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Swedish War 1630–1634

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Swedish War, 1630–1634

As Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand now had much more authority to pass laws against Protestantism. In 1628, he decreed that all Protestant landowners in Inner Austria must leave the country, turning over their property to the state. Many of them converted in order to avoid banishment. In 1629, Ferdinand signed the Edict of Restitution, which banned Protestantism throughout the Holy Roman Empire. It also stated that any originally Catholic lands and property must be restored to the Church.

Ferdinand did not realize that the time for such high-handed conduct had passed into history. Instead of meekly obeying his edicts, his Lutheran and Calvinist subjects abandoned their own quarrel and united against him as their common enemy. Not even Ferdinand’s fellow monarchs and ministers of state sympathized with him. The Lutheran nation of Sweden immediately made preparations to march into Germany and fight for the Protestant side. Even France, always a reliably Catholic nation, considered the ban and the Edict of Restitution reactionary and dangerous. For the moment, however, the French bided their time.

Gustav II Adolf succeeded to the throne of Sweden in 1611, at age seventeen. Like all successful absolute monarchs, he turned his energies toward streamlining the civil service to make it more efficient and expanding the military to aid in foreign conquest. Spiritually, Gustav was a devout Lutheran; on practical grounds, he believed that a culturally and religiously homogeneous Sweden would be more stable and easier for the monarch to control. With this goal in mind, he banned the practice of Roman and Orthodox Catholicism from his realm; of course, this meant that all Church land and riches became the property of the crown. Sweden became a Lutheran state that tolerated other forms of Protestantism. This tolerance proved practical on Gustav’s part once Sweden entered the fighting in the empire.

Sweden entered the Thirty Years’ War to assist an ally, but also with an eye to expanding the Swedish empire by picking up new territory on the Baltic. If Sweden could take over all the land around the Baltic Sea, it would be able to control the trade routes, an enormous advantage over other nations in the region.

In 1631, Gustav led his troops to a major victory over veteran General Count Johann Tilly’s imperial forces at Breitenfeld, near the town of Leipzig. Gustav then formed alliances with most of the Calvinist leaders in areas such as Brandenburg. Over the course of the next year, Gustav and his forces marched south, progressing in triumph all the way to Munich. Gustav fell at the battle of Lützen in 1632. Despite this disaster, Sweden’s great generals maintained the advantage on the battlefield.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

Thirty Years' War Practice Test

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