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Germans." He declined the honor, but six months later it was again proposed for him by Bavaria; in the face of vigorous protests from Austria, not only against the imperial scheme, but even against any alliance between
Prussia and any other German state. The result was that in the course of a few years most of the German states were allied with Austria, and Prussia was left almost alone.
SEEKING CONTINENTAL DOMINATION With the accession of William I, in 1861, the Bismarckian era began. Autocratic absolutism suspended the Constitution in order to force the nation into extreme militarism. At that early date plans were made for the domination of the continent. First, in 1864, Denmark was
despoiled of two provinces, and Austria was discredited. In 1866 the German states were peremptorily bidden to choose between Prussia and Austria; a federal Diet was held at Frankfort, which, under Austrian influence, voted for the demobilization of the Prussian army. Prussia replied by declaring the Germanic Confederation to be dissolved, and then came the war. Austria was crushed, a Diet at Augsburg recognized the dissolution of the Germanic Confederation, Prussia annexed Hanover, Electoral Hesse, Nassau and Frankfort and fully incorporated the Danish provinces, and a North German confederation was formed under Prussian hegemony, with Austria left out in the cold as Prussia had been before. The sequelforeseen and planned for at the beginning—was the war of 1870, by which France was supposed to be forever crushed to the rank of a third-class power, and the new German Empire was formed, with Prussia at the head, including all of Germany but Austria. Since then, the Triple Alliance, the secret treaty with Russia, German colonial expansion, and now a war with nearly all the rest of Europe, which was meant to make the remainder of the European continent a mere appanage to the German Empire, but which may result in the ending of that empire.
THE STORY OF THE HOHENZOLLERNS For “Germany” now read “Prussia,” and for “Prussia” read “The Hohenzollerns.” It will be fitting to review the career of that extraordinary family.
Albert Achilles stoutly maintained that he could trace the descent of the Hohenzollerns directly from one of the companions of the Pious Æneas in his flight from burning Troy, his episode with Queen Dido at Carthage, and his founding of the Latin State from which sprang Rome. It does not appear, however, that he proved his claim to such ancestry; though neither did any one ever disprove it. The learned Herr Doctor Cernutius, the loyal historian of the house of Hohenzollern, was content with tracing the line back to the Italian family of Colonna; perhaps with more plausibility than marked the ambitious genealogy of Albert Achilles, and perhaps with no less distinction, since the ancestral pretensions of the Colonnas are among the most ancient and renowned in all the world.
FIRST APPEARANCE IN HISTORY What is certain is that the Hohenzollern family first authentically appears in history at about the time when, in 1077, the Emperor Henry IV was humiliating himself before Pope Hildebrand at Canossa, and that it took its name from Hohen Zollern, or Upper Zollern, its ancestral seat among the Suabian Alps. In those days Suabia, under the Hohenstaufen dukes and emperors, was one of the chief feudatory states of the empire. But after the extinction of that dynasty, in 1268, Suabia became a "geographical expression,” being broken up into a number of petty principalities.
Among these latter were Hohenzollern Sigmaringen and Hohenzollern Hechingen, which are now united into that single province of Hohenzollern which forms a detached and isolated part of Prussia, enclosed by southern Württemberg and Baden. Near the town of Hechingen there stands today a magnificent modern castle, erected by William II on the site of the ancient home of his ancestors.
MARRIAGE STARTS RISE Like the rival house of Hapsburg, the Hohenzollern line owed its first great rise in life to a fortunate marriage. It was at the middle of the twelfth century that Frederick, Count of Zollern, became by virtue of marriage Burgrave of Nuremberg. That gave him extensive and valuable possessions in various parts of Germany, and placed him among the most important princes—though not yet an Elector—of the empire. So great, indeed, were his possessions that his two sons divided them between themselves. one taking Nuremberg and the Burgraviate and the other taking Zollern and some other territories. It is with the former that we have now chiefly to do, as it was from that Franconian branch of the family that the Prussian line proceeded. From the other, the Suabian branch, came that Prince Leopold whose candidacy for the crown of Spain was a pretext for the Franco-German War of 1870, and that Prince Charles who is now King of Roumania.
THE ACQUISITION OF BRANDENBURG The next great event in Hohenzollern history occurred in the early part of the fifteenth century. At that time the once important principality of Brandenburg had fallen into seemingly hopeless decay. The great Ascanian dynasty of Anhalt had become extinct, and under feudal law the territory had reverted to the Emperor. That monarch, Louis of Bavaria, gave it to his two sons, who still further ruined it by running it into bankruptcy and alienating a part of its area. Then Louis was deposed from the imperial throne and was succeeded by Charles of Moravia, who thus became proprietor of Brandenburg, and who also gave it to his two sons, Wencelaus and Sigismund. They, in turn, mortgaged it to their cousin, Justus, and the result was that when Sigismund became Emperor he found Brandenburg a heavy fiscal burden upon him.
For relief he turned to Frederick VI of Hohenzollern, Burgrave of Nuremberg. Finally, Frederick later was permitted to take possession of it. He became Frederick I, Margrave of Brandenburg and an elector of the empire. At his death in 1440 he ordered his possessions to be divided among his four sons. Two of them, however, waived their claims, and so the domain was temporarily divided into only two parts, Frederick II taking Brandenburg and Albert taking Nuremberg. Frederick was surnamed “The Iron” because of his firmness in subduing towns to his will, as his father had subdued the barons. It was he who made Berlin the capital of Brandenburg, and thus the destined capital of Prussia and of Germany. Thitherto Tangermuende on the Elbe had been the seat of the Margraves of Brandenburg.
POSSESSIONS REUNITED Frederick died in 1470, without issue, and was succeeded by his brother Albert, under whom the family possessions were thus reunited. This was Albert Achilles, thus surnamed because of his prowess as a soldier. His successor was John Cicero, so called because of his oratorical gifts.
John's successor, the fourth elector, was Joachim Nestor, who was thus dubbed not because of his personal wisdom so much as because of his friendly patronage of learning and his foundation of the University of Frankfort on the Oder. It was his unhappy fate to have to deal with the Reformation and to fail to appreciate its significance. Joachim remained loyal to Rome, though his wife and sons and the great majority of his people became Protestants. He exiled his wife for her change of faith, and also began the German Judenhetze by ordering the expulsion of all Jews from his dominions.