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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Count Thun was marching on Vienna

[Sidenote: 1619.]

Although the Protestants had only three Councillors out of ten, they were largely in the majority in Bohemia. They knew what retaliation the outbreak in Prague would bring upon them, and anticipated it by making the revolution general. They chose Count Thun as their leader, overturned the Imperial government, banished the Jesuits from the country, and entered into relations with the Protestant nobles of Austria, and the insurgent chief Bethlen Gabor in Hungary. The Emperor Matthias was willing to compromise the difficulty, but Ferdinand, stimulated by the Jesuits, declared for war. He sent two small armies into Bohemia, with a proclamation calling upon the people to submit. The Protestants of the North were at last aroused from their lethargy. Count Mansfeld marched with a force of 4,000 men to aid the Bohemians, and 3,000 more came from Silesia; the Imperial army was defeated and driven back to the Danube. At this juncture the Emperor Matthias died, on the 20th of May, 1619.

Ferdinand lost not a day in taking the power into his own hands. But Austria threatened revolution, Hungary had made common cause with Bohemia, Count Thun was marching on Vienna, and he was without an army to support his claims. Count Thun, however, instead of attacking Vienna, encamped outside the walls and began to negotiate. Ferdinand, hard pressed by the demands of the Austrian Protestants, was on the very point of yielding--in fact, a member of a deputation of sixteen noblemen had seized him by the coat,--when trumpets were heard, and a body of 500 cavalry, which had reached the city without being intercepted by the besiegers, appeared before the palace. This enabled him to defend the city, until the defeat of Count Mansfeld by another portion of his army, which had entered Bohemia, compelled Count Thun to raise the siege. Then Ferdinand hastened to Frankfort to look after his election as Emperor by the Diet, which met on the 28th of August, 1619.

It seems almost incredible that now, knowing his character and designs, the three Chief Electors who were Protestants should have voted for him, without being conscious that they were traitors to their faith and their people. It has been charged, but without any clear evidence, that they were bribed: it is probable that Ferdinand, whose Jesuitic education taught him that falsehood and perjury are permitted in serving the Church, misled them by promises of peace and justice; but it is also very likely that they imagined their own sovereignty depended on sustaining every tradition of the Empire. The people, of course, had not yet acquired any rights which a prince felt himself called upon to respect.


Ferdinand was elected, and properly crowned in the Cathedral at Frankfort, as Ferdinand II. The Bohemians, who were entitled to one of the seven chief voices in the Diet, claimed that the election was not binding upon them, and chose Frederick V. of the Palatinate as their king, in the hope that the Protestant "Union" would rally to their support. It was a fatal choice and a false hope. When Maximilian of Bavaria, at the head of the Catholic "League," took the field for the Emperor, the "Union" cowardly withdrew. Frederick V. went to Bohemia, was crowned, and idled his time away in fantastic diversions for one winter, while Ferdinand was calling Spain to attack the Palatinate of the Rhine, and borrowing Cossacks from Poland to put down his Protestant subjects in Austria. The Emperor assured the Protestant princes that the war should be confined to Bohemia, and one of them, the Elector John George of Saxony, a Lutheran, openly went over to his side in order to defeat Frederick V., a Calvinist. The Bohemians fell back to the walls of Prague before the armies of the Emperor and Bavaria; and there, on the White Mountain, a battle of an hour's duration, in November, 1620, decided the fate of the country. The former scattered in all directions; Frederick V. left Prague never to return, and Spanish, Italian and Hungarian troops overran Bohemia.

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