ページの画像
PDF
ePub

tered peasants sleep under a green hillock on the shore of the Traun See; a few scattered mountain communes in the neighbourhood still retain their faith : but, substantially, the 'evangelical 'cause perished with them in the Danubian provinces of Austria. Its fate in Bohemia is better known, being more connected with the leading events of European history. On that occasion, as on subsequent ones, the monarchy of the Hapsburgs was rescued from internal dissolution by the effort which it made to resist outward violence; by the encroachments of the Elector Palatine, the Catholic reaction which followed, and the Thirty Years' War. The reigns of Ferdinand II. and III. (1619-1657) comprise this period of flow in the fortunes of their house, and the establishment of what the historical student may regard as the second military monarchy of Austria, under the banners of Tilly, Wallenstein, and Piccolomini.

It was an era of almost unequalled misery to a large portion of Christendom. It seemed as if the ordinary restraints of civilised warfare had become obsolete, and the combatants were bent on destroying all that neither could finally wrest from the other. The populous North became a desert; we can scarcely believe, what some writers seriously allege, that the whole population of Germany, East of the Rhine, sank during the Thirty Years' War from sixteen to four millions; but never had any Christian kingdom presented such an aspect of desolation, since the age of the Huns. We read of cultivated provinces relapsing into forest; cities which had shrunken until the houses of whole deserted quarters were burnt for fire-wood by the scanty inhabitants of the remainder. Men began, in their despair, to cease from those common labours on which the maintenance of society depends. To the starving remnant of mankind which listened to the, trumpeters proclaiming the peace of Westphalia, the name of peace was almost unknown except in their prayers, but it conveyed the idea of blessings for which they were only too ready to sacrifice, not only the independence for which their fathers had striven, but the customary rights of earlier generations. Accordingly, resistance to the implacable reaction conducted by the Jesuits, was impossible alike in Church and State. Not only was the spirit of opposition extinguished, but all that was powerful and distinguished among the recalcitrants was extirpated. The princes of the House of Hapsburg, after the peace of Westphalia, reigned over a new country, a new aristocracy, church, and army.

Against the nobility, in particular, the watchword of the counter-reformation was indeed • Thorough.' The old families of Austria, Styria, Bohemia, and Moravia became almost extinct.

[ocr errors]

The great majority, as we have seen, were Lutherans; and, apparently, were either not to be won back to the Church, or conversion was not enough to save them. The really old Austrian names — those of the indigenous chivalry of the Danubian valley-Kühnring, Eytring, Thonradtel, Hoffmann, Hofkirchen, Bucheim, Stein von Schwartzenau—appear no more from that time in history. The neighbouring countries soon became full of exiles, who had made their way out of political or religious persecution with such property as they could save from the wreck. Friedrich von Roggendorf, one of the family of the hereditary High Stewards of Austria, was promised mercy' by Ferdinand, if he would return home. Which mercy ?' he asked. — “Bohemian mercy ?-- Head off. Moravian ? --- Imprisonment for life. Austrian ? — Confiscation.'

Hence a greater change took place in the proprietary body of the German-Austrian provinces in the seventeenth century, than has been the case in any other modern state except Ireland. Their present land-nobility may be regarded, like that of Ireland, as in great measure a body established in its estates by conquest, and enriched by confiscation. Few comparatively are descended from the small minority which remained Catholic throughout,that of the Princes Lobkowitz, we believe, is among the number. The ancestors of some were re-converted from Protestantism; Lichtenstein and Esterhazy are among the names which underwent this fiery re-baptism, the heads of both having once been Lutheran. But the greater portion are sprung from new men,

men who rose, in the troublesome times, from the ranks of the lower gentry by acquiring confiscated property, --- strangers from various parts of Europe, followers of the Austrian court and camp. Thus, in Bohemia alone we find the houses of Colloredo, Piccolomini, Gallas, Isolani, derived from Italy; Maradas and Verdugo, from Spain; Bucquoy, from the Netherlands; many from different German states. The history of the greater family of Schwarzenberg presents a singular instance of

postliminium. They are originally Bohemian ; their Sclavish name is Czernahora. Driven out by the Hussites in the fifteenth century, they settled in Franconia, and after various migrations returned to their own country in the Thirty Years' War, to obtain an enormous share of the rebel confiscations. So at least says Dr. Vehse. We believe the family genealogists make out a Franconian origin, and discourse of certain kings of the Allemanni. But family trees, says the cynical antiquary Baron Hormayr, grow in Austria like poplars.

To complete this brief sketch of Austrian noblesse, we may add that, according to our author, their titles of nobility are

very modern. The first Austrian prince was a Lichtenstein (1608); and few, if any, existing titles of Count, seem to have an earlier origin.

We have entered at some length into this chapter of pedigrees, because, in truth, the anti-national character of much of the Austrian nobility, its modern and superficial connexion with the soil, seem to have been among the causes which have prevented its combination for national purposes, and placed it, wealthy and numerous as it is, and great as its privileges once were, in close dependence on the court, ever since the peace of Westphalia. Thus the new monarchy of the later Hapsburgs much more nearly approached the character of despotism (except in Hungary, the history of which is throughout to be viewed apart) than that of Charles V. It was moderated rather by the inherent weakness of the central authority, the inert strength of local usages and local corporations, than by any spirit of independence existing either among nobles or people. Such as it was, its culminating period was short; its decay, like that of the Imperial race itself, slow but unchecked.

The reigns of Leopold I., Joseph I., and Charles VI. (1657 -1740) comprise this latter period, -- the last age of the male line of the Hapsburgs, — which may, on the whole, be regarded as one of progressive decline. The Jesuits remained all

powerful through most of it: but their rule had lost its energy for lack of serious opposition: the spiritual managers of Austria degenerated into a feeble council of ancients, devoted to those endless and trifling intrigues of which inferior minds conceive State-craft to consist. Nowhere did the Perrücken-Zeit, the age of periwigs, exhibit so much of its characteristic formality, deadness, and absurdity as in Austria. A tendency towards Oriental state and prostration, unknown to the freer sixteenth century, overspread everything. The monotonous seclusion of the monarch, the passive obedience of the people, the ubiquitous bastinado by which that obedience was enforced, all partook of the Asiatic character. Between its etiquette and its devotions, Vienna was utterly intolerable to foreigners bred in a kindlier atmosphere. «J'avoue,' says the Duc de Richelieu in 1726 ‘que * si j'avois connu la vie que mène ici un Ambassadeur, rien * dans la nature ne m'aurait déterminé à accepter cette ambassade. • Il faudrait la santé d'un Capucin robuste pour en supporter

les fatigues.' And no wonder: for the libertine duke complains of having spent exactly one hundred hours in church, by the side of the emperor, between Palm Sunday and Easter Thursday. If such was the purgatory endured by ambassadors, the sufferings of the sovereign himself may be imagined. He must often hare felt, what the late simple-hearted Emperor Ferdinand expressed after his abdication, We know

that we made our subjects happy; but it was the life of a dog ! Life at court was reduced to one long tedious ceremonial; life at Vienna, and in the provinces, was coarse and insipid. The reader will recollect Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's brief but effective sketches of this society; and he will derive similar impressions from the Memoirs of the Saxon Baron Pöllnitz, cited, with many other authorities, in Dr. Vehse's amusing chapters on ‘the Condition of the Court of Vienna under the last Haps

• burgs.

The army degenerated no less than the civil government. The blood-cemented fabric of the second military monarchy of Austria gave way by internal decline. The victories of Eugene scarcely form a brief exception; indeed, the Austrian troops formed only a contingent in the Imperial or allied armies which he commanded. At the death of Charles VI. in 1740, the army had dwindled down to less than 50,000 effective men, scattered over Europe from Ostend to Belgrade, and from Breslau to Milan.

The male line of the Hapsburgs died out in its degeneracy, in Austria as in Spain. But in the former country its power passed to a young and brilliant princess, Maria Theresa (we prefer the popular spelling to the German form, Theresia), whose mother, the beautiful Elizabeth of Brunswick - die weisse Liesel, as her husband used to call her, born of a house distinguished for ability, had infused, by her marriage with Charles VI., a new element into the stagnant ichor of his ancient race. Austria was saved in 1740, as in 1620 and as in 1848, by the very rapacity of her neighbours, eager to anticipate the moment of her expected dissolution. The sudden enthusiasm which greeted the accession of the persecuted queen of Hungary, her own unconquerable spirit, the Hungarian insurrection, the great feats of the war of succession, are matters of too notorious history to need more than an allusion. But those who recount them have passed over almost in silence the great blot on the early part of the empress-queen’s reign- her recurrence to the precedents of the worst and bloodiest period of her country's history, in the merciless revenge which she took on subjects whose crime, at the worst, was a negative one. In fact, the Austrian Government has obtained gentler treatment from history than it deserved, in this instance as in that of the religious cruelties of the former century, from the comparative obscurity of its internal annals ; while the memory of far inferior excesses, committed by powers whose actions were more open

to the light of day, has been branded with much more severity. Thus history and romance have vied in preserving the recollection of the punishment of the Scottish Jacobites in 1746. Few have ever heard of the bloody assizes' of Prague in 1743, held on subjects who had never taken up arms against their sovereign, and whose only crime was a passive submission to the Bavarian claim of succession, grounded on the will of one of her predecessors. Not to speak of banishments and confiscations, some of the higher classes were condemned to cruel deaths, * some to torture and degradation, some to sweep the streets in opere publico, some to daily hard labour in the bridewell with ordinary flagellation, others to imprisonment for life. Twentyone persons — their names unknown to history are said to have perished by secret execution. One ancient family, that of Wrtby, is supposed to have been exterminated on this occasion; for the registers of the Hof-Commission never gave up their dark secrets. It is only known that the Wrtbys did not reappear from imprisonment, and that their hereditary office of treasurer, and their estates, passed to the family of Lobkowitz. At Maria

Theresa's coronation, a priest brought before her more than • fifty little children and pregnant wives of those who had been imprisoned by the Hof-Commission, who with shrieks and ' tears implored pardon for them in the name of God's mercy, ' and of the native clemency and moderation of their gracious sovereign.' (Vehse, vii. 165.) Their petition was refused.

To recount such things of a masculine ruler would be to pronounce him a tyrant of the worst description. It would be unjust so to decide of Maria Theresa, even in the first flush of her blood-bought triumph. She was in all things very woman; and in this intensity of the qualities of her sex, much of the secret of her greatness lay. Her vindictiveness, also, was feminine, passionate, not implacable. Vehse has done her in this respect no more than justice, if his portrait does on the whole betray some symptoms of the popular idolatry of her name.

Maria Theresa's voice was clear, her speech rapid, accompanied with much and lively gesture: the fieriest expression in every movement, mitigated only by that lofty dignity which never deserted her, even in her fits of involuntary ill-humour or easily-roused anger. of pure sanguine temperament, she was very excitable, easily provoked, but pacified at once, especially when mere mistakes had been committed ; and ready to recompense with overflowing munificence wherever she felt that she had gone beyond the right limits in her anger; for she was just, and even painfully conscientious.

It was only necessary to persuade her of the injustice of a project, however advantageous to herself, and she let it drop immediately, and disliked even to hear it mentioned afterwards.' (Vol. vi. p. 329.)

« 前へ次へ »