Bohemia: An Historical Sketch/Chapter VII
the kings of the house of habsburg from the battle of moháč to the battle of the white mountain (1526–1620)
"After the unfortunate battle and the death of King Louis at Moháč, the lands of the Bohemian crown became subject to an interregnum. This was the more unfortunate, as under the feeble rule of the two last kings anarchy and lawlessness had already been prevalent, and had endangered the welfare of the people. All the native contemporary sources unite in telling us of the hopeless moral decay and the internal ruin of the Bohemian State, both with regard to ecclesiastical and political affairs."
But neither the precarious condition of the country nor the claims of the Archduke Ferdinand (founded as they were on the treaty between the late King Vladislav and the Emperor Maximilian) discouraged numerous competitors for the vacant throne. Almost immediately after the news of the death of the king reached Prague (September 9), it was rumoured that many princes aspired to the crown of Bohemia. Besides the Archduke Ferdinand we find among them the Bavarian Dukes Louis and William, Sigismund King of Poland, John Elector of Saxony and his son John Frederick, and George Duke of Saxony. Francis I, King of France, Joachim Margrave of Brandenburg, Duke Frederick of Leignitz, and the noblemen Charles Duke of Münsterberg, Zdeněk Lev Lord of Rožmital, and Adalbert Lord of Pernstein, were also mentioned as candidates. There appear to have been two parties among the Estates, whose duty it was now to elect a king and establish a new dynasty in Bohemia. The adherents of one party were strongly opposed to the choice of a Bohemian noble, as they objected to a king who was their equal by birth. The other party, on the contrary, declared that no one should be chosen who was ignorant of the Bohemian language, and it was urged that if a man capable of ruIing strongly could be found, it would be of minor importance if he were poor, as the country was rich enough to allow its sovereign the means of sustaining the regal dignity." This probably referred to Lev of Rožmital, who was the most prominent of the Bohemian candidates to the throne, and whose financial circumstances at that time were very unsatisfactory. Archduke Ferdinand at first aimed rather at his recognition as King of Bohemia—in virtue of his relationship to the late king, and of the agreements mentioned above—than at his election. The Bohemian nobles were, however, immovable in their determination to maintain the elective character of the Bohemian crown. Ferdinand lost no time in sending his representatives to Bohemia, and they were soon followed by envoys of the other candidates. When the moment of the election approached many of the competitors withdrew their claims. Among others, the agents of the Kings of France and Poland abandoned all pretensions put forward on the part of their sovereigns, though the representative of King Sigismund of Poland had at first made great promises to the Bohemians, to induce them to elect his master. The general opinion in Bohemia had already made itself clearly felt, that the remoteness of these countries rendered the election of either of the princes impossible. After the beginning of October only two candidatures were persisted in, and the two opposing parties resolved themselves into the Austrian and the Bavarian factions. The other candidates either altogether abandoned the contest, or joined one or the other of these parties. On the Bavarian side we find the Kings of France and of Poland, Adalbert of Pernstein, and Lev of Rožmital. Pope Clement VII, always an enemy of the house of Habsburg, also brought all his influence to bear in favour of the Bavarian candidate. On Ferdinand's side we only find Duke George of Saxony, and Ferdinand's sister, the widowed Queen Maria, also used what little influence she had in his favour. The ambassadors of Ferdinand, however, displayed great energy, and bribery played a great part in this election. Lev of Rožmital was won over to the archduke by the promise of payment of his debts—which amounted to 50,000 florins—and by the assurance that those who had not from the first belonged to the Austrian party should in no way suffer for their former opposition, but should retain all their offices and privileges. Similar promises gained over other of the great nobles, and the agents of the house of Habsburg acted with so much secrecy that the Bavarian envoys were still hopeful when the election of Ferdinand was practically assured. On October 23, 1526, the Diet elected the Archduke Ferdinand King of Bohemia. This date marks the beginning of the rule of the house of Habsburg over Bohemia, if we except the short reigns of Rudolph and of Albert, who had also belonged to that dynasty.
Ferdinand was also chosen king by the Hungarians, and he had already become possessed of the hereditary domains of the house of Habsburg. The government of Germany was also entrusted to him whenever his brother, the Emperor Charles V, was in Spain or in the Netherlands. Many of the events of his life, therefore, do not belong to Bohemian history, and the greater part of his time, particularly during the last years of his reign, were spent away from Bohemia.
In matters of theological controversy, which then and for many years afterwards absorbed the whole intellectual activity of Bohemia, Ferdinand showed greater moderation than his Spanish education had led the Bohemians to expect. Thoroughly grasping the intricate state of ecclesiastical affairs in Bohemia, the king from the first realized that the abolition of all "heresies" and the complete re-establishment of the Roman creed and ritual were for the present not to be sought for. He therefore attempted to establish an alliance between the few Romanists in Bohemia and those utraquists who, though strictly maintaining the compacts of Basel, had little sympathy with the ideas of Church reform and of Protestantism which at that moment were spreading rapidly through the neighbouring German countries. The position of the moderate party in the utraquist community was, however, one of steady decadence. The king was therefore, in the concluding years of his reign, obliged to rely principally on the Catholics, and he used all his influence in the country in their favour. Whenever circumstances permitted, Ferdinand—whose time was principally taken up by the defence of Hungary against the Turks—attempted the difficult task of uniting the Romanists and utraquists, hoping thus to prevent the spread of Lutheranism. Ferdinand and his advisers maintained that as the Council of Basel had only recognized the utraquist community, that community and the Romanists alone were entitled to a legal status: the Protestants and Bohemian Brethren should therefore, they argued, be absolutely excluded from the country. In 1537 Ferdinand arranged a meeting between the representatives of the Roman and those of the utraquist parties. He declared that only those who either professed the Catholic faith or recognized the compacts had a right to be present. The utraquists forced several members of the community of the Brethren to retire, but they opposed the wishes of the king with regard to the Lutherans. Several of the utraquist nobles even spoke in a disparaging way of the compacts, saying that they had never read them, and that they would only be guided by the word of God. The utraquist party then proposed a compromise to the Catholics which cannot be called unfair; for of the four creeds that then divided Bohemia, the Old-Utraquists, the Lutherans, the Bohemian Brethren, and the Romanists, the last-named had the fewest adherents.
These proposals were drawn up in seven articles. According to them, papal and utraquist priests were henceforth freely to celebrate divine service in the churches of either confession; the Romanists were to be allowed to embrace the utraquist faith without hindrance, and vice versâ; Catholic lords were not to appoint priests to a utraquist parish without the approval of the authorities of the utraquist Church; on the other hand, utraquist patrons of livings where the population was Catholic were not to make any similar appointments without the consent of the Roman Church. It was further proposed that there should be two bishops for Bohemia, one for the utraquist, the other for the Romanist part of the population. It was finally declared that utraquist lords should have equal rights to the offices of State with the Catholics. The Romanists refused these proposals, which would practically have established religious equality between the two creeds. The age was perhaps not ripe for such a settlement, and from a strictly Romanist point of view it was impossible to approve of the equality of position which the "heretics" would thus have obtained. Henceforth the utraquist Church became more and more Lutheran in its doctrine and ritual, and almost abandoned the Compacts, which no longer sufficiently represented its religious views.
Though he was unsuccessful in his efforts to prevent the spread of Protestantism in Bohemia, Ferdinand succeeded in consolidating his dynasty, and in strengthening the royal authority in Bohemia. He was able to obtain from the Estates the recognition of his hereditary right to the throne. At the moment of his accession he had been obliged to recognize the elective character of the Bohemian crown. When a great fire at Prague (1541) destroyed all the State documents, Ferdinand obtained the consent of the Estates to the substitution of a charter formulating the theory that he had, in consequence of the hereditary rights of his wife. Queen Anna, been accepted as king in the place of the former charter, which had declared that he had become king by election. This innovation, however, caused great dissatisfaction in Bohemia.
In the year 1545 King Ferdinand, by the Peace of Constantinople, put at least a temporary stop to the war with Turkey, which had continued almost uninterruptedly since the beginning of his reign. His brother, the Emperor Charles V, had in the previous year concluded peace with France. The Emperor now attempted to stem the tide of Lutheranism, which had risen very high in consequence of his inability to devote his attention to German internal affairs during the prolonged war with France. Hostilities broke out in Germany in the summer of 1546 between the Emperor Charles V and the Protestant princes; the latter had met at Schmalkalden and formed a league, the leaders of which were John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, and Philip, Landgrave of Hesse. Ferdinand undertook to aid his brother by attacking the lands of the Elector of Saxony from the adjoining districts of Bohemia. The Estates of Bohemia, the great majority of w^hich were either old-utraquists, Lutherans, or members of the union of the Bohemian Brethren, were naturally opposed to the Church of Rome. They were therefore now in a very difficult position. There was little doubt that by aiding King Ferdinand and the Emperor in their attempt to suppress Protestantism in Germany they would greatly increase the power of their king; in case of success there was every probability that Ferdinand would abandon his former moderation, and strive forcibly to re-establish the Church of Rome in Bohemia. On the other hand, many were unwilling to rise in arms against their "elected and crowned" king, while the old dislike to the Germans rendered an alliance with the Elector of Saxony distasteful to others. The Estates therefore adopted an undecided and vacillating policy—with the results that such a policy almost invariably produces.
King Ferdinand assembled the Estates at Prague (July 1546), and obtained their consent to a general armament of the country should it be attacked by the Turks or other foreign enemies. Soon afterwards, the army of Ferdinand marched into Saxony to attack the Elector. When they reached the Saxon frontier Ferdinand's Bohemian troops refused to cross it, grounding their refusal on the decision of the Diet. In the following year (1547) hostilities recommenced in Germany between the Protestant princes and the Emperor Charles V, with whom Duke Maurice of Saxony had entered into an alliance against the head of his house. Not discouraged by the experiences of the previous year, Ferdinand again called on the Estates of Bohemia to aid him. By an order issued at Prague (January 12, 1547), he summoned them to join him with their forces the following month. Only a few Romanists and old-utraquists assembled there. The majority of the people thought the moment favourable for forcing Ferdinand to recede from the more authoritative attitude he had lately assumed, both as regards temporal and ecclesiastical affairs. The citizens of Prague took the lead in this movement, and were soon joined by many nobles and knights. They demanded that a Diet should be summoned, and the Estates met at Prague on March 18, without waiting for the king's assent. They here formulated their demands in fifty-seven "articles." These articles, among other matters, re-established the elective character of the Bohemian crown, proclaimed liberty for all religious beliefs in Bohemia, and in various points curtailed the rights of the sovereign.
A committee, consisting of four members of each of the three Estates, was elected. No direct attack on the king was, however, attempted. It seems, indeed, rather to have been the intention of the Estates to reduce the power of the king to what it had been at the beginning of his reign. It is noticeable that of the eight members of the new committee chosen from the nobles and knights, four were members of the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren.
The Elector of Saxony, who greatly overrated the chance of receiving aid from the Bohemians, entered into negotiations with the Estates. The latter now decided to equip an armed force, the command of which they gave to Kaspar Pflug of Estate, however, continued to be irresolute till the moment when action was possible had passed. Rabstein marched to Joachimsthal, close to the Saxon frontier, but he refused to cross into Germany, where critical events were impending, without a formal order from the Estates. Soon afterwards the decisive victory of Charles V at Mühlberg (April 14, 1547) for the time crushed Protestantism in Germany. The Bohemian troops dispersed, and the Estates, with foolish and untimely servility, sent a deputation to Ferdinand to congratulate him on the victory. Ferdinand on this occasion displayed his usual prudence. Charles V had after his victory placed a large force of Spanish and Walloon soldiers at his brother's disposal. The opportunity of asserting absolute authority in Bohemia was certainly a tempting one. Ferdinand was, however, not induced by the weakness and irresolution which the Estates had shown to underrate the danger of a new general uprising of the Bohemian nation, should that still warlike race be driven to desperation. He therefore gave a gracious though evasive answer to the deputation; but he demanded a promise that the Estates would abandon all negotiations with the Protestant princes of Germany. Ferdinand then marched on Prague with the forces the Emperor had put at his disposal. The town capitulated (July 8, 1547) almost without any show of resistance. Ferdinand took this opportunity for seriously curtailing the autonomy of the Bohemian towns, which had already been weakened through the acts of the Diets during the reign of King Louis. When accepting the unconditional surrender of the town of Prague, Ferdinand informed the citizens that their former privileges would only be renewed after he had examined them. The result of this examination was that all the enactments contained in the privileges of Prague and the other Bohemian towns which in any way impaired the royal authority were annulled. To enforce this change the king appointed "royal judges," as they were called, who were to exercise a general control over the municipalities of the provincial towns of Bohemia; without their consent neither an assembly of the town council nor of the general body of the citizens could take place: they also had a right of veto on any decision which seemed to them to encroach on the royal prerogative. Officials of higher ranks but with similar functions were also appointed for the city of Prague, where they received the name of "royal captains." Punishment was also meted out to many individuals who had taken a prominent part in the ill-considered and fruitless attempt to resist the royal authority. Some of those most implicated, among whom was Pflug of Rabstein, had fled the country, but four of the leaders of the movement, two knights and two citizens of Prague, were decapitated in the square on the Hradčany (August 20). As the king had summoned the Diet on the day appointed for the execution, the assembly afterwards became known as the "Bloody Diet." Numerous landed estates were also confiscated.; his instructions were to proceed to the Saxon frontier and there to await further orders. The
King Ferdinand undoubtedly gave proof of his usual sagacity when he attributed the insurrection in Bohemia largely to the religious sects. One of these, the "Unity" of the Bohemian Brethren, though of humble origin, had by this time spread widely, and acquired great influence in the land. The Unity was from the first of a very democratic character; it had, however, been joined by a certain number of nobles, and these were among the most prominent opponents of Ferdinand's plan of subduing the German Protestants with the aid of Bohemian arms. It was at this body, therefore, that Ferdinand aimed the sharpest blow. On October 8, 1547, he issued a decree re-enacting laws formerly directed against the Brethren. He forbad their religious meetings, and ordered them to make restitution to the Catholics or utraquists of the churches of which they had taken possession. At the same time the estates of several nobles who belonged to the Unity were confiscated; many of the Brethren were imprisoned, and others driven out of the country. The crudest fate befell Augusta, the leader or bishop of the Unity. He was unjustly accused of having had secret communications with the Elector of Saxony, and was for some time confined in the "White Tower" at Prague. He was there subjected to torture in a manner that even at that barbarous period appeared exceptionally horrible. It was hoped that he would thus be induced to confess his treason. When it was found that this was impossible, he was thrown into the dungeon of the royal castle of Pürglitz, where he remained a prisoner for sixteen years. Some years later, Ferdinand, during one of his visits to Bohemia, established the order of the Jesuits in the land (1556). It has been truly stated by writers of the most opposite views that this measure had a very decisive effect on the future of Bohemia, in consequence of the marvellous intellectual activity of the Jesuit order, and the unequalled knowledge of the country which its members soon acquired.
King Ferdinand left Bohemia soon after the suppression of the disturbances of the year 1547, leaving his second son, Archduke Ferdinand, as his representative. The king did not then wish to confer that dignity on his eldest son Archduke Maximilian, though the latter was about this time—February 1549—recognized as heir to the throne by the Bohemian Estates. It seems unquestionable that Maximilian's sympathy with Protestantism (founded, as it was said, on the influence over him which the Lutheran preacher Pfauser had acquired) caused a temporary estrangement between father and son. Maximilian did not long continue to hold the views in question. It seems likely that (as Ranke has suggested) the death of the Infant Don Carlos and the possibility of Maximilian's succession to the Spanish throne contributed to the abandonment of his hostile attitude towards the Roman Church.
The triumph of the Roman Catholic cause in Germany, which seemed assured by the battle of Mühlberg, was of short duration. Duke Maurice of Saxony, who had, as a reward for his services to the Emperor, obtained the Saxon Electorate in the place of John Frederick, shortly afterwards headed a new confederacy of the Protestant princes of Germany against Charles V (1552). The Protestants were this time more successful, and Charles V was obliged to assume a more conciliatory attitude. The peace concluded at Augsburg (1555) between the Emperor and the Protestant princes recognized the status quo in Germany. The religious reforms which the Protestant princes had introduced into their territories, and their confiscations of former Church lands, thereby received the Emperor's sanction. The Peace of Augsburg contained no reference to Bohemia, but it greatly encouraged the Lutheran party in that country.
After the abdication of Charles V (1558) Ferdinand succeeded him as Emperor. Shortly before his death he caused his son Maximilian, with whom he was now on better terms, to be crowned as King of Bohemia (1562). In the year 1564 Ferdinand entered into new negotiations with Pope Pius IV for the purpose of reconciling the moderate utraquists with the Roman Church. The death of Ferdinand in the same year (July 25, 1564) interrupted these negotiations.
Maximilian, as mentioned above, had already been crowned King of Bohemia, and succeeded his father without opposition as ruler of that country. "Maximilian differed from most of his contemporaries, who were generally either fiery adherents or bitter enemies of Catholicism. During the whole of his life he was unable to make up his mind definitely for or against the Catholic cause. He played the part of a discontented son as long as his father lived, opposed him, and surrounded himself with enemies of the Catholic Church; he avoided the religious functions of that Church, and the Protestants founded great hopes on his accession to the throne; but as soon as he succeeded his father he abandoned his former attitude, began to favour the Catholics, and publicly conformed to their creed."
Maximilian also succeeded his father as Emperor, and as King of Hungary, and he further inherited part of the old dominions of the house of Habsburg, Upper and Lower Austria. Other duties therefore prevented him from immediately assuming the government of Bohemia, where his younger brother Ferdinand continued to act as regent.
It was only in 1567 that the new king visited Bohemia. He immediately assembled the Estates, principally for the purpose of obtaining aid against the Turks. The discussions between the representatives of the towns and the nobility were very violent. Religious questions were also again introduced, to the great disgust of the king, who said that "it did not belong to him, and far less to them, but to the Roman Pontiff and to the Church, to judge on religious matters." The king's hope that the Diet would only sit a short time was not fulfilled. The Estates attempted to obtain his assent, if not to the acceptance of the Lutheran creed, at least to the suppression of the Compacts; formerly so greatly revered in Bohemia they had now become an object of dislike to the more advanced reformers. The king, on the other hand, maintained that no doctrines differing from the Roman creed, except those contained in the Compacts, were admissible in Bohemia. The Estates thereupon sent a message to the king which greatly displeased him. Maximilian was finally obliged to abandon his wish of excluding religious questions from the discussions of the Diet. He also found it necessary to make a very important concession to the Estates: and, as was wished, he declared that the Compacts no longer formed part of the fundamental law of the land. He thus authorized the progress of Church reform beyond the very narrow limits which that instrument imposed. The real importance of this decree consisted in the implied sanction which it thus gave to the existence of the Lutheran Church and of the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren.
This concession did not insure religious tranquillity in Bohemia, particularly as Maximilian refused several other demands of the Estates. The incessant warfare with the Turks in Hungary obliged him continually to apply to the Estates for aid. The king, for this purpose, assembled a Diet at Prague in 1575. Matters affecting religion were again promptly brought forward by the Lutherans. It was their purpose to obtain the recognition in Bohemia of the so-called "Confession of Augsburg," in which the principal points of Luther's doctrine had been enumerated. This effort was opposed, not only by the Romanists, but also by the old-utraquists. One of the latter, John, Lord of Waldstein, the High Chamberlain, spoke strongly in favour of maintaining the old national (i. e. utraquist) Church, and opposed the acceptation of a "German religion." The Lutherans now entered into an alliance with the Bohemian Brethren; they presented to the king a joint profession of faith which is known as the "Confessio Bohemica." It was in most points identical with the "Confession of Augsburg," but differed from it in some important points. Among these was the doctrine concerning the sacrament of the holy communion: and on this point the Bohemian profession of faith coincided rather with the teaching of Calvin and the Bohemian Brethren than with that of Luther. The "Confessio Bohemica" contained twenty-five articles, and included proposals as to the organization of the utraquist Church. That Church had never recognized the authority of the Roman Catholic Archiepiscopate of Prague, an office reinstated by Ferdinand in 1561. It had, since the death of Archbishop John of Rokycan, been ruled by a Consistory, at the head of which was an "Administrator," who, together with the other members of the consistory, was nominated by the king. The new proposal maintained the system of government by a Consistory Council, but it contained the important provision that the "Administrator" and the other members should in future be appointed by the Estates.
These demands placed Maximilian in a difficult position. At that moment he required the support of the Estates, not only for the purpose of obtaining aid in the Turkish war, but also to secure the election of his son Rudolph as King of Bohemia. The Pope, on the other hand, threatened him with excommunication should he make any further concessions to the "heretics." The Spanish branch of the house of Habsburg used all its influence towards the same end. After protracted negotiations a compromise was at last devised. The old Consistory, appointed by the king, continued to be the ruling body of the old-utraquist Church.
The Lutherans, however, who were now far the more numerous body, were exempted from its jurisdiction. They were authorized to choose fifteen "Defenders"—five from each of the three Estates—who were to have the supreme supervision over the Lutheran Church. The "Defenders" were authorized to appoint for each district a "Superintendent" (Moderator), whose office it was to maintain order and discipline among the clergy.
In consequence of their separation from the more advanced reformers the old-utraquists drew nearer and nearer to the Church of Rome. Through the influence of the papal nuncio the utraquist Consistory in 1587 secretly renounced the entire teaching of Hus with the exception of communion in the two kinds, and in 1593 the administrator Rezek, with 50 utraquist priests, declared Hus to be a heretic and acknowledged the supremacy of the Pope.
Though they had not succeeded in securing the control over the Bohemian utraquists, the Lutherans had obtained a very valuable concession by the recognition of their Church as a religious body under a separate administration. The coronation of Archduke Rudolph as King of Bohemia followed immediately afterwards (September 21, 1575), and Maximilian almost at once left the country. His hasty departure was caused by troubles concerning the succession to the Polish throne. Maximilian was preparing for war when he died (October 12, 1576), only forty-eight years of age.
Maximilian is one of the Bohemian kings of the house of Habsburg to whom history, perhaps in consequence of his enigmatic nature, has done scant justice. He has both among catholic and protestant historians found few friends. He possessed, what at that period was rare, a genuine feeling of toleration and of respect for the religious views of others. It is true that this has by many been ascribed to indifference or scepticism, and it is almost certain that the king, when dying, refused to partake of the last sacrament. His well-known remark that the prince who would claim to rule over the consciences of men would usurp the throne of God, is at any rate a proof of an open-mindedness that was very rare in his time.
Rudolph, who had already been crowned King of Bohemia, was twenty-four years of age when he succeeded his father as ruler of that land. He also succeeded his father as Emperor of Germany and King of Hungary, and inherited from him Upper and Lower Austria. His accession at first caused apprehension among the Lutherans of Bohemia. Rudolph had been educated at the Spanish court, and it was rumoured that he had there acquired religious views of a more uncompromising character than his father's had been. His attitude during the later and more eventful years of his life, and the lack of interest which he always showed in religious controversies, render it probable that the teaching of the Spanish court made but a slight impression on him. From the beginning of his reign Rudolph fixed his residence at Prague, and thus in a manner that town became the capital of all the extensive dominions over which the Austrian branch of the house of Habsburg ruled. The new king from the first showed a distinct tendency to melancholy, and a strong dislike to political affairs. The bent of his mind engrossed him in subjects detrimental to his position as an emperor, and which would better have befitted a wealthy person in private life. Rudolph from his earliest youth showed great interest in art, especially in painting, sculpture, and mosaic-work, while of the sciences, chemistry and astronomy interested him the most.
The early part of the reign of Rudolph in Bohemia was uneventful, and, had he died in middle life, little mention of his name would be required. Constant theological strife, absorbing the whole intellectual activity of the country, was still the characteristic feature in Bohemia. The greatly increasing importance of Lutheranism, and the rapid decline of the old-utraquist, and, in a lesser degree, of the Roman, Church, have to be noted. The extinction of the latter Church was—according to the opinion of Dr. Gindely, the standard modern writer on this period of Bohemian history—only averted by the marvellous activity of the Jesuits. That order had at first not been numerous in Bohemia. Its members, none the less, undertook the apparently impossible task of recovering for the Church of Rome the kingdom of Western Europe which had longest been estranged from it. Aided, it is true, by the force of arms, they were in the following century entirely successful. One of the methods employed by the Jesuits was that of acquiring influence over the wives of the great Bohemian nobles. Since the accession of the house of Habsburg to the Bohemian throne, many nobles had married ladies from Spain or the districts of Italy subject to the Spanish branch of the house of Habsburg. These ladies, strong Catholics by birth, used their influence in favour of their religion; it was said that they aided the Jesuits, when their means fell short, by gifts of money, clothing, and victuals.
With the exception of occasional disputes between the various religious bodies, Bohemia enjoyed internal and external peace during the first years of Rudolph's reign; and it was only after he had ruled for sixteen years that the ever-increasing encroachments of the Turks on Hungary obliged him to go to war with them. The seat of war was far from the Bohemian frontier, and it did not greatly disturb the tranquillity of the land. It was only through the annual contributions, which the Diets voted, that the weight of the war was felt.
This period of quiet in Bohemia would probably in no case have lasted long. The Lutherans, through the gradual accession of the old-utraquists, now formed a large majority of the population; they were also, in any dispute with the Catholics, certain of the support of the Brethren of the "Unity." It was therefore inevitable that the Lutherans should aspire to a predominant position in the country. They had, indeed, already expressed their dissatisfaction when the king appointed Catholics to most of the great offices of the State. The Catholics, on the other hand, were impatient of the comparative freedom which the "heretics" enjoyed. This feeling increased when Archduke Ferdinand of Styria carried out what was called a "Catholic reformation" in that country. He suppressed all the liberties which his father had granted to the Protestants, and expelled all their ecclesiastics from his dominions.
Events were, however, precipitated by the mental illness of Rudolph. Though he had long had a tendency to melancholia, it was only in the year 1600 that traces of mental aberration were noticed in him. The other members of the Imperial family therefore suggested to Rudolph (who had no legitimate descendants) that he should appoint a successor; it was further proposed that this successor should, in case of Rudolph's being incapacitated from governing, act as his representative as German Emperor, and as King of Bohemia and Hungary. The enjoyment of the full honours of the throne was left to Rudolph. This scheme was particularly countenanced by the Archduke Matthew, the eldest of Rudolph's brothers. An improvement in Rudolph's health, however, soon took place, though he remained to the end of his life subject to fits of mental disease. Henceforth, however, the state of Rudolph's health had a very detrimental effect on his policy, which became indeed more active, but was wanting in coherence, and tended to vary from one extreme to another. About the time of the beginning of Rudolph's illness a prophecy of the astronomer, Tycho Brahe, had announced to him that he would share the fate of King Henry III of France. This greatly alarmed him, and inspired him with a violent dislike to the clergy, in whose ranks he believed that his murderer, as in the case of the French king, would be found. He therefore for a time entirely ceased to attend religious services. Only two years later Rudolph issued a decree (1602) renewing the enactments published in 1508 against the Bohemian Brethren by King Vladislav. This declaration, issued under totally different circumstances, menaced with death all who professed religious views other than those of the Catholics, and of the so-called old-utraquists, who differed from the Catholics only in maintaining the Compacts. This decree of Rudolph, which indirectly attacked the whole Lutheran community as well as the Bohemian Brethren, was publicly proclaimed in the streets of Prague with great solemnity; it caused, however, more surprise than fear. "It was noticed that no preparations had been made to enforce on nine-tenths of the population a decree to which it was certain that the force of arms alone would induce it to submit.
This ill-advised proclamation appears to have been suggested to Rudolph by the papal nuncio, then resident at Prague. Though for the present it remained ineffective, it greatly irritated the Protestants. When the Diet met at Prague (Jan. 9, 1603), the king's policy was sharply attacked by the leader of the Protestants, Venceslas Budovec, Lord of Budova, a noble belonging to the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren. The Estates strongly protested against Rudolph's decree. They declared it contrary to the promise of religious freedom which the late King Maximilian had made. They at first refused to vote the grants of money to obtain which the Diet had been summoned; but on the advice of Budova, finally consented to do so. The Estates had previously drawn up a "Remonstrance," which they intended to present to their king. Rudolph, however, immediately after he had obtained the wished-for supplies, declared the Diet closed (January 15, 1603). This step, as was natural, still further estranged the Bohemians from their king, at a moment when he was more than ever dependent on their support.
The adherents of the Roman Church in Bohemia were fully aware of the fact that the king was unable to afford them efficient aid; still his now openly avowed support encouraged them to assume an attitude by no means in conformity with the smallness of their number in the country. The Jesuit Landy, whom the Romanist Archbishop of Prague consulted, suggested the expulsion of all foreigners from the towns of Budějovice and Plzeň, which still contained many Catholics; by such means only, he said, could the contagion of "heresy" be prevented. The Catholic nobles, who, though not numerous, owned large portions of the land, now began to attempt the re-establishment of Catholicism on their estates. Jaroslav Borita, Lord of Martinic, was especially noted for his energetic attempts to force the peasants on his estates to return to the Church of Rome. He commanded them to be chased with his hounds, and thus forcibly driven into the churches where the Jesuits preached; and in order to re-establish communion in one kind, he insisted that the holy wafer should be forced down the throats of all his peasants whom he suspected of heresy.
The attention of the militant religious parties was now for a time diverted to the family dissensions in the house of Habsburg. Ever since the failure of Rudolph's health his brother, the Archduke Matthew, had expressed himself in favour of depriving Rudolph of his Imperial and regal authority; though he had not at first contemplated his actual deposition. The events in Hungary now brought this plan again to the fore. The Imperial armies had at that period been successful against the Turks, and a considerable part of Hungary was for a time under Rudolph's rule. These successes and momentary enthusiasm for the Church of Rome induced Rudolph to attempt a "Catholic reformation" in Hungary. He published a decree founded on the ancient laws of Stephen—the first Christian king of Hungary—by which he menaced all who spoke in public about religious questions with the severest penalties. The numerous Protestants in Hungary, no doubt justly, considered this as an attack on their creed; they immediately entered into an alliance with the Turks against Rudolph (1604). The Imperial troops were totally unable to resist the combined forces. Within a year from the publication of the fatal decree, Hungarian bands had penetrated beyond the frontier of the territories of the Bohemian crown. Crossing from Hungary into Moravia they devastated a considerable portion of that land. In this emergency the princes of the house of Habsburg met at Linz in consultation. They decided to address a joint remonstrance to Rudolph, begging him to cede the government of Hungary to the Archduke Matthew. They also expressed the wish that he would, in the absence of an heir to the throne, appoint a successor. Somewhat later, Archduke Matthew succeeded in obtaining a declaration from the Archdukes Ferdinand, Maximilian, and Maximilian Ernest, by which they recognized him as the head of the house of Habsburg. The reason for this course was stated by them to be the grave condition of Rudolph's health, the loss of Hungary, and the devastation of other lands which had occurred in consequence; they also expressed their willingness to exercise their influence in favour of Matthew's election to the Imperial throne.
Rudolph had remained in a state of complete apathy during the misfortunes that befell the countries of which he was the nominal ruler. His conduct can indeed only be explained by the mental disease from which he suffered at times. Rudolph strongly distrusted his brother, the Archduke Matthew, whom, not without reason, he suspected of wishing to oust him from the throne. He long refused to authorize his brother to negotiate with the Hungarians. At last, partly through fear, he consented to do so; and Matthew concluded a treaty of peace with the Hungarians and with Turkey (1606). New difficulties, however, arose, as Rudolph now refused to ratify the treaty which had been concluded.
About this time, if not earlier, the Archduke Matthew began to contemplate the dethronement of his brother. There is little doubt that Matthew's conduct at this moment, whether morally justifiable or not, saved the house of Habsburg from complete ruin. That dynasty was at this period seriously menaced by the ambition of Henry IV of France, and of his allies the Protestant princes of Germany. Prince Christian of Anhalt, the principal adviser of these princes, had at this moment already entered into close connection with some of the Protestant nobles of Bohemia, particularly with Peter , Lord of Rosenberg.
The first impulse to combined action against Rudolph came, however, from Hungary, where his rule had always been unpopular. His refusal to ratify the treaty of peace with Turkey, and thus restore quiet to the land, caused general dissatisfaction. The feeling against Rudolph was in Austria and Moravia nearly as strong as in Hungary, and the nobles of these countries soon entered into negotiations with the Hungarian malcontents. Their first object, however, was to come to a complete understanding among themselves. With the approval of the Archduke Matthew, several of the leading nobles of Moravia and Austria met at Rossitz (in Moravia), under the pretext of affirming the necessity of the ratification of the treaty of peace with Turkey.
Subsequent events, however, render it certain that the real object of these deliberations—which were held in secret—was the deposition of Rudolph. Shortly afterwards Archduke Matthew, still nominally as representative of his brother, convoked the Hungarian Diet at Presburg. Through the archduke's influence delegates from Lower and Upper Austria were also present. This very exceptional event was the result of Matthew's wish to unite the representatives of the various lands subject to Rudolph for the purpose of procuring his deposition. The racial enmities at this period for the moment disappeared, and Slav, German, and Hungarian nobles acted in accord. All present at the deliberations of Presburg solemnly pledged themselves to maintain the treaty with Turkey against all its opponents. The carefully-worded declaration was directly aimed at Rudolph, who still refused to sanction that treaty, and in effect the authority of the sovereign was by it tacitly suspended. Moravia very shortly followed the example of Austria and Hungary, principally through the influence of Charles, Lord of Žerotin. Žerotin belonged to the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren, and the vastness of his estates, combined with his great learning and piety, had raised him to the foremost rank among the nobles of Moravia. On his advice, and that of Charles, Lord of Liechtenstein, the Moravian Estates assembled at Ivančice. They here addressed to Rudolph remonstrances—similar to those of Austria and Hungary—concerning his refusal to ratify the treaty of peace with Turkey. They also made mention of special grievances of their own, principally referring to the conduct of Rudolph's officials in Moravia.
Archduke Matthew had meanwhile raised troops in Austria, and at their head he entered Moravia. His reception was of a very friendly character. Some of the Estates of that country had already been won over by Žerotin to his cause. On his arrival at the town of Znoymo, Matthew issued a proclamation (April 1608), declaring that as the oldest member of the house of Habsburg he had assumed the government of the countries which the incapacity of Rudolph had brought to the verge of ruin. He further stated that he now intended—accompanied by delegates of the Estates of Hungary, Upper and Lower Austria, and Moravia—to march to Bohemia. He called on the Estates of that country to meet him at Časlav on May 4, where a deliberation between the representatives of the various peoples and countries was to take place.
V/hile the countries formerly subject to his rule were gradually slipping away from his control, Rudolph remained at Prague in a state of complete irresolution. He at last decided to assemble a "General Diet" of the lands of the Bohemian Crown at Prague. Only the Estates of Bohemia, however, appeared on March 10, the day fixed for the meeting. Contrary to expectation, the result of their deliberations was favourable to Rudolph. After having given their approval to the meeting of a "General Diet," which was now fixed for April 14, the Estates authorized the king to take the necessary steps for the defence of the country. This declaration, according to the traditions of the country, authorized the king to call out the whole armed force of the land.
The attitude of the Bohemian Estates at this moment is in singular contrast with their former dislike to their king, and it is difficult to give a satisfactory account of the reason for it. It seems probable that the independent action of Moravia, which had, though to an ill-defined and varying extent, always been considered a dependency of the Bohemian crown, irritated the Bohemian nobles. It is also probable that the influence of Peter of Rosenberg encouraged the Estates to support Rudolph, and consequently to decline meeting the Archduke Matthew. Rosenberg was on terms of intimacy with Christian of Anhalt, who had made the destruction of the house of Habsburg the object of his life. Astute politician as he was, Anhalt cannot but have seen that the substitution of a more energetic prince as head of the German branch of the Habsburg dynasty would not be favourable to his purpose. The prolongation of the contest between Rudolph and his brother was probably the object of Anhalt's wishes, and it seems likely that he therefore advised Rosenberg and his friends, who had previously been in communication with Matthew, not to support him.
Rudolph's state of health, however, rendered him unable to take full advantage of the temporary feeling in his favour among the Bohemians; Archduke Matthew's forces had meanwhile entered Bohemia. During the march and after his arrival at Časlav, Matthew received repeated messages from his brother proposing a peaceful agreement. Cardinal Dietrichstein, at this moment Rudolph's most influential adviser, made no less than five journeys to Matthew's camp as bearer of proposals of peace. The Spanish ambassador at Prague also made efforts to effect a reconciliation between the two brothers. But for the present Matthew declined all proposals of peace, and demanded that Rudolph should abdicate and leave Bohemia.
The Estates of Bohemia, who, as already mentioned, had declined Matthew's invitation to Časlav, again met at Prague. Though April 14 had previously been agreed on as the day of meeting, the deliberations only began on May 23. On this occasion, also, Bohemia was alone represented. As had now become customary, the Estates immediately applied to the king for the redress of their grievances. Commissioned by them, their leader Budovec of Budova drew up their demands in twenty-five "articles"; these were presented to the king, signed by three hundred nobles and knights, and by the representatives of all the towns of Bohemia, with the exceptions of Plzeň, Budějovice, and Kaaden. The "articles" demanded that the Bohemian Confession should be included among the fundamental lewi of the land, and that complete religious freedom should be granted to all classes. This stipulation would have conferred freedom of belief also on the peasants, who were then serfs or bondmen, and it was therefore in opposition to the prevailing ideas of the period. It undoubtedly originated from Budova himself, whose greater culture and more enlightened views distinguished him from the other members of his party. Budova may also have thought it politic to obtain for the Protestants the support of the masses; for only with that support could they hope to resist the desperate attack which—as he certainly foresaw—awaited them as soon as the then divided strength of the house of Habsburg was reunited. The other "articles" demanded that Protestants and Catholics should have equal right to the offices of State, that the right of the Jesuits to acquire land should be limited, and that foreigners should be ineligible for the dignity of Archbishop of Prague. The other "articles" referred to various grievances concerning the administration of the country, which through the apathy of Rudolph had fallen into a state of great disorder; and to several other matters of minor importance. It was practically impossible for Rudolph to resist these demands. Archduke Matthew was marching rapidly on Prague, and there was no doubt that, influenced as he then was by Žerotin, the leader of the Unity in Moravia, he would immediately accept the twenty-five "articles" in their entirety should the Bohemians recognize him as their king. Rudolph, however, still hesitated. He finally gave his approval to some of the articles, but said that others, principally those referring to religious matters, should be reserved for the consideration of the next Diet, where they should have precedence over all other subjects of discussion. The Protestant Estates, on Budova's advice, accepted this compromise, and declined to accept the advice of Žerotin, who had been sent by Archduke Matthew to Prague, not only as envoy, but also to promote the recognition of that prince as king. A temporary agreement between the king and the Estates having been arrived at, Archduke Matthew rightly judged that he had no immediate hope of gaining Bohemia. His army had arrived close to Prague, and it was at Libeň, within a short distance of that city, that a treaty of peace was concluded between the two brothers (June 25, 1608). According to this treaty Rudolph remained sovereign of Bohemia; but Hungary, Moravia, and Upper and Lower Austria were ceded to Matthew. The restoration of peace was celebrated in the archduke's camp by a banquet, to which the Bohemian nobles who had sided with Rudolph were also invited They returned to Prague "very intoxicated." The archduke's forces almost immediately after the treaty left Bohemia, where some of them, particularly Matthew's Hungarian soldiers, had committed great depredations.
The Diet which was to regulate the religious affairs of Bohemia only met on January 28, 1609: it was one of the most momentous assemblies with which this sketch of the country's history has to deal. A detailed account of the prolonged discussions which ensued would be beyond the purpose of this book; the final success of the hopes of the Protestant Estates was, however, beyond doubt from the first. From this moment until that of his death, Rudolph displayed an implacable and perhaps not unnatural enmity to his brother. Rudolph had attempted (soon after Matthew had obtained possession of Austria) to outbid him for the favour of the Protestants of that country, and he had even entered into negotiations with Christian of Anhalt. This was as well known to the Bohemian Protestants as was the fact that Rudolph had, in consequence, no hope of aid from Spain or from the Catholics of Germany. Having these facts in view, we can only account for his next step by the vacillation induced by his frail state of health. Acting probably under the influence of the High Chancellor of Lobkowitz, a fanatical Romanist, Rudolph at first assumed a most uncompromising attitude towards the Protestants. He demanded that the petition which the Estates had addressed to him during Matthew's invasion (the so-called Twenty-five Articles), with the signatures attached to it, should be delivered up to him for destruction. He declared that he considered that the contents of that document constituted a confederacy formed without his permission, and therefore an act of rebellion. The Estates, adroitly using this demand to their own advantage, chose twelve of their number who were to present the petition to Rudolph with its signatures," so that the king might learn the names of his faithful subjects." Among the members of this deputation was Henry Matthew, Count Thurn, a foreigner and a German, who was not even thoroughly acquainted with the Bohemian language; he was none the less now beginning to obtain influence in the country, more through his resolution and self-confidence than through his talents.
Rudolph, seeing the impossibility of maintaining his former uncompromising attitude, once more gave way, and consented to the religious question being brought before the Diet. The Estates now, as in the previous year, demanded the recognition of the Bohemian Confession of 1575; they presented a petition to this purpose by a new deputation consisting of ten members. Rudolph returned no immediate answer. He demanded that a copy of the "Confessio Bohemica" should be presented to him, and then showed it to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Prague, and to the papal nuncio. As was to be expected, the two ecclesiastics expressed unfavourable opinions of the Confession. Rudolph at last decided to reply by letter to the petition. He demanded the complete acceptation of the Roman faith and ritual, with the only exception that communion might still be received by laymen in both kinds. He called on the Estates to recognize the authority of the Catholic Archbishop of Prague, and to expel all heretical preachers. The Estates considered this letter to be contrary to the decree of the Emperor Maximilian II, whereby the Compacts (the formula containing the views of the old-utraquist party) had been suppressed. The first result of the royal message was the cessation of a temporary disagreement which had arisen between the Lutherans and the Bohemian Brethren. Under the guidance of Count Thurn, who urged "that since the king had only recognized the existence of the Roman Catholics and of the utraquists, both the other Churches were in equal danger," they resolved to unite against the common enemy. Practically ignoring the king's message, the Estates decided to elect a committee, which was to define more accurately their demands with regard to the religious question. The Protestants now again not only demanded the recognition of the "Confessio Bohemica," but put forward further claims. They insisted that the Consistory (the governing body of the utraquist Church) and the University of Prague should be placed under the direction of the Protestants (i. e. of the united Lutherans and Bohemian Brethren). They founded their demand on the fact that the Roman Catholics also had the management of their own religious institutions. It is certain that the two now united Churches comprised an enormous majority of the population, while the so-called "old" or Catholic utraquists, who still controlled the Consistory, since the year 1593 no longer existed as a body distinct from the Roman Church.
Rudolph's advisers replied in writing, and an exchange of messages—four on each side—took place between them and the Estates. These communications in no way advanced matters. Rudolph at last (March 31, 1609) declared to a deputation of the Estates that addressed him, that he was unable to make any concessions with regard to ecclesiastical affairs; and expressed a wish that the Estates would now turn their attention to other matters. This specially referred to the king's pecuniary requirements, the discussion of which had been postponed till after the religious matters had been settled. The high burgrave, Adam, Lord of Sternberg, a fervent Roman Catholic, made a similar statement to the full assembly of the Estates; he added that the king was resolved to close the Diet if the Estates did not comply with his wish. Budova thereupon exclaimed loudly: "Whoever loves his salvation, his king, and the good of his country, whoever desires to increase union and mutual love, whoever remembers the fervour of our ancestors, whoever holds his honour precious, let him appear here to-morrow morning at six o'clock." Aided by some of his friends, Budova during the night drew up a declaration justifying the attitude of the Estates, and couched in very firm language. After explaining that it was impossible for the Estates to debate on other subjects before the ecclesiastical matters were settled, this document announced their intention to arm in defence of their king, their country, and their personal safety. The Estates declined further correspondence with the king, as he did not appear to wish it: they were, however, decided to resist with force of arms whatever injury might be done to any one of their number. This declaration received the approval of a large meeting of Protestants, which took place in the town-hall of the Nové Město early in the morning (April 1). The Protestants then proceeded to the Diet, and Budova read out their declaration. Immediately afterwards the supreme burgrave declared the Diet dissolved.
This ill-considered step was, from the point of view of the Bohemians, nothing less than a coup d'état. In view of the king's health, he can by no means be considered its originator. The king's counsellors, Lobkowitz and Sternberg, and the papal nuncio—for whom total ignorance of Bohemian affairs afforded some excuse—must bear the responsibility. Without any previous preparations to enforce the royal authority, they recklessly attempted to resist the will of nine-tenths of the Bohemian people.
Before leaving Prague, the nobles and knights of Bohemia decided to reassemble there within a month. This resolution accentuated their revolutionary attitude, for the old customs of Bohemia reserved to the king the right to assemble the Estates of the realm. As early as the end of April, many Protestant lords returned to Prague; they had meanwhile armed their retainers on their lands. The Estates were soon assembled in great numbers, and it was said that never since the Hussite wars had so many nobles and knights been seen at Prague. The town-hall of the Neustadt had again been fixed on as the place of meeting, but the Estates, wishing to maintain the appearance of legality, petitioned Rudolph to allow them to assemble in the royal palace on the Hradčany, the usual meeting-place of the Diet. Budova, accompanied by a large number of his supporters, called on the burgrave to urge this demand. The answer was a direct negative. The burgrave, however, promised that the king would shortly again convoke the Estates. Budova left the palace on the Hradčany where the interview had taken place, and announced the failure of his mission to his adherents, many of whom had been waiting at the gates of the castle. All present thereupon lifted their hands to heaven, and swore to remain united; they further decided to meet in the town-hall of the Nové Město, or new town, and they henceforth held almost daily meetings there. Budova was for the moment the undisputed leader of the movement, which through his influence acquired a devotional, and, indeed, somewhat puritanic character. When Budova presided over the deliberations of the Estates he called on all present to join him in prayer; all then knelt down and sang a hymn. The Estates decided to forward another message to the king in defence of their conduct, which, as already noted, was contrary to the constitutional traditions. They also determined again to beg him to summon a regular Diet. To draw up this petition they chose four lawyers, two of whom were Lutherans, and two Brethren of the Unity. When they had finished their work, it was laid before the king by six representatives of the Estates. Budova was again at the head of the deputation. Great excitement reigned at Prague at the moment of its reception by the king. The interview lasted very long, and the report that the delegates had been imprisoned in the castle was circulated in the town. A large crowd assembled round the Jesuit monastery, in the new town, prepared to make reprisals on those who were known to be the chief opponents of the wishes of the country. The rumour was, however, false. Budova and his companions returned unharmed, and the report now circulated in the town that the king had acceded to the wishes of the people.
This report was not unfounded. The great state of excitement at Prague, where the streets were crowded by the noisy retinue of the numerous nobles and knights, had not escaped the king's notice, even in his seclusion on the summit of the Hradčany; he had in consequence fallen into a state of complete nervous prostration. Hannewald, one of the few among his councillors whom the king trusted, advised him—contrary to the wishes of the papal nuncio and of the Spanish ambassador—to come to terms with the Protestants. The Spanish ambassador, Zuňiga, had just returned to Prague from Gratz, where he had visited the Archduke Ferdinand, who governed Styria. On his return, Zuňiga had immediately laid before Rudolph his—or perhaps the archduke's—views, namely, that only a resolute attitude would intimidate the Protestants. The ambassador had been confirmed in this opinion by the panic which he believed his entry into Prague at the head of a body-guard of fifty men had caused. Zuňiga therefore attempted to strike terror in the hearts of the Bohemians. While waiting for an audience in the antechambers of the royal castle, he, in the presence of numerous Protestants, addressed Count Sultz, one of the courtiers, in very strong words, begging him to advise the king to resist the demands of the Protestants, and promising him the full support of Spain. This foolish bravado had a contrary effect to the one desired. Rudolph requested the ambassador to appear no longer in the antechambers of the castle, and was more than ever inclined to rely on Hannewald's advice. He therefore now decided that the Estates should, with his sanction, reassemble on the Hradčany on May 25, and that the religious question should be the first subject for debate.
This decision, of which Budova and his colleagues were informed, was considered as satisfactory by the Estates, and the agitation among the people of Prague for the time subsided. The Estates again met in the royal castle on the Hradčany on May 25. Rudolph having addressed no message to the Diet, the Estates again drew up a memorandum formulating their demands. The most important of them again dealt with the recognition of the "Confessio Bohemica" by the State, and of the claims of the Protestants that the Consistory Council and the University should be placed under their control.
Before the memorandum had been submitted to the king, consideration hostile to the Bohemians had once more prevailed in his vacillating mind. Archduke Leopold, a younger brother of Archduke Ferdinand of Styria, arrived at Prague at this moment. He for a time ingratiated himself with Rudolph, who (animated by his dislike to his brother Matthew) seriously thought of declaring Leopold his successor. It is to this archduke, a fervent Romanist, and to the Spanish ambassador Zuňiga, that the altered tone of Rudolph's message in reply to the Estates (June 5) must be attributed. He declared that he would extend to the Protestants the same degree of toleration which they had enjoyed under Ferdinand I; he thus withdrew even the concessions made to them by the more liberal-minded sovereign, Maximilian II.
The Protestants considered this decision as a declaration of war. Count Thurn declared in the Diet that there had been enough useless talk, that the moment for action had arrived, and that the country must immediately take up arms. The committee appointed by the Estates had meanwhile drawn up three documents. Ignoring the royal message, which purported to decide the question, these documents were now brought before the Estates and immediately approved of by them. The first, in the form of an address to the king—to whom, however, it was never presented—informed him that the Protestant Estates, having now fully stated their arguments, would no longer appeal to him in defence of their creed. The second document contained a severe and detailed criticism of Rudolph's policy: this had not been prepared with a view to presentation to the sovereign. Written rather as a proclamation to the people, it ended with the announcement that a general armament of the country would be necessary, and must shortly take place. The third, and by far the most important work of the committee, was a minute detailing the concessions which the Protestants considered necessary as guarantees of their freedom and autonomy. It is significant of the confidence felt by the Protestants that, in spite of Rudolph's apparently uncompromising attitude, they should have drawn up this document at this moment. It is this draft that was finally accepted by the king, and is known as the celebrated "Letter of Majesty."
Only the last-named document was presented to Rudolph by a deputation of the Estates (June 13). The king's answer, though more conciliatory than some of his former communications, did not satisfy the Protestants. He promised to continue to the Protestants the enjoyment of all the rights which th6y had had during the reign of Maximilian. The king, however, insisted on retaining complete authority over the utraquist Consistory and over the University. If we consider the bitter theological animosity of the age, it will not appear surprising that the Protestants were not prepared to concede this point. Had they done so, they would have admitted the right of a sovereign—himself a Romanist—to appoint as rulers of their Church men who acknowledged the authority of the Roman creed though they differed from it with regard to communion in both kinds. It was impossible for an assembly in which an enormous majority were Lutherans and Brethren of the Unity, to accept the king's demand. His message was, therefore, considered by the Protestants as a refusal of their demands, and it served in fact only to increase their opposition. The project of arming the country was further advanced, and—as it was difficult for such an unwieldy body as the Estates to exercise executive functions—thirty "Directors" were chosen from among the members of the Diet. These, as Gindely says, practically constituted a provisional government. Three generals, the foremost of whom was Count Thurn, were also appointed by the Estates, and the enrolment of troops began, a special tax having been voted for this purpose. The Estates of Silesia concluded an alliance with those of Bohemia for mutual defence, and there also the armament of the people was undertaken.
The danger of civil war, which now seemed inevitable, induced the Elector of Saxony to attempt to mediate. Himself a Lutheran, he had strong claims on the confidence of the Estates. Dr. Gerstenberger, the Elector's ambassador at Prague, in his master's name proposed a compromise. The free profession of the "Confessio Bohemica" was to be allowed to all; Catholics were to be allowed to adopt the Protestant, and Protestants the Catholic, creed; all members of the Diet were to have the right of building churches and schools without any distinction of creed; the supervision and direction of the Consistory and of the University were to remain in the hands of the king.
These terms, if immediately accepted by the king, would perhaps have satisfied the Estates. Rudolph, however, declared that he would only sanction Gerstenberger's proposals if it were agreed that the liturgy of the old-utraquists should be retained by the Protestants. This objection naturally caused a fatal delay. The Protestants disliked to confide the direction of their Church to a sovereign who professed a creed different from their own, and the less conciliatory party among the Estates at last got the upper hand. When the burgrave announced to the Diet the king's decision, as mentioned above, the Protestants declared that the negotiations were fruitless, and must be broken off; many even left Prague and returned to their castles to complete their armaments. The "Directors," who established themselves in the town-hall of the Staré Město (old town of Prague) acted as a provisional government, and directed the general arming of the country. Rudolph was again entirely helpless, and—probably again on the advice of Hannewald—decided to abandon his undignified and hopeless resistance. By his order the supreme burgrave invited the Diet to resume its sittings, and the king on July 9, 1609, signed the Letter of Majesty. The Estates had previously consented to the substitution of the word "utraquist" for that of "evangelical," which had been used in the draft submitted to the king.
By the Letter of Majesty the Protestant Estates obtained the recognition of the "Confessio Bohemica," and the right of supervision over the University, and were authorized henceforth to elect the members of the Consistory. They were further empowered to appoint "Defenders," who were to be chosen in equal number from among the Protestant nobles, the knights, and town representatives. The ill-defined office of the "Defenders" implied in reality the duty of acting as the guardian of the rights of the Protestants. On the same day, another equally important but far less celebrated document was signed. This was an Agreement between the Protestants and Romanists, or, to use the official designation, the Estates "sub utrâque" and those "sub unâ." By this Agreement they guaranteed to each other full liberty of religious worship, which was to be extended to the peasants also; the full right of the Protestants to appoint priests to the livings in their gift was recognized, and it was further agreed that on the lands of the crown both religious parties should be allowed to worship freely according to their creed, and to build churches.
This last provision requires special notice. The great Hussite revolution had been followed by a complete confiscation of the property of the Romanist Church in Bohemia; the poverty of the clergy being one of the most important points of the early Hussite creed, and one that is specially referred to in the Compacts. Through the good-will of King Sigismund and his successors—all of whom, with the exception of George of Poděbrad, were Romanists—the Catholic Church had again received gifts of land and other property. These gifts were, however, assumed to have been made temporarily to individuals, and the Church property continued legally to be a portion of the lands of the crown; this fiction was undoubtedly maintained out of respect to the strong feeling of the utraquists on this matter.
For the same reason the clergy did not, till after the complete reaction which followed the battle of the White Mountain, constitute one of the Estates of the realm. The right of building churches, granted to those who dwelt on the lands of the crown, therefore included those who lived on land owned by the Church. It is this question that was—nine years later—the immediate cause of the Thirty Years' War, the Archbishop of Prague having caused the Protestant Church of Hrob to be destroyed while the Abbot of Břevnov closed a church in the town of Broumov which was under his authority.
The momentary settlement obtained through the Letter of Majesty and the Agreement signed on the same day, which afterwards received the king's approval, did not long ensure peace to Bohemia. Its provisions have consequently always been subjected to very hostile comment, specially by writers of strong papal bias. To those who examine the numerous contemporary records with impartiality, it will perhaps be apparent that under more favourable circumstances these charters might have secured to Bohemia a much-required respite from theological strife. It is certain that from this date the attitude of the Protestants ceased to be an aggressive, and henceforth became a distinctly defensive, one.
Neither the provisions of the Letter of Majesty nor the conduct of the Protestants suffice to explain the fact that troubles so soon recommenced in Bohemia. These troubles are rather to be attributed to the circumstance (the causes of which are beyond the scope of this book) that the policy of the Spanish court became more active and aggressive about the beginning of the seventeenth century. We must also take into account the success with which the Archduke Ferdinand (whose accession to the throne of Bohemia appeared more and more probable) had carried out the "Catholic Reformation" in Styria, a success which raised the hopes and increased the energy of the Jesuits and other enthusiasts for the Roman cause in Bohemia.
The last years of the reign of Rudolph are of little interest, compared with the momentous events of 1608 and 1609. The king's only concern seems to have been his desire for revenge on his brother Matthew, who had deprived him of Hungary, Austria, and Moravia. He chose his cousin, the Archduke Leopold, as the instrument of his vengeance. He appears to have promised him the succession to the Bohemian throne, thus infringing on the rights of Matthew, whom the Estates—on Rudolph's own recommendation—had recognized, as well as on those of Ferdinand of Styria, Leopold's elder brother. The king and Archduke Leopold, it is clear, also aimed at the suppression of the concessions recently granted to the Protestants, and at the forcible re-establishment of the Catholic Church in Bohemia. There is, however, little positive evidence as to the object of Rudolph's varying schemes at this period. With his approval, Archduke Leopold, who was bishop of Strassburg and Passau, assembled an armed force near the latter town. The religious troubles then prevailing in Germany afforded a pretext. The troops of Leopold, commanded by Lawrence Ramees (or Romeo) in the year 1611, marched into Bohemia and obtained possession of Budějovice, Tabor, Krumlov and other towns in the south of the country. They committed great cruelties during their march, and after having arrived before Prague stormed the Malá Strana, the part of the town situated on the left bank of the Vltava. Archduke Leopold now joined his troops, and they attempted to obtain possession of the other parts of Prague. They were, however, repulsed by the soldiers under Count Thurn, whom the Estates—anxious for their recently-acquired liberties—had hastily equipped. Rudolph's brother, King Matthew of Hungary, also came to the aid of the Bohemian Estates. He not unnaturally considered his right of succession to the Bohemian throne as imperilled by Leopold's action. That prince now (March 1611) left Bohemia as suddenly as he had appeared there. The Estates of Bohemia, suspecting their king of being the originator of this sudden invasion of the country, forced him to abdicate. Matthew became King of Bohemia, and the dependent lands, Silesia and Lusatia, also recognized him as their sovereign. Rudolph, who had been in failing health for some time, did not long survive his final dethronement. He died on January 20, 1612. Matthew was then also chosen as Emperor by the German Electors.
The policy of Matthew with regard to the religious affairs of Bohemia underwent a change when the twelve years' struggle between him and his brother came to an end. His amicable relations with the Protestant leaders, such as Žerotin and Rosenberg, were broken off about this time. Distrust of the new king can easily be traced in the demands which the Estates addressed to him even before his coronation. Five points were specially brought forward, as embodying the wishes of the Estates. The most important among the concessions demanded were the right of the Diet to assemble without royal authorization, and the right to levy troops. The king conceded only one point of minor importance. He gave his sanction to the treaty of alliance which the Bohemian Protestants had (1609) concluded with the Estates of Silesia in defence of their faith. On the other points, among which were the two of most importance, the king reserved his decision.
The peace with Turkey which Matthew had concluded (in 1606) did not secure permanent tranquillity in Eastern Europe. Matthew, forced to renewed warfare with the Turks, was obliged to apply for aid to the Estates of the many countries over which the German branch of the house of Habsburg ruled. He first appealed to a representative assembly, which consisted of deputies from all the lands of the Bohemian crown, from Hungary, and from Upper and Lower Austria. Representatives of Styria (which with Carinthia and Carniola was then governed by the Archduke Ferdinand) and of the Tyrol were also present. This assembly, remarkable as the only one in which representatives of almost all the lands now constituting the Austro-Hungarian Empire sat in one parliamentary body, was entirely abortive. When the deputies met at Linz (1614), it soon appeared that their only purpose was the further limitation of the sovereign power in the different States which they represented. They declined all contributions towards the expenses of the war against Turkey. Frustrated in this plan, Matthew was obliged to appeal to the assemblies of the different countries which, though all owing allegiance to him, still possessed separate political and representative institutions. Limiting our account to Bohemia, we will only mention the fact that Matthew convoked a "General Diet" of the lands of the Bohemian crown at Prague in the following year (1615). Here also the king's attempts to obtain grants of money and men for the Turkish war were entirely fruitless. The attitude of the Estates was one of direct opposition to the king, and they seem from this moment, if not earlier, to have prepared for an open conflict with the crown. Moravia being represented at this "General Diet," the Estates attempted to conclude with that country an alliance similar to the one that already existed between them and the Estates of Silesia. These negotiations were unsuccessful, as no agreement could be arrived at on the old standing question as to the constitutional relationship of Moravia to Bohemia. The Diet, probably contrary to the king's wishes, also turned its attention to the national question, which the religious troubles had recently thrown into the background. Special enactments were framed to favour the Bohemian language, as against the use of German or other foreign tongues. The Bohemian language was also by vote of the Estates declared to be the "authorized" official language of the country.
Matthew was well advanced in years when he obtained the Bohemian crown; and being, like his brother Rudolph, childless, he was soon obliged to take into consideration the succession to the Bohemian throne. It was at that period still an unsettled question whether the crown was hereditary. In Bohemia—as in Hungary—the princes of the Habsburg dynasty had several times obtained the coronation of their heirs during their lifetime, thus avoiding a contest when the crown became vacant. This was now Matthew's object. As his two surviving brothers were also childless, he resolved with their consent to nominate the next heir, Archduke Ferdinand of Styria, to be his successor.
The Diet, which was to decide the momentous question as to the succession, met at Prague on June 5, 1617. That Matthew knew well the difficulty of gaining his object is shown by the attempts at intimidation made by the high burgrave, Adam, Lord of Sternberg. The burgrave, before the sittings of the Diet commenced, had requested all the more important State officials and councillors to appear at his apartments on the Hradčany. With the exception of Count Thurn, who held the office of Burgrave of the Karlstein, they all accepted the invitation. Sternberg read to them the royal message, requesting the recognition of Ferdinand's right of succession to the throne; he added that the king was firmly resolved to enforce the succession of Ferdinand, and it would therefore be better for them to accept the royal decision peacefully and willingly, and thus secure their future king's favour, rather than exasperate him by futile opposition.
The officials, and subsequently the whole body of the Estates, for the moment fell in with Sternberg's views, and Thurn was almost alone in opposing King Matthew's project. He asserted that the Estates had the right of electing the future king, and suggested that Ferdinand should be "elected," instead of "recognized" as King of Bohemia; he further contested the validity of any vote as to the succession which was taken in the absence of delegates from Moravia and Silesia. Finally, the Estates, against the two votes of Thurn and Colonna of Fels, "recognized" Ferdinand as King of Bohemia. Ferdinand then confirmed all the privileges of the land—among which the Letter of Majesty was specially mentioned—and he was crowned as king with great solemnity on June 19, 1617.
After Ferdinand's election, and under his influence, the policy of Matthew became more aggressive towards the Protestants; in fact, his object was now undoubtedly the extirpation of Protestantism. Immediately after they had secured temporary freedom by the Letter of Majesty, the Lutherans and Bohemian Brethren had come to an agreement by which the new appointments to the Consistory Council were equitably divided between the two sections of the party. This agreement on so important a matter naturally strengthened the Protestants, and therefore greatly disappointed the Romanist clergy. The Jesuits in particular had previously stated that "the Calvinists and Lutherans were so opposed to one another that the Roman Catholics had good hope to see their devilish craft perish through their own machinations, and to see the heretics destroy each other."
The Jesuit advisers of Ferdinand openly declared that the present moment was a "golden opportunity for extirpating the heretics." The menacing tone of the Roman clergy naturally caused grave apprehensions in Bohemia; and the alarm was intensified by numerous Protestant refugees from Ferdinand's territory who had sought refuge in Bohemia, and who vividly described the persecution which they had endured.
The growing alarm and resentment of the Protestants increased when it became known that Count Thurn, who was a strong Protestant, had, probably in consequence of his vote on the question of the succession, been dismissed from his high office of Burgrave of the Karlstein. Though another less lucrative office was conferred on the count, his dismissal caused great indignation. The archives, and with them the documents confirming the privileges of the kingdom, were preserved at Karlstein: it was believed that the Government wished to place the custody of these valuable documents in the hands of some more pliant official.
Archduke Ferdinand and his councillors, in fact, determined to establish the "Catholic Reformation" in Bohemia as soon as circumstances permitted. King Matthew, who was more moderate in his views, was in failing health, so that the accession of Ferdinand might be shortly anticipated. On the other hand, the number and influence of the Bohemian Protestants rendered it certain that they would not submit to coercion as peacefully as their co-religionists in Styria had done. Civil war in Bohemia was therefore inevitable, and the smallest spark would suffice to produce an explosion.
Immediately after the publication of the Letter of Majesty, the Protestant citizens of the towns of Broumov and Hrob had began to build churches; the last-named town formed part of the domains of the Roman Archbishop of Prague, while the former was subject to the Abbot of Březnov. Encouraged by the Protestant Estates, the citizens proceeded with the building of these churches, disregarding the remonstrances of the two ecclesiastics. The question as to their right to do so has been already alluded to, and from recently-adduced evidence it now appears certain that the citizens had right on their side. The archbishop and the abbot had from the first protested against the erection of these churches, but it was only after Ferdinand's coronation that they resorted to more energetic measures. In December (1617) the Archbishop of Prague caused the Protestant church at Hrob to be totally destroyed, while the abbot was satisfied with closing that at Broumov. This event, as was inevitable, was immediately brought to the knowledge of the "Defenders," to whom the Letter of Majesty had specially committed the protection of the interests of the Protestants. Previous attempts to remonstrate with the officials of King Matthew had convinced the "Defenders" that no redress could be obtained from them. They therefore decided to convoke a General Assembly of the Protestants. The Agreement of 1609 had empowered them, if necessary, to invite the Protestants to such meetings. This Assembly first met on March 5, 1618, and the knights and nobles were present in great numbers, while only a few representatives of the towns had the courage to appear. The State officials had, in fact, used all their influence on the townsmen to dissuade them from attending the meeting. On March 6, Count Thurn delivered a lengthy statement to the Assembly, in which he enumerated the grievances of the Protestants, specially alluding to the events at Hrob and Broumov. After a debate that continued for several days, it was decided to address a remonstrance to the Government officials at Prague; should this remonstrance prove ineffective, the Protestants resolved to bring their grievances directly before Matthew, who then resided at Vienna. The State officials gave an immediate answer: they declined to afford any redress whatever. The Assembly now voted an address to the king, reiterating their grievances, and then broke up; but not before they had agreed to meet again on May 21, by which date it was considered that an answer would be received from Vienna.
The king's answer arrived sooner than was expected. His message, drawn up according to the advice of his favourite, Cardinal Khlesl, was of a most uncompromising character. Matthew, without entering into the discussion of the alleged grievances, declared that he would not permit a new meeting of the Protestants. He further stated that his forbearance was at an end, and threatened with legal proceedings those who had caused disturbances. This, not unnaturally, was considered as a menace to all who had taken part in the proceedings of the Protestant Assembly. It is needless to state that this answer, which was handed to the "Defenders" by Matthew's representatives at Prague, caused general excitement among the Protestants. The burgrave and the other officials who governed in Matthew's name, when transmitting the royal message to the "Defenders," summoned them to obey the wishes of their king, and to countermand the intended Assembly. The "Defenders" demanded a delay of three days before returning an answer. They then replied that the new meeting was to take place in conformity with the decision of the Protestants during their former Assembly. They stated that they had no power to annul that decision. When this answer reached Vienna, the sovereign sent a second message to the Bohemian Estates, couched in more moderate language. He, however, adhered to his prohibition of the intended meeting. The "Defenders" forwarded a second answer, identical in its terms with their former statement.
The Protestants had already begun to reassemble at Prague. They were even more numerous than at the previous meeting, and most of the towns had this time sent representatives. The leaders of the movement met on May 18, a few days before the date fixed for the general Assembly, at the Carolinum, which now became the centre of the national movement. It was decided that an appeal should be addressed to the Bohemian people, and publicity given to it by means of the (Protestant) clergy of Prague. As proposed, this proclamation was read out in all the Protestant parish churches of Prague on the following Sunday, It stated that the "Defenders" had received positive intelligence that certain persons in the kingdom intended to destroy peace and unity, to oppress the Christian religion by various artifices, to close and destroy the churches, and abolish religious liberty. They (the "Defenders") had informed the sovereign of this, but had been wrongly accused by their adversaries of hostile intentions with regard to his Majesty; and they solemnly protested against this calumnious assertion. The faithful were finally exhorted to pray to God that He might dispose the sovereign's mind favourably towards the Bohemians, and to the confusion of their own and the king's enemies. This appeal, while sparing the king himself, was a direct attack on his councillors, and particularly on the Burgrave of the Karlstein, Jaroslav of Martinic, and the chief judge, William of Slavata. These two officials, both staunch adherents of the Roman Church, were special objects of suspicion, as having influenced the king unfavourably towards their countrymen.
The Protestant Assembly met again at the Carolinum on May 21, as had been settled. As soon as the proceedings had commenced, Government messengers appeared requesting the attendance of the Protestants at the castle. When they arrived at the Hradčany another royal message, forbidding their meetings, was read to them. They none theless again met on the following day to discuss the answer. The answer had already been drawn up by the "Defenders," and it was decided to present it on the following day. Thurn declared that it would be advisable not to choose a deputation for this purpose, and suggested that the whole Assembly should proceed in full armour to the Hradčany, and he alleged without hesitation that a small deputation would not be safe in the castle. The isolated position of the Hradčany rendered it possible that once inside of its extensive buildings a few individuals would be entirely at the mercy of the well-armed royal body-guards, who could, by closing the gates of the castle, prevent all attempts to bring aid to the delegates if they were assailed. Thurn's proposal was accepted, and the Government officials gave permission that the nobles should appear in the palace in full armour.
It is more than probable that the momentous event of the morrow, known as the Defenestration, was planned on this day (May 22) by Thurn and his adherents. Thurn had undoubtedly arrived at the conclusion that the moment was a favourable one for the Bohemians to begin the inevitable struggle. The much-discussed question whether he was influenced by personal ambition or zeal for the Protestant religion, or—as is most probable—by both motives combined, is of comparatively slight importance. The indignation of the Bohemians had reached the highest pitch, and the increasing influence of the Jesuits had as yet succeeded in bringing about but few defections from the ranks of the Protestant nobility. Thurn may also have thought it preferable to encounter the weak government of Matthew rather than the energy of a religious enthusiast like Ferdinand; for it was certain that that prince would soon succeed to the Bohemian throne. An open act of violence against the officials would also, by compromising the whole Protestant nobility, force the waverers to take part in a general uprising.
Thurn and some of his more immediate adherents— among whom were two nobles of the Kinský and two of the Řičan family, Colonna of Fels and Venceslas of Ruppa—met on that day at the Smiřicky palace. After some discussion, in the course of which Ulrich of Kinský proposed that the officials should be poniarded in the council-room, it was decided that the two most hated of the royal councillors, Martinic and Slavata, should be thrown from the windows of the Hradčany. It may be noted that it was an old Bohemian usage to punish traitors by this form of death.
Early on the morning of the memorable 23rd of May, the representatives of Protestantism in Bohemia proceeded to the Hradčin; all were in full armour, and most of them were followed by one or more retainers. They first proceeded to the hall where the Estates habitually met. The address to the king which the "Defenders" had prepared was here read out. It protested both against the attempt to prevent the meeting, and against the threat of legal proceedings. The address ended with the significant question, what part the king's councillors at Prague had had in the composition of the menacing message which had been forwarded from Vienna. The Protestants now proceeded to the hall in which the king's councillors were awaiting them. Of these, only the high burgrave, Adam of Sternberg, Martinic, Slavata, and Diepold of Lobkowitz were present. Paul of Řičan read out the address to the king, and a very stormy discussion took place. The officials, especially Martinic and Slavata, were violently accused of having, through their evil counsels, instigated King Matthew against their own countrymen. The fact that these two officials alone of all the Bohemian nobles had refused to sign the Letter of Majesty was recalled as a proof of their treachery. At last Paul of Řičan, again acting as spokesman, read out a declaration which he had previously prepared. It stated that Martinic and Slavata were to be considered as violators of the Letter of Majesty and enemies to the Commonwealth. The Protestants, questioned by Řičan, loudly assented to his declaration. This sealed the fate of the two councillors. The burgrave's entreaties to spare them were fruitless. He was himself forced to leave the room. Diepold of Lobkowitz, who attempted to assist Martinic and Slavata, was also induced to retire by his cousin William of Lobkowitz, one of the Protestant leaders. Slavata was now seized by Thurn and Martinic by William of Lobkowitz. Aided by other nobles, Thurn and Lobkowitz gradually forced the two councillors nearer to the wall, and after a short struggle threw them from two adjoining windows into the moat below. Fabricius, the secretary of the Royal Council, who was unknown to the nobles, having attempted to remonstrate with them, was also thrown from the windows of the castle. To those who know the scene of this drama (little changed at the present day), it seems well-nigh marvellous that they should all three have escaped almost without injury. When the nobles who were watching them from the windows above noticed that they moved, numerous shots were fired at them, but with little result; Martinic only was slightly wounded. Aided by their servants, Martinic and Slavata succeeded in making their escape, and eventually in leaving Prague in safety.
Immediately after the Defenestration—an event memorable not only in Bohemia but in European history, for it marks the beginning of the Thirty Years' War—the Bohemians established what may be called a provisional Government consisting of thirty "Directors," chosen (as the "Defenders" had been) in equal proportions by the three Estates. Venceslas of Ruppa, one of the ablest of the Bohemian nobles, became president of this body. Thurn contented himself with the command of the army. His foreign origin and particularly his insufficient knowledge of the national language—which has already been noted—undoubtedly rendered it impossible for him to attempt to obtain a more prominent position. No movement unconnected with their national aspirations has ever carried away the whole mass of the Bohemian people. It was only by a general uprising that the new Government could hope to resist the inevitable attack of its enemies. The new Government from the first displayed considerable diplomatic activity. Despatches, expressed in nearly identical terms, were sent to the princes of Germany, the Kings of England and France, the Republic of Venice, the Duke of Savoy, and others. These despatches all affirmed the complete loyalty of the Bohemians to the "Emperor Matthew their king," and a detailed account was given of the provocations the Protestants had endured. It was strongly represented that the violation of the Letter of Majesty and of the contemporaneous Agreement signed in 1609 had forced the Protestants to rise up in arms. The entire responsibility for the troubles was thrown on the order of the Jesuits, who were accused of having stirred up domestic strife in Bohemia.
It is a proof of the strong feeling against the Jesuits then prevalent in Bohemia, that one of the first acts of the new Government was a decree ordering their expulsion (June 1, 1618). The enumeration of the reasons for this decree bears a singular resemblance to the accusations which were brought forward against that Order at the time of its suppression by Clement XIV in the eighteenth century. The Jesuits were accused of "desiring to subdue all the kingdoms and lands of the world to their yoke and power; of having even employed artifices to incite the potentates of the world one against the other; and especially of having, in countries where various religions existed, stirred up strife among the Estates." It was further said that "the Jesuits instigated the authorities against the subjects and the subjects against the authorities; that they had empowered 'parricides' to murder kings and the anointed of the Lord who refused to act contrary to their God and in accordance with their (the Jesuits') counsels; that they had promised these criminals eternal salvation and freedom from the pains of purgatory; that they had by means of confession obtained knowledge of many family secrets; also they had, 'exemplo templariorum,' become owners of vast estates; and finally, that they had openly preached that no faith need be kept with heretics," At the same moment the Romanist Archbishop of Prague and the Abbot of were also ordered to quit Bohemia. The Jesuits, shortly after their expulsion, published a written defence. They stated that it was impossible that different religions should be tolerated in the same country; that they could not spread the Catholic faith without incurring the hatred of their opponents, and that it was their endeavour, for the greater honour of God, to reduce all Christianity and the whole world to the obedience of the Pope.
While this literary contest was being waged, the "Directors" began to equip an army to meet the coming attack. They succeeded in raising a force of 16,000 men, but the want of an efficient commander was much felt already. The new Government was, on the whole, very favourably received by the country, which was then almost entirely Protestant. The towns of Budějovice and Plzeň alone maintained their allegiance to King Matthew.
The news of the Defenestration reached Matthew at Vienna while King Ferdinand was temporarily absent at Presburg, where he was anxious to secure his coronation as King of Hungary. Matthew, now entirely under the influence of Cardinal Khlesl, at first inclined to a peaceful policy. He had, during his struggle against his brother, been on terms of intimacy with Žerotin, the leader of the Moravian nobility, and a member of the Church of the Bohemian Brethren. It was not impossible that that noble, a staunch adherent of the house of Habsburg, might offer his services as mediator, particularly as Moravia had not yet declared for the new Government at Prague. Ferdinand, however, had from the first seen that war alone could finally decide the long contest between the king and the Estates of Bohemia. He also saw that if Bohemia were conquered by force of arms, the pledges of religious liberty reluctantly given at the moment of his coronation would become void. With the approval of the Emperor Matthew's brother, the Archduke Maximilian, Ferdinand caused Cardinal Khlesl to be forcibly removed from the Imperial court at Vienna, and the war-party was now in the ascendant. The Emperor entrusted the entire management of the Bohemian war to his cousin. As generals, Ferdinand chose Bouquoi and Dampierre, who by long service with the Spanish armies in the Netherlands had acquired a thorough knowledge of war.
Towards the end of July (1618) the Imperial forces—about 12,000 men—coming from Moravia and Austria, crossed the Bohemian frontier at several points. Their leaders, Bouquoi and Dampierre, effected a junction at Německý Brod on September 9. The first news of the entry of the Austrian troops into the country caused a panic at Prague. The military reputation of the Imperial generals was well known in the country, while the Bohemian commanders—with the possible exception of Thurn—were little trusted by their soldiers. The slow advance of the Imperialists, however, partially restored confidence in Bohemia, where the Government now called the whole able-bodied population to arms.
The Bohemians were not without aid from abroad. Charles Emanuel, Duke of Savoy, while at war with Spain, had employed a force of German mercenaries under the command of Ernest of Mansfeld, a natural son of Prince Mansfeld. These troops were returning to Germany after the conclusion of peace with Spain, when the Duke of Savoy received letters from the Bohemian provisional Government, announcing the revolution that had taken place and requesting aid. The duke (who already entertained that feeling of hostility to the Habsburg dynasty which was till recently characteristic of the policy of the house of Savoy) immediately realized the importance of the events at Prague. He decided to use them for the purpose of achieving the downfall of the Austrian power. He despatched a message to Mansfeld, who was then marching his troops through Switzerland, to say that he would retain half of Mansfeld's mercenaries in his pay, on condition of their immediately proceeding to Bohemia, to aid the new Government. Duke Charles Emanuel had already formed the plan—to which further reference will be made—of obtaining the crown of Bohemia: but he still wished his scheme to remain secret. It was therefore agreed between him and Mansfeld that Christian of Anhalt, the most determined of the German enemies of the house of Habsburg, the Elector Palatine Frederick, then leader of the German Protestants, and the Margrave of Anspach should alone be informed of the Duke's designs.
Mansfeld's troops arrived in Bohemia in September (1618), and immediately proceeded to besiege Plzeň, one of the few Bohemian towns that had remained faithful to King Matthew. Thurn had meanwhile assumed supreme command of the Bohemian forces. After a futile attempt on the part of Žerotin, the leader of the Moravian Protestants, to mediate between the contending parties, the Bohemians assumed the offensive; they had also been strengthened by the levies from Silesia and Lusatia, both which countries now recognized the new Government at Prague.
Bouquoi, the leader of the Imperial troops, did not consider his army sufficiendy strong to resist the now more numerous forces of Thurn. He therefore retreated southward. His retiring forces were defeated by the Bohemians at Pelhřimov and more decisively at Lomnice, three (German) miles from Budějovice. Bouquoi was obliged to seek a refuge within that, then fortified, city. Leaving only a small force to oppose Bouquoi, the Bohemians crossed the Austrian frontier (November 25, 1618), hoping to find allies among the Protestant nobles, then in a large majority in the land. The lateness of the season and the state of the roads rendered this expedition a failure, and the Bohemians took up their winter quarters in their own country. Before the then customary temporary cessation of hostilities Mansfeld had succeeded in obtaining possession of the town of Plzeň on November 21, after a siege of two months.
The Bohemians had, on the whole, been successful during the campaign of the year 1618, but that success was not in the end advantageous to their cause. Thinking that victory had already been secured, many soldiers returned to their homes. This was to a large extent the result of the faulty military organization. The soldiers received their pay and their rations from the towns and nobles who had enrolled them. These, therefore, from motives of economy sanctioned the return of their soldiers as soon as immediate danger appeared no longer to threaten the land. "From the beginning of the war financial difficulties arose which constantly increased, and caused almost more harm to the (Bohemian) movement than did the enemy."
Before hostilities recommenced, the political situation changed completely through the death of the Emperor Matthew (March 20, 1619). The necessary consequence was the choice of a new Emperor, and the fate of Bohemia largely depended on the result of that election.
The Bohemian throne also became practically vacant; for though Ferdinand's right to succeed his cousin had been recognized, yet his openly avowed hostility to Protestantism could hardly fail to alienate the Bohemian people, in spite of the validity of his claim to the throne. Matthew's death was not unexpected, and negotiations as to the succession had taken place during the previous winter. The young Elector Palatine Frederick was at that moment the leader of the German Protestants, a term which was then practically synonymous with hostility to the house of Halbsburg. His father, who had died when he was only fourteen years of age, had already—under the influence of the talented Christian of Anhalt—rendered himself conspicuous as a supporter of the Bohemian Protestants during the troubles which preceded the granting of the Letter of Majesty. Ever since Frederick's marriage with Elizabeth, the daughter of King James I of England, his councillors had suggested to him that a young prince of so great influence, the son-in-law of a powerful king, should endeavour to obtain the crown of one of the elective kingdoms. Bohemia and Poland were alluded to, but the former country only was from the first seriously taken into consideration. In 1615 Frederick visited the Upper Palatinate, of which district Christian of Anhalt was then governor as representative of Frederick. During their interviews the old enemy of the house of Habsburg undoubtedly urged his master to persevere in those ambitious schemes, which were also supported by the Electress Elizabeth. As early as July 1618, we read that Count Albert Solms visited Bohemia on a mission entrusted to him by the Elector Palatine; he then had already promised help to the Bohemians, and perhaps suggested the eventuality of Frederick's election as king.
The Elector seems at all events at first to have realized the necessity of securing allies before he encountered the enmity of the powerful house of Habsburg. Shortly after the death of King Matthew, Frederick despatched Christian of Anhalt to the court of Turin, where Duke Charles Emanuel had already shown himself favourable to the Bohemian cause. That prince, however, did not appear as much inclined to join a confederacy against Austria as Anhalt had expected. Being himself desirous of obtaining the Bohemian crown, it was not his interest to encourage the ambition of Frederick. Anhalt was at last obliged to offer the Bohemian crown to the Duke of Savoy, suggesting that his master should content himself with the districts in the neighbourhood of the Rhine which belonged to the house of Habsburg; since these lands, situated nearer to the Palatinate than Bohemia, would be even more valuable to the Elector. The duke, however, still received Anhalt's proposals coldly. He made his support of the German Protestants conditional on the approval of the Elector's father-in-law, King James of England. That sovereign had little real sympathy with the Protestant cause. The English ambassadors on the Continent, however, appear to have been carried away by their own Protestant zeal, and to have adopted an attitude more favourable to the Protestants of Germany than their instructions warranted. It is certain that Anhalt succeeded in persuading the Duke of Savoy, at least for a time, that King James approved of the ambitious plans of his son-in-law. Hopes were also entertained that the Republic of Venice, which had recently been at war with the Archduke Ferdinand of Styria, and which was on terms of friendship with the Elector Palatine, would join the enemies of the house of Habsburg.
Anhalt at last succeeded in bringing the Duke of Savoy to his views, and a treaty of alliance was signed at Rivoli (May 1619). "The Duke of Savoy pledged himself to prevent the passage of Spanish troops through his territory on their way to Germany and Bohemia, and promised a monthly subsidy of 10,000 ducats to the confederacy of the Protestant German princes, known as the "Union," of which Frederick was leader. The Elector Palatine, on the other hand, promised to send an army of 10,000 men to the aid of the Bohemian Protestants, and to use all his influence in favour of the election of the Duke of Savoy to the Bohemian throne. Anhalt left Italy immediately after the signature of this treaty; but both parties seem almost from the first to have regretted it, and it remained entirely inoperative. The Elector Palatine deplored the sacrifice of his hopes on the Bohemian crown, and continued secretly to intrigue in favour of his own candidature. The Duke of Savoy, when he saw that England would not join the alliance against the house of Habsburg, began to fear the enmity of Austria, though he did not immediately renounce his pretensions to the Bohemian throne. A large party, especially among the German Protestants of Bohemia, wished to choose as king, John George, Elector of Saxony; there were, therefore, no less than three candidates to the throne besides Ferdinand, who (in contradistinction to his rivals) founded his claim on his previous election and coronation during the reign of King Matthew.
Ferdinand's attitude from the first proves that he was thoroughly aware of the impossibility of gaining the Bohemian crown otherwise than by force of arms. He declared, indeed, that he would keep the promises he had made at his coronation, but he confirmed in their offices the councillors formerly appointed by Matthew, whom the Estates had driven from Prague after the occurrence of the Defenestration. He thus impliedly branded the "Directors" as usurpers. The continuation of the war was therefore inevitable. Hostilities were resumed in the spring (1619), as soon as the state of the weather permitted of it. Count Thurn, at the head of a Bohemian army, entered Moravia, where not only the Catholics, but also a considerable party among the Protestants, were opposed to the new Government at Prague. This party, headed by Žerotin, attributed the revolutionary movement in Bohemia to the personal ambition of its leaders, and not to their zeal for the Protestant creed. But on the whole public opinion in Moravia was not unfavourable to the provisional Government. Both at Jihlava, the frontier town, and at Znoymo, Thurn's troops were enthusiastically received, and the greater part of the nobility declared itself in his favour. The Estates of Moravia at their meetings at Brno in May 1619 decided that the country should, similarly to Bohemia, be governed provisionally by a body of thirty "Directors"; of these twelve were to be chosen by the nobles, twelve by the knights, and six by the representatives of the towns. The all-important question of the choice of a new sovereign was deferred to a "General Diet" of the lands of the Bohemian crown, which it was settled should shortly meet at Prague. The easy success of Thurn's expedition to Moravia induced the "Directors" at Prague to instruct him to advance into Austria. This is perhaps the one moment when a successful result of the Bohemian national movement was not impossible. The strong Romanist tendencies of Ferdinand, already known through his "Catholic Reformation" of Styria, had from the first alienated the nobles of Upper and Lower Austria against their new sovereign. In Vienna, where Ferdinand took up his residence after the death of his cousin Matthew, the presence of the sovereign, and of an armed force, restricted the revolutionary movement within limits. At Linz, however, the capital of Upper Austria, the Estates openly opposed the new ruler, under the leadership of the Baron of Starhemberg and of Tschernembl, the latter of whom appears to have been a man of exceptional ability. They entered into an alliance with the Bohemians, and Starhemberg entreated Thurn to march into Austria, where he said "he would be received as a Messiah." Thurn entered Lower Austria in May, and the news of his approach caused a panic among the Catholics of Vienna, while it greatly raised the hopes of the Protestants, who were in sympathy with the Bohemians. On June 5, the leaders of the Austrian Protestants were received in audience by Ferdinand. They demanded the assurance of full religious liberty, a considerable increase of the power of the Estates, and the sovereign's sanction to the alliance with the Estates of Bohemia which they had already concluded. The interview was at first a very stormy one. It is said that at the moment when the Protestants had become most menacing towards Ferdinand, they were reduced to subserviency by the sudden appearance of Dampierre's regiment in the court of the palace (the "Burg"). The arrival of this small reinforcement marks a turning-point in the fortunes of the campaign. It intimidated the Protestants of Vienna, who, as the State trials afterwards revealed, had intended to open the gates to Thurn's army. When that general appeared before Vienna the following night (June 6), contrary to his expectation he found the gates closed, and the fortifications held by troops, while no insurrectionary movement in the town took place. Ill provided with artillery, Thurn felt unable to undertake a regular siege, and he only remained in the neighbourhood of the city up to June 15. His return to Bohemia was precipitated by the news that Mansfeld's army had been signally defeated by the Imperialists under Bouquoi, at the village of Zablati in Southern Bohemia. Even after Thurn's return, Bouquoi continued his victorious advance, and was already menacing Prague. A mutiny which broke out among the Bohemian mercenary troops at this moment favoured his movements. It is not improbable that Bohemia would have been subdued during this campaign had it not in September 1619 been considered necessary to recall Bouquoi. Gabriel Bethlen, prince of Transylvania, had conquered a large part of Hungary, and thus became a rival of Ferdinand, who claimed the crown of Hungary, a policy pursued by all the Habsburg princes at this period. He made a sudden attack on Austria, and arrived close to Vienna, to the defence of which city Bouquoi and his troops marched with all speed.
The weighty question as to the succession to the Bohemian throne had meanwhile been decided by the "General Diet," which first met at Prague on July 8. This Diet from the first assumed the functions of a constituent assembly. It commenced its proceedings by declaring that Bohemia was an elective, not an hereditary kingdom. Curiously enough, a few opinions were expressed in favour of the republican form of government. It was then resolved (probably in view of obtaining the support of the dependent countries) that in the election of a king, Bohemia should have two votes, Moravia, Silesia, Upper Lusatia, and Lower Lusatia one vote each. Other constitutional enactments, subsequently voted, defined and enlarged the powers of the Estates, and limited those of the future elective king. "Defenders" were to be chosen in each of the lands of the Bohemian crown, who were empowered to exercise a supreme control over the king, and even to organize armed resistance against him, should he violate the new constitution. This constitution, which conferred enormous power on the nobles, and placed beside, rather than above them, a king whose influence was strictly limited, was not unlike that of Poland during the last period of its existence as an independent country. The new constitution was solemnly promulgated at Prague on July 31, 1619, but in consequence of the complete collapse of the Bohemian movement in the following year it may be said never to have come into operation. After having decided the constitutional question, the Estates concluded an alliance with the Austrian Protestants, by which they mutually promised aid in the defence of the privileges of the Estates and of the Protestant faith. The next measure that occupied the Bohemian Diet was the deposition of Ferdinand. As the Estates had established a constitution, the provisions of which it was certain that the prince would not accept, this was little more than a formality. The principal accusations against Ferdinand which were brought forward as justifying his deposition were, that he had obtained the crown through fraud on the part of King Matthew, and that he had ill-treated the Protestants in Styria. It was also said that, should he be accepted as king, Bohemia would herself become responsible for the enormous debts which had been incurred in raising the military forces to subdue the country. On August 13, the nobles, knights, and town representatives of Bohemia declared themselves for the deposition of Ferdinand, and the deputies of Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia on the following day concurred in that decision.
The next step was the election of a new king. The "Directors" wished to carry it out as soon as possible, as it was known that the election of a new Emperor was shortly to take place at Frankfurt. It was almost certain that there the choice would fall on Ferdinand; and the "Directors" feared that the result of the election at Frankfurt would raise the hopes of the Catholics, and intimidate those who were ready to support the candidate whom the "Directors" favoured. That that candidate would be the Elector Palatine was by this time almost certain. The Duke of Savoy had abandoned his intention of interfering in the affairs of Bohemia and Germany. It was now evident to him that King James of England did not intend to aid the Bohemian Protestants; and France, the powerful neighbour of Savoy, contrary to her traditions, was for the moment on terms of friendship with the house of Habsburg. The candidature of the Elector of Saxony would have found many supporters had that prince desired to obtain the Bohemian throne. As far back as the year 1614 several disaffected Bohemian nobles had offered the crown of their country to the Elector; after the defeat at Zablati they applied to him for aid, again proposing to elect him as king. But the Elector entirely discouraged their advances, and refused to abet the Bohemians in any way. A rigid Lutheran, the Calvinism of the majority of the Bohemian Protestants found little favour in his eyes. Hoe, the Elector's court chaplain, used his great influence over that prince to the detriment of the Bohemians. While preaching the Lutheran creed at Prague, Hoe had been exposed to personal insults on the part of the Bohemian Calvinists, who finally expelled him from the country. He had retained a violent hatred for the Bohemians, and Ferdinand's minister at Dresden therefore found no difficulty, by means of presents, in winning him entirely to his master's cause. A just appreciation of the political situation of Europe, at that moment very favourable to the dynasty of Habsburg, may also have influenced the Elector in his decision to refuse all aid to the Bohemians. By offending the powerful house of Austria he imperilled the electoral dignity which Charles V had transferred to his branch of the Saxon dynasty.
The date fixed for the election of the new king was August 26, and an attempt of the Saxon party to protract the proceedings was frustrated by the efforts of Ruppa, the president of the "Directors." The election began immediately, the nobles—thirty-eight in number—first recording their votes. Justifying his vote in favour of the Elector Palatine, Ruppa, in an eloquent speech, dilated on the powerful alliances Frederick would secure to Bohemia. As such future allies he mentioned England, the Netherlands, the "Union" of the German Protestant princes, Switzerland, and Savoy. He also referred to the great wealth of Frederick, saying that it would enable him to give liberal aid to the Bohemians. Ruppa's speech appears to have made a great impression, for thirty-four nobles recorded their votes for the Elector Palatine. The further voting was even more favourable to that prince. Only three knights gave their votes to the Elector of Saxony, and the representatives of the towns unanimously declared for the Elector Palatine. On the following day the representatives of the dependent lands also approved the choice of Frederick as king. The result of the election was immediately made public, contrary, however, to the wishes of Frederick's envoys, who had suggested that the election should be kept secret till their master had given his decision.
Weak and irresolute as he proved himself during his whole career, Frederick, though pleased at having obtained the long-coveted crown, yet hesitated when the Bohemian ambassadors arrived at Amberg to give him formal notice of his election. He asked the advice of his councillors, Christian of Anhalt, Camerarius, the court chaplain Schulze, and he also consulted several princes of the Protestant Union. Frederick, following the advice of the majority of those he consulted, at first decided to return an evasive answer, saying he would only accept the crown when assured of sufficient aid from his father-in-law, the King of England. It is now well known that the sympathies of James I were at that moment entirely with Ferdinand, whom he considered the legitimate King of Bohemia. If James—and to a far greater extent some of his ministers—at times seemed to favour Frederick's plans, this was only done because the Protestant opinion of England warmly espoused the cause of the Elector Palatine.
Had Frederick adhered to his first resolution, there is no doubt that his expedition to Bohemia—equally disastrous to himself and to the country which he attempted to rule—would never have taken place. The fact that on the day following the election of Frederick, Archduke Ferdinand was unanimously chosen as Emperor by the German electors (August&nbp;28, 1619) should have been a further inducement to cautious action.
Frederick, however, soon abandoned his first decision. Christian of Anhalt represented to him that having done so much to obtain the Bohemian throne, he would incur lasting disgrace should he now refuse it. The Elector's ambitious consort, Elizabeth, is said to have exercised her great influence towards the same end. Frederick finally decided to accept the crown of Bohemia without waiting for the approval of the King of England. He wrote to inform his father-in-law of his decision, and by the beginning of October it was also known at Prague that Frederick had accepted the crown. Immediately after this decision Frederick left Amberg to join the Electress at Heidelberg. Thence they both started for Bohemia, and reached the frontier of that country at Waldsassen (near Cheb) on October 25. The king and queen, as they were henceforth called, were here received by a deputation composed of representatives of all the lands of the Bohemian crown. Count Andrew Šlik first welcomed the king, and the deputation was afterwards received by the queen. Venceslas of Ruppa, speaking in French, thanked her for having shown herself friendly to the Bohemian cause, and for having encouraged her husband to accept the crown. Speaking in the same language, Elizabeth replied: "What I have done for the glory of God and for the religion in the past has been done with good intention on my part, and in the future also I shall not be wanting in affection and good-will to you." These words are by most writers considered as an admission on the part of the queen that she had persuaded her husband to accept the Bohemian crown.
On October 25 the king and queen continued their journey, and were enthusiastically received by the nobility and the people of all the towns through which they passed.
They arrived before Prague on October 31, and were met at the gates of the city by large deputations of nobles and citizens. Their solemn entry into Prague took place on the same day. On November 4 the king, and three days later the queen, were crowned in the cathedral of St. Vitus on the Hradčany, Dicastus (the Administrator of the Protestant Consistory) officiating on both occasions. The enthusiasm, both of the nobles and of the citizens, knew no bounds. The winning manners of the king in particular obtained him great popularity, while his incapacity and irresolution had not yet been discovered. The fact that Frederick was ignorant of the Bohemian language—which he does not seem even to have attempted to acquire—very soon interfered with his popularity, and the Bohemians began to speak of their new king as a foreigner. This designation was still more freely applied to Queen Elizabeth, who not only was ignorant of the Bohemian tongue, but whose knowledge of German was also exceedingly limited. A Chinese wall, as Dr. Gindely expresses it, separated her from the Bohemian ladies, few of whom spoke French, and none English. Her intercourse was therefore confined to her own maids of honour, most of whom were English; and it was believed that in her conversations with them she spoke of her new home in a manner that was far from appreciative. The queen thus gradually became unpopular. The habits of her English attendants—even the low dresses worn by the ladies of her court—excited the displeasure of the ladies of Prague.
The "Directors" resigned their office immediately after the coronation, and it was Frederick's duty now to appoint the State and court officials. It is a proof how limited the king's power was, that he was only allowed to choose among four nominees of the Estates in each case. The principal dignities were, as natural, conferred on the leaders of the movement—Budova, Ruppa, Schlick, and William of Lobkowitz. Thurn was reinstated in his office of Burgrave of the Karlstein, of which dignity King Matthew had deprived him. The arrival of King Frederick therefore but little changed the political position of the Bohemian nobles, who continued to hold the real power; though they hoped by the election of Frederick to obtain foreign aid. The Bohemians were opposed to all interference on the part of the German councillors who had accompanied Frederick. They specially resented the attempts of Camerarius—the most able and trusted of the king's councillors—to examine the state of the finances of the country, which had fallen into hopeless disorder. Camerarius rightly foresaw that this circumstance, and the consequent impossibility of paying the troops regularly, would greatly contribute to the downfall of the new king.
Frederick was from the first confronted by the difficulties caused by religious strife. He had indeed declared himself a friend of religious liberty, and had promised the Catholic States, for whose aid he still hoped, to refrain from all steps hostile to the Roman faith; but the narrow-minded sectarian feeling, common at that period to all religious creeds, rendered a policy of tolerance an impossibility. On the advice of Schulze, his court chaplain, Frederick soon after his coronation caused all the altars and pictures to be removed from the church of St. Vitus at Prague, the time-honoured sanctuary of the Bohemian nation. This caused a general outcry in the whole country. The Bohemian Brethren, whom Frederick favoured, and whose doctrine was very similar to that of the Calvinists, were alone in their approbation of this measure. The Catholic and Lutheran clergy vied in their denunciations of the sacrilegious king. Hoe, the Lutheran court chaplain of the Elector of Saxony, was particularly active in inciting public opinion in Germany, as well as in Bohemia, against Frederick.
Warfare had meanwhile continued during the months that immediately preceded and followed the coronation of Frederick. As stated before, the army of Bouquoi had retreated from Bohemia in September (1619). During Count Thurn's presence in the neighbourhood of Vienna in June a Hungarian embassy had appeared in his camp, and the foundation was then laid of an alliance between the Bohemian and the Hungarian Protestants, the leader of these latter being then Gabriel Bethlen, prince of Transylvania. Following the retreating forces of Bouquoi, Thurn's army again entered Austria and joined the forces of Bethlen. An indecisive engagement took place at Ulrichskirchen in Lower Austria, after which Bouquoi retreated across the Danube, burning the bridges behind him. A formal alliance had meanwhile been concluded at Presburg between Bohemia, Hungary, and Transylvania, and it was decided that a joint embassy from the three countries should repair to Constantinople, to request the Sultanas aid against the Emperor Ferdinand. It was at the same time decided that, late as the season was, an attempt on Vienna should still be made. Want of heavy artillery, the mutinous state of the troops, whose pay was heavily in arrear, and the severity of the weather would probably have prevented the success of the enterprise; but early in December Bethlen, whose army, together with that of Thurn, had arrived before Vienna a few days previously, received news that the Hungarian Catholics, aided by Polish troops, had risen in arms against him; he therefore (December 5) hastily left the neighbourhood of Vienna and returned to Hungary.
Winter, as usual at that period, now put a temporary stop to hostilities, and the short respite was employed by both parties in attempting to secure allies for the struggle of the following year, which all felt would be decisive. It can be briefly stated that in these negotiations Ferdinand was entirely successful, while Frederick's attempt to obtain allies resulted in complete failure. The spring of the year 1620 found Bohemia almost isolated, while a large part of Europe was arrayed in arms against her.
First and foremost of the allies of Ferdinand was Philip III, King of Spain. As mentioned before, Spanish diplomacy had intervened in the affairs of Bohemia in a sense hostile to the Protestants, during both the reigns of Rudolph and Matthew. Subsequently, a slight estrangement between the two branches of the house of Habsburg had taken place. Philip, on the death of the Emperor Matthew, believed his own right to Matthew's succession to be superior to that of Ferdinand.
Through the able diplomacy of Khevenhüller, Ferdinand's ambassador at Madrid, this difficulty was soon overcome. Khevenhüller strongly urged that the interest of the Roman Church, menaced by the temporary triumph of the Bohemian Protestants, preceded all other matters. When the king's confessor, who possessed great influence over him, raised some objection to Khevenhüller's demands for aid for his master, the ambassador answered him, "that his place in hell would be deeper than those of Calvin and Luther." Before the beginning of the spring (1620) the ambassador's efforts were entirely successful. Spain engaged herself to send a large force to reinforce Bouquoi's army, and also to subsidize the new Emperor on a large scale. It was further settled that a Spanish army should invade the Palatinate from the Netherlands, thus preventing the new King of Bohemia from receiving any aid from his hereditary dominions.
Among the Italian princes, the Pope naturally supported the cause of the Church of which he was the head. He had sent subsidies to Matthew from the beginning of the Bohemian revolution, but now that the decisive moment seemed near he increased his efforts. He imposed a tithe on all Church property in Italy, and was thus able to forward large sums, not only to Ferdinand, but also to the "Liga" of German Catholic princes whose troops, in 1620, invaded Bohemia. The Grand Duke of Tuscany sent some troops to the aid of the Emperor Ferdinand, and the Duke of Savoy, whose policy had completely changed, also offered to assist him with part of his army.
France did not interfere with armed forces, but the diplomacy of that power was for the moment decidedly favourable to the Emperor. The French envoys dissuaded the Protestant princes of Germany from affording any aid to the King of Bohemia, and the treaty of Ulm, which sealed his fate, was principally due to their efforts.
Turning to Northern Europe, Poland had already, by assisting the Hungarian Catholics in their attack on Bethlen, afforded aid to Ferdinand. During the winter (1619–1620) the Emperor obtained King Sigismund of Poland's permission to enlist a large force of Cossacks on Polish territory. These savage troops spread general terror among the people of Austria and Bohemia, to whom they were known as the "bloodhounds." They specially contributed to the suppression of the Protestant movement in Lower Austria. The King of Denmark, though a Protestant, disapproved of Frederick's expedition to Bohemia, and Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, who appears to have had more sympathy with the King of Bohemia, would by distance alone have been prevented from interfering before the speedy collapse of the Bohemian movement took place. He was also at that moment at war with Poland.
Far more important than the attitude of any of the Powers hitherto referred to, was that of the German princes and towns; for on that the result of the struggle between the competitors for the Bohemian crown principally depended. The German States were at that moment divided into two confederacies: the "Liga," to which most of the Catholics belonged, and the "Union," which—with the exception of Saxony—had been joined by the principal Protestant States. The heads of the two lines of the House of Wittelsbach, Maximilian, Duke of Bavaria, and Frederick, Elector Palatine, were at that time the chiefs of the rival confederacies. Though the Bohemians had chosen the leader of the Union as their king, the Protestant princes, and still more the Protestant free towns, from the first showed little sympathy for the Bohemian cause. The records of this period are mostly written from the point of view of religious controversy, and generally leave other motives in the background. It, however, appears probable that the hereditary hatred between Slavs and Germans contributed to preventing the German Protestants from co-operating with those of Bohemia. The princes of the Union strongly protested against Frederick's action in leading some of the troops of the Union to Bohemia. They even wished to deprive him of his position as head of their confederacy, alleging that he had by his acceptation of the Bohemian throne rendered himself unable to perform the duties attached to that office.
The ability of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, assisted by the efforts of the French envoys, was thus enabled to achieve a diplomatic success, which may be said to have sealed the fate of Frederick. The new Emperor had after his coronation visited Duke Maximilian at Munich (October 1619). It seems probable that at this moment already the Emperor promised Maximilian, in return for his assistance against Bohemia, that the dignity of Elector should, after the defeat of Frederick, be transferred from the Protestant to the Catholic line of the house of Wittelsbach. It was now only necessary for Duke Maximilian to acquire the certainty that his own dominions would not be attacked; he would then be able to use against Bohemia the whole strength of the Catholic "Liga." This result was only obtained after protracted negotiations, during which Maximilian received great assistance from the French ambassadors, who were instructed directly to menace the German Protestants. A treaty was at last signed at Ulm (July 3, 1620), by Duke Maximilian on behalf of the Catholic, and by the Elector of Brandenburg on behalf of the Protestant princes and free towns of Germany. By this agreement both parties pledged themselves not to attack the German lands belonging to the other party. Bohemia was not included in this treaty, and thus remained exposed to the attack of the "Liga." The very fair demand of the Protestants that the Archduke Albert, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, should undertake not to attack the hereditary domains of the Elector Palatine was rejected by Maximilian; he said that the Archduke was not a member of the "Liga," and that he had no right to give him orders. The Protestants did not insist, and shortly afterwards the Archduke Albert sent a Spanish army under Spinola to the Palatinate. The forces of Frederick were unable to resist this attack, so it hardly need be mentioned that the King of Bohemia had no hope of receiving aid from his hereditary territory.
Almost all the more important Catholic countries, therefore, for the moment supported the Emperor, either with their arms or at least by their diplomatic action. Ferdinand was also certain of the neutrality of the German Protestant princes, and it was his good fortune even to obtain active aid from one of the most important of their number, the Elector of Saxony. It is not easy to account for the policy of the Elector. A zealous Lutheran, he was strongly opposed to the Calvinism of Frederick and the Bohemians; the intense dislike for that people which the influential court chaplain Hoe entertained must also be taken into account. The feeling that it was the duty of the Electors to aid their Emperor in retaining the Bohemian crown, now long connected with the Imperial dignity, together with jealousy of Frederick's increased power, may also have influenced the Elector. It is also probable that he entertained hopes of permanently acquiring Lusatia in return for his services. It is at any rate certain that from the beginning of the year 1620 the Elector of Saxony had cast in his lot with the Emperor, though it was only towards the end of the summer that a complete agreement as to a simultaneous attack on Bohemia from Austria, Bavaria, and Saxony was arrived at.
The prospects of the King of Bohemia were very different indeed from those of the Emperor. Little hope could from the first be placed on the Protestant princes of Germany, though the fatal treaty of Ulm was only signed in July. The only aid the Bohemians could seriously rely on was that of the Protestant nobles of Lower and Upper Austria, and that of Gabriel Bethlen, Prince of Transylvania, who at that moment had obtained possession of a considerable part of Hungary. Bethlen had, in January (1620), concluded a truce with Ferdinand on terms very favourable to himself. The Emperor had temporarily sanctioned his occupation of the Hungarian districts which he had acquired. Bethlen's suggestion that Bohemia should be included in the truce was, however, rejected. The Prince of Transylvania, fortunately for the Bohemians, soon broke the truce, and as early as March (1620) renewed his alliance with them; a small Hungarian force, indeed, remained with the Bohemian armies up to the final downfall in November.
The Bohemians to the end hoped for aid from Turkey. They had, together with the Hungarians, sent an embassy to Constantinople in the autumn of 1619, and shortly afterwards Mehemed Aga was sent by the Sultan to Prague to congratulate King Frederick on his election, and to promise him aid from Turkey. The Sultan was, however, at this moment engaged in war in Asia; besides, he probably thought the struggle would be a prolonged one, and rightly judged that the weakening of the countries of Eastern and Central Europe could but favour his own plan of an advance westward. Towards the end of the summer (1620) another Bohemian embassy started for Constantinople, but only arrived there on November 27, nineteen days after the battle of the "White Mountain."
From the many allies whom the Bohemians believed they would gain through the election of Frederick little or no aid was obtained. Foremost among these imaginary allies was, of course. King James of England. Want of space renders it impossible to notice the very curious remarks which recent writers have made concerning the action of English diplomacy in Germany and Bohemia at this period. It appears certain that the envoys of King James, contrary to their instructions, and in consequence of their zeal for the Protestant cause, acted in a manner more favourable to King Frederick than their master desired. King James always declined to abet his son-in-law in his attempt to seize Bohemia, but he reluctantly consented to pay a subsidy to him for the defence of the Palatinate. An English envoy was sent to Brussels to dissuade Archduke Albert from invading the hereditary domains of the Elector Palatine. Up to the moment that the troops of Spinola had entered the Palatinate the English Government was assured that no such intention existed. King James became the "laughing-stock and plaything of the Catholic powers."
The Netherlands—where Frederick afterwards took refuge—afforded as much aid to the king during his short reign as was in their power. Precluded by their geographical situation from any armed intervention, they to the last sent him subsidies, though, irritated by the cold, not to say hostile, attitude of King James, they occasionally threatened to withdraw their help should the King of England entirely abandon his son-in-law.
The Republic of Venice was also one of the States on whose aid the credulous Bohemians had relied. King Frederick and the Estates were incessant in their applications for financial help from the Republic. No such help ever seems to have been afforded, and the speedy termination of the war would in any case have rendered it fruitless.
During the one winter in which he ruled Bohemia, Frederick was not entirely unsuccessful in securing the affection of his new subjects. A certain feeling of attachment to the new dynasty arose. When the queen (Dec. 26, 1619) gave birth to her third son. Prince Rupert, afterwards so prominent in English history, the people of Prague cordially joined in the festivities which took place at court on the occasion of this event. In February (1620) the new king visited Moravia and Silesia. Both at Brno and at Breslau he was enthusiastically received, so that it appeared as if all the lands of the Bohemian crown were united in their devotion to the new ruler.
By this time hostilities had already recommenced. On the retreat of the Hungarian forces from the neighbourhood of Vienna the Bohemians had also retired. The Bohemian troops remained in the part of Lower Austria nearest to the frontier of their country. The Moravians took up their winter quarters in the Moravian districts adjoining Austria, while the Silesians for a time separated from the rest of the army. During the winter a small force, raised by the Austrian Protestants, joined the Bohemian army in Lower Austria. The first engagement between the Imperialists under Bouquoi and the Bohemians took place (in February) near Langenlois, in Lower Austria; the troops of Ferdinand were entirely successful. Soon afterwards Prince Christian of Anhalt assumed the command of the Bohemian forces, and the jealousy between him and Thurn, the former commander, was one of the many causes that contributed to the speedy downfall of Bohemia. Hostilities of an indecisive character continued during spring and summer up to the moment when the treaty of Ulm and the Saxon declaration in favour of Ferdinand rendered a combined attack on Bohemia possible.
As soon as the treaty of Ulm had guaranteed to Duke Maximilian of Bavaria the security of his own dominions, he lost no time in hurrying to the assistance of the Emperor Ferdinand. His army crossed the frontier of Upper Austria on July 24, and that country submitted almost without resistance. The Protestant Estates, not expecting so rapid an attack, had not sufficiently armed themselves and were disappointed in their hope of aid from Bohemia and Hungary. After the submission of Upper Austria, Maximilian was free to direct his entire attention to Bohemia, as the Protestant movement in Lower Austria had also already collapsed. The Protestant nobles had indeed raised some troops, and they now (August 1) proclaimed Frederick, King of Bohemia, their protector. They were, however, as ill-prepared for war as the Protestants of Upper Austria, and all resistance on their part was soon suppressed with the help of the Emperor's Polish mercenaries, whose ferocity and cruelty spread terror through Lower Austria.
After some deliberation it was settled that the army of the "Liga" should unite with that of Bouquoi, and that they then should conjointly invade Bohemia. Before crossing the frontier, Duke Maximilian addressed a letter to the Estates of Bohemia, informing them that he had received an Imperial "patent" authorizing him to invade Bohemia unless the Estates immediately recognized the authority of Ferdinand, their legitimate sovereign. The Estates answered (August 30) by a letter, the contents of which would excite more admiration had they not been in such entire contradiction to the attitude of the Bohemian people during the subsequent short campaign. Returning the Imperial "patent," the Estates declared that "they would—should an entirely unprovoked attack be made on them—defend their king, who had been elected and crowned in accordance with the old privileges and rights of Bohemia; and that they would fight to the utmost for the lands of the Bohemian crown, and for their beloved country, at the risk of their estates and their lives; they therefore confidently entrusted the decision to the justice of God." On the day he addressed his letter to the Estates, Maximilian also wrote to King Frederick, summoning him immediately to leave Bohemia. The king returned an answer similar to that of the Estates. On September 8 the army of the "Liga" united with that of Bouquoi in Lower Austria, and the combined forces, crossing the Bohemian frontier (September 20), marched on Budějovice.
Bouquoi nominally retained his separate command, but he henceforth played a minor part, as the influence and importance of the Duke of Bavaria were far superior to his. A few days before (September 13) the troops of the Elector of Saxony had crossed the frontier of Lusatia, to reduce this dependency of Bohemia to Ferdinand's rule.
Never was Bohemia less prepared to resist the vast forces now on the march against her. It would indeed have required the enthusiasm of the Hussite times to render a successful defence possible. The Bohemians of this period were, however, very different from their heroic ancestors. There was nothing also in the person of the German king whom they had chosen to carry away the masses as Žižka and Prokop had done in the days of old. Frederick, though the charm of his manners secured for him a certain degree of popularity to which Queen Elizabeth never attained, soon proved himself utterly deficient as ruler of the country in a moment of almost unexampled difficulty. As already noted, the former "Directors" had, while abandoning that title, retained almost all their former power. At a moment when a dictator with uncontested authority could perhaps have saved the country, constant quarrels between the new German generals, Anhalt and Hohenlohe, and Thurn and Mansfeld, the earlier commanders of the Bohemian forces, took place.
The king's notorious incapacity in military affairs, in which he had as a youth received no instruction, rendered his position even more hopeless. The military ignorance of the king was probably one of the reasons why about this time the supreme direction of the defence of the country was entrusted to a council of war. Besides the principal Bohemian statesmen and generals, Baron Tschernembl, leader of the Protestants of Upper Austria, and General Hofkirchen, commander of the levies of the Protestant Estates of Lower Austria, who had sought refuge in Bohemia, formed part of this council. Tschernembl, aware of the desperate position of the country, advised desperate remedies. He demanded that the order calling the whole male population to arms should be more strictly carried out, and demanded a great increase of the taxation and the abolition of serfdom. The latter step, he justly urged, was absolutely necessary to interest the masses in the defence of their country. These proposals, obviously opposed to the landed interest, and therefore to the wishes of the great Bohemian nobles who were the originators of the movement against the house of Habsburg, were rejected by the council of war; in fact, the deliberations of that body, which, as Gindely says had been summoned at a moment when the possibility of its proving useful had already almost ceased, led to hardly any practical result.
It is, however, probable that it was on the suggestion of the council of war that the king at last decided to leave Prague (September 28) and to join his army. The fact that his cousin, Maximilian of Bavaria, himself led the Catholic forces rendered the king's presence with his troops even more necessary than it would otherwise have been. Before the king had joined his army, the enemy had already achieved important successes. Duke Maximilian and Bouquoi had taken the towns of Vodňan, Prachatic, and Pisek by storm. Instead of marching directly on Prague, they then led their forces in the direction of Pilsen, the most important town of Western Bohemia, which was now held by a strong force under Mansfeld.
On first joining his army, Frederick, perhaps in consequence of his ignorance of military matters, seems to have taken a not unfavourable view of the situation. In a letter to Doge Priuli, he informed him that he hoped soon to expel and totally defeat the invading army. Events unfortunately were not in accordance with the king's previsions. When the enemy's troops approached Plzeň, an emissary sent by Mansfeld appeared and demanded an armistice. Mansfeld had long been at discord with the other Bohemian generals, and his troops, who had received no pay for a year, were mutinous. It is, however, probable that a promise of a large sum of money was made to Mansfeld, and that this was the principal cause of this act of treachery, which destroyed the last hopes of the Bohemians. The army of the king had in the meantime arrived at Rokycan, near Plzeň, and a joint attack on the Imperial forces would not have been without some chance of success. Treachery was indeed prevalent in the Bohemian camp, as Frederick particularly noticed in a letter to Queen Elizabeth written about this time. The army at Plzeň now no longer menacing their flanks, it was natural that Bouquoi and the Duke of Bavaria—or rather Tilly, to whom he delegated the actual management of the campaign—should have decided to march on Prague. In their opinion, which the events justified, the surrender of the capital would end the Protestant movement in Bohemia as well as in the other lands of the Bohemian crown. Well informed as they were concerning all that occurred in the Bohemian camp, they probably knew that the king's arrival had in no way improved the situation, and that the dissensions among the generals, and the turbulence of the soldiers, were on the increase. A gain of time was, therefore—in view of the increasing demoralization of the Bohemian forces—an advantage for the Imperialists, and they decided against marching on Prague by the direct road which led through Rokycan, round which town Frederick's army was encamped. The Catholic army therefore advanced from Plzeň to Kralovic, as if intending to attack Northern Bohemia. After it had arrived there it suddenly turned eastward, in the direction towards Prague. Anhalt, who in view of the notorious incapacity of the king had assumed the command of the Bohemian army, was not deceived by the feint of his adversary. His army marched on Prague by the direct road, and arrived at Rakonic shortly before the Imperialist forces. The mediæval fortifications of that town still afforded some defence against such artillery as was then in use. Numerous skirmishes took place during the days in which the two armies confronted each other near Rakonic. The demoralization of the Bohemian army daily became more apparent, and we are told that in one of the skirmishes near Rakonic two hundred and fifty Bohemian horsemen fled at the approach of eighteen Bavarians. Frederick also gave himself up to complete despondency, and hastily sent a messenger to Prague, requesting Queen Elizabeth to leave Bohemia immediately. This plan was frustrated, not only by the opposition of the Bohemian nobles, but also by the courageous attitude of the queen. She treated Frederick's suggestion with undisguised contempt; and, indeed, during the short period of their reign showed a firmness and courage in which her husband was lamentably deficient. Though the Bohemians were unable to oppose their enemies in the open field, the strong natural position of Rakonic and its fortifications rendered it difficult for the Catholic forces to dislodge Anhalt, at least without great loss of life. They therefore—on the advice of Tilly—decided again to outflank the Bohemians and to march straight on Prague. Anhalt, however, soon discovered that the camp of the Catholics had been evacuated. He therefore also hurried to Prague on parallel roads, fearing that the enemy might arrive there before him. Near Unhost, two (German) miles from Prague, the armies were close to each other, but Anhalt avoided a battle in what appeared to him an unfavourable position. He hurried on to Prague, and reached the outskirts of the capital on the evening of November 7. The Bohemian forces occupied a strong and judiciously chosen position on the "White Mountain" (Bila Hora), a few miles outside the walls of Prague. King Frederick immediately left his army and retired to the royal castle on the Hradčin, still bent on urging Queen Elizabeth to fly; he perhaps also wished to avoid the responsibility of commanding an army over which he no longer had any authority. Early on the following morning—November 8—the Catholic forces arrived before Prague, the Bavarians and other troops of the "Liga" forming the vanguard. Tilly and the Duke of Bavaria, contrary to the opinion of Bouquoi, decided on an immediate attack. The great demoralization in the Bohemian army, which was well known to the enemies, together with the fact that—following the example of their king—many Bohemian officers had left their soldiers and retired to Prague, rendered an immediate assault advisable; particularly as the Imperialists wished to finish the campaign before the winter. These motives, more probably than the eloquence of a Dominican friar, to which the decision was afterwards attributed, induced the Catholics immediately to begin their attack.
The numerical forces of the contending armies were nearly equal. The troops of the Catholic "Liga" numbered about 12,000, the Imperialists about 15,000 men. The forces of Anhalt—including 8000 Hungarian horsemen sent by Bethlen, and the levies of the Protestant nobles of Austria—also amounted to about 27,000 men. Nearly equal in numbers, the armies were very unequal as regards their fighting capacity. The Catholic troops, well fed and regularly paid, were thoroughly prepared and eager for battle; while the numerous monks, especially the Jesuits, whom the Duke of Bavaria had brought with him, inflamed the soldiers to fight bravely against the heretics. The Bohemian troops, on the other hand, who since the beginning of the war had been irregularly paid, and who had suffered great privations, were on the verge of mutiny. The generals to the last continued quarrelling among themselves, while the now notorious incapacity of the king, and his openly displayed despondency, contributed to render the result of the battle certain.
It was on Sunday (November 8) that was fought the battle which terminated the existence of Bohemia as an independent state. Even before the Romanist council of war had decided to attack the Bohemian army immediately, a small Bavarian force—not yet supported by the mass of the allied army—attacked the right flank of the Bohemian position. Count Šlik, who commanded some of the Moravian troops, hastily sought Christian of Anhalt, begging his permission to attack the Bavarians on their march. It was a weighty and fateful moment in the history of the Bohemian people. Anhalt at first favoured the proposal, but on the advice of Hohenlohe—one of Frederick's German generals—finally refused his consent. The whole mass of the Catholics had meanwhile united, and advanced along the whole line, Tilly soon succeeding in driving back the enemies on the right flank of the Bohemian army. The Imperial cavalry attacked Count Thurn's regiment on the extreme left of the Bohemian position. The attack of the Imperialists was bravely repulsed by the Bohemian troops, and the cavalry of the younger Prince of Anhalt made a successful attack on the Imperialist infantry, of which two regiments were put to flight. The situation for a moment became so serious that Bouquoi, who had been wounded in one of the skirmishes before Rakonic, and was hardly able to sit his horse, rode to the front to encourage his soldiers; but the news of the complete success obtained by Tilly and the troops of the "Liga" over the right wing of the Bohemian army soon re-established the confidence of the Imperialists. The Hungarian horsemen on their first onslaught defeated the cavalry of Maximilian, but were soon beaten back by his infantry. Considering the battle as already lost, they fled in great confusion in the direction of the river Vltava, which they attempted to cross by a ford just above Prague—near the present suburb of Smichov, where more than a thousand of them were drowned. The combined forces of the Romanists soon stormed the small redoubts, which Anhalt had hastily erected in the night preceding the battle, and the whole Bohemian army, seized by a wild panic, fled in disorder in the direction of the gates of Prague. There were a few exceptions to the well-nigh general cowardice. A small body of Moravian troops, headed by Count Henry Šlik and the younger Count Thurn, retired in the direction of the park known as the "hvězda" (star) where they continued their defence till almost all had been killed. The soldiers of the Palatinate, who formed Frederick's body-guard, died almost to a man in defence of the cause of their unworthy sovereign. These isolated instances of bravery were, of course, unavailing to avert the general disaster, and a battle of a few hours decided the fate of Bohemia.
King Frederick, as already mentioned, had proceeded to the town of Prague as soon as the Bohemian troops arrived at the White Mountain. Weston and Conway, the English ambassadors sent by King James, had arrived at Prague, and the king wished to entertain them at a banquet. It was at this banquet, an eye-witness tells us, that the king received the news that his troops were engaged in battle. He mounted his horse and rode to the neighbouring Strakov gate. By the time he arrived there the Bohemian army was in full flight, and the king, seeing that everything was lost, hastily returned to the palace on the Hradčin, from where, accompanied by the queen and the court officials, he crossed the Vltava, and retired to the "old town" on the right bank of the river. A large part of the soldiery also hastily sought refuge on the right bank of the Vltava, while many more dispersed in various directions. On the same evening Frederick assembled his principal councillors and generals, to deliberate what steps to take. The king himself was strongly in favour of completely abandoning a cause he believed hopeless, and had but one wish—to leave Bohemia instantly. He displayed, however, a certain amount of courage, probably through the influence of the queen, and attempted to dissemble his opinion. Tschernembl spoke strongly in favour of further resistance. Pie suggested holding the town at least for a few days, collecting the scattered troops, and then making an orderly retreat. It was left to Tschernembl, a foreigner and a German, to remind the Bohemians of the glorious victory which their ancestors had achieved on +Žižka's Hill, close to the spot where the deliberation took place. The younger Count Thurn, who alone of the Bohemian officers had fought not ingloriously during the battle, spoke in the same sense as Tschernembl. Christian of Anhalt, the originator of the intrigues and negotiations which had raised Frederick to his precarious throne, now spoke in favour of immediate flight; he had been in constant conflict with the Bohemian generals, and wished to leave the country as soon as possible. The principal argument of Anhalt was that the mutinous condition of the troops rendered it impossible to induce them to face the enemy again. He even suggested the possibility of their entering into independent negotiations with the Catholic leaders. Anhalt's former antagonist. Count Thurn, to whose influence the Defenestration and the beginning of the war were due, now also lost all courage, and spoke in favour of evacuating Bohemia. This was the king's opinion also, but he still attempted to postpone his decision. He therefore requested the English envoys, Conway and Weston, to enter into negotiations with the Duke of Bavaria and Bouquoi. The ministers undertook this mission, and sent a message to the Bavarian camp requesting an interview with Maximilian. This message remained unanswered, as did also a second one, which they forwarded on the following morning. It was well known to the Catholic princes that King James had no sympathy with the enterprise of his son-in-law, or indeed with the Protestant cause, and at no period, perhaps, was the prestige of English diplomacy so low. As no answer was received, it was decided at nine in the morning (November 9) that the queen should leave immediately with her youngest child. The king still pretended to have the intention of remaining in the town. The queen's travelling-carriage was prepared: "the resoluteness he had hitherto displayed now forsook the king; when Elizabeth, carrying her son, entered the carriage, it became impossible to hold him back. He mounted his horse, and gave the signal for a general flight."
Though Mansfeld shortly afterwards again attempted to oppose the Imperialists, and some slight resistance was still offered by Moravia and Silesia, the battle of the Bila Hora was shortly followed by the complete submission of all the lands of the Bohemian crown.
What were the reasons which caused the Bohemian nation, that had two centuries before, proved itself victorious under even more difficult circumstances, to succumb almost without a struggle? There is no doubt that the universal adoption of serfdom in Bohemia had entirely changed the character of the population. In the Hussite struggle large armies of peasants had freely and enthusiastically defended their country, and the democratic instinct, innate in the Slav race, had had full play. The Bohemian war of 1618 to 1620 was on both sides waged by mercenaries, and the better paid and better fed soldiers of Tilly and Bouquoi easily prevailed over the troops of Frederick, who were almost always on the verge of mutiny. The national enthusiasm which had animated the Bohemians on previous occasions was also naturally absent in this, the last of their wars. The German prince, whom their nobles had elected as king, ignorant as he was even of the language of the land, could not inspire them with the confidence which—in spite of temporary differences—they felt for men such as Žižka and Prokop, born Bohemians, thoroughly in touch with the national feeling. The miserable irresolution and weakness, not to call it cowardice, displayed by the German prince, who had undertaken to govern a headstrong people, ill disposed to all foreign, and especially to German, rule, made his position even more hopeless. The religious enthusiasm on which Budova, Ruppa, and other more far-seeing leaders probably reckoned as a substitute for the necessarily absent racial one, was always found wanting. In Bohemia, as in Germany, Protestantism was divided between the Calvinist and the Lutheran creed, and the strongest animosity then existed between the adherents of the two beliefs.
The Calvinistic doctrine, then prevalent in the Palatinate, and which Frederick and his councillors would undoubtedly, had fate favoured them, have established in Bohemia, was distasteful to many of the Bohemian Protestants; they had, indeed, long diverged from the old utraquist Church, founded on the Compacts, but they had retained much of the ritual and discipline of the Church of Rome. The religious party most in harmony with the doctrine of the divines of the Palatinate was the "Unity" of the Bohemian Brethren; of these, however, many entertained scruples as to the right of resistance to temporal authority under any circumstances whatever. It has already been noted that Žerotin, the leader of the "Unity" in Moravia, who also exercised great influence over the Brethren in Bohemia, totally refused to join the movement against the house of Habsburg. It remains to allude to the hopeless situation of Bohemia in its relations to foreign countries. A country such as Bohemia, neither very large nor very rich, was at best unable to resist the entire power of that absolutist alliance between Spain, Austria and Rome which Fra Paoli Sarpi termed the diacatholicon.
There is no doubt that immediately after the battle of the White Mountain the councillors of Ferdinand decided to change entirely the ancient free constitution of Bohemia, though, as will be noted in the next chapter, circumstances did not permit of these changes being carried out immediately in their entirety.
Before the great changes in the political and religious condition of Bohemia were carried out, Ferdinand's government considered it advisable that the public punishment of the leaders of the late revolution should take place. Early in the year 1621 the principal Bohemian nobles who had not fled from the country, and other leaders were arrested. On June 21 Budova, Count Černin, Count Šlik, Harrant Lord of Polžic, the celebrated Doctor Jessenius, who had negotiated with Gabriel Bethlen on behalf of the Bohemian Government, and others—twenty-seven in all—were executed in the market-place of Prague. They all met their fate with great fortitude. On many others imprisonment and other lesser punishments were inflicted. These melancholy executions mark the end of the old and independent development of Bohemia. Members of the most prominent families of the Bohemian nobility, eminent citizens and learned men, in fact all the representatives of the culture of the land, ended here, and with them their cause. The destiny of the country was henceforth in the hands of foreigners, who had neither comprehension nor sympathy with its former institutions."
- A. Rezek, Geschichte der Regierung Ferdinands I in Böhmen.
- The number of the adherents of the Church of Rome during the sixteenth century is a very contested point. Dr. Gindely (Geschichte der Ertheitung des Böhmischen Majestätsbriefes), counting together Bohemia and Moravia, where the Roman Church never completely lost its power, estimates them as a third of the population. This figure is certainly too high. Gindely himself, speaking of the last years of the sixteenth century, says that Catholicism was constantly losing ground, and would then have been extinct had it not been for the Jesuits. The Venetian ambassador, Giovanni Michiel (writing in 1576), speaks of "questi pochi catholici che ci sono" (in Bohemia); he adds, however, "che sono però li maggior signori ed officiali del regno" (from the State Archives at Venice).
- Dr. Gindely (Geschichte der Böhmischen Brüder) admits the innocence of Augusta, but he attempts to prove that the Lutherans who were involved in the supposed conspiracy tried to obtain their own security by throwing the responsibility on Augusta and other leaders of the Unity.
- The views of the more advanced utraquists, or rather Lutherans, are stated very forcibly by Andreas ab Habernfeld in his little known but valuable work, Bellum Bohemicum. Lugduni Batavorum, 1645: "A primo Jesuitarum in Bohemiam introitu turbari regnum coeperat, Regum Sacramenta Sanctiones donationesque vilia haberi. Status reipublicae optime constitus vitiari, aboleri consuetudines, Religionem quae summum mortalitatis solatium est, intentari, inquisitionis Hispanicae seminaria inseri."
- Gindely, Rudolph II und seine Zeit.
- Of Ferdinand I's other sons, the one (Ferdinand) inherited the Tyrol, the other (Charles) Styria, with Carinthia Snd Carniola. Charles was succeeded by his son Ferdinand, who subsequently became Emperor as well as King of Bohemia and Hungary, under the name of Ferdinand II.
- The Venetian ambassador, Giovanni Michiel, writing from Prague, March 17, 1567, says that the menaces of the Turks "con maggior instantia che non si faceva fa Sua Maestá sollecitare la conclusione della dieta di questo regno et essendo stati tutti questi giorni gran divisione et contentioni tra li cittadini da una parte et li baroni et nobili dall' altra con esser mancato poco che non sono venuti a romore d'altro che di parola; comparuen avanti hieri inanzi Sua Maestà instando la parte de' cettadini con molti nobili fra loro di poter far alteratione nella religiona volendosi ridunare alia confession Augustana benchè non I'esprimessero; alii quali s'opposero questi pochi catholici che ci sono (che sono peró li maggior signori et ufficiali del regno) con li quali s'unirono anco molti di questi Hussiti, quelli cioé de communicano 'sub utráque,' mostrando che per le transationi et constitutioni particolari del regno in materia di religione non si poteva fare alteratione dello stato presente; sopra il quale articolo Sua Maestà disse che non appartene, a lei molto manco a loro conoscere sopra il fatto di religione ma apparteneva all pontefice Romano et alia chiesa aggiungendo che non era tempo parlar di questo" (from the State Archives, Venice).
- "Hieri mattina tornando Sua Maestà de mezza presenti tutti noi, li fu presentata una scrittura di non molta, decivano, sattisfatione di lei, alla quale bisognerà risposta che potria esser causa di maggior lunghezza et pratration della dieta con molto dispiacere di Sua Maestà" (Despatch of the Venetian ambassador, Giovanni Michiel, dated Prague, April 14, 1567. From the Slate Archives, Venice).
- Dr. Gindely, Rudolph der Zweite und seine Zeit. The fact that Prague had virtually become the capital of vast countries, together with Rudolph's marked interest in the arts, resulted in a great enlargement and embellishment of the town duiing his reign. Paul Stransky—no friend of the house of Habsburg—quotes the following epigram to this purpose—
"Lignea prima fuit, posuit cum limina Pragae
Jam tum surgenti prima Libussa suae
Marmorea inde stetit postquam super aethera turres
Extulit et magnas luxuriosa domos
Jam non marmorea est non lignea at aurea tota
Continua facta est sede Rodolphe tua."
- Dr. Gindely, Rudolph der Zweite und seine Zeit.
- In 1578, twenty years after their introduction, the Jesuit order only counted forty members.
- Dr. Gindely, Rudolph I und seine Zeit, vol. i. p. 68. In the same work (vol. i. p. 179), Gindely says that during the first years of the seventeenth century certainly not a tenth part of the nobility of Bohemia, and a still smaller portion of the other classes, were Catholics. Catholicism must at this period have decreased rapidly, if we compare these figures with those Gindely gives for the sixteenth century. See note 1, p. 206.
- Following Gindely's example, I give this joint designation to the Lutherans and Bohemian Brethren when they acted in accord. From this period to the suppression of religious liberty in Bohemia this union was generally effective and real.
- "Baro de Martinic ferreo instrumento ore ad hiatum distento hostias injici subditis mandabat cogique ad idolorum ministerium" (Habernfeld). Recent historians, writing from a strongly Roman Catholic point of view, have, not very successfully, attempted to deny, or at least to extenuate, the violence of Martinic and other Catholic nobles at this time.
- Afterwards German Emperor under the name of Ferdinand II, as well as King of Bohemia and Hungary.
- Dr. Gindely's works, especially his Rudolph II und seine Zeit, show how great was the influence of Christian of Anhalt on the events in Bohemia at this period.
- The term "Austria" at this period, of course, indicates the Archduchy of Upper and Lower Austria.
- The ordinary Diets consisted of delegates of Bohemia only. The "General Diet " at this period, included also representaiives of Moravia, Silesia, and Lusatia.
- The expression "terminus fatalis domus Austriacae" is quoted by Gindely from Anhalt's correspondence of this time.
- See p. 214.
- "Mit starken Räuschen" : Gindely, quoting a contemporary manuscript.
- The influence of Budova sprang from his learning and affability of manners. Long residence in most of the countries of Europe, and familiarity with many languages, alike contributed to distinguish him. Since his return to Bohemia he had employed his time partly as an author, partly as leader of his party in the Diet. Being one of the most ardent adherents of the Unity of the Bohemian Brethren, he was in closer contact with the people than most other nobles; for the nobles of the Unity put no restraint on the consciences of their dependents, and showed due consideration to creeds differing from their own. Their attitude necessarily produced a favourable impression on the masses (Gindely, Rudolph II).
- Maximilian I as King of Bohemia.
- As will be mentioned presently, the meeting of the Protestants, contrary to Budova's words, took place in the town-hall of the Nové Město, not on the Hradčany, where the Estates met. The cause of this was probably the desire to exclude the Roman Catholic members of the Diet.
- The enormous palace, or rather series of palaces, on the Hradčany included the residence of the king and of the great State officials, as well as the seat of the supreme courts of justice and the meeting-place of the Diets.
- It is worthy of notice, as a proof of the decline of Romanism in Bohemia at this period, that of the nobles, knights, and town representatives present, only one-tenth belonged to that Church (Gindely).
- As has been noticed previously, the position of the Protestants had been more secure during the reign of that prince than during that of his father, Ferdinand I.
- The estates belonging to the king and the towns under his immediate sovereignty, and enjoying special immunities, were thus designated. They were in this way distinguished from the estates of the nobles and the towns which were built on land belonging to nobles.
- In German "Klostergrab."
- This important question is fully elucidated by Dr. Gindely. In his earlier work (Geschichte der Ertheilung des Böhmischen Majestâtsbriefes) the great Bohemian historian attempted to defend the conduct of the Archbishop of Prague and of the Abbot of Břevnov. He then only considered the Letter of Majesty, ignoring the Agreement signed at the same time. In his Rudolph II und seine Zeit, Dr. Gindely with great frankness modifies his former opinion. The right of Protestants to build churches on lands owned by Roman ecclesiastics was undeniable. The Protestant citizens of Hrob and Broumov had the law on their side.
- The Protestants of Bohemia, even after they had risen in arms against King Matthew (in 1618), maintained that the stipulations of the Letter of Majesty and the Agreement, if faithfully carried out, would have completely satisfied them. In the letter addressed to King James I of England by the "Directors" (dated Prague, Nov. 3 (New Style), 1618), they stated that "post multa certamina singulari Dei providentia a Rudolpho Secundo Imperatore, et Rege Nostro beatae memoriae non modo libertas religionis nobis evangelicis concessa sed etiam diplomate Caesareo stabilita et a moderno etiam Caesare domino nostro clementissimo solemniter confirmata, sanctaque pax et libertas religionis inter nos Evangelicos sub Utrâque et Pontificios sub Unâ vulgo nominatos erecta fuit" (from the copy of the letter preserved in the Stale Archives, Venice).
- A contemporary French newsletter (Arras 1611) states: "Romeo continuant son chemin vers Prague avec I'armée Leopoldienne donna une telle espouvante aux Bohemiens par ou il passa que craignans plus les siens que les Turcs mesmes, ils abandonnoient leurs maisons et leurs biens pour s'exempter de tumber sous leur cruanté!"
- See p. 178.
- Dalmatia, Galicia and the Bukowina only became part of the Habsburg dominions many years later.
- Dr. Söltl, Der Religionskrieg in Deutschland.
- See note 3, p. 235.
- It is curious to note that Wallenstein is alleged to have said that the greatest folly the Bohemians had committed had been to throw Martinic and Slavata out of a window instead of thrusting a sword through their bodies.
- The pious Romanists afterwards attributed their escape to a miracle. The height of the windows from the ground is about forty feet.
- I quote from a MS. copy preserved in the State Archives at Venice.
- Dr. Söltl, Elizabeth Stuart: Gemahlin Friedrich V von der Pfalz. Dr. Söltl quotes from a contemporary manuscript.
- This referred to the Breisgau and some adjoining districts—now forming parts of Baden and Würtemburg.
- See Gindely, Geschichte des Dreissigjährigen Krieges.
- The Venetian archives contain numerous letters addressed by Frederick of the Palatinate to the Doges Antonio Priuli and Francesco Contarini (1618–1624), requesting financial aid.
- The Estates afterwards published their reasons for dethroning Ferdinand in a thick volume (consisting of 394 pages, and an Appendix of 226 pages containing documentary evidence). In this book—entitled Deductio deren Ursachen warum … Kaiser Ferdinand des Regiments in Böhmen … verlustigt—the question is treated with appalling thoroughness. Procopius's history, De Bello Gothico, is made to bear witness against Ferdinand, and we begin the history of Bohemia with Krokus and Libussa!
- This is principally stated by Catholic authors of this period, who surnamed Elizabeth the Helen of Germany, thus indicating that she Avas the cause of all the calamities which the Thirty Years' War brought on Germany. In a letter which Elizabeth at this time addressed to her husband, who had sought her advice, she said: "As God directs everything, He had undoubtedly also ordained this "(i.e. the election). "She therefore left it to her husband to decide whether he would accept the crown. Should he do so, she was ready to obey the call of God, to suffer what God might decree, and even if necessary to sacrifice her jewels and all her worldly possessions." This letter can hardly be considered as pleading strongly in favour of Frederick's acceptance of the Bohemian crown.
- Announcing his coronation to Antonio Priuli, Doge of Venice, on the day of that event ("In arce nostra Pragensi Die iv. Novembris 1619"), the king says: "Pollicemur autem S.V. nos hac in parte privatum emolumentum nullum prorsus sed duntaxat afflictorum liberationem ab exterminio et clade publica et libertatis communis patrocinium ante oculos habere ideoque Religioni Romanae additos non minus quam Evangelicae professionis premissam illis liberam ubique suae religionis exercitionem tueri velle" (Stale Archives, Venice).
- The intervention of Spain in Bohemian affairs may be traced some way back. Writing from Prague the Venetian ambassador, Vinceruo Gradenigo, states (Sept. 6, 1588): "Kuischky (Kinsky), held to be a leading heretic, said the other day that unless they kept their eyes open they would one day find themselves under Spanish yoke, but that the German princes had no intention of allowing such a thing to happen to them, and were on the lookout" (Calendar of State relating to English affairs, preserved in the Archives of Venice, vol. iii. p. 384. Edited by Mr. Horatio F. Brown).
- They were not precluded from aiding Frederick in Bohemia by the treaty of Ulm, which had left that country entirely outside the sphere of its stipulations; it was, however, clear to Ferdinand that no such intervention would take place.
- One of these letters addressed to Doger Priuli, begging that he would aid the Bohemians, "ad usum belli hujus insigni aliqua pecuniae summa pro qua sufficientissimam cautionem Serenitati Vestrae ac inclytae isti Reipublicae praestare parati sumus," is dated from Prague as late as October 20, 1620. Frederick had then already left for the seat of war, and the letter is signed by the "Serenissimi Regis Bohemiae Consiliarii ac Supremi ejusdem Regni Officiales" (State Archives, Venice).
- Lontorp (Lontorpius) (Acta publica der Kaiserlichen und zu Hungern und Böhmen Königlichen Majestät weiland Matthiae und Ferdinandi, 1621) prints these four letters.
- This circumstance, very exceptional in the case of a German prince of that period, is noted in the Mémoires sur la vie et la mort de la Princesse Loyse Juliane Electrice. A Leyden, 1644.
- "Nos potenli Dei brachio confisi et nequidquam copiam exercitus hostilis metuentes in persona copiis nostris militaribus adesse voluimus hostem subinde insequentes ut si qua praeliandi occasio (quam praeterlabi et neglegi serio cavebimus) offeratur, caput capiti objiciamus et Deo conatibus nostris propitio finibus regni nostri arcere et peritus fundere valeamus" (Letter dated, "In Castris ad Lnarz," October 7, 1620, in the State Archives at Venice).
- "Depuis nous avons été avertis que le Duc de Bavière et le Comte de Bouquoi ont été en bataille toute la nuit pour nous attendre; de là on peut juger qu nous n'avons faute de traitres." This letter, dated "Rochesance (Rokycan) Le 12/22 Octobre 1620," is printed in Sir George Bromley's Royal Letters; a book quaintly described by Carlyle as "one of the most curious books on the Thirty Years' War, 'edited' with a composed stupidity and cheerful infinitude of ignorance which still farther distinguishes it." The book is, however, not without value for students of Bohemian history.
- Gindely, Geschichie des Dreissigjdhrigen Krieges.
- Dr. Kreb's Die Schlacht am weissen Berge.
- Son of Christian of Anhalt.
- Of this isolated and little known heroic defence Dr. Krebs writes eloquently: "The south-eastern wall of the Star park thus became the grave of Bohemian independence. Every Bohemian who passes by this spot should remember: it is sacred ground on which you tread."
- "Die Leibguardi des Churpfaltzgrafen zu Ross und zu Fuss welche blaue Rüstung gefuhret seien bis auff wenige neben ihrem Rittmeister von Wallesheim geblieben" (Nicolaus Bellus, Osterreichischer Lorberkrantz. Frankfurt, 1625). Bellus differs from most contemporary writers by saying that the battle lasted during the whole day. "Das Treffen hat von morgen biss Abends umb 5 Uhrn gewehrt."
- It is almost impossible that the battle should have lasted one hour only, as has been often stated. The belief in an almost instantaneous victory may have originated from the circumstance that the Catholics attributed their victory to the intervention of the Virgin Mary.
- "Castra Bohemica hostem tentare rumor ad Fredericum Regem defertur, interrupto, convivio, equum conscendit propere castra periculo agitata visurus, aderat globus equstris quingentorum capitum; eram et ego in isto comitatu, turbati convivii auctor. Ad portam Strahovensem accedente Rege clausa ista erat, circumspicit infelicem exercitus sui fugam, vidit repentes ad sublime valli Duces, ipsorum equos cum mille aliis per aperta cursitantes, spectaculum sane deplorandum. Clamore mulierum horrendo Rex perterritus arcem repetabat" (Habernfeld).
- In a letter addressed to Count Šlik, one of the Bohemian leaders—dated Dresden, August 23, 1619—Hoe, court chaplain to the Elector of Saxony, writes: "Your Lordship is known to the whole Christian world for your zeal against the injurious, blasphemous, and damnable Calvinistic creed. I beg your Lordship, 'per amorem Dei et per vulnera Christi,' to retain these views, and to prove it, so that posterity may for ever have cause to praise your zeal. Your Lordship has not been able to endure the papal yoke; verily that of the Calvinist is as intolerable and indeed more so" (Letter printed in the pamphlet entitled: Wohlmeinende Missiv von Herr D. Hoe, Oberhofprediger, 1619). It may be added that Dr. Hoe did not deny the authenticity of this letter, though he blamed Count Šlik for publishing it.
- "When one of these holy men and martyrs for God was called out (from prison for execution) then to our great astonishment a leave-taking took place in a pleasant manner which rejoiced our hearts, just as if they were preparing to go to a banquet or some pastime. 'Now, my dear friends, may our Lord God bless and guard you; may He grant you the consolation of the Holy Ghost, patience and courage so that you may be able now also to prove in the moment of your death, that you have heartily and bravely defended the honour of God. I go before you that I may first see the glory of Eternal God, the glory of our beloved Redeemer; but I await you directly after me; already in this hour earthly grief vanishes and a new heart-felt and eternal gladness begins.' The other prisoners who remained behind answered, 'May our Lord God bless you on your way, for the sake of the guiltless death of Jesus Christ; may He send His holy angels to meet your soul. You go before us to the glory of Heaven. We also will follow you, and we are certain because of Him in whom we have believed, Jesus Christ, that we shall to-day all meet there again, and that with our beloved Redeemer, the angels, and the chosen of God we shall rejoice for ever'" (Skála ze Zhoře, vol. v. p. 110–111).
- Gindely, Geschichte des Dreissigjährigen Krieges.