The Extra Girl: For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.

Is "nit" dialectal or a typo for "mit"?
I can locate the word and "mit kopf ab" seems to fit the sense of decapitation.

Heh heh. It's nit, which is I think meant to be nicht. That's the transcription of his speech from the source. I think it's a reference to Charles's awful German. He may have spoken it to his horse because that was the only one who didn't complain about it. :)
Heh heh. It's nit, which is I think meant to be nicht. That's the transcription of his speech from the source. I think it's a reference to Charles's awful German. He may have spoken it to his horse because that was the only one who didn't complain about it. :)
Then yes, truly terrible!
The Life of the Elector Friedrich IV, Saxony, 1542
from Elizabeth of England, Mother of Two Dynasties (1912) by George Jane

Without doubt, 1542 was a year of crisis in Wittenberg! For the explanation to the unique state of affairs that almost led to the unraveling of the fortunes of the Ernestine House of Wettin utterly, we must have recourse to the events of 1484, almost sixty years prior. In that year died the long-infirm Elisabeth of Bavaria, wife of the Elector Ernest and mother of the Electors Friedrich III and Johann. Two years later her mother-in-law, the Electress Margarethe, wife of the Ernest's father Friedrich II and mother to the Elector Ernst and to Duke Albrecht, died. The year after that, Friedrich III married off the last of his sisters to the duke of Braunschweig. Thus, but for the brief tenure of Johann's wife Sofie of Mecklenburg from 1500 to 1503, the court of the Ernestine Wettins had been home to no women of rank at all for over twenty years in 1509.

For that reason, when Elizabeth of England arrived, she despite her young age had immense freedom to organize her household, direct her expenditures, and engage in what good works she chose. And whereas many young royal women may have found such liberty the opportunity for mischief or folly, Elizabeth's piety worked in her credit. If she wanted to name the professors to the Leucorea her moneys supported, Friedrich thought little of it, and counted it a trouble he was fortunate to have. And once she bore her husband his heir in 1511, her confidence only grew, as if the combination of piety, fidelity, gravity, charity, and most of all, fertility, meant she could no longer come to grief. It was of course destined that Luther's arrival would prove her wrong.

All the reversals Elizabeth endured from 1517 on--her confinement to the rude countryside of Thuringia, her absence from her children, even the callous manipulation by her son of her sincere efforts on his behalf--inflicted on her a pain aggravated by her memory of how care-free her life had been before what she regarded as the nightmare of the Reformation descendend on her life. Even after her sojourn to the Wartburg was ended, Elizabeth at the court of her husband found herself with perilous little authority even in the direction of her own servants. She was of course still accorded the deference and etiquette of an electress, and her opinion was sought in those matters it was believed it could be trusted. But even her role as mother to her youngest child Katarina had been transformed by the inevitable alienation of her faith from those of the rest of the house.

This situation was aggravated in 1527 by the arrival of Sybille of Cleves. As has been verified by the fortunes of Sybille's sister Anne, the ducal house of Cleves and Juelich-Berg did not confer upon its daughters the most ambitious of educations. Also, Sybille threw herself into the reform religion with the utmost ardor. Few combinations could have been calculated to more frustrate the electress. However, the situation was worsened by the fact that Sybille, because her family were so pivotal to the controversies dividing Germany in these years, and because her own loyalties were not suspect as Elizabeth's were, quickly assumed an importance at the court that eclipsed Elizabeth's own.

This problem abated in 1532 when Elizabeth became the Electress Dowager, as it was no secret she had an influence with her son she had for some years lacked with his father. And it was during this time her influence and family connections were mobilized for the good of Saxony in the 1533 trip to England by herself and Friedrich IV. Though the journey did not go to her liking, and her efforts the next year in Brussels resulted in a grave humiliation, she could comfort herself that she was at least still the first woman of the electoral house. Then in 1534 Friedrich married, not her niece Mary as she had long wanted, but Dorothea of Denmark, who was at that time a girl of fourteen.

In normal circumstances, the creation of a new electress would oblige the old to remove herself to a smaller dower court so that all the difficulties of etiquette that came from having two could be spared. Now, neither the finances of the Wettins, badly drained by the need for perpetual military readiness, could not afford at the moment a separate, even less luxurious, establishment, nor did the Electress Dowager Elizabeth have enough of the confidence even of her son to be left completely to her own devices. Enough trouble as it was came from Elizabeth's preference for former nuns as her ladies and serving-women. Their occasional Romanist prayers were sometimes mischievously and even gleefully disrupted by one or the other of her daughters-in-law.

So the Wettin court became an ever-more fractious place in these years, as the women who ordinarily would be its calm and consolation became instead rivals, dividing the House of Ernestine Wettin within itself much as the Empire was divided without. Yet it does a disservice to describe it as a contest solely or primarily between mothers and daughters-in-law, given that neither Dorothea nor Sybille bore the deep antipathy toward the Electress Dowager Elizabeth that her daughter Katarina did.

Katarina, too young at the time of her mother's exile to the Wartburg to even have memories of her beforehand, viewed Elizabeth's loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith as a dereliction of the obligations of her motherhood to her three children. She never forgave her, and her unhappy marriage from 1534 to Henry Brandon did not give her reason to relent, even though that match had been the work not of Elizabeth but her son Friedrich. For Katarina, it was enough that her Heinrich, as a son of Mary Tudor, shared the offending blood of her mother. But worse still, had it not been for the Brandon marriage, Katarina could have been a match for any of the great princes of the empire, with her own court, lands and income. Instead, she was reduced to being Countess of Lincoln, a courtesy title so vacuous to German ears it may has well have been made-up for her benefit.

Thus by 1540 these four women and their respective cadres of ladies were waging a kind of war of all against all. Friedrich and Johann the Younger were for their part too involved in the necessary statecraft of the external crisis to expend much care on the supervision of family life. To some extent, this non-involvement in a way presented one of the more serious family problems of this generation of Wettins. One dictate of Elizabeth's that had been observed with respect to her daughter-in-law was her insistence that the marriage to Dorothea of Denmark not be immediately consummated. Even now, the unhappy experience of Margaret Beaufort in her marriage to Owen Tudor, which Elizabeth had heard recited in Lady Margaret's advice against the immediate bedding of her namesake by the king of Scotland, made itself known. And for that reason, as late as 1537 Friedrich IV's marriage to Dorothea was still unconsummated. Meanwhile, the Duchess Sybille bore Johann the younger a daughter, Maria, in 1530, followed by a son, Johann Wilhelm, in 1532, another, Johann Heinrich in 1534, a second daughter, Elisabeth the Younger, in 1535, a third son, Johann Georg in 1537, and a third daughter, Margarethe, in 1538, followed by Johann Ernst in 1540. Of these, only Elisabeth and Johann Ernst died in childhood.

In this additional way, Sybille claimed the title of first among the noblewomen of Ernestine Saxony, having resolved for the Wettins any question of a bottleneck as to the succession before Dorothea had born her first son. Sybille's comforts to the effect that she had taken the burdens from the young electress of bearing her husband an heir only aggravated the sense of humiliation. The matter became only worse as years went by after the consummation of Friedrich and Sybille without her conceiving. In 1539, Katarina finally bore Henry Brandon his own Henry Brandon, leaving Dorothea alone among the women of the house of Saxony to have not conceived. Rumors spread, that Friedrich was unhappy with her; that Friedrich, so changeable in all else, was already eyeing a new bride in the same way as Philip of Hesse; that Friedrich had found a new mistress on his trip to England who thus occupied him, and with whom he had proved his own potency; that even, one or more of Sybille's children were his. In truth, various of these rumors, rather than being dismissed as slander by the various other women of the House of Wittenberg and their various ladies, were billowed and disseminated by them, eagerly.

To some extent, this behavior lay in the willingness of both Sybille and Katarina to play the Livia. The hope was that Friedrich's marriage to Dorothea might be disrupted, with his ongoing role in the struggle for Germany, specifically his increasingly parlous situation against the imperial throne, and all the military dangers that entailed, promising in various ways to shorten his life and rule, thus enabling the cadet house already begun by Johann the Younger to step into the place of the electoral dignity. That the object of all these conspiracies were the feelings of a young girl, one who had already known disorder, danger and exile from her own country, the early deaths of her parents and brother, the difficulties of an extensive effort to reconvert her to a religion she despised, made no matter in the calculations of the ambitious around her. Eventually, beneath this grinding away of her person by rivalry and rumor, Dorothea threatened to crumble.

In this way, quite apart from certain external military concerns, 1542 was for the Ernestine Wettins a year of crisis.

detail from Lucrezia Panciatichi by Bronizno, as Katarina, Countess of Lincoln
Bronzino Lucrezia Panciatichi.jpg
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The Life of the Elector Friedrich IV, Saxony, 1542-43
From The Heresiarchs, by Sigismunda Killinger & Lise Freitag (1987)

No doubt, the Elector's sudden intervention in the war for the Gelderland represented a transformational event. Yet to most observers at the time, it was not one in his favor. His closest, most necessary ally, Philip of Hesse, already alienated by Friedrich's lack of enthusiasm for his bigamy, was now technically obligated by treaty to take up arms against him. Likewise, the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg were also now, though Lutheran, under obligation to take Charles V's side in his quarrels. Cleves was as yet outside the Schmalkaldic League, and so none of its members were obligated to follow Saxony in the war, and a great many of those not in fact already subjected to overtures from Charles V were in fact irritated that Friedrich had apparently presupposed their willingness to go to war for a non-member. For his part Francois I was impressed by Friedrich's cunning, but his value as an ally had just suffered a sharp decline because of his own abandonment of Cleves. Finally, Henry VIII's own annulment of his marriage to Duke Wilhelm's sister Anne had absolved him of a direct interest in the Cleves question. On one hand, he was quite pleased that his nephew had proved able to make a fist with which he could menace his enemies, on the other, the English court viewed the Saxon elector unlikely to win any subsequent contest with the full might of the Habsburgs.

Any strength to Friedrich's strategic position rested in the fact that though he had frustrated and inconvenienced his allies, he was at least still indispensable to them, or at least his removal by the Habsburgs would represent a loss unacceptable or even dangerous to them all. His declaration from Dueren, though filled with bravado, resounded well in the Lutheran churches and town squares of Germany, but at least in the short term it moved the hearts of no princes. Though the presence of a foreign army inside the empire represented the only available means by which Charles could truly menace any prince or reimpose the Roman Catholic religion on any territory, and thus represented far more than even the argument over the kingship of the Romans a proposition by which all the other rulers of the empire might unite against the Habsburgs, it excited no one enough to commit actual resources to that cause.

In the immediate circumstances, moreover, Wilhelm was still abandoned by his more significant ally, France. And he was still out-numbered. Thus, immediately after the Declaration, Wilhelm sued for peace with Friedrich's support, indicating a willingness to cede the contested Gelderland for the figleaf of a promise not to bring foreign soldiers into Germany. Negotiations were conducted through the Habsburgs' ally, the Elector Palatine. Those negotiations proceeded quickly: Charles marveled at the anger his Spanish troops provoked among lords who had themselves sought alliances among foreign kings against him. Thus the compromise was struck that Charles would not bring armies raised among his Spanish subjects into the Empire, so long as Saxony and Cleves renounced its alliances with the kings of France, England, Denmark and Sweden, and foreswore seeking out their own foreign help against him. Wilhelm recognized that the Gelderland was lost, but kept the rest of his inheritance.

Finally, in the thorniest issue, he refused the demand of Charles to reintroduce the Catholic religion to his territories. Friedrich through his representatives applied much pressure on his point, asserting Charles's insistence on Catholicism in Cleves would be read by the rest of the Protestant princes as a preface to his forcing Catholicism upon them all. Charles recognized this would overstep the bounds of his precarious position. France might yet choose to intervene if the negotiations failed, and if Friedrich could convince the rest of the Protestant princes that it was truly a matter of religion and not a narrow dispute between the emperor and the duke of Cleves that was at issue, Charles might find himself at war with the whole Schmalkaldic League. Thus, as always, the question of religion was deferred and a treaty reached at Simmern.

However, by that point, Friedrich had far more immediate concerns. He had been monitoring the progression of the diplomacy from Wilhelm's fortress at Juelich. There, word came to him in November 1542 that a conspiracy had been uncovered at Wittenberg. Servants had been suborned by the Habsburgs to spirit away the Electress Dorothea and place her in the custody of the emperor. Perhaps most worrisome of all, this plan did not apparently involve the use of any kind of force against the electress. Rather, she was to be induced to leave willingly by the promise of an immediate effort to install her as the regnant Queen of Denmark. As yet there was no certain word of whether Dorothea had actually agreed to this arrangement.

Friedrich's panic on this discovery was made worse by the fact that from where he was, west of the Rhine, his return to Saxony was blocked. He had crossed the territory of Cologne under the pretext of offering his assistance to the emperor, to whom at the moment he was a rebel. Moreover, there was a line of Catholic ecclesiastical territories stretching east of the lands of the duke of Cleves from the North Sea almost to the Palatinate, which were unlikely to admit a Protestant army under present circumstances.

Thus, Friedrich was reduced to responding to the disaster by letter, empowering his mother Elizabeth to handle the circumstances as she wished, in effect creating a regency. Never before and never again would the electress exercise this much power over the Ernestine Wettins. Long familiar to stern measures herself and the resentment they create, she chose to treat the young electress as an innocent and expressed disinterest in any of the evidence that might be produced against her.

Instead, she gave to her second son Johann the Younger and his wife the exclusive use of Schloss Hartenfels, the Ernestine Wettins' largest and most luxurious residence, as a place for them to rear their large family. Her daughter Katarina and son-in-law she dispatched to England, on the excuse they would need to be close at hand should either Henry VIII or the Duke of Suffolk die, but really to resolve both herself and the young electress of an obnoxious irritant. Finally, Elizabeth contracted in Friedrich's name a new marriage contract with Dorothea giving her additional lands, and settling on her essentially a bounty per-child. Elizabeth additionally agreed herself to withdraw from the court and establish a dower residence at the humble premises of Schloss Lochau, where Friedrich the Wise had entertained his mistress Anna Weller, effective upon the birth of her first grandson by the electress Dorothea.

With this matter settled, a flurry of letters between elector and electress ensued, complete with apologies, promises and proclamations of love. However, Friedrich was still unable to return to his own territory. All the Catholic princes occupying territory through which the Saxon territory might march demanded prohibitively expensive tolls. Finally, Friedrich negotiated a treaty with the Archdiocese of Cologne whereby he agreed to guarantee all his subjects the right to take Catholic communion, essentially formalizing a commitment Friedrich had previously made informally to Ferdinand, king of the Romans.

In truth, given that France was still openly at war with the Emperor but had merely not fielded an army against him, it was actually in the interest of Charles V and the empire's ecclesiastical princes to let Friedrich return home. On Maundy Thursday, 1543, he was welcomed home by the Electress Dorothea at the electoral residence in Altenburg. Of course, it was a complete fiction that anything had been settled, either externally or internally. Habsburg attempts to abduct Friedrich's wife, heir or both would be intercepted again in 1544, 1546, 1547, 1550, 1552, and 1555.

Armor of Charles V
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Armor of Ferdinand, King of the Romans

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Just to let people know: I found a better file of the Cranach "portrait" of our present main character, which you can find on the first page of the timeline. Thanks everyone for your support!

(By the way, I love this portrait. His costume is very similar to some existing Cranach portraits of Johann Friedrich, and he has that definitive Ernestine Wettin bearishness to him. But at the same time, squint a bit and you can see a family resemblance to both Henry VIII and James V.)
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The Life of the Elector Friedrich IV, Holy Roman Empire, 1543-5
Nonsuch Palace sketch.jpg

"Reckoning" from Outlaw Saxony: New Perspectives on the Sechszentes Jahrhundert Empire by Louis Hadrami

Following the Saxons’ evacuation from the lands of the Duke of Cleve, the war in the west between Imperials and French re-started, with Francis I tardily arriving on the scene to find his allies pacified. The two great land powers of Europe skirmished to little effect, though Francis in his displeasure with the duke of Cleves at making peace with Charles V withdrew the offer of marriage to his niece Jeanne d’Albret.

In 1543 the Empire again relaxed as the attention of the great powers once more turned elsewhere. Francis’s ally, the famous pirate Barbarossa, terrified Sicily and reduced Reggio, then proceeded to Marseilles where he sold the Italian captives into slavery to French buyers. Francis for his part freed the Turkish galley slaves in his fleet, gave Barbarossa the use of Toulon as winter quarters, and his ambassador declared France’s association with Suleiman the Magnificent directly to the pope.

These scandals reverberated in the Diet at Speyer in 1544, where Charles V sought the assistance of the German princes in his ongoing struggle against Francis. When the Lutheran princes protested their erstwhile ally the French king was not their enemy, Charles produced secret documents whereby Francis had confirmed his ultimate goal of the extirpation of the Lutherans. The diplomatic situation of the French at Speyer was in fact so dire that Francis’s ambassador could not get safe passage to address the Diet, because no Christian prince was obliged to respect safe passages to anyone of the party of the Turks. For his part, the Elector Friedrich rejected with great bravado a letter from Francis justifying his Turkish alliance.

Friedrich hoped though to direct Charles’s ire toward the Ottomans rather than the French, but given he was lucky to not be treated as an enemy himself, found his ability to shape the situation limited. The Diet of Speyer recessed with Charles promising to proceed directly to a war against the Ottomans following the conclusion of present hostilities against the French. The German religious dispute was, once again, held over to a later date. Prior decrees of the diets in favor of religious freedom of the Lutherans were ratified and reissued. Pope Paul then castigated Charles for these concessions by letter, with the result that the two entered into discussions for how best to proceed against the Lutherans once the war against the French were defeated.

At this point Henry VIII invaded France, creating an additional diplomatic headache for Friedrich, who did not want to be pressed into war against one of his necessary international allies by the other. Henry’s force was immense and formidable, and at one point it seemed as if the Emperor and the King of England might fulfill their ambition of partitioning France between them. But to the Saxon Elector’s horror it quickly became apparent the Emperor, counter to the policy he had proclaimed at Speyer, was trying to draw the hostilities against the French to a close so that he could make war elsewhere.

Friedrich had absolutely no confidence that by this Charles V meant the Turks.

At Crespy the French and the Emperor made a peace treaty. Its terms were numerous, as Francis finally renounced its claim to Naples and Charles gave up his claim to the duchy of Burgundy and other French lands that had been held by Philip the Good.

If Friedrich was appalled by the end of the Imperial war against France, signifying that imperial attentions could next be turning upon himself, he was at least buoyed by the fact that the peace was secured without notice to or consultation with Charles’s ally, the king of England, who now found himself having spent an inordinate sum on a French campaign with very little benefit. Thus after Crespy ambassadors were busily crossing the North Sea between Wittenberg and London, as Friedrich knitted their alliance more tightly.

In truth, the situation was worse than even Friedrich knew: for Francis had, in addition to his other promises to the emperor, undertaken to broker a peace between the Habsburgs and his allies the Ottomans. This would permit Charles to withdraw forces from Hungary and direct the whole of his resources against the rebellious German princes.

Friedrich wasted no time. He knew the term of the League of Schmalkald was about to expire, and he energetically began trying to extend it past 1545 even as he brought into its fold the lands of Juelich-Cleves-Berg-Mark-Ravensberg. In this he was brutally disappointed, as at the last minute Wilhelm was given the hand of Ferdinand’s daughter Maria in marriage, securing an alliance with the Habsburgs that would both bring into their fold one of the wealthiest German princes, and open the west to the advance of Habsburg armies overland from the Netherlands.

As if this was not notice enough, preparations began both for an imperial diet at Worms to directly address the German religious question and for a general council of the church that would meet afterwards. Charles convened orthodox theologians at Louvain who codified a Confession of 32 articles, which he then required all his subjects in the Netherlands to conform to on pain of death. All understood this as a prelude to what was in store for Germany. Friedrich for his part was able to negotiate an extension of the term of the Schmalkaldic League among its then current members, with the exception of Albertine Saxony, whose new elector Moritz had served with the emperor against the French in Savoy.

Thus he had very low expectations for the Diet at Worms when it opened on March 24. The princes of the Schmalkaldic League announced they would not provide funds for the general defense against the Turk unless their rights were safeguarded in perpetuity. They rejected the authority of the pope to call a general council and said they would not recognize it. How much had changed became even more apparent when the French ambassador appeared and hectored the Lutherans over their disobedience to the pope. There were calls for negotiations between the various parties of theologians at Regensburg, but Friedrich understood this for the delaying tactic that it was.

It was at this point Francis and the Emperor once again began to fall out. Suddenly, Francis’s son the Duke of Orleans died. Some of the concessions Francis had made at the end of the last war had been to win for Orleans a prestigious Habsburg match. That being now for naught, he began to agitate for the recognition of his right to Milan and other contested claims. Frustrated, Charles rejected Francis’s demands, and in retaliation the French withdrew from the council at which the question of the Lutherans was supposed to be dealt with. Worse, Francis reversed his influence with the Sultan to push for a new war against the Habsburgs in Hungary. But Friedrich could not manage to transform the rupture between France and the Empire into an alliance between France and England, which he badly needed to do.

At this point, with all his gambit to bring Cleves into the struggle checked, his cousins the Albertine Wettins firmly in the camp of the emperor with no doubt the ultimate reward that had been promised for their service, the Hohenzollerns still neutral, France still indifferent to his fate, and Charles even now in the process of draining as much as possible of the wealth of the Netherlands to finance an army imminently to be directed against him, Friedrich IV had one final card to play.
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Jeanne, like all the princesses of France and their descendants, had zero rights on that crown. Sure Henry IV was her son and became King of France but his claim to the crown of France was from his father, the Duke of Vendome who was a male descendants in an unbroken male line of a previous King of France.
Jeanne, like all the princesses of France and their descendants, had zero rights on that crown. Sure Henry IV was her son and became King of France but his claim to the crown of France was from his father, the Duke of Vendome who was a male descendants in an unbroken male line of a previous King of France.

Louis IX, aka "Saint Louis".

Yes, we're talking over three hundred years of descent.
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Jeanne, like all the princesses of France and their descendants, had zero rights on that crown. Sure Henry IV was her son and became King of France but his claim to the crown of France was from his father, the Duke of Vendome who was a male descendants in an unbroken male line of a previous King of France.

You're right. I was so focused on the flow of events more central to the timeline I didn't properly consider Salic Law and the difference in the French succession. I'll correct it shortly.
The Life of the Elector Friedrich IV, Saxony, 1529-1545 (Relationship to Luther)
from Anneliese Glau, Rose and Sword (1967)

Relations between Friedrich and the Electorate of Saxony’s most important subject had never recovered after the execution of Andreas Karlstadt. It is easy, of course, to attribute this to the resentment of the duke toward Luther for his perceived role in Karlsadt’s death. But in truth, that’s but half the story. Luther, in later letters and conversations, was as frank as he could afford to be that though he had been forced to argue for Karlstadt’s execution, he had not done so attributing blame for the tragic circumstances to Karlstadt himself. Instead, Luther lay responsibility for the disaster, which rendered Karlstadt’s children orphans to whom he would extend support for the rest of his life, at the flightiness and imprudence of the duke. Thus, it would seem from that point the dislike was mutual.

And there was no question the antipathy affected, if not poisoned outright, the relationship between the two most important men in Electoral Saxony. From the time of the Marburg Colloquy, in which Philip of Hesse called together reformist theologians from across the empire to craft a common body of belief, Friedrich held Luther’s intransigence on the eucharist in contempt. First, there is every reason to believe Friedrich’s own position on the substance of the controversy was in agreement with Zwingli’s. Second, perhaps because he dared not air directly his difference on the matter with Luther, Friedrich subjected Luther to scathing criticism over the practical effect of the breach between he and Zwingli, which was to prevent the German Protestants from becoming a unified community of believers.

On one level, of course, this tension is grounded not in the men’s personalities or their difficult personal histories but the institutional struggle of what would over time evolve into the Imperium and the General Consistory (or, as it’s more commonly known, “Luther’s Vatican”). However we choose to frame this contest, it would not be the last between the prince’s role in providing external protection to a physical community of believers, and the theologian’s, who is at least supposed to do his or her work without recourse to low matters of expediency.

The friction between the two men came to a head in May 1536, when German Protestants met in Wittenberg to negotiate, finally, mutually acceptable compromise language describing the eucharist. Luther began by an intemperate attack on the Swiss and South German attendees on the matter of what happens when a non-believer ingests the host. Friedrich, who had servants monitoring the discussion, was informed of the tone of Luther’s remarks, and responded by walking briskly down the street from the castle to the Leucorea. Barging in, he reproved Luther with strong words before the assembly. This public embarrassment, stopping just short of a public endorsement of the opposing view, helped pave the way for the Wittenberg Concord between the German reformed churches.

The slowly ratcheting tension between Luther and the elector next vented in their momentous debate over the Jews. In 1537 Luther led a call for the expulsion of Jews from Electoral Saxony. By temperament, Friedrich was much more inclined to take the position assumed by Philip of Hesse in 1532, which would permit them to stay. In the ensuing disputation, Friedrich received the famous Josel of Rosheim at Wittenberg. Josel offered letters of recommendation from Alsatian reformers with whom Friedrich had maintained cordial relations. However, for once, on Luther’s side stood the formidable Electress Dowager Elizabeth of England, who observed the English prejudice, and for whom the presence of the Jews in Germany had always represented a horrifying affront.

The colloquy was recorded, stored in the electoral archives, and subsequently published in 1722, at which point it became a sensation, and a cherished text in European legal history. For his part, Luther delivered a performance that was both a tour de force and deeply counterproductive. The core of his argument, peppered with his usual rhetorical excess, was that temporal mercy to the Jews was an evil in that it frustrated their salvation, by keeping them outside the Christian faith.

Friedrich’s response was icy, condescending, and brilliant: “So old friar, you would advise me as to the Jews as [Pope] Paul does Charles [V] as to me, for the same reason, the healing kindness of flame? And you would have me offer them an inferior quality of mercy than the one I beg him for? If Charles listens to Paul as you would have me incline my ear to you, what would then should become of you? Old friar, the paper you set your name to can easily kindle the flame that would burn your children.”

Not expecting a direct rebuttal from the magistrate to whom his argument was directed, Luther’s response to these words were uncharacteristically tame. But Friedrich relished the moment, and rebutted him further: “Brother Martin, you are famed as the greatest preacher in all the world, and yet you cannot convert a Jew. And here you are, on account of that defect of your craft, pestering the laws of Saxony to give you tools to do what you are telling me your preaching cannot: fire, iron and hunger. Why should I trouble myself with these low tools? If the Jews will not be converted, what is needed are better preachers.”

Though this exchange seems like it was as satisfying for Friedrich as it was bracing for Luther (addressing him as “Old Friar” and “Brother Martin” by this point in his life, while putatively a diminutive of affection, seemed to convey the exact opposite sense), the question was not so easily settled. For one thing, much of the argument for the permissive position lay in following the example of Hesse. But at the same time as the matter was being disputed in Wittenberg, Philip was expressing his own uncertainty on the wisdom of his previous decisions on the matter, even undertaking a partial reversal of his own policy of tolerance, restricting the Jews to only certain professions and urging them to cease resistance to their conversion.

This in turn led to a long extension in Friedrich’s deliberations on the matter. Many in fact believed he might render no decision at all, and let his silence on the question of the Jews stand as an implicit resolution of the question. Finally in 1538 he made his decision: the Jews of Saxony would not be expelled, nor would they be pressed for conversion by material need in the way of having professions closed to them that Christians could practice. Even military service and the tilling of land would be open to Jews, at least in theory. However, neither could they engage in trades or practices barred to Christians. In short, there would be a regime of legal equality, with Jews operating enterprises parallel to Christians and living in the same communities with the protection of the same laws. Of course, there was no affirmative requirement they be given tenancies, or admitted to guilds, so there were practical limitations on these rules.

The only practical way their prerogatives were more limited after the 1538 Law was that because they could only pursue the same occupations as Christians, moneylending was now barred to them. This created an immediate problem for trade and industry, and there were immediate appeals for relief. Thus in 1539 the elector Friedrich established a state money-lending enterprise, which would charge fees, ostensibly to compensate for defaults and conveyance costs. Unofficially, it would be a profit-making business that would be able to ruthlessly exploit both its monopoly and the fact that its proceeds went to the same person in whom lay the power to make and enforce laws. Luther of course hated money-lending and commercial life even more than he did Judaism. He saw this descent into both religious permissiveness and the hated practice of usury as nothing short of satanic.

Realizing he had pushed Luther as far as he could without provoking an open breach, Friedrich began to take care to repair the relationship. Hence when Philip of Hesse requested Luther’s opinion as to the validity of marrying a second time with the first wife still alive, Friedrich forbade Luther from answering, when that was in fact excusing him from what would otherwise be a humiliating situation. Likewise, in 1542, when a dispute arose over tax revenues from the Wurzener lands between Friedrich and the new duke of Albertine Saxony, Moritz, Luther volunteered to intercede. However by now the storm clouds of conflict with the emperor seemed so dark and heavy Friedrich essentially demurred from the dispute, eager as he was to avoid any accusation of being a threat to the peace of the empire. Likewise, he declined to get drawn into a dispute with the Duke of Braunschweig over his interference with the reformation in the nearby imperial city of Goslar.

Gradually though, it became obvious all the caution in the world would not avert the impending war between emperor and elector. Luther began his own preparations, in 1545 planning to leave Wittenberg for an extended stay in his home town of Eisleben, in the lands held by the counts of Mansfield, ostensibly to mediate in local feuds affecting the business interests of his relatives. Though there may have been other ways Friedrich could have taken Luther's imminent departure, his actual attitude he recorded in a letter to Philip: “That this man, whom my lord uncle, and my lord father, and my self, all rendered ourselves his servants, would at the time of our impending trial depart like a thief, so that he may be safe while the rest of us may well perish on his account, is unbearable to me. I wish now I had taken the long-ago advice of my lady mother with respect to him, for it has been proven right.”

Enraged, Friedrich under the pretense of a concern for the old Luther’s safety in circumstances of imminent war declined giving him leave to go, when where he was trying to get was to safety, and detained him for his safety in the very place where he was in the greater danger, Wittenberg. Moreover, he demanded Luther write a pamphlet on the coming war. In several ways, this was anathema to Luther's stated beliefs. Though he had always been a rich font of advice in person, he had been reluctant in print to take sides in the affairs of states. Instead he had regularly enjoined his readers to loyalty to the prince, as he had in the Peasants’ War. Though the Jews represented an exception, he had most often argued against recourse to the sword, to the point of a fatalistic resistance to the idea of offering a defense against the conquests of the Ottomans. And finally, Luther had struggled almost obsessively to decline to play favorites among the Lutheran princes, in particular straining to maintain relations of at least equal warmth to Duke Moritz of the Albertines as he did the Elector Friedrich IV.

And of course this was not hard: after all, it was not Moritz who had made himself a friend to the hated Jews and taken the state into the business of usury.

But now what Friedrich demanded of Luther was a strident condemnation, not just of the Emperor Charles V, but all the princes, including the Lutherans, and especially Moritz, who stood next to him ready to make war against the League of Schmalkald. The legal justifications mustered by Charles and his allies were to be disregarded, and instead their resort to force against the League treated as an effort to extirpate the Lutheran faith, utterly. Moritz was to be denounced as a crypto-Catholic who would pretend to the Reformed faith until all its defenders were extinguished, at which point he would return his lands to obedience to Rome. In the apocalyptic vision Friedrich demanded, Charles and Moritz prepared a crusade that would see the German Bible committed to the flames, followed not too far behind by those innocents who resisted the reimposition of the authority of Rome. Finally, Luther would reiterate Friedrich’s earlier denunciation of Charles as a foreign king, imposing alien customs, reliant on outside armies and outside revenues, who had forfeited his imperial throne when he had broken his coronation oath by defending his tyranny with soldiers foreign to the nation. Four drafts Luther produced, each one more vituperative than the last, all of them rejected.

Catholic historicist painters from the Baroque era on reproduced the scene endlessly: the angry-eyed Friedrich IV, standing behind a bent, aged, fearful Luther, arm rigid and straight as a weather vane, pointing to places in the manuscript insufficient to purpose. Some of them even go so far as to picture Friedrich drawing his sword half-way out of the scabbard. To some extent this of course represents an exaggeration, and many witnesses to the exchanges of Friedrich and Luther in these days, including some who had little trouble making candid statements about the character of the elector, like Chancellor Brueck and Philip Melanchthon, assert the Elector brought Luther around to his opinion with respect to the ultimate goal of the impending war on the Protestant princes, and that the final work represents accurately Luther’s ultimate thought. But finally on November 26, 1545, Luther completed Of the Antichrist and His Servants. Within two weeks after its completion, exhausted not just by the writing but by the ordeal that led to it, Luther was dead.

As to Of the Antichrist itself, the best historical verdict of it remains Siskind’s, that “it was written at a time when the Elector Friedrich IV seemed powerless before Habsburg might. Well enough, for within that thin volume was the force of a kernelsplitter."

Below, Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder

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Supplemental on Religious Diversity, Germany, Contemporary
Englisch in Wittenberg


An 1895 postcard of the Dresden Zwinger, as the Sofieshuette, Wittenberg

In celebration of Chanukkah this week, we at Englisch in Wittenberg are happy to offer a special quiz.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

1. Wittenberg has the second largest Jewish community in Europe. Which is the largest?

(A) London

(B) Prague

(C) Amsterdam

(D) Moscow

2. What is the size of the Jewish community of the Haupstadtbezirk Wittenberg?

(A) 50,000 people

(B) 200,000 people

(C) 500,000 people

(D) 1.3 million people

3. During the Abfluss, which German colony received the most Jewish settlers?

(A) Neuprussia

(B) Christiansland

(C) Friedrichsland

(D) Louisiana

4. Controversially, the Alexanderstadt Synagogue, the largest in Germany, was built in what architectural style?

(A) Neo-Ottomanisch

(B) Gothic

(C) Riven Heart

(D) Spieleland

5. Historically, though Wittenberg never had a ghetto, several different neighborhoods have served as the hub of Jewish life in the city. Which one serves that purpose now?

(A) Eichenbrueche

(B) Coswig

(C) Sofiestadt

(D) Liesnitz

6. Whose statue adorns the plinth immediately in front of the Alexanderstadt Synagogue, on Herzogjohannstrasse?

(A) Josel of Rosheim

(B) Johann Reuchlin

(C) Martin Luther

(D) The Holy Prince
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Map, Electoral Saxony, 1542
Saxony 1532.png

Ernestine Saxony under the Elector Friedrich IV, before the 1542 start of the Spanish War. Also shown: most of Albertine, or Ducal, Saxony, the lands of the Prince-Archbishop of Magdeburg, the free imperial city of Goslar, and the County of Mansfeld.