Beginning Of The Thirty Years' War


Growth of the Calvinistic or "Reformed" Church. --Persecution of

Protestants in Styria. --The Catholic League. --The Struggle for

the Succession of Cleves. --Rudolf II. set aside. --His Death.

--Matthias becomes Emperor. --Character of Ferdinand of Styria.

--Revolt in Prague. --War in Bohemia. --Death of Matthias.

--Ferdinand besieged in Vienna. --He is Crowned Emperor.
--Blindness of the Protestant Princes. --Frederick of the

Palatinate chosen King of Bohemia. --Barbarity of Ferdinand II.

--The Protestants Crushed in Bohemia and Austria. --Count Mansfeld

and Prince Christian of Brunswick. --War in Baden and the

Palatinate. --Tilly. --His Ravages. --Miserable Condition of

Germany. --Union of the Northern States. --Christian IV. of

Denmark. --Wallenstein. --His History. --His Proposition to

Ferdinand II.

[Sidenote: 1600.]

The beginning of the seventeenth century found the Protestants in

Germany still divided. The followers of Zwingli, it is true, had

accepted the Augsburg Confession as the shortest means of acquiring

freedom of worship; but the Calvinists, who were now rapidly increasing,

were not willing to take this step, nor were the Lutherans any more

tolerant towards them than at the beginning. The Dutch, in conquering

their independence of Spain, gave the Calvinistic, or, as it was called

in Germany, the Reformed Church, a new political importance; and it was

not long before the Palatinate of the Rhine, Baden, Hesse-Cassel and

Anhalt also joined it. The Protestants were split into two strong and

unfriendly sects at the very time when the Catholics, under the teaching

of the Jesuits, were uniting against them.

Duke Ferdinand of Styria, a young cousin of Rudolf II., began the

struggle. Styria was at that time Protestant, and refused to change its

faith at the command of the Duke, whereupon he visited every part of the

land with an armed force, closed the churches, burned the hymn-books and

Bibles, and banished every one who was not willing to become a Catholic

on the spot. He openly declared that it was better to rule over a desert

than a land of heretics. Duke Maximilian of Bavaria followed his

example: in 1607 he seized the free Protestant city of Donauwoerth, on

the Danube, on account of some quarrel between its inhabitants and a

monastery, and held it, in violation of all laws of the Empire. A

protest made to the Diet on account of this act was of no avail, since a

majority of the members were Catholics. The Protestants of Southern

Germany formed a "Union" for mutual protection, in May, 1608, with

Frederick IV. of the Palatinate at their head; but, as they were mostly

of the Reformed Church, they received little sympathy or support from

the Protestant States in the North.

[Sidenote: 1609. THE "SUCCESSION OF CLEVES."]

Maximilian of Bavaria then established a "Catholic League" in

opposition, relying on the assistance of Spain, while the "Protestant

Union" relied on that of Henry IV. of France. Both sides began to arm,

and they would soon have proceeded to open hostilities, when a dispute

of much greater importance diverted their attention to the North of

Germany. This was the so-called "Succession of Cleves." Duke John

William of Cleves, who governed the former separate dukedoms of Juelich,

Cleves and Berg, and the countships of Ravensberg and Mark, embracing a

large extent of territory on both sides of the Lower Rhine, died in 1609

without leaving a direct heir. He had been a Catholic, but his people

were Protestants. John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, and Wolfgang

William of the Bavarian Palatinate, both relatives on the female side,

claimed the splendid inheritance; and when it became evident that the

Catholic interest meant to secure it, they quickly united their forces

and took possession. The Emperor then sent the Archduke Leopold of

Hapsburg to hold the State in his name, whereupon the Protestant Union

made an instant alliance with Henry IV. of France, who was engaged in

organizing an army for its aid, when he fell by the dagger of the

assassin, Ravaillac, in 1610. This dissolved the alliance, and the

"Union" and "League," finding themselves agreed in opposing the creation

of another Austrian State, on the Lower Rhine, concluded peace before

any serious fighting had taken place between them.

[Sidenote: 1606.]

The two claimants to the succession adopted a similar policy. Wolfgang

William became a Catholic, married the sister of Maximilian of Bavaria,

and so brought the "League" to support him, and the Elector John

Sigismund became a Calvinist (which almost excited a rebellion among the

Brandenburg Lutherans), in order to get the support of the "Union." The

former was assisted by Spanish troops from Flanders, the latter by Dutch

troops from Holland, and the war was carried on until 1614, when it was

settled by a division which gave John Sigismund the lion's share.

Meanwhile the Emperor Rudolf II. was becoming so old, so whimsical and

so useless, that in 1606 the princes of the house of Hapsburg held a

meeting, declared him incapable of governing, "on account of occasional

imbecilities of mind," and appointed his brother Matthias regent for

Austria, Hungary and Moravia. The Emperor refused to yield, but, with

the help of the nobility, who were mostly Protestants, Matthias

maintained his claim. He was obliged, in return, to grant religious

freedom, which so encouraged the oppressed Protestants in Bohemia that

they demanded similar rights from the Emperor. In his helpless situation

he gave way to the demand, but soon became alarmed at the increase of

the heretics, and tried to take back his concession. The Bohemians

called Matthias to their assistance, and in 1611 Rudolf lost his

remaining kingdom and his favorite residence of Prague. As he looked

upon the city for the last time, he cried out: "May the vengeance of God

overtake thee, and my curse light on thee and all Bohemia!" In less than

a year (on the 20th of January, 1612) he died.

Matthias was elected Emperor of Germany, as a matter of course. The

house of Hapsburg was now the strongest German power which represented

the Church of Rome, and the Catholic majority in the Diet secured to it

the Imperial dignity then and thenceforward. The Protestants, however,

voted also for Matthias, for the reason that he had already shown a

tolerant policy towards their brethren in Austria, Hungary and Bohemia.

His first measures, as Emperor, justified this view of his character. He

held a Diet at Ratisbon for the purpose of settling the existing

differences between the two, but nothing was accomplished: the

Protestants, finding that they would be outvoted, withdrew in a body and

thus broke up the Diet. Matthias next endeavored to dissolve both the

"Union" and the "League," in which he was only partially successful. At

the same time his rule in Hungary was menaced by a revolt of the

Transylvanian chief, Bethlen Gabor, who was assisted by the Turks: he

grew weary of his task, and was easily persuaded by the other princes of

his house to adopt his nephew, Duke Ferdinand of Styria, as his

successor, in the year 1617, having no children of his own.


Ferdinand, who had been carefully educated by the Jesuits for the part

which he was afterwards to play, and whose violent suppression of the

Protestant faith in Styria made him acceptable to all the German

Catholics, was a man of great energy and force of character. He was

stern, bigoted, cruel, yet shrewd, cunning and apparently conciliatory

when he found it necessary to be so, resembling, in both respects, his

predecessor, Charles V. of Spain. In return for being chosen by the

Bohemians to succeed Matthias as king, he confirmed them in the

religious freedom which they had extorted from Rudolf II., and then

joined the Emperor in an expedition to Hungary, leaving Bohemia to be

governed in the interim by a Council of ten, seven Catholics and three


The first thing that happened was the destruction of two Protestant

churches by Catholic Bishops. The Bohemian Protestants appealed

immediately to the Emperor Matthias, but, instead of redress, he gave

them only threats. Thereupon they rose in Prague, stormed the Council

Hall, seized two of the Councillors and one of their Secretaries, and

hurled them out of the windows. Although they fell a distance of

twenty-eight feet, they were not killed, and all finally escaped. This

event happened on the 23d of May, 1618, and marks the beginning of the

Thirty Years' War. After such long chronicles of violence and slaughter,

the deed seemed of slight importance; but the hundredth anniversary of

the Reformation (counting from Luther's proclamation against Tetzel, on

the 31st of October, 1517) had been celebrated by the Protestants the

year before, England was lost and France barely restored to the Church

of Rome, the power of Spain was declining, and the Catholic priests and

princes were resolved to make one more desperate struggle to regain

their supremacy in Germany. Only the Protestant princes, as a body,

seemed blind to the coming danger. Relying on the fact that four-fifths

of the whole population of the Empire were Protestants, they still

persisted in regarding all the political forms of the Middle Ages as

holy, and in accepting nearly every measure which gave advantage to

their enemies.

[Sidenote: 1619.]

Although the Protestants had only three Councillors out of ten, they

were largely in the majority in Bohemia. They knew what retaliation the

outbreak in Prague would bring upon them, and anticipated it by making

the revolution general. They chose Count Thun as their leader,

overturned the Imperial government, banished the Jesuits from the

country, and entered into relations with the Protestant nobles of

Austria, and the insurgent chief Bethlen Gabor in Hungary. The Emperor

Matthias was willing to compromise the difficulty, but Ferdinand,

stimulated by the Jesuits, declared for war. He sent two small armies

into Bohemia, with a proclamation calling upon the people to submit. The

Protestants of the North were at last aroused from their lethargy. Count

Mansfeld marched with a force of 4,000 men to aid the Bohemians, and

3,000 more came from Silesia; the Imperial army was defeated and driven

back to the Danube. At this juncture the Emperor Matthias died, on the

20th of May, 1619.

Ferdinand lost not a day in taking the power into his own hands. But

Austria threatened revolution, Hungary had made common cause with

Bohemia, Count Thun was marching on Vienna, and he was without an army

to support his claims. Count Thun, however, instead of attacking Vienna,

encamped outside the walls and began to negotiate. Ferdinand, hard

pressed by the demands of the Austrian Protestants, was on the very

point of yielding--in fact, a member of a deputation of sixteen noblemen

had seized him by the coat,--when trumpets were heard, and a body of 500

cavalry, which had reached the city without being intercepted by the

besiegers, appeared before the palace. This enabled him to defend the

city, until the defeat of Count Mansfeld by another portion of his army,

which had entered Bohemia, compelled Count Thun to raise the siege. Then

Ferdinand hastened to Frankfort to look after his election as Emperor by

the Diet, which met on the 28th of August, 1619.

It seems almost incredible that now, knowing his character and designs,

the three Chief Electors who were Protestants should have voted for him,

without being conscious that they were traitors to their faith and their

people. It has been charged, but without any clear evidence, that they

were bribed: it is probable that Ferdinand, whose Jesuitic education

taught him that falsehood and perjury are permitted in serving the

Church, misled them by promises of peace and justice; but it is also

very likely that they imagined their own sovereignty depended on

sustaining every tradition of the Empire. The people, of course, had not

yet acquired any rights which a prince felt himself called upon to



Ferdinand was elected, and properly crowned in the Cathedral at

Frankfort, as Ferdinand II. The Bohemians, who were entitled to one of

the seven chief voices in the Diet, claimed that the election was not

binding upon them, and chose Frederick V. of the Palatinate as their

king, in the hope that the Protestant "Union" would rally to their

support. It was a fatal choice and a false hope. When Maximilian of

Bavaria, at the head of the Catholic "League," took the field for the

Emperor, the "Union" cowardly withdrew. Frederick V. went to Bohemia,

was crowned, and idled his time away in fantastic diversions for one

winter, while Ferdinand was calling Spain to attack the Palatinate of

the Rhine, and borrowing Cossacks from Poland to put down his Protestant

subjects in Austria. The Emperor assured the Protestant princes that the

war should be confined to Bohemia, and one of them, the Elector John

George of Saxony, a Lutheran, openly went over to his side in order to

defeat Frederick V., a Calvinist. The Bohemians fell back to the walls

of Prague before the armies of the Emperor and Bavaria; and there, on

the White Mountain, a battle of an hour's duration, in November, 1620,

decided the fate of the country. The former scattered in all directions;

Frederick V. left Prague never to return, and Spanish, Italian and

Hungarian troops overran Bohemia.

Ferdinand II. acted as might have been expected from his despotic and

bigoted nature. The 8,000 Cossacks which he had borrowed from his

brother-in-law, king Sigismund of Poland, had already closed all

Protestant Churches and suppressed freedom of worship in Austria; he now

applied the same measures to Bohemia, but in a more violent and bloody

form. Twenty-seven of the chief Protestant nobles were beheaded at

Prague in one day; thousands of families were stripped of all their

property and banished; the Protestant churches were given to the

Catholics, the Jesuits took possession of the University and the

schools, until finally, as a historian says, "the quiet of a sepulchre

settled over Bohemia." The Protestant faith was practically obliterated

from all the Austrian realm, with the exception of a few scattered

congregations in Hungary and Transylvania.

[Sidenote: 1621.]

There is hardly anywhere, in the history of the world, such an instance

of savage despotism. A large majority of the population of Austria,

Bohemia and Styria were Protestants; they were rapidly growing in

intelligence, in social order and material prosperity; but the will of

one man was allowed to destroy the progress of a hundred years, to crush

both the faith and freedom of the people, plunder them of their best

earnings and make them ignorant slaves for 200 years longer. The

property which was seized by Ferdinand II., in Bohemia alone, was

estimated at forty millions of florins! And the strength of Germany,

which was Protestant, looked on and saw all this happen! Only the common

people of Austria arose against the tyrant, and gallantly struggled for

months, at first under the command of a farmer named Stephen Fadinger,

and, when he was slain in the moment of victory, under an unknown young

hero, who had no other name than "the Student." The latter defeated the

Bavarian army, resisted the famous Austrian general, Pappenheim, in many

battles, and at last fell, after the most of his followers had fallen,

without leaving his name to history. The Austrian peasants rivalled the

Swiss of three centuries before in their bravery and self-sacrifice: had

they been successful (as they might have been, with small help from

their Protestant brethren), they would have changed the course of German

history, and have become renowned among the heroes of the world.

The fate of Austria, from that day to this, was now sealed. Both

parties--the Catholics, headed by Ferdinand II., and the Protestants,

without any head,--next turned to the Palatinate of the Rhine, where a

Spanish army, sent from Flanders, was wasting and plundering in the name

of the Emperor. Count Ernest of Mansfeld and Prince Christian of

Brunswick, who had supported Frederick V. in Bohemia, endeavored to save

at least the Palatinate for him. They were dashing and eccentric young

generals, whose personal reputation attracted all sorts of wild and

lawless characters to take service under them. Mansfeld, who had been

originally a Catholic, was partly supported by contributions from

England and Holland, but he also took what he could get from the country

through which he marched. Christian of Brunswick was a fantastic prince,

who tried to imitate the knights of the Middle Ages. He was a great

admirer of the Countess Elizabeth of the Palatinate (sister of Charles

I. of England), and always wore her glove on his helmet. In order to

obtain money for his troops, he plundered the bishoprics in Westphalia,

and forced the cities and villages to pay him heavy contributions. When

he entered the cathedral at Paderborn and saw the silver statues of the

Apostles around the altar, he cried out: "What are you doing here? You

were ordered to go forth into the world, but wait a bit--I'll send you!"

So he had them melted and coined into dollars, upon which the words were

stamped: "Friend of God, foe of priests!" He afterwards gave himself

that name, but the soldiers generally called him "Mad Christian."


Against these two, and George Frederick of Baden, who joined them,

Ferdinand II. sent Maximilian of Bavaria, to whom he promised the

Palatinate as a reward, and Tilly, a general already famous both for his

military talent and his inhumanity. The latter, who had been educated by

the Jesuits for a priest, was in the Bavarian service. He was a small,

lean man, with a face almost comical in its ugliness. His nose was like

a parrot's beak, his forehead seamed with deep wrinkles, his eyes sunk

in their sockets and his cheek-bones projecting. He usually wore a dress

of green satin, with a cocked hat and long red feather, and rode a

small, mean-looking gray horse.

Early in 1622 the Imperial army under Tilly was defeated, or at least

checked, by the united forces of Mansfeld and Prince Christian. But in

May of the same year, the forces of the latter, with those of George

Frederick of Baden, were almost cut to pieces by Tilly, at Wimpfen. They

retreated into Alsatia, where they burned and plundered at will, while

Tilly pursued the same course on the eastern side of the Rhine. He took

and destroyed the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg, closed the

Protestant churches, banished the clergymen and teachers, and supplied

their places with Jesuits. The invaluable library of Heidelberg was sent

to Pope Gregory XV. at Rome, and remained there until 1815, when a part

of it came back to the University by way of Paris.

[Sidenote: 1623.]

Frederick V., who had fled from the country, entered into negotiations

with the Emperor, in the hope of retaining the Palatinate. He dissolved

his connection with Mansfeld and Prince Christian, who thereupon

offered their services to the Emperor, on condition that he would pay

their soldiers! Receiving no answer, they marched through Lorraine and

Flanders, laying waste the country as they went, and finally took refuge

in Holland. Frederick V.'s humiliation was of no avail; none of the

Protestant princes supported his claim. The Emperor gave his land, with

the Electoral dignity, to Maximilian of Bavaria, and this act, although

a direct violation of the laws which the German princes held sacred, was

acquiesced in by them at a Diet held at Ratisbon in 1623. John George of

Saxony, who saw clearly that it was a fatal blow aimed both at the

Protestants and at the rights of the reigning princes, was persuaded to

be silent by the promise of having Lusatia added to Saxony.

By this time, Germany was in a worse condition than she had known for

centuries. The power of the Jesuits, represented by Ferdinand II., his

councillors and generals, was supreme almost everywhere; the Protestant

princes vied with each other in meanness, selfishness and cowardice; the

people were slaughtered, robbed, driven hither and thither by both

parties: there seemed to be neither faith nor justice left in the land.

The other Protestant nations--England, Holland, Denmark and

Sweden--looked on with dismay, and even Cardinal Richelieu, who was then

practically the ruler of France, was willing to see Ferdinand II.'s

power crippled, though the Protestants should gain thereby. England and

Holland assisted Mansfeld and Prince Christian with money, and the

latter organized new armies, with which they ravaged Friesland and

Westphalia. Prince Christian was on his way to Bohemia, in order to

unite with the Hungarian chief, Bethlen Gabor, when, on the 6th of

August, 1623, he met Tilly at a place called Stadtloon, near Muenster,

and, after a murderous battle which lasted three days, was utterly

defeated. About the same time Mansfeld, needing further support, went to

England, where he was received with great honor.

Ferdinand II. had in the meantime concluded a peace with Bethlen Gabor,

and his authority was firmly established over Austria and Bohemia. Tilly

with his Bavarians was victorious in Westphalia; all armed opposition to

the Emperor's rule was at an end, yet instead of declaring peace

established, and restoring the former order of the Empire, his agents

continued their work of suppressing religious freedom and civil rights

in all the States which had been overrun by the Catholic armies. The

whole Empire was threatened with the fate of Austria. Then, at last, in

1625, Brunswick, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg, Hamburg, Luebeck and Bremen

formed a union for mutual defence, choosing as their leader king

Christian IV. of Denmark, the same monarch who had broken down the power

of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic and North Seas! Although a

Protestant, he was no friend to the North-German States, but he

energetically united with them in the hope of being able to enlarge his

kingdom at their expense.


Christian IV. lost no time in making arrangements with England and

Holland which enabled both Mansfeld and Prince Christian of Brunswick to

raise new forces, with which they returned to Germany. Tilly, in order

to intercept them, entered the territory of the States which had united,

and thus gave Christian IV. a pretext for declaring war. The latter

marched down from Denmark at once, but found no earnest union among the

States, and only 7,000 men collected. He soon succeeded, however, in

bringing together a force much larger than that commanded by Tilly, and

was only hindered in his plan of immediate action by a fall from his

horse, which crippled him for six weeks. The city of Hamelin was taken,

and Tilly compelled to fall back, but no other important movements took

place during the year 1625.

Ferdinand II. was already growing jealous of the increasing power of

Bavaria, and determined that the Catholic and Imperial cause should not

be entrusted to Tilly alone. But he had little money, his own military

force had been wasted by the wars in Bohemia, Austria and Hungary, and

there was no other commander of sufficient renown to attract men to his

standard. Yet it was necessary that Tilly should be reinforced as soon

as possible, or his scheme of crushing the whole of Germany, and laying

it, as a fettered slave, at the feet of the Roman Church, might fail,

and at the very moment when success seemed sure.

In this emergency, a new man presented himself. Albert of Waldstein,

better known under his historical name of Wallenstein, was born at

Prague in 1583. He was the son of a poor nobleman, and violent and

unruly as a youth, until a fall from the third story of a house effected

a sudden change in his nature. He became brooding and taciturn, gave up

his Protestant faith, and was educated by the Jesuits at Olmuetz. He

travelled in Spain, France and the Netherlands, fought in Italy against

Venice and in Hungary against Bethlen Gabor and the Turks, and rose to

the rank of Colonel. He married an old and rich widow, and after her

death increased his wealth by a second marriage, so that, when the

Protestants were expelled from Bohemia, he was able to purchase 60 of

their confiscated estates. Adding these to that of Friedland, which he

had received from the Emperor in return for military services, he

possessed a small principality, lived in great splendor, and paid and

equipped his own troops. He was first made Count, and then Duke of

Friedland, with the authority of an independent prince of the Empire.

[Sidenote: 1625.]

Wallenstein was superstitious, and his studies in astrology gave him the

belief that a much higher destiny awaited him. Here was the opportunity:

he offered to raise and command a second army, in the Emperor's service.

Ferdinand II. accepted the offer with joy, and sent word to Wallenstein

that he should immediately proceed to enlist 20,000 men. "My army," the

latter answered, "must live by what it can take: 20,000 men are not

enough. I must have 50,000, and then I can demand what I want!" The

threat of terrible ravage contained in these words was soon carried out.

Wallenstein was tall and meagre in person. His forehead was high but

narrow, his hair black and cut very short, his eyes small, dark and

fiery, and his complexion yellow. His voice was harsh and disagreeable:

he never smiled, and spoke only when it was necessary. He usually

dressed in scarlet, with a leather jerkin, and wore a long red feather

on his hat. There was something cold, mistrustful and mysterious in his

appearance, yet he possessed unbounded power over his soldiers, whom he

governed with severity and rewarded splendidly. There are few more

interesting personages in German history.