19 AUGUST 1865, Page 11


• WHAT the Middle Ages really were, writers the most learned, the most ingenious, the most profound, will perhaps always puzzle themselves in vain to discover. All is chaos, and often all is darkness. The ruins of shattered worlds dash against the dawning shapes of worlds yet to be. Nothing is formed, and everything is in process of formation. Fertilities abound, viten- ties swarm and battle, but except the Cathedral, soaring up to heaven, no organic symmetrical creation is evolved. Those who despise the Middle Ages, show simply their own shallowness and ignorance ; those who idealize and idolize them are wiser, as dreaming is better than disdain, nevertheless they dream. To study the Middle Ages so as to gain a consistent idea thereof is almost impossible. Yet it would be folly to say that we should not study them. Poetic insight, however, is here a surer guide than philosophic discernment, which starts with systems, and ends with crotchets and falsehoods. The more chaotic a period, the more colossal the individualities which dominate it, and give it something of cosmic aspect. Cosmic, except in aspect, they cannot make it. In the Middle Ages colossal individualities tower, as they never towered, except in the grand conflict of the Titans with the Gods, and in the one case, as in the other, the individualities look grander from the myth and the mystery which surround them. History is never so in- teresting as when it is just emerging from fable. In the border- land between history and fable we encounter the heroic, an unexampled nobleness, that yet, from the strange atmosphere cloudy and meteoric—through which it marches, seems nobler than it is. Great, very great, were the medimval men, but we approach the castle where they dwell through the forest of ten thousand legends, and then they grow the greater. Happily for them, and happily for us, their deeds were not recorded in news- PaPers-

It is not gigantic individualities alone that half attract, half appal us in the Middle Ages ; we are no less fascinated and awed by illustrious races, by groups and chains of gigantic individualities. And of those races, the best and most brilliant were they that, not by accident or privilege, but by the right of genius and valour, sat on the thrones of kings. Among the Royal races of the medimval times the Hohenstaufen must always hold a place loftier and serener than the rest. They were more than soldiers, more than statesmen ; while ruling, with wise and strong hand, the stormy present, they had the prescience of calmer days. What is deepest and divineat in our modern civilization they helped to prepare. In their long conflict with the Papal power they exhausted themselves, but they exhausted the antagonist no less, and chiefly through their chivalrous deeds and tragical sufferings the re-organization of the world became possible. That the Papacy, at a season of anarchy and turbulence, had a unitive and beneficent influence we readily admit, but having allowed more and more earthly ambition to vanquish or vitiate its higher purposes, the Papacy grew obstruc- tive and oppressive. Just when the Papacy, in its most odious uiurpations, seemed about to triumph, the Hohenstaufen dealt it a fatal blow. Of course we are here looking at the matter from the historical, and not the theological point of view.

On the 29th of October, 1268, p3rished on the scaffold at

Naples the victim of Charlie of Anjou's brutality, a brave youth of sixteen yeaim---Conradin, the last recognized representa- tive of the Hohenstaufen, who had been Emperors, though now and then with disputed authority, from 1138 till 1251. Conradin was the grandson of the most gifted and distinguished of the Hohenstaufen, Frederick II., who was himself the grandson of the scarcely less gifted and distinguished Frederick Barbarossa. With Conradin the glory of the Hohenstaufen was quenched in blood. Nevertheless the Hohenstaufen lineage survived. Frederick IL's eldest legitimate son Henry was disinherited by his father, for supremely foolish and undutiful rebellion. Henry, his wife, and children died in prison. Frederick was succeeded by his second legitimate son, who is known as Conrad IV., and who was the father of the unfortunate Conradin. Conrad IV. was cut off at an early age. Two of Frederick IL's illegitimate sons, Enzio and Manfred, possessed all the splendid qualities of the Hohenstaufen. Enzio fell into the hands of the Bolognese, and was from a long captivity relieved only by death. Manfred was defeated by Charles of Anjou and slain.

Constantia, the daughter of Manfred, married Peter III. of Russia, called the Great, and bore children, the ancestors of memorable kings.

There is another genealogy, however, which has much more importance for English readers. Frederick Il.'s daughter Margaret fell as wife to the lot of a martal so exceedingly naughty and disagreeable that the Ger- mans called him the Unartige. This was Albert, ruler of Thu- ringia, who seemed to be fond of quarrelling with everybody, but whose principal squabbles were with his own sons. One of these, Frederick the Gebissene, succeeded his father. On one occasion his mother, when compelled to fly, bit—when embracing her son —his cheek in the violence of her anguish. Hence his singular designation. After Frederick the Gebissene came his son, Frede- rick the Ernsthafte, who had three sons—Frederick the Strenge, Balthasar, and William, all of whom reigned in succession. Frederick the Sireitbare, the eldest son of Frederick the Strenge, exalted and extended the influence of the family. He certainly deserved the name of the Balder by his combative propensities. He rose to be Elector and Duke of Saxony. He died in 1428. His son, Frederick the Sanflmathige, reigned from 1428 till 1464. He was the father of the two princes, Ernest and Albert, who were the heroes of the famous adventure, the Prinzenraub, which has found in Carlyle a vigorous and graphic English chronicler.

Albert, the younger of the two princes, was the founder of the Aibertine, or what is now the Royal Saxon line, the career whereof it lies apart from the purpose of the present sketch to delineate.

Ernest, the elder of the two princes, was the founder of the Ernestine, or Ducal Saxon line.. He died in 1486, and has been revered by posterity as a wise, just, and energetic ruler.

His successor, Frederick the Weise, who reigned till 1525, had that moderation and circumspection which are often regarded as the equivalents of wisdom. It is thus he is known to us as Frederick the Wise. He was the patron of learning, and founded the University of Wittenberg. Openly he protected Luther, secretly but effectually he furthered the Reformation.

The reign of his son, John Frederick the Grossmilthige, extended to 1554. He had a sort of rough and fiery strength, but no political capacity. A zealous Protestant, the chief founder of the Schmal- kaldic alliance, and the chief leader in the Schmalkaldic war, he was defeated by the Emperor Charles V. at the battle of Muhl- berg on the 24th April, 1547. He had to pay a serious penalty for his numerous blunders. He lost his Electoral dignity, and was kept a prisoner till 1552.

To trace from this point down the various branchings and de- velopments, the various divisions and subdivisions, of the Ernestine line would be tiresome. Suffice it to say that the Ernestine line has now, as principal representatives, the Dukes of Saxe-Alten- burg, of Saxe-Meiningen-Hilburghausen,ofSaxe- Weimar-Eisenach, and of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

The founder of the reigning Saxe-Coburg-Gotha dynasty was John Ernest, the seventh son of Ernest the Fromme, who was himself the ninth son, as his brother, the celebrated General Ber- nard, Duke of Weimar, was the tenth and youngest son of John, Duke of Weimar. John Ernest died in 1729. His sons, Christian Ernest and Francis Josiah, reigned conjointly till 1745, when the former died, the latter surviving till 1764. The son and suc- cessor of Francis Josiah was Ernest Frederick, who reigned till 1800, and who burdened the land with an exceedingly heavy debt that bore most disastrous results. His son, Francis Frederick Antony, succeeded him, reigning till 1806. The children of Francis were his successor, Ernest DI, Leopold, King of the Belgians, the Duke Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Kohary, the late Duchess of Kent, and Juliana, the first wife of the Russian Grand Duke Constantine, from whom that supremely brutal and ugly Romanoff separated himself by divorce in March, 1820, to marry, a month or two after, a Polish princess.

Ernest III, born 2nd January, 1784, died 29th January, 1844. He fought in the Napoleonic wars, not without distinction, and ultimately not without reward, obtaining when peace ar- rived an increase of territory. One of his territorial acquisitions, the principality of Lichtenberg, he sold to Prussia. He aimed to be a paternal ruler after the Prussian model. Somewhat a niggard in his gifts of liberty to his people, he fostered muni- ficently art and science, though perhaps too much in the heavy, dilettante mode peculiar to the Germans. Of the two principalities, Coburg and Gotha, constituting the Duchy, the latter is much the larger and the more populous. It was not till the end of 1826 that it was added to Ernest M.'s dominions. German princesses part very readily with their creeds, as is seen whenever a Romanoff wants to marry, and German princes part no less readily with their wives. In 1817 Ernest III. induced Louisa, the only daughter of Duke Augustus of Saxe- Gotha, to share the throne of his small realm. She gave birth to two children, Ernest, and Albert. While yet Ernest and Albert were in merest infancy, their father and mother separated, the Duchess living in absolute solitude till her death on the 30th August, 1831. Duke Ernest married a second time.

The reigning Duke, Ernest IV., or, if we consider the Coburg line separately, Ernest II., was born on the 21st June, 1818. He has displayed sagacity, enlightenment, practice/ aptitudes, and is perhaps the best of the smaller German princes. As a musical composer he excels, and his fame as a musician is not inferior to that which his relative, Ferdinand, the second husband of Queen Maria da Gloria of Portugal, has gained as painter and engraver.

Albert, the second am of Ernest III, and of the Duchess Louisa, was born on the 26th August, 1819. He is known to us in England as Prince Albert, a man of many virtues and many accomplishments. All England mourned his death, though per- haps there was some exaggeration in the expression of the grief. On attaining his twentieth birthday Prince Albert inherited from his mother estates yielding an income of more than five thousand a year. So that even if he had no other resources, he did not come to England the penniless adventurer he has often been represented. Descendants of the Hohenstaufen both on the father's side and the mother's, the Prince of Wales and his brothers and sisters cannot be indifferent to an ancestry so glorious. But what adds to the interest is, that they have likewise sprung from that Guelphic race which was the most persevering rival and the most envenomed foe of the Hohenstaufen, and whose name from that rivalry and from that antipathy was in Germany and Italy one of the great war cries in the Middle Ages. In our pre- sent Royal Family Guelph and Ghibelline are reconciled.

A little girl to whom her father was teaching physiology and arithmetic told one of her playmates that she was taking lessons in blood and figures ; and a man of genius has spoken of blood and culture as representing England's chief needs, that is to say, a reverence for men of noble birth, and the diffusion of richer civiliz- ing agencies than those preached and promoted by the Manchester school. In blood and figures we have not much faith, but there are worse evangels than blood and culture. The manufacturers of pedigrees are credulous, lying, contemptible mortals. That which they make ridiculous is nevertheless intrinsically beautiful. How proud the Arab of his home's unblemished breed! And yet dunces. sneer at ancient, uncontaminated breed where human beings are concerned. Verily, descent from the Hohenstaufen cannot by- itself make a man brave, but consciousness thereof will increase his heroism tenfold if he is naturally a hero.

And the future King is actually the descendant of the first. Saxon King of all England, of the first Norman Conqueror, of every family which has occupied the British Throne, of the family which alone in the Middle Ages succeeded in elevating the idea of the State, that is secular order, above the idea of the Church, that is ecclesiastical tyranny. He is none the better for that descent,, but then he is none the worse, and the fact that the Coburgs represent the Hohenstaufen is a historical one well worth remem- bering, and very seldom remembered.