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Henry IV of Germany

Henry IV of Germany

 

Henry IV of GermanyHenry IV of Germany, was born in 1050 and was the son of the Emperor, Henry III, surname the" Black." When but four years old, this prince was crowned King of the Romans, and two years after, all the death of his father, the child succeeded to the imperial dignity. The regency was committed to his mother, the Empress Agnes. But the strong hand and will of his father , were wanting, and the great nobles sought to recover their independence. The Empress was deprived of her office in 1062, and the tuition of the young Emperor was committed to Auno, Archbishop of Cologne, a harsh and bigoted prelate, who incurred his pupil's bitter dislike. Then Adalbert, Archbishop of Bremen, succeeded to his place, and, being gay and worldly, allowed, and even encouraged, Henry in every species of licentious indulgence in order to obtain an influence over him, and to exercise the royal power in his name. Henry became extravagant and careless of all but his own pleasure; yet he early displayed his courage in the tumults of the times.

 

In his twenty-first year Henry took up his residence at Goslar, in Saxony, with the purpose of quelling the lawless proceedings which had long prevailed in the country. A temporary agreement followed but the misconduct of the emperor, who gave his confidence to persons of vicious principles, threw him into fresh difficulties. At the suggestion of Auno, who had regained his place through the efforts of the nobles, Henry had married Bertha, daughter of Otho, Marquess of Italy. Finding her an obstacle to his licentious mode of living, he tried to obtain a divorce; but her virtue baffled his evil designs. His headstrong willfulness deprived him of the attachment of his friends, and the princes of the empire actually assembled to consider his deposition but his promises of amendment appeased their displeasure. The revolt of Otto of Nordheim, Duke of Bavaria, was quickly subdued; a second revolt soon followed, in which Henry was obliged to grant the demands of his enemies. But on a third rising, Henry in person gave the rebels a bloody defeat at Hohenburg in 1075, and making himself master of the whole country, reduced them to beg for peace.

 

In the meantime, the formidable Hildebrand, who had been the active counselor of preceding Popes, was himself elevated to the Popedam, as Gregory VII. Though the emperor testified his dissatisfaction at not having been consulted in the election, he was induced by Gregory's request to confirm it. Mutual causes of dissension, however, soon arose in Gregory's efforts to free the Church from ab uses, especially from its absolute dependence on the temporal power. The struggle culminated in the deposition of the Pope by Henry's partisans, and the excommunication of Henry by the Pope. Upon the promulgation of the Pope's sentence the emperor was deserted even by his own partisans, and was reduced to such extremities that humiliation was his only resource. Henry, in the depth of winter crossed the Alps with his wife and child, arriving' at Canossa, in the Apennines, where at the suggestion of of Matilda, of Tuscany, the Pope had retired in January 1077.

 

Before Gregory was persuaded to admit the emperor to his presence, Henry had passed through a scene of extreme degradation. Upon his arrival at the outer gate of the fortress, he was required to dismiss all his attendants, and enter alone; at the next gate to divest himself of the ensigns of royalty, and to put on a coarse woolen tunic, in which dress, and barefooted, he was suffered to stand three whole days at a third gate, exposed to the severity of the weather, fasting from morning till night, and imploring the mercy of God and the Pope. At length, Matilda and other persons of distinction who were with Gregory, began to complain of the severity. these murmurings being reported to Gregory, he thought proper that Henry should be admitted on the fourth day. At that meeting the Pontiff granted the Emperor absolution, after he had subscribed to very humiliating terms, among others that he would submit to the judgment which the Pope, at a time and place appointed, should give upon the accusations made against him; and that in the meantime he should not assume the title of king, or wear the ornaments or exercise the functions of royalty.

 

The emperor soon after departing showed bitter resentment and thus renewed Gregory's hostility. The princes of the empire who had already practically deposed Henry as emperor, then elected in his place Rudolph, Duke of Swabia. the Pope sent him a crown, and placed Henry anew under the ban of the Church. Henry, who lacked neither vigor nor courage in the field, levied an army, gave Rudolph two defeats, and conquered the whole Duchy of Swabia. In answer to Gregory's second excommunication, the Emperor Henry held a national councit of his German and Italian prelates at Brixen, which pronounced the deposition of Gregory and elected a new Pope, under the name of Clement III, This step was followed by the utter defeat of Rudolph, who fell mortally wounded on October 15th, 1080. The famous Godfrey of Bouillon had struck the fatal blow. Henry entered Italy with an army, besieged Rome, forced Gregory to take refuge in the Castle of St. Angelo and then had himself and wife crowned by Clement in 1084.

 

During the absence of Henry in Italy, bis enemies in Germany recovered strel1gth~ and, in I085 elected Count Herman of Luxemburg King of the Romans, Henry's return put an end to the competition by the defeat of his rival; and he 11ad equal success against another competitor, Ecbert, Marquis of Thuringia. Meantime the Romans, regarding Clement as an anti.pope, placed in the chair of St. Peter Victor III. ; and after his death, Urban II. The Countess Matilda, of Tuscany, and the Normans assisted the Church, and Henry once more marched into Italy to support his declining interest. He was successful in the field, till his oldest son, Conrad, was induced to join the adverse party in conjunction with the emperor's new wife, Adelaide of Brandenburg, whom his in usage had rendered his enemy. Conrad was elected King of the Romans, and his father was obliged to give way to his influence, and returned to Germany, where he caused Conrad to be put under the ban of the empire and procured, at a Diet held at Aix-Ia-Chapelle, the election of bis second son, Henry, to the dignity of King of the Romans. Pope Urban II., the anti-pope Clement, and Henry's son, Conrad, all died within two years.

 

Henry might now, probably, have passed his days in tolerable tranquillity, had not his difference with the Church of Rome been irreconcilable. Persisting in his claim of confirming all elections to the Holy See, he continued to nominate successive anti·popes, and refused to acknowledge Paschal II., who had succeeded Urban. That Pontiff, therefore, used all his influence to raise enemies against the emperor in Germany; and even induced his own son, Henry, under pretext of zeal for religion, to take arms against him. The prince was at first successful in seizing the imperial treasures at Spires; but finding afterwards that his father was likely to prove the strongest, he perfidiously affected remorse, threw himself at the emperor's feet, obtained forgiveness, and then persuaded him to disband his army. When this was done, he made his father a prisoner, and repairing to a Diet convoked at Mentz, in 1106, assisted in his solemn deposition.

 

The Archbishops of Mentz and Cologne were sent to inform him of this act, and to demand the crown and other regalia. Henry, having in vain remonstrated, put on his royal ornaments, and seating himself in a chair of state, addressed the prelates to this effect "Here are the ensigns of that royalty with which we were invested by God and the princes of the empire if you disregard the wrath of Heaven and the everlasting reproach of mankind so much as to lay violent hands on your sovereign, and strip us of them by force, we are not in a condition to defend ourselves from such an outrage." This expostulation had no effect the archbishops snatched the crown from Henry's head, and, dragging him from his seat, pulled off the imperial robes by force. The aged sovereign, with tears trickling down his cheeks, cried out. Great God! Thou art the God of vengeance! I have sinned, I confess, and merited this shame by the follies of my youth; but Thou wilt not fail to punish these traitors for their perjury and ingratitude," So completely, however, was his heart crushed, that he afterwards made a voluntary resignation of his crown in favor of his son, and threw himself at the feet of the Pope's legate, beseeching absolution from the sentence of excommunication, which it was not in the power of the legate to grant.

 

It is to the eternal disgrace of his son that the emperor was suffered to want even the common necessaries of life. When he applied to the Bishop of Spires to grant him for subsistence a canon's chair in his cathedral, which he himself had liberally endowed, his request was refused. " Pity me, my dear friends,! said the emperor, with a deep sigh, upon this repulse, "for I am touched by the hand of the Lord." After undergoing great suffering for some time in the Castle of Burghenheim, where his unnatural son had confine him, he managed to escape and fled to Cologne, where he was received with joy and acknowledged as lawful emperor. Troops were raised for him in the Low Countries, and fortune seemed once again disposed to smile upon him. Before, however, any further step could be taken on his behalf, he was seized with an illness which terminated fatally on August 7th, 1106. The Bishop of Liege conducted the funeral service with a splendor befitting his position, but the body was laid in an unconsecrated chapel at Spires, and remained five years without proper interment, until the ban of the Church under which he rested had been removed.

 

Henry IV. was a man of great personal con rage, and possessed some eminent qualifications as a ruler; but his attachment to licentious pleasures led to various unjust and shameful actions, and laid a foundation for the unparalleled misfortunes and disgraces of his reign. His failure in his contest with the spiritual power proved anew the absolute strength of righteousness and the inherent weakness of vice.

 

Henry, in the spring of 1081, once more descended into Italy. He came, not as formerly, a pilgrim and an exile, but at the head of an army devoted to his person, and defying all carnal enemies and all spiritual censures. He came to encounter Hildebrand, destitute of all Transalpine alliances, and supported even in Italy by no power but that of the Countess Matilda for the Norman Duke of Apulia was far away, attempting the conquest of the Eastern capital and empire. But Henry left in his rear the invincible Saxons and the hero who commanded them. To prevent a diversion in that quarter, the emperor proposed to abdicate his dominion in Saxony in favor of Conrad, his son. But Otho a merry talker, as his annalist informs us rejected the project with the remark that" the calf of a vicious bull usually proved vicious. I..caving, therefore, this implacable enemy to his machinations, the emperor pressed forward, and before the summer the citizens of Rome saw from their walls the German standards in hostile array in the Campagna.

 

In the presence of such dangers the gallant spirit of the aged Pope once more rose and exulted. He convened a synod to attest his last defiance of his formidable enemy. He exhorted the German princes to elect a successor to Rudolf. In letters of impassioned eloquence he again maintained his supremacy over all the kings and rulers of mankind. He welcomed persecution as the badge of his holy calling, and while the besiegers were at the gates he disposed at least in words of royal crowns and distant provinces. Matilda supplied him with money, which for a while tranquillized the Roman populace. He himself, as we are assured, wrought miracles to extinguish conflagrations kindled by their treachery. In language such as martyrs use, he consoled the partners of his sufferings. In language such as heroes breathe, he animated the defenders of the city. 'The siege or blockade continued for three years uninterruptedly, except when Henry's troops were driven, by the deadly heats of autumn, to the neighboring hills. Distress, and it is alleged bribery, at length subdued the courage of the garrison. On every side clamors were heard for peace, for Henry demanded, as the terms of peace, nothing more than the recognition of his imperial title, and his coronation by the hands of Gregory. The conscience, perhaps the pride, of Gregory revolted against this proposal. His invincible will opposed and silenced the out cries of the famished multitudes; nor could their entreaties or their threats extort from him more than a promise that, in the approaching winter, he would propose the question to a pontifical synod. It met, by the permission of Henry, on the 30th of November, 1083. 1t was the latest council of Gregory's pontificate. A few bishops, faithful to their chief and to his cause, now occupied the seats so often occupied by mitred churchmen. Every pallid cheek and anxious eye was turned to him who occupied the loftier throne in the center of that agitated assembly. He rose, and the half-uttered suggestions of fear and human policy were hushed into deep stillness as he spoke. He spoke of the glorious example, of the light affliction, and of the eternal reward of martyrs for the faith. He spoke as dying fathers speak to their children, of peace, and hope, and of consolation. But he spoke also as inspired prophets spake of yore to the kings of Israel, denouncing the swift vengeance of Heaven against his oppressor. The enraptured audience exclaimed that they had heard the voice of an angel, not of a man. Gregory dismissed the assembly, and calmly prepared for whatever extremity of distress might await him.

 

It did not linger. In the spring of 1084 the garrison was overpowered, the gates were thrown open to the besiegers, and Gregory sought a precarious refuge in the Castle of St. Angelo. He left the great Church of the Lateran as a theater for the triumph of his antagonist and his rival. Seated on the Apostolic throne, Guibert, the anti-pope of Brixen, was consecrated there by the title of Clement III., and then, as the successor of Peter, he placed the crown of Germany and · of Italy on the brows of Henry and Bertha, as they knelt before him. And now Henry had, or seemed to have, in his grasp the author of the shame of Canossa, of the anathemas of the Lateran, and of the civil wars and rebellions of the empire. The base populace of Rome were already anticipating with sanguinary joy the humiliation, perhaps the death, of the noblest spirit who had reigned there since the slaughter of Julius. The approaching catastrophe, whatever might be its form, Gregory was prepared to meet with a serene confidence in God, and a haughty defiance of man. A few hours more, and the Castle of St. Angelo must have yielded to famine or to assault when the aged Pope, in the very agony of his fate, gathered the reward of the policy with which he had cemented the alliance between the Papacy and the Norman conquerors of the South and of Italy. Robert Guiscard, returning from Constantinople, flew to the rescue of his suzerain.

 

Scouts announced to Henry the approach of a Norman host, in which the Norman battle-axe and the cross were strangely united with the Saracenic cimeter and the crescent. A precipitate retreat scarcely rescued his enfeebled troops from the impending danger. He abandoned his prey in a fever of disappointment. Unable to slake his thirst for vengeance, he might perhaps allay it by surprising the Great Countess, and overwhelming her forces, still in arms in the Modenese. But he was himself surprised in the attempt by her superior skill and vigilance. Shouts for St. Peter and Matilda roused the retreating Imperialists by night, near the castle of Sorbaria. They retired across the Alps with such a loss of men, of officers, and of treasure, as disabled them from any further enterprises. - SIR J. STEPHEN.

 

Henry IV of Germany

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