The defenestration of Prague
In 1608, the Protestant princes, led by the Palatinate Elector Frederic V, formed the Evangelical Union. In their turn, the Catholics set up the Holy League with Maximilian of Bavaria at its head.
In 1609 Emperor Rudolf II delivered the “Letter of Majesty”, which guaranteed freedom of religion in Bohemia. But in 1618, as Emperor Mathias did not fulfill the commmitment, the Protestants rebelled. The Prag defenestration was considred as the begining of the Thirty Years’ War.
In 1624, the war escalated due to the intervention of Christian IV, King of Denmark, who came to the rescue of the Protestants. The Danes were defeated at the battles of Tilly and Wallenstein (Treaty of Lubeck in 1629). The Catholics were utterly victorious and the House of Hapsburg was at its most powerful ; it already ruled Austria, Bohemia and Hungary, a major part of Italy, Spain, as well as the Spanish-controlled parts of the Low Countries.
The intervention of Sweden, followed by that of France
The Protestants remained hostile because of Ferdinand II’s Edict of Restitution (1625), which forced them to give back the ecclesiastical property which they had previously seized. Gustave II Adolphe, the King of Sweden, a Lutheran who received financial aid from Richelieu, came to the rescue of the Protestant princes (but he also had his eye on the Baltic) : he led his troops to brilliant victories against the Catholics until the battle of Lützen ‘(1632), where he died.
When the Imperial armies became very powerful, France (under Richelieu) began war against the Empire. The Spanish, who were approaching Paris, were routed by Condé at Rocroi (1643), while Turenne and the Swedish troops invaded Bohemia and Bavaria.
Peace was restored by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Negotiations started in Munster (1644) : the United Provinces were opposed to Spain, and France was an enemy of the Holy German Empire. Negotiations between Sweden and the Empire took place in Osnabruck in 1645. The beneficiary was France, given clear possession of the Three Bishoprics (Metz, Toul, Verdun), which had been trust territories since 1552. It annexed Low Alsace and the city of Brisach in Germany added to Pignerol in Piedmont returned to France as early as 1631 after the Mantua succession war. Sweden’s territories spread as far as the Baltic, and western Pomerania was also annexed (the eastern part had been annexed by the Brandenburgs). Both the Low Countries and the Swiss cantons were officially recognized as being independent.
The House of Hapsburg lost a great deal of its former power and Germany, having lost a third of its population, was financially ruined and in complete political disarray.
Protestantism in Germany
The Lutheran Reformation movement was a crucial event in German history. This theological and religious revolution had a major effect on German politics, language and culture. Today Germany has several religious tendencies in its midst, but protestants remain in the majority.
Protestantism in the Scandinavian countries
At the beginning of the XVIth century, Scandinavia consisted of two kingdoms : one was made up of Norway and Denmark and the other Sweden and Finland. They both loosely belonged to the same confederation (the Union of Kalmar) which disintegrated at the time of the Reform movement. Lutheranism soon became the main religion and this favoured the constitution of national Churches which could each retain the use of its own language – they were all under State control. Today, even if the churches are not full, the influence of Lutheranism can still be deeply felt in the life of these countries.
Protestantism in Bohemia and Moravia (Czech Republic)
In the XIVth century, Jean Hus introduced the Reform Movement to Bohemia and Moravia (these two countries are now known as Czechoslovakia), where it caught on quickly with the local population. Although the Protestants were in the majority in the XVIth century, they lived through difficult times after the defeat at the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. During the next 150 years they had to keep their religion secret. When the State of Czechoslovakia came into being after the First World War, Jean Hus became a religious hero in the national memory.
Protestantism in Belgium
Although the Low Countries and Belgium (which was in fact part of the latter for several centuries) had shared a common history in the past, the consequences of the events shared by both countries were quite different : in Holland the population was mainly calvinist, while in Belgium catholicism was the prevailing religion.
Protestantism in the Low Countries
The history of Dutch protestantism basically consists of a long-drawn out battle against Spain, who held sway over the country in the second part of the XVIth century and at the beginning of the XVIIth century ; independence was finally achieved by the United Provinces, who later became the kingdom of Holland. During the XVIIth century, Calvinism gradually became the main religion.