Bohemian War 1618–1620
Bohemian War, 1618–1620
In the years leading up to the outbreak of war, the situation between Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia had become tense. A 1609 document called the Letter of Majesty had extended the rights of Protestants within the state. The result of this tolerance was a mostly Lutheran landed gentry whose members resented being controlled by Catholic officials in the civil service. The two sides could not get along.
The Catholic side gained an important victory when Ferdinand Hapsburg was elected king of Bohemia in 1617. A zealous Catholic, Ferdinand revoked the Letter of Majesty, thus creating many enemies among the wealthy and powerful Bohemians. Hostility between the two sides came to a head one day in Prague Castle, when a group of discontented Lutherans threw several of the hated civil servants through the upstairs windows onto a compost heap in the courtyard below. This event, called the Defenestration of Prague, marked the start of a major Protestant uprising in Bohemia. It ended with the Protestants declaring that Ferdinand could not be their king; they deposed him and replaced him with Frederich Wittelsbach in 1619.
Ferdinand, of course, fought back against the Protestant defiance. By this time the Holy Roman Emperor had died, and Ferdinand had been chosen in his place. This gave him a much greater position of power from which to fight for control of Bohemia.
The electorates and free cities within the empire lined up on opposite sides along religious lines, with the Catholics supporting the emperor. The Protestant armies under King Frederich fared badly against the Catholic armies under Maximilian of Bavaria. In 1620, the Catholic side won a decisive victory at the Battle of White Mountain. Frederich hastily decamped to The Hague in Amsterdam, abandoning Bohemia to a brutally enforced program of conversion back to Catholicism.
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