Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/339

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ruler of the Empire. Maximilian was young, restless, ambitious, and able. He had already embarked in those grandiose schemes of international intervention which remained the most serious political interest of the rest of his life. To these he now added his father's care for the development and consolidation of a great Austrian State. Having however nothing of Frederick's self-restraint, he ever gave free rein to the impulse of the moment, and was willing not only to sacrifice the Empire, to whose interests he was indifferent, but even his own Austrian lands to obtain some immediate military or diplomatic advantage in the prosecution of his more visionary ideals. Since he had become King of the Romans he had won his share of successes; but his incurable habit of keeping too many irons in the fire made it impossible for him to prevail in the long run. It was something that, despite the recent ignominy of his Bruges captivity, he was steadily increasing the influence which he wielded in the Netherlands on behalf of his young son, Philip. But he was still involved in great difficulties in that quarter, and the hostility of France, which had robbed him of his Breton wife, still excited powerful Netherlandish factions against him. A new trouble arose with Charles VIII's expedition to Italy in 1494. The triumphant progress of the French King gave the last blow to the imagined interests of the Empire in the Peninsula. Maximilian who had at first hoped to fish on his own account in the troubled waters, became intensely eager to afford all the help he could to the Italian League which was soon formed against the French. In 1495 he formally adhered to the confederacy. But effective assistance to the Italians could only be given by Maximilian as the price of real concessions to the party of imperial reform. Though the promises made by him in his father's lifetime sat but lightly on the reigning monarch, impulse, ambition, and immediate policy all combined to keep him in this case true to his word.

On March 26,1495, Maximilian laid his first proposition before a Diet at Worms, to which despite the urgency of the crisis the princes came slowly and negligently. He appealed strongly to the Estates to check the progress of the French in Italy. An immediate grant for the relief of Milan, a more continued subsidy that would enable him to set up a standing army for ten or twelve years, could alone save the Empire from dishonour.

It was the opportunity of the reformers, and on April 29 Elector Berthold formulated the conditions upon which the Diet would give the King efficient financial and military support. The old ideas-Public Peace, imperial Court of Justice and the rest-were once more elaborated. But Berthold's chief anxiety was now for the appointment of a permanent imperial Council, representative directly of the Electors and the other Estates of the Empire, without whose approval no act of the King was to be regarded as valid. The only solid power Berthold wished to reserve to the King was that of supreme command in war; but no war