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Coronation as Holy Roman Emperor and conflict with the Pope

After the reconciliation with the Habsburgs in 1326, Ludwig marched to Italy and was crowned King of Italy in Milan in 1327. Already in 1323, Ludwig had sent an army to Italy to protect Milan against the Kingdom of Naples, which was together with France the strongest ally of the papacy. But now the Lord of Milan Galeazzo I Visconti was deposed since he was suspected of conspiring with the pope.

In January 1328, Louis entered Rome and had himself crowned emperor by the aged senator Sciarra Colonna, called captain of the Roman people. Three months later, Ludwig published a decree declaring Pope John XXII (Jacques Duèze), who resided in Avignon, deposed on grounds of heresy. He then installed a Spiritual Franciscan, Pietro Rainalducci as antipope Nicholas V, who soon left Rome and a few years later submitted to Pope John XXII.

In the meantime, Robert, King of Naples had sent both a fleet and an army against Ludwig and his ally Frederick II of Sicily. Louis spent the winter 1328/29 in Pisa and stayed then in Northern Italy. When his co-ruler Friedrich of Habsburg died in 1330, Ludwig returned from Italy. In fulfillment of an oath, Ludwig founded Ettal Abbey on April 28, 1330.

Franciscan theologians Michael of Cesena and William of Ockham, and the philosopher Marsilius of Padua, who were all on bad terms with the Pope as well, joined Emperor Ludwig in Italy and accompanied him to his court at Alter Hof in Munich which became the first imperial residence of the Holy Roman Empire.

In 1333, Emperor Ludwig sought to counter French influence in the southwest of the empire so he offered Humbert II of Viennois the Kingdom of Arles which was an opportunity to gain full authority over Savoy, Provence, and its surrounding territories. Humbert was reluctant to take the crown due to the conflict that would follow with all around him, so he declined, telling the emperor that he should make peace with the church first.

Emperor Ludwig IV also allied with King Edward III of England in 1337 against King Philippe VI of France, the protector of the new Pope Benedict XII in Avignon. King Philippe VI had prevented any agreement between the Emperor and the Pope.

Thus, the failure of negotiations with the papacy led to the declaration at Rhense in 1338 by six electors to the effect that election by all or the majority of the electors automatically conferred the royal title and rule over the empire, without papal confirmation.

King Edward III was the Emperor’s guest at the Imperial Diet in the Kastorkirche at Coblence in 1338 and was named Vicar-General of the Holy Roman Empire. However in 1341, the Emperor deserted Edward III but came to terms with Philippe VI only temporarily. For the expected English payments were missing and Ludwig intended to reach an agreement with the Pope one more time.

Imperial privileges

Ludwig IV was a protector of the Teutonic Knights. In 1337 he allegedly bestowed upon the Teutonic Order a privilege to conquer Lithuania and Russia, although the Order had only petitioned for three small territories. Later he forbade the Order to stand trial before foreign courts in their territorial conflicts with foreign rulers.

Ludwig IV concentrated his energies also on the economic development of the cities of the empire, so his name can be found in many city chronicles for the privileges he granted. In 1330 the emperor for example permitted the Frankfurt Trade Fair, and in 1340 Lübeck, as the most powerful member of the future Hanseatic League, received the coinage prerogative for golden gulden.

Dynastic policy

Gold Gulden of Lübeck, 1341

In 1323 Ludwig IV gave Brandenburg as a fiefdom to his eldest son Ludwig V after the Brandenburg branch of the House of Ascania had died out. With the Treaty of Pavia in 1329 the emperor reconciled the sons of his late brother Rudolph and returned the Palatinate to his nephews Rudolf and Rupert.

After the death of Henry of Bohemia, the duchy of Carinthia was released as an imperial fief on May 2, 1335 in Linz to his Habsburg cousins Albrecht II, Duke of Austria, and Otto, Duke of Austria, while Tyrol was first placed into Luxemburg hands.

With the death of duke Johann I in 1340 Ludwig inherited Lower Bavaria and then reunited the duchy of Bavaria. Johann’s mother, a member of the Luxemburg dynasty, had to return to Bohemia. In 1342 Ludwig also acquired Tyrol for the Wittelsbach by voiding the first marriage of Margarete Maultasch with Johann Heinrich of Bohemia and marrying her to his own son Ludwig V, thus alienating the House of Luxemburg even more.

In 1345 the emperor further antagonized the lay princes by conferring Hainaut, Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland upon his wife, Margaret II of Hainaut. The hereditary titles of Margaret’s sisters, one of whom was the queen of England, were ignored. Because of the dangerous hostility of the Luxemburgs, Louis had increased his power base ruthlessly.

Conflict with Luxemburg

The acquisition of these territories and his restless foreign policy had earned Ludwig many enemies among the German princes. In the summer of 1346 the Luxemburg Charles IV was elected rival king, with the support of Pope Clement VI. Ludwig IV himself obtained much support from the Imperial Free Cities and the knights and successfully resisted Charles, who was widely regarded as a papal puppet (“rex clericorum” as William of Ockham called him). Also the Habsburg dukes stayed loyal to Ludwig. In the Battle of Crécy Charles’ father Johann of Luxemburg was killed; Charles himself also took part in the battle but escaped.

But then Ludwig IV s’ sudden death avoided a longer civil war. Ludwig died in October 1347 from a stroke suffered during a bear-hunt in Puch near Fürstenfeldbruck. He is buried in the Frauenkirche in Munich.

The sons of Ludwig IV supported Günther von Schwarzburg as new rival king to Charles but finally joined the Luxemburg party after Günther’s early death in 1349 and divided the Wittelsbach possessions amongst themselves again.

In continuance of the conflict of the House of Wittelsbach with the House of Luxemburg, the Wittelsbach family returned to power in the Holy Roman Empire in 1400 with King Rupert of Germany, a great-grandnephew of Ludwig

Family and children
In 1308 Louis IV married his first wife, Beatrix of Świdnica (1290-1320).

In 1324 he married his second wife, Margaret II, Countess of Hainaut and Holland (1308-1356).