Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/348

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services, taxes, ecclesiastical Courts and other grievances weighing heavily upon him. But a body which could not carry through a simple political programme showed temerity in dealing with schemes of social reformation. Meanwhile the relations between King and princes became more and more embittered. "The King," said a Venetian ambassador, "speaks ill of the princes, and the princes speak ill of the King."

Maximilian had grown wiser with experience. He at last saw that to maintain a stiff attitude of resistance and to dwell upon his prerogative only served to unite his vassals against him. About this time he gradually drifted into a more temporising, but also a more dangerous, attitude. He was now content to bide his time and wait on events. In the long run the single will of the King was more likely to prevail than the divided wills of a host of magnates. Maximilian now endeavoured to break up the Electoral Union, and to make a party for himself among the younger princes. He employed all his rare personal talents, all the charm and fascination which belonged to him, in order to attract to himself on personal grounds the devotion of the rising generation. He cleverly sowed dissension between the mass of the immediate nobility and the little knot of reformers, who practically controlled the whole of the opposition. Why should a small ring of elderly princes of the second rank deprive the younger generation of all power at home or prospect of distinction abroad? He appealed to the particularistic interests, which were endangered, like his own, by the unionist policy of the Electors. He invoked the chivalrous and adventurous spirit which might well find a more glorious career in fighting Turks and French under the brilliant ruler than in wrangling about constitutional reform at home. He exerted all his interest at episcopal and abbatial elections, and not seldom succeeded in carrying his candidate. He sought to win over Alexander VI to his side, and with that object did not hesitate to negotiate directly with the papal Curia over the head of the Legate. A few years of hard work in these directions wrought a surprising difference in Maximilian's position. With increasing prosperity he grew more cheerful and good-tempered. Only against Berthold of Mainz did he show any great bitterness, and he now sought to obtain the Archbishop's resignation on the ground of ill-health in favour of one of his young followers, the Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. The very Electors began to despair of their policy of opposition. They resolved that it was but a waste of time and money to hold Diets in the absence of the King. Two years before it had been the highest goal of their ambition to summon the Estates without waiting for the formality of the royal writ.

Concurrently with these new developments, Maximilian forged other weapons against the reforming oligarchy. So long as he possessed but a purely personal authority, he was powerless against the new system. He therefore resolved to start counter-organisations, emanating from the royal prerogative, which might be taken into account against those