III. The Danish interval

Albrecht von Wallenstein
Albrecht von Wallenstein



Christian IV as a young man

Christian IV of Denmark was wealthy, a committed Protestant, and worried that the German Protestants might turn for aid to Denmark's enemy, Sweden. In December 1625 he allied with England, obtained promises of support from France and from German Protestants, and landed an army in Brunswick.


Most of the help that Christian IV had hoped for never materialized. The English and Dutch attacked Spain, not the Emperor; and the Lutheran Princes proved broken reeds. Count Mansfeld did try to join forces with Bethlen Gabor, but was defeated by a new Imperial army of whose existence Christian knew nothing, commanded by Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Waldstein (Albert of Wallenstein) 1583-1634.


Christian's army was defeated by Tilly at Lutter (August 1626). When Wallenstein's army joined up with Tilly's in September 1627, the overwhelmed Danish army collapsed. Imperial troops occupied the Danish peninsula, and Christian fled to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, on the island of Zeeland.


In May 1629, Ferdinand granted Christian IV moderate terms at the Peace of Lübeck provided that he withdraw entirely from the War; the Danes recovered their mainland territories.

The Surrender of Breda, Velasquez The Dutch were also defeated and in 1625 lost Breda to the Spanish.
[In 1637 the Dutch retook Breda - 5,000 pioneers dug a series of earth walls and trenches to protect the attacking army, which fired 23,000 cannon balls at the fortress. Even so, it still required six months to bring the Spanish garrison to its knees.]


Ferdinand II punished Bohemia for its rebellion: he forcibly imposed Catholicism, seized land, and debased the coinage.

A thaler (precursor of the dollar) of Ferdinand II, Prague mint


Albrecht von Wallenstein and other speculators profited by grants or purchases of confiscated land, but most Bohemians suffered.

Wallenstein was made Duke of Friedland in 1625. By 1630, he commanded an army of 150,000 men. He was an effective and ruthless military commander, capable of organizing the supply of the army with food supplies from his own lands in Bohemia, and equally capable of letting it "live off the land" when he needed the locals terrorized. Wallenstein was no Catholic crusader and hoped for a Germany that was obedient to the Emperor but also tolerant.


Tensions began to develop amongst the victorious Catholic forces; Maximilian of Bavaria was suspicious of Hapsburg ambitions, and the Catholic Princes of Germany resented the cost and disruption of Wallenstein's massive army. Eventually (September 1630), Ferdinand gave in to the pressure and dismissed Wallenstein.

France had played little part in the war, although it had spent much of the 1620s scheming to turn Maximilian of Bavaria against the Hapsburgs. But in 1628 a crisis over succession to the Dukedoms of Mantua and Montferrat brought France and the Empire into open conflict.

The war over the Mantuan succession

In December 1627, Duke Vincent III of Mantua died without children. Charles Gonzaga, Duke of Nevers, a French aristocrat related to the Mantuan dukes, arrived in Mantua in January 1628 and proclaimed himself ruler. The Spanish refused to accept this and sent an army from Milan into Montferrat. This became bogged down in a long siege at Casale, and Spain was forced to ask help from the Emperor. In February 1629, Louis XIII sent his own army into Italy.


Mantua mattered to both the Spanish and the Austrian Hapsburgs because of its strategic position on the flank of Milan. Control of the  "Spanish Road" - linking Milan to the Netherlands - was vital to the Spanish if they were to be able to supply their army in the Netherlands.

28 March 1629, the Edict of Restitution was promulgated throughout Germany. Purportedly a conservative attempt to restore the settlement reached in the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, this was in fact a radical attack on Protestantism. By seizing all church land secularized since 1552, by attacking all Calvinists, and by allowing Catholic ecclesiastical rulers to enforce uniformity, the Edict pushed many previously undecided Lutheran princes into opposition to the Emperor.

Sensing Imperial weakness, the Dutch began to attack Hapsburg forces in the Low Countries and Northwestern Germany.


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