Thursday, 7 August 2014

End of Crisis, Beginning of War

Having finally reached the end of the line in our July Crisis Project, and in the process now feeling like I'm able to live my life without constantly thinking about these people, I feel like a blog post is in order to give you a chance to put faces to the names of these statesmen and to see the list of sources I used for my work.


First is Gavrilo Princep, who assassinated the Archduke and his wife and began the July Crisis.

Next up we have his mark and the man who had plans for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand. 

Next up we have Franz' uncle Franz-Josef, the incumbent emperor at the time of the July Crisis, and the man who signed off on numerous early orders that would prove so instrumental.
Next we have Austria's Foreign minister Leopold von Berchtold, whose declaration of war on Serbia on 28th July precipitated much of the crisis, but not all of it!

And who can forget Stefan Tisza? The man wholly responsible for delaying Vienna's response time!


And who can forget Count Alexander Hoyos? The Austrian who acquired the 'blank cheque' for his state and ensured that Germany would support the Habsburgs in *whatever* transpired.

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Helmut von Moltke the younger was living in his uncle's great shadow. Helmut the elder had overseen the defeat of France in 1870, now Germany surely hoped that lightening would strike twice with their second iteration of the military Moltke family. Though ardently pro-force and determined to stick to the war policy as planned, and unable to improvise, Moltke's control of events are almost always overstated by historians, who see Moltke as the conception of Germany in the pre-war years. Moltke was bellicose and would later prove himself hopelessly blind to foreign opinion when he insisted on the violation of Belgium, but he didn't control the country, and spent more time complaining that the 'two old women' of the Chancellor and Kaiser were restraining his hand and embarking on a weakly paciffist course.

Theobald Von Bethmann Holweg served as Germany's Chancellor from 1909-1916, and thus had a fundamental part to play in our story. The crisis would bear witness to the collapse of his life's work, as he had keenly pursued a policy of reapproachment with Britain on the basis that the naval race between Germany and Britain had wound down by 1914.
Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II, who this project will hopefully rehabilitate a tad in your eyes, is pictured here. As someone who tried to negotiate for peace till the very end, Wilhelm is interesting because for so long he was portrayed as the boogeyman of the era, and even I fell victim to this portrayal in my last special on the July Crisis. Sorry about that Willy.

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Wilhelm's third cousin lived in St Petersburg and was in fact the Tsar on Russia. Tsar Nicolas II was a weakly willed man, but was also a man who loved nationalist rhetoric and hated war; two strangely incompatible traits that would lead to his internal struggle later on to sign the mobilisation order.
Nicolas' Foreign Minister was Sergei Sazonov, the Russian statesman who would later insist on general mobilisation to the approval of Russia's war party, even after Nicolas cancelled it the previous day.
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These Russians met their French counterparts over the course of the summit from 20th-23rd July. Here is pictured Raymond Poincare, France's President and a determinedly bellicose man when it came to the issue of defending the entente's interests. He was, interestingly, from Alsace, born there in 1860, and remembered the invasion of German troops into his homeland for the rest of his life.

Rene Viviani was the French PM, who accompanied Poincare to the summit. A relatively new appointee to the office, Viviani was a pacifist and had to be persuaded regularly by Poincare of the need for the Russian alliance. He would become a determined supporter of the bellicose French course, much to Poincare's undoubted happiness.

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A British statesmen who must receive a mention was Sir Edward Grey, the thoroughly pre-occupied British foreign secretary during the July Crisis. Consistently behind on events and distracted by Ireland, one could make a case for Grey's unawareness of how bad things on the continent really were in 1914. His bias towards the entente is obvious when one notes how willing he was to believe the Franco-Russian picture of events, which was doctored to suit the entente's need to have a Britain that was on side with them. His battle to convince his government of the need to intervene would not be won by the time Germany invaded Belgium, and because of that German act the whole process became far easier to attain.
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After listing the folks responsible, the time has now come to list the sources I used. I of course cannot account for everything, and certainly used some accounts more than others, but the vast majority of what I used is listed here. Note in particular Christopher Clark's book the Sleepwalkers, and Sean McMeekin's book July 1914. Both were stellar works and helped me greatly; should you happen to own these books you'll likely notice that I drew upon their arguments and conclusions considerably for my project. I am indebted to them for their hard work, and I would highly recommend you check them out.


  • Sean McMeekin, July 1914. 2013.
  • Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914. 2012.
  • Geoffrey Wawro, A Mad Catastrophe: the outbreak of world war 1 and the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. 2014.
  • James Joll & Gordon Martel, The Origins of the First World War. 2013.
  • Roderick McLean, Royalty and Diplomacy in Europe 1890-1914. 2007.
  • Richard Ned Lebow, Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations. 2010.
  • Thomas Otte, July Crisis, the world's descent into war, Summer 1914. 2014.
  • Dale Copeland, The Origins of Major War. 2001.
  • Brian Higgins, Historians and the July Crisis of 1914: An Historiography of the Origins of the First World War. 1987.
  • Richard F. Hamilton, Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917. 2004.
  • William Mulligan, The Origins of the First World War. 2010.
  • Daniel Allen Butler, Burden of Guilt: How Germany Shattered the Last Days of Peace, Summer 1914. 2010.
  • Winston Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918. 1930 (republished since).

Thankssssssssssssss for reading and listening!

Friday, 20 June 2014

WDF: The End of the Thirty Years War

We've worked very hard to get all the way here, and I'm so proud to have had you here with me!

How do I even summarise how I'm feeling? How do I even go out with the kind of bang that justifies this era? I think it's fair to say that I really can't, because I will always be my biggest critic and I'll always remember something later on that I could or should have said instead or as well, or that would have been a better way to end the special.

We can run down the final events of what happened one last time though, and provide you guys with some handy photos and a full bibliography for those of you interested in locating my sources.

Maximilian of Bavaria provides us with one of the most interesting characters and story arcs of the war.

Maximilian of Bavaria of course deserves special mention, since his declaration of peace in March and then his return to the war in the September of 1647 effectively elongate the war and ensure that France and Sweden were forced to really crush the Imperials yet again for the message to be sent home. When they did this in the battle of Zusmarshausen in May 1648 it left the Habsburg-Bavarian alliance in tatters and with even less options that before. As Mazarin likely whispered something along the lines of 'I told you so' to his Bavarian enemy, Sweden continued its march into the Empire proper, and entered Bohemia to begin their final siege of Prague. The Swedish high command planned a total conquest of the Habsburg hereditary lands, so as to force Ferdinand III to make peace and grant concessions at Westphalia. France was eager to see this also, since it would have meant more pressure on Spain. The pressure proved too great; Ferdinand couldn't face another loss of such magnitude, and he elected to abandon his Habsburg Spanish brethren rather than continue the war in the face of hopeless odds. With the signing of the articles that formed the Treaty of Osnabruck, Ferdinand had extricated the HRE from conflict with France and Sweden, as well as resolving the remaining issues that kept the continent at war.

The treaty of Munster signed in January between the Dutch and Spanish was ratified in the final articles of the peace in October 1648. It meant that the French and Spanish were still at war, but that the rest of the continent could breath a sigh of relief at last.

Mazarin was likely a tad relieved to see the war with the Emperor concluded, because earlier in 1648 the Spanish had managed to make peace with their eternal enemy of the Dutch Republic, which for a time left the French alone against both Habsburg lines. However, the pressure exerted by success in the field made any positive results of this negligible, since the Emperor was overcome with the need to save himself rather than save Spain. In other words, France had been saved from a prolonged conflict with the Habsburg families largely because of events occurring within the HRE, events like the siege of Prague which, much like other French fortunes, tended to rely on Swedish actions. One could thus claim that France had been saved from a 2 on 1 assault by Sweden, though it is debatable whether the war would have been allowed to end by either the Swedes or French if it meant the French would be going it alone.

By signing on the dotted line the treaties of Munster and Osnabruck, Prague was saved from Swedish possession once word got out that the empire was now at peace. Wrangel, in charge of the army, withdrew, likely saving the citizens from the expected fall of the city, as the Swedes were within the bowels of it when word came. Here is a painting of the battle of Charles bridge, which was charged by the Swedes numerous times and held by the Prague citizens against all hope.

Issues that remained a tad controversial included those revolving around Pomerania; only to be solved in 1653 with the Treaty of Stettin, and the Palatinate, which Bavaria wanted to occupy in full, but which had been changed to a dual occupation with the creation of a new electoral seat for the Palatine family. All in all though, it was a dramatic conclusion, because the war was ended and the internal problems of the Holy Roman Empire were over. There was mass celebration, especially within the Dutch Republic and in parts of Germany that hadn't been without conflict for three decades. People who had only known war, suffering, scarcity and chaos were now assured of peace and a more certain future. It had been achieved by the pen at the two Westphalian cities of Osnabruck and Munster, and it would provide history with a handy linchpin of 'this point religious issues, after this point stately issues'. The desire to make this transition rested on the statesmen who believed in a new order that revolved around sovereignty and neorealism; a serious change from the Reformation driven policies of Europe of the past 100 plus years.

Here's another image of Pomerania, this one showing how it was partitioned between Brandenburg and Sweden with the 1653 Treaty of Stettin.

The celebrations in Amsterdam at the news of the Peace of Munster, signed in January and ratified in May, 1648, were something to be behold. Apparently they involved a level of posing (looking at you, guy in the middle-front) that would put even folks of today to shame.

It was the execution of the Counts Egmont and Hoorne, at the time nobles loyal to Spain, that began the Dutch Revolt. Thus the Dutch planned their ceremonies that formalised the end of hostilies with Spain to coincide with the 80th anniversary of their deaths. The above statue, standing in Brussles, is a reminder of their sacrifice for Dutch independence, though it ironically stands in what was once the Spanish Netherlands.

The peace did not continue between Spain and France; their war would not end until the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659. The Empire in the meantime would be centralised along Ferdinand III's ideals; he would take the hereditary lands effectively transforming the region in a state, which would then last until the early 20th century and evolve into the Austria we know today.

The HRE at 1648. Note the growth of Habsburg lands, the presence of the Spanish satellites and the incredible amount of microstates.

Without my sources I'd just be the enthusiastic podder without any proof. So thanks to any historic author who has supplied me with legitimacy. I hope that my coverage of events has done your book justice. What follows is the complete bibliography of my Thirty Years War Special. Any one interested in tracking down the sources I used can find them here, and if you have any other q's be sure to let me know!

Until we meet again history friends, thanks so much for your encouragement and support, be it monetary or morale, and I will be seeing you all (surprisingly) soon!

Thanksssss

Complete bibliography of sources used/cited/referenced during thirty years war special:
  • ·         Peter Padfield, Armada (Victor Gollancz LTD; 1988).
  • ·         Vincent J. Pitts, Henri IV of France: His Reign and Age (JHU Press; 2012).
  • ·         Geoffrey Parker, Europe in Crisis 1598-1648 (Fontanna Press; 1990).
  • ·         Geoffrey Parker, The Thirty Years War (Routledge, 1984).
  • ·         Edward Barton and Edwin Pears, “The Spanish Armada and the Ottoman Porte”, The English Historical Review, Vol. 8, No. 31 (Jul., 1993), pp. 439-466.
  • ·         Matthew Dimmock, New Turks: Dramatizing Islam and the Ottomans in Early Modern England (Ashgate Publishing; 2005).
  • ·         Hiram Morgan, Tyrone's Rebellion: The Outbreak of the Nine Years War in Tudor Ireland (Boydell Press; 1999).
  • ·         Brendan Fitzpatrick, Seventeenth-century Ireland: The War of Religions (Rowman and Littlefield; 1989).
  • ·         Richard Bonney, The Thirty Years War 1618-1648 (Osprey Publishing; 2002).
  • ·         Mieczysław B. Biskupski, The History of Poland (Greenwood Publishing Group; 2000).
  • ·         Brennan Purcell, The Winter King (Ashgate Publishing Company, 2003).
  • ·         William P. Guthrie, The Later Thirty Years War: From the Battle of Wittstock to the Treaty of Westphalia (Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003).
  • ·         Paul Sonnino, Mazarin's Quest: The Congress of Westphalia and the Coming of the Fronde (Harvard University Press, 2009).
  • ·         David Maland, Europe at War 1600-1650 (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1980).
  • ·         Derek Croxton, Peacemaking in Early Modern Europe (Associated University Presses Inc, 1999).
  • ·         Charles W. Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618–1815 (Cambridge University Press, 2000).
  • ·         Ekaterina Porshnev, Muscovy and Sweden in the Thirty Years’ War 1630-1635 (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
  • ·         Geoff Mortimer, Wallenstein: the Enigma of the Thirty Years War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).
  • ·         Georges Pages, The Thirty Years War 1618-1648 (London: Adam and Charles Black, 1970),
  • ·         C.V. Wedgewood, The Thirty Years War (London: Pimlico, 1992).
  • ·         J.H. Elliot, Imperial Spain 1469-1716 (Penguin, 2002).
  • ·         J.H. Elliot, The Revolt of the Catalans (Cambridge University Press, 1984).
  • ·         J.H. Elliot, Spain and its World 1500-1700 (Penguin, 1989).
  • ·         James Patrick, Renaissance and Reformation, Volume 6 (Marshall Cavendish, 2007).
  • ·         Peter H. Wilson, Europe’s Tragedy: a History of the Thirty Years War (Penguin Books Ltd, 2009).
  • ·         Ronald Asch, The Thirty Years War, the Holy Roman Empire and Europe, 1618-1648 (Macmillan Press Ltd, 1997).




Monday, 9 June 2014

1644-46; Actions, Reactions and Distractions

HI all, before I begin the latest script writing for what'll be the final (can't believe I'm saying that) episodic batch on the TYW, I'd like to backtrack a bit and remind us of what we saw in the last two episodes. The Rhine is featured heavily, as were the two cities of Osnabruck and Munster in Westphalia. Plenipotentiaries also made numerous appearances. Torstensson pwnd Denmark and then  turned south to pwn the Habsburgs, and yet France remained a tad strained and inefficient along the Rhine frontier.

Lennart Torstensson was Sweden's greatest asset in the closing years of the Thirty Years War. Not only did he command the love and loyalty of his troops, but his reputation for victory enabled Sweden to maintain the level of reparations that they had always sought from the post-war settlement.

The struggles that first Turenne and then Condé had to endure were frequently referred to. It really did sound that a really frustrating time; neither Bavaria nor France had enough resources to really be fighting each other; Bavaria because it was exhausted and France because it was so preoccupied elsewhere.  Catalonia and Flanders decimated Spain's ability to mount an effective military offensive after 1642, yet it also ensured France was permanantly entrenched in these areas. Just like the Dutch would expend countless monies in Brazil, ultimately to lose it, the goal was not really to hold onto the region (at least in the case of the whole of Catalonia, Flanders was a different animal altogether) but to bleed one's enemy white as they scrambled to reclaim the area. The Dutch would use this strategy perfectly in their war against the Portuguese, who despite splitting from Spain remained at war with the Republic for another few decades. The fighting mainly involved Portugal trying to claw back what it had lost, while the Dutch fighting a withdrawing battle across the South American country.

Franz von Mercy was Bavaria's saviour along the Rhine until his death in August 1645

Louis, the Prince of Condé, or the Grand Condé as he's also known, had a family history of being pretty darn important in France. His father was one of Henry IV's greatest allies too!


Undoubtedly Franz von Mercy was someone Maximilian of Bavaria relied upon as the crucial link holding Bavaria's fortunes together. As we saw, Ferdinand III's reliance on Max was because of Spain's own weakness; the Austrian Habsburgs could no longer count the Spanish Habsburgs as their greatest military ally in Europe. But Ferdinand's increased reliance on Bavaria was too little too late. Despite von Mercy's skills, he was merely stemming the tide, but Bavaria could not hold back France alone. Ferdinand's wasting of Gallas' army in the Danish debacle and the seemingly reckless way in which he threw his last remaining forces at the French while Torstensson lay on the Danube show that Ferdy was on his very last legs too. These Imperial acts were the last gaps of a doomed war effort on the verge of being overcome by superior resources and exhaustion. What mattered was not total victory though, it was the degree to which you could apply your battlefield successes into the negotiations taking place in the Westphalian cities.

Lorraine was owned by Duke Charles IV. His policies have been seen by some as France's most frustrating experience of the TYW.

Alsace was a critical region for France, and its control over it was borne out of its strategic necessity along the Rhine. French ownership of it came as a result of numerous treaties, which were held up in Westphalia as guaranteeing French rights to the region.

Franche-Comté was a Spanish critical for the maintenance of the Spanish Road, and its loss to France by 1645 was a testament to the dire nature of Spain's position by that year.


French occupation of the Rhine region also had dramatic implications for Spanish planning because the Spanish Road had once ran through all three of the above provinces that were now mostly in French hands. Spanish Netherlands was now totally cut off on land, and without the opportunity to resupply the soldiers in Flanders were in an almost impossible position.

This long overdue and very detailed map of the Rhine should hopefully clear up issues for those unfamiliar with European geography.

But it wasn't just the French thrusts into Bavaria that made headlines. Torstensson's forays into Denmark had ended by late 1644 and he was coming home in a big way. First he eliminated what remained of Gallas' forces and then focused his attention on the Empire proper. By 5th March 1645 Torstensson destroyed what remained of the Habsburgs' military integrity in the Holy Roman Empire. After this battle there simply wasn't a force in place adequate to combat the Habsburgs' enemies, and the allies of the Habsburgs would soon realise this.
In the battle of Mergentheim the following May though, French forces were again bloodied by Franz von Mercy as they attempted to follow up on their ally's successes in the Empire. The French failures were translated in Max of Bavaria's hilarious backtracking on his offers towards the French plennies at the two cities, which as we saw last time at one stage included France taking Bavaria under its protection. France soon regained what it had lost though. The battering of both sides at the Second Battle of Nordlingen in August spelled the end of Bavarian fortunes because von Mercy died on the field. His death meant that Max no longer had, not only the forces, but also the mind to control them. As French forces took Nordlingen, he was informed of Ferdinand's plan to send essentially the homeguard of the Habsburg heartlands on a daring dash across to the French position, to take the region back and relieve the pressure. It was daring not only because Ferdy was sending out his last line of defense, but also because Torstensson lay on the Danube apparently in reach of Vienna.

Yet the strike on Vienna would not come. Cardinal Jules Mazarin suspected foul play, and rumours began to emerge that the Swedes had been bought out. Yet the simple fact was that the Swedes, like the French, were human, and were using the siege of Brno as much to rest up as they were to take it from the Habsburgs. The fact that they were able to swing towards the French and remove them from the field yet again, sending them running back to Philipsburg, must have been immensely frustrating to Mazarin, because just when it seemed like France was on the verge of the kind of supremacy enjoyed by Sweden, it lost an important battle and thus lost ground at the bargaining table. As if seeking to blame someone else for the sting felt by their own inconsistency, French statesmen began loudly claiming Swedish foul play, yet Mazarin eventually put the kibosh on these rumours, which only gained so much ground in the first place because, as we saw, the French thought the Swedes were angry at them anyway for their secret Bavarian dealings. The fact is that they were, but Axe Ox was not so annoyed that he was simultaneously stupid; he knew Sweden had gained immeasurably since the French entry onto his side, he wasn't about to ruin the partnership now.

Mazarin was Richelieu's successor in every sense. His handle on Foreign Policy meant that even through the inconsistent military times, the French target remained in view, and that when negotiations came to a head he was ready to strike the best deal for his adopted homeland.

Nothing at the beginning of 1646 appeared certain, yet there was the certainty that Europe could not continue in its current state of war for much longer. The French nobility expected (accurately as it turned out) rebellion within the year, and the Swedes and Dutch all appeared to have their own agendas at the conference table that had to be made compatible with France so as to ensure the continuation of the working triple alliance. The Habsburgs were holding on, but at this stage it remained the goal of Ferdinand to acquire the best deal possible, with his trusty negotiator Trautmasdorff present in the two cities, while having to lose as little as possible. As we saw though, with the newly resurgent Ottoman threat, the loss of Saxony and the slow withdrawal of Bavaria, Ferdinand had begun to realise that in order to save his Empire, he must lose it first.

We'll see how all involved get involved next time, in episodes 25.96 and .98, due soon!

Thankssssss for reading!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

WDF: 1638-1645. Years of Decay, Defeat and Decision

In the years 1638-1645 the Habsburgs suffered a virtual nosedive in fortunes.

Forced to battle against their own provinces, in the case of Spain, or to endure a Swedish enemy without the resources to combat it, in the case of the HRE, neither Philip IV of Spain or Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III appeared to have much left in the tank.

Philip IV of Spain was tasked with maintaining and safeguarding his family's fortune's across Europe even while both branches of the Habsburg family endured a notable decline. 


Spain was in turmoil in 1640 because it had to combat a simultaneous breakaway of Catalonia in the North East and Portugal to the West. Neither of these campaigns could be dealt with quickly; both were long drawn out affairs, with heavy French presence in each. In fact, in the case of Catalonia, French forces combined with Catalans to largely occupy the region and name Louis XIII of France as Duke of Barcelona. It was a boon for Richelieu's fortunes, and perhaps the clearest example that his war by proxy and years of undermining his Spanish rival had paid off. Richelieu would die just after learning of the news that the Spanish king Philip IV had been humiliatingly defeated outside of the walls of his own city by rebels supported by the French, in Barcelona. I think we can safely bet that he died a happy man.

Louis XIII meanwhile can be credited with negotiating his country through some pretty tough times since his succession in 1610. Taking over from his father Henry IV, Louis may have had some ideas about the nature of French foreign policy and its need to combat the Habsburg influence, but such notions would only be realised once his tag team partner in Richelieu came onto the stage in 1623. Louis relied on Richelieu heavily, but it was this pairing that enabled to France to endure some of its most challenging domestic issues, as well as some of its most dangerous foreign threats.

Louis XIII of France guided his state through a critical time in Europe; his son Louis XIV would rule France for over 70 years and dominate Early Modern European narratives indefinitely.

Though Richelieu and Louis were essential to explaining French policy, when the two died and the next tag team took over the results would be even more spectacular. Louis XIII had been reliant on Richelieu, but Louis XIV, raised by his determined mother Anne of Austria, Philip IV of Spain's sister, would encapsulate everything absolute about monarchy in time. It was Cardinal Mazarin who made sure that Louis would get there though, because without that statesman's guiding hand in French policy one wonders at what would have become of the French efforts. In the event, Mazarin's rule began well with the French victory at Rocroi, but he would have his share of tough times thanks to the much criticised nature of French military inconsistency, which is an unfavourable trait we'll come to know well in the next batch of episodes.

Rocroi was a French military triumph of the highest order and illustrated just how far French arms had come since the disasters of 1635-37. Though consistency was not their strongpoint, French military endurance proved decisive over the by now exhausted Habsburg duo.


Johan Baner of the Swedish Empire can certainly be credited with having steered Sweden through some of its toughest and most uncertain times following the exit of Gustavus Adolphus from the scene. Baner's persistence and refusal to capitulate to Habsburg bribes and threats ensured that the Swedes lingered on as a thorn in the side of their fortunes until meaningful French agreements and finance enabled the kind of army Baner required. His efforts were bookended by an unsuccessful but incredibly symbolic siege of Regensburg in late 1640/early 1641 while the princes and key figures of the HRE sat in a long running conference there. Upon his death and the passing of his command to Lennart Torstensson, Sweden's fortunes continued to rise. Torstensson had the task of furthering Sweden's case in the HRE, but after a few months he was to be recalled to Sweden to prepare for an attack on Sweden's longtime enemy and Baltic rival, Denmark.

Torstensson's campaigns rattled Habsburg endurance, and the Empire proper was only momentarily spared from ruin when he was recalled to invade Denmark in late 1643.


The pre-emptive Swedish attack on Denmark took Sweden's allies and enemies by surprise. France wasn't happy because Axel Oxenstierna was using French subsidies to pay for a war against the Danes, which wasn't part of the plan. The Dutch were unhappy, at least initially, because they worried it would either grant Sweden in victory too much Baltic power, or in defeat and distraction would ruin the allied fortunes. Denmark and its king Christian IV were obviously unhappy because they were being invaded, but Christian remained calm and prepared his state for its second wholscale occupation in 20 years.

It seemed as though perhaps only Ferdinand III saw the Danish war as a positive option, since he hoped it would distract Sweden and enable both a concentrated attack against France and the entry of Denmark into the Habsburg camp by default. Ferdinand in his optimism sent Gallas' 20,000 strong army to aid his new ally, but it would all be for nought. The Franco-Swedish diplomatic cooperative had ensured that an insurance policy in Transylvania was waiting in the wings once Sweden had its back turned, and though it was a time of tension for the two crowns, and though George Rakoczy of Transylvania didn't stick around long, it served its purpose. Ferdinand desperately recalled Gallas to defend the Habsburg heartland, meaning Gallas had to turn back around. Now Torstensson followed Gallas, after months of it being the other way around, and the former defeated the latter in a series of battles that led into Germany. Gallas' forces scattered and that may have spelled the end of Ferdinand had the Ottoman Sultan not recalled his by now tired vassal George back home.

By this time Denmark had effectively fallen. Under fear of occupation amidst Dutch-Swedish naval supremacy, Christian IV signed the Peace of Bromsbro in August 1645, in an internationally mediated treaty that still managed to undesputadly alter for good the Baltic balance of power, and permanently fix the status of Denmark as that no longer of great power status.

The depressing experience of Denmark in Torstensson's war (1643-45) saw it lose key provinces such as (in red) Halland, which granted Sweden access to the North Sea quickly and overland and the Norwegian provinces of Jemtia and Herdalia (in yellow, middle of Sweden) represent a serious widening of the Swedish landmass, in addition to the (in yellow, Baltic Sea) islands of Osel and Gotland. All of these losses emphasised just how much Scandinavia had changed.


Ferdinand would also have been made aware of his own former allies leaving him. There was the issue of the ever-opportunistic Maximilian of Bavaria seeking out ways to exit from the conflict, but the successful exit of Frederick William of Brandenburg, who had inherited a paltry electorate from his father George William in 1640, sent a clear message to the Habsburg camp. In time, Sweden and Brandenburg would divide Pomerania among them, but for now Sweden remained supreme in war torn Northern Germany, as German prince after German prince made peace with them. It didn't matter that this technically violated the 1635 Peace of Prague or that Ferdinand didn't recognise it. The fact was that Northern German Protestant princes could not be protected by Ferdinand, and their realistic interpretation of events; a perspective first adopted by Brandenburg, inspired others to follow suit.

This map shows in dark red Brandendburg in 1600, while the lighter red represents the Prussian portions of territory it would later encompass. Pomerania refers to the land by the sea, and can thus literally mean any land along that top strip of Germany, from Denmark's southern tip to the edge of East Prussia.


The Dutch had had their share of domestic issues, but considering the fact that they had been at war with the Habsburgs since 1621 this was to be expected. Indeed the war was going in their favour by the early 1640's, to the extent that an exhausted and beleaguered Spain could not launch any further offensives following its failed ambitions in the disastrous campaign across the sea in 1639; which saw the Dutch violate English territorial waters so as to destroy once and for all the Spanish fleet and the Habsburgs last gasp to reconquer the Dutch Republic. In fact it was the very truth that the Dutch were no longer adverse threat of occupation and defeat that created tensions between the ruling dynasty led by Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, and the Estates General of the Netherlands.

The latter argued that since the war was going well, the pressures put on the country could be mostly lifted, and that normal life could resume gradually until an eventual peace was forthcoming. But Henry's rule depended on the presence of crisis within the state; it was how he had thus far so effectively turned the Dutch political groupings against one another and claimed additional powers for their own protection. With his family at the height of their powers in 1644, perhaps it was a symbol of just how far the Dutch had come that their biggest concerns now switched to domestic issues. The 17th century would undoubtedly be the year of the Dutch Republic; a feat all the more impressive when one considers their humble origins.

Frederick Henry of the Dutch Republic effectively oversaw the defeat of Spain alongside French and Swedish help, while his efforts to undermine Spain overseas led to Iberian chaos during 1640 and beyond.


As we draw to the end of our TYW special I am struck with how much Europe and its powers have changed since I began. I always found it interesting to see how powers interact with one another, but I also loved seeing the balance of power gradually change in this special. The Habsburgs are mostly a second rate power in my episodes that look at the later periods of history, but we have seen them here at their most powerful, and in the episodes before this special we even saw them take their place as Europe's foremost dynasty. Their decline went hand in hand with the rise of France, Sweden and the Dutch, and just as the rise of these powers is certainly fun and intriguing to watch, it is also somewhat nostalgic as a moment for me, because I know that it means that the era I began over a year ago with the War of the League of Cambrai will soon be over, and I will soon be moving onto bigger and better things.

What exactly those things are you will soon discover, but let's just say I have been planning it for a long time. Stay tuned next time for the Westphalian negotiations, a truly fascinating period in of itself and a great way to end the diplomatic fest that has been the Thirty Years War.


Thankssssss!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Happy 2nd Birthday To Us!

We've come a long way you and I.

On this day two years ago I was nervously hammering out the final details of the episode on the Franco-Prussian War that would make up my very first official episode. I had just got my guest episode published on the History of England Podcast that covered the Battle of Bannockburn, which technically meant that the podcast was ready to go, considering that the exposure gained from HOE would hopefully pull in new viewers and raise awareness. All that was needed was for me to release new episodes on my own bat. It was a shaky start.

Initially my podcasting skills were as bad as my graphic design skills, thankfully my podcast skills have improved, though I can't say the same for my graphic design skills.


I had very little real idea what I was doing and pretty much just copied everyone else who I admired and who I had spent so much time listening to during my periods of travel or exercise or anything else that I could use as an excuse to have to put those earbuds in yet again and devour my favourite show. In the years before I had come to love podcasts, and I would tell anyone who'd listen how great, approachable and effective they were as a means of learning. It didn't matter if I wasn't taking a test on the subject matter or if I was or wasn't studying the historical era in question in college; what mattered was that somewhere across the world, an individual was taking time out of his life to actually tell me something I didn't know, to teach me something new. What was more, they (most of the time obviously) enjoyed it.
Despite the clear amount of work they required, and the other life they definitely had, podcasters were happy to tell me about the ins and outs of Trajan or the food people in Medieval England liked to eat while also doing important life stuff. Not only that, but these podcasters weren't historical rockstars, they were average joes who had the drive and skills necessary to keep up a show and keep up their life at the same time. They would then be subjected to love that they would share on their shows. I would hear their experiences, and more and more the idea began to creep in that I could try my hand at it too.

I don't remember the exact date. But I knew what I wanted to do. I knew for a fact that most history podcasts that focused on wars usually bored me. They didn't focus enough on why wars happened, mostly they seemed content to tell us why unit A killed unit B and how they did it. For some people, this was the best thing ever, but for me I wanted to know why; why was unit A so determined to kill unit B in the first place, and furthermore, what did unit C think of all this? It drove to me examine what I really looked for in history, what I really enjoyed more than anything else. I knew I liked looking at the background of wars, and I always relished the chance to read about those really important ones that most people didn't really know about. When reading about wars I would always skim past the military stuff and look more carefully at the buildup to the war in question; I loved examining the relationship between states and how it came to deteriorate over time, or how certain statesmen drove certain policies that tied a state to a certain course of action. I realised, a little bit to my surprise, that I really enjoyed learning. What better way to learn, I mused, than to put what I discover into a form everyone else can get enjoyment from? A Podcast.

I'm still your average photogenic guy who loves Lord of the Rings marathons through the night just as much as podcasting and historical pursuits.


But could I really do it? I had no idea how the sound made by those I listened to even reached me. I didn't know enough about hosting or recording or anything. Literally all I knew was that I liked certain things about history and that finding them out and sharing them with others gave me that intense warm fuzzy feeling you get when you open a door for a pregnant lady. I had so much to learn, so I hit up Google and I started to panic. 'THIS is why loads of podcasts on the topic I want to do doesn't exist', I lamented. 'Just look at the amount of jargon I have to learn!' I filled pages of refill pad paper as I sought to teach myself what everything meant, and how I could go about making one myself. I set out a list of what I would need and how much it'd cost, then I worked a way out where how much I would have to pay someone to do all the boring and technical stuff for me. At this stage, 'boring and technical stuff” still included typing out the script and editing the sound file after recording it. I was clueless.

Yet I persevered, mainly because I sought additional help from an experienced podder. From the moment I heard his ad for a guest podcast I felt inspired. I milked the whole 'gimme just a little bit of help from one podcaster to another' thing for so long it wasn't funny. I managed to persuade him to listen to my draft recording of the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn as a guest episode for him, and he was on board. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I listened to David Crowther say my name on his podcast over ten times. This was David Crowther; the man who had led me personally through English history for the past year; and now he was announcing that I was due to guest appear on his show. I'm sure he thought I was a fantastically clueless and eccentric history nerd, but that didn't stop him from taking a well-deserved rest that week and letting my guest show be put on instead. Eventual my robotic episode on Bannockburn went up on the History of England feed. By that time I had the concept: wars throughout history, but from a diplomatic perspective. I had the plan: prepare a few episodes in advance, then release them and test the waters. I also had a name: When Diplomacy Fails.

With the feedback and experience from Bannockburn and the goodwill of the internet I penned Bismarck's best adventure and then sought to supplement it with something different. I was aware of TALK format episodes; it was in fact the Napoleonic Podcast by J David Markem and Cameron Riley that gave me the idea (to essentially plagiarise them), but I wanted them to really support my individual efforts, in case people were actually bored with me but still liked the subject. It worked surprisingly well as a concept. The choice of Sean was natural since he was my besty (and though I forced him to endure repeated rapid historical learning against his will he still is), but we had to make sure we gelled. I didn't want it to be this awkward giggle fest where only we really understood what was going on (though I understand some people do simply see the episodes as that) because I wanted them to still possess the ability to inform someone of the historical topic. I wanted at the same time to show that I was a normal person just as comfortable in front of a mic in a closed room as I was with my best friend after having eaten too much food. People appeared to have taken to it. I can't say how much people genuinely listen, but to this day TALK episodes (as they came to be known) usually receive 3/4 of the downloads that the regular episodes get. I rarely receive criticism for them (perhaps people just aren't willing to be mean?) and have been told that our banter is a welcome break from the style of the solo episodes. Benjamin Ashwell in particular was kind enough to point to our TALK episodes as one of the motivators for him selecting a similar format for his now very popular podcast on the Italian Unification.

Sean and I will always find an excuse to goof around when we're aren't doing some serious TALK episodes. Credit to him, he never complains!


The summer of 2012 saw me really grow as a podcaster, even though personally it was a very difficult time for me. Right around the time of WDF 4: The Spanish American War, my Dad collapsed from an aortic aneurysm while on holiday with family in Spain. The details were sketchy at first, but since it was my duty originally to mind the house over that ten day holiday, I was home alone, and I remember receiving that phone call while in church, a week after they had left. 'Dad has collapsed' was all Mom was able to say. I still remember that Sunday night, when details were sketchy and I was trying to distract myself while in denial of the whole thing. I was trying to record the Spanish-American War episode when the doorbell rang. From where I was sitting I could see who was at the door waiting for it to be opened: numerous friends of the family. I could also see the stern looks on their faces. I'll never forget that feeling. Panic doesn't even describe it. It was like the world was swallowing me, and I wanted to go away to somewhere where none of this was real anymore.
I opened the door. I fully expected them to say that Dad had died. Those were the words I expected to hear as they led me back into the sitting room, made me sit down and breathed in deeply. But those words didn't come. Instead I was told that he'd be having open heart surgery, that this meant they wouldn't be coming home as normal but that everyone would make sure I was going to be ok. It's funny now when I think of it, but because I expected the news to be so much worse I was overjoyed at the news that my Dad was having massive surgery in a foreign country I was far happier than they expected, to the point where I think somebody thought I had simply pretended not to hear or didn’t really understand the news. I thanked them for their time and led them to the door. I started recording again and the tears began to flow mid-record. I stopped recording and I just cried and cried. I got a drink of water and I cried some more. So many feelings poured out at once. I was so relieved, because I just knew he'd be ok, but I was also so scared and alone. I prayed like I'd never prayed before, and I went to sleep in that room on that couch clutching my dog tightly and thanking God for my family. I finished that episode a little later than deadline, which I think I allude to but I don't explain why. This, in case you were wondering, was why. I still have yet to listen to that episode. Sometimes even seeing that episode in the podcast listing makes my eyes well up again.

As a listener you may not want to know the above, but what happened to my family in the early days of my podcast really formed part of this podcast's identity. Dad came back from Spain virtually in pieces, with a beard for the first time (that I had seen at least) and having dropped serious poundage. Opening the door to his shell was something I'll never forget either. But I made sure not to let the events of that summer deter me. My podcast was so often my escape from these feelings, and when I didn't feel like I could go on without my family I would read more into wars I'd like to cover in the future. Gently, slowly, I would keep myself going until everyone finally came home safe and sound. For some reason I remember that on the day they came home I had just passed 13,000 downloads, but I'm pretty sure I didn't mention it till much later.

Myself and Dad a few months later. Still my hero.


When I started 2nd year in college it became obvious that college was, realistically, going to get in the way of When Diplomacy Fails. So I sought to ignore college for as long as I could. I succeeded, and actually churned out a good few episodes that autumn, but soon exams beckoned and not for the first time I had to put WDF on hold. I knew I was crazy when on Christmas Eve I was applying the finishing touches to the episode on the First Italo-Ethiopian War, but I loved every moment of it. The year 2013 was due to be special for me, because I had a plan, to finally cover the first world war in the detail I felt it never got, from the ground up. My 10 part special on WW1 took me about 6 months to complete, including initial prep and college interference, but it was so totally worth it. All it really did was whet my appetite for the era in general, but it also provided me with a really good example of how the podcast can further my knowledge. I was so delighted; as my downloads grew and my traffic increased, that so many people loved what I was doing. At this stage I finally felt I had found my niche. This was professed by a local Wicklow listener Sheamus Parle, who sought me out to speak at the Wicklow Rotary Club on podcasting and what I am and why on earth I do this, in January 2013. It was a great, triumphant experience for a Zack who had never tried proper public speaking before, and throughout it everything that could have gone wrong didn't, which made me think that maybe, teaching wouldn't be such a bad gig for me after all. Such were the areas future job ambitions grow from.

So 2nd year in UCD finished without much incident. But soon I realised that the 2nd podcast summer I had predicted would not materialise. Though I had the topics planned and I was gearing to go, I had finally got myself a part time job in my local Costa Coffee, and it soon became clear that it would take all of my time. Though I would be paid, I would find juggling podcast and job very difficult and very frustrating to adapt to. That summer I released far less than I wanted, but I learned a valuable lesson. Well a few actually. You can't always podcast when you want; sometimes you have to put the tedious stuff first; preparation is key; sometimes I can be unnecessarily lazy and sometimes podcasting was my favourite thing in the world to do.
But the podcast stayed alive, and I remained determined to keep up at least an acceptable level of podding while I viewed the final year of my Bachelor of Arts coming into focus. I had begun the process of examining the 30 Years War, and I knew that if it was going to work I had to manage a system where college and podcast could coexist. To an extent I did, but it was certainly helped by the fact that I finally found a history subject I really enjoyed. 3rd year was the year in my history studies when it felt like I wasn’t just struggling against the subjects in history I was forced to do. My history module ‘Politics, Culture and Diplomacy in Post-Westphalian Germany’ was so up my street I was practically living in it. The descriptor of the module made it sound like it began in 1648, at the end of the 30 Years War that I happened to be covering at the time. In actual fact though, it began earlier, as far back as the beginning of the 1500’s, and pretty much covered everything I loved about history in its duration until it sadly ended 12 weeks later with Napoleon. It was this course that reinvigorated my interest in history and made me determined to pursue it both academically and via podcast. The previous two years of mediocre subject matter and tired historical teaching had been made up for in this short term of learning.

Finally announcing that I had a part time paying job was a proud moment for me, but the war between job and podcast was unfortunately about to begin



Though the work was hard, we of course managed to have some fun time, below is my main man Stephen and Michaela, along with me of course



I managed to acquire an A grade in my Germany module; confirming at least in some way that it was the right direction for me. I quite simply loved what I was doing. It was a great feeling, even if I couldn’t release as many episodes as a wanted. That Christmas time in between my exams I was contacted by another listener to speak, this time to a legit college audience about the background to the European Union. It was quite the task, and I definitely spent more time preparing my guest lecture for John Hogan’s politics class than I did studying for my semester one exams. But I’d like to think it was worth it. The lecture went amazingly well, and I had that kind of euphoria afterwards that one only gets when they do something they love and they do it well. It helped of course that I had been seriously nervous about it for weeks beforehand. It also helped that I got to do some serious Christmas shopping afterwards. It also helped that I got paid for my troubles. Thanks again Dr Hogan, not only did you bring me out of my academic shell but you gave me the confidence to realise that, not only could I possibly teach in the future, but I am also justified in doing this podcast since I actually am qualified to bring people on this journey of learning.

Giving a guest lecture to these poor souls was a seriously proud moment for me, and the support I achieved from Dr John Hogan and the staff at the Dublin Institute of Technology spurred me onwards to pursue my interests further.


Also in that semester I was made aware that one of my old school friends had been asked while doing science grinds if he knew anyone who could do history grinds for Junior Cert level (about 15-16 year olds). This old friend of mine had seen and heard noise about my history podcast, and had heard along the grapevine that I was something of a history enthusiast. He recommended me to teach this poor girl history grinds. I now teach history grinds and get paid to do it. This is my first teaching job and I seriously enjoy it. Sometimes I think I scare the poor girl with my enthusiasm for things that happened 100 years ago. Like the podcast though I always try to keep it fun. At least I don’t tell her to BEFIT. Yet.

The New Year saw me struggle with work, college and podcasting, with the latter unfortunately coming dead last when it came to time allocated to it. I sought to release episodes in pairs so the story would hopefully flow a little better, and I think it worked even if it meant the process took longer. I always made sure I was satisfied with the product before I released it. Facing into my finals was tough, but all I could think about was far I’d come, how far the podcast had come; how far we’d all come. I plan on doing my Masters in International History in September, mostly so those who ask “who the hell are you anyways to talk to me about this topic” can please be quiet, but also because I wanted to further my learning. My podcast had taught me that the subjects I enjoyed were worth pursuing, since other people liked to hear me talk to them about what I’d learned, and the cycle would never end. I felt like I owed it to myself not to doubt what I was capable of, but to look at the idea of a masters with the same attitude as I had the podcast; a challenge that I could tackle, and that I was determined to overcome.


The photo of my final UCD college essay as an undergraduate, recorded for posterity.


Trying to put my finger on exactly what I had learned in my two years of podcasting is difficult. But I know that I have seriously benefited from it. I remember listening to a wrestling podcast, the Art of Wrestling by Colt Cabana, and on it he said that the best thing you can do as a creative person is have something you can point to as all your own, as your baby and your own creation; something that nobody else can take away from you and something that will always stand as a credit to you. I really feel that. Through the toughest times, even when I was snowed under with work, stresses or family troubles the podcast was always the thing I could hold up in my mind as something I could be proud of, something that, no matter how low my self-confidence went, would be there representing my efforts and mine alone.
When Diplomacy Fails has made me over 1,000 euro in donations. It has given me the opportunity to give a guest presentation and a guest lecture in a college. It has enabled me to practice my teaching methods with history grinds. But these are just the practical things. It has networked me with some incredible people, connected me with some seriously grateful and kind listeners; where I had the opportunity to advise them on setting up their own podcasts themselves. It was instrumental in helping me to further my learning and deepen my understanding of what I really enjoyed in history. I have been listened to in countries across the world, by people who don’t even have English as their first language! It is my proudest achievement and my favourite thing to do. It has taken over 60 hours of content, over 100,000 words and over half a million downloads to do it, but When Diplomacy Fails and the people who love it are a big part of the reason I am who am I today. In the space of two years, you and I have been through a lot. We’ve seen a lot of wars together; we’ve seen stupid mistakes, hilarious blunders, interesting side-notes, dastardly villains and terrible jokes. At the end of these two years though, I’d like to think that as the podcast has improved, so have I; not only as a podcaster or even amateur historian, but also as a man, as a son, and as a friend.

Not bad for a nervous 20 year old kid who had no idea what he was doing.

So, here’s to two years more, and more and more and more!



Zack Twamley, BA. (I had to get that in there).

Nothing is more important to me than family. (from left to right: Joanna, Sarah, me, Mom, Dad)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

An Unholy Emperor

Where were we?

I know it's been a while, I know you're sick of the gaps, probably sick of the era, and sick of me pillaging computer games for my backing soundtrack (many thanks to Europa Universalis III for the Breitenfeld soundtrack, I just had to use it don't you know). But we're on the home stretch now. The 1630's represent a key decade in not just the Thirty Years War, but also the transformation of the early-modern world.

A graphic you're by now well familiar with; what the HRE looked like in  1555, when the Peace of Augsburg established a tenuous existence between Germany's religious denominations.


In January 1630, the Habsburgs were on top, Denmark was defeated, the Dutch were alone, and Wallenstein's successes appeared to guarantee Ferdinand II's reforms, namely the Edict of Restitution that sought to redefine the Emperor's relationship with his subjects.

Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein, the Bohmeian Catholic who made Ferdinand's later successes possible, but who eventually fell victim to his own paranoia and success.


 Fast forward to January 1640, and we're faced with a totally different situation. The Dutch are now supported by a France that is bankrolling everything for their allies. The Spanish have no hope of defeating and reconquering the Dutch. Ferdinand II is dead and his son is his polar opposite, seeing peace as the ultimate goal rather than some hairbrained scheme to renegotiate years of religious developments.

Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and (below) the Poland he spent the better part of the 17th century fighting against. Additionally (bottom) there is the dramatic representation of Gustavus on horseback after his victory at Breitenfeld in September 1631. Gustavus would end his Polish campaigns in 1629, and would enter the HRE the year after.



The tide is clearly turning against the Habsburgs and will only get worse; a Sweden will continue its rampage throughout the HRE as Ferdinand III proves unable to finance anything, owing to his ally Spain falling into chaos. Spain's Portuguese and Catalonian problems will spill out into the open in 1640, crippling its ability to either fight France or aid its Austrian ally.

Ferdinand II c. 1614


How do we explain such a dramatic transformation? Is it simply the case that empires will always rise and fall? Or can we blame certain peoples for that empire's demise? Can we really blame Ferdinand II for taking things too far, turning Protestant (and yet xenophobic) portions of the HRE against him while Sweden remained a threat? I believe that to a certain extent we can. In my most recent episode, 25.75, Ferdinand II dies.

We have been with this guy since he first broke on the scene in Styria, in 1595. He was a podcast consistency, a WDF alumni if you will, for almost a whole working year. In the past 12 episodes on this TYW special, Ferdinand II has at least appeared, (though often required a large portion of our attention), for 9 of them. Additionally, though I know it's unprofessional, I've really developed a dislike for the man.

Philip IV of Spain

Louis XIII of France 

Fredrick Henry, Prince of Orange, of the Netherlands 

Axel Oxenstierna, Sweden's Chancellor 

Cardinal Richelieu, France's foremost politician and statesman 


I would hazard a guess to say that there will be some who disagree outright with my portrayal of Ferdinand II; I expect to be proven (or at least to have people think they have proven me) wrong. I hope in fact to be proven wrong, because just like Germany in the early 20th century got the most reckless, immature individual for a Kaiser, the HRE in 1617 comes under the rule of the man who holds his Jesuit, militant Catholic court above the interests of the wider Holy Roman Empire and who believes, sincerely, that it is his mission to bring to the HRE a Counter-Reformation style revolution. An intolerant ruler at the best of times, I do not buy the argument that the Defenestration of Prague wouldn't have occurred had Ferdinand been in place. To a certain extent, let's be fair, Calvinist extremism did play a part in the events of 1618 that began the TYW all those episodes ago.

The window that began it all, the top one, is where the agents of the Habsburgs were thrown in 1618.


But to another extent, what in God's name was Ferdinand II doing to defuse it? That's the point I make, or at least try to, in 25.75, that Ferdinand was not trying to defuse anything, because he saw the opportunity granted to him as Emperor of the HRE as his chance to 'right the wrongs' of years of organic religious development. The fact that the HRE was a seriously complicated animal, the fact that over the years emperors in Ferdinand's position had advocated and indeed acted as though the principles of tolerance, of 'German liberties' and decentralisation were paramount, did not seem to register in Ferdinand's mind. Matthias and Rudolf before him had recognised that their ruler depended upon the approval of all involved; that the distinct polity of the HRE depended upon putting the lessons learned by previous Emperors into practice. There was no point in trying to do it any other way, because the results of it would be an impossible religious war that nobody could win; if one was to simply allow each Elector, each minor prince and each major one to rule his domains as his own man, answering nominally to the Emperor of course, then everyone's world would be far simpler and more pacific.

John George of Saxony, he liked dogs 

George William of Brandenburg 

Maximilian of Bavaria 


This was a fact proven by attempts made by both Rudolf and Matthias to accommodate the HRE's various religious elements. Ferdinand did not abide by these rules though, and he didn't learn the lessons of their leadership. This was because for Ferdinand the HRE and the religious imbalance therein were problem issues. On his doorstep lay a breadth of religious diversity, but to Ferdinand this was a threat, an affront to Catholic piety and an act against his authority. When all was said and done, when Ferdinand had thoroughly trounced Fredrick V and his Palatine allies by 1624, that could have and should have been the end of it. The Defenestration, the upheaval that followed, one could at least reasonably argue that Ferdinand had been reacting, rather than acting majorly in that course of events. Could he have been more tolerant? Sure. Could he have acted better? Definitely. But these would be the limit of the criticisms leveled against him, especially if he managed to defuse the situation and prevent the escalation of the Palatine issue into a religious, widespread, European conflict. Imagine the good press he'd receive; Ferdinand II, the great accommodator, the man who the HRE can place its trust for the well-being of all its citizens, not just the ones which Ferdinand shared a religious affinity with.

The TYW in its distinct phases 


 But we know what really happened don't we? Ferdinand did not call a conference, he did not appeal to exterior forces to curb Fredrick's high ambitions for Bohemia and he did not make any attempt to settle Bohemia's fears either. Bohemia, though an electorate of the HRE and its most prosperous region, was treaty as a war prize by Ferdinand. He confiscated what wasn't nailed down to pay for his operations, he resettled or imprisoned or forced into exile those who had acted against him, and he began the religious reorientation of the entire kingdom. This, bear in mind, was going on while Fredrick V tried to organise a coalition against his emperor. Nobody, it seemed, was all that bothered that the religious balance of the HRE had been upset, or that its political gears were locked in stasis, because the delicate balance established centuries before had been erased. Just like that. Fredrick V was deposed as the Palatine's head. Bohemia came under the direct control of the Habsburgs. Just like that, Ferdinand had defeated his enemies, empowered his Spanish ally with its Palatine conquests and turned the voting powers he had in the Council dramatically in his favour.

Christian IV of Denmark, whose intervention in Germany began the war's transformation 


The world's second richest man was watching Ferdinand's moves though and moved to action because of his perceived endangerment, Christian IV of Denmark declared war against Ferdinand in 1625. Even now there was still a chance; there was always a chance. Christian brought some serious resources to the table, but he couldn't fight on forever in hostile territory. He knew this. He looked for allies. They meekly answered the call, and the Dutch were more than happy to see a new ally set against the Habsburgs. But it was not to last. Not even English support could save Christian's lackluster campaign, and when his defeat came at the Battle of Lutter it signified the end. It should have meant the very end. Ferdinand should have been focusing on containing this war, on ensuring that nothing else happened to encourage the tensions now spreading in his domains. Instead he saw the Danish victory as a victory for his family and his religion; and sought to emphasise this by creating something unheard of.

What the Edict of Restitution actually looked like 


The Edict of Restitution pretty much guaranteed that conflict would continue. Ferdinand had gone the completely opposite direction of his predecessors; far from showing those within and without his lands that they had nothing to worry about, the Edict looked like something a conqueror would impose on its defeated rival. It was unpopular, even among Catholics that it was supposedly aimed at, as they recognised that their fellow HRE inhabitants would never accept it. We've seen how even Wallenstein, the man who made the Danish victories possible, even stood against it. Everyone with a moderate bone in their body, it seemed, saw what the Edict meant for the HRE. Formerly allied moderates like John George of Saxony and George William of Brandenburg, who had profited from allowing the Emperor to have his way thus far, were now cast into a sea of doubt as to exactly how far Ferdinand would go. Would he really force the Edict upon an unwilling populace? Did he not realise what this meant, what this would mean? How could John George trust his emperor to maintain the level of tolerance he had come to expect as an elector? The point was that he couldn't. That is the key issue here; Ferdinand was just not the man who could ease even a moderate Lutheran like John George of Saxony and address his concerns. John George had seen Ferdinand's confidence and ambitions grow. He was treating the HRE more and more like his battleground, where he could wage wars and then increase his power in the process, where he could defeat local enemies and redraw the religious boundaries of his empire that were never set in stone in the first place.

And then, Gustavus Adolphus invaded.

How exactly was John George of Saxony supposed to ignore the monumental symbolism that this young, charismatic, successful Swede stood for? Well he managed well enough. Attractive as it may be to side with one who has the power to counterbalance that of Ferdinand's, John George viewed any foreign intervention into the HRE with disdain, no matter who it was or for what purpose. In other words, despite everything Ferdinand had done to his religious brethren, despite the excesses which John George was well aware of, he would not turn against his emperor because it was constitutionally wrong. Approaching the situation with words as he had for the past decade, and presenting himself as the representative of the HRE's Lutheran population, John George no doubt believed that Ferdinand would place, if not religious tolerance, then at the very least the security of the HRE and its elements, above that of his own ambitions. Then, in early 1630, perhaps the only man remotely capable of combatting the looming Swedish threat, Wallenstein, was dismissed amidst a blaze of controversy. Mere months later, a wholly Lutheran city, Magdeburg, was sacked; this turned the Calvinist Elector George William of Brandenburg against his Emperor, at least in theory.

Tilly, commander of Imperial forces during the early Habsburg successes


When Tilly's pressured, under-rationed and demoralised army appeared outside of Leipzig, one of Saxony'y most critical cities, John George was faced at last with only two choices. Tilly was not offering to inhabit the Saxon elector's lands, he was demanding provisions, quarters and full cooperation. Under orders from Ferdinand, anything less could be considered treason and as just cause for occupation. As you may have heard, John George's 'sweet meats' joke was ignored by Tilly, who occupied Leipzig and the majority of John George's lands in mid-1630. Having often acted in concert with Ferdinand (mainly because he was sponging off his success and gaining lands), John George had to face the ugly truth that his Emperor had turned against him for his refusal to allow his army in. But John George knew what 'allowing Tilly in' meant; it meant devastation, the ruin of the peasantry and the sinking of his lands into despair. It had happened everywhere else, and Saxony held the only lands physically untouched by the war that had raged from neighbouring  lands till that point. But now he was forced out of his neutrality.

We know the next phase of the story. Two years after he invaded, Gustavus Adolphus had conquered the majority of the HRE and apparently could not be stopped. But then, suddenly, he died in battle. This was the turning point. The next two years saw Swedish fortunes gradually plunge, despite the efforts made by Axel Oxenstierna to reiterate Swedish power over Germany. John George of Saxony and George William of Brandenburg were on Sweden's side, but it was an awkward partnership, created because of Ferdinand's lack of tact in the previous years. But four years against their emperor proved four years too many. It was obvious that both were waiting for a chance to bring the association with Sweden to the end. Nordlingen gave them that chance; as you'll discover. But this was the last gasp of a tired, flagging Habsburg initiative. Spain was exhausted; its coffers had been running in the red since the century began, but its inherent problems were getting out of control, and France still loomed large even while the Dutch sapped the energy and enthusiasm of the Iberian Union.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth c. 1635, and the goals of Russian army (Smolensk) marked in red


France's entry into the morass of the HRE in 1635 transformed the TYW utterly. How could one link the Defenestration of Prague in 1618 with France's intervention almost two decades later? Pretty much the only constant factor in those years had been Ferdinand II as Holy Roman Emperor. I don't believe that Ferdy wanted to see Europe engulfed in the TYW, but what I do believe is that Ferdinand, unlike his predecessors, attempted to redefine both his own role and the status of others. By targeting the most sensitive issue at the time, religion, Ferdinand virtually tore open a Pandora's Box in the process. Despite attempts to close it, it was almost as though Ferdy seemed content to open it just a little, and keep peeking inside, until he could keep it closed no longer.

Is it possible to compare the events of WW2 with that of the TYW? Was the Berlin (below), though destroyed by different methods, still eerily similar to the German ruin by 1648?

The battle of the Somme in 1916 saw devastation of local lands so horrendous, that only the inherited memories of the TYW could compare 


What he got in return was a complete metamorphosis of the European situation. A decline in Habsburg fortunes to an incredible degree and a Europe that had truly learned its lesson. The lesson that no man could possibly create a uniform religious system in an area as large and complex as the HRE. I chastise Ferdinand not because he listened to his Jesuit advisors, or because he upheld his own religious beliefs as the key controlling influence of his life. I chastise him because he failed to listen to his predecessors, to the warnings of those who had sat where he sat, who had dined where he dined. He refused to accept what had already been established as fact; that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy enough nor imperial enough to enable the kind of centralising uniformity Ferdinand envisioned. He did not and would not listen to reason. For that, we have the TYW. A series of events certainly, that cannot all be blamed on Ferdinand II, but which, I can't help but wonder, could have been so different, had someone other than Ferdy been in place at the time. Would a different Emperor have accepted the lessons taught by generations of Emperors, or would they, like Ferdinand, only acknowledge that his policies had failed when he was faced with no other option but reconciliation?

Perhaps the most tragic thing was, it was a lesson  learned too late.

The TYW c. 1630. Though Europe had already seen conflict, the worst was yet to come, as the major interventionist powers of Sweden and France had yet to make their presence fully felt.


Did you agree with my assessment of one of Europe's most important 17th century figures? I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments! Find When Diplomacy Fails Podcast on Facebook and let us know there. Also, of course, don't forget to download and listen to the podcast episode itself (more specifically episodes 25.7 and 25.75) available on iTunes and other directories now!
Thanksssss for reading!
Zack