History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Lewis IV of Bavaria and Frederick the Handsome

Frederick could not persuade his brother Leopold to yield to Lewis, and so after a short time he bade a sad farewell to his family, and once more returned to prison. But now Lewis received him as a friend. Touched to the heart by his enemy's knightly deed, he threw his arms about him, and swore that henceforth they should be as brothers. And henceforth it was so. They sat together at table, they shared one bed, and at length Lewis decided that they should share the throne.

So to all the Empire he sent forth the decree that they two should be looked upon as one Emperor. "We, Lewis and Frederick," ran the decree, "by the grace of God, Kings of the Romans, do hereby declare and make known that we are united and bound together for ever more; that we having both been chosen and consecrated shall as one person have, and possess, guide and rule, the Holy Roman Empire. Equal honour shall we have in street, and in church, and in every place."

And now at length, seeing his brother on the throne, Leopold yielded and made peace with Lewis. Soon afterwards he died, to the great grief of Frederick. "Why have you left me thus lonely?" he cried in despair. "Of what good is life to me without you?"

Frederick grieved for the loss of his brother, but Lewis well knew that, by his death, peace was made more secure. So now he prepared to march into Italy, to receive the Imperial crown. For it had been agreed that although Frederick should share the title of King, Lewis alone should receive that of Emperor.

Lewis had already quarrelled with the Pope, who denied his right to the throne and excommunicated him. But Lewis determined to set the claims of the Pope at nought, and be crowned Emperor in spite of him.

The Ghibellines of Milan received him with joy, and set upon his head the iron crown of Lombardy. From Milan he marched southward to Rome. Here too, the people received him gladly. But there was no Pope to crown him either willingly or unwillingly. For the Pope, still under the power of the French King, was more than half a prisoner at Avignon.

But in spite of the Pope's absence and anger, the coronation took place. A bishop was found to anoint Lewis, and a noble placed the crown upon his head.

Then, when the Pope preached a crusade against Lewis, and thundered against him all the curses of the Church, Lewis declared him deposed and set up a Pope of his own choosing. And by this Pope, Nicholas V, Lewis was for the second time crowned Emperor.

But the fickle Italians soon began to tire of their new Emperor. Many of them took the real Pope's part against him. And when in 1330, on the news of Frederick's death, Lewis returned to Germany, Italy was already lost to him. His anti-pope was driven from the throne. By his expedition to Italy, he had gained nothing but a life-long and very bitter enemy in Pope John XXII.

Frederick having died, Lewis was now sole ruler of Germany, and after a time he tried to make friends with the Pope, but he tried in vain. But the Pope had no longer the tremendous power he used to have. The people and the Emperor of Germany no longer cowered beneath his ban, and the princes of the realm were not afraid to take the part of their Emperor against him. In 1338 the Electors all met together and solemnly declared that the Emperor took his rank and crown, not from the Pope but from them.

The princes thus showed themselves boldly to be on the side of their King. And had Lewis been wise, he might have become one of the most powerful Emperors Germany had ever known. But Lewis was not wise. Instead of thinking of the Empire, he thought merely of his own house, and tried to make that great. In many ways he added land upon land to his private possessions until at length he and his son became so rich that the jealousy and anger of the princes was aroused.

Tyrol belonged to a lady named Margaret Maultasch, and Lewis thought he would like that land too for his son, and resolved that he should marry the Lady Margaret. The Lady Margaret was already married, but she was very unhappy, so Lewis took upon himself to divorce her from her husband, and allow her to marry his son. In doing this he usurped the power of the Pope, for he alone had power to unmake a marriage. So once more the sleeping wrath of the Pope was roused against the Emperor. Once more the thunders of Rome shook the Imperial throne, and the Pope called upon the princes to depose the King and choose another. This time the princes were ready to listen to the Pope. They declared Lewis deposed, and chose Charles, the son of the blind King John of Bohemia, and grandson of Henry VII, as the next Emperor. This was in July. In August, the battle of Crecy was fought between the French and English, and both King John and his son the new chosen Emperor, fought on the side of the French. John, you remember, met his death in the thick of the fight, while his son fled from the field.

After Crecy, Charles returned to Germany. But although he had been chosen King the people of Germany now refused to acknowledge him. Both the royal cities of Aachen and Cologne shut their gates against him, so he had to content himself with being crowned in Bonn, as Frederick the Handsome had been.

But, crowned or not, the people would still not acknowledge him. "A priest's king," they called him in scorn. And at length, disguised as a peasant, the would-be Emperor had to steal through the land until he reached Bohemia. There in his own country he began to gather an army to fight for the crown.

Lewis too, began to gather his army. But one morning, not feeling well, and hoping that the fresh air would do him good, he set out upon a boar hunt in the forest near Munich. Suddenly, as he rode along, he swayed in the saddle and, almost without warning, he fell to the ground.

Anxiously his attendants crowded round him. But there was little to be done, for the hand of death was upon him. "Sweet Queen, our Lady," he murmured, "be with me at my passing." Then he lay still.