From Spear to Flintlock: A History of War in Europe and the Middle East to the French Revolution

By Frederic J. Baumgartner | Go to book overview
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18
The Thirty Years War

If it is true that the Bohemians are about to depose Ferdinand [of Habsburg] and elect another king, let everyone prepare for a war lasting twenty, thirty or forty years. The Spaniards and the House of Austria will deploy all their worldly goods to recover Bohemia; indeed the Spaniards would rather lose the Netherlands than allow their House to lose control of Bohemia so disgracefully and so outrageously.

Count Solms, quoted in Geoffrey Parker, Europe in Crisis, 1598-1648 ( Ithaca, N.Y., 1979), p. 163. Solms, who wrote those words in 1619 was a German diplomat.

In its last decades the Dutch revolt was subsumed into a much broader international conflict called the Thirty Years War. The event that touched off that war, a revolt in Bohemia in 1618, was highly similar to the beginning of the Dutch revolt in that it was both a Protestant rebellion against a Catholic ruler and a nationalistic uprising against a Habsburg prince.

Like several monarchies of central and eastern Europe, Bohemia's was elective. Members of the Habsburg family had been elected king since 1440. A majority of the Bohemian nobles had become Protestant, but the Habsburg kings of the late sixteenth century were not very zealous Catholics. There was little thought of electing a king from a different family, and in 1617 Archduke Ferdinand was chosen as king-designate by the estates of both Bohemia and Hungary to succeed Emperor Matthias, his cousin. Ferdinand had a reputation as a Catliolic zealot, but Protestant misgivings were overcome by bribery and diplomatic pressure. Almost immediately the new officials he installed in Prague began to reduce Protestant privileges. The Protestant nobles made contact with the Protestant rulers of Europe and asked for foreign support.

In March 1619, the Bohemian Estates met to denounce Ferdinand's religious policy. When he ordered the meeting broken up, the Protestant members marched to the Castle of Prague, forced their way into the chamber of the royal council, and threw the two most notorious Catholic

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