Thirty Years’ War

(1618–1648)
   Though a conflict of vast scale throughout the European continent, the focus of the Thirty Years’ War was on issues peculiar to the Habsburg lands and Germany, where the Habsburgs acted as emperors. The Reformation had brought Protestantism to much of central Europe; the kingdom of Bohemia, under Habsburg control since 1526, was, confessionally speaking, a very special case. Here, since the first third of the 15th century, a local variant of Christianity, Utraquism, had flourished among a broad segment of the population. Both laity and clergy partook of communion in both kinds. The ascent of the devoutly Catholic Ferdinand II as king of Bohemia (1617) and German emperor (1619) alarmed Protestants of all persuasions. In 1619, the Bohemian estates refused to accept Ferdinand as their king, calling instead upon Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate to rule them. The latter’s acceptance of the position set off a general constitutional crisis in the Holy Roman Empire, which, together with Ferdinand’s decision to fight for his position in Bohemia, led to warfare throughout central Europe. The Habsburg armies crushed the Bohemian rebels at the Battle of the White Mountain, just outside of Prague, in 1620. The Renewed Land Ordinances, which Ferdinand issued in 1627, firmly established hereditary rule of his dynasty in the kingdom. A program of systematic recatholicization, which forced many Protestants to flee abroad or to go underground, brought the realm back under the control of the Church of Rome. Although Ferdinand’s forces in Germany won some significant victories against Protestant armies, the emperor’s attempts to restore Catholicism ultimately failed. Denmark, Sweden, and finally France entered the war against the Habsburgs and frustrated Ferdinand’s ambition. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) confirmed the status of both Calvinism and Lutheranism, along with Catholicism, as territorial churches within the German lands of the Holy Roman Empire. The German principalities won the official right to conduct foreign policy free of imperial oversight.
   See also Religion.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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