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Thirty Years War


1555 Peace of Augsburg

  • Settlement between Charles V (Catholic, Hapsburg, Holy Roman Emperor) and the Schmalkaldic League (Protestants from HRE)

  • Allowed rulers in HRE to choose Lutheranism or Roman Catholicism as religion of their state.

  • Cuius regio, eius religio ("whose realm, his religion")

  • Subjects converted to rulers' faiths.

  • Rulers/Princes who chose Protestantism would not have to send money to Pope and could confiscate Catholic land (like monasteries)

  • Rulers couldn't choose Calvinism

Hapsburg Empire

  • In 1556, two years before Charles V died, he divided his empire between:

  • His son Philip II and

  • His brother Ferdinand I

  • Philip II

  • Inherited Spain (including Spain's territories in America),

  • The Netherlands (Dutch Republic) and Italy

  • Ferdinand I

  • Became the Holy Roman Emperor

  • And inherited the Austrian territories, Bohemia and Hungary.

Eighty-years War (1568-1648)

  • Philip II more interested in Catholic Spain than 17 provinces in the Netherlands

  • Council of Blood or Council of Troubles (1567-1574)

  • Philip II sent Duke of Alba (Alva) to force Dutch Calvinists to become Catholic

  • Reign of terror, 1000s executed, high taxes, confiscated land of important nobles

  • Caused Dutch to unite under stadtholder William of Orange

  • Dutch rebel, civil war, anarchy

  • Split, 1579

  • North:

  • Protestant (Dutch Calvinist) Seven Provinces join (Union of Utrecht), become Holland, continue rebellion, not recognized by Spain until Twelve Years Truce 1609

  • South:

  • Catholic (present-day Belgium) join Spanish (become Spanish Netherlands)

  • War between the Dutch Republic and Spanish Hapsburg's lasted 80 years

  • England's Queen Elizabeth (r. 1558-1603) allied with Protestants

  • See Spanish Armada 1588 - Spain loses because of "Protestant Wind"

  • The Dutch finally won independence at the end of the Thirty Years War with the Peace of Münster (part of Peace of Westphalia)


  • Civil war in German states between Protestants and Catholics

  • German civil war over authority of the Holy Roman Emperor v. independent rulers

  • International war: Bourbon France, Denmark and Sweden against Hapsburgs (Spain and Austria)

  • Battle between Spanish Hapsburgs and Dutch Republic

  • Fighting by independent soldiers of fortune trying to gain territory and booty (like Albrecht of Wallenstein)


Bohemian Phase (1618-1625 or 1618-1621)

  • After ascending the throne as Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, Ferdinand II (r. 1619-1637) tried to take away religious freedoms from the Calvinist Bohemians

  • When Ferdinand's men came to Prague (Bohemia's capital), to enact Ferdinand's edict, they were thrown out of the window (called the "Defenestration of Prague").

  • They survived when they landed in excrement.

  • Bohemians then elected a Calvinist King, Frederick, causing a conflict

  • The Spanish Hapsburg's and German Catholic League sent troops to help Ferdinand put down the rebellion.

  • The Catholics defeated the Bohemians at the Battle of White Mountain -- Bohemians were "recatholicized."

Danish Phase (1625-1629 or 1621-1630)

  • The defeat of the Protestants by Hapsburgs alarmed Denmark

  • Denmark's King Christian IV entered the war with the help of other Protestant leaders

  • Ferdinand hires Bohemian general, Albrecht of Wallenstein

  • Ambitious and opportunistic

  • Commanded mercenary armies against Protestant Denmark

  • Wallenstein was successful

  • Confident of success, Ferdinand issued the "Edict of Restitution" (1629)

  • Ordering the restoration of all Catholic lands taken by Lutheran princes.

  • Reinforcing the Peace of Augsburg by making Calvinism illegal.

  • Authorizing the forced conversion of Protestants back to Catholicism (against terms of Peace of Augsburg).

  • The Edict strengthened the Protestants' resolve to defeat Ferdinand.

Swedish Phase (1629-1635 or 1630-1632)

  • Ferdinand's success prompted Sweden's Lutheran king, Gustavus Adolphus II, to join fight against Catholics to stop the Hapsburg threat to Swedish lands around Baltic Sea.

  • Sweden joined by France which helped subsidize the Protestant effort

  • Although Catholic, France wanted to weaken the power of the Hapsburgs who surrounded them.

  • Sweden's army was the most modern at the time: used muskets, pikes and cannons.

  • After Swedish successes Ferdinand fired Wallenstein then had him assassinated because of his independent ambition.

  • Gustavus Adolphus II died in the Battle of Lützen in 1632.

Swedish-French Phase (1635-1648 or 1632-1648)

  • The Protestant princes raised new armies becoming strong enough to force Ferdinand to make peace with them and suspend the Edict of Restitution (in 1635, Peace of Prague).

  • In the same year (1635) France (by the suggestion of King Louis XIII's chief minister, Cardinal Richelieu)

  • Increased subsidies to the Protestants.

  • And declared war on Ferdinand II

  • 1637, Ferdinand II died

  • Succeeded by his son, Ferdinand III, who wanted to end the war.

  • France kept Spain (Philip IV) too busy to help Hapsburgs by helping insurgents in Spanish province of Catalonia.

  • 1643 Louis XIII died

  • Leaving his 5-year old son, Louis XIV, on the throne.

  • In 1645, Louis XIV's new minister, Cardinal Mazarin, was preoccupied by the Fronde and worked to end the war.

  • War ended in 1648


  • Ended hostilities

  • The Peace of Augsburg was renewed

  • With Calvinism legally recognized as an option (see above)

  • The United Provinces (Dutch Republic/Holland/northern Netherlands) became independent

  • The Swiss Confederacy (Switzerland) became independent.

  • Bavaria became an elector state and got more territory

  • Brandenburg-Prussia got more land (and became the most powerful German state)

  • France received rights over Alsace and Lorraine.

  • Sweden was given control over the mouths of the Oder, Elbe and Weser Rivers


  • Diseases and battle killed more than 1/3 of Germany's population

  • Germany, the battlefield of the war, suffered economically because of looting, destruction, depopulation and the loss of trade.

  • Because of France's involvement

  • The battle was less about religion than geopolitics.

  • The era of religious wars was over.

  • France emerged as a superpower.

  • The Habsburg's lost their hold over the Holy Roman Empire

  • The 300 German states in the now defunct Holy Roman Empire were sovereign and separated.

#ThirtyYearsWar #HolyRomanEmpire #ReligiousWars

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