The Cambridge Modern History: Planned by the Late Lord Acton - Vol. 4

By A. W. Ward; G. W. Prothero et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I.
THE OUTBREAK OF THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR.

IT was not till five months after the death of the unhappy Emperor Rudolf II that, on June 13, 1612, his brother Matthias reached the height of his ambition by being elected to the Imperial throne. His candidature had been approved by all the other Archdukes; but the Spiritual Electors had caused delay by reverting to the idea of securing the succession to the more capable Archduke Albert, notwithstanding his renunciation of his rights and the Spanish Government's dislike of the project. The Temporal Electors, after discarding in turn the equally short-sighted notions of putting forward Maximilian of Bavaria and his namesake, the Austrian Archduke, settled down to a choice which, from the point of view of militant Protestantism, might suit a brief period of transition. Their action had been quickened by Klesl's management, and by the diplomatic exertions of Christian of Anhalt, seconded by those of the Margraves Joachim Ernest of Ansbach and George Frederick of Baden- Durlach.

But, although Matthias had come to be regarded as a necessity in various quarters, he counted few friends in any. The Spaniards hated him for his intervention in the affairs of the Netherlands, futile as it had proved. The Estates in Hungary and in the other lands subject to his House cherished no gratitude for his various concessions; his frequent hagglings in the course of his bargains with them were known to have been inspired by his adviser Klesl, at heart a foe to that principle of home rule which Matthias had accepted in order to oust Rudolf from power. Moreover, Matthias, now a worn-out man of fifty-five, was really little better fitted than his predecessor for taking any part in the business of State--except that he was always ready to sign his name. He would have been only too glad to be left in peace and allowed to enjoy all that he had gained, and to saunter among the treasures which his elder brother had accumulated. Klesl was at heart reactionary; and the lack of principle inherent in Matthias' own character, the sense of power inspired in him by his election as Emperor, and the influence of his newly-married consort Anne, a daughter of the late Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol, alike inclined him to resistance against the

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