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Western Civilization
Chapter 15
Europe at War, 1555- 1648
16th Century Europe
Dynastic Struggles
International Rivalries
Religious Crusades
Resulted in high human and financial costs and
led up to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War
in 1618.
Disintegration of the Spanish Empire
Collapse of both Muscovite and Polish power
Germany’s fragmentation
The rise of Holland and Sweden
The persistence of the Protestant faith
All this had profound consequences for the
centuries to follow.
Crisis of Western States
• Growth of Protestantism within Catholic states
of Europe provoked political crises
• 16th century governments linked Church, civil,
and monarchical power
• Religious conflict that came with the
Protestant movement sapped the strength of
nations and pushed them into war, both
internally and with other nations
French Wars of Religion
• Religious wars are usually emotional and
• Religious wars tore France apart for almost 50
• France was a Catholic country and resisted the
first generation of Protestant reformers
• By 1560, Calvinist pastors had converted
nearly 10% of the French population and over
30% of the nobility
• John Calvin began Calvinism
– Believed in pre-destination
– Believed in the sovereignty of God and the
supreme authority of the scriptures
• Calvinism was very successful among middleclass city dwellers and among aristocratic
women who converted their husbands and
• The clash of Protestantism and Catholicism
came to a head with the death of Henri II in
• Henri II was survived by his wife, Catherine de
• 3 daughters
• 4 sons, the oldest became king and
and known as Francois II. He was
only 15 and sickly
• Because Francois II was so young, rival
aristocratic families tried to take power for
• The fight was primarily between the Catholic
Guise family and the Protestant Bourbons
• The Guise family was allowed to be dominant
at court
– They controlled the army and the Church
– They worked to reduce Protestant Bourbon power
• That changed when Francois II suddenly died
in 1560
• Francois was succeeded by his brother,
Charles IX
– 10 years old
– Firmly guided by his mother Catherine de Medici
• Protestants realized the Catholics wanted all
the power, leaving the Protestants out in the
• Both sides raised armies in 1562 and civil war
began and lasted almost 50 years
• Initially Catholic strength was in Paris and in
northern areas
• Protestant strength was in the south and in
the west
• Catherine de Medici wanted to keep the
throne for her sons
• She also wanted peace as soon as possible
• She tried to work with both the Guises and
the Bourbons but in the end, sided with the
more powerful and Catholic Guises
• The goal of the Guises was to eliminate the
Protestants, known as the Huguenots, and
their power
• Goals of the Protestants:
– Townsmen wanted the right to practice their
– Clergy wanted the right to preach and to convert
– Nobility wanted to take their rightful place in
– Huguenots, in general, were fighting to keep what
they had and to avoid being wiped out
• Catherine had an idea for ending the conflict:
a marriage between King Charles’ sister, her
Catholic daughter and the Protestant, Henri of
• The wedding would be held on St.
Bartholomew’s Day in 1572
• Protestants thought well of this plan and
hoped it would usher in an era of peace
• On the other hand, the Guises felt this was an
opportunity to gather all the Protestant
leaders under one roof, so they could be killed
all at once
• Then Protestantism would collapse in France
• Catherine and Charles learned of the Guise
plan and reluctantly went along with it hoping
it would end the fighting
• The Guise plan turned the marriage celebration
into a massacre of Protestants on St
Bartholomew’s Day
• Instead of ending the fighting, news of this
carnage spread to the provinces and hurt
religious relations in France for over a century
• However, not all Protestant leaders were killed
• Henri of Navarre, the bridegroom ,escaped the
carnage with a few other leaders, and the
violence spread
One King, Two Faiths
• After the massacre, Protestants screamed for
revenge against the Guise family and the
monarchy that sanctioned the massacre
• Protestants felt God’s commandments had been
broken as well as their civil rights
• Many Catholics, called politiques, who opposed
the monarchy’s involvement in the massacre
joined the Huguenots in their protest
• This protest was led by the Duc d’Anjou, 2nd in
line to the throne
• This defection of Catholics weakened the
• Extreme Catholics in the Catholic League
continued the killing of Protestants
• In 1588 the civil war escalated
• Henri III, Henri Guise, and Henri of Navarre
each sought to establish control over both
Church and State
Henri Guise
Henri III
• The assassinations of Henri Guise in 1588 and
Henry III in 1589 brought Henry of Navarre, a
Protestant, to the throne
• Only his public conversion to Catholicism
secured him the title of Henri IV
• There was some resistance to his
taking the throne
Henri IV
• Strong, capable, and clever
• Declared war against Spain to unite his
country against a common enemy (old tactic
and a pattern of history)
• Reestablished a balance of factions in his court
• Proclaimed the Edict of Nantes in 1598
– Granted limited toleration to Huguenots
Edict of Nantes
• The Edict of Nantes diminished the religious
passions in France enough to allow the
monarchy to recover its former strength
• There was a semblance of peace in France –
for awhile anyway
Philip II of Spain
• Reigned 1556 – 1598
• Spain was the greatest European power in the
16th century
• It controlled the Netherlands, Milan, Naples,
Portugal, and numerous territories in the New
World during the reign of Philip II
• Philip was determined to stop the advance of
the Ottoman Turks through the
Mediterranean and defend Christian Europe
Battle of Lepanto, 1571
• Philip combined Spanish and Italian forces in
1571 to defeat the Turks at Lepanto
• Philip also supported the Catholic cause in
France and in England
• He raised an Armada of over 130 ships in an
effort to invade England in 1588
• He was defeated by the English
• As a result, confidence in Spain’s power and
prestige were seriously shaken
The Burgundian Inheritance
• Philip II’s pre-occupation with Spain and its power
weakened his ties to his father’s Burgundian
Empire – namely the Netherlands
• In the Netherlands Catholics co-existed with
Lutherans, Anabaptists, and Calvinists
• The Netherlands was one of the richest regions in
• Calvinism was the most prevalent sect in the
Netherlands and had converts from all levels of
• Philip, a strong Catholic, tried to re-assert his
authority and his religion in the area
• He met with passive resistance from both
Catholic nobles who were intent upon
maintaining their political autonomy and
Protestant leaders like William of Orange
Revolt of the Netherlands
• Militant Calvinists galvanized resistance to
Philip’s policies in 1566
• They then initiated a campaign of destruction
– Breaking stained glass windows and statues of the
Virgin Mary & the Saints
– Catholic churches were taken and changed into
Protestant meeting houses
This led to an open revolt
• Philip’s half-sister, Margaret of Parma, the
regent of the Netherlands, restored order
• However, Philip wanted to punish the rebels
and enforce his heresy laws
Margaret of Parma --------------
• Philip dispatched a large military force to the
Netherlands under the Duke of Alba
• The Duke of Alba conducted a reign of terror
against Protestants and this subdued the
Netherlands quickly
• He wanted them to live in fear
– He executed Protestant noblemen in Brussels in
– Other rebels were sentenced to death
– Soldiers pillaged towns and slaughtered entire
• People were subdued, but hostilities
continued for another 80 years
• Taxes were raised again and again to pay for
this warfare with the Netherlands -- so much
so that even loyal Catholic provinces came to
oppose Spanish policies
• By 1575 Protestants had secured a permanent
base in Holland and Zeeland under William of
• To the south the Spanish army, now without
Alba as their leader, ran rampant without
• They sacked Antwerp in 1576
• The people of the south no longer had
confidence in Spain or its policies
• So Spain gave over its authority to the StatesGeneral (parliament) in a formal agreement
called The Pacification of Ghent, 1576
• Spain, however, did keep authority over a
handful of Catholic provinces
• By 1609, Spain had for the most part,
acknowledged the independence of Holland in
The Twelve Years’ Truce of 1609
The Reorganization of Northeastern
• Although Protestantism had spread to PolandLithuania, domestic religious tensions were
only secondary factors in eastern European
• Of primary importance were the dynastic
struggles for crowns and territories
• These struggles led Muscovy, PolandLithuania, and Sweden into war in the latter
part of the 16th century
• Struggles in the East
– Sigismund II of Poland ( r. 1548-1572)died in 1572
leaving no heir in the Jagiellon family
• Although the monarchy in Poland was an elective
office, sons usually followed fathers as king
• But leaving no heir allowed the nobility and
gentry of Poland-Lithuania to elect a succession
of European princes to their joint crown
• The Polish Diet (parliament) limited the powers of
these new kings with a variety of constitutional
and religious restrictions that ensured
Protestants toleration within the Catholic Polish
• Until the end of the 16th century, PolandLithuania was a dominant power in Eastern
– Good, healthy economic system
– Strong military
– Central role in international commerce
– Good ports on the Baltic (Gdansk)
– Agricultural surplus fed Netherlands during their
civil war
• Polish territory was difficult to defend -- large
and flat
• By the end of the 16th century, it had lost
lands to the Muscovy Tartars
• Sigismund III (r. 1587-1632)
– Elected to throne in Poland in1587
– He was also the heir to the crown in Sweden
• There was a problem
– Sweden was a Lutheran stronghold
– Poland was tolerant of 2 faiths
– Sigismund had a Jesuit upbringing – very Catholic
Sigismund knew he had to tolerate Protestants in
Poland; however, he used Jesuits to try to
strengthen Catholicism in Poland: set up Jesuit
schools & monasteries
• The number of Protestant gentry declined
during his reign
• The Polish ruling classes supported his efforts
• Sigismund did not get the Polish Diet’s
support for his efforts to claim his inheritance
in Sweden in 1592
– He hoped to promote Catholicism there
– Diet felt Sweden had little to offer Poland
• So Sigismund tried to go ahead and invade
Sweden using Polish money and troops
• It was unsuccessful
• The Diet did say it would support any warfare
against Muscovy where they had a history of
• The Diet did support Sigismund’s efforts to
capitalize on Muscovy’s decline in their Time
of Troubles
• Time of Troubles was that period after the
death of Ivan the Terrible in 1584
• Muscovy was falling apart because Ivan had
killed his only son and heir in a fit of rage.
– There were pretenders to the crown coming forth
– The army ruled parts of Muscovy
– There was anarchy and civil war
– 2 ½ million died in one decade
• Poland saw a chance to regain territory taken by
Muscovy over the previous 100 years by Ivan the
Great and by Ivan the Terrible
• Sigismund abandoned his efforts to take Sweden
and turned toward Muscovy
• In 1610 Polish troops entered Moscow and
Sigismund declared himself Tsar
• He was ultimately displaced by a native Russian
as tsar: Michael Romanov (r. 1613-1645)
• Poles did gain large territorial concessions from
these ventures
The Rise of Sweden
• Sweden was under Danish rule until 1523
when Gustavus I Vasa threw off their rule and
established himself as King of Sweden
• He ruled from 1523 - 1560
• Sweden at that time was
– Poor
– Sparsely populated
– With few towns or developed seaports
– Barter system for trade
– Included Finland & Lapland -- hard to live there
Gustavus Vasa and the aristocracy jointly ruled
Sweden. The Council of State was called the Rad.
Shared power meant the king had the backing of
their money.
• Sweden had an active foreign policy
• By 1570s, Sweden had gained strongholds on
the Livonian coast when the Teutonic knights
of Livonia weakened
• Because of this, Sweden came to control a
substantial sector of Muscovite trade
• They wanted to extend their control to the
northern Scandinavian coast
• Gustavus was determined to preserve the
Lutheran religion and this brought the Swedes
into war with the Poles and the Danes under
Charles IX
– Sigismund , king of the Poles, also wanted Sweden
but lost out to his uncle, Charles IX
– Sigismund then became involved with Muscovy
rather than continue fighting in Sweden
• Danish forces, however, invaded Sweden in 1611,
taking important towns and forcing the Swedes to
relinquish their claim to the northern coast in
• Humiliating terms were then accepted by Sweden
in 1613
• Fear of the Danes led to an alliance of England,
the Netherlands, and Sweden
• Fear of the Poles led Muscovy into an alliance
with Sweden
• With these nations behind Sweden, Gustavus
Adolphus (r. 1611-1632) rebounded from
humiliation with the Danes and he gained
control of the Gulf of Finland in 1617
• By mid-17th century, Sweden was an
international power
The Thirty Years’ War
• Although truces secured a degree of harmony
on the continent of Europe in the early 17th
century, there were still religious and dynastic
• Warfare was the result
• Even before the Twelve Years’ Truce between
Spain and the Netherlands was over, Europe
was thrown into war again
The Bohemian Revolt
• The Peace of Augsburg of 1555 stated that the
religion of the ruler was the religion of the state
• This helped bring peace to the German states
after the Reformation
• Many of the larger German states already
tolerated more than one religion
• By the beginning of the 17th century, Catholicism
and Protestantism had achieved a kind of equality
in the German states
• The Austrian Habsburgs were ruling the German
states and were fairly tolerant there
• The fiercest enemy of the German states at that
time was the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim empire
• Both Catholics and Protestants fought just as
passionately against the Ottoman Turks
• The unofficial policy of toleration helped the
ruling Habsburgs defend its state from the Turks
• But the efforts of the childless Mathias to
secure the succession of his devoutly Catholic
nephew, Ferdinand Habsburg, to the crown of
Bohemia and then to the title of Emperor
provoked conflict in 1617
• So Ferdinand agreed to toleration
before he took office. Afterwards,
he refused to honor his agreement
• When Ferdinand violated Protestant liberties, a
group of noblemen marched into his royal palace
in Prague in May of 1618, found 2 of the king’s
chief advisors, and threw them out of an upstairs
window where they landed in a pile of manure
• This was called the Defenestration of Prague of
• It began a Protestant revolt throughout Habsburg
lands (Hungary as well as Bohemia)
• Protestants seized the government, deposed
Ferdinand of Bohemia, but had no candidate of
their own
• Mathias died in 1617 and Ferdinand had filled the
gap as Emperor Ferdinand II (r. 1619-1637)
• The Protestant Ferdinand V became the ruler of
• Frederick V was only King of Bohemia briefly
• He was beaten by Ferdinand II’s Catholic forces at
the Battle of White Mountain, 1620
• The brutal suppression of the Bohemian
rebellion removed Calvinism and merged
Bohemia with Habsburg lands
The War Widens
• The Habsburgs in the East under Ferdinand II and
the Habsburgs in the West under Spain’s Philip II
were seen by the rest of Europe as dangerous
• They were swallowing up a lot of European land
• Alarmed by the success of the Habsburgs Catholic
policies, England, Holland, various German
States, and Denmark formed A Grand Protestant
Alliance against the Habsburgs
• The Danes led the fight against the Habsburgs
but got little support from the other allies
• Three years of Danish campaigns gained little
territory; they suffered heavy defeats
• The Grand Protestant Alliance fell apart in
• Ferdinand was now more powerful than ever
and was determined to get rid of the Peace of
• He wanted all Germans to convert to
• Ferdinand’s call to convert all Germans made
the Lutherans and Calvinists in the German
Empire to unite
• The problem in the German States got the
attention of Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden
• In 1630 he decided to enter the German
conflict to protect Swedish interests
• Gustavus Adolphus, who was protecting his
Protestants against Ferdinand’s Catholics, got
Catholic France to pay for the cost of the war
• Sounds weird, doesn’t it?
• France, though, did not like the Spanish
Habsburgs who tried to move in on France
• Gustavus then tried to get the backing of the
German States
• Saxony and Brandenburg were afraid to join
with Gustavus
– They feared Ferdinand II’s wrath
– They didn’t trust Gustavus’ motives
In the meantime, Ferdinand II continued to take
- 1631, he sacked and torched the town of
- ¾ of the 40,000 inhabitants were tortured &
• Magdeburg became the rallying cry for the
Protestants and galvanized Protestant support
behind Gustavus Adolphus’
campaignAlthough the Swedish King was
killed at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632,
Protestant forces then occupied much of
central and northern Germany
Long Quest for Peace
• When Gustavus was killed at Lutzen, the 30
Years’ War was barely half over
• The final stages of the 30 Years’ War centered
on the struggle between France and Spain
• After the 12 Year’s Truce between Spain and
the Netherlands expired in 1621, Spain again
declared war on the Dutch and were
• But the Dutch fleet took the war to Spain’s
possessions all over the globe
• They also disrupted Spanish shipping and
• In 1628, the Dutch captured the Spanish
treasure fleet on its return to the New World
• This was a serious blow to the Spanish
• The war was proving too costly for the Spanish
and it declared bankruptcy in 1627
• Spain’s Golden Age was falling apart
• Now came the outward involvement of France
• France had previously aided anti-Habsburg
forces: the Dutch in 1624 and the Swedes in
• With Spain so debilitated, France knew it was
time to take an official stand
• France declared war on Spain in 1635
• The war was a stalemate; each gave as good as it
• Pride kept them from backing down
• Spain fell first
Citizens revolted against high prices and high taxes
Economy was in a shambles
The Dutch destroyed much of its Atlantic fleet in 1639
Portugal seceded from Spain and regained its
independence, 1640
• At the Battle of Recroi, the French defeated
the Spanish in 1643
• The original leaders of the conflict had been
killed or died
• New leaders wanted peace
• Alliances and the spoils of war had to be
sorted out
• They were through the Treaty of Westphalia
• Terms:
– Sweden gained the Baltic lands
– France retained the Lower Palatinate
– The Dutch gained statehood
– Bohemia and Hungary remained under Habsburg
control but the terms of the Peace of Augsburg
were reaffirmed and the authority of the Emperor
over his states weakened
• The end of the 30 Years’ War left N.W. Europe
largely Protestant and Southern Europe largely
• Establishing this balance had been extremely
– Plague
– Famine
– Inflation
All devastated Europe in its century of religious and
dynastic warfare