letters written from Yuste in 1558, when two hot-beds of heresy had been discovered in Spain herself, and on the contemporary codicil to his will. These were, perhaps, really in part responsible for the later persecution. Yet the circumstances were far from being typical of the emperor’s career. Death was very near him; devotional exercises were his main occupation. The letters, moreover, were cries of warning, and not edicts. Charles was not then the responsible authority. There is a long step between a violent letter and a violent act. Few men would care to have their lives judged by letters written in the last extremities of gout. Less pardonable was the earlier persecution of the Valencian Moriscoes in 1525–1526. They had fought for their landlords in the cause of order, had been forcibly converted by the revolutionaries, and on the suppression of revolution had naturally relapsed. But for this momentary conversion the Inquisition would have had no hold upon them. The edict of persecution was cruel and unnecessary, and all expert opinion in Valencia was against it. It was not, however, actually enforced until after the victory of Pavia. It seems likely that Charles in a fit of religious exaltation regarded the persecution as a sacrificial thank-offering for his miraculous preservation. It is characteristic that, when in the following year he was brought into personal contact with the Moors of Granada, he allowed them to buy themselves off from the more obnoxious measures of the Inquisition. Henceforth the reign was marked by extreme leniency. Spain enjoyed a long lull in the activity of her Inquisition. At Naples in 1547 a rumour that the Spanish Inquisition was to be introduced to check the growth of heresy in influential quarters produced a dangerous revolt. The briefs were, however, issued by Paul III., no friend of Charles, and when a Neapolitan deputation visited the emperor he disclaimed any intention of making innovations. Of a different type to all the above was the persecution in the Netherlands. Here it was deliberate, chronic, and on an ascending scale. It is not a sufficient explanation that heresy also was persistent, ubiquitous and increasing, for this was also the case in Germany where Charles’s methods were neither uniform nor drastic. But in the Netherlands the heretics were his immediate subjects, and as in every other state, Catholic or Lutheran, they must conform to their prince’s religion. But there was more than this. After the suppression of the German peasant revolt in 1525 many of the refugees found shelter in the teeming Netherland cities, and heresy took the form, not of Lutheranism, but of Anabaptism, which was believed to be perilous to society and the state. The government put down Anabaptism, as a modern government might stamp out Anarchism. The edicts were, indeed, directed against heresy in general, and were as harsh as they could be—at least on paper. Yet when Charles was assured that they were embarrassing foreign trade he let it be understood that they should not affect the foreign mercantile communities. Prudential considerations proved frequently a drag upon religious zeal.
The relations of Charles to heresy must be judged in the main by his treatment of German Lutheranism. Here he had to deal, not with drawing-room imprudences nor hole-and-corner conventicles, not with oriental survivals nor millenary aspirations, but with organized churches protected by their princes, supported by revenues filched from his own church and stiffened by formulae as rigid as those of Catholicism. The length and stubbornness of the conflict will serve to show that Charles’s religious conservatism had a measure of elasticity, that he was not a bigot and nothing more. It should be remembered that all his principal ministers were inclined to be Erasmian or indifferent, that one of his favourite confessors, Loaysa, advised compromise, and that several intimate members of his court and chapel were, after his death, victims of the Inquisition. The two more obvious courses towards the restoration of Catholic unity were force and reconciliation, in other words, a religious war or a general council. Neither of these was a simple remedy. The latter was impossible without papal concurrence, inoperative without the assistance of the European powers, and merely irritant without the adhesion of the Lutherans. It was most improbable that the papacy, the powers and the Lutherans would combine in a measure so palpably advantageous to the emperor. Force was hopeless save in the absence of war with France and the Turk, and of papal hostility in Italian territorial politics. Charles must obtain subsidies from ecclesiastical sources, and the support of all German Catholics, especially of the traditional rival, Bavaria. Even so the Protestants would probably be the stronger, and therefore they must be divided by utilizing any religious split, any class distinction, any personal or traditional dislikes, or else by bribery. Force and reconciliation seeming equally difficult, could an alternative be found in toleration? The experiment might take the form either of individual toleration, or of toleration for the Lutheran states. The former would be equally objectionable to Lutheran and Catholic princes as loosening their grip upon their subjects. Territorial toleration might seem equally obnoxious to the emperor, for its recognition would strengthen the anti-imperial particularism so closely associated with Lutheranism. If Charles could find no permanent specific, he must apply a provisional palliative. It was absolutely necessary to patch, if not to cure, because Germany must be pulled together to resist French and Turks. Such palliatives were two—suspension and comprehension. Suspension deferred the execution of penalties incurred by heresy, either for a term of years, or until a council should decide. Thus it recognized the divorce of the two religions, but limited it by time. Comprehension instead of recognizing the divorce would strive to conceal the breach. It was a domestic remedy, German and national, not European and papal. To become permanent it must receive the sanction of pope and council, for the Roman emperor could not set up a church of Germany. Yet the formula adopted might conceivably be found to fall within the four corners of the faith, and so obviate the necessity alike of force or council. Such were the conditions of the emperor’s task, and such the methods which he actually pursued. He would advance now on one line, now on another, now on two or three concurrently, but he never definitely abandoned any. This fusion of obstinacy and versatility was a marked feature of his character.
Suspension was of course often accidental and involuntary. The two chief stages of Lutheran growth naturally corresponded with the periods, each of nine years, when Charles was absent. Deliberate suspension was usually a consequence of the failure of comprehension. Thus at Augsburg in 1530 the wide gulf between the Lutheran confession and the Catholic confutation led to the definite suspensive treaty granted to the Lutherans at Nuremberg (1532). Charles dared not employ the alternative of force, because he needed their aid for the Turkish war. In 1541, after a series of religious conferences, he personally presented a compromise in the so-called Book of Regensburg, which was rejected by both parties. He then proposed that the articles agreed upon should be compulsory, while on others toleration should be exercised until a national council should decide. Never before nor after did he go so far upon the path of toleration, or so nearly accept a national settlement. He was then burning to set sail for Algiers. His last formal suspensive measure was that of Spires (Speyer) in 1544, when he was marching against Francis. He promised a free and general council to be held in Germany, and, as a preparation, a national religious congress. The Lutherans were privately assured that a measure of comprehension should be concluded with or without papal approval. Meanwhile all edicts against heresy were suspended. No wonder that Charles afterwards confessed that he could scarcely reconcile these concessions with his conscience, but he won Lutheran aid for his campaign. The peace of Crépy gave all the conditions required for the employment of force. He had peace with French and Turk, he won the active support of the pope, he had deeply divided the Lutherans and reconciled Bavaria. Finding that the Lutherans would not accept the council summoned by the pope to Trent, he resorted to force, and force succeeded. At the Armed Diet of 1548 reunion seemed within reach. But Paul III. in direct opposition to Charles’s wish had withdrawn the council from Trent to Bologna. Charles could not force Lutherans to submit to a council which he did not himself recognize, and he could not