To the Death of Edward III (1377) 2. The Burgundian Period (1432) III. THE EMPIRE. THE SLAV STATES AND HUNGARY
For since the death of Frederick II nothing remained of the Empire but the empty forms. The attitude adopted by the Papacy since Innocent III, and the formation of national States in France and England, finally deprived it of any further possibility of compelling Europe to acknowledge its temporal primacy. If this primacy was still acknowledged anywhere, it was in the schools, where the professors of Roman law continued to regard the Emperor, in theory, as the master of the world. It might also be invoked, from time to time, against a political adversary, as Boniface VIII invoked it in his conflict with Philip the Fair. Or some idealist might see in it, as Dante saw, a beautiful dream to which reality gave the lie. As a matter of fact it was a dead ideal, a relic of the past, and it would have been a majestic
relic, if the weakness of the Emperors had not only too often contrasted too sharply with the memories which they evoked. The Emperor’s precedence over other sovereigns was still recognized, as was his right to create nobles and to institute notaries in all countries. And this was almost all that was left of his old universal power. And he still derived some prestige from his relations with the Pope, with whom he was necessarily allied. In the 14th century these relations gave rise to an epilogue to the great conflicts of the past, and in the 15th century they enabled Sigismond to play what we may call-with a lack of reverence in some degree justified by his pretentious demeanour-the part of impresario to the Council of Constance.