Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/346

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

miserably and had but paved the way to Tudor monarchy. What chance was there of Berthold's system prevailing under far worse conditions in Germany?

Maximilian was not likely to acquiesce in being deprived of all that made monarchy a reality. The knights with their passion for lawless freedom, the cities with their narrow outlook and strong local prejudices, might be likewise expected to have no good will towards a system in which the former had no part and the latter but a very small one. But a still greater difficulty lay in the princes, whose sectional ambitions and want of settled national policy wholly unfitted them for carrying out so delicate and difficult a task. Could a group of turbulent nobles, trained in long traditions of private warfare and personal self-seeking, provide Germany with that sound government which lands with better political prospects could only obtain from the strong hand of an individual monarch? The answer to these questions was not long in coming. In a few years the Council of Regency broke down utterly, bearing with it in its fall the strongest pillars of the new German constitution.

A final struggle between Maximilian and the Estates arose as to the meeting-place of the Council of Regency. But Max had gone too far on the way of concession to be able to succeed in enforcing his wish that the Council should follow the Court. The Estates resolved that it should meet in the first instance at Nürnberg. Full of anger and scorn the King left Augsburg, seeking the consolations of the chase in Tyrol. Berthold betook himself to Nürnberg, in order to take his turn as resident Elector on the Council of Regency. The choice of Frederick, Elector of Saxony, as the imperial deputy, made Berthold's task as easy as was possible. But Frederick was very commonly absent from the Council. He was too great a prince to be able to devote his whole time to the reform of the Empire. Upon Berthold alone fell the burden of the new system. Yet he was broken in health and spirits, and even at best only one prince among many. It was due to him that the Council had so much as a start. No political genius could have given it a long life.

Difficulties arose almost from the beginning. Maximilian grew indignant when he discovered that there was no probability of an army being levied to fight the French, and still more wrathful when the Council entered into negotiations on its own account with Louis XII, with whom it concluded a truce without any reference whatever to Italy. This seemed, and perhaps was, treason. But Maximilian was at the same time treating with Louis, and, though for a long time he refused to ratify the compact between the French King and the Estates, he made a truce on his own behalf and finally accepted also that arranged by the Council. But a new difference of opinion at once arose as to the proclamation of the papal Jubilee of 1500 in Germany. King and Council opened