The Cambridge Modern History - Vol. 2

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

CHAPTER VIII.
RELIGIOUS WAR IN GERMANY.

CHARLES V achieved a masterpiece of unscrupulous statecraft when he extricated himself from his war with France and left his English ally entangled in its toils. Cogent military reasons for the peace concluded at Crépy could doubtless be alleged; the position of the imperial army in the heart of France was more imposing than secure, and the disasters of the retreat from Marseilles in 1524 might have been repeated in Champagne or Picardy. But there were deeper motives at work; however promising the military situation might have been, no prosecution of the war could have been attended with greater advantages than was its conclusion at that juncture. Charles was left with a freer hand to deal with Germany than he had ever had before. He had been more brilliantly victorious in 1530, but England and France were then at peace, and at liberty to harass him with underhand intrigues. Now, they were anxious suitors for his favour, ready, instead of reluctant, to purchase his support against each other by furthering the Emperor's efforts to cope with his remaining difficulties. These were now three, Turkish, Lutheran, and papal; with the two latter he must deal to some extent simultaneously; the Turkish problem he was enabled by the friendly offices of Francis I to postpone.

Few historical points are so hard to determine as Charles' real intentions with respect to the religious situation in Germany in 1545. Was it to be peace or was it to be war? We have much of the Emperor's correspondence to guide us, but its help is by no means decisive. Charles was constitutionally hesitating; it was his habit to dally with rival schemes until circumstances compelled a choice. On the eve of war he was still weighing the merits of peace, and it was always possible 'that an unexpected development in any one of his heterogeneous realms might disturb all past calculations. Yet there can be little doubt as to Charles' ultimate aim in 1545 or at any other date. The original dynastic objects of his policy had been achieved with wonderful success, and the subordinate but still powerful motive of religion came more prominently into action. His religious ideas

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