Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Assassination of Wallenstein

The Assassination of Wallenstein
On February 24, 1634, Bohemian military leader and politician Count Albrecht von Wallenstein was assassinated at Cheb in Bohemia. An imperial generalissimo of the Thirty Year's War, and Admiral of the Baltic Sea, he had made himself ruler of the lands of the Duchy of Friedland in northern Bohemia. Wallenstein found himself released from imperial service in 1630 after Emperor Ferdinand grew wary of his ambition.

Wallenstein was born into a rather poor family and was raised bilingually before his parents passed away. He enrolled at the Protestant University of Altdorf near Nuremberg in 1599, but soon decided to travel around the Holy Roman Empire, France, and Italy while studying several languages. Wallenstein joined the army of the Emperor Rudolf II in Hungary, seeing two years of armed service against the Ottoman Turks and Hungarian rebels. It is assumed that he converted to Catholicism in this period due to the Counter-Reformation policy of the Habsburgs, which barred Protestants from being appointed to higher offices at court in Bohemia and in Moravia.

Based on recommendations, Wallenstein was made chamberlain and married an older, richer woman. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1614 and Wallenstein inherited her estates, which he used to win favour, offering and commanding 200 horses for Archduke Ferdinand of Styria for his war with Venice in 1617. After another marriage, this time with Isabella Katharina, daughter of Count Harrach, Wallenstein was considered as one one the wealthiest men in the Bohemian Crown.
Portrait of Wallenstein
(1583 – 1634)

In 1618, the Thirty Years' War started and Wallenstein associated himself with the cause of the Catholics and the Habsburg dynasty. He managed to bring the Moravian treasure-chest to Vienna in order to prove his loyalty to Ferdinand. Next, Wallenstein was able to secure his family's land, confiscated large tracts of Protestant lands and named his territory Friedland in northern Bohemia. Wallenstein became the Duke of Friedland in 1625, offered to raise a whole army for the imperial service in the same year and recruited about 50,000 men. When he was rewarded the Duchies of Mecklenburg, many high born rulers of German states were quite shocked. Also Wallenstein started to lose battles, which made him a host of enemies, both Catholic and Protestant princes and non-princes.

Ferdinand started suspecting, that Wallenstein intended to take control of the Holy Roman Empire and planned to dismiss him. However, he had to be called into field again. With a new army, he was able to advance against Gustavus Adolphus, who was killed in the confused melee. It is assumed that by this time, Wallenstein indeed started preparing to desert the Emperor and that he started negotiating with France, Saxony, Brandenburg, and Sweden. Soon, Wallenstein became aware of the fact that the Emperor was planning to replace him, but hoped that his army would stay loyal to him.

However, on 24 January 1634 he was removed from his commands and was charged with high treason. Wallenstein lost his army's support, but still intended to meet the Swedes under Duke Bernhard in Cheb. Unfortunately for him, he was assassinated after his arrival by Scottish and Irish officers on February 25. It is assumed on this day, that the Holy Roman Emperor did not command the murder. Still, he had given free rein to the party who he knew wished "to bring in Wallenstein, alive or dead" and the murderers were rewarded with wealth and honor.

At yovisto, you may be interested in a video lecture, explaining the beginnings of the Thirty Years War.

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