Schmalkaldic League [key], alliance formed in 1531 at Schmalkalden by Protestant princes and delegates of free cities. It was created in response to the threat (1530) by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V to stamp out Lutheranism. Led by Philip of Hesse and John Frederick I of Saxony, the league grew rapidly. Under its protection the Reformation spread through most of Germany. In an effort to crush the independence of the states of the empire and to restore unity to the Roman Catholic Church, Charles initiated the so-called Schmalkaldic War against the league. At the battle of Mühlberg (1547), the league was defeated.
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