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September 25, 1555

Peace of Augsburg signed, ending almost ten years of intermittent conflict between the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and the protestant princes of the Schmalkaldic League. The conflict began in 1546 and by the following year Charles had decimated the forces of the league, determined to undo the reformation once and for all. It didn’t turn out that way. Through a complicated series of religious and political events, the tables were almost completely turned. By the terms of the treaty, the Lutheran rulers of the empire were given full liberty to determine the religious faith of their subjects. This was not religious liberty or even toleration—but it forever destroyed the surface unity of the Europe-wide medieval state churches. Sick, weary, and unable to reconcile himself to religious division, Charles abdicated as emperor soon afterwards.