History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

Henry V

After the death of his father Henry V was joyfully acknowledged as King. The Pope and his party had encouraged him in his rebellion against his father, for the Pope believed that in Henry V he would find an obedient vassal. But soon he found that he had been mistaken. For Henry fought with the Pope, now Paschal II, over the right of investiture even more fiercely than his father had done. Month by month the strife between the Pope and the King grew ever bitter and more bitter, until at length Henry decided to march to Rome, there to end it, and force the Pope to crown him as Emperor.

The Italians received Henry with joy, and great preparations were made for the coronation. On the morning of February 12, 1111, all the people of Rome, with priests and soldiers, carrying flowers and green branches, banners and silken flags, went forth to greet their Emperor.

Riding on a stately war-horse, and followed by a glittering array of knights, King Henry rode towards the city while the people surged round him waving green branches, and shouting "St. Peter has chosen King Henry. St. Peter has chosen King Henry!"

At the gates of the city Henry paused to take the accustomed oath, and swear to protect the liberties of Rome. Twice he swore it, once on the drawbridge before the gate, once upon the gate itself.

But he spoke in German. Already the joyful mood was darkened. Were they to have a King who could not speak their tongue? the Roman people asked. And so great was the disappointment that some fled into the city shouting of treachery.

But still the stately procession moved onwards, until at length, amid clouds of incense, the air ringing with the shouts of the people and the chants of the priests, Henry reached the door of St. Peter's.

Here, surrounded by his red-robed cardinals, the Pope awaited him. Slowly mounting the steps Henry threw himself at the Pope's feet, humbly kissing them. The Pope raised him, took him in his arms, and kissed him. Thrice they kissed with every appearance of love and brotherhood, but in their hearts there was nought but hatred and suspicion.

Hand in hand the Pope and Henry moved through the bending throng. But, as they slowly passed along, the Pope trembled and looked uneasily around. And well he might. For German nobles filled the great Cathedral, German soldiers surrounded it. He was encompassed by foes. Yet, knowing this, before he set the crown on Henry's head, the Pope once more demanded that he should solemnly give up the right of investiture.

In wrath Henry refused. A terrible tumult followed, some crying this, some that, all surging in anger round the Pope.

"Why so much talk?" cried one of Henry's followers at length. "Our Emperor will be crowned like Charlemagne."

But still the Pope refused. All day the strife of tongues lasted. At length, when evening fell, Paschal found himself and his cardinals prisoners of King Henry. Thus was Canossa avenged.

But the Pope's men would not thus lightly allow their master to be insulted. And for two days a terrible battle raged through the streets of Rome. Then Henry left the city, carrying his prisoner with him.

And now a prisoner, the Pope at length yielded. "For the peace and freedom of the Church," he said, "I must do that which I should never have done to save my own life." With tears and sighs he gave up the right of investiture to the King.

Then Pope and King returned to Rome. And there with all speed, almost in stealth, while the city gates were fast locked, the crown was at length set upon the Emperor's head. Then Henry marched homeward.

But the Pope was not beaten, and hardly had Henry departed when he renewed all his old claims. Even as Gregory VII had excommunicated Henry IV, Paschal II now excommunicated Henry V. He proved himself an unyielding foe, waging war with the Emperor till his death in 1118.

Henry continued the struggle, but at length, under Calixtus II, peace was made. In September 1122 a great meeting was held at Worms. This is known as the Concordat of Worms, and here, after a struggle of fifty years, the war of investiture was settled. Each side gave up something, but the Pope had the best of it. It was settled that the Pope should have the right of giving the ring and staff, but that new bishops should be chosen in presence of the Emperor and that they should do homage to him as overlord for their fiefs.

In a wide meadow near Worms, where the people were gathered in a vast throng, the Pope and Emperor kissed each other, and swore to be at peace. And at the news all Europe rejoiced.

But this peace with the Pope did not bring peace to Henry, for besides his long strife with the Pope he had many troubles in Germany. His nobles in Saxony and Thuringia time and again rebelled against him, and the whole of Northern Germany was almost always in a state of revolt. In Italy, too, he had to fight for his possessions. But with a ruthless hand he put down all rebellions.

The people had no love for him. To them he was a hard stern ruler, and when, in 1125, he died, few if any mourned his loss.

But the fear of him lived after him. The common people declared that he was not dead at all, but only hiding from the hatred of his people. Some said that he was living as a hermit in a forest near Chester, others that he was living in France. And when many years later a hermit appeared in Burgundy who declared that he was Henry V many of the common people believed that he spoke truth, and trembled lest the hated Emperor should again return to rule over them.