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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)
The Conflict Begins
Germany, Spain and Sweden after 1648
The United Provinces
Beginning of the Decline
Prussia
Russia
Social Conditions in Russia
Peter the Great and the Rise of Russia (1682-1725)

History Chapters Main Index

 

 

The Thirty Years' War was one of the most horrible conflicts Europe has known. Not until the 20th century was death amongst the civilian population experienced on such a large scale. The mercenary soldiers had become involved, not out of conviction, but for profit. Since, however, they were rarely paid, they looted and inflicted atrocities for sheer sadistic pleasure. The entire populations of villages and towns were massacred for no other reason than that they existed, regardless of their religion. After the capture of the city of Magdeburg, which had a population of Catholics and Protestants, the victorious general ordered, "Kill them all. God will find his own." A Catholic priest, in tears, declared, "Christ finally died at Magdeburg".

 

Gustavus Adolphus

Portrait of Gustavus Adolphus

 

 

THE SHAPING OF MODERN EUROPE

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17th Century Europe

The Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648)

 

Sweden and France

The situation changed dramatically in 1630 when the Protestant king of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus, "the Lion of the North," sent his armies across the Baltic Sea. The Swedish involvement was financed by King Louis XIII and his minister Richelieu (a cardinal of the Catholic Church!). The Swedish "blue and yellow" brigades of highly disciplined soldiers cut through the Imperial armies which were, at that point, formed largely from Swiss and German "landsknechts" - mercenary soldiers who fought for money and not from conviction.

The Swedes avenged the destruction of the lovely Lutheran free city of Magdeburg. They defeated an imperial army at Breitenfeld and then cut like lightning through imperial territory between the Rhine and the Danube defeating every army sent against them. Wallenstein finally confronted Gustavus Adolphus in November 1932 at the Battle of Lüzen. Once again the Swedes were victorious but the Swedish king was killed. His death deprived the Protestants of their champion and the war bogged down to a stalemate which was to continue for sixteen years.

From 1635 to 1648 war against the Catholic powers was led by Catholic France. Cardinal Richelieu, Louis XIII's first minister, not only continued to finance Protestant Sweden and Holland, but sent French armies to fight the Catholic powers. By 1639 the tide of the war had turned. Spain had lost control of the vital Atlantic sea route to the English and the Dutch and had lost Alsace to France. The defeat of the Spanish army at Rocroi by the Duc d'Enghien in 1643 marked the beginning of the end, and although the war was to drag on for another five years, the Catholic, Habsburg powers had been decisively beaten.

The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) marked the end of the Habsburg's Imperial dream. The states of the Empire were officially given their independence, although the emperor was accepted as a symbolic head. Calvinism, as well as Lutheranism, was officially recognised and the authority of the emperor was dependent on an assembly of states, the Imperial Diet, which included Sweden as well as all the German Protestant states. The most important consequence of the treaty was the emergence of France as the great power in Europe with the collapse of Habsburg Spain and the disintegration of the unity of the Empire.

 

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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