Ivan the Terrible/Part 2/Chapter 4

Chapter IV. The Conquest of LivoniaEdit


THE sixteenth-century struggle for the possession of the Baltic was a dispute over an inheritance. This inheritance had been left by the Hansa, that great political and commercial con- federation which the discovery of the New World ruined and left defenceless in the hands of its greedy neighbours. It was a formidable struggle, both as to the competitors Sweden


and Denmark, Muscovy and Poland whose enmity it stirred, and as to the interests industry and commerce, religion and culture it involved. Up till about 1540, Moscow's part in the matter was quite a small one that of an auxiliary of the two Scandinavian Powers. But at that period the common adver- sary, the Hanseatic Towns, was almost worn out, and as an inevitable consequence, the quondam allies fell out over the division of the spoils.

Historically speaking, the claims of the Muscovite com- petitor were the most ancient. Even such early works as Nestor's have been argued to contain proof that Livonia and Esthonia formed an integral part of the ancient Russian Empire. When the old chronicler enumerates the peoples under the yoke of the Varegian Princes, he speaks of Liv and Tchoud, settled on the Baltic coasts. But such proofs as these are rather dubious in their nature. The first undoubted at- tempt by the Russians to get a footing on the Livonian coast dates from the year 1030, when the town of louriev was founded on Tchoud territory, under Jaroslav the Great. But the exist- ence of this establishment, which received a serious check at the hands of the Semigalian inhabitants of that neighbourhood, soon became most precarious, and it was threatened, in the following century, by a still more redoubtable competitor the Germans were close at hand.

The history of the German colony in Livonia goes back to the foundation of Lubeck by Henry the Lion, about the year 1158. The merchants of the new city, seeking an opening in the direc- tion of the Scandinavian countries and the Far East, played the part of Columbus to that other America. A struggle then arose between Germans, Russians, and Scandinavians, each seeking to get first possession of the course of the Eastern Dvina, already connected with the whole river system of Russia, and even with the basin of the Dnieper. Livonia was the key of this situation, and here, as in many places, then and even nowadays, German colonization was backed up by German missionaries. During the latter half of the twelfth century the exact date is not settled Meinhard, a canon of the Augustine Order, built a church near the town of Uexkull, which became the seat of a bishopric and the nucleus of a fortified town. Meinhard's successor, a Cistercian, Bishop Berthold, was a prelate after the manner of Barbarossa, who wore a sword on his hip, and used it oftener than his crozier. In the year 1198, backed by a crusading Bull from the Pope, he appeared with an army and a fleet at the mouth of the Dvina. A series of successes and reverses ensued, and it was not till the davs of the third Livonian Bishop, Albert, a de- scendant of a noble Bremen family, who founded Riga, and


the Order of the Brothers of the Sword, that a final conquest was effected. The new confraternity was modelled on that of the Templars, though less directly ruled by the Pope. It had a Grand Master, who resided at Riga, and a Chapter, including five chief Masters, and all the members of the Order were bound in equal submission to the episcopal authority. It thus con- stituted a strongly centralized power. But the regular and the secular element soon fell out of harmony, and in the course of the struggle that swiftly ensued, the Order was led to develop the material and political side of its organization, to the detri- ment of its spiritual calling. This brought it face to face with fresh rivals, and involved it in ruin.

In Prussia, and hard by these knights with red crosses on their white mantles, dwelt the Black Cross Knights of Hermann von Salza, created an Order of Hospitallers by the Pope in 1191, converted into a religious Order by German Princes in 1198, and endowed with an establishment on Slav territory by Conrad, Duke of Mazovia and Cujavia, who, as ill-luck would have it, appealed to these knights, in 1225, to put down and convert the Prussian idolaters. In the following century St. Bridget was to denounce, and prophesy terrible chastise- ment for, the misdeeds of these false apostles, ' who only fight to feed their own pride and gratify their covetousness.' Greedy and overbearing, they felt hampered within their own dominions, and the neighbouring country of Livonia struck them as a desirable prize. In 1236 an unhoped-for chance favoured their ambition the almost total destruction of the Brothers of the Sword in a fight with the Lithuanians at the Saula. Rome, solicited by both Orders, decided on their fusion, and the Red Cross Knights disappeared.

But in this new arrangement the neighbours had to be con- sidered. In 1238, Denmark received Revel, Harrien, and Wirland. In 1242, after a desperate encounter with Alex- ander Nevski's Russians on thePeipus,the Black Cross Knights, who had begun to spread along the Finnish coasts, were forced to retire, and give up their most recent conquests. At the close of the thirteenth century the Order had to reckon with yet another hostile element the burgher class in the towns, which was growing very powerful, and which made common cause with the Bishops against the knights. The knights won the day. and towards the middle of the fourteenth century they celebrated a greater triumph still : Courland, Livonia, and Esthonia fell under their exclusive rule, Denmark only preserving a nominal claim, to be put forward at a later date, to her ancient conquests.

It was but a short-lived triumph. In the next century, Poland came upon the scene, and on September i, 1435, the troops of



the Order and the. Russian-Lithuanian bands under Svidrigailo, which had been artfully drawn into a fratricidal struggle, suffered a crushing defeat at the famous Battle of the Swieta. At that moment the Knights of the Black Cross were in jeopardy even in Prussia. On July 15, 1410, a quarrel, then two centuries old, renewed since then, and perpetuated under various forms, was fought out in a memorable combat, for the commemoration of which preparations are now being made at Cracow and Moscow. More appropriately divided, this time, into two hostile camps, the world of Germany and the budding world of Slav- dom had set their picked warriors face to face, and at Griinwald, on that great day, the flower of German chivalry fell before the onslaught of the Polish-Lithuanian army under lagiello and Witold, and the power of the great Order bit the red dust of that historic battlefield.

Into the balance of that fight Poland had cast her own fate. The Order, ready to join hands against her even with the Slavs, while, in its hate of their very name, it called her, to whom it owed everything, the ' hereditary foe,' had plotted her ruin, and would have shrunk from nothing that might insure it. In the previous century it had laboured to induce Sweden, Hungary, and Austria to accept a plan of partition, the earliest of them all (Treitschke, Historische und Politische Aufsatze, 1867, p. 35 ; compare Martens, Recueil des Traites, v., Introd., p. vi). From that same period, too, while striving to obstruct the understanding between Poland and Lithuania which was to be its ruin, it had shown an inclination to adopt the future watchword of secularized Prussia an alliance with Moscow and against the benefactors thus rewarded.

The Battle of Griinwald settled all these accounts for a time. The knights, obliged, in the following year, to accept a peace at Thorn, which diminished their Prussian dominions, felt their Livonian interests threatened by the Polish-Lithuanian agree- ment, which they vainly strove to break, and the Muscovite alliance was still a far-off dream. Meanwhile the reflux of Mus- covite expansion in Livonia itself had to be faced. In 1483 the belligerents were fain to make a truce, and before this had expired, the Russians had built Ivangorod, their own Narva a standing threat to the Teutonic Narva on the opposite bank on the eastern side of the mouth of the Narova River.

At the same time, the Order was undergoing a process of internal decomposition, soon to be hastened by the appearance of the Reformation, and the conversion of Albert, of Branden- burg, appointed Grand Master in 1510. In 1525, when, at the Landtag of Wolmar, Albert, after an unsuccessful war, accepted the suzerainty of Poland over his secularized States, Livonia seemed inclined to follow the same course. The courage of


Walter von Plettenberg, who led the Livonian party in the Order, failed him ; but from the towns Protestantism was pouring forth with resistless strength, shaking the knights' fortresses to their foundations, finding its way even into the Bishops' courts, leaving nothing of the Catholic establishment standing, save its external trappings, and casting the whole country into a state of anarchy which, whencesoever it came, rendered the final catastrophe inevitable. In 1554, Plettenberg's successor, Fiirstenberg, began to treat with Moscow ; but in 1557, having shown an inclination to defy Poland, he was forced to appear before King Sigismund-Augustus at Pozwol, and accept an offensive and defensive alliance against Russia. It became clear, then, that Livonia was to be the lists on which that country's own fate was to be fought out between its neigh- bours, and for their benefit. She was to save nothing for her- self, not even her honour.


The Muscovite invasion, to which all this was the prelude, and all the horrors that came in its train, have been represented in the German literature, and even in the popular poetry of that epoch, as a Divine chastisement. Truly, the spectacle the country then presented was both sad and repulsive. The Order was fast nearing its end. The warlike spirit of the old knights had died out ; there was no civic spirit to take its place. The vow of celibacy had given rise to a state of unbridled and filthy debauchery. Immoral women swarmed round the knights' castles, and the perpetual orgies in which they lived and the luxury they displayed reduced the poor to a state of hideous misery. Sebastian Minister, in his ' Cosmography,' published in 1550 (French translation, dated 1575, p. 1618), has given us a dark and revolting picture of this revelry, and the distress which was the reverse of the medal ; and a preacher of that period Tilman Brakel, of Antwerp has not left us a more favourable account of the lives of the upper clergy, greedy and dissolute, living in the midst of concubines and bastards.

But morals were corrupt at that time all over Europe, and this feature would not in itself suffice to explain the weakened condition of every local institution. To this other causes con- tributed. Ever since the twelfth century, the country had been offering the contradictory spectacle of a German colony, engaged, after the fashion of the Greek settlements on the coasts of Sicily and Asia Minor, in forming an independent State, without any national basis at all. The local population, of Finnish or Lettonian race, though it submitted to the foreign


masters who thus imposed their yoke, had nothing in common with them neither tongue, nor customs, nor religion. Forced into Catholicism, and now driven towards Protestantism, it continued equally indifferent and hostile. Hence there was no solid foundation, no real link with any metropolitan or central religious power. The Emperor's power over the Order and the Pope's power over the Church were both of them purely nominal. There was no real centralization and no real unity, only a perpetual fight between the secular and regular elements, in spheres the frontiers of which were ill-defined, and perpetually altering. The general tendency of all towns was indifferently to repudiate the authority of both the rival powers. Anarchy reigned everywhere. As Droysen has justly observed (Geschichte der Gegenreformation, 1893, p. 204), in that hour, when the seven provinces of the Low Countries were evolving a new European State out of a great war, viribus unitis, the State of Livonia wa's crumbling, viribus unit-is, under the centrifugal action of its own dissociated elements.

Against the fourfold threat of invasion Polish, Muscovite, Swedish, and Danish there were no home resources at all. As a military power, the Order had disappeared, and there was no money, or no inclination to give it, for recruiting an army no hope of outside help. The Order did indeed reckon on appealing to the German Fatherland in the hour of, danger, but for two centuries it had never failed to claim from that same Fatherland every right and license dear to a haughty and suspicious particularism. Poland was offering support, and even insisting on its acceptance ; but Poland, torn by intestine quarrels, weakened by the vices of her own Government, and absorbed by the great work of her union with Lithuania, was more to be feared as an enemy than welcomed as an ally. In 1554, Gustavus I., King of Sweden, would fain have taken advantage of the difficulties besetting Ivan, then busy with his Eastern conquests ; but the league in which he invited Livonia, Poland, and Lithuania to join him fell to the ground, and, left alone to cope with Moscow, he was forced, in 1557, to agree to a forty years' truce. Thus the unhappy Livonia was left face to face with the fourth rogue, who found plenty of reasons or pretexts for attacking her.

What reasons ? In the tacit agreement entered into by a portion of Western Europe to keep the door shut between her- self and her powerful neighbour in the North- West, the Baltic provinces were fond of assuming the watchdog's part. At this very moment the famous business of Hans Schlitte gave proof of their zeal in this matter. This Saxon adventurer, who, in 1548, had received the Emperor Charles V.'s permission to recruit artisans and men of learning in Germany for the Tsar's service,



was stopped by the Livonians, with his troop of followers, cast into prison, and kept there until all his men, some 100, or even 300 the authorities contradict each other as to the exact figure had dispersed. Another reason. Once Novgorod had been incorporated into the Russian Empire, the conquest of Livonia became necessary to that Empire. The new masters of the city had begun by destroying the German counting-house, or niemietskii-dvor ; but the trade thus taken from the Hansa at once passed to the Livonian towns, Riga and Narva, fresh centres of operations by which Moscow suffered hostile cities where foreigners were forbidden to learn Russian, and all credit given to Russian merchants was punished with fines (Richter, Geschichte der Ostsee Pro- vinzen, 1857, ii., p. 422).

What pretexts ? In old days, between the Livonian town of Neuhausen and Pskov, there had lain a belt of wild country, over which, after many years of contest, the Russians had obtained a sort of suzerainty, based on an annual tribute of 10 pounds of honey, paid by the Livonian husbandmen living on the land. When the bee-swarms disappeared, together with the forests in which they had lived, this tribute had first of all been converted into a money payment fixed, according to some authorities, at six crowns a year and had finally fallen into disuse. In 1503, Moscow revived the ancient memory, and endeavoured to confuse the issue with her pretensions on Derpt, the louriev of the old Russians. In 1554, just after the taking of Astrakan, Ivan added more recent griefs : violations of his frontiers and confiscations of orthodox churches by Pro- testant fanatics. In 1556, having insured the safety of his new possessions in the East, he began to use sterner language. One of his predecessors had already sent the Livonians a whip as an admonitory hint. ' The Tsar's Ambassador seems to have borne this precedent in mind. The tribute of 10 pounds of honey or six crowns was transformed, in his mouth, into a tax of one mark for every member of the population, and he claimed arrears amounting to 50,000 crowns.

The Bishop of Derpt flattered himself he would get out of the difficulty by a diplomatic quibble ; he promised full payment, but made the execution of his engagement dependent on the Emperor's approbation. And to the Emperor the Livonians forthwith wrote, in what sense my readers will easily imagine. Terpigorev, the Ambassador, pretended he did not understand all these artifices. The Emperor ? What had the Emperor to do with it ?

' Yes or no will you pay the money ?' Instead of the coin, they brought him an explanatory letter for Ivan.

' Ho, ho !' said he, as he carefully put the paper into a silken


bag, ' here's a beast that promises to grow big and fat !' And, ordering refreshments to be served to the astonished magis- trates, he gambolled joyously about, jumping on the tables. Terrified, the city fathers dilated on the impossibility of getting so large a sum of money together in a few days.

' Come, come, there are twelve barrels full of money in the cellars of your Town Hall !'

' Maybe so, but we are not the only people who have the keys. Revel has one, and Riga has another.'

' Very good, very good ! If you don't choose to give the money, the Tsar will come and fetch it !'

And the Tsar really was coming. Had not Macarius likened him to Alexander Xevski after the Siege of Kazan ? Ivan was to pin his pride on justifying the flattery by following in the national hero's wake, and going back to the road out of which, since the thirteenth century, the necessities of her defence against the Tartars of the East had forced Russia. But the times were changed. Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and the whole of Europe were to take part in the struggle now ; even Spain herself, to serve her dream of extending her universal monarchy to the distant North, aimed at seizing the Sound, disputed the Danish alliance with Mary Stuart, and claimed an interest in the fray.


In February, 1557, a Livonian deputation made its appear- ance at Moscow, begged for further delay, and was dismissed. Ivan refused to see the envoys himself, desired Adachev to pack them off, and organized a punitive expedition. It was swift and cruel. Towards the close of the year, an army, largely made up of Tartars, and commanded by Schah-Ali, the late Tsar of Kazan, invaded Livonia, and ravaged the country in a frightful manner. Not a feature was lacking. Women were abused till they died, children were torn from their mother's wombs, houses were burnt down, crops were destroyed. There may be a certain exaggeration in the chronicles of the country, but at that period war was hideously barbarous everywhere, and Schah-Ali's Tcheremisses were probably no whit inferior to the Duke of Alva's more disciplined bandits. Having chosen out the most beautiful of their female captives, and satisfied their lust on them, they tied them to trees, and exercised their skill as marksmen on their living targets. This may have occurred, though the presence of two Russian commanders Prince Michael Vassilevitch Glinski and Daniel Romanovitch Zakharine, brother of the Tsarina Anastasia probably laid some restraint on these savage performances.

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But the expedition was not so much a conquest as a summons, manu militari. As Terpigorev had said, the Russians had come to fetch the money ; thus some amount of terrorism may have appeared necessary.

Scarcely any resistance was offered. Over a distance of some 200 versts the invaders only met a few weak detachments, easily put to flight or cut to pieces. But as yet no result was apparent. Most probably Ivan had not settled on any definite plan. He was working a little at random. In January, 1558, Schah-Ali, having amassed a huge amount of booty, agreed to a truce, and more delegates travelled to Moscow. They brought an instalment of the sum claimed, and they obtained a hearing. Thanks to the intervention of the Russian merchants concerned in the trade with Derpt and the neighbouring towns, and thanks, too, it may be, to certain other gold pieces prudently bestowed, unhoped-for concessions seemed within view. Ivan had already consented to treat, and to waive his claim to tribute, on account of the exhaustion of the country. But all the negotiations were upset by an unexpected piece of news. Narva, refusing to accept the truce, had continued to exchange cannon-shots with Ivangorod ; the town had surrendered in April, 1558, but the fortress had continued to hold out ; now (May ii ) it had been carried by assault. Instantly Adachev, who was in charge of the negotiations, changed his tone. Hitherto the question had been, in somewhat nebulous and confusing terms, that of a tribute to be paid by the Bishopric of Derpt. Now a quite different claim was put forward ; the whole of Livonia was called upon to accept, not only a similar obligation, but the suzerainty of Moscow, ' on the same terms as the territories of Kazan and Astrakan.' Fiirstenberg, Grand Master of the Order, and the bishops of Derpt and Riga, were to proceed to Moscow, and there do homage, and Narva and the other lately-conquered towns were to be simply an- nexed to the Empire.

This method of proceeding by stages, and as it were by a succession of forward leaps, has always been the traditional policy of Russia. But Ivan certainly did not expect his new conditions to be instantly accepted. He was drawing a bow at a venture. Punishment had been wreaked, and he was now broaching conquest. The war went on, and the unhappy Livonia was no more fit to face it than before. The towns alone checked the invasion for a time. In his despair, Fiirsten- berg, who could only get 8,000 men together, made over his command to his coadjutor, Gotthard Kettler, who did no better. The fortresses yielded in their turn : first Neuhausen fell, then Marienburg. Cowardice and treachery were in every corner ; the German chroniclers themselves admit it.


' Marienburg, das edle Schloss War uebergeben ohne Schoss,'

sang Taube, the Livonian.

In July, 1558, the Siege of Derpt began, and the Bishop and his immediate circle seem to have hastened the surrender so as to insure certain personal benefits for themselves. In the wars of the sixteenth century this capitulation constitutes an exceptional case, and one which does honour to Moscow. The Russian Commander-in-Chief, Prince Peter Ivanovitch Chouiski, granted the natives of the town a full amnesty, the free exercise of their religion, the maintenance of their ancient municipal laws, judicial autonomy, and liberty to carry on a free trade with Russia. And at first these conditions were scrupulously observed. Moscow's tactics altered with her plans. After the assault at Narva, a regular system of pillage had been arranged, the traces of which are still apparent in the St. Petersburg Kunstkamera. The country was rich, though it could find no money for defensive purposes. In the house of one citizen, Fabian von Tisenhausen, 80,000 marks in gold were found. But the very graves were ransacked, we are told. In those day the laws of war permitted or authorized even worse profanations. Once they had sacked everything, the victors grew less fierce, and even showed great moderation. The privileges granted at Derpt were extended to Narva. Steps were at once taken to restore the town, and the husband- men round about it were liberally encouraged and helped.

Ivan, indeed, thought things had gone too far in this direc- tion. He only ratified Chouiski's charter subject to certain restrictions : a Russian member to be admitted to the muni- cipal tribunal ; the appeal to the Riga court to be replaced by an appeal to the Muscovite Voievode or to the Tsar ; and trade with all Russian towns, save Novgorod, Pskov, Ivan- gorod, and Narva, to be taxed. As an offset, the natives of Derpt were to be allowed to settle in any part of the Empire that suited them. These advantages must have been suffi- ciently alluring, for before autumn came, twenty other towns had offered their submission.

Yet the war was not nearly over. Revel still held out, and in September, when Chouiski, after the invariable habit of Russian Generals, retired before the approach of winter, Kettler seized the opportunity and took the offensive. Gather- ing 10,000 men, he recovered Ringen, after an attack which was said to have cost him 2,000 men, and pushed on as far as Siebieje and Pskov, the suburbs of which town he burnt. Ivan, threatened by the Crimean Tartars, was fain to gulp down his wrath and agree to a truce in May, 1559. But the next year the Crimean danger had passed away, and he had his revenge.


On August 20, under the walls of Fellin, Kourbski met the flower of the Livonian nobility, gathered for one mighty effort, and crushed it at a blow. The fall of Fellin very soon after- wards gave him possession of the person of Fiirstenberg, who had already resigned in Kettler's favour. The former Grand Master, with other prisoners of high rank the Landmarschall Philip Schal von Bell, his brother, Werner Schal von Bell, Comtor of Goldringen, and Heinrich von Galen, Bailiff of Bauschenburg was sent to Moscow, and treated, according to the Livonian chronicles, with great barbarity. The prisoners, we are told, after being led through the streets and beaten with iron rods, were put to further tortures, massacred, and their bodies left to be devoured by birds of prey. As regards Fiirstenburg, this assertion is certainly disproved. He was not killed ; he was given a landed property in the Government of laroslavl, and as late as 1575 he declared, in a letter to his brother, that he had no reason to complain. Some Danish Ambassadors happened to be at Moscow when he arrived there. They ascertained that the ex-Grand Master was being well treated, and on their return journey they testified to this effect before the magistrates of Revel. But they added that the other prisoners had been put to death .

These executions, we must admit, were logical, according to Ivan's view of the situation. As the progress of his arms in Livonia woke ancient memories, flattering to the national pride, the Tsar, not unnaturally, ended by looking on the possession of the country as his vested right, and its inhabitants as rebellious subjects of their legitimate lord. When the King of Denmark insisted on his own claim to Esthonia, did not Ivan reply that laroslav had established a far more valid claim 500 years before, when he built louriev, and covered the face of the country with Orthodox churches ? Livonian and German authorities are unreliable, and Russian authorities, unfortunately, non-existent, as far as this war is concerned. It finds no echo even in the national poetry of the country. The fall of Kazan, the conquest of Siberia, and the interests, religious and economic, they involved, produced a far deeper effect on the imagination of a race which then, as now, was both realistic and mystic to a high degree. The realities to which the Livonian massacres, void of all brilliant feats of arms, led up, were nothing to it ; they spoke neither to its mind nor to its heart.

Yet they were beginning to be clear enough in Ivan's brain. Three parts of the work of conquest were accomplished. Kettler and his comrades, reduced to a few strongholds in Livonia and threatened in Esthonia as well, applied, turn about, to the Emperor, to Denmark, Sweden, and Poland. Any chance of intervention seemed most problematical.



All over Europe, in truth, the impression produced was very deep. From the very outset of the war, the Protestant writers, always ready to denounce Spanish intrigue, had asserted that Philip II., who, as a Catholic monarch and as King of England, had a double interest in taking advantage of the quarrel, would strike at Protestantism in Livonia, and gain a footing on the Baltic seaboard. The Pope, no doubt, was playing this game with him. The Emperor was called on to act. But Ferdinand I. was Emperor now a bureaucratic Sovereign, eager to apply quietism to politics. He called for reports, opened a correspondence with Ivan, exchanged views with the Kings of Denmark, Sweden, and Poland, and did not budge an inch.

Ivan, indeed, took pains to humour this high authority. The relations between the House of Hapsburg and the Moscow Government, which had begun in the fifteenth century, could only be kept up, on the Russian side, by dint of a constant and deliberate sacrifice of the susceptibilities and pretensions it reserved for its other neighbours. This time, therefore, with many an evasion and recantation, the Tsar went so far as to impute the misfortunes of Livonia to her having forsaken the Catholic faith !

The seaboard towns and the German Electoral Princes offered a better hope, for all of them expressed a desire to come to their Livonian brothers' assistance, and recognised the urgency of the necessity. Yet at the Augsburg Reichstag in 1559, this fine zeal ended in a vote of 100,000 florins subsidy ! The Deputationstag of Spire took the matter more seriously, declared the whole of Germany threatened and Mecklen- burg in imminent peril ; but here, too, the result was trivial another subsidy of 400,000 florins, an interdict on Russian trade, and some talk of a solemn embassy to Moscow. The prohibition, simultaneously imposed, of any intercourse between Livonia and Poland, or other neighbouring Powers, betrayed the real anxieties of the gathering, and none of its decisions were carried into effect. As Droysen puts it, all the Germany of those days knew how to do was queruliren, -pro- testiren, dupliciren, und tripliciren. Ferdinand did something on November 26, 1561, by publishing the celebrated manifesto which forbade the navigation of the Narova. This amounted to forbidding the introduction of Western merchandise, and especially of war material, into Russia. But England had already discovered other roads, and was using them, in spite of the denials which fell from the lips of the astute Elizabeth, who had just (1558) succeeded her sister Mary Tudor. And,


on the other hand, in spite of a more or less sincere feeling in favour of the Livonian cause, the Hansa itself was betraying an inclination to compete with the English traders in this matter, and also to take advantage of the catastrophe which had rid it of dangerous rivals at Riga, Revel, and Derpt.

Livonia was forsaken, neither more nor less, and in her despair she was driven to knock at those foreign doors which her natural defenders, even while they themselves betrayed her, had sought to shut in her face. In January, 1559, an envoy from the Order made his appearance before the Polish Diet at Piotrkow. He found it absorbed in home affairs, and appealed to the King. This King was Sigismund-Augustus, the last of the Jagellons, the representative of a worn-out race. Indolent, debauched, weak, careless of the morrow as he was, the best blood of the great Italian politicians ran in his veins. His mother was that Bona Sforza who, with the culture and habits of her native land, had brought the intriguing spirit and violent instincts of her own family to Cracow. To all external ques- tions, as a rule, her son brought a clear conception of the in- terests at stake, and a deep conviction of his own proper course. He listened to the envoy, and some two months later he began to parley with Kettler, and formulated his conditions. Poland would defend Livonia, even if that involved a war with Russia, but she must have Kokenhausen, Uexkull, Dunaburg, and Riga the keys of the burning house. The risk was a heavy one indeed, and Bona's pupil could not renew the mistake, the folly, into which his father Sigismund I. had fallen, letting the proffered friendship of Prussia slip, and helping, for the benefit of the House of Brandenburg, to build up a power that was crumbling away. The acquisition of a northern frontier and of the Baltic seaboard was becoming a question of life or death for Poland, and the present opportunity, though less favour- able than the last, was tempting enough.

For some time Kettler hesitated. He travelled to Vienna to seek a better bargain, made an attempt to get a hearing from the Augsburg Diet, but ended by going back to Vilna, while the King parleyed with his unruly senators, and at last the merciless logic of facts overcame all resistance. Between August 31 and September 15, two treaties were signed, whereby, in return for a promise of help against Ivan and an undertaking to respect the religion, rights, and privileges of the inhabitants, about a sixth of the Livonian territory was made over to Poland. This frontier strip ran from Drujen to Ascherade. As to the places which might be recovered from Russia, they were to return to Livonia after payment of an indemnity of 700,000 florins, which Sigismund-Augustus was confident never would be found. But how about the Emperor's authority ? The King


declared he would insure its being respected. And the truce he had just signed with the Tsar ? Sigismund would intervene as the legitimate Sovereign of the country in dispute, and would thus break none of his engagements.

He was in no hurry, indeed, to put this complicated and somewhat ambiguous programme into execution, and the re- pugnance manifested by the Polish Szlachta to the effort re- quired of it does not suffice to explain his inaction. The game was a risky one, and it was wise to make suitable preparation, and await the best possible opportunities. Livonia was begging for help, but she was not quite open in her dealings yet. The Polish army, valiant but undisciplined, might not be equal to the task. To have Riga would be a good thing ; but what was the use of Riga without ships, without a fighting and a merchant navy ? Sigismund, a born diplomat, dreamt of a league which would unite the Scandinavian Powers and the Hanse towns under his own direction ; a cunning politician, he sought to provide himself with the weapons he lacked regular troops, ports, and a fleet.

Time, alas ! was to fail him, and so was the complaisance of his fancied allies. The Hansa had other views, and the Scan- dinavian Powers had not the remotest intention of playing Poland's game. As soon as Derpt had fallen, the nobility of Revel had appealed to the King of Sweden. Gustavus Vasa, a dying man, remembered the humiliation imposed on him when Livonia had stolen away and left him to accept the peace of 1557, which the Tsar had refused to negotiate in person. The voievodes of Novgorod had been good enough then to treat with ' the little King of Stockholm.' The habit of using these intermediaries dated back to the days when Novgorod had been independent. ' What,' said Ivan, when objections were made ' what is Stekolna (sic) and its master ?' A shabby little town that had turned a merchant's son into its Sovereign ! He was doing it too much honour already ! The Livonian envoys waited for the accession of Gustavus' son, the impetuous and ambitious Erik XIV., who received them more graciously. In May, 1561, in spite of all Kettler's opposition, a fresh treaty stipulated that Revel, with the territories of Harrien, Wirland, and lerwen, should be made over to Sweden. There was a Polish garrison in Revel, it is true, but Erik's fleet and his German mercenaries made short work of that. On June 15 the garrison laid down its arms, and thus began a duel which lasted for a century, and which, by the exhaustion of the two adversaries, was to end in the ruin of the Republic and the triumph of Russia.

Then Denmark entered the lists. As early as in 1558, King Christian II., even while sending an embassy to Moscow to


conclude a treaty of peace and claim the return of Esthonia to its legitimate owner, had opened negotiations with the Bishop of Oesel, Johann von Miinchausen. This was his answer to the supplications of the unhappy Livonians, who had not failed to knock at that particular door on their own account. Christian died, and an understanding with his successor was all the more easily arranged. Frederic II. had a brother, Magnus, a lad of twenty, and old enough to claim his share of the inheri- tance, Schleswig-Holstein. Either spontaneously or incited by Christopher von Miinchausen, the Bishop of Oesel's brother, a most enterprising man, the King was inspired with the idea of offering the following compensation to his younger brother. Johann von Miinchausen. who had no right whatever to do it, sold his bishopric for the sum of 30,000 thalers ; the Dowager Queen of Denmark, Dorothea, advanced the money, and in April, 1560, Magnus landed at Arensburg, the castle of which place was made over to him by the episcopal bailiff, and a certain number of Livonians joined him there. Christopher von Miinchausen had already, and on his own authority, assumed the title of the King of Denmark's lieutenant in Esthonia, Garria, Oesel, and so forth. Magnus, whose career was to be a most extraordinary one, and who was the finished type of the adventurer of those days, was soon to call himself King of Livonia.

Thus was prepared the confused and mighty conflict which was to hold the future of the countries affected, and the chances of the various competitors, in suspense for over twenty years. And thus, too, Sigismund-Augustus' hand was forced, and he himself driven to act sooner than his natural wisdom would have dictated. In August, 1560, Nicholas Radziwill, ' the Black,' appeared at Riga with a Polish army, and, tearing off every veil, demanded the cession of the whole of Livonia, with the secularization of all the territories on the right bank of the Dvina and their direct annexation to Poland.

Kettler's fellow-countrymen have looked on him as a traitor. In all probability he was only an unlucky player of the game. He had striven to find an ally ; but, as a certain writer has asserted, in justification of Sigismund-Augustus, nobody can ally himself with a corpse. And Fiirstenberg's unlucky suc- cessor certainly exhausted every means of resistance and every form of delay. It was not till Poland appealed, at the close of this fateful year, to the altered circumstances and the necessity of fighting three enemies instead of one, that he was forced to give in. On March 5, 1562, having, in his quality of Master of the Teutonic Order, recognised, by a document dated November 21, 1561, the union of Lithuania and Livonia, and accepted the possession of Courland and some neighbouring


districts, with the title of Duke, in vassalage to Poland, for himself and his heirs, he resigned his cross, his mantle, and the keys of the castle of Riga, into Radziwill's hands.

The spectacle offered by the Baltic provinces at that moment was an extraordinary one, even for that period of incessant territorial rivalries. It surpassed that presented at Milan or in Flanders. The new Duke of Courland, a feeble copy of the first Duke of Prussia, was beginning his reign south of the Dvina. In the north the King of Poland was installing himself as lord and master on part of the ancient possessions of the Order, and proclaiming himself suzerain of them all. Riga, while submitting to the same authority, remained in theory a free city of the Empire, and so preserved a shadow of independence. The Swedes kept Revel and Harrien. Oesel, Wiek, and Pielten were subject to Magnus. And the Muscovites, established in the Bishopric of Derpt, in Wirland, and along the Lettonian frontier, were preparing to dispute the ownership of the whole country with all its other occupants.

' At present,' wrote a gazetteer of that period, ' Livonia is like a young lady round whom everybody dances.' One im- portant fact had already passed into history the close of the period of the Crusades and of the Orders of Chivalry. Modern Europe, even while she still hesitated to receive Russia into her bosom, had joined with Muscovy in wiping out the past, and laying the foundations of a new order of politics. But this new order had yet to evolve itself out of a mighty and chaotic struggle, the incidents of which I must now briefly relate.