In the sixteenth century, with the House of Tudor on the English throne, the perennial struggle of the English sovereigns against France became complicated by the appearance of a new continental power that might under given circumstances join hands with the older enemy. This was Spain.

Since their defeat by the Franks at Tours, in 732, the Arabs had steadily lost ground. For several centuries, however, they had prospered in Spain, and there they had developed learning and the arts with splendid success, at a moment when Christian Europe was still plunged in darkness. But presently the feudal principalities lodged in the Pyrenees and Asturian mountains began to gain ground, and finally toward the end of the fifteenth century these states came together in a united monarchy that conquered the last Arab kingdom and founded modern Spain.

At this very moment, by one of the most remarkable coincidences in European history, marriage alliances and other circumstances almost suddenly threw the Spanish kingdom, the great inheritance of the Dukes of Burgundy, and the kingdom of Hungary, into the hands of the Hapsburg dukes of Austria, who were to seat their ruling princes on the imperial throne of Germany almost uninterruptedly until the old Germanic empire closed its days in 1806.

This huge concentration of power in the hands of the Emperor, Charles V (1519-1556), gave a marked turn to the situation created by the outbreak of the Reformation. For France, which remained Catholic, and England, which became Protestant, had both to face the problem of the overtopping of the European equilibrium by the inflated dominions of the Hapsburgs. This accounted for much in the constantly shifting political adjustments of that age. It was not until the close of the reign of Louis XIV (Treaty of Utrecht, 1713) that the Hapsburg power was about balanced by the placing of a Bourbon prince on the throne of Spain. From that moment France and Spain tended to act together against England.

In England the religious upheaval lasted roughly about a century, from Henry VIII to Cromwell; on the whole, it was less violent than on the Continent. Its chief results were the establishment of the Anglican Church and of those more markedly Protestant sects from among which came the sturdy settlers of New England.

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