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Albert, meanwhile, had been busy in the interior of the country; blazing aloft in Frankenland, his native quarter, with a success that astonished all men. For seven months he was virtually King of Germany; ransomed Bamberg, ransomed Wurzburg, Nurnberg (places he had a grudge at); ransomed all manner of towns and places,-- especially rich Bishops and their towns, with VERBUM DIABOLI sticking in them,--at enormous sums. King of the world for a brief season;--must have had some strange thoughts to himself, had they been recorded for us. A pious man, too; not in the least like "Alcibiades," except in the sudden changes of fortune he underwent. His Motto, or old rhymed Prayer, which he would repeat on getting into the saddle for military work,--a rough rhyme of his own composing,--is still preserved. Let us give it, with an English fac-simile, or roughest mechanical pencil-tracing,--by way of glimpse into the heart of a vanished Time and its Man-at-arms: [Rentsch, p. 644.]
He was at the Siege of Metz (end of that same 1552), and a principal figure there. Readers have heard of the Siege of Metz: How Henry II. of France fished up those "Three Bishoprics" (Metz, Toul, Verdun, constituent part of Lorraine, a covetable fraction of Teutschland) from the troubled sea of German things, by aid of Moritz now KUR-SACHSEN, and of Albert; and would not throw them in again, according to bargain, when Peace, the PEACE OF PASSAU came. How Kaiser Karl determined to have them back before the year ended, cost what it might; and Henry II. to keep them, cost what it might. How Guise defended, with all the Chivalry of France; and Kaiser Karl besieged, [19th October, 1552, and onwards.] with an Army of 100,000 men, under Duke Alba for chief captain. Siege protracted into midwinter; and the "sound of his cannon heard at Strasburg," which is eighty miles off, "in the winter nights." [Kohler,
It had depended upon Albert, who hung in the distance with an army of his own, whether the Siege could even begin; but he joined the Kaiser, being reconciled again; and the trenches opened. By the valor of Guise and his Chivalry,--still more perhaps by the iron frosts and by the sleety rains of Winter, and the hungers and the hardships of a hundred thousand men, digging vainly at the ice-bound earth, or trampling it when sleety into seas of mud, and themselves sinking in it, of dysentery, famine, toil and despair, as they cannonaded day and night,--Metz could not be taken. "Impossible!" said the Generals with one voice, after trying it for a couple of months. "Try it one other ten days," said the Kaiser with a gloomy fixity; "let us all die, or else do it!" They tried, with double desperation, another ten days; cannon booming through the winter midnight far and wide, four score miles round: "Cannot be done, your Majesty! Cannot,--the winter and the mud, and Guise and the walls; man's strength cannot do it in this season. We must march away!" Karl listened in silence; but the tears were seen to run down his proud face, now not so young as it once was: "Let us march, then!" he said, in a low voice, after some pause.
Alcibiades covered the retreat to Diedenhof (THIONVILLE) they now call it): outmanoeuvred the French, retreated with success; he had already captured a grand Due d'Aumale, a Prince of the Guises,-- valuable ransom to be looked for there. It was thought he should have made his bargain better with the Kaiser, before starting; but he had neglected that. Albert's course was downward thenceforth; Kaiser Karl's too. The French keep these "Three Bishoprics (TROIS EVECHES)," and Teutschland laments the loss of them, to this hour. Kaiser Karl, as some write, never smiled again;--abdicated, not long after; retired into the Monastery of St. Just, and there soon died. That is the siege of Metz, where Alcibiades was helpful. His own bargain with the Kaiser should have been better made beforehand.
Dissatisfied with any bargain he could now get; dissatisfied with the Treaty of Passau, with such a finale and hushing-up of the Religious Controversy, and in general with himself and with the world, Albert again drew sword; went loose at a high rate upon his Bamberg-Wurzburg enemies, and, having raised supplies there, upon Moritz and those Passau-Treatiers. He was beaten at last by Moritz, "Sunday, 9th July, 1553," at a place called Sievershausen in the Hanover Country, where Moritz himself perished in the action.--Albert fled thereupon to France. No hope in France. No luck in other small and desperate stakings of his: the game is done. Albert returns to a Sister he had, to her Husband's Court in Baden; a broken, bare and bankrupt man;--soon dies there, childless, leaving the shadow of a name. [Here, chiefly from Kohler
His death brought huge troubles upon Baireuth and the Family Possessions. So many neighbors, Bamberg, Wurzburg and the rest, were eager for retaliation; a new Kaiser greedy for confiscating. Plassenburg Castle was besieged, bombarded, taken by famine and burnt; much was burnt and torn to waste. Nay, had it not been for help from Berlin,the Family had gone to utter ruin in those parts. For this Alcibiades had, in his turn, been Guardian to Uncle George's Son, the George Friedrich we once spoke of, still a minor, but well known afterwards; and it was attempted, by an eager Kaiser Ferdinand, to involve this poor youth in his Cousin's illegalities, as if Ward and Guardian had been one person. Baireuth which had been Alcibiades's, Anspach which was the young man's own, nay Jagerndorf with its Appendages, were at one time all in the clutches of the hawk,--had not help from Berlin been there. But in the end, the Law had to be allowed its course; George Friedrich got his own Territories back (all but some surreptitious nibblings in the Jagerndorf quarter, to be noticed elsewhere), and also got Baireuth, his poor Cousin's Inheritance; --sole heir, he now, in Culmbath, the Line of Casimir being out.
One owns to a kind of love for poor Albert Alcibiades. In certain sordid times, even a "Failure of a Fritz" is better than some Successes that are going. A man of some real nobleness, this Albert; though not with wisdom enough, not with good fortune enough. Could he have continued to "rule the situation" (as our French friends phrase it); to march the fanatical Papistries, and Kaiser Karl, clear out of it, home to Spain and San Justo a little earlier; to wave the coming Jesuitries away, as with a flaming sword; to forbid beforehand the doleful Thirty-Years War, and the still dolefuler spiritual atrophy (the flaccid Pedantry, ever rummaging and rearranging among learned marine-stores, which thinks itself Wisdom and Insight; the vague maunderings, flutings; indolent, impotent daydreaming and tobacco-smoking, of poor Modern Germany) which has followed therefrom,--ACH GOTT, he might have been a "SUCCESS of a Fritz" three times over! He might have been a German Cromwell; beckoning his People to fly, eagle-like, straight towards the Sun; instead of screwing about it in that sad, uncertain, and far too spiral manner!--But it lay not in him; not in his capabilities or opportunities, after all: and we but waste time in such speculations.
HISTORICAL MEANING OF THE REFORMATION.