the art of making France too hot to hold
him, had gone to Prussia, as a place of rest for his perturbed spirit,
and, in response to the repeated invitations of his ardent admirer,
Frederick the Great. It was a blunder on both sides. If they had wished
to continue friends, they should have kept apart. Frederick was
autocratic in his ways and thoughts; Voltaire embodied the spirit of
independence in thought and speech. The two men could no more meet
without striking fire than flint and steel. Moreover, Voltaire was
normally satirical, restless, inclined to vanity and jealousy, and that
terrible pen of his could never be brought to respect persons and
places. With a martinet like Frederick, the visit was sure to end in a
quarrel, despite the admiration of the prince for the poet.

Frederick, though a German king, was French in his love for the Gallic
literature, philosophy, and language. He cared little for German
literature--there was little of it in his day worth caring for--and
always wrote and spoke in French, while French wits and thinkers who
could not live in safety in straitlaced Paris, gained the amplest scope
for their views in his court. Voltaire found three such emigrants
there, Maupertuis, La Mettrie, and D'Arnaud. He was received by them
with enthusiasm, as the sovereign of their little court of free thought.
Frederick had given him a pension and the post of chamberlain,--an
office with very light duties,--and the expatriated poet set himself out
to enjoy his new life with zest and animation.

"A hundred and fifty thousand victorious soldiers," he wrote to Paris,
"no attorneys, opera, plays, philosophy, poetry, a hero who is a
philosopher and a poet, grandeur and graces, grenadiers and muses,
trumpets and violins, Plato's symposium, society and freedom! Who would
believe it? It is all true, however."

"It is Cæsar, it is Marcus Aurelius, it is Julian, it is sometimes Abbé
Chaulieu, with whom I sup," he further wrote; "there is the charm of
retirement, there is the freedom of the country, with all those little
delights which the lord of a castle who is a king can procure for his
very obedient humble servants and guests. My own duties are to do
nothing. I enjoy my leisure. I give an hour a day to the King of Prussia
to touch up a bit his works in prose and verse; I am his grammarian, not
his chamberlain ... Never in any place in the world was there more
freedom of speech touching the superstitions of men, and never were they
treated with more banter and contempt. God is respected, but all they
who have cajoled men in His name are treated unsparingly."

It was, in short, an Eden for a free-thinker; but an Eden with its
serpent, and this serpent was the envy, jealousy, and unrestrainable
satiric spirit of Voltaire. There was soon trouble between him and his
fellow-exiles. He managed to get Arnaud exiled from the country, and
gradually a coolness arose between him and Maupertuis, whom Frederick
had made president of the Berlin Academy. There were other quarrels and
complications, and Voltaire grew disgusted with the occupation of what
he slyly called "buck-washing" the king's French verses,--poor affairs
they were. Step by step he was making Berlin as hot as he had made
Paris. The new Adam was growing restless in his new Paradise. He wrote
to his niece,--

"So it is known by this time in Paris, my dear child, that we have
played the 'Mort de Cæsar' at Potsdam, that Prince Henry is a good
actor, has no accent, and is very amiable, and that this is the place
for pleasure? All this is true, but--The king's supper parties are
delightful; at them people talk reason, wit, science; freedom prevails
thereat; he is the soul of it all; no ill-temper, no clouds, at any rate
no storms; my life is free and well occupied,--but--Opera, plays,
carousals, suppers at Sans Souci, military manoeuvres, concerts, studies,
readings,--but--The city of Berlin, grand, better laid out than Paris;
palaces, play-houses, affable queens, charming princesses, maids of
honor beautiful and well-made, the mansion of Madame de Tyrconnel always
full and sometimes too much so,--but--but--My dear child, the weather
is beginning to settle down into a fine frost."

Voltaire brought the frost. He got into a disreputable quarrel with a
Jew, and meddled in other affairs, until something very like a quarrel
arose between him and Frederick. The king wrote him a severe letter of
reprimand. The poet apologized. But immediately afterwards his
irrepressible spirit of mischief broke out in a new place. It was his
ill-humor with Maupertuis which now led him astray. He wrote a pamphlet,
full of wit and as full of bitterness, called "La diatribe du docteur
Akakia," so evidently satirizing Maupertuis that the king grew furious.
It was printed anonymously, and circulated surreptitiously in Berlin,
but a copy soon fell into Frederick's hand, who knew at once that but
one man in the kingdom was capable of such a production. He wrote so
severely to Voltaire that the malicious satirist was frightened and gave
up the whole edition of the pamphlet, which was burnt before his eyes in
the king's own closet, though Frederick could not help laughing at its

But Voltaire's daring was equal to a greater defiance than Frederick
imagined. Despite the work of the flames, a copy of the diatribe found
its way to Paris, was printed there, and copies of it made their way
back to Prussia by mail. Everybody was reading it, everybody laughing,
people fought for copies of the satire, which spread over Europe. The
king, enraged by this treacherous disobedience, as he deemed it,
retorted on Voltaire by having the pamphlet burned in the Place d'Armes.

This brought matters to a crisis. The next day Voltaire sent his
commissions and orders back to Frederick; the next, Frederick returned
them to him. He was bent on leaving Prussia at once, but wished to do it
without a quarrel with the king.

"I sent the Solomon of the North," he wrote to Madame Denis, "for his
present, the cap and bells he gave me, with which you reproached me so
much. I wrote him a very respectful letter, for I asked him for leave to
go. What do you think he did? He sent me his great factotum, Federshoff,
who brought me back my toys; he wrote me a letter saying that he would
rather have me to live with than Maupertuis. What is quite certain is
that I would rather not live with either the one or the other."

In truth, Frederick could not bear to lose Voltaire. Vexed as he was
with him, he was averse to giving up that charming conversation from
which he had derived so much enjoyment. Voltaire wanted to get away;
Frederick pressed him to stay. There was protestation, warmth, coolness,
a gradual breaking of links, letters from France urging the poet to
return, communications from Frederick wishing him to remain, and a
growing attraction from Paris drawing its flown son back to that centre
of the universe for a true Frenchman.

At length Frederick yielded; Voltaire might go. The poet approached him
while reviewing his troops.

"Ah! Monsieur Voltaire," said the king, "so you really intend to go

"Sir, urgent private affairs, and especially my health, leave me no

"Monsieur, I wish you a pleasant journey."

This was enough for Voltaire; in an hour he was in his carriage and on
the road to Leipsic. He thought he was done for the rest of his life
with the "exactions" and "tyrannies" of the King of Prussia. He was to
experience some more of them before he left the land. Frederick bided
his time.

It was on March 26, 1753, that Voltaire left Potsdam. It was two months
afterwards before he reached Frankfort. He had tarried at Leipsic and at
Gotha, engaged in the latter place on a dry chronicle asked for by the
duchess, entitled "The Annals of the Empire." During this time also, in
direct disregard of a promise he had made Frederick, there appeared a
supplement to "Doctor Akakia," more offensive than the main text. It was
followed by a virulent correspondence with Maupertuis. Voltaire was
filling up the vials of wrath of the king.

On May 31 he reached Frankfort. Here the blow fell. There occurred an
incident which has become famous in literary history, and which, while
it had some warrant on Frederick's side, tells very poorly for that
patron of literature. No unlettered autocrat could have acted with less
regard to the rights and proprieties of citizenship.

"Here is how this fine adventure came about," writes Voltaire. "There
was at Frankfort one Freytag, who had been banished from Dresden and had
become an agent for the King of Prussia....He notified me, on behalf of
his Majesty, that I was not to leave Frankfort till I had restored the
valuable effects I was carrying away from his Majesty.

"'Alack, sir, I am carrying away nothing from that country, if you
please, not even the smallest regret. What, pray, are those jewels of
the Brandenburg crown that you require?'

"'It be, sir,' replied Freytag, 'the work of _poeshy_ of the king, my
gracious master.'

"'Oh, I will give him back his prose and verse with all my heart,'
replied I, 'though, after all, I have more than one right to the work.
He made me a present of a beautiful copy printed at his expense.
Unfortunately, the copy is at Leipsic with my other luggage.'

"Then Freytag proposed to me to remain at Frankfort until the treasure
which was at Leipsic should have arrived; and he signed an order for

The volume which Frederick wanted he had doubtless good reason to
demand, when it is considered that it was in the hands of a man who
could be as malicious as Voltaire. It contained a burlesque and
licentious poem, called the "Palladium," in which the king scoffed at
everybody and everything in a manner he preferred not to make public.
Voltaire in Berlin might be trusted to remain discreet. In Paris his
discretion could not be counted on. Frederick wanted the poem in his
own hands.

There was delay in the matter; references to Frederick and returns; the
affair dragged on slowly. The package arrived. Voltaire, agitated at his
detention, ill and anxious, wanted to get away, in company with Madame
Denis, who had just joined him. Freytag refused to let him go. Very
unwisely, the poet determined to slip away, imagining that in a "free
city" like Frankfort he could not be disturbed. He was mistaken. The
freedom of Frankfort was subject to the will of Frederick. The poet
tells for himself what followed.

"The moment I was off, I was arrested, I, my secretary and my people; my
niece is arrested; four soldiers drag her through the mud to a
cheesemonger's named Smith, who had some title or other of privy
councillor to the King of Prussia; my niece had a passport from the King
of France, and, what is more, she had never corrected the King of
Prussia's verses. They huddled us all into a sort of hostelry, at the
door of which were posted a dozen soldiers; we were for twelve days
prisoners of war, and we had to pay a hundred and forty crowns a day."

Voltaire was furious; Madame Denis was ill, or feigned to be; she wrote
letter after letter to Voltaire's friends in Prussia, and to the king
himself. The affair was growing daily more serious. Finally the city
authorities themselves, who doubtless felt that they were not playing a
very creditable part, put an end to it by ordering Freytag to release
his prisoner. Voltaire, set free, travelled leisurely towards France,
which, however, he found himself refused permission to enter. He
thereupon repaired to Geneva, and thereafter, freed from the patronage
of princes and the injustice of the powerful, spent his life in a land
where full freedom of thought and action was possible.

As for the worthy Freytag, he felicitated himself highly on the way he
had handled that dabbler in _poeshy_. "We would have risked our lives
rather than let him get away," he wrote; "and if I, holding a council of
war with myself, had not found him at the barrier but in the open
country, and he had refused to jog back, I don't know that I shouldn't
have lodged a bullet in his head. To such a degree had I at heart the
letters and writing of the king."

The too trusty agent did not feel so self-satisfied on receiving the
opinion of the king.

"I gave you no such orders as that," wrote Frederick. "You should never
make more noise than a thing deserves. I wanted Voltaire to give you up
the key, the cross, and the volume of poems I had intrusted to him; as
soon as all that was given up to you I can't see what earthly reason
could have induced you to make this uproar."

It is very probable, however, that Frederick wished to humiliate
Voltaire, and the latter did not fail to revenge himself with that
weapon which he knew so well how to wield. In his poem of "La Loi
naturelle" he drew a bitter but truthful portrait of Frederick which
must have made that arbitrary gentleman wince. He was, says the poet,--

  "Of incongruities a monstrous pile,
  Calling men brothers, crushing them the while;
  With air humane, a misanthropic brute;
  Ofttimes impulsive, sometimes over-'cute;
  Weak 'midst his choler, modest in his pride;
  Yearning for virtue, lust personified;
  Statesman and author, of the slippery crew;
  My patron, pupil, persecutor too."



The story of Frederick the Great is a story of incessant wars, wars
against frightful odds, for all Europe was combined against him, and for
seven years the Austrians, the French, the Russians, and the Swedes
surrounded his realm, with the bitter determination to crush him, if not
to annihilate the Prussian kingdom. England alone was on his side.
Russia had joined the coalition through anger of the Empress Elizabeth
at Frederick's satire upon her licentious life; France had joined it
through hostility to England; Austria had organized it from indignation
at Frederick's lawless seizure of Silesia; the army raised to operate
against Prussia numbered several hundred thousand men.

For years Frederick fought them all single-handed, with a persistence,
an energy, and a resolute rising under the weight of defeat that
compelled the admiration even of his enemies, and in the end gave him
victory over them all. To the rigid discipline of his troops, his own
military genius, and his indomitable perseverance, he owed his final
success and his well-earned epithet of "The Great."

The story of battle, stirring as it is, is apt to grow monotonous, and
we have perhaps inflicted too many battle scenes already upon our
readers, though we have selected only such as had some particular
feature of interest to enliven them. Out of Frederick's numerous battles
we may be able to present some examples sufficiently diverse from the
ordinary to render them worthy of classification, under the title of the
romance of history.

Let us go back to the 5th of November, 1757. On that date the army of
Frederick lay in the vicinity of Rossbach, on the Saale, then occupied
by a powerful French army. The Prussian commander, after vainly
endeavoring to bring the Austrians to battle, had turned and marched
against the French, with the hope of driving them out of Saxony.

His hope was not a very promising one. The French army was sixty
thousand strong. He had but little over twenty thousand men. While he
felt hope the French felt assurance. They had their active foe now in
their clutches, they deemed. With his handful of men he could not
possibly stand before their onset. He had escaped them more than once
before; this time they had him, as they believed.

His camp was on a height, near the Saale. Towards it the French
advanced, with flying colors and sounding trumpets, as if with purpose
to strike terror into the ranks of their foes. That Frederick would
venture to stand before them they scarcely credited. If he should, his
danger would be imminent, for they had laid their plans to surround his
small force and, by taking the king and his army prisoners, end at a
blow the vexatious war. They calculated shrewdly but not well, for they
left Frederick out of the account in their plans.

As they came up, line after line, column after column, they must have
been surprised by the seeming indifference of the Prussians. There were
in their ranks no signs of retreat and none of hostility. They remained
perfectly quiet in their camp, not a gun being fired, not a movement
visible, as inert and heedless to all seeming of the coming of the
French as though there were no enemy within a hundred miles.

There was a marked difference between the make-up of the two armies,
which greatly reduced their numerical odds. Frederick's army was
composed of thoroughly disciplined and trained soldiers, every man of
whom knew his place and his duty, and could be trusted in an emergency.
The French, on the contrary, had brought all they could of Paris with
them; their army was encumbered with women, wig-makers, barbers, and the
like impedimenta, and confusion and gayety in their ranks replaced the
stern discipline of Frederick's camp. After the battle, the booty is
said to have consisted largely of objects of gallantry better suited for
a boudoir than a camp.

The light columns of smoke that arose from the Prussian camp as the
French advanced indicated their occupation,--and that by no means
suggested alarm. They were cooking their dinners, with as much unconcern
as though they had not yet seen the coming enemy nor heard the clangor
of trumpets that announced their approach. Had the French commanders
been within the Prussian lines they would have been more astonished
still, for they would have seen Frederick with his staff and general
officers dining at leisure and with the utmost coolness and
indifference. There was no appearance of haste in their movements, and
no more in those of their men, whose whole concern just then seemed to
be the getting of a good meal.

The hour passed on, the French came nearer, their trumpet clangor was
close at hand, every moment seemed to render the peril of the Prussians
more imminent, yet their inertness continued; it looked almost as though
they had given up the idea of defence. The confidence of the French must
have grown rapidly as their plan of surrounding the Prussians with their
superior numbers seemed more and more assured.

But Frederick had his eye upon them. He was biding his time. Suddenly
there came a change. It was about half-past two in the afternoon. The
French had reached the position for which he had been waiting. Quickly
the staff officers dashed right and left with their orders. The trumpets
sounded. As if by magic the tents were struck, the men sprang to their
ranks and were drawn up in battle array, the artillery opened its fire,
the seeming inertness which had prevailed was with extraordinary
rapidity exchanged for warlike activity; the complete discipline of the
Prussian army had never been more notably displayed.

The French, who had been marching forward with careless ease, beheld
this change of the situation with astounded eyes. They looked for
heaviness and slowness of movement among the Germans, and could scarcely
believe in the possibility of such rapidity of evolution. But they had
little time to think. The Prussian batteries were pouring a rain of
balls through their columns. And quickly the Prussian cavalry, headed by
the dashing Seidlitz, was in their midst, cutting and slashing with
annihilating vigor.

The surprise was complete. The French found it impossible to form into
line. Everywhere their columns were being swept by musketry and
artillery, and decimated by the sabres of the charging cavalry. In
almost less time than it takes to tell it they were thrown into
confusion, overwhelmed, routed; in the course of less than half an hour
the fate of the battle was decided, and the French army completely

Their confidence of a short time before was succeeded by panic, and the
lately trim ranks fled in utter disorganization, so utterly broken that
many of the fugitives never stopped till they reached the other side of
the Rhine.

Ten thousand prisoners fell into Frederick's hands, including nine
generals and numerous other officers, together with all the French
artillery, and twenty-two standards; while the victory was achieved with
the loss of only one hundred and sixty-five killed and three hundred and
fifty wounded on the Prussian side. The triumph was one of discipline
against over-confidence. No army under less complete control than that
of Frederick could have sprung so suddenly into warlike array. To this,
and to the sudden and overwhelming dash of Seidlitz and his cavalry, the
remarkable victory was due.

Just one month from that date, on the 5th of December, another great
battle took place, and another important victory for Frederick the
Great. With thirty-four thousand Prussians he defeated eighty thousand
Austrians, while the prisoners taken nearly equalled in number his
entire force.

The Austrians had taken the opportunity of Frederick's campaign against
the French to overrun Silesia. Breslau, its capital, with several other
strongholds, fell into their hands, and the probability was that if left
there during the winter they would so strongly fortify it as to defy any
attempt of the Prussian king to recapture it.

Despite the weakness of his army Frederick decided to make an effort to
regain the lost province, and marched at once against the Austrians.
They lay in a strong position behind the river Lohe, and here their
leader, Field-Marshal Daun, wished to have them remain, having had
abundant experience of his opponent in the open field. This cautious
advice was not taken by Prince Charles, who controlled the movements of
the army, and whom several of the generals persuaded that it would be
degrading for a victorious army to intrench itself against one so much
inferior in numbers, and advised him to march out and meet the
Prussians. "The parade guard of Berlin," as they contemptuously
designated Frederick's army, "would never be able to make a stand
against them."

The prince, who was impetuous in disposition, agreed with them, marched
out from his intrenchments, and met Frederick's army in the vast plain
near Leuthen. On December 5 the two armies came face to face, the lines
of the imperial force extending over a space of five miles, while those
of Frederick occupied a much narrower space.

In his lack of numbers the Prussian king was obliged to substitute
celerity of movement, hoping to double the effectiveness of his troops
by their quickness of action. The story of the battle may be given in a
few words. A false attack was made on the Austrian right, and then the
bulk of the Prussian army was hurled upon their left wing, with such
impetuosity as to break and shatter it. The disorder caused by this
attack spread until it included the whole army. In three hours' time
Frederick had completely defeated his foes, one-third of whom were
killed, wounded, or captured, and the remainder put to flight. The field
was covered with the slain, and whole battalions surrendered, the
Prussians capturing in all twenty-one thousand prisoners. They took
besides one hundred and thirty cannon and three thousand baggage and
ammunition wagons. The victory was a remarkable example of the supremacy
of genius over mere numbers. Napoleon says of it, "That battle was a
master-piece. Of itself it is sufficient to entitle Frederick to a place
in the first rank of generals." It restored Silesia to the Prussian

There is one more of Frederick's victories of sufficiently striking
character to fit in with those already given. It took place in 1760,
several years after those described, years in which Frederick had
struggled persistently against overwhelming odds, and, though often
worsted, yet coming up fresh after every defeat, and unconquerably
keeping the field.

He was again in Silesia, which was once more seriously threatened by the
Austrian forces. His position was anything but a safe one. The Austrians
almost surrounded him. On one side was the army of Field-Marshal Daun,
on the other that of General Lasci; in front was General Laudon.
Fighting day and night he advanced, and finally took up his position at
Liegnitz, where he found his forward route blocked, Daun having formed a
junction with Laudon. His magazines were at Breslau and Schweidnitz in
front, which it was impossible to reach; while his brother, Prince
Henry, who might have marched to his relief, was detained by the
Russians on the Oder.

The position of Frederick was a critical one. He had only a few days'
supply of provisions; it was impossible to advance, and dangerous to
retreat; the Austrians, in superior numbers, were dangerously near him;
only fortune and valor could save him from serious disaster. In this
crisis of his career happy chance came to his aid, and relieved him from
the awkward and perilous situation into which he had fallen.

The Austrians were keenly on the alert, biding their time and watchful
for an opportunity to take the Prussians at advantage. The time had now
arrived, as they thought, and they laid their plans accordingly. On the
night before the 15th of August Laudon set out on a secret march, his
purpose being to gain the heights of Puffendorf, from which the
Prussians might be assailed in the rear. At the same time the other
corps were to close in on every side, completely surrounding Frederick,
and annihilating him if possible.

It was a well-laid and promising plan, but accident befriended the
Prussian king. Accident and alertness, we may say; since, to prevent a
surprise from the Austrians, he was in the habit of changing the
location of his camp almost every night. Such a change took place on the
night in question. On the 14th the Austrians had made a close
reconnoisance of his position. Fearing some hostile purpose in this,
Frederick, as soon as the night had fallen, ordered his tents to be
struck and the camp to be moved with the utmost silence, so as to avoid
giving the foe a hint of his purpose. As it chanced, the new camp was
made on those very heights of Puffendorf towards which Laudon was
advancing with equal care and secrecy.

That there might be no suspicion of the Prussian movement, the
watch-fires were kept up in the old camp, peasants attending to them,
while patrols of hussars cried out the challenge every quarter of an
hour. The gleaming lights, the watch-cries of the sentinels, all
indicated that the Prussian army was sleeping on its old ground, without
suspicion of the overwhelming blow intended for it on the morrow.

Meanwhile the king and his army had reached their new quarters, where
the utmost caution and noiselessness was observed. The king, wrapped in
his military cloak, had fallen asleep beside his watch-fire; Ziethen,
his valiant cavalry leader, and a few others of his principal officers,
being with him. Throughout the camp the greatest stillness prevailed,
all noise having been forbidden. The soldiers slept with their arms
close at hand, and ready to be seized at a moment's notice. Frederick
fully appreciated the peril of his situation, and was not to be taken by
surprise by his active foes. And thus the night moved on until midnight
passed, and the new day began its course in the small hours.

About two o'clock a sudden change came in the situation. A horseman
galloped at full speed through the camp, and drew up hastily at the
king's tent, calling Frederick from his light slumbers. He was the
officer in command of the patrol of hussars, and brought startling news.
The enemy was at hand, he said; his advance columns were within a few
hundred yards of the camp. It was Laudon's army, seeking to steal into
possession of those heights which Frederick had so opportunely occupied.

The stirring tidings passed rapidly through the camp. The soldiers were
awakened, the officers seized their arms and sprang to horse, the troops
grasped their weapons and hastened into line, the cannoneers flew to
their guns, soon the roar of artillery warned the coming Austrians that
they had a foe in their front.

Laudon pushed on, thinking this to be some advance column which he could
easily sweep from his front. Not until day dawned did he discover the
true situation, and perceive, with astounded eyes, that the whole
Prussian army stood in line of battle on those very heights which he had
hoped so easily to occupy.

The advantage on which the Austrian had so fully counted lay with the
Prussian king. Yet, undaunted, Laudon pushed on and made a vigorous
attack, feeling sure that the thunder of the artillery would be borne to
Daun's ears, and bring that commander in all haste, with his army, to
take part in the fray.

But the good fortune which had so far favored Frederick did not now
desert him. The wind blew freshly in the opposite direction, and carried
the sound of the cannon away from Daun's hearing. Not the roar of a
piece of artillery came to him, and his army lay moveless during the
battle, he deeming that Laudon must now be in full possession of the
heights, and felicitating himself on the neat trap into which the King
of Prussia had fallen. While he thus rested on his arms, glorying in his
soul on the annihilation to which the pestilent Prussians were doomed,
his ally was making a desperate struggle for life, on those very heights
which he counted on taking without a shot. Truly, the Austrians had
reckoned without their foe in laying their cunning plot.

Three hours of daylight finished the affray. Taken by surprise as they
were, the Austrians proved unable to sustain the vigorous Prussian
assault, and were utterly routed, leaving ten thousand dead and wounded
on the field, and eighty-two pieces of artillery in the enemy's hands.
Shortly afterwards Daun, advancing to carry out his share of the scheme
of annihilation, fell upon the right wing of the Prussians, commanded by
General Ziethen, and was met with so fierce an artillery fire that he
halted in dismay. And now news of Laudon's disaster was brought to him.
Seeing that the game was lost and himself in danger, he emulated his
associate in his hasty retreat.

Fortune and alertness had saved the Prussian king from a serious danger,
and turned peril into victory. He lost no time in profiting by his
advantage, and was in full march towards Breslau within three hours
after the battle, the prisoners in the centre, the wounded--friend and
foe alike,--in wagons in the rear, and the captured cannon added to his
own artillery train. Silesia was once more delivered into his hands.

Never in history had there been so persistent and indomitable a
resistance against overwhelming numbers as that which Frederick
sustained for so many years against his numerous foes. At length, when
hope seemed almost at an end, and it appeared as if nothing could save
the Prussian kingdom from overthrow, death came to the aid of the
courageous monarch. The Empress Elizabeth of Russia died, and
Frederick's bitterest foe was removed. The new monarch, Peter III., was
an ardent admirer of Frederick, and at once discharged all the Prussian
prisoners in his hands, and signed a treaty of alliance with Prussia.
Sweden quickly did the same, leaving Frederick with no opponents but the
Austrians. Four months more sufficed to bring his remaining foes to
terms, and by the end of the year 1762 the distracting Seven Years' War
was at an end, the indomitable Frederick remaining in full possession of
Silesia, the great bone of contention in the war. His resolution and
perseverance had raised Prussia to a high position among the kingdoms of
Europe, and laid the foundations of the present empire of Germany.


On the 9th of April, 1809, down the river Inn, in the Tyrol, came
floating a series of planks, from whose surface waved little red flags.
What they meant the Bavarian soldiers, who held that mountain land with
a hand of iron, could not conjecture. But what they meant the peasantry
well knew. On the day before peace had ruled throughout the Alps, and no
Bavarian dreamed of war. Those flags were the signal for insurrection,
and on their appearance the brave mountaineers sprang at once to arms
and flew to the defence of the bridges of their country, which the
Bavarians were marching to destroy, as an act of defence against the

On the 10th the storm of war burst. Some Bavarian sappers had been sent
to blow up the bridge of St. Lorenzo. But hardly had they begun their
work, when a shower of bullets from unseen marksmen swept the bridge.
Several were killed; the rest took to flight; the Tyrol was in revolt.

News of this outbreak was borne to Colonel Wrede, in command of the
Bavarians, who hastened with a force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery
to the spot. He found the peasants out in numbers. The Tyrolean
riflemen, who were accustomed to bring down chamois from the mountain
peaks, defended the bridge, and made terrible havoc in the Bavarian
ranks. They seized Wrede's artillery and flung guns and gunners together
into the stream, and finally put the Bavarians to rout, with severe

The Bavarians held the Tyrol as allies of the French, and the movement
against the bridges had been directed by Napoleon, to prevent the
Austrians from reoccupying the country, which had been wrested from
their hands. Wrede in his retreat was joined by a body of three thousand
French, but decided, instead of venturing again to face the daring foe,
to withdraw to Innsbruck. But withdrawal was not easy. The signal of
revolt had everywhere called the Tyrolese to arms. The passes were
occupied. The fine old Roman bridge over the Brenner, at Laditsch, was
blown up. In the pass of the Brixen, leading to this bridge, the French
and Bavarians found themselves assailed in the old Swiss manner, by
rocks and logs rolled down upon their heads, while the unerring rifles
of the hidden peasants swept the pass. Numbers were slain, but the
remainder succeeded in escaping by means of a temporary bridge, which
they threw over the stream on the site of the bridge of Laditsch.

Of the Tyrolese patriots to whom this outbreak was due two are worthy of
special mention, Joseph Speckbacher, a wealthy peasant of Rinn, and the
more famous Andrew Hofer, the host of the Sand Inn at Passeyr, a man
everywhere known through the mountains, as he traded in wine, corn, and
horses as far as the Italian frontier.

Hofer was a man of herculean frame and of a full, open, handsome
countenance, which gained dignity from its long, dark-brown beard, which
fell in rich curls upon his chest. His picturesque dress--that of the
Tyrol--comprised a red waistcoat, crossed by green braces, which were
fastened to black knee breeches of chamois leather, below which he wore
red stockings. A broad black leather girdle clasped his muscular form,
while over all was worn a short green coat. On his head he wore a
low-crowned, broad-brimmed Tyrolean hat, black in color, and ornamented
with green ribbons and with the feathers of the capercailzie.

This striking-looking patriot, at the head of a strong party of
peasantry, made an assault, early on the 11th, upon a Bavarian infantry
battalion under the command of Colonel Bäraklau, who retreated to a
table-land named Sterzinger Moos, where, drawn up in a square, he
resisted every effort of the Tyrolese to dislodge him. Finally Hofer
broke his lines by a stratagem. A wagon loaded with hay, and driven by a
girl, was pushed towards the square, the brave girl shouting, as the
balls flew around her, "On with ye! Who cares for Bavarian dumplings!"
Under its shelter the Tyrolese advanced, broke the square, and killed or
made prisoners the whole of the battalion.

Speckbacher, the other patriot named, was no less active. No sooner had
the signal of revolt appeared in the Inn than he set the alarm-bells
ringing in every church-tower through the lower valley of that stream,
and quickly was at the head of a band of stalwart Tyrolese. On the night
of the 11th he advanced on the city of Hall, and lighted about a hundred
watch-fires on one side of the city, as if about to attack it from that
quarter. While the attention of the garrison was directed towards these
fires, he crept through the darkness to the gate on the opposite side,
and demanded entrance as a common traveller. The gate was opened; his
hidden companions rushed forward and seized it; in a brief time the
city, with its Bavarian garrison, was his.

On the 12th he appeared before Innsbruck, and made a fierce assault upon
the city in which he was aided by a murderous fire poured upon the
Bavarians by the citizens from windows and towers. The people of the
upper valley of the Inn flocked to the aid of their fellows, and the
place, with its garrison, was soon taken, despite their obstinate
defence. Dittfurt, the Bavarian leader, who scornfully refused to yield
to the peasant dogs, as he considered them, fought with tiger-like
ferocity, and fell at length, pierced by four bullets.

One further act completed the freeing of the Tyrol from Bavarian
domination. The troops under Colonel Wrede had, as we have related,
crossed the Brenner on a temporary bridge, and escaped the perils of the
pass. Greater perils awaited them. Their road lay past Sterzing, the
scene of Hofer's victory. Every trace of the conflict had been
obliterated, and Wrede vainly sought to discover what had become of
Bäraklau and his battalion. He entered the narrow pass through which the
road ran at that place, and speedily found his ranks decimated by the
rifles of Hofer's concealed men.

After considerable loss the column broke through, and continued its
march to Innsbruck, where it was immediately surrounded by a triumphant
host of Tyrolese. The struggle was short, sharp, and decisive. In a few
minutes several hundred men had fallen. In order to escape complete
destruction the rest laid down their arms. The captors entered Innsbruck
in triumph, preceded by the military band of the enemy, which they
compelled to play, and guarding their prisoners, who included two
generals, more than a hundred other officers, and about two thousand

In two days the Tyrol had been freed from its Bavarian oppressors and
their French allies and restored to its Austrian lords. The arms of
Bavaria were everywhere cast to the ground, and the officials removed.
But the prisoners were treated with great humanity, except in the single
instance of a tax-gatherer, who had boasted that he would grind down the
Tyrolese until they should gladly eat hay. In revenge, they forced him
to swallow a bushel of hay for his dinner.

The freedom thus gained by the Tyrolese was not likely to be permanent
with Napoleon for their foe. The Austrians hastened to the defence of
the country which had been so bravely won for their emperor. On the
other side came the French and Bavarians as enemies and oppressors.
Lefebvre, the leader of the invaders, was a rough and brutal soldier,
who encouraged his men to commit every outrage upon the mountaineers.

For some two or three months the conflict went on, with varying
fortunes, depending upon the conditions of the war between France and
Austria. At first the French were triumphant, and the Austrians withdrew
from the Tyrol. Then came Napoleon's defeat at Aspern, and the Tyrolese
rose and again drove the invaders from their country. In July occurred
Napoleon's great victory at Wagram, and the hopes of the Tyrol once more
sank. All the Austrians were withdrawn, and Lefebvre again advanced at
the head of thirty or forty thousand French, Bavarians, and Saxons.

The courage of the peasantry vanished before this threatening invasion.
Hofer alone remained resolute, saying to the Austrian governor, on his
departure, "Well, then, I will undertake the government, and, as long as
God wills, name myself Andrew Hofer, host of the Sand at Passeyr, and
Count of the Tyrol."

He needed resolution, for his fellow-chiefs deserted the cause of their
country on all sides. On his way to his home he met Speckbacher,
hurrying from the country in a carriage with some Austrian officers.

"Wilt thou also desert thy country!" said Hofer to him in tones of sad

Another leader, Joachim Haspinger, a Capuchin monk, nicknamed Redbeard,
a man of much military talent, withdrew to his monastery at Seeben.
Hofer was left alone of the Tyrolese leaders. While the French advanced
without opposition, he took refuge in a cavern amid the steep rocks that
overhung his native vale, where he implored Heaven for aid.

The aid came. Lefebvre, in his brutal fashion, plundered and burnt as he
advanced, and published a proscription list instead of the amnesty
promised. The natural result followed. Hofer persuaded the bold Capuchin
to leave his monastery, and he, with two others, called the western
Tyrol to arms. Hofer raised the eastern Tyrol. They soon gained a
powerful associate in Speckbacher, who, conscience-stricken by Hofer's
reproach, had left the Austrians and hastened back to his country. The
invader's cruelty had produced its natural result. The Tyrol was once
more in full revolt.

With a bunch of rosemary, the gift of their chosen maidens, in their
green hats, the young men grasped their trusty rifles and hurried to the
places of rendezvous. The older men wore peacock plumes, the Hapsburg
symbol. With haste they prepared for the war. Cannon which did good
service were made from bored logs of larch wood, bound with iron rings.
Here the patriots built abatis; there they gathered heaps of stone on
the edges of precipices which rose above the narrow vales and passes.
The timber slides in the mountains were changed in their course so that
trees from the heights might be shot down upon the important passes and
bridges. All that could be done to give the invaders a warm welcome was
prepared, and the bold peasants waited eagerly for the coming conflict.

From four quarters the invasion came, Lefebvre's army being divided so
as to attack the Tyrolese from every side, and meet in the heart of the
country. They were destined to a disastrous repulse. The Saxons, led by
Rouyer, marched through the narrow valley of Eisach, the heights above
which were occupied by Haspinger the Capuchin and his men. Down upon
them came rocks and trees from the heights. Rouyer was hurt, and many of
his men were slain around him. He withdrew in haste, leaving one
regiment to retain its position in the Oberau. This the Tyrolese did not
propose to permit. They attacked the regiment on the next day, in the
narrow valley, with overpowering numbers. Though faint with hunger and
the intense heat, and exhausted by the fierceness of the assault, a part
of the troops cut their way through with great loss and escaped. The
rest were made prisoners.

The story is told that during their retreat, and when ready to drop with
fatigue, the soldiers found a cask of wine. Its head was knocked in by a
drummer, who, as he stooped to drink, was pierced by a bullet, and his
blood mingled with the wine. Despite this, the famishing soldiery
greedily swallowed the contents of the cask.

A second _corps d'armée_ advanced up the valley of the Inn as far as
the bridges of Pruz. Here it was repulsed by the Tyrolese, and retreated
under cover of the darkness during the night of August 8. The infantry
crept noiselessly over the bridge of Pontlaz. The cavalry followed with
equal caution but with less success. The sound of a horse's hoof aroused
the watchful Tyrolese. Instantly rocks and trees were hurled upon the
bridge, men and horses being crushed beneath them and the passage
blocked. All the troops which had not crossed were taken prisoners. The
remainder were sharply pursued, and only a handful of them escaped.

The other divisions of the invading army met with a similar fate.
Lefebvre himself, who reproached the Saxons for their defeat, was not
able to advance as far as they, and was quickly driven from the
mountains with greatly thinned ranks. He was forced to disguise himself
as a common soldier and hide among the cavalry to escape the balls of
the sharp-shooters, who owed him no love. The rear-guard was attacked
with clubs by the Capuchin and his men, and driven out with heavy loss.
During the night that followed all the mountains around the beautiful
valley of Innsbruck were lit up with watch-fires. In the valley below
those of the invaders were kept brightly burning while the troops
silently withdrew. On the next day the Tyrol held no foes; the invasion
had failed.

Hofer placed himself at the head of the government at Innsbruck, where
he lived in his old simple mode of life, proclaimed some excellent
laws, and convoked a national assembly. The Emperor of Austria sent him
a golden chain and three thousand ducats. He received them with no show
of pride, and returned the following naïve answer: "Sirs, I thank you. I
have no news for you to-day. I have, it is true, three couriers on the
road, the Watscher-Hiesele, the Sixten-Seppele, and the Memmele-Franz,
and the Schwanz ought long to have been here. I expect the rascal every

Meanwhile, Speckbacher and the Capuchin kept up hostilities successfully
on the eastern frontier. Haspinger wished to invade the country of their
foes, but was restrained by his more prudent associate. Speckbacher is
described as an open-hearted, fine-spirited fellow, with the strength of
a giant, and the best marksman in the country. So keen was his vision
that he could distinguish the bells on the necks of the cattle at the
distance of half a mile.

His son Anderle, but ten years of age, was of a spirit equal to his own.
In one of the earlier battles of the war he had occupied himself during
the fight in collecting the enemy's balls in his hat, and so obstinately
refused to quit the field that his father had him carried by force to a
distant alp. During the present conflict, Anderle unexpectedly appeared
and fought by his father's side. He had escaped from his mountain
retreat. It proved an unlucky escape. Shortly afterwards, the father was
surprised by treachery and found himself surrounded with foes, who tore
from him his arms, flung him to the ground, and seriously injured him
with blows from a club. But in an instant more he sprang furiously to
his feet, hurled his assailants to the earth, and escaped across a wall
of rock impassable except to an expert mountaineer. A hundred of his men
followed him, but his young son was taken captive by his foes. The king,
Maximilian Joseph, attracted by the story of his courage and beauty,
sent for him and had him well educated.

The freedom of the Tyrol was not to last long. The treaty of Vienna,
between the Emperors of Austria and France, was signed. It did not even
mention the Tyrol. It was a tacit understanding that the mountain
country was to be restored to Bavaria, and to reduce it to obedience
three fresh armies crossed its frontiers. They were repulsed in the
south, but in the north Hofer, under unwise advice, abandoned the
anterior passes, and the invaders made their way as far as Innsbruck,
whence they summoned him to capitulate.

During the night of October 30 an envoy from Austria appeared in the
Tyrolese camp, bearing a letter from the Archduke John, in which he
announced the conclusion of peace and commanded the mountaineers to
disperse, and not to offer their lives as a useless sacrifice. The
Tyrolese regarded him as their lord, and obeyed, though with bitter
regret. A dispersion took place, except of the band of Speckbacher,
which held its ground against the enemy until the 3d of November, when
he received a letter from Hofer saying, "I announce to you that Austria
has made peace with France, and has forgotten the Tyrol." On receiving
this news he disbanded his followers, and all opposition ceased.

The war was soon afoot again, however, in the native vale of Hofer, the
people of which, made desperate by the depredations of the Italian bands
which had penetrated their country, sprang to arms and resolved to
defend themselves to the bitter end. They compelled Hofer to place
himself at their head.

For a time they were successful. But a traitor guided the enemy to their
rear, and defeat followed. Hofer escaped and took refuge among the
mountain peaks. Others of the leaders were taken and executed. The most
gallant among the peasantry were shot or hanged. There was some further
opposition, but the invaders pressed into every valley and disarmed the
people, the bulk of whom obeyed the orders given them and offered no
resistance. The revolt was quelled.

Hofer took refuge at first, with his wife and child, in a narrow hollow
in the Kellerlager. This he soon left for a hut on the highest alps. He
was implored to leave the country, but he vowed that he would live or
die on his native soil. Discovery soon came. A peasant named Raffel
learned the location of his hiding-place by seeing the smoke ascend from
his distant hut. He foolishly boasted of his knowledge; his story came
to the ears of the French; he was arrested, and compelled to guide them
to the spot. Two thousand French were spread around the mountain; a
thousand six hundred ascended it; Hofer was taken.


His captors treated him with brutal violence. They tore out his beard,
and dragged him pinioned, barefoot, and in his night-dress, over ice and
snow to the valley. Here he was placed in a carriage and carried to the
fortress of Mantua, in Italy. Napoleon, on news of the capture being
brought to him at Paris, sent orders to shoot him within twenty-four

He died as bravely as he had lived. When placed before the firing-party
of twelve riflemen, he refused either to kneel or to allow himself to be
blindfolded. "I stand before my Creator," he exclaimed, in firm tones,
"and standing will I restore to him the spirit he gave."

He gave the signal to fire, but the men, moved by the scene, missed
their aim. The first fire brought him to his knees, the second stretched
him on the ground, where a corporal terminated the cruel scene by
shooting him through the head. He died February 20, 1810. At a later
date his remains were borne back to his native alps, a handsome monument
of white marble was erected to his memory in the church at Innsbruck,
and his family was ennobled.

Of the two other principal leaders of the Tyrolese, Haspinger, the
Capuchin, escaped to Vienna, which Speckbacher also succeeded in
reaching, after a series of perils and escapes which are well worth

After the dispersal of his troops he, like Hofer, sought concealment in
the mountains where the Bavarians sought for him in troops, vowing to
"cut his skin into boot-straps if they caught him." He attempted to
follow the mountain paths to Austria, but at Dux found the roads so
blocked with snow that further progress was impossible. Here the
Bavarians came upon his track and attacked the house in which he had
taken refuge. He escaped by leaping from its roof, but was wounded in
doing so.

For the twenty-seven days that followed he roamed through the snowy
mountain forests, in danger of death both from cold and starvation. Once
for four days together he did not taste food. At the end of this time he
found shelter in a hut at Bolderberg, where by chance he found his wife
and children, who had sought the same asylum.

His bitterly persistent foes left him not long in safety here. They
learned his place of retreat, and pursued him, his presence of mind
alone saving him from capture. Seeing them approach, he took a sledge
upon his shoulders, and walked towards and past them as though he were a
servant of the house.

His next place of refuge was in a cave on the Gemshaken, in which he
remained until the opening of spring, when he had the ill-fortune to be
carried by a snow-slide a mile and a half into the valley. It was
impossible to return. He crept from the snow, but found that one of his
legs was dislocated. The utmost he could do, and that with agonizing
pain, was to drag himself to a neighboring hut. Here were two men, who
carried him to his own house at Rinn.

Bavarians were quartered in the house, and the only place of refuge open
to him was the cow-shed, where his faithful servant Zoppel dug for him a
hole beneath the bed of one of the cows, and daily supplied him with
food. His wife had returned to the house, but the danger of discovery
was so great that even she was not told of his propinquity.

For seven weeks he remained thus half buried in the cow-shed, gradually
recovering his strength. At the end of that time he rose, bade adieu to
his wife, who now first learned of his presence, and again betook
himself to the high paths of the mountains, from which the sun of May
had freed the snow. He reached Vienna without further trouble.

Here the brave patriot received no thanks for his services. Even a small
estate he had purchased with the remains of his property he was forced
to relinquish, not being able to complete the purchase. He would have
been reduced to beggary but for Hofer's son, who had received a fine
estate from the emperor, and who engaged him as his steward. Thus ended
the active career of the ablest leader in the Tyrolean war.


During the Christmas festival of the year 800 the crown of the imperial
dignity was placed at Rome on the head of Charles the Great, and the
Roman Empire of the West again came into being, so far as a dead thing
could be restored to life. For one thousand and six years afterwards
this title of emperor was retained in Germany, though the power
represented by it became at times a very shadowy affair. The authority
and influence of the emperors reached their culmination during the reign
of the Hohenstauffens (1138 to 1254). For a few centuries afterwards the
title represented an empire which was but a quarter fact, three-quarters
tradition, the emperor being duly elected by the diet of German princes,
but by no means submissively obeyed. The fraction of fact which remained
of the old empire perished in the Thirty Years' War. After that date the
title continued in existence, being held by the Hapsburgs of Austria as
an hereditary dignity, but the empire had vanished except as a tradition
or superstition. Finally, on the 6th of August, 1806, Francis II., at
the absolute dictum of Napoleon, laid down the title of "Emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation," and the long defunct empire was
finally buried.

The shadow which remained of the empire of Charlemagne had vanished
before the rise of a greater and more vital thing, the empire of France,
brought into existence by the genius of Napoleon Bonaparte, the
successor of Charles the Great as a mighty conqueror. For a few years it
seemed as if the original empire might be restored. The power of
Napoleon, indeed, extended farther than that of his great predecessor,
all Europe west of Russia becoming virtually his. Some of the kings were
replaced by monarchs of his creation. Others were left upon their
thrones, but with their power shorn, their dignity being largely one of
vassalage to France. Not content with an empire that stretched beyond
the limits of that of Charlemagne or of the Roman Empire of the West,
Napoleon ambitiously sought to subdue all Europe to his imperial will,
and marched into Russia with nearly all the remaining nations of Europe
as his forced allies.

His career as a conqueror ended in the snows of Muscovy and amid the
flames of Moscow. The shattered fragment of the grand army of conquest
that came back from that terrible expedition found crushed and dismayed
Germany rising into hostile vitality in its rear. Russia pursued its
vanquished invader, Prussia rose against him, Austria joined his foes,
and at length, in October, 1813, united Germany was marshalled in arms
against its mighty enemy before the city of Leipsic, the scene of the
great battles of the Thirty Years' War, nearly two centuries before.

Here was fought one of the fiercest and most decisive struggles of that
quarter century of conflict. It was a fight for life, a battle to decide
the question of who should be lord of Europe. Napoleon had been brought
to bay. Despising to the last his foes, he had weakened his army by
leaving strong garrisons in the German cities, which he hoped to
reoccupy after he had beaten the German armies. On the 16th of October
the great contest began. It was fought fiercely throughout the day, with
successive waves of victory and defeat, the advantage at the end resting
with the allies through sheer force of numbers. The 17th was a day of
rest and negotiation, Napoleon vainly seeking to induce the Emperor of
Austria to withdraw from the alliance. While this was going on large
bodies of Swedes, Russians, and Austrians were marching to join the
German ranks, and the battle of the 18th was fought between a hundred
and fifty thousand French and a hostile army of double that strength,
which represented all northern and eastern Europe.

The battle was one of frightful slaughter. Its turning-point came when
the Saxon infantry, which had hitherto fought on the French side,
deserted Napoleon's cause in the thick of the fight, and went over in a
body to the enemy. It was an act of treachery whose fatal effect no
effort could overcome. The day ended with victory in the hands of the
allies. The French were driven back close upon the walls of Leipsic,
with the serried columns of Germany and Russia closing them in, and
bent on giving no relaxation to their desperate foe.

The struggle was at an end. Longer resistance would have been madness.
Napoleon ordered a retreat. But the Elster had to be crossed, and only a
single bridge remained for the passage of the army and its stores. All
night long the French poured across the bridge with what they could take
of their wagons and guns. Morning dawned with the rush and hurry of the
retreat still in active progress. A strong rear-guard held the town, and
Napoleon himself made his way across the bridge with difficulty through
the crowding masses.

Hardly had he crossed when a frightful misfortune occurred. The bridge
had been mined, to blow it up on the approach of the foe. This duty had
been carelessly trusted to a subaltern, who, frightened by seeing some
of the enemy on the river-side, set fire hastily to the train. The
bridge blew up with a tremendous explosion, leaving a rear-guard of
twenty-five thousand men in Leipsic cut off from all hope of escape.
Some officers plunged on horseback into the stream and swam across.
Prince Poniatowsky, the gallant Pole, essayed the same, but perished in
the attempt. The soldiers of the rear-guard were forced to surrender as
prisoners of war. In this great conflict, which had continued for four
days, and in which the most of the nations of Europe took part, eighty
thousand men are said to have been slain. The French lost very heavily
in prisoners and guns. Only a hasty retreat to the Rhine saved the
remainder of their army from being cut off and captured. On the 20th
Napoleon succeeded in crossing that frontier river of his kingdom with
seventy thousand men, the remnant of the grand army with which he had
sought to hold Prussia after the disastrous end of the invasion of

[Illustration: A GERMAN MILK WAGON.]

Germany was at length freed from its mighty foe. The garrisons which had
been left in its cities were forced to surrender as prisoners of war.
France in its turn was invaded, Paris taken, and Napoleon forced to
resign the imperial crown, and to retire from his empire to the little
island of Elba, near the Italian coast. In 1815 he returned, again set
Europe in flame with war, and fell once more at Waterloo, to end his
career in the far-off island of St. Helena.

Thus ended the empire founded by the great conqueror. The next to claim
the imperial title was Louis Napoleon, who in 1851 had himself crowned
as Napoleon III. But his so-called empire was confined to France, and
fell in 1870 on the field of Sedan, himself and his army being taken
prisoners. A republic was declared in France, and the second French
empire was at an end.

And now the empire of Germany was restored, after having ceased to exist
for sixty-five years. The remarkable success of William of Prussia gave
rise to a wide-spread feeling in the German states that he should assume
the imperial crown, and the old empire be brought again into existence
under new conditions; no longer hampered by the tradition of a Roman
empire, but as the title of united Germany.

On December 18, 1870, an address from the North German Parliament was
read to King William at Versailles, asking him to accept the imperial
crown. He assented, and on January 18, 1871, an imposing ceremony was
held in the splendid Mirror Hall (_Galerie des Glaces_) of Louis XIV.,
at the royal palace of Versailles. The day was a wet one, and the king
rode from his quarters in the prefecture to the great gates of the
château, where he alighted and passed through a lane of soldiers, the
roar of cannon heralding his approach, and rich strains of music
signalling his entrance to the hall.

William wore a general's uniform, with the ribbon of the Black Eagle on
his breast. Helmet in hand he advanced slowly to the dais, bowed to the
assembled clergymen, and turned to survey the scene. There had been
erected an altar covered with scarlet cloth, which bore the device of
the Iron Cross. Right and left of it were soldiers bearing the standards
of their regiments. Attending on the king were the crown-prince, and a
brilliant array of the princes, dukes, and other rulers of the German
states arranged in semicircular form. Just above his head was a great
allegorical painting of the Grand Monarch, with the proud subscription,
"_Le Roi gouverne par lui même_," the motto of the autocrat.

The ceremony began with the singing of psalms, a short sermon, and a
grand German chorale, in which all present joined. Then William, in a
loud but broken voice, read a paper, in which he declared the German
empire re-established, and the imperial dignity revived, to be invested
in him and his descendants for all future time, in accordance with the
will of the German people.

Count Bismarck followed with a proclamation addressed by the emperor to
the German nation. As he ended, the Grand-Duke of Baden, William's
son-in-law, stepped out from the line, raised his helmet in the air, and
shouted in stentorian tones, "Long live the German Emperor William!

Loud cheers and waving of swords and helmets responded to his stirring
appeal, the crown-prince fell on his knee to kiss the emperor's hand,
and a military band outside the hall struck up the German National
Anthem, while, as a warlike background to the scene, came the roar of
French cannon from Mount Valérien, still besieged by the Germans, their
warlike peal the last note of defiance from vanquished France. Ten days
afterwards Paris surrendered, and the war was at an end. On the 16th of
June the army made a triumphant entrance into Berlin, William riding at
its head, to be triumphantly hailed as emperor by his own people on his
own soil. All Germany, with the exception of Austria, was for the first
time fully united into an empire, the minor princes having ceased to
exist as ruling potentates.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Historical Tales, Vol 5 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality, German" ***

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