At 32 minutes into part II (The Reluctant Revolutionary), the narrator specifically names Johann Maier von Eck, a frequent papal nuncio, as present at the 1521 hearing in Worms where Luther appeared before Emperor Charles V. This is not a total bust. Johann Maier von Eck was in fact a papal nuncio for a while. However the Johann von Eck at the 1521 hearing was chancellor for the Archbishop of Trier, one of the seven imperial electors. Eck of Trier was an important figure because he had been chosen as the spokesman for the emperor. Knowledge of the time and of the Holy Roman Empire would preclude thinking a papal nuncio would ever represent the emperor. That is an absurdity. As one wag once noted: The Holy Roman Empire was not holy, not Roman, and not an empire!
Photo: Liam Neeson, courtesy Ossei (Ozzy)
The narrator goes on to say about the hearing that in the hall “the only person Luther knew was his own prince Frederick the Wise.” This is incorrect several times over. The day before the meeting Luther had talked with the powerful Landgrave Philipp of Hesse and probably also Count Wilhelm of Henneberg and Duke Wilhelm of Brunswick. As Luther entered the meeting hall he recognized Conrad Peutinger, city clerk of Augsburg, and spoke to him. The imperial marshall Pappenheim sharply rebuked him for speaking. Ironically, with Luther was his own jurist from Wittenberg, Jerome Schurff, who had warned Luther nearly four years earlier not to post the 95 theses! It is very likely that Luther was also well acquainted with two counselors of Frederick the Wise: Philipp von Feilitzsch and Friedrich von Thun. The final irony is that Luther had never met Frederick the Wise! (Reference: Martin Brecht, 451-456)
At 50 minutes into part II, the lie about Luther and violent rebellions is stretched into the future on the tongue of narrator. The narrator declares a “torrent of reform” and “Protestantism swept” the continent. “In England it would take a bloody Civil War before Cromwell could establish his vision of a Protestant State.” That is a stretch in many ways. The English Civil War finally culminated in the execution of King Charles I in 1653 – 107 years after Luther’s death. Does any serious historian believe the English Civil War was about Oliver Cromwell wanting a Protestant state in response to the German Reformation? A struggle for power between the monarchy and parliament is a very popular theory. Yet another favored interpretation is that the war had a more immediate cause in political blundering on all sides. Apparently some historians blamed the war on an agenda by the English Puritans. And let us not forget the theory that it was a combination of many causes! In any event, the causes of the English Civil War remain (to the Brits) a lively debate after nearly 400 years but let us hope Martin Luther seems a less likely cause with each passing year!
Q. What is the solution to preventing such errors?