History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Joseph I and Charles VI

Leopold's son Joseph had been chosen King of the Romans during his lifetime. Now he quietly succeeded him as Emperor. He was one of the best of the Hapsburg rulers, and had he come to the throne in times of peace, it might have been well for Germany. As it was, his whole short reign was spent in war.

He carried on the war of the Spanish Succession which had been begun under Leopold I, and he also had to fight the Bavarians who rebelled against his rule. He found himself, too, like so many Emperors before him, at war with the Pope.

But he subdued the Bavarians, forced the Pope to yield to him, and before he died found Louis XIV anxious to make peace.

The great victories of Ramillies and Oudenarde had been won by the allies; and Louis XIV at length bowed his pride to sue for peace. But the allies demanded too much. They demanded not only that Louis should give up all claim to the throne of Spain, but that he should actually take up arms against his own grandson, and drive him from the throne. This Louis refused to do.

"If I must fight," he said, "let it be with my enemies, rather than with my own children."

So the war went on, and at Malplaquet the most terrible of all the battles of this terrible war was fought. The loss on either side was enormous. France could bear no more, and once again Louis was ready to make peace. This time he seemed willing to agree to any terms. But the negotiations were long, and before they were at an end the Emperor Joseph suddenly fell ill of smallpox.

In those days smallpox was a most terrible and dreaded disease. The doctors did not know how to treat it, and few people got better. In the fashion of the day the Emperor was wrapped in yards and yards of red cloth, and shut up in a room with all the windows closed tightly, so that not a breath of fresh air could get in. It is little wonder that he quickly died. He was only thirty-two, he left no son to succeed him, so his brother the Archduke Charles was chosen as Emperor.

Now this was the very man whom the British and the other allies had been fighting to place on the throne of Spain. But now that he had become Emperor they no longer wished him to be King of Spain also. They had no wish to see Charles VI as powerful as Charles V had been. They thought it was better to let Philip of Anjou keep the crown of Spain. At this same time, too, Marlborough's party had lost power at home. So he was recalled, and without consulting the Emperor, the Peace of Utrecht was signed. By this, Philip of Anjou, to drive whom from the throne so much blood had been shed, was acknowledged King of Spain.

The German peoples had suffered much. By the great treaties signed at Nimeguen and Ryswick they had lost much land, and they called them Nimweg and Reisweg, which is German for "Take away," and "Tear away." The treaty of Utrecht pleased them as little, and they called it Unrecht, which means "unjust." Charles himself would rather have clung to the hope of the Spanish crown than accept that of the Empire, and it was weeks after his brother's death before he could be persuaded to leave Spain and come to Germany to be crowned.

He therefore now refused to sign the Peace. Declaring that the allies had deceived him, he went on with the war. But the war now went ill with the new Emperor. He lost again and again. At last, weary of fighting, by the treaties of Rastadt and of Baden, he made peace, first as King of Austria, and then as Emperor.

The Empire, however, was not long at peace. The very next year after the signing of the Treaty of Baden, war broke out again. This time it was with the Turks. Once again little Prince Eugene led the army. Once again he led it to victory. The Turks were defeated, and driven out of Belgrade, which was added to Austria.

While the war was going on between Germany and France, our Queen Anne died. And, as had been agreed beforehand, one of the princes of the Empire, George, Elector of Hanover, became King of Great Britain and Ireland.

The following year Louis XIV also died, and for a few years after the Turkish war the Empire had rest. But in 1733 a fresh war broke out with France. This was again a war of succession, and this time it was fought over the throne of Poland. Augustus of Saxony claimed the throne. So also did Stanislaus Lesczinsky. Now Louis XV of France had married the daughter of Stanislaus, and he took his father-in-law's side. The Emperor took the side of Augustus of Saxony.

Prince Eugene was now an old man of seventy-one, yet once again he took the field. But the great General had lost his old dash and vigour, he had against him a far larger army than his own, and he could do little against it. He was right glad when, after two years' fighting, peace was made. Once again the Empire lost. The fair province of Lorraine was given up to Stanislaus instead of the throne of Poland. At his death it went to France.

France and Germany had been such constant enemies that it was natural that the Emperor should fight with Louis. But the Emperor had taken sides with Augustus of Saxony for a reason of his own. Like his brother Joseph, he had no sons, but only a daughter. Now, when Joseph had died, he left all his hereditary estates like Austria to Charles, but he had made him sign a deed saying that if he too should die leaving no son to succeed him, Joseph's daughter should come before his in the succession. This was called the Family Compact.

Now Charles was sorry that he had signed the Family Compact. His one desire was that his daughter Maria Theresa should succeed him as Queen of Austria. So he drew up what is called the Pragmatic Sanction. By this he tried to make not only all the Electors of the Empire, but all the great rulers of Europe, promise that they would not oppose his daughter, but allow her quietly to succeed to all his private possessions. And in order to get these promises, Charles did all he could to please the Electors and the other powerful princes and rulers in Europe. He fought for one, he bribed another, he begged here, and begged there, he made treaties and broke them. He neglected everything for the sake of this one pet scheme, and in 1740 he died, fondly believing that he had gained his end, and that Maria Theresa would succeed without trouble.

Charles VI was the last Emperor in the male line of the Hapsburgs. He was Spanish rather than Austrian—he loved Spain more than the Empire. Barcelona, he said, would be found graven upon his heart when he died. He surrounded himself with the solemn splendour of the Spanish court, and added to it something of the pomp and extravagance of the French court. No one dared to speak to him except on bended knee, and the people were taught to look upon the Emperor with awe and reverence as no common man, but almost half a god. Thousands of servants waited upon him, and the simplest acts of everyday life were performed with gorgeous ceremony.

And while the people slaved and starved, appalling waste went on in the royal palaces. For Charles was too splendid to pay any attention to such a mean matter as money. So it was flung about on all hands by his crowd of idle servants and hangers-on. Two barrels of fine wine were used, it was said, every day to soften bread for the parrots of the Empress, and twelve buckets of it were required for her daily bath. And in all departments of the royal palace, a like waste and extravagance was the order of the day.