TAUSEN, the son of the peasant of Kiertminde, was still in the convent of Viborg, and wore the dress of the Johannites; but he was fearlessly propagating the doctrines of the Reformation. A singular monk, that! said the friends of the prior, Peter Jansen. Fearing that he had a wolf in his sheepfold, the prior drove Tausen out of his monastery. The townsmen received him with enthusiasm. They took him to the cemetery of the Dominicans; and the reformer, taking his stand on a tombstone, preached to a crowd of living men as they stood or sat upon the sepulchers of the dead. Ere long the church of the Franciscans was opened to him. In the morning the monks said mass in the church, and in the afternoon Tausen and his friends preached there the Word of God. Sometimes on going out from the service controversy was kindled, and laymen and monks came to high words, and even to blows. Then the bishop prohibited the preaching; and this largely increased the number of laymen who were impatient to hear the man of whom the monks were so much afraid. The bishop took other measures. Foot-soldiers and horsemen had orders to prevent the townsmen from going to the church in which Tausen preached. But the laymen, still more resolute than the priests, barricaded with chains the streets by which the troops were to arrive; and then, leaving a certain number of their own party to defend the barricades, went to the service armed from head to foot. At this news the bishop in alarm ordered the gates of his palace to be closed; and, fancying that he already saw the townsmen marching to the assault, put himself in a state of defense. Thus was the message of peace accompanied by very warlike circumstances.
The king interposed. He deemed it just that the evangelicals as well as the Catholics should have freedom to worship God, and therefore assigned to the townsmen the churches of the Franciscans and Dominicans. The monks, enraged, closed the doors of the churches; the townsmen opened them by force. The monks, terrified, then flew for refuge to their cells. In a little while the music of hymns composed by Tausen, and sung by his flock, reached their ears, and somewhat calmed their fluttering hearts. The reformers wished to be fair. They left to the monks for their worship the vaulted galleries which surrounded the church. But the soldiery did not show so much toleration. One day four horsemen, another day fifteen, says a historian, came and took up their quarters in these galleries. It amounted almost to a dragonnade. The singing of the monks and the tramping of the horses must have made very inharmonious music. The king had certainly nothing to do with this annoyance. More strife was inevitable. The two mendicant orders, who depended for their livelihood on the charity of the people, no longer receiving any gifts, found themselves, soon reduced to the greatest straits. The Franciscans sold a silver chalice; but this went only a little way. They then adopted the plan of going away; and in this prudent scheme the townsmen were eager to give them assistance. In fact the latter set themselves to the business so zealously that some thought they were driving the monks away. Liberty was indeed the general law of the kingdom, but it was not always respected in details. f274 The monks went away; but printers, booksellers, and books came to the town. The contrast is characteristic. In all towns in which the Reformation obtained a footing, a printing press was at the same time established. Out of the struggles of the Reformation sprang up everywhere a taste for reading. One day the arrival of a bookseller, named Johann Weingarten, caused great joy at Viborg. Tausen immediately took advantage of the circumstance, and began to compose a work which he entitled, — Pastoral and Episcopal Letter of Jesus Christ . In it Christ himself addresses the people of Denmark. They had forsaken him to seek rest in the idol Baal which was at Rome. But Christ returns to those who desert him, and offers them the grace of the love of God. ‘Hear you not the sound of these trumpets which my prophets have been blowing these ten years past?
They make the holy word of the Gospel to resound in the whole world.
Go whither it calls you. Do not fear because you are but few in number. It is no hard task for me to give a little flock the victory over a great multitude.’ Many writings of a similar kind followed. Tausen thus with all his might urged his people along in the path of the truth. f275 Several circumstances favorable to the Reformation successively occurred.
The bishop of Roeskilde, the greatest adversary of the Reformation, having died, the king chose for his successor Joachim Roennov, a gentleman of his court, who had resided a long time at Paris and in other universities. He was of noble rank and a native of Holstein, a country particularly dear to the king. Unfortunately, Frederick had made choice of him rather because he was a friend of his house and capable of defending his sons after his death, than as a friend of the Gospel. It is not certain that Roennov was a churchman. He was probably at this time ordained successively deacon, priest, and bishop. He was obliged to pledge himself not to oppose the preaching of the Word of God, and this he did willingly.
But it happened to him as it did to Aeneas Sylvius, who, when he once became pope, adopted with the tiara its principles and its prejudices.
Another measure of the king was more successful. He founded or authorized the foundation at Malmoe of a school of theology in conformity with the Holy Scriptures; and among its first professors were Wormorsen, Tondebinder, and Peter Laurent. The king further required that the canonries vacant at Copenhagen should be given to men capable of training priests and students in the true science of theology. Some of the doctors of Viborg and Malmoe gave soon afterwards the imposition of hands to young Christian men who were prepared to proclaim the Gospel.
But, while doing so, they declared that they did not communicate to them any sacerdotal unction, which pertained to God alone, but that they established them in the ministry as men worthy of it. f277 At length, this same year, an important event occurred to crown these various measures in favor of Protestantism. The king, calmly pursuing his course, resolved to call Tausen to discharge his ministry in a more important sphere, namely, at Copenhagen itself, and he appointed him pastor of the church of St. Nicholas. It cost Tausen some pain to leave Viborg. He foresaw what opposition and enmities he would have to encounter in the capital; he did not, however, shrink from it, but set out. In the course of his journey he let no opportunity slip of proclaiming the truth. Like St. Paul he preached in season and out of season. Having met a senator of the kingdom, Count Gyldenstern, a man held in very high esteem, he announced to him the Gospel. The senator could not resist the truth. ‘One thing alone perplexes me,’ said he; ‘I cannot persuade myself that the Church, which has for centuries shone with so much splendor, can be false, and all this new religion which Luther preaches, true. The true religion must needs be the most ancient.’ Tansen was able easily to answer that the faith preached by the reformers is found in the ancient writings of the Apostles. He then went on his way.
The evangelical Christians of Copenhagen gave lively demonstrations of their joy at his arrival; and the zealous doctor saw in a little while an immense crowd gathered to his preaching. His hearers did not rest satisfied with merely giving signs of approval of the doctrine which he preached, but they gained over those who were still halting between the Gospel and the papacy, so that ere long the majority of the people took the side of the Word of God. The great truths of salvation till that time hidden, they said, are now disclosed and presented to us eloquently and soundly, so that they are impressed on our souls. An impulse still more powerful was about to be given to the Reformation.
In the month of May 1530, the Imperial Diet, assembled in the free city of Augsburg. No one doubted that the emperor, who had just been crowned by the pope in Italy, would be desirous of discharging his obligation to the latter by compelling the Protestants to prostrate themselves anew before the triple crown. The Danish prelates, especially, were persuaded of this.
They took a higher tone, and said that if they could but meet the Lutherans, they would speedily reduce them to silence. They assumed to give at Copenhagen a rehearsal of the drama which was about to be acted at Augsburg. The Danish evangelicals, on their part, ardently desired a conference; and the king himself acknowledged the necessity for it. He therefore caused proclamation to be made throughout Denmark. ‘The bishops, the prelates on the one side, and the Lutheran preachers, Master John Tausen and his adherents, on the other side, were to appear at the Diet, before the king and the royal council, for the purpose of presenting their confession of faith and of defending it, to the end that one sole Christian religion might be established in the kingdom.’ f280 The opening of the Diet was fixed for the 20th of July, 1530.
The royal proclamation produced various effects. The prelates affected to be heartily pleased, and would fain have convinced everybody of their sincerity. But it is not safe to triumph before victory. f281 The members of the Roman party when by themselves were not the same men as they were in public. ‘Alas!’ they would say to one another, ‘if Odensee gave freedom to the Protestants, will not Copenhagen deprive the prelates of their dignities?’
The prelates took council among themselves, and came to the conclusion that they could not trust to their own strength. Paul Eliae was the only man at all fit to cope with Tausen; but the prelates had not confidence in him. Eck and Cochlaeus had refused to venture so far as Scandinavia. The precentor of the cathedral of Aarhuus, Master George Samsing, one of the best Danish theologians, was dispatched to the holy city of Cologne to seek after doctors well versed in Aristotle, masters of arts and bold and subtle monks, skilled in the art of hitting hard blows, and of opportunely misleading their antagonists and their hearers in the labyrinth of distinctions and syllogisms. The precentor was not very fortunate in his researches; he succeeded, however, in persuading an unknown doctor named Stagefyr, and another whose name even is not known.
At length the 20th of July arrived. The assembly of the States was opened, and the whole nation was attentive to what was about to take place. On the issue of this conference hung the religious future of Denmark. On the side of Rome appeared the bishops, not to defend their doctrine, but to sit as councilors of the kingdom, and, as they pretended, as judges. The two doctors whom we have mentioned, and besides them, Eliae, Muus, Samsing, Wulff the apostolical protonotary, and several others came forward after them to defend the papacy. On the evangelical side, Tausen, Wormorsen, Chrysostom (Guldenmund ), Sadolin, and Erasmus presented themselves; twenty-two ministers altogether. f283 During the first eight days the latter continued silent, and did not take a single step in self-defense; their adversaries the while proceeding with all the more violence against those whom they called the heretics . Eight days after the opening, Tausen presented himself at the head of his party and delivered to the king the evangelical confession which they had drawn up.
The king communicated it to the prelates, and they took the necessary time for its examination.
How would things turn out? Already on the 12th of July, Charles V. had received from the pope a request that he would destroy by force the Reformation in Germany, and he was ready to do this. Would it not be the same at Copenhagen? The young man from Kiertminde, Tausen, as he stood on the shore of the Great Belt, had seen the waters of the sea scatter the boats of the fishermen, and advancing furiously on the coast beat down the trees, overthrow the houses and lay waste the fields. Was not the Reform threatened with like ruin? Tausen thought so. His friends therefore and himself, full of boldness, determined to appeal to the people. They wished at the least that the triumph of their cause should proceed not so much from a decree of the states as from the free conviction of their fellow-citizens. They therefore distributed among themselves the fortythree articles of their confession, and every day the twenty-two ministers delivered in turn two sermons on the doctrines which they professed in it.
The prelates, who had fancied that they should see their adversaries in alarm, hiding their convictions like cowards, were amazed at this unexpected boldness; and the crowds of hearers which streamed into the churches threw them into a great rage. They hastened to the king. They entreated him, they obliged him to prohibit these Lutheran sermons which, they said, infringed on the rights of the Diet. But Frederick, although overcome for a moment by the bishops, listened to the representations of the pastors and withdrew his prohibition. Then the Protestants, anxious to redeem lost time, preached four sermons every week-day and twelve every Sunday. If the prelates abounded in the attack, the reformers superabounded in the defense. The case is, perhaps, unique in the history of the Reformation. But what a difference between these men! The activity of the ministers consisted in proclaiming their faith; the activity of the bishops consisted in imposing on their adversaries silence, imprisonment, and exile. The prelates took as much pains to hide their doctrine under a bushel as the evangelicals took to publish theirs on the housetops. The former would not on any consideration set doctrine over against doctrine, lest they should draw laymen into the struggle. While the ministers were night and day proclaiming the Gospel, the priests were active only in persecution. According to a Scripture saying, they fell asleep and lay down like dumb dogs; and this, we are bound to confess, was not the case with the Roman Catholics in other countries. When two causes in the presence of each other adopt measures so different, victory is decided.
Sermons alone did not suffice the evangelicals. It was their great business to make a solemn confession of their faith before the Diet. One day, which it is not easy to determine, but probably about the end of July 1530, Tausen and his friends appeared before the king, the grandees of the realm, the bishops, and the deputies, and presented, respectfully but boldly, the statement of their faith. Their declaration did not possess the perfect form of Melanchthon’s confession, with which they were at present unacquainted; but it had more clearness and force. While Luther’s friend, from a wish to spare and even to gain over the powerful princes who listened to him, had passed over in silence certain articles which might have given rise to sharp contradiction, Tausen and his brethren did not think it their duty, in the presence of haughty and persecuting bishops, either to soften the statement of their doctrines, or to spare the Romish party. ‘The Holy Scriptures,’ they said, ‘alone and uncorrupted by the interpretations, additions, and fables of men,’ teach all men how they may obtain salvation from God. (Art. 1 and 2.) ‘He who, in order to obtain eternal life, takes any other way than that which Scripture teaches, is foolish, blind, and incredulous, however wise and however holy he may seem to the world. f286 (Art. 3.) ‘The persecutions, the passion, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of our Lord have been most certainly accomplished, and have been given to us to be our righteousness, the discharge of our debt, the expiation of all our sins. (Art. 7.) ‘The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, who is the comforter of all Christians, renews by diverse gifts of God our spirits and our hearts, establishes and unites the true Church in the faith and in the doctrine of Christ. (Art. 11.) ‘The holy Church is the communion of all those who by one and the same faith have been made righteous and well-beloved sons of God. And we make no account of any other Church, however distinguished in outward appearance, which curses those whom God blesses, rejects those whom God receives, and pronounces heretics those who teach according to the truth. (Art. 12, 13.) ‘We believe that marriage, the pious union of man and woman, as it was instituted in paradise, is holy and honorable in all; that to live honestly in this state is to lead a chaste life in the sight of God, and that to forbid it to man and woman is a false semblance of chastity and a doctrine of the devil. (Art. 20, 21.) ‘We believe that the true Christian mass is nothing else than the commemoration of the passion and the death of Jesus Christ, the celebration of the love of God the Father, in which the body of Christ is eaten and his blood is drunk as a sure pledge that for Christ’s sake we have obtained the remission of sins. (Art. 26.) ‘We believe that we all, as Christians, are priests in Christ Jesus, our only and eternal Highpriest; and that as such we are to offer ourselves to God as living and acceptable sacrifices, to preach and to pray. But among these priests some must be chosen, with the consent of the Church, who may preach to the Church, may administer the sacraments, and serve it. These are the true bishops or presbyters, words which are completely synonymous. (Art. 36 and 40.) ‘Lastly, we believe that the head and ruler of the true Christian Church is Jesus Christ alone, he who is our salvation; and we do not acknowledge as head any creature in heaven or on earth.’ (Art. 43.)
Other articles prohibited ceremonies not in accordance with the Word of God; excommunication pronounced against those whom God does not excommunicate; sacraments which are not instituted in the Scriptures; distinctions of meats and of days; the monastic life; the service which consists merely of chants; vigils for the dead, ornaments, cowls, the tonsure, anointings, or other outward signs of holiness; the withholding of the cup; the mass; the use of a language which the people do not understand; the invocation of saints; faith in any other mediator than Jesus Christ; pretended good works, indulgences, brotherhoods, and other novelties invented by priests and monks; purgatory; masses for the dead; the meddling of bishops or presbyters in business matters, in the pomps and shows of the world, in war, in the command of armies, in judicial functions, or in anything not belonging to their office; refusal to obey princes and magistrates in anything not contrary to the will of God; images in the churches, which do no harm indeed to the wise, but which may lead to idolatry simple men without understanding, and which ought to be everywhere removed, but only with the consent of the pastors, the magistrates, and the Church. (Art. 35 to 42.)
Such was the faith of the evangelical Christians of Scandinavia. This confession is a mirror which reflects their likeness feature for feature. We are better acquainted with them after reading it, and we see in them true disciples of the Gospel.
Not so thought the prelates. This confession which the king had placed in their hands astonished them. They had expected that the Protestants would be intimidated, and would not venture to publish their faith; and now they found them putting it forward with great decision. They determined to present a bill of indictment against these innovators. ‘We remember,’ they said to the prince, ‘the engagements which you made on your accession to the throne. Now, John Tausen and other disciples of Luther allege that the Church, for thirteen or fourteen centuries, has been tainted with error; that works are useless; that Christians of both sexes are priests; that all the convents must be demolished; that man has no freewill, and that everything comes to pass by virtue of absolute necessity.’ f294 The prelates, however, shrank from a viva voce discussion, which would have resounded through the whole kingdom. They therefore required the Protestants to prove their assertions in writing, anxious that everything should be confined to writings of which they alone should take cognizance.
The evangelicals energetically disproved these charges, and particularly that of denying freedom and maintaining fatalism. With regard to the imputation brought against them of recognizing only a universal priesthood, they said — ‘Will you reject a Turk or a Russian who has received Christian instruction from a layman, if he die before having been instructed by a priest? There is then a priesthood for Christians; but no one may hold any office in holy Church without being appointed to it by the Church, for St. Paul will have all things done decently and in order .’
The evangelicals, who on this point were completely opposed to the prelates, did not content themselves with written apologies, but wished for a public disputation, at which they might defend their faith by word of mouth. This was conceded, and it was to be held in the royal palace. The halls for the meetings were ready. But the debates, according to the Protestants, ought to take place in the vulgar tongue, in order to be understood by the laity. The prelates, on the other hand, absolutely refused and would only agree to Latin, a language unknown to the people, the townsmen, and even to most of the nobles. The evangelicals further declared they would recognize no other standard of authority than Holy Scripture; and they added that the king, the members of his council, and the whole people would be able themselves to discern which of the two parties were in agreement with it. ‘We acknowledge no other interpreters,’ said the bishops, ‘than the Fathers and the councils, nor any other judge than the pope and the next council.’ — ‘This is a mere subterfuge,’ said the doctors of the Reformation; ‘you want to prevent the discussion, and thus escape from an embarrassing position. You will not enter into the sheepfold by the true door, and you have no care for the sheep of the Savior.’ — ‘Alas!’ exclaimed the members and the creatures of the clergy, ‘if the Lutherans have so much boldness, it is because a sacrilegious king shuts his eyes to their insolence, nay, even instigates them, and because the infatuated nobles and blameworthy citizens encourage them.’ But it was indeed out of the abundance of their hearts that the reformers spoke.
Two parties very unlike each other were now brought face to face. The theocratic element had long prevailed in Denmark, and still characterized the party of the bishops. Another principle had appeared in the midst of this people, which characterized the reformers and their adherents. This was the religious element. It is a happiness for a nation when the reign of a theocracy comes to an end; it is on the other hand a misfortune when the religious element is weakened. There are not wanting in a nation minds, and these some of the most distinguished, whose interest is concentrated on secular knowledge and inventions; and we are very far from wishing to exclude this tendency. Experience shows that it may exist in the most Christian souls. But if a people is given up entirely to this industrial propensity, which is so powerful in our day, if they sacrifice to it the interest which they had previously felt in religious life, it is just as if the bones which sustain the whole body were removed from any living animal.
This process has been very much recommended in this age by some philosophers. We do not desire, however, to see it carried out in the case either of an individual or a nation.
The evangelical Christians of Denmark soon gave a new proof of the zeal which inspired them in their endeavor to substitute religion for the theocracy. Feeling the importance of holding a religious discussion, they gave way on the question of language. ‘We are ready,’ they wrote to the king, ‘to hold discussion with the prelates either in Latin or in Danish;’ and for a whole month they repeated their demand. The Catholic party had recourse to a subterfuge, and wrote to the king that they likewise were ready to confer with the preachers either in Latin or in Danish; but that they ought first to justify themselves in writing before judges with whom all the world must be satisfied. These judges were the Danish bishops and Roman cardinals, that is to say, essentially the pope, who would thus be judge in his own cause. Further, they raised objections to the disputation itself. ‘The sittings,’ they said, ‘are to be held in the royal palace, and it would be dangerous to speak in a place occupied by the body-guards of a prince so devoted to the heretics.’ It was thought that this fanciful fear of the body-guards did little credit to the courage of the champions of Rome. f299 Thus the scheme of the conference broke down. Tausen, Wormorsen, Sadolin, Gjoe, Erasmus, Jansen, and their brethren were greatly grieved about it. Ought this refusal of the bishops to check them in their efforts to establish in Denmark the kingdom of Jesus Christ? They were not men of a kind to become sluggish and idle after doing ever so little, or, as another reformer says, ‘to take their eyes from their brows and place them in their backs.’ They thought that in the service of Christ they must be able to burst the fetters, to triumph over obstacles, and to run with outstretched arms to the goal. They appeared before the king and said to him — ‘We acknowledge that these lords are men of birth and honor, competent to give good counsel in the affairs of the world; but our chief complaint against them is that they confine themselves to bearing the title of bishops, and do not in any manner discharge their duty. Not only do they not preach themselves, but instead of placing in their dioceses well-informed pastors and preachers, they appoint stupid, ignorant, and profane men, who supply the Christian people with nothing but ridiculous fables, dreams of monks, old wives’ tales, and fooleries of players, after the usual manner of papists. They persecute those who preach the Gospel freely, and who condemn falsehood and hypocrisy. They give leave to bands of sellers of indulgences to run to and fro to smother the Word of God, and to prevent, simple folk from receiving it. They shamefully drain the resources of the poor people, while the real poor are languishing in distressing necessities. They get a multitude of superstitious masses said in their cathedrals, for the sake of great revenues, instead of having preaching there and of offering to God true worship. They try to prevent Christians, in the exercise of their liberty, from following the counsels of learned and pious men, and choosing for themselves really evangelical ministers; and they assign parishes to idle canons and nobles, who do nothing for the people, allowing any one of them to hold six or seven benefices. They forbid priests to marry, and thus make adulterers of most of them. As for what some of these prelates personally are, we will not speak just now.’ f302 The king and the Reichstag thought that the ministers gave a good account of their cause, and declared that since the Catholics rejected the disputation, the evangelicals should continue to preach the Word of God until the meeting of the general council; and the king promised at the same time his protection to both parties. The majority of the ministers remained for eight days at Copenhagen, and wished to see whether any Catholic would present himself for the purpose of discussion. Eliae, on whom so many hopes had been built, kept profound silence; but one Master Mathias, who had not yet spoken, a prey as it seems to painful doubts, set forth some difficulties, to which Tausen made victorious reply.
Mathias himself, it is said, passed over to the Protestant party. The objections of Master Mathias were the only oblation offered to Rome by the priesthood. The appearance of this solitary unknown champion of the Romish Church, after so many and such solemn appeals, recalls to mind the story of Julian when he wished to re-establish with ceremony the feast of Apollo at Antioch: and only one priest made his appearance, bringing as the whole of the offerings one goose. f304 From this time the evangelical cause was in the ascendency in the kingdom.
The bishops left Copenhagen with broken hearts. They trembled not only for the papacy, but also for their property and their persons. The bishop of Roeskilde, alarmed with or without reason, sought the protection of the king, who gave him a safe-conduct. The prince, who was determined himself to promote the cause of the Gospel in proportion as God should make it prosper, summoned Chrysostom, Sadolin, and other ministers besides; and from this time six preachers proclaimed the Gospel daily in the churches of St. Nicholas, Our Lady, and the Holy Ghost, and held discussion in the cathedral itself. The king maintained the privileges of the bishops. But the Reformation was strong enough in itself to dispense with the aid of the prince. In vain did Roman Catholicism, at this last moment, lift its dying voice; in vain did Eliae publish an apology for the mass; Tausen replied to him; Eliae promised a refutation, but gave none.
The bishop of Roeskilde then resorted to other means: he instigated the partisans of the clergy to hoot at the evangelical ministers, to pursue them with jeering and to drive them away. The other prelates did the same.
Instead of endeavoring to bring back the people by their kindliness and their pious discourses, they stirred them up against the Gospel, and thus lost what little respect they had enjoyed.
Nothing could stay the progress of reform. The Danes read the Scriptures in their own tongue. Day by day new heralds of the Gospel proclaimed to them the way of salvation. The pure light of the Word of God was shining in these lands of the north. Their inhabitants were learning to regulate their actions by that word, and they were astonished to see in what deep darkness they had lived up to this time.’ The Reformation rose like the tide, and covered the country with its waters. Monks quitted their monasteries, and these buildings were converted into hospitals or were dedicated to other useful purposes. Unfortunately the townsmen, provoked by the conduct of the bishops, indulged in rude displays of their hostility to monachism. The convent of Friars Minor, at Nestved, was demolished, and a pillory set upon its ruins in token of reprobation. The hateful yoke under which the clergy and the monks had kept the people misled men into unbecoming acts of vengeance. The passions which in the case of the learned broke forth at times in writings full of bitterness, displayed themselves on the part of the people in acts of violence. The sixteenth century could not calmly discuss religious questions; this was one of its weak points; and perhaps other centuries, proud of their tolerance, were too much like it. A large body of working-men assembled at Copenhagen on the third day of the Christmas festival, 1531, and entering the church of Our Lady during the celebration of the Roman service seized the ornaments and the figures which were found in it, and broke them to pieces. The church was closed for some time, but by order of the magistrate the Catholics reoccupied it. They continued to say mass in it for three years longer. Ten convents were secularized between and 1533; but Frederick, whose constant aim as king was not to lean to either side, protected the others. The most wealthy monasteries, however, were compelled to contribute to the necessities of the state. This moderation on the part of the king, far from raising any obstacle to the progress of the Reformation, only served to ensure it.
The prince at the same time strengthened his position politically. In 1532, at. the request of the Landgrave of Hesse, he entered into the alliance of the Protestant princes of Germany. This was an important step.
Moreover, the prelates and many nobles foresaw, after the diet of 1530, the approaching fall of Catholicism. Aware that the king’s son, Prince Christian, was a zealous Protestant, they looked round on all sides for some means of escape from the lot which threatened them. They finally fixed their hopes on Prince John, son of King Christian II., who was consequently nephew of Charles V., and was brought up at his court.
They flattered themselves that if this young prince received the crown at their hands he would re-establish the Romish religion and crush the Reformation. They therefore agreed amongst themselves to direct all their efforts to placing John on the throne after the death of the king. At the same time, some negotiations in which Frederick had been engaged with the emperor failed. His enemies appeared to be gaining the upper hand; and everything announced that a storm was ready to burst forth.
The fallen king, Christian, had not ceased to fill the courts of Germany, the Netherlands, and England with his complaints and his solicitations. He perceived that, as Frederick favored Protestantism, he could not reckon on the Protestants of Denmark. It was only in the character of head of the Roman Catholic party that he would be able to recover his crown.
Discovering the wind that would carry his vessel to the point which he wished to reach, he set all sail for it. Some of the catholic princes advised him to make his peace with the pope; an infallible means they said, of inducing all the prelates and adherents of the Roman faith to declare in his favor. This unhappy prince, so violent and at the same time so weak, whose sole thought now was to be king again at whatever cost, did not. scruple to sacrifice the opinions, more or less sincere, which he had openly professed, and entered into correspondence with the pope with a view to being received once more into the bosom of the Church. It does not appear that the negotiations had any result, but they show the weakness of the religious opinions of the pretender. Christian had more success in another quarter. Some bold Dutchmen, in hope of gaining something for their navy and their trade if they re-instated him on the Danish throne, obtained for him an army and a fleet. The malcontents of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden hastened to join him. Troll, the ex-archbishop of Upsala, Thure Janssen, grand master of the court of Sweden, who was desirous of a re-union of the three kingdoms, and other influential persons, actively served him in the countries of the north. He embarked in the month of October, with ten thousand men, resolved to appear as the defender of the Catholic faith and the savior of his country. A violent tempest came on and shattered many of his ships: a fatal omen in the judgment of many. When Christian arrived in Norway he had only a few ships. Nevertheless, the archbishop of Drontheim, primate of Norway, looked on Christian as the champion of Rome; and with him the other bishops, all of them zealous Catholics, princes, abbots, priests, gentlemen, magistrates, and even some of the townsmen and the common people hastened to join him. Janssen declared that the kingdom would not support Frederick. ‘I will,’ said the king, ‘persecute the adherents of Luther, and protect the faith of the Church against the damnable work of that doctor.’ Norway, opposed to the Reformation, received him with acclamations; and ere long, in the whole kingdom, only three fortresses remained to Frederick. Christian was acknowledged king of Norway. Some of the bishops pledged the church vessels for the purpose of paying the troops. The senate wrote to the Danish senate to take steps for Christian’s restoration in Denmark. The terrible man who at Stockholm had bathed in the blood of his enemies, seemed to be on the point of triumphing over new rebels. Christian imagined himself already seated on the triple throne of the north, and indulged himself in the frivolous pleasure of investiture with all the insignia of royalty. On great occasions he bore the crown on his head, held the scepter in his hand, and played well the great part of monarch in the midst of the small band of his adherents. If he should succeed, will he be Catholic or Protestant? All that it is possible to tell is that he will be that which will best suit the interests of his ambition.
Frederick, on his part, perceiving the danger which threatened him, lost no time in assembling his forces by land and by sea. Knud Gyldenstern, bishop-elect of Odensee, was placed at their head; and as soon as the spring had made it possible to attack Norway, a fleet of twenty-five vessels sailed, at the beginning of May, from Copenhagen roads. Frederick had received important aid from Sweden. Christian, in his irritation, saw only a traitor in the great Master Janssen who had declared for him; and in a fit of anger he put the old man to death. This passionate and credulous prince, looking on himself as already king of the whole of Scandinavia, entered Sweden with inadequate forces. Weakened by this imprudent attack, he was compelled to retire to Opzlo with the remains of his army. Ere long the Danes themselves arrived, and during the night set fire to all Christian’s ships; so that the unhappy prince, driven into a corner of the country whence he could not escape either by sea or by land, had no choice but to perish arms in hand or to surrender. He requested an interview with Gyldenstern and his principal officers; and now as much disheartened as he had before been presumptuous, he begged them in the most humble tone to tell him what he was to do. The bishop in command replied, ‘That he must go to the court of King Frederick, his uncle, who would doubtless grant him favorable terms’ (July 1532).
He requested a safe-conduct, and the Danish leaders granted him one which stipulated for the king, and for two hundred persons of his suite, friendly entertainment and the honors due to his rank. It was even stated in it that Christian, after the death of Frederick, might possibly be elected king by the states. Gyldenstern on his departure from Copenhagen had been invested with full powers for treating with Christian, and he made use of them. But the convention, nevertheless, was not yet sealed when two Danish officers, Skram and Wilkenstede, arrived in the camp, charged on the part of Frederick with an order by virtue of which Christian was only to be received at discretion, and on unconditional surrender to the will of the king. Did these delegates, finding matters so far advanced, communicate the verbal order which they had received from the king?
Supposing that this order was communicated, did Christian, reduced to extremities, choose to make an attempt to influence his uncle? These points do not appear to us to be by any means cleared up. f314 However, this may be, Christian did all that he could to procure for himself a kind reception with the prince whom he had undertaken to dethrone. Finding that the wind was changed, he trimmed his sails anew.
This man, who was as inconsistent in his actions as in his words, and who had assumed the character of the avenger of insulted Catholicism, wrote to his uncle an evangelical letter in which he confessed his error and declared himself penitent. Was he sincere? Or was he a hypocrite? The latter seems the most probable view. ‘Sire,’ he wrote, ‘I am the prodigal son who returns to his father, but returns a regenerate son. I promise you that I will cherish for you, all the rest of my days, the feelings of a son. Believe me, flesh and blood no longer govern me, but the spirit of grace which God has miraculously bestowed on me, and which fills me with an ardent charity for all mankind, and especially for your Majesty, for the queen, for your sons, for the states of Denmark, and for their allies the Hanse Towns.’
He forgot no one. ‘I hope that your Majesty will rejoice with all the holy angels at the change which is wrought in me, and that our friendship will become all the more solid and more lively for the conspicuous display of our former enmity. I beg you, Sire, to communicate this letter to the senate, in order that it may place confidence in my pious and pacific sentiments.’ f315 It would be pleasant to believe that Christian, in whom a passionate ambition had silenced all Christian feeling, was returning in his misfortune to those sentiments of piety which he had experienced at Wittenberg. But how could anyone trust a capricious man who, according to the requirements of self-interest, would assume by turns the most opposite semblances? Shortly after writing this letter, Christian embarked on the Danish fleet and entered, about the end of July, the port of Copenhagen.
He did not arrive there as a conqueror, as he had expected to do, but as the conquered. The man who had declared that he would cast into prison the adherents of Luther was now a prisoner himself. The dark cloud which seemed on the point of bursting over the Reformation was dispersed.
The Senate was called together to deliberate on what was to be done.
Frederick was undecided, Gyldenstern, instead of taking the part of the unhappy man who had, perhaps, been deceived by his fault; accused him of having violated the agreement by hostile proceedings. The Senate declared that the convention must be considered as null and void, on the ground that it was contrary to the orders given by the king to his envoys, Skram and Wilkenstede. The nobility of Denmark and of Holstein, the Hanse Towns, jealous of those of Holland which had assisted Christian, and even Sweden, supported this view. ‘How,’ said they to Frederick, ‘how can you choose but punish an attempt which might possibly have overthrown order in the kingdom and have snatched the crown from your head? Could you let slip the opportunity of .putting an end to continual alarms? Master of your enemy’s person, will you leave him at liberty, and thus enable him to stir up fatal revolts in Denmark? If you allow him to go whithersoever he will, he will not fail to engage in fresh intrigues.’
It was, therefore, resolved to secure the person of Christian. f316 Pending these deliberations, Christian, who was detained in the port on board the vessel which had brought him, did not understand why he was left there. He grew weary, wondered at these intolerable delays, and began to be somewhat disquieted. All the men who were on board were at liberty to go ashore and to return; he alone was not allowed to leave the ship. The officers of the ship attributed the delay which surprised him to the circumstance of Frederick’s being then at Flensborg, in Schleswig; and this was, indeed, partly the cause. At length it was announced to the ex-king that the interview with his uncle would take place in that town, and that they were going to take him there. A superior officer of the fleet, furnished with secret instructions, took command of the ship and gave orders to set sail. The vessel sailed, escorted by a small squadron; and this, it was said, was a mark of honor. But the real intent was to prevent any attack being made with a view to the rescue of the prince.
After having sailed within sight of the island of Zealand, they passed before those of Moen, Falster, Laaland, Langeland, and Aero. Christian was not free from distress of mind. He had been treated at Copenhagen as a prisoner; and this terrible man, who in a single day had caused the elite of Sweden to be massacred in nearly analogous circumstances, questioned with himself what they meant to do with him. A dark cloud arose in his soul. He strove to cast off the fears which he would fain believe to be puerile. He dared not disclose to anyone the distress which agitated him, but remained dumb with shame, spite, and grief. The fleet approached the coast of Schleswig, and he rejoiced that the moment was not far off when he was to have the interview with his uncle. He was standing on the deck in deep silence. Suddenly he perceived that the ship, instead of entering the Gulf of Flensborg, was standing off the cape to the north towards the island of Alsen. At this moment the veil was rent; the unhappy prince discovered the fate which awaited him. He uttered a cry and burst into tears. He would fain have arrested the pilot; but he knew that any attempt was useless. He broke out into bitter complaints, but his voice was soon stifled by sobs. The fleet continues its course northwards, and entering the strait of Sonderburg, stops before the town of that name. The gates of the old impregnable castle open before the fallen king and then close. The guards set over him conduct him to a gloomy donjon; and they shut up with him a dwarf who, as if in derision, was to be the sole companion of the colossus of the North. No sooner has he entered than the door is walled up behind him. There is no more hope. A single window feebly lighted up the gloom of this place; and it was through bars of iron that he, thenceforth, received his food. The monarch who was so long formidable was treated like the vilest of his people. The king who sat on three thrones has nothing now to lean on but damp walls. The prince, nephew of the king, brother-in-law of the emperor Charles the Fifth, of King Ferdinand and of Queen Mary; this ally of Henry VIII., of the princes of Germany and other powerful houses, has no longer any companion but a wretched dwarf. His food is of the meanest kind, and his gaolers treat him with the utmost rigor. What monarch ever displayed greater barbarity than he did in the public place at Stockholm, in October 1520? An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. At the recollection of that massacre all the people shuddered. The name of Christian was the terror of the North. Frederick had been obliged to promise the nobles and the councilors of the crown by a formal instrument never to restore him to liberty. In vain were some hearts affected by this vast calamity; in vain were some voices raised in behalf of the wretched monarch. Public peace requires it, was the reply; and there was nothing more to be said.
Punishment, though delayed, had at last overtaken him. This strange champion of Roman Catholicism was ruined, and his disappearance from the stage of the world ensured the triumph of the Reformation in the whole of Scandinavia. f318 No sooner was Christian a captive than his kinsmen and his allies deserted him. The emperor, his brother-in-law, turned his back on him, and even offered an apology to Frederick for having taken any part in the last enterprise of his rival. The regency of the Netherlands informed the victorking that it was without their knowledge that the late campaign had been undertaken by any of their subjects.
One man in all Europe, however, had compassion on him, one only, so far as is known, and endeavored to alleviate his misfortune. This was Luther.
The reformer of course knew well that Christian had said he would crush the Reformation, and had called it in his proclamation a damnable work; but the great doctor had the heart of a Christian. King Frederick received a letter from him in which were these words, — ‘We know that God, the just Judge, has given your Majesty the victory over your nephew, and we do not doubt that you will use this triumph in a humble and Christian way. Nevertheless, the misfortune of my gracious lord, King Christian, and the fear lest any should stir up your Majesty against him, encourage me humbly to entreat you to have pity on your captive kinsman; to follow the example of Christ who died for us, his enemies, to the end that we also might be full of compassion towards our enemies. You will do so the more readily, Sire, because your nephew, as I am told, was not taken in arms against you, but surrendered himself into your hands like an erring son into the hands of a father. Your Majesty will offer a noble sacrifice and render the highest honor to God, by giving to the poor prisoner a pledge of his grace and of his fatherly faithfulness. And this good work will be for yourself, on your death-bed a great consolation, in heaven a great joy, and at the present time on earth a great honor. f319 This letter was written by Luther on the 28th September, 1532. Frederick, who was not hardhearted, could not but be touched by it. But reasons of state were in this case opposed to Christian motives; and there are considerations which may be put forward in excuse for the imprisonment of his nephew. It was not within the power of the king to do what he liked with regard to Christian. The king was in ill health; he felt greatly the need of rest, and he knew that he should never have a tranquil moment so long as his antagonist was at large. But these circumstances were no palliation of the rigorous treatment adopted towards the prisoner. Reasons of state were in this case opposed to Christian reason; and the former generally win the day in this world. Frederick was to be blamed for permitting treatment so severe to be dealt out to his brother’s son. He did not, however, take vengeance on the allies of Christian, the Dutch, although he had at first intended to close the Sound to their ships.
An event had occurred which still further secured the crown to the younger branch of the family. Prince John, the only son of Christian, who had been a pupil of the famous Cornelius Agrippa, and of whom the highest hopes were entertained, died at Ratisbon at the age of fourteen. In him the elder line became extinct.
Frederick, long threatened with a decline, had taken up his abode for the sake of quietness in the castle of Gottorp, near Schleswig, his favorite seat.
At the moment of Christian’s entrance into his prison, the time was not far off when Frederick must quit his throne. In the spring of 1533, on the 10th of April, Thursday in Passion Week, he died, at the age of sixty-two.
All good men deplored his death. They proclaimed him a ‘wise, merciful, and virtuous prince.’ They recalled to mind the moderation which he had displayed in the religious discussions, and the freedom which he had allowed to conscience; and if the usual kindness of his character had been wanting in the treatment of Christian, they attributed it only to the force of circumstances, to the illness which rendered it impossible for him to direct details, and to the influence of the leading men. He left four sons:
Prince Christian, of whom we have spoken; Adolphus, who took the title of duke of Holstein-Gottorp from the castle in which his father died, and who became the founder of a younger line from which sprang the imperial family now reigning in Russia; Frederick who became bishop of Schleswig and afterwards of Hildesheim; and John, the youngest. It is of the eldest and the youngest sons of this house that we have now to take notice.