The aftermath of the Thirty Years’ War.

The negotiators at Westphalia



The peace of Westphalia

Earlier efforts had been made to reach a peace settlement. In 1636 Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini), no friend to the Hapsburgs whose influence in Italy he feared, had tried to convene a peace conference.
In 1640 Ferdinand III - without success - suggested a peace plan based on excluding all foreign powers from German affairs.
Eventually, the warring parties agreed to hold negotiations at a Congress held in Westphalia. The Imperial negotiators arrived in July 1643, the French in April 1644, and the other nations' delegations trickled in during that year. Even so, no negotiations of substance began until 1645, since the delegates bickered about protocol, precedence, and other formalities. Even when peace negotiations finally commenced in 1645, disputes between the Swedes and the French, plus the Swedes' refusal to meet the papal envoy meant that the conference had to be held in two separate locations in Westphalia (Osnabrück and Münster).
Negotiations finally ended 24 October 1648. In January, Spain had already recognized the independence of the Dutch Republic.
[Full text of the Treaty of Westphalia].
The dominant military position of France and Sweden ensured that they did well from the peace. (Both might have done better had they not allowed the Emperor to play them off against one another).
The final treaty involved a series of land transfers.

France succeeded in weakening the Emperor's power within Germany and strengthening that of Bavaria. France also gained land west of the Rhine, which effectively gave it control of Alsace. (Ultimate control of Alsace would be contested long after). French rights in Metz, Toul, and Verdun were confirmed.
Sweden acquired a wealthy and strategically important region of Pomerania, including the town of Stettin (at the mouth of the river Oder), as well as control of the prosperous German port of Bremen.
Brandenburg Prussia gained the rest of Pomerania, and the bishoprics of Halberstadt, Minden, and Carmin.
The independence of Switzerland and the United Provinces was recognized by the Emperor, as were constitutional limitations on his power over the Holy Roman Empire. This effectively made the German states sovereign.
The Palatinate was split: the Lower Palatinate was returned to Karl Ludwig (son of Frederick V), whilst the Upper Palatinate was retained by Bavaria.

Fabio Chigi (1599-1667)
(later Pope Alexander VII)
the papal delegate to the negotiations

Pope Innocent X sent Fabio Chigi to Westphalia to defend papal interests. Chigi tried his best, but the Pope was not happy with the outcome. His Bull, Zelo domus Dei (November 1648), condemned many articles of the Treaty of Westphalia as contrary to the Catholic religion.

The Peace of Westphalia granted Calvinists in the Empire a degree of toleration for the first time. A ruler could now legally make Calvinism the established religion of the state. (Lutheran establishment had been permitted since the Peace of Augsburg, 1555). Rulers were to permit private religious exercises of any confession that had been legally allowed in 1624. (After five years, a group not tolerated in 1624 could be expelled, but the property of its adherents was not to be confiscated). The transfers of land made under Catholic occupation during the 1620s and 1630s were largely reversed.

The religious clauses of the Treaty of Westphalia should have guaranteed the right of private worship to Protestants in Hapsburgs' hereditary territories. In practice, this was never fully allowed.  

The Peace of Westphalia did not involve any major territorial losses or gains. However, it entailed the Spanish conceding that they could never recapture the United Provinces, the Hapsburgs acknowledging that they would never be absolute rulers over a unified Germany, and Catholic admission that Protestantism was here to stay. The recognition of these obvious facts of life was very important to future peace and stability in Europe.



Scandinavia and Poland

A Polish nobleman

Stanislaw Teczynski, c. 1630


The Treaty of Westphalia brought the wars in Germany to an end, but peace did not break out in the North and East of Europe.

Sweden and Denmark spent much of the seventeenth century in conflict. Denmark levied heavy tolls on ships passing through the Baltic Sound.

Principal shipping routes through the Baltic Sound

The Swedish resented attempts to levy these tolls on produce from their territories in Northern Germany. Dutch merchants, whose vessels controlled much of the carrying trade, also begrudged the high tolls. In 1640, the two powers allied in an attempt to secure free trade in the Baltic.

In 1643, soon after the Second Battle of Breitenfeld, Lennart Torstensson marched his troops against the surprised Danish forces in Jutland. Meanwhile the Swedish navy attacked the Danish Fleet and defeated it at Fehmarn (Femern) Belt (October 1644).

In the Treaty of Brömsebro (1645), the Danish were forced to concede exemption from tolls to the Swedish and to hand over land in Norway, Germany, and Halland (in the Southern Swedish peninsula).


France - annoyed by this Swedish misuse of French money given to fight Imperial forces - moved closer to Denmark, and other states too began to fear Swedish power.

Korfits Ulfeld, the son-in-law of Christian IV, skillfully exploited these fears and won the Dutch over to the Danish cause. In 1649 he arranged a defensive alliance with the United Provinces.

After the Peace of Westphalia, French subsidies to Sweden ceased, and Sweden found that its interests increasingly lay in friendship with the Austrian Hapsburgs. Queen Christina soon threw off the tutelage of Axel Oxenstierna, and proceeded to waste money until the Swedish Crown was in dire financial straits.
The complaints that this extravagance caused and Christina's decision to convert to Catholicism led to her abdication in 1654. Her successor was Charles X (Karl X Gustav).


Before his succession Karl Gustav lived as a country squire on only two meals a day: - each meal had twenty-four courses and was washed down with ten quarts of beer and ten quarts of wine. (He did have the help of six friends)


John Casimir, King of Poland, son of Sigismund III (King of Sweden from 1592 until 1599 when he was deposed) disputed Charles X's right to the throne of Sweden. Charles X decided to extend Sweden's Baltic dominions by attacking Poland (already weakened by Cossack revolts and Russian invasion) and overthrowing John Casimir.

In July 1655, the Swedish army invaded Poland. It soon captured Warsaw (September 1655) and most of the rest of Poland. The Protestant troops, however, treated the Catholic population with such brutality that it was soon in revolt. Throughout 1656 the Swedish occupation force was harassed by the Poles, who finally, and with the help of the Crimean Tartars,  defeated the Swedes at Prostki (October 1656).

Stefan Czarniecki

Stefan Czarniecki (1599-1665) became a Polish hero by fighting stubbornly - and eventually successfully - against the Swedes, despite suffering a series of disastrous defeats.


Charles X reached an arrangement with the Cossacks and with Brandenburg-Prussia that allowed him to withdraw from Poland and fight Denmark, which in June 1657 declared war on Sweden.

By dint of a forced march of amazing speed, Charles X was able to move his army to Holstein by July 1657. Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp - ruler of the Duchy of Schleswig Holstein - was the father of Charles' wife, Eleonora, and Holstein and Hamburg (Denmark's long-term enemy) helped the Swedish army regroup.


In January 1658, the Swedish army made a daring march across the frozen Baltic and besieged Copenhagen.

Denmark was forced to agree to the Peace of Röskilde (January 1658) - Scania, Halland, and Bleking became Swedish, as did also Bornholm, the last Danish eastern Baltic territory.


Swedish success against Denmark did not solve all the state's problems. Brandenburg-Prussia, Poland, and Austria settled their differences and aligned against Sweden. In February 1660, Charles X contracted a fever and died, aged only thirty-eight.

1660 Treaty of Oliva, Poland abandoned all claims to the Swedish crown; Prussia agreed to move its troops out of Swedish Pomerania.
1660 Treaty of Copenhagen confirmed the Treaty of Roskilde except that Sweden handed back some territory (Trondheim and Bornholm) taken there.
Poland remained at war with Russia until 1667, when by the Treaty of Andrusovo (Andruszow) it ceded much of the Ukraine (including Kiev), and Smolensk.


 War between France and Spain to 1659

The marriage of Louis XIV of France to Maria Teresa, daughter of Philip IV of Spain
June 1660

The Treaty of Westphalia ended fighting between France and the Austrian Hapsburgs, but Spain's war with France went on.
In 1640 two areas under the control of the Spanish monarch revolted, Portugal and Catalonia, rebelled. France sent help to both. Spain turned against the Catalans first, which probably saved the Portuguese, who in 1665 won a decisive victory at Villaviciosa.
The French also suffered from domestic disruption - the Fronde. Between 1648 and 1652, there were both popular disturbances (occasioned by high levels of taxation), and noble rebellion aimed against increasing royal power.
The Spanish government took advantage of the Fronde to suppress the Catalans, finally retaking Barcelona in October 1652. Philip IV promised to respect Catalan privileges.
France and Spain also continued to fight in the Italian peninsula. The Spanish finally captured Casale (Montferrato) in 1652.
In 1655 England (then allied with France against Spain) and captured Jamaica from the Spanish (although failing to take Hispaniola). The two powers jointly defeated Spanish troops at the Battle of the Dunes (June 1658) and took the port of Dunkirk, which fell under English control.
1659 Peace of the Pyrenees finally ended the Franco-Spanish wars. France made some small territorial gains (chiefly Roussillon), agreed not to help Portugal, and betrothed Louis XIV to Philip IV's daughter, Maria Teresa.
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