The Cambridge Modern History - Vol. 2

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

CHAPTER III.
HABSBURG AND VALOIS (II).

AFTER the Treaty of Cambray and the Conference of Bologna the interest of European history shifts its centre to Germany. Charles' efforts in the South were chiefly devoted to the preservation of the existing equilibrium in Italy, to resisting the continuous advance of Muslim power in the Mediterranean, and to the restoration of some degree of prosperity to the shattered homes of Italy. His main attention was centred on the religious question in Germany, and the maintenance of Habsburg power on the Danube. France was still a chronic menace, but the wars were neither so frequent nor so dangerous as they had been from 1522-9. The death of Margaret of Savoy ( December 1, 1530) who had governed the Netherlands during Charles' minority ( 1507-15), and again with intervals from 1517 until her death, made another break with the past. Margaret had been the confidante and intimate adviser of her father Maximilian and, although for a time after his accession in the Netherlands Charles had been estranged from her, he soon discovered her worth, and relied on her as on another self. She was perhaps the most capable woman of her time, well versed in all the arts of politics and diplomacy, a friend of letters and of art, and under her rule the authority of her nephew over the Burgundian States had sensibly increased, though the prosperity of the provinces had not shown a corresponding advance. He was fortunate in finding in the circle of his own family another woman, perhaps less gifted, but well competent to take her place and carry on her policy. His sister Maria, the widow of the unfortunate King of Hungary who fell at Mohacz, was persuaded to undertake the task, for which she had shown her capacity in the troubles which followed the death of her husband Louis, and she entered upon the duties of her office in 1531. Her government was strengthened by the new ordinance establishing three Councils in the Netherlands for foreign affairs, justice, and finance. Shortly before Charles had procured the election of his brother, the Archduke Ferdinand, to the dignity of King of the Romans, and he could therefore regard the relations of his House to Germany and the Netherlands as satisfactorily established.

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