AS SOON as the wise Frederick had been taken from his people, the conflict between the two great religious parties again began. The bishops no sooner heard of his death than they lifted up their heads and held frequent conferences together. Under the late king Roman Catholicism was moving at a slow pace to its fall; now they must save it, they thought; and for this purpose, taking advantage of the election which must be held after the death of the king for the appointment of a successor, they wished at all cost to exclude from the throne his eldest son Christian, whose attachment to the Reformation was well known; to lengthen out the interregnum as much as possible; and meanwhile to put forth all their efforts to place on the throne Prince John, a child ten years old, of whom they would make a good Roman Catholic. During his minority it would not be difficult for the bishops to suppress the Reformation. The scheme was clever and bold, but not so easy of execution as some thought. A large number of the towns and the greater part of the nobility professed the evangelical faith.
But the bishops were still in the enjoyment of all their privileges; and they flattered themselves that they should rise to power and get the laws repealed which under the late king had given religious liberty to the Protestants.
Prince Christian, in conformity with the rules of succession, had assumed the government of the duchies of Holstein and Schleswig for himself and his brothers under age. He had not been able to do the same in Denmark.
But foreseeing the intrigues of the clerical party, he had sent to Copenhagen the Vice-Chancellor, Johan Friis, and two councilors, empowered to demand the assembling of an electoral Diet to name a successor to Frederick, and to support his own interests. It seemed as if he was to be disappointed in his hopes. His deputies were coldly received: there was no hurry to give an answer, and it was agreed that he should not be invited to the Diet. Indeed, the Vice-Chancellor heard that young Duke John, the bishops’ candidate, had a very good chance. He wrote immediately to his master. ‘If God and the Diet,’ was the noble reply of the eldest son, ‘will confer the crown on my young brother, I do not oppose it. All that I ask is that this important matter may be settled without delay.’ Christian saw the clergy leagued against him; but he believed from the bottom of his heart that evangelical truth would triumph over the bishops.
On St. John’s Day, 1533, file Diet opened. The prelates went to it, determined to do their utmost to crush evangelical religion, and to reestablish everywhere the old pontifical system. Hardly had the assembly constituted itself when the bishops began the work. Ove Bilde, the most learned and most highly esteemed of their number, was apparently the first speaker. The clergy demanded that the election of the king should be deferred to another time. In their name the speaker claimed the entire restitution of churches, convents, and estates, in one word, of everything that Catholicism had lost; and he violently inveighed against those whom he called the ministers of the new religion and against those who supported them. At the same time he exalted the mass as being the very essence of the Christian religion; depicted in strong colors the deplorable state to which, he said, the priests and the monks were reduced; pointed to the heretics establishing themselves in the monasteries which the holy men and the consecrated virgins had been compelled to abandon; and described the excesses of the people in casting down the images of the saints and breaking the sacramental vessels. ‘The authority of the bishops is vilified,’ said he; ‘there are but few of the faithful who care for the services and still fewer who dread the censure of the Church; while the number of those who join the Lutherans is increasing day by day. Permit not, the bishops implore you, this holy religion, which has formed part of your very life from infancy, to be covered with opprobrium. Let the thunderbolts of excommunication strike those who have fallen into heresy, that they may feel the necessity of returning to their mother’s bosom, and let more terrible penalties fall on those who are obstinately impenitent.’ f326 The evangelical members of the Diet listened with amazement to this speech; and the gravity of the crisis caused them the greatest perplexity. It was not for the Gospel that they feared; but they knew that if they yielded to the bishops, there would be an energetic opposition. The people would rise and the nobles themselves would take up arms if need were. Magnus Gjoe, the leading champion of Reform in the Diet, rose and said, — ‘Conscript Fathers and venerable bishops, let us not draw down fresh calamities on the realm which is already too sick. Religion is a holy thing, and neither its origin nor its end lies within the power of any man. If we unjustly seize its rights, God himself will be its avenger. Liberty has been given to religion by the will of the king, and this liberty cannot be taken away without the king’s consent.’ f328 The bishops, who fully understood the importance of the moment, remained deaf to all appeals. United with the laymen who had continued faithful to them, they would be able to carry the vote. Their clamor increased. The friends of the Reformation, therefore, judged it expedient to grant part of their demands in order to save the vote. They allowed them to draw up the compact. This seems an enormous concession, but constitutional forms were not as yet very fully developed; and the Diet reserved to itself the power either of amending the document or even of rejecting it, if it did not suit it. The bishops made large use of the power accorded to them. They stipulated, amongst other things, that they should fulfill their functions without having to give account to any but God alone; that every priest who should resist them should be prosecuted; that the tithes should be restored to ecclesiastics, and that whosoever refused to pay them should be summoned before the courts; that the cathedrals, convents, churches, and hospitals should be given up to the Roman clergy; and that in the next Diet a decision should be formed respecting the restitution of such of these houses as had been taken away from them.
Nothing was stipulated about the rights of the evangelical Church. This might be deprived of everything, and indeed they were already taking much from it.
The bishops brought this fatal project before the Diet and required the members to set their seals to it. The evangelicals heard it with astonishment, and the faithful Magnus Gjoe with the deepest emotion. He spoke thus: ‘The bishops have inserted in this compact some provisions which are in their favor and contrary to the decisions of the Reichstag; and they have suppressed others which were favorable to the evangelicals.’
Indignant at this fraud, the energetic Gjoe declared that he would not set his seal to the instrument. Eric Baner did the same. But the other Protestant members signed it, some of them from excessive prudence which degenerated into weakness, others under the impression that by granting to the Catholics what the latter regarded as necessary to their Church, they were only pursuing the plan of freedom and balance between the two confessions which the late king had designed. The instrument, which was immediately published, had the force of law in the kingdom. f329 The bishops, proud of this first victory, believed that a second would be easily won, and they unmasked their batteries. ‘Prince Christian,’ they said, ‘was born long before his father was king; he was educated abroad; he is not a Dane. Duke John is the true heir, for he was born in Denmark, and at a time when his father, the king, was already on the throne.’ The lay senators, perceiving the injustice of this proposal, and seeing to what it must come, took courage. They had made ample concession on matters of religion; they were determined to make none on matters of state. ‘The kingdom,’ said they, ‘is in a critical situation; the partisans of Christian II. are threatening another invasion for the purpose of liberating and reinstating on the throne this prince, whose vindictive, violent, and cruel character we have so much reason to dread. It is not wise at this critical moment to take a child for our king. When a storm is gathering the helm is not placed in weak hands. The wisdom, the valor, the experience of the eldest son of the deceased king, and his travels to foreign courts, all mark him out for the choice of the senate.’ The struggle between the two parties was very sharp. The leaders assembled at Copenhagen as many of their respective adherents as they could induce to leave their country homes.
The citizens of the capital began to murmur very loudly at the bishops.
The latter were intimidated and resorted to stratagem. Knowing that Norway was devoted to Catholicism, they alleged that it was impossible to proceed with the election without the deputies of that kingdom. Now as these deputies could not be ready before the winter, the election was put off for a year. The clergy vowed to make good use of this interval. Gjoe and Baner contended against a resolution which appeared to them to be fraught with danger. But the majority gave their decision in favor of the delay, and a council of regency was appointed. The two energetic champions of the Reformation still refused to affix their seals to the compact, and quitted Copenhagen. Many lay deputies followed them; three only of their number signed the instrument. f330 The bishops, proud of their victory, were eager to profit by it. Tausen was in their view the mainstay of reform; if they could but succeed in getting rid of him, the evangelical work, they thought, would come to nothing. The reformer was cited to appear in the assembly-hall of the magistrature of Copenhagen. The bishops were present as his accusers; the Marshal of the Kingdom, and some of the nobles and magistrates who were devoted to them, were to be his judges. Condemnation appeared to be inevitable. Was the blood of the reformers about to be shed in Denmark as it had been in France, in the Netherlands, in England and elsewhere?
Tausen made his appearance before his judges with calmness. ‘You are accused,’ they said to him, ‘of having called the bishops tyrants and the priests idle bellies, and this in a book published by you; of having taken possession of most of the churches of Copenhagen; and of having attacked the sacrament of the altar, both by word of mouth and in writing.’ ‘I have done nothing,’ said Tausen, ‘except for the honor of God and the salvation of souls.’ Then he cleared himself of the charges brought against him; but all was useless. Tausen was condemned to death, in conformity with the canon law, and orders were given that the mass should be re-established in all the churches. The thought of Tausen being put to death, and that in the midst of the population of Copenhagen, terrified the senators, the laity, and the magistrates of the town. They conjured the bishops not to set before the people the spectacle of an execution which must inevitably excite indignation and, perhaps, occasion a revolt. They succeeded ultimately in getting the capital sentence commuted into banishment, with a prohibition to preach, to write books , or to publish them.
Meanwhile, the report had got into circulation among the townsmen that their beloved preacher had been taken to the town-hall, had there been accused, put upon his trial, and condemned. Excitement was universal.
Everyone left his business, the tradesman his shop, the merchant his counting-house, and the artisan his workshop. They all hastened to the square, asking questions of one another, and giving replies — ‘Yes, the enemies of evangelical doctrine have dragged our minister before the court.’
They were filled with indignation, they murmured, they filled the air with their outcries. A party of them entered the court where Tausen was.
They exclaimed — ‘Give him back to us!’ and they declared that if the priests made any attempt on the free preaching of the Gospel, they should not do so with impunity. The tumult was increasing in the square. The judges could hear the cries of the people in arms demanding again and again their faithful pastor. The court in alarm implored the lay members of the Diet to go and pacify the crowd. They went, and as soon as they made their appearance the multitude was silent. ‘Fear not.’ said the deputies, ‘Tausen is in no danger; we have interceded in his behalf, and the churchmen have yielded. There is no intention to prohibit evangelical worship. Go back, therefore, quietly to your houses and attend to your business. The Diet will take care that nothing be done against religion.’
But these words did not satisfy the townsmen; they could not trust the priests; they wanted their pious pastor restored to them, and they charged the deputies who spoke to them with connivance with the enemies of the faith.
They were in reality deceiving the people, for if Tausen was not going to be taken from them by death he was to be so by banishment.
This persistent demand on the part of the people and their accusations provoked the deputies of the bishops; the latter raised their voices and threatened with severe punishment those who charged them with weakness. There was so much noise that the multitude could not catch their words; but their features, their gestures, and the sound of their voices all showed that the delegates were angry. The people got excited in their turn; they did not mean to be trifled with. Those who bore arms brandished them; on all sides threats and outcries resounded. ‘Give us back our pastor,’ said they, ‘or we will burst open the doors.’ The delegates went in again and delivered to the court the message from the crowd. Fear then did what justice had failed to do; and the persecutors turning to Tausen, who had remained calm, in complete self-surrender to the Divine will, announced to him that he was discharged. The reformer passed out of the court, and the people, at the sight of the shepherd whom they loved, shouted for joy.
As soon as the popular excitement had apparently subsided, the bishops and their adherents determined to quit the place in which they were assembled. Pale and trembling, says a historian, they regained their homes, compelled on their way thither to pass through the groups of people who still thronged the neighboring streets. Each of them extricated himself more or less successfully, and pursued his path with more or less peace of mind according to the degree of opposition which he had shown to the Reformation. Roennov, bishop of Roeskilde, was especially an object of hatred to the townsmen of Copenhagen, who were better acquainted with him than with the others, because he was their own bishop. When he made his appearance fierce glances were turned on him. Violent, hot-headed men followed him, demanding his life as an expiation for the crime of the priests. Their hands were already raised threateningly against the bishop.
Tausen, who was not far off, perceived this, and instantly hastening up placed his own person between Roennov and these misled men, whom he entreated not to give themselves up to disgraceful acts of violence. His singular gentleness succeeded at length in pacifying this excited crowd, which was like a sea driven about by the wind. He was not content with this. He would not leave the prelate, but desirous of protecting him from other attacks, accompanied him as far as his palace gate. Roennov, whose life he had saved, gave him his hand and thanked him for the signal service he had just done him. This Christian act touched the heart of the bishop. The violence of the people had provoked him; but the charity of Tausen softened him, and even changed for a time the course of his thoughts and of his life.
Although the bishops, in the presence of danger, had yielded for the moment, they nevertheless intended that the sentence against Tausen should be carried out. He must leave Copenhagen. Roennov had an estate called Bistrup, near Roeskilde, and to this place Tausen withdrew. He was thus within reach of Copenhagen and was able to guide his flock. The bishop consented to this choice of abode, perhaps even suggested it to his deliverer. In order that the progress of the Reformation might not be arrested in Copenhagen, and that the people might not rise in revolt again, it was essential not only that friendly relations should be established between Roennov and Tausen, the two bishops of the town, but further that the prelate should place no obstacle in the way of the preaching of the Gospel in the capital of the kingdom. Gjoe, Baner, the bishop of Odensee, Gyldenstern, all devoted to the Gospel, earnestly desired it; but the bishop entertained prejudices against them which could not but prevent him from making any concession to them. It is well known how useful the influence of Christian women has often been in the church, and particularly how much they contributed to the establishment of Christianity among the northern nations. A fresh instance of this beneficial influence occurred at this time. Gjoe had a daughter named Brigitta, of lively piety, of noble character, and of great beauty, who afterwards became the wife of the naval hero, the celebrated Admiral Herluf Troll. She had had some intercourse with the bishop, perhaps for charitable objects.
It was alleged, but erroneously as it seems, that Roennov, before he had taken holy orders and while he was living at the court, had met Brigitta at the sumptuous entertainment’s of which she was the fairest ornament, and had wished to marry her. However this may be, the beautiful and Christian Scandinavian undertook to get the bishop’s sanction to the free preaching of the Gospel in the capital of the kingdom, as it had been under the late king. Brigitta succeeded in this important negotiation. Tausen pledged himself not to allow himself in his preaching any insult against the Catholic priests, to oppose any conspiracy that might be formed against the bishop and his clergy, to defend Roennov against those who censured him for his tolerance, and in all things to seek after the real good of the Church. The bishop on his part gave Tausen permission to return to Copenhagen and to resume his functions. It is clear that the admirable conduct of Tausen towards him, and likewise a secret sense of the value of the truth, were the real motives which prompted the bishop to this step.
But the friends of the priests, affecting to see something else in the case, were indignant with the prelate, and declared sarcastically that the power of beauty had led him to betray the cause of the faith. This arrangement had important consequences. Brigitta was the worthy peer of her namesake, of whose marvelous prophecy monk Peter wrote, and whom Rome placed among the saints. f338 The other bishops were far from following the example of their colleague.
Filled with fear by the threats of the excited people, they made haste to quit the capital in order to take their revenge in the provinces and to stifle heresy. In the name of the Diet they promulgated an edict enjoining that, on a day fixed, all the Lutheran preachers should be removed from their churches, thrown into prison or banished, and that Catholic priests should be everywhere settled in their places. In addition to this, confiscation and death were pronounced against all Danes who should continue to profess the Lutheran doctrine. A general persecution immediately began. The archbishop of Lund and the bishops imprisoned or expelled all the evangelicals who fell into their hands. A great number of the faithful succeeded in concealing themselves. At Viborg, however, so numerous were the evangelicals that the archbishop was obliged to give up the thought of reducing them to submission, even by force of arms. At Copenhagen, the feeble and vacillating bishop Roennov, overwhelmed with reproaches by his colleagues, again turned about at the mercy of the wind, and undertook likewise to expel the ministers and oppress the faithful. But a brave burgess, Peter Smid, infused courage into his fellow-citizens and energetically resisted the persecution; and the bishop recollecting the disturbance of which, but for Tausen, he would have been the victim, abandoned his attempt.
It was to the honor of Scandinavia that these religious struggles were not disgraced by bloodshed, as was the case in the rest of Europe. Wormorsen likewise made an attempt at reconciliation and peace by publishing an evangelical apology addressed to the Diet and the bishops. In this tract he spoke respectfully of the archbishop of Lund, complaining at the same time of the canons who made a boast of confining themselves to expelling the pastors instead of burning them alive. The evangelical minister declared that his colleagues and himself would render obedience to the Diet and to the bishops in everything which was not contrary to the Word of God.
But this appeal remained without effect. f340 The bishops, thinking their victory secure, at length undertook to justify their silence in the Diet of 1530, add to refute the apology which the evangelical ministers had then presented. Eliae was entrusted with the drawing up of the plea. ‘These new preachers,’ said the prelates, ‘transform the Christian Church and give it a new shape. The predecessors of Luther are Eunomius, Manichaeus, Jovinianus, Vigilantius, the Waldenses, Wycliffe, Hus, and others of the same species, all damnable heretics. Consider how many princes, nobles, kingdoms, countries and towns have loyally adhered to the true Christian faith. You are called to make your choice between these Catholic nobles and excommunicated heretics. Decide for yourselves; make use in this case of the same understanding which you apply to the things of this world.’ f341 The Protestants on their part were not backward. They discharged, volley after volley, their polemical pamphlets, sometimes theological, sometimes popular, after the manner of Ulrich von Hutten or Hans Sachs.
Imaginations were stimulated, tempers were heated, and the country swarmed with treatises, parables, and sarcastic sayings. While Peter Larssen, professor at Malmoe, made a serious attack on ‘the sentence of banishment against the ministers of the Word of God,’ a Dialogue on the Mass represented it as a sick man abandoned by his physicians and breathing his last. A satirical piece on s superstitious vigils exposed the notorious impositions of the priests. One Hundred and Seventy Questions , with answers, elucidated various points of Christian doctrine. A Conversation between Peter Smid and Adzer Bauer , which was not wanting in wit, stigmatized purgatory, confession, feast-days, holy water, tapers and other abuses of the papal Church. Finally, a Dance of Death , one of the favorite themes of the sixteenth century, brought on the stage terrified popes, bishops, and canons; all trembling at the sight of Death, while the evangelical ministers joyfully went forward to meet him. f342 Certain grave occurrences fraught with danger could not but have a greater influence than these satires in putting an end to the strife and in giving Denmark a new impulse.
Lubeck, one of the Hanse Towns, at this time a rich and powerful place, was discontented with the Danish government because it did not grant to its ships sufficiently exclusive privileges. Desirous of profiting by the weakness which was the consequence of the interregnum, the Lubeckers resolved, in 1534, to invade the kingdom, under the pretext of reinstating Christian II. on the throne. A leader must be found, and Lubeck applied to the Count of Oldenburg, a kinsman of the unfortunate prisoner, an able man, ready in action, ambitious, and a zealous Protestant, though little worthy of the name. Christian had still numerous partisans, and his restoration to the throne appeared to the Danes to be a way of escape from a long and troublous interregnum. The emperor, Christian’s brotherin- law, and the King of England favored the enterprise. The Count of Oldenburg raised troops in Germany, invaded Holstein, and then returning to Lubeck, embarked on board a fleet of twenty-one vessels, well supplied by the Lubeckers with men and munitions of war, and set sail for Denmark, which at this time had no king, no army, and hardly a council.
He made a descent on Zealand, took possession of Roeskilde, deposed bishop Roennov, the friend of King Frederick and of his son, and appointed in his stead archbishop Troll, the faithful servant of Christian II. After making himself master of the Sound, he marched on Copenhagen which opened its gates to him; subjugated the whole of Zealand, and convoked at Ringsted a Diet the members of which took the oath of allegiance to Christian II. Oldenburg’s profession of Protestantism drew the townsmen to his side. It was otherwise with the nobility, who had caused Christian to be put in prison and now trembled at the thought of his liberation. The lords of the kingdom, therefore, in alarm, shut themselves up in their castles. Oldenburg dispatched troops against them, an excited mob followed, and on reaching any of these aristocratic abodes, gave themselves up to brutal rage. Many of the nobles found themselves compelled by violence to join the invader, and they stammered out with trembling an oath of fidelity to Christian, their cruel and formidable foe.
Roennov, who played the weathercock in politics as well as in religion, was among the first to take the oath; and his bishopric was restored to him. The Count gave Troll, by way of compensation, the bishopric of Fionia. The people of Malmoe, persuaded by the Lubeckers, had already placed the government under arrest, and had demolished the citadel built by Frederick. Oldenburg crossed the Sound, entered Scandinavia and went with a numerous escort of troops and of people to Liber hill, near the primatial town of Lund, where the kings of Denmark were accustomed to receive the homage of their States. He called upon the crowd around him to acknowledge Christian II. They responded with joyous acclamations. Ere long, the islands of Moen, Falster, Laaland and Langeland were conquered, and Oldenburg was master of the greater part of Denmark. f343 Meanwhile, the friends of the late king and of the Reformation, and particularly the Grand Master of the kingdom, the noble Magnus. Gjoe, had betaken themselves to Jutland, where they would be nearer to Frederick’s eldest son. They were followed by the nobles, the bishops, and all the enemies of Christian II., who in a state of despair made their escape furtively into Jutland, a district remote from the storm which was ravaging the island of Zealand and terrified them. The young duke John, no longer feeling himself safe in Fionia, assumed the guise of a peasant, his whole suite doing the same, and thus rapidly crossed the Little Belt. The feeble Roennov, once more facing about as he so often did, likewise reached Jutland in the suite of the bishops his friends. Such members of the Diet as were present in Jutland, being determined to provide for the safety of the realm by energetic measures, assembled first at Skanderborg, on the lake of Mos, a little below Aarhuus; and afterwards at Rye, several leagues distant, on the edge of a forest near the lake of Juul. A multitude of the gentry, of the townsmen and of peasants had quitted their castles, their shops, and their rye fields, that they might sooner learn what this assembly would resolve on. The bishops, concerned only about their own power, had obstinately insisted on having a child for king; and a factious spirit had clouded the judgment of the nobles. But now the danger was displayed in all its vastness, the veil was rent, the revolt would inevitably spread in Jutland, and then it would be all up with the ancient kingdom, which would fall a prey to greedy tradesmen and to a furious populace, and would be given over to the sanguinary revenges of an implacable king.
What might not the terrible author of the massacre at Stockholm be expected to do, if the Lubeckers should rescue him from the dungeon which shut him in, and should place him on the throne? f344 In crises of this kind there is one man predestined to save his countrymen.
In this case it was the noble Magnus Gjoe. He rose and argued before the Diet that if the crown had been unhesitatingly given to the eldest son of the deceased king, the great calamities which now overwhelmed the kingdom would have been averted. He added that the only means of saving it at this hour was a speedy recourse to that prince. ‘Most honorable lords,’ said he, ‘the salvation of our country now depends upon the resolution which you are about to adopt.’ All the lay members applauded this speech and proposed that without delay they should call the duke to the throne of his father. But the prelates were indifferent to any calamities but their own. ‘The safety of the Church,’ they said, ‘forbids our making choice of a heretical prince.’ Violent debates now began. It was to no purpose that representations were made to the priests that they were risking the sacrifice of the country to their idle chimeras; their obstinacy only grew stronger.
While there was one assembly within the hall, there was a far more numerous one outside. An immense crowd surrounded the Diet and waited impatiently to see whether the country was to be saved or lost. They pressed about the doors to learn the result of the deliberations and wondered that they did not come to an end. Ere long, suspecting what happened, these impatient men made their way into the hall and exclaimed that it would not do to wait till the enemy fell upon those who were still able to defend their country before appointing the only leader who could save them. They asserted that the caprice of the bishops had already cost the loss of half the kingdom, and declared that if the duke was not that instant elected, those who opposed it should pay dear for their resistance.
The prelates began to tremble. They sat silent, gloomy, and irresolute.
Dread, however, of the tyrant’s return brought them to a decision. They stammered out some excuses, they spoke of their zeal for religion, and they added that if the nobles were determined to elect the duke, they had only to do so on their own responsibility; that as for themselves they would be content with the receipt of their tithes and the maintenance of their own privileges and those of their Church. No sooner had they spoken than the young Christian was proclaimed king by the Diet; and the multitudes within and without the hall responded to the announcement of this election with acclamations of joy. It was on the 4th July, 1534, that this important step was taken.