Political Context of the Reformation

Section 4 for luther exam

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Charles V Power

1) Maximilian I (Habsburg) married Mary of Burgundy- they had a son called Phillip. He married Joanna of Spain, who was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella. 

2) Joanna and Phillip had a son called Charles.

3) When Ferdinand and Isabella died; Phillip died, and Joanna went mad, Charles became King of Spain.

4) When Charles’ grandfather, Maximilian died, Charles inherited all his Habsburg lands and the Netherlands. He also replaced his grandfather as the Holy Roman Emperor in 1519

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Long term factors- the Holy Roman Emperor: The Empire had political ‘fragmentation.’ There was no central authority (like England, France or Spain). The princes had local autonomy.The Emperor, Maximilian and later on Charles V, attempted to centralise authority.

Luther’s writings appealed to the princes because he wrote in nationalistic tones. The princes (both Catholic and Lutheran) feared the Emperor’s drive towards centralisation. Luther offered the princes even more local autonomy when he asked them to administer the Lutheran church.Without the support of the princes there would have been no Luther movement.

Political preoccupations- Papacy, Emperor- Austria-Hungary, France, Italy, Ottoman Empire and Spain. Multiple Kingdoms- how to manage these with 16th century resources. Fragmentation of the Empire- local autonomy V centralisation. Luther’s ideas appealed to the latent nationalism inside the Empire. Role of the Princes- vital in the establishment of the Lutheran Church. Charles V’s errors/compromises- analyse the problems and compromises with the Princes

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What were the problems faced by the Holy Roman Emperor?

Before 1519- Maximilian failed to centralise authority in the Empire. He was also dependent on the princes to offer financial support in his ongoing conflict with the Turks in his Hapsburg lands.

Charles V- inherits ‘multiple kingdoms’- Spain, Netherlands, Austria-Hungary, The Empire and the New World: therefore there would, inevitably, be preoccupations, and Charles V would have to prioritise his needs. To put it simply, the Emperor could not crush the heretical Luther movement, at key times, because he was preoccupied elsewhere.Charles was also in perpetual conflict with the French in the Italian Wars.

1517-20- The power of the princes is obvious- local autonomy in the Empire- both the Emperor and the Papacy were dependent on their support: compare with centralised states- England, France and Spain. 1520- Luther is a national hero in the Empire- his writings, aided by printing and oral dissemination, tap into long term resentment against foreign interference- Papacy and the Emperor.

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1521- Elector Frederick- his protection of Luther after the Edict of Worms is vital- it allows Luther the opportunity to provide the blueprint for the Lutheran Church. Political fragmentation and the financial needs of the Emperor allowed Luther the freedom to develop his ideas for a new church.

1521- Charles V- forced to return to Spain for the rest of the 1520s- Revolt of the Communeros- allows the Luther movement to develop without the fear of military action.

1525- Slow Track reform- princes reformation- their autonomy and protection of the Luther movement make it very difficult for the Catholic leaders (Papacy and the Emperor) to destroy the heretical movement. Political fragmentation and the financial needs of the Emperor allowed the Lutheran Church to consolidate: administered by the princes.

1531- Schmalkaldic League- allowed the freedom to operate and thus assist Lutheranism, again because the Emperor was completely unable to consolidate his power in the Empire- He needed to compromise (taxes).He was preoccupied (multiple kingdoms) Allows Lutheran movement the capacity to consolidate.1535- further princes converted.

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How did luthe gain support?

Weaknesses of the Church/complaints:

1517-20- Luther’s writings tap into the long term discontent in Germany in respect of external interference from the Emperor and the Papacy- local autonomy v centralisation; corruption/high taxes/poorly trained clergy. Luther has a readily made audience for his ideas, especially in urban areas.

Role of printing- ‘God’s highest form of grace.’ Translations of the Bible into Germany important in the dissemination of ideas.Role of Oral dissemination/woodcuts- important in the development of the ‘fast track reformation.’Popular support until 1525- Luther’s ‘Gospel of Equality’ taps into long term discontent- high taxes in an age of inflation.1521 onwards- protection of Elector Frederick after the Edict of Worms- vital in the consolidation of Luther’s ideas.

Role of the Princes- vital in the establishment of the Lutheran movement- top-down ‘slow track’ post 1525.

1530 formation of the Schmalkaldic League- Lutheran cities and Princes set up league for protection.

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Why did luther survive?

Charles V’s ‘multiple kingdoms’- the preoccupations of Austria-Hungary, France, Netherlands, Papacy, The Ottoman Empire and Spain.  The political reality of the Empire- centralisation v local autonomy- Luther’s ideas appeal to the nationalism/continued independence of the princes. The political infighting of the Catholic powers- France, Papacy and Spain- France and the Papacy formed alliances in order to weaken Charles V- forced him to become preoccupied in Italy and not able to deal with Luther. 1519- Pope Leo X did not wish the election of Charles V as the next Holy Roman Emperor political preoccupations with Spain in the on going Italian Wars allowed Luther to go largely unchecked/gather support] as this would make Charles more powerful. 1519-21- Frederick the Wise disliked the papacy’s policy of wanting Luther tried in Rome- Frederick wanted to call a General Council of the Church in Germany [nationalism v papal interference]. Frederick’s support of Luther was vital both before and after the 1521 Diet of Worms.

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1526- Diet of Speyer- Charles V had to compromise with the princes. He needed their money in his war with France and the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, in return for taxes, the Emperor had to agree that each prince could decide his own reaction to Lutheranism. [a political compromise that aided the Luther movement].1531- Schmalkaldic League- increases the consolidation of the Luther movement.

1534- the French restored the Lutheran Prince, Duke of Wuttenburg, to his Duchy. Charles V was preoccupied with the Muslim threat. Pope Clement VII resented Habsburg domination in Italy. He formed an alliance with the French to remove Charles from Italy.

1540s- Charles V had made peace with the French (Peace of Crepy). Therefore, he was in a position to deal with the Luther movement.1547- Battle of Muhlberg- Imperial forces destroy the Schmalkaldic League. Ottoman distractions (1551).French incursion into the Netherlands (1553)The Papacy were more concerned with conspiring with France than calling a General Council in Germany.1548- Diet of Augsburg- Charles V called for an extension of Imperial power- even the Catholic princes refuse to assist him in his plans for a post Lutheran Germany.

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Why couldn't lutheranism be stopped?

A spiritual and secular power- concerns over politics and religion- embroiled in a power struggle with France and Spain in the ongoing Italian Wars.. The resentment inside Germany over the ‘Italianisation’ of the German church- Luther’s writings of 1520 tapped in to these feelings of discontent based on this issue of corruption, aided by printing and oral dissemination.The Empire had political ‘fragmentation.’ There was no central authority (like England, France or Spain). The princes had local autonomy.

The Emperor, Maximilian and later on Charles V, attempted to centralise authority.Luther’s writings appealed to the princes because he wrote in nationalistic tones. The princes (both Catholic and Lutheran) feared the Emperor’s drive towards centralisation. Luther offered the princes even more local autonomy when he asked them to administer the Lutheran church

1555- Diet of Augsburg- Each prince decided the religion of their territory. This is a compromise- contrast this settlement with Charles V’s grand condemnation of heresy in 1521. Charles V died in the late 1550s in a monastery in Spain after abdicating his title of Emperor in 1555

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