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Frederick the Wise was a secondary protagonist in the 2003 film Luther.

Prince Frederick was a member of the German nobility who became the Elector, or ruler of the Holy Roman Empire's state of Saxony, and was headquartered in Wittenberg. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was his nephew. Over the years Frederick built up an impressive collection of relics that he kept in his castle.

By the late 1510s Frederick had become aware of a popular and intelligent theologian named Martin Luther at his recently founded University. Luther was a controversial figure due his dislike of indulgences that the Roman Catholic Church was collecting to build a new St. Peter's Church in Rome as well as other abuses within the church.

Both Cardinal Aleander from Rome and the recently installed Holy Roman Emperor Charles V wanted to ship Luther off to the inquisition in Rome so that he could meet a violent end and end the unrest in the various German states. Frederick realized that if he gave in to their demands that the church would have Luther killed, and refused to do so. The church attempted to bribe him with a golden rose, Frederick accepted the rose but continued to refuse to hand over Luther to the church. Frederick told his assistant to put away the rose and all the other relics, that he no longer wanted to see them or know where they were.

When Charles told Frederick to deliver Luther to Rome Frederick maintained his refusal, and reminded Charles that his grandfather Maximillian had promised the various German princes that no German subject would be extradited to Rome without a hearing in his own country first. Charles agreed to give the hearing at the Imperial Diet in Worms, and guaranteed Luther's safe conduct to the town.

At the Diet of Worms Luther still refused to recant his writings and beliefs, telling the Emperor, princes, and other officials that there he stood and that he could do no other. After the hearing was over Frederick learned that Charles and Aleander planned to have Luther killed while he was journeying back to Wittenburg. As Luther and his companions made their way back to Wittenburg Frederick's men staged a kidnapping of Luther. Frederick hid Luther away in Wartburg castle, leaving the rest of the world to believe Luther dead. Luther for his part began work on translating the New Testament into the German language used in Saxony.

However the reforms Luther started had taken a life of their own, particularly among the lower classes of Germany. When the peasants turned to violence Frederick had Luther disguise himself as Knight George and make his way back to Wittenburg. Depressed over how much his words had been twisted, Luther advised the princes to put down the rebellion, leading to over 100,000 dead in the process.

Luther continued his work on translating the New Testament into German, and personally took a copy to Frederick's castle to present to him, which was the first time the two men actually met. When Frederick warned him that the Romans would not be very happy about this, Luther told him that he was aware of that and that the truth had to be told regardless of what the Romans thought. A grateful Frederick took possession of the copy of the New Testament Luther had brought him.

Some time later the princes of the Empire attended the Imperial Diet at Augsburg. There they refused to ban Luther's new bible and refused to prevent people from preaching this new bible. They also presented Charles with a confession of their new faith.

Trivia

  • The role of Frederick the Wise was played by Sir Peter Ustinov, in one of his last on screen roles before his 2004 death.
  • It was implied, but not explicitly stated, that Frederick had died towards the end of the film. The real Frederick the Wise had died in 1525, and succeeded by his brother John. John continued to protect Luther as his brother had.
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