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The Shaping of Modern Europe Index

Introduction to the Reformation

The English Reformation

The English Reformation : Introduction

17th Century Europe

The Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648)
Sweden and France
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Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein (1583 - 1634)

Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein

Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein

 

Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein was one of the great generals of the Holy Roman Empire. Strangely enough he was born into a Protestant family, connected to the Czech aristocracy. He even attended a Lutheran school but he was thrown out for fighting. After his conversion to Roman Catholicism, he joined the army of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II. He distinguished himself as a soldier during the Bohemian Rebellion (1618-1623) and was quickly promoted through the ranks, first by Rudolf II and later by his successor, Ferdinand II.

By 1625 Wallenstein had not only reached the rank of general, but Ferdinand II had also given him the title of Duke of Friedland. This was the time of the Thirty Years' War, and Wallenstein was active in recruiting men and raising an army which he led into battle in both Bohemia and Germany. His army was victorious over the Danes during the Danish war (1625-1629).

Wallenstein was an ambitious man who thought that he had an important political role to play in an empire which, he believed, would eventually include the whole of Western Europe and the lands controlled by the Turks. Ferdinand II was wary of Wallenstein's ambition and, in 1630, he dismissed him as commander of his armies. By 1632, however, Ferdinand was forced to reinstate his general. The Swedish king, Gustavus II and his Protestant army had invaded Germany two years earlier and were still within the borders of the empire. Gustavus had already defeated the Imperial army at Breitenfield in 1631, and, one year later, he assembled his troops against Wallenstein's. The resulting battle of Lützen was another Swedish victory, although Gustavus was killed in combat.

In 1633, Wallenstein made his move into the political scene when he attempted to arbitrate between the Swedish and German Protestant leaders and the Holy Roman Empire after his victory at Steinan in Silesia. Unfortunately, there were certain Catholic princes who were already jealous of Wallenstein's ability and power. They were not about to see Wallenstein succeed in the political arena and proceeded to poison the Emperor's mind against his general. Convinced by then that Wallenstein was a traitor, in 1634 Ferdinand ordered his arrest. Wallenstein was murdered as he tried to escape from the arresting officers.

 

 

THE SHAPING OF MODERN EUROPE

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17th Century Europe

The Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648)

 

The Conflict Begins

In 1618, in the Bohemian capital of Prague, three Imperial representatives were thrown out of a window of the Hradshin Palace by angry Bohemian Protestant nobles. They were angry because the man who was soon to become Emperor, the future Emperor Ferdinand II, was a devout Catholic and had made it clear that he would not tolerate Protestantism. This was the "Defenestration of Prague"; the incident which ignited the powder barrel. In 1619, when the old Emperor died, the Bohemians refused to offer the crown of Bohemia to the new Emperor Ferdinand. He in turn decided to take the crown by force and to eliminate Protestantism in that part of the Empire (remember the Peace of Augsburg).

The imperial armies rapidly defeated the rebelling Bohemians, and the region came under Catholic control. Other Protestant states also took up arms against the threat, but, under the command of the brilliant Wallenstein, the Imperial armies were victorious. This, in turn, encouraged the Protestant Dutch to get involved because their survival was in danger. Catholic Spain entered the conflict because it saw this as an opportunity to crush the Dutch revolt once and for all.

It became obvious that this was not simply a struggle between Catholics and Protestants. Both Catholic Habsburg Spain and the Catholic Habsburg Empire were in the process of conquering large areas of Europe. Not only the Protestant countries of Europe were worried but also Catholic countries, especially France, were afraid that this war would eventually lead to Europe being dominated by the Habsburg dynasty.

In 1625, King Christian IV of Denmark sent his Protestant armies into the Empire to stop the all-victorious Wallenstein, but, after several defeats, the Danes capitulated in 1629. It seemed as if nothing could stop Ferdinand's armies from re-conquering Europe for Catholicism and for the Habsburgs.

 

THE THIRTY YEARS' WAR

PROTESTANTS

CATHOLICS

Frederick of Bohemia

THE PROTESTANT LEAGUE
Elector Palatine = Frederick of Bohemia who was the leader of the Protestant princes in the HRE

Duke Maximillian of Bavaria

THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE
The leader was Duke Maximillian of Bavaria. Their most famous player was General Tilly.

King Christian IV

DENMARK
Led by King Christian IV
Financially supported by Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu in FRANCE.


Emperor Ferdinand II

HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
Led by Emperor Ferdinand II. Their most famous player was General Wallenstein.

King Gustavus Adolphus

SWEDEN
Led by King Gustavus Adolphus
Financially supported by Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu in FRANCE.

King Philip IV

SPAIN
Led by King Philip IV. Their most famous player was the General Duke Olivares.



Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange

NETHERLANDS
Led by the House of Orange. Financially supported by Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu in FRANCE.

MAIN MATCHES

DATE

RESULTS

Defenestration of Prague

1618

P. League

1

HRE

0

Battle of White Hill

1620

P. League

0

C. League

1

Battle of Lutter

1626

Denmark

0

C. League + HRE

1

Sacking of Magdeberg

1631

P. League

0

C. League

1

Battle of Leipzig

1632

Sweden

1

C. League

0

Battle of Lützen

1632

Sweden

1

HRE

0

Victory of Rocroi

1643

France (late entry)

1

Spain

0

 

 

 

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