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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 391



XV.] THE MAGI OF THE RENAISSANCE. But there must have been a deeper cause. Why should a king with a good character and a romantic career subside into a historical fogey ? Look closely at Frederick III, the splendid old gipsy, in name governor of the world, ever august, and increaser of the empire, yet owning no more territory than an English alderman ; sitting in his study elaborating a horoscope with destiny of universal dominion for his grandchildren unborn, inventing the motto of empire for an Austria that was yet in embryo : honourable, perhaps, and careless about selfish gains, but a dreamer, about whom the strange thing is that so many of his dreams came true. Look at Maximilian, the most delightfully unprincipled hero of the age of transition ; always in every feast and every fray, always wanting money and selling himself for promises, and never getting the money and never keeping his engagements ; a good deal of, the rake and a good deal of the knighterrant; to himself a portentous politician, a reformer of Church and empire, yet willing to set Church and empire to sale, and himself to retire from the Caesarship, to accept the chair of S. Peter, and provide before his death for his own canonization ; yet with all that the founder of one of the great powers of modern history, grandfather of Charles V, and contriver of the scheme which placed half Christendom under his grandson's sceptre. I have often thought of Maximilian in contrast with Henry VII ; all the balance of real goodness, what measure there is of politic honesty, purity of life, reality of character, straightforwardness in religion, intelligent appreciation of his people's needs, every moral consideration is in favour of Henry Tudor : yet we like Maximilian better. With all his undeniable faults, his absurd dishonesty which did more harm to himself than to any one else, his grotesque pretensions, the astounding inconsistency between his undertakings and his fulfilments; there is an attractiveness about him which there is not c c


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