Battle of White Mountain

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Battle of White Mountain
Part of the Bohemian Revolt during the Thirty Years' War
Schlacht am Weissen Berg C-K 063.jpg
Battle of White Mountain, oil painting by P. Snaijers
Date8 November 1620
Location
White Mountain (Czech: Bílá Hora), near Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia
(present-day Czech Republic)

Coordinates: 50°04′42″N14°19′10″E / 50.07833°N 14.31944°E / 50.07833; 14.31944
Result

Catholic victory

Outcome:

Outcome for the Bohemian Estates:

  • Heavy material losses, big reduction in farmsteads
  • Substantial decline of the population
  • Forced conversion to Roman Catholicism
  • Eradication of Protestantism
  • Decline of the Czech language
  • German established as the main language of Bohemian aristocracy
  • Old Town Square execution
  • Bohemian aristocracy partly exiled to Protestant countries

Outcome for the Holy Roman Emperor and his allies:

Belligerents

Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor (after 1400).svg  Holy Roman Empire

Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spanish Empire

Flag of Bohemia.svg  Kingdom of Bohemia

Flag of The Electoral Palatinate (1604).svg Electoral Palatinate
Commanders and leaders
Count of Tilly
Count of Bucquoy
Jindřich Matyáš Thurn
Christian of Anhalt
Strength
27,000 men (From the Empire, the Catholic League, soldiers from Spain, the Spanish Netherlands and Polish Lisowczycy) 20,000-30,000 men (Mainly mercenaries from Bohemia and the German lands, Hungarian and Austrian allies)
Casualties and losses
700 dead or wounded [1] 4,000 dead or wounded [1]
Map of Prague.png
Battle icon (crossed swords).svg
White Mountain
Location within Prague
Czech Republic adm location map.svg
Battle icon (crossed swords).svg
White Mountain
White Mountain (Czech Republic)

The Battle of White Mountain (Czech : Bitva na Bílé hoře; German : Schlacht am Weißen Berg) was an important battle in the early stages of the Thirty Years' War.

Czech language West Slavic language spoken in the Czech Republic

Czech, historically also Bohemian, is a West Slavic language of the Czech–Slovak group. Spoken by over 10 million people, it serves as the official language of the Czech Republic. Czech is closely related to Slovak, to the point of mutual intelligibility to a very high degree. Like other Slavic languages, Czech is a fusional language with a rich system of morphology and relatively flexible word order. Its vocabulary has been extensively influenced by Latin and German.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Thirty Years War War between 1618 and 1648; with over 8 million fatalities

The Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities not only from military engagements but also from violence, famine, and plague. Casualties were overwhelmingly and disproportionately inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the rest being battle deaths from various foreign armies. In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was surpassed only by the period January to May 1945; one of its enduring results was 19th-century Pan-Germanism, when it served as an example of the dangers of a divided Germany and became a key justification for the 1871 creation of the German Empire.

Contents

It was fought on 8 November 1620. An army of 15,000 Bohemians and mercenaries under Christian of Anhalt was defeated by 27,000 men of the combined armies of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor led by Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Count of Bucquoy and the German Catholic League under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly at Bílá Hora ("White Mountain") near Prague. [2] The site is now part of the city of Prague.

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor Archduke of Austria, 1619 to 1637 Holy Roman Emperor, King of Hungary and Bohemia

Ferdinand II, a member of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor (1619–1637), King of Bohemia, and King of Hungary (1618–1637). He was the son of Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria, and Maria of Bavaria. In 1590, his parents, who were devout Catholics, sent him to study at the Jesuits' college in Ingolstadt, because they wanted to isolate him from the Lutheran nobles. In the same year, he inherited Inner Austria—Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and smaller provinces—from his father. Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, who was the head of the Habsburg family, appointed regents to administer Inner Austria on behalf of the minor Ferdinand.

Catholic League (German) German military alliance

The Catholic League was a coalition of Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire formed 10 July 1609. While initially formed as a confederation to act politically to negotiate issues vis-à-vis the Protestant Union, modelled on the more intransigent ultra-Catholic French Catholic League (1576), it was subsequently concluded as a military alliance "for the defence of the Catholic religion and peace within the Empire".

Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly Imperial and Catholic general

Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly was a field marshal who commanded the Catholic League's forces in the Thirty Years' War. From 1620–31, he had an unmatched and demoralizing string of important victories against the Protestants, including White Mountain, Wimpfen, Höchst, Stadtlohn and the Conquest of the Palatinate. He destroyed a Danish army at Lutter and sacked the Protestant city of Magdeburg, which caused the death of some 20,000 of the cities inhabitants, both defenders and non-combatants, out of a total population of 25,000. Tilly was then crushed at Breitenfeld in 1631 by the Swedish army of King Gustavus Adolphus. A Swedish cannonball took his life at Rain. Along with Duke Albrecht von Wallenstein of Friedland and Mecklenburg, he was one of two chief commanders of the Holy Roman Empire’s forces in the first half of the war.

The battle marked the end of the Bohemian period of the Thirty Years' War and decisively influenced the fate of the Czech lands for the next 300 years. Its aftermath drastically changed the religious landscape of the Czech lands after two centuries of Protestant dominance. Roman Catholicism retained majority in the Czech lands until the late 20th century.

Bohemian Revolt A revolt of Bohemian Estates against the Habsburgs (1618–1620)

The Bohemian Revolt was an uprising of the Bohemian estates against the rule of the Habsburg dynasty that began the Thirty Years' War. It was caused by both religious and power disputes. The estates were almost entirely Protestant, mostly Utraquist Hussite but there was also a substantial German population that endorsed Lutheranism. The dispute culminated after several battles in the final Battle of White Mountain, where the estates suffered a decisive defeat. This started re-Catholisation of the Czech lands, but also expanded the scope of the Thirty Years' War by drawing Denmark and Sweden into it. The conflict spread to the rest of Europe and devastated vast areas of central Europe, including the Czech lands, which were particularly stricken by its violent atrocities.

Czech lands

The Czech lands or the Bohemian lands are the three historical regions of Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia. Together the three have formed the Czech part of Czechoslovakia since 1918 and the Czech Republic since 1 January 1969, which became independent on 1 January 1993.

Lands of the Bohemian Crown Monarchy in Central Europe, predecessor of modern Czech Republic

The Lands of the Bohemian Crown, sometimes called Czech lands in modern times, were a number of incorporated states in Central Europe during the medieval and early modern periods connected by feudal relations under the Bohemian kings. The crown lands primarily consisted of the Kingdom of Bohemia, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire according to the Golden Bull of 1356, the Margraviate of Moravia, the Duchies of Silesia, and the two Lusatias, known as the Margraviate of Upper Lusatia and the Margraviate of Lower Lusatia, as well as other territories throughout its history.

Prelude

In the early 17th century most of the Bohemian estates, although under the dominion of the predominantly Roman Catholic Holy Roman Empire, had large Protestant populations, and had been granted rights and protections allowing them varying degrees of religious and political freedom. In 1617, as Emperor Matthias lay dying, his cousin Ferdinand a fiercely devout Roman Catholic and proponent of the Counter-Reformation was named his successor as Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. This led to deep consternation among many Bohemian Protestants, who feared not only the loss of their religious freedom, but also of their traditional semi-autonomy, under which many of the estates had separate, individual constitutions governing their relationship with the Empire, and where the King was elected by the local leaders. [3]

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Protestantism Division within Christianity, originating from the Reformation in the 16th century against the Roman Catholic Church, that rejects the Roman Catholic doctrines of papal supremacy and sacraments

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

Counter-Reformation Catholic political and religious response to the Protestant Reformation

The Counter-Reformation, also called the Catholic Reformation or the Catholic Revival, was the period of Catholic resurgence that was initiated in response to the Protestant Reformation. It began with the Council of Trent (1545–1563) and largely ended with the 1781 Patent of Toleration, although smaller expulsions of Protestants continued into the 19th century. Initiated to preserve the power, influence and material wealth enjoyed by the Catholic Church and to present a theological and material challenge to Reformation, the Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort composed of apologetic and polemical documents, ecclesiastical reconfiguration as decreed by the Council of Trent, a series of wars, political maneuvering including the efforts of Imperial Diets of the Holy Roman Empire, exiling of Protestant populations, confiscation of Protestant children for Catholic institutionalized upbringing, heresy trials and the Inquisition, anti-corruption efforts, spiritual movements, and the founding of new religious orders.

Ferdinand (who would become Emperor Ferdinand II following Matthias' death in 1619) saw Protestantism as inimical to the Empire, and wanted to impose absolutist rule on Bohemia while forcefully encouraging conversion to the Roman Catholic faith. He also hoped to reclaim church properties which had been seized by Protestants at the start of the Reformation decades earlier, and to do away with the Electorate - the body of princes who chose the Holy Roman Emperor and who had considerable power over Imperial policy.[ dubious ]

Holy Roman Emperor emperor of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Emperor was the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire during the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The title was, almost without interruption, held in conjunction with title of King of Germany throughout the 12th to 18th centuries.

Particularly galling to Protestants were perceived violations of Emperor Rudolf II's 1609 Letter of Majesty, which had ensured religious freedom throughout Bohemia. [4] In May, 1618, wanting to air their grievances over this and other issues, a group of Bohemian noblemen met representatives of the Emperor at the royal castle in Prague; the meeting ended with two of the representatives and their scribe being thrown out a high window and seriously injured. This incident, known as the Second Defenestration of Prague, triggered the Bohemian Revolt. [5]

Prague Castle castle complex in Prague, Czech Republic, dating from the 9th century

Prague Castle is a castle complex in Prague, Czech Republic, dating from the 9th century. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

In November 1619, Elector Palatine Frederick V, who like many of the rebels was a Calvinist, was chosen as King of Bohemia by the Bohemian Electorate.

Battle

In 1620, now fully established as Emperor, Ferdinand II set out to conquer Bohemia and make an example of the rebels. King Frederick and his military commander, Prince Christian of Anhalt, had organized a Protestant army of 30,000 men; Ferdinand countered with a force of 25,000, many of them seasoned soldiers, under the capable leadership of Field Marshal Tilly, a Roman Catholic Spanish-Flemish nobleman. Tilly's army enjoyed the advantage of including two successful military leaders - Tilly himself and the future General Wallenstein. Tilly's force was made up of two distinct groups: Imperial troops commanded by Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Count of Bucquoy, and soldiers of the German Catholic League, directly under Tilly. All of the armies of the day employed numerous mercenaries, including, by some definitions, Tilly himself. Serving with the Catholic League as an official observer was the future "father of modern philosophy", René Descartes.

After conquering most of western Bohemia, the Imperial army made for Prague, the Bohemian capital, then in rebel hands. The Bohemians attempted to block them by setting up defensive positions, which the Imperial army simply bypassed. Force-marching his men, Christian of Anhalt managed to get ahead of the Imperial army just before Prague. He thus gained an advantageous position on the "White Mountain", actually a low plateau, but had little time to set up defensive works. Enthusiasm for joining battle was low on both sides. After the reverses of the previous several weeks, Christian of Anhalt's army had been reduced to about 15,000 men, with little prospect of victory; the mercenaries on both sides had not been paid in months; and with winter approaching, cold, wet, weather made for less than ideal combat conditions.

On 8 November a small Imperial force was sent to probe the Protestant flank. To their surprise, the Bohemians retreated at their advance. Tilly quickly sent in reinforcements, and the Bohemian flank began to crumble. Anhalt tried to retrieve the situation by sending forward infantry and cavalry led by his son Christian II. The cavalry charged into the Imperial infantry, causing significant casualties, but Tilly countered with his own cavalry, forcing the Bohemian horsemen to retire. The Bohemian infantry, who were only now approaching the Imperial army, saw the cavalry retreating, at which they fired one volley at extreme range before retreating themselves. A small group of Imperial cavalry began circling the Protestant forces, driving them to the middle of the battlefield. With the Bohemian army already demoralized, company after company began retreating, most without having actually entered the battle. Tilly and his Imperial cavalrymen advanced with 2,000 Bavarian hussars, steadily pushing Protestant forces back to the Star Palace (just west of Prague), where the rebels tried without success to establish a line of defense.

The Bohemian army was no match for the Emperor Ferdinand's troops. The actual battle lasted only an hour and left the Bohemian army in tatters. Some 4,000 Protestants were killed or captured, while Imperial losses amounted to only about 700. [6]

Aftermath

With the Bohemian army destroyed, Tilly entered Prague and the revolt collapsed. King Frederick fled the country with his wife Elizabeth (hence his nickname the Winter King). Forty-seven leaders of the insurrection were put on trial, and twenty-seven of them were executed in Prague's Old Town Square on what came to be called the "Old Town Square execution". Amongst those executed were Kryštof Harant and Jan Jesenius. Today, 27 crosses have been laid into the cobblestones as a tribute to those victims. An estimated five-sixths of the Bohemian nobility went into exile soon after the Battle of White Mountain, and their properties were confiscated. [7]

There remained a strong Protestant army in Silesia under the command of Johann Georg of Hohenzollern, Duke of Krnov, which continued fighting the Imperial army in Moravia and in what today is Slovakia until 1623.

In 1621, the Emperor ordered all Calvinists and other non-Lutherans to leave the realm in three days or to convert to Roman Catholicism.[ citation needed ] In 1622, he forbade practice of the Lutheran faith. In 1626, he ordered all Lutherans (most of whom had not been involved in the revolt) to convert or else leave the country. [8] By 1627, Archbishop Harrach of Prague and Jaroslav Borzita of Martinice set out to convert the heretics, as they were termed, by peaceful means; most Bohemians converted, but a significant Protestant minority remained. Spanish troops, seeking to encircle their rebellious Dutch provinces, seized the Palatinate lands. With the prospect of Protestantism being overrun in Germany, Denmark entered the struggle. Sweden was to join the Protestant forces in 1630.

Before the war about 151,000 farmsteads existed in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, while by the year 1648 only 50,000 remained. At the same time the number of inhabitants decreased from three million to only 800,000. [9]

The result of the 1620 battle brought two centuries of recatholicization of the Czech lands and the decline of the Czech-speaking aristocracy and elite as well as the Czech language (accompanied with the growing influence of German-speaking elites), a process that was slowed down by the Czech National Revival since the late 18th century. Czech nationalist historians and writers such as Alois Jirásek have referred to the 17th and 18th century in the Czech lands as the Dark Age.

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. 1 2 Bílá Hora. Archived 26 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine , Ottův slovník naučný (1888–1909) a Ottův slovník naučný nové doby (1930–1943). (in Czech)
  2. The Battle of White Mountain, 11-06-2003 - Radio Prague
  3. Johnson, Lonnie. Central Europe enemies, neighbours, friends. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. Print.
  4. Helfferich, Tryntje. The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Hackett Company, Inc., 2009. Print.
  5. Guthrie, William P. Battles of the Thirty Years War from White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618–1635. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Print.
  6. Guthrie, William P. Battles of the Thirty Years War from White Mountain to Nordlingen, 1618–1635. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001. Print.
  7. Consequences of Czech Defeat, U.S. Library of Congress
  8. Wedgwood, C. V. (1964) [1938]. The Thirty Years War. London: Jonathan Cape. pp. 158, 224.
  9. The Kingdom of Bohemia during the Thirty Years´ War

Sources