The Thirty Years War (1618-48), though pre-eminently a German war, was also of great importance for the history of the whole of Europe, not only because nearly all the countries of Western Europe took part in it, but also on account of its connection with the other great European wars of the same era and on account of its final results.
The fundamental cause was the internal decay of the empire from 1555, as evidenced by the weakness of the imperial power, by the gross lack of patriotism manifested by the estates of the empire, and by the paralysis of the imperial authority and its agencies among the Protestant estates of Southwestern Germany, which had been in a state of discontent since 1555. Consequently the whole of Germany was in a continual state of unrest. The decay of the empire encouraged the other nations of Western Europe to infringe upon its territory. Spain and the Netherlands made use of the period of the twelve-years truce to secure a footing in the neighbouring district of the Lower Rhine so as to increase their strategic base. For nearly a hundred years France had made treaties with many of the estates hostile to the emperor. Henry IV of France was murdered in 1610 at the very moment he was about to interfere in the war over the Jülich-Cleve succession. James I of England was the father-in-law of the head of the Protestant party of action in Germany, Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate, and was inclined to take part in a continental quarrel. Denmark sought obstinately to obtain the power of "administration" over the dioceses of Northern Germany that had become Protestant, and to get control of the mouth of the Elbe. Gustavus Adolphus (1611-32), of Sweden, also showed a strong desire to interfere in German affairs. At the outbreak of the Thirty Years War all these countries, it is true, were prevented from taking part in it by internal difficulties or by wars in other directions. Still the disposition to do so existed everywhere.
Another cause of the war was that the countries forming the Austrian provinces belonged to the empire. For, in the first place, the empire, owing to the geographical position of these countries, became involved in the contemporary affairs in Eastern Europe. The general aristocratic reaction that appeared throughout Europe at the end of the fifteenth and in the sixteenth centuries gradually became so powerful in the eastern and northern countries that a life-and-death struggle between its representatives and the sovereign power broke out at the beginning of the seventeenth century in the more active districts of these sections. These causes gave the first impulse to the Thirty Years War (see section II below). In addition the dynasty ruling the countries forming Austria was a branch of the Habsburg family, whose most distinguished line at that era ruled Spain. From the reign of Philip II (1556-98) the Spanish Habsburgs were the champions of Catholicism in Western Europe and the chief rivals of France in the struggle for supremacy in Europe. From about 1612, especially during the administration of Philip IV (1621-65) and his distinguished minister Olivarez, they displayed increased energy and tried to induce the German Habsburgs to support their plans. The empire was all the more affected by this Spanish policy as the head of the German Habsburgs was Emperor of Germany.
A further important cause was the religious sectarianism which, after diminishing for a short time, grew more intense early in the seventeenth century. In the Catholic movement (about 1592) which followed the Council of Trent only Catholic theologians and a few princes had taken part; the second movement, on the contrary, carried with it the masses of the clergy and laity, and was marked by an ardent spirit of faith and a passionate demand for the spread of Catholicism. If among Protestants the idealistic enthusiasm was perhaps not so great, still their partisan feeling was equally violent and their combativeness no less ardent. After the war began it soon became manifest that social and economic reasons made Germany a favourable soil for its growth. Economic life, which for a long time had flourished greatly, from the second half of the sixteenth century had grown stagnant. Consequently there existed a large number who were glad to have the opportunity of supporting themselves as paid soldiers and of enriching themselves by plunder. The nobles, also, who were numerous in proportion to the rest of the population, took advantage of the opportunity to indulge their private feuds and robberies. As only a small number of them were attracted by foreign wars, they were ready therefore for internal disorders. Soon there appeared leaders of ability who gathered both nobles and burghers under their banners and retained them in their service by indulging their evil instincts. On the other hand, the people of Germany, who had been long unaccustomed to war and were not trained to bear public burdens, chafed under the hardships now imposed upon them. This discontent, combined with the ease with which troops were equipped, aided in prolonging the war.
At the beginning of the seventeenth century the regions ruled by the German Habsburgs included Upper and Lower Austria, Bohemia together with Moravia and Silesia, the lesser part of Hungary which had not been conquered by the Turks, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, the Tyrol, and the provinces bordering on Germany. This territory, however, was divided among three branches of the family, the main line, the Styrian, and that of Tyrol-Vorarlberg. Although the main line of the German Habsburgs held by far the larger part of these landed possessions yet its territories did not form a compact whole, but were only a number of loosely connected countries, each having its own provincial estates, which were largely composed of nobles and which maintained an incessant opposition to the dynasty, and therefore largely desired religious freedom, that is the right to become Protestant and to introduce Protestantism into their domains. The struggle of the nobility against the dynasty reached its height during the last decade of the reign of Rudolph II (1576-1612). Even at that time the nobility maintained relations with the active Protestant party in the empire. In 1604 the Hungarian nobles revolted with the aid of the ruler of Transylvania, and in 1607 they rebelled again and became the allies of the Turks. On 25 June, 1608, Rudolph was obliged to transfer the government of Hungary, Austria, and Moravia to his more compliant brother Matthias; he did not, however, give up his rights as King of Bohemia, and in 1609 was able to pacify an outbreak of the Bohemian nobility only by granting the Imperial Charter ( Majestätsbrief ) which gave religious liberty not only to the nobles and their dependents in Bohemia but also to those living on the crown lands. This concession greatly strengthened the power of the nobles.
After Rudolph's death Cardinal Klesl sought, as the councillor of Matthias (1612-19), to avoid above all any new crisis, so as to gain time to reorganize the resources of the ruling dynasty. Matthias, like Rudolph, had no son and the royal family chose as his successor Ferdinand, the head of the Styrian branch of the Habsburgs, who had restored Catholicism in Styria. In 1617 the dynasty persuaded the Bohemians to accept Ferdinand as their future king, and in 1618 they prevailed upon the Hungarians to elect him king. Before this (May, 1618) the Bohemian nobles had revolted anew under the leadership of Count von Thurn on account of the alleged infringement of the charter granted by Rudolph. The dynasty was not yet ready for war. When Matthias died (March, 1619) the Hungarians and the inhabitants of Moravia joined the revolt, and in June Thurn advanced on Vienna with an army to persuade the Austrians also to join. However, the determined attitude of Ferdinand prevented the insurrection and Thurn withdrew. Ferdinand was now able to go to Frankfort, where his election as emperor (28 August) secured the imperial dignity for his family. Two days before this the Bohemians had elected the leader of the Protestants, Frederick of the Palatinate, as rival King of Bohemia.
The inhabitants of Lower Austria now joined the revolt. Bethlen Gabor, Prince of Transylvania, made an alliance with its leaders, and in conjunction with them once more threatened Vienna at the close of 1619. Thenceforth, however, discipline steadily declined in the Bohemian army, and the leaders disagreed. The expected aid was never received from the Protestant party, excepting that a few of the less important nobles of the empire joined the insurrectionary forces. On the other hand, in October, 1619, Ferdinand obtained the help of Maximilian of Bavaria, who had the largest army in the empire, and of the Protestant Elector of Saxony. Spain and Poland also sent troops. Maximilian so greatly terrified the Protestant party, which since 1608 had formed the Union, that it was broken up. He then advanced into Bohemia supported by Austrian troops and decisively defeated the Bohemians in the battle of the White Mountain, near Prague. The Elector Frederick, called the "Winter King" on account of the brief duration of his rule, fled. Ferdinand took possession of his provinces and restored order there. The war with Transylvania, however, was carried on with interruptions until 1626.
The emperor placed Frederick, the Elector Palatine, under the ban of the empire on 22 January, 1621; the latter refused to beg for pardon. Reconciliation was made more difficult by the demand of Maximilian of Bavaria of that part of the Palatine lands called the Upper Palatinate, as recompense for the expenses of the war ; he also desired, in accordance with a traditional claim of the Bavarian ruling family, the electoral dignity belonging to the Palatinate; this the emperor gave him with hesitation and under certain conditions (21-25 February, 1623). Maximilian gained for himself the desired land by transplanting the war to the territory of the Palatinate. Spanish troops had established themselves in these districts as early as 1620, and aimed at retaining possession of the Palatinate for the purpose of establishing communication between the Italian possessions of Spain and its territories in Burgundy and the Netherlands. In carrying out this scheme the Spaniards in the same year (1620) had seized the Valtellina and the territory of the Rhætian League. Before this, in 1617, when Ferdinand became the head of the German-Habsburg dynasty, Spain had expressed its desires for the reversion of the Austrian possessions in Alsace.
None of the victors desired to continue the war. The emperor was fully occupied with the restoration of his power in his hereditary possessions and with the war against Transylvania. The Spaniards had only a small military force, as was shown by the spiritless manner in which they recommenced war with the Netherlands in 1621. Maximilian, it is true, desired to obtain possession of his conquests; but he had no confidence in the Spaniards, and found it very difficult to bear the burdens of war, as he received no outside aid of importance. On the other hand, the Count Palatine received no active help either from the Protestant estates of the empire or from abroad, but by the beginning of 1622, several adventurous partisans of his -- Ernest of Mansfeld, Christian of Brunswick (called "mad Christian"), and Margrave George Frederick of Baden -- collected 50,000 mercenaries, an army of unusual size for that era. This force was intended to oppose the army of Maximilian and the Spaniards, and as quickly as its numbers decreased they were recruited afresh. The Bavarian commander-in-chief Tilly defeated this force when it attempted to prevent his army and the Spaniards from occupying the fortified towns of the Electoral Palatinate (undecisive engagement at Wiesloch, 27 April, 1622; complete defeat of the army of the margrave at Baden at Wimpfen, 6 May, 1622; severe defeat of Christian at Höchst, 20 June, 1622). After this, however, the Netherlands, the foe of Spain, allowed the still unconquered Mansfeld to enter their territory; from here he advanced in 1623 into East Frisia. The plan was that Christian should come to his support with a new army. Tilly, however, pursued Christian and completely defeated him on 6 August, 1623, at Stadtlohn in Westphalia, but was not able at that moment to attack Mansfeld. Under these circumstances Tilly was obliged to remain in northwestern Germany ; the estates of this territory had taken no part in the war, and soon the quartering of the soldiers and the forced contributions aroused violent discontent among them.
A denominational movement now also gradually made itself felt. In 1623 for the first time a Catholic was elected bishop in the Diocese of Osnabrück. Hereupon the estates of Lower Saxony demanded the emperor's guarantee for the security of their lands which had formerly belonged to the Church. The emperor, however, was willing only to promise security against force, not against a judgment of dispossession. In 1624 Maximilian began to make the Upper Palatinate once more Catholic. In Swabia the Catholic estates sought to regain the many ecclesiastical foundations that had been acquired by the Protestants. A large number of suits concerning ecclesiastical property were still in litigation before the courts of the empire. There developed on the one side the desire, and on the other the dread, that all the changes in the entire empire made by the Protestants contrary to the Religious Peace of Augsburg might be done away with. Foreign countries began to give increasing attention to the war. France sought especially to separate Maximilian from the emperor; the Netherlands granted subsidies; in 1624 a French embassy intrigued against the Habsburg dynasty at the German and northern Courts; England and Holland negotiated both with King Christian IV of Denmark and with Gustavus Adolphus to induce these rulers to take part in the war. Christian, who belonged to the estates of the empire as Count of Holstein, was elected commander of their forces by the oppressed and aroused estates of the lower Saxon circle, and on 9 December, 1625, he came to an agreement with England and Holland and marched into the empire.
Thus the enemies of the emperor and the Duke of Bavaria became so powerful that the emperor could no longer leave the burdens or the direction of the war to a single prince of the empire, even though this prince were as able as Maximilian. The struggle now threatened to engage all Europe. Wallenstein, a Bohemian noble, and the ablest of all the leaders of mercenaries, offered to collect and maintain in the same way as the enemy a force larger and better equipped than that of the Protestants. Ferdinand accepted Wallenstein's offer, and on 7 April, 1625, appointed him general. For some unknown reason Wallenstein and Tilly did not come to an understanding. In 1626 Wallenstein took up a position on the Elbe. Mansfeld planned to surround him and establish communication with the Prince of Transylvania, but Wallenstein defeated him on 25 April at the bridge over the Elbe at Dessau. However, Mansfeld was able to march to Transylvania, where he found that Bethlen Gabor had decided to make peace. Shortly after his arrival he died of fever. Wallenstein increased his army to 70,000 men and in the summer of 1627 he defeated Mansfeld's troops, now without a leader, at Kosel in Silesia on 9 July. In the meantime Tilly had defeated the Danish King Christian on 27 August, 1626, in a hotly-contested battle at Lutter on the Barenberg. During the winter Christian equipped a new army; nevertheless, Tilly drove him from the lower Weser and Elbe, but did not take Stade.
The success of the imperial and Bavarian armies in Northern Germany enabled the Catholics to reclaim the lands of the Church. In 1626 the energetic Francis William of Wartenberg, a relative of Maximilian, became Bishop of Osnabrück. He sought to be made bishop also of the dioceses of Minden and Verden, which had become Protestant. In 1627 the Austrian Archduke Leopold William became Bishop of Halberstadt; in the early part of 1628 he was defeated by a prince of Saxony in his attempt to secure the Archdiocese of Magdeburg , but in the summer of 1628 he obtained the right of succession to the Archdiocese of Bremen. In Southern Germany Maximilian undertook in 1627 to make the Electoral Palatinate Catholic again. Catholic demands were now sent to the emperor from all sides. In accordance with the Habsburg method of administration and with the emperor's own way of thinking, these demands were all turned over in September, 1628, to the Aulic Council for judicial investigation. Following this, Ferdinand issued in March, 1629, the Edict of Restitution. In its first part the edict settled the meaning of the disputed ordinances of the Religious Peace; it then ordered that all legal suits arising from the Religious Peace which were pending before the imperial courts were to be settled summarily in accordance with the edict. It further appointed three commissions which were to determine and correct the infringements of the Religious Peace in all parts of the empire. The Guelphs in Northern Germany were obliged to surrender what they had taken of the Diocese of Hildesheim in 1523 with the exception of a small part; in March, 1630, imperial commissioners took possession of Magdeburg, and in May and July, 1630, Francis William of Wartenberg established himself at Verden and Minden. In Southern Germany Würtemberg, in particular, was forced to make restitution.
In the beginning of the trouble, at the period of the Bohemian revolt the more powerful of the Protestant estates had held to the emperor. The transfer of the electorate to Maximilian, however, had made Saxony and Brandenburg indignant because it put an end to the parity of religions in the Electoral College. To keep Brandenburg from joining the other side Wallenstein devastated it between 1626 and 1627. The Edict of Restitution, however, alienated all the Protestant rulers and nobles from the emperor. From desire of peace and from lack of strength they took no steps against him. It was not until the Catholic estates also became estranged from the emperor that a crisis arose in the internal affairs of the empire which largely influenced the continuance of the war.
Wallenstein's method of recruiting and maintaining his army required the establishment of extremely large divisions of the army. Following a custom introduced by Ferdinand in Austria, he assigned to each of these divisions a definite district for the collection of recruits and supplies. At first these districts were in the domains of the rulers and nobles hostile to the emperor; gradually, however, the territories of the spiritual princes who had been united by Maximilian in the League were thus assigned and finally, in May, 1628, the domains of the Elector of Saxony who had, in other respects, been protected by the Habsburgs. The estates resisted, appealing to the Law of the Imperial Diet of 1570, and complaining that their countries were used as recruiting depots without their consent. They protested against the extraordinary amount of the enforced contributions, their long duration, and against the amount of plunder. They emphasized these complaints by threats to take the law in their own hands. They watched the emperor with suspicion when, after he had placed (1621) the Elector Palatine under the ban of the empire without the consent of the Electors, he revived other imperial privileges that had fallen into disuse. Thus he declared the estates of Lower Saxony, which had taken part in the Danish war against his orders, guilty of treason punishable by the loss of their territories. The estates knew instinctively that their territorial sovereignty, which had existed as a fact from 1555, depended solely on the passivity of the empire in foreign affairs, and that they would have to be more submissive to the emperor's authority should the civil war develop into a European one, as appeared more likely from year to year. This thought troubled them greatly. Their horizon was narrow; they were ignorant of European politics. They said that under Wallenstein's influence Ferdinand would make the imperial power absolute, and that German liberty, that is their freedom as princes, was endangered. The fact that Wallenstein's army was composed of Catholics and Protestants alike, and that he appointed as general so zealous a Lutheran as Hans Georg von Arnim, impressed the Catholic estates with the idea that their community of interests with the emperor had become weaker, and induced them through self-interest to unite with the Protestant estates in opposition to the emperor. Maximilian in particular was anxious and discontented. An Italian Capuchin, Valerio Magni, irritated him by reports about Wallenstein and the intentions of the emperor, while Wallenstein fanned the flame by his harsh treatment of the Bavarian Elector, by his constant demands for greater military authority from the emperor, and by securing his own appointment as prince of the empire (April, 1628).
The first clear symptoms of the tension between the emperor and the estates of the empire were: the meeting of the League at Würzburg in January, 1627; the session of the Electors at Mülhausen in October-November, 1627; and the meeting of the Catholic Electors at Bingen in June, 1628. The assembly at Mülhausen already demanded a change in the military organization and the dismissal of Wallenstein. At first Ferdinand sought to reduce the tension by working upon Maximilian; in the Treaty of Munich, 1628, he guaranteed to him the Electoral dignity and the possession both of the Upper Electoral Palatinate and of that on the right bank of the Rhine for thirty years. In the course of 1628, however, the emperor's markedly advantageous position over the estates was seriously injured by his desire, after completing the reorganization of his Austrian territories to secure the continuance of the imperial crown in his family by the election of his son as King of the Romans. This desire made him dependent on the good will of the Electors. In the spring of 1628 he forced Wallenstein to reduce the size of his army a little, and in the autumn of the same year to make a much larger reduction. Encouraged thereby the Electors refused to accede to the emperor's wish for the convocation of the Electoral College, and wanted to defer it until the end of the war. The Edict of Restitution also deferred the meeting, but only for a short time. At Ferdinand's demand the Elector of Mainz finally convoked the college for June, 1630. Before it met the emperor again forced Wallenstein to dismiss a large part of his troops. The meeting of the Electors, which was held at Ratisbon from 3 July till 12 November, 1630, the two Protestant Electors not attending, took place under entirely changed political and military conditions.
About 1625 the Spanish Habsburgs began to develop an energetic policy, as they had done in the sixteenth century. They believed a great opportunity had come to give Protestantism a crushing blow; they even hoped for the aid of France, although this hope proved vain. The Spanish troops were sent first against the Netherlands ; in 1626 Spinola took the important fortress of Breda. In the meantime Austria and Bavaria were to aid Spain by cutting off the Netherlands from its main source of commercial revenue, the Baltic. In this way the Spaniards thought to use against the Dutch the same means which the latter had employed against them when they strove to cut off the Spanish fleets carrying to Spain the product of the silver mines of America. At first Ferdinand hesitated and Maximilian still more. However, it was agreed at the Brussels conference of 1626 to blockade the coast of the North Sea and at least one port on the Baltic. Austria soon found that it could further its own interests in this enterprise. Ferdinand planned to gain a free water-route to the sea for his products by treaties with the countries on the banks of the Elbe and Oder, and by treaties with the large Dutch commercial cities to obtain a good outlet for his exports, especially in sending Hungarian copper to Spain. In 1627 the Dukes of Mecklenburg were deprived of their possessions for aiding the King of Denmark, and Wismar was confiscated as a good port on the Baltic. In pursuance of the scheme the Spaniards were now to appear with a fleet in the Baltic so as to enable Wallenstein to gain the supremacy at sea. During this period, however, Spain's performances on sea were a disappointment, and on this occasion, also, no fleet appeared. Upon this the Hanseatic towns, whose aid in carrying out the plan had been counted on from the first, were intimidated by Denmark from sending ships. Wallenstein attempted to build a fleet himself, but only a small flotilla, capable of inflicting occasional surprises under Gabriel Leroy, came into existence. The last hope of aid from Spain vanished when the Spanish fleet carrying silver was destroyed in the autumn of 1628. The defects of Wallenstein's method of carrying on war appeared at the same time in consequence of the peculiar character of the problems he was to solve. He did not dare to use his army for difficult sieges or sudden attacks; where he was forced to do so his projects failed. He left the strongly fortified city of Magdeburg, which controlled the passage over the Elbe, untaken in his rear. He wished to take by storm in May, 1628, the city of Stralsund, which formed the connexion between the German Baltic coast and Sweden, but he gave up this plan, and besieged it from the land side. He could not force the city to surrender, however, as Danish and Swedish troops came to its aid. His victory in August, 1628, over a Danish army of relief at Wolgast did not change the result. Denmark, it is true, signed the Peace of Lubeck, 22 May, 1629, on condition that all conquered territories should be restored. But this brought Gustavus Adolphus on the scene of war.
In the autumn of 1629, Gustavus Adolphus declared before the Swedish Diet that the emperor wanted to conquer Sweden and the Baltic, and that he should be prevented from doing so, but that if Sweden were victorious on German soil the German states would become the booty of Sweden. Up to this time, notwithstanding many offered inducements, the king had limited himself to wars with weaker opponents. He had, however, always carried on war, not only from love of it, but also from the necessity of supporting his army in foreign countries, as Sweden being a poor country, could not otherwise maintain it. In the meantime the king neglected nothing to increase the prosperity of Sweden. Just then he hoped to secure the wealth of the north German cities and princes. But now, the politico-commercial plans of the emperor threatened to put an end to Sweden's trade in copper, its one valuable natural source of wealth, while Wallenstein's troops threatened to expel the Swedish forces from the country beyond the Baltic, from the revenues of which, especially the customs, it largely drew its pecuniary means. Self-defence as well as the spirit of adventure forced the king to put some check upon the emperor. Nevertheless, he hesitated until the summer of 1630, when on 6 June he landed on the German coast of Pomerania. Except for a few persons of importance Gustavus was not welcomed, even by the Protestants, and was obliged to make his way in Pomerania by force of arms. In a short time his money was entirely gone, and he debated for months whether he might venture inland. Wallenstein could perhaps have crushed him, but instead, he left the way open to him, for, through resentment at the emperor's command in the spring of 1630 to reduce the number of his troops he had disbanded the greater part of the imperial forces in the districts now entered by Gustavus, and had allowed other detachments to be sent to fight in the Netherlands and Italy. The year previous Tilly had vainly begged Maximilian's permission to attack the Netherlanders at the right moment in their own country, giving as his reason that the money of the Dutch was constantly used to renew the opposition to the Bavarian troops. Maximilian, however, had not the courage to enter into open conflict with a foreign foe. Thus the Dutch stadtholder, Frederick Henry, in 1629, after the great Spanish general Spinola had been recalled, was able to besiege Bois-le-Duc, and thus give the first great rebuff to Spain. It was not Tilly who now hastened to the aid of the Spaniards ; an imperial force, detached from Wallenstein's army, was sent. But when the Dutch seized the fortification of Wesel and thus endangered the retreat of the imperial troops, a part of the imperial force fell back. Bois-le-Duc surrendered on 14 September, and the Dutch were able to take the offensive.
In France Richelieu had, from 1624 to 1628, re-established the internal authority of the government to such an extent that after twenty years of cautious foreign policy more positive measures could be adopted. This change was first of all made evident to the Habsburgs in Lorraine. Duke Charles of Lorraine (from 1624), a vassal of the emperor, laid claim as heir to the Duchy of Barr in Alsace; but Richelieu disputed his rights and harassed the secular authority of the Bishop of Verdun so that the latter took refuge in the empire. In 1627 the male line of the Dukes of Mantua-Montferrat in upper Italy became extinct. The next heir was the Duke of Nevers, a relative of the Bourbons. He took possession at once of Mantua, and hoped to secure Montferrat also by the marriage of his son with the daughter of his predecessor, for the succession to Montferrat was in the female line. Montferrat, though, lay far below Mantua in the western part of upper Italy. Consequently Spain and Savoy were able to seize the district for themselves before the Duke of Nevers could enter it. Spain wished to maintain controlling influence in upper Italy, which it had acquired during the reign of Charles V. France on the other hand, now saw Savoy, which had become dependent on it, suddenly taking sides with Spain. Spain asked for the decision of the emperor, who was suzerain of Mantua. Ferdinand interfered in the quarrel, not only because his dynasty had always considered the imperial rights in Italy of much value, but also because he had constantly, from the time he ruled Styria, been opposed to Venice, which he believed might become dangerous. Still, neither he nor Spain carried on the negotiations rapidly nor with insistence, as their attention was claimed in other directions. Thus Richelieu had time to punish Savoy (1628-29). After this Ferdinand's troops besieged Mantua and the Spaniards under Spinola besieged Casale. Richelieu did not yet consider France strong enough to oppose the Habsburgs directly. When Mantua was taken and Casale's position became very precarious, Richelieu proposed a truce; this was signed at Rialto on 4 September, 1630. Then Richelieu sent his most adroit negotiator, Père Joseph, to Ratisbon, where the electors were still in session. He hoped to withdraw France from the struggle but to raise up enemies enough against Austria elsewhere.
On 17 June 1630, Richelieu made a treaty with the Netherlands by which he gave them a subsidy for the continuance of the war against Spain. By means of the truce, which was brought about by France, between Gustavus Adolphus and Poland at Altmark in September, 1629, Gustavus was at liberty to take part in the war within the empire. Nevertheless, he hesitated to assume responsibilities which would permit France to interfere with his management of the war. From March, 1629, negotiations had been actively carried on by Richelieu with the imperial estates but so far to little purpose. His aim was to separate them from the emperor by bringing them into a neutral confederation under his guidance. By representing that the friendship of France, an essentially peaceful country, would protect them against the pretensions of the warlike emperor, and that their alliance with France would guarantee their "German liberties" against Austria, he hoped to separate them from the emperor in a neutral confederacy. However, Maximilian was not slow to make the counter-proposal that France should form an alliance only with the Catholic estates, abandoning all the agreements made so far with the Protestants. In this way it would be possible to isolate the Habsburgs and yet complete the Catholic restoration in western Europe. The basis of these negotiations from October, 1629, was the draft of a treaty between France and Bavaria. Richelieu transferred the negotiations with the emperor to the place where the College of Electors was in session, because he hoped here to come to a settlement with the estates. Success in these undertakings, however, was made difficult for Richelieu by the landing of Gustavus Adolphus on German soil in June. When the emperor announced (13 August, 1630) Wallenstein's resignation to the Electors, they declared themselves ready to aid him against Gustavus on condition that both the imperial troops and those of the different estates should be united under Maximilian as commander-in-chief. Ferdinand used the friendliness of the Electors to exert pressure upon the French negotiator. Although the latter was only to come to an agreement regarding upper Italy, still Ferdinand made him promise in the Peace of Ratisbon (13 October) that when the Duke of Nevers received Mantua and Montferrat in fief, France would neither attack the empire itself nor aid others in any manner to attack it, and that the Duke of Lorraine should be included in this agreement. This imperial success, however, came to nothing, because the estates and the emperor did not reach an agreement. The Protestant Electors, instead, invited the Protestant estates to meet at Leipzig and form a neutral party (Assembly of the Princes at Leipzig, February-April, 1631). The Catholics came to an agreement with the emperor that the imperial troops should be under the command of Tilly, but Maximilian had made up his mind that Tilly should only be employed to protect Bavaria against a possible attack by Gustavus Adolphus. He insisted, therefore, that the imperial troops and his own should not be united into one army. This enabled Richelieu, whose overthrow seemed certain in November, 1630, to avoid confirming the Peace of Ratisbon, and, contrary to agreement, to make the treaty of Bärwalde (23 January, 1631) with Gustavus Adolphus. In this treaty Gustavus, whom the need of money had finally made compliant, pledged himself to carry on war against the emperor for four years.
After Wallenstein's deposition Gustavus was able to clear the entire lower course of the Elbe of the imperial troops, which were disbanding and had no commander. His farther advance would take him through the territories of the Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, and these princes refused to let him pass. Tilly thus gained time to assume command on the Elbe and Oder, and immediately attempted (February, 1631) to force Gustavus to a battle; but the latter was not to be drawn into one. During this period, in which no decisive action took place, Tilly's position became critical, because, as had happened at Stralsund, a Swedish detachment under Dietrich von Falkenberg had thrown itself into Magdeburg, in September, 1630, and, supported by the citizens, refused to permit the imperial troops to enter. Magdeburg was the city which Wallenstein had so carefully avoided. Tilly determined to take it, and stormed it on 20 May, 1631. But a fire, which the Swedes are accused of starting when they saw that the city was lost, laid it in ashes, and took from Tilly the advantage he had gained. In the meantime Gustavus had taken advantage of the withdrawal of his opponents towards Magdeburg to seize the fortresses of Frankfort and Landsberg on the middle course of the Oder, and to wring from the Elector of Brandenburg Küstrin and the fortress of Spandau at the junction of the Spree and the Havel Rivers. Fearing that the Elector of Saxony would also yield to Gustavus, Tilly tried to terrify the wavering ruler; this, however, forced the latter under the influence of the Lutheran general, von Arnim, who had formerly been an officer of Wallenstein's, and forming a temporary alliance with Sweden, on 17 September, 1631, the combined troops of Saxony and Sweden destroyed Tilly's army at Breitenfeld, near Leipzig. The victory had a great moral effect, but did not decide the war. In northwestern Germany Pappenheim had an excellent position which enabled him to control the line of the Weser for the emperor, and the emperor and Bavaria had sufficient means to raise new troops. The strength of Gustavus Adolphus was always much below that of his enemies. Conscious of this, he felt the necessity of entering rich districts which he could use for the support and strengthening of his troops; in addition he wished to come into communication with the Protestant estates of southwestern Germany that were favourable to him, and perhaps hoped when there to persuade France to undertake a common war against the emperor. These views probably influenced his military decisions after the battle of Breitenfeld. He left the Saxons to occupy the Austrians by an attack on Prague, and without moving against Pappenheim he went straight towards the dioceses on the Main and the middle course of the Rhine in order first to defeat them, and then their chief, Maximilian, before striking a decisive blow against the emperor. While living in the centre of the empire during the winter of 1631-32 he prepared his plans to secure absolute Swedish control over the Protestant estates and to secularize the dioceses that had remained Catholic. He also carried out his schemes for using German money to increase the prosperity of Sweden.
Maximilian's fear of Sweden constantly increased, and in May, 1631, he made his first treaty with France It was however, very hard for him to assume a neutral position towards the Protestant princes who opposed the emperor and the empire. Gustavus Adolphus on his part was not inclined to spare the champion of Catholicism in the empire for the sake of Richelieu. Finally, Maximilian so completely lost courage that negotiations for a truce were begun in December, 1631, and the truce was concluded in January, 1632. For the emperor, this was the most dangerous moment of the war. The Saxons had taken Prague. Richelieu continued to be hostile although the emperor had agreed to the Treaty of Cherasco (April, 1631), in which he waived the recognition by the Duke of Nevers of his suzerainty over Mantua ; this treaty replaced that of Ratisbon. Contrary to the agreement made at Cherasco, Richelieu did not withdraw his troops from Piedmont, but, through the treachery of Pignerolo, retained it. He made the flight to Lorraine of Gaston of Orléans, who lived in discord with his brother Louis XIII, a pretext to carry the war into Lorraine and there to seize one fortress after another. In this way his troops were kept near the seat of war, between the Germans and Dutch. In January, 1632, Gustavus Adolphus urged that Richelieu should take Hagenau and Zabern in Alsace from the Habsburgs. Richelieu hesitated, and Père Joseph persuaded him for religious reasons to reject the proposal. During all these months the emperor had had no commander to whom he could entrust the direction of his forces. His son, Ferdinand III, was still too young, so from necessity he turned again to Wallenstein. The latter kept him in suspense and only consented when granted powers so great as to raise suspicion against himself. The contract was made on 13 April, 1632, although Wallenstein actually assumed command several weeks earlier. Gustavus reopened the campaign in February, 1632, and began the siege of Bamberg. But Tilly came with fresh troops and relieved the city. He wished to open communications with Wallenstein at Eger and thus force Gustavus to withdraw from the interior of Germany, but Wallenstein did not stir; consequently Gustavus was free to advance directly towards Bavaria. On 15 April there was an undecided battle at Rain on the Lech; Tilly was mortally wounded and the Bavarians withdrew from the battlefield. This left the road to Munich open to the Swedes and permitted them to plunder the Bavarian lowlands. However, Maximilian retained Ingolstadt and Ratisbon, the two strategically important points of his country. Gustavus Adolphus simply lost time in the Bavarian campaign. In northwestern Germany Pappenheim was successful in his undertakings. New imperial forces gathered both in Bohemia and Swabia. In June Wallenstein conquered Bohemia, formed a junction then with Maximilian, and kept Gustavus inactive at Nuremberg for weeks. In vain Gustavus tried to draw Wallenstein into a battle, and when he attempted to storm Wallenstein's position (3 September) he was defeated. For about six weeks he marched aimlessly through Franconia and Swabia pursued by Wallenstein. The latter suddenly drew off towards Saxony in order to unite there with Pappenheim, and cut off Gustavus's road to the Baltic. Gustavus followed and on 16 November, forced a battle at Lützen near Leipzig, just as the forces of Wallenstein and Pappenheim met. The Swedes gained the victory, but they paid for it with the life of Gustavus Adolphus. On the imperial side Pappenheim, the emperor's most daring and capable cavalry general, was killed.
The death of the Swedish king did not make any essential change. His policies were carried on in the same manner and with equal skill by his trusted councillor Axel Oxenstiern. The strength of the Swedish forces had been declining throughout the year 1632. The important questions to be decided were: whether, as the Swedish power declined, the Protestant princes would act independently of it under the leadership of Saxony, taking upon themselves the cause of Protestantism and of the independ
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