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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Philip the Magnanimous

Philip the Magnanimous

landgrave of Hesse, born at Marburg, November 23, 1504, was one of the most prominent characters in the history of the German Reformation. He was only five years old when his father died, and only fourteen when he was declared of age. He was present at the diet of Worms in 1521, but had, at that time, not yet decided with respect to religious matters. He was, however, one of those who insisted that the safe conduct accorded to Luther should be kept sacred. He visited Luther in his lodgings, and on his return allowed mass to be celebrated in German at Cassel. In February 1525, he opened his country to the reformation, in May he joined the Torgau Union, and in June he appeared at the Diet of Spires as one of the leaders of the Protestant party, surprising the Roman Catholic bishops by his theological learning, the imperial commissioners by his outspokenness, and king Ferdinand himself by the open threat of leaving the diet immediately if the enforcement of the edicts of Worms was was insisted upon.

The great task he had on hand was to unite the German and Swiss Protestants into one compact party, and at the Diet of Spires (1529) he succeeded in baffling all the attempts of the Roman Catholics to produce an open breach. The conference of Marburg, in the same year, was also his work, and it had, at all events, the effect of somewhat mitigating the hostility of the theologians. Nevertheless, at the diet of Augsburg (1530), the Lutherans appeared to be willing to buy peace by sacrificing the interests of the Zwilnglians. Philip proposed war, open and immediate; but the Lutherans suspected him of being a Zwilnglian at heart, and their suspicion made him powerless. He subscribed the Confessio Augustana, but reluctantly, and with an express reservation with respect to the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Finally, when he saw that nothing could be done, while he knew that the emperor could not be trusted, he suddenly left Augsburg.

This resoluteness, made an impression on the other Protestant princes; and in March 1531, he was able to form the Smalcaldian, League, though he was not able to procure admission to it for the Swiss Reformed. He also opened negotiations with the king of Denmark; in 1532 he compelled the emperor to grant the peace of Nuremberg; in 1534, after the brilliant victory at Laussen, he enforced the restoration of duke Ulrich, of Wurtemberg, by which that country was opened to the Reformation; in 1539 he began negotiations with Francis I, and in 1540 he again proposed to wage, open war on the emperor. But at this very moment his authority was greatly impaired; and his activity much clogged, by his marriage with Margaret de Von der Saal a clear case of bigamy. The theologians, even Luther and Melanchthon, consented, provided this marriage was kept secret. The duchess of Roonlitz, the sister of Philip, would not keep silent, and the question arose what the emperor would do. The case was so much the worse, as, in 1535 Philip had issued a law which made bigamy one of the greatest crimes in Hesse.

The emperor, however, simply used the affair to completely undermine the political position of the landgrave, but the profit he drew from it was, nevertheless, no small one. During the difficult times which followed after the peace of Crespy (1544), the Protestant party had no acknowledged head; during the Smalcaldian war (1546-47), no acknowledged leader. After the war, the emperor treacherously seized the landgrave, and kept him in prison for five vears. After his release, in 1552, Philip spent all his energies in ameliorating the condition of his country, which had suffered so much from war. But he still had a lively interest in religious matters, and acted the part of a mediator, especially between the Protestants and Roman Catholics; thus he was very active in promoting the conference of Namumburg in 1544 and that of Worms in 1557. Philip died March 31, 1567. See Rommel, Philipp der Grossmuthige (Giessen, 1830, 3 volumes); Lenz, Briefwechsel Landgraf Philipp's mit Bucer (volume 1, Leipsic, 1880); Wille, Philipp der Grossmuthige u. die Restitution Herzog Ublich's von Wurtemberg (Tubingen, 1882); Plitt- Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.; Lichtenberger, Ecyclop. des Sciences Religieuses, s.v. (B.P.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Philip the Magnanimous'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/philip-the-magnanimous.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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