Peter Ernst II von Mansfeld

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Peter Ernst II von Mansfeld

Count Peter Ernst II. Von Mansfeld , usually simply called "Ernst von Mansfeld" (* 1580 in Luxembourg ; †  November 29, 1626 in Rakovica near Sarajevo ), was an important mercenary and military leader in the early years of the Thirty Years' War .

As a private war entrepreneur on a lordly order, he was one of the leading mercenary generals in the fight against the Habsburg emperor and his allies (Spain, Bavaria and the Catholic League) from 1620–1626 and, for personal reasons, contributed significantly to the turmoil of the empire over the caesuras from 1620/21 and 1623 and expanded into a European war.


Family and Beginnings

(Peter) Ernst von Mansfeld - he himself signed "Ernest comte de Mansfelt" since 1607 - was a natural, d. H. Born outside of full marriage ( fils naturel ) of the royal Spanish governor of Luxembourg , Peter Ernst I von Mansfeld , who came from the well-known old imperial count house Mansfeld (Mansfeld-Vorderort-Friedeburg line). Ernst von Mansfeld, allegedly born in Luxembourg in 1580, from a union of the twice widowed Peter Ernst I and Anna von Benzerath, whose marriage was only legitimized in Brussels on February 28, 1591, was at the court of his strict father at that of the latter built Château de La Fontaine in Clausen (Luxembourg) educated in the Catholic faith. His father and his eldest, full-time son Karl (* 1543/45) were raised to the hereditary imperial prince status by Emperor Rudolf II in 1594 and have since carried the title Prince et Comte de Mansfelt . When Prince Karl received the supreme command of the imperial troops in Hungary in 1595, his father gave him the 15-year-old Ernst, who was sent to the Long Turkish War (1593–1606) to learn the trade. While Prince Karl succumbed to the Hungarian war epidemics in August, young Ernst stayed in the local theater of war for years. Influenced by the experience of the Turkish War, he then served the Habsburgs in the Netherlands from 1604–1607. At the death of his father (1604), Ernst von Mansfeld, who was still not legally legitimized, had, according to his will, only minor inheritance claims which, due to the debts he left behind, did not dissipate. Unsatisfied in the service of the Habsburgs, he went over to the Protestants in 1610 . It is not certain whether he also accepted the Protestant denomination in the course of this change of sides.

Union Services (1611-1618 / 21)

Mansfeld was officially from 1611 to 1621 as a colonel in the service of the Protestant Union under the leadership of Electoral Palatinate; in fact, however, he received his orders from the leading princes ( Christian von Anhalt , Joachim Ernst von Brandenburg-Ansbach ), who advocated a denominationally polarizing, ideological policy that led to war. Contrary to popular error, Mansfeld was never a military leader of the Union , either before 1618 or after; In addition, all Union services ended at the latest with the self-dissolution of the Sonderbund (May 1621), so it is factually incorrect to speak of Union generals for the time afterwards - for example for the battle for the Rhine Palatinate (1621–1622) . The designation as a Protestant military leader is also questionable because after 1610 he skilfully concealed his true denomination, was nowhere identifiable from denominational motives and otherwise later also served Catholic powers. A continuous move since 1610, however, is its use on the part of various opponents of the House of Habsburg .

Under the secret mandate of the leading Union princes, Mansfeld commanded German troops in Italy from 1616 to 1617/18 in the service of Duke Karl Emanuel I of Savoy (Carlo Emanuele I di Savoia), who was also Prince of Piedmont, during the [First] War of the Mantuan Succession (1612 / 13-1617). During a later stay in Turin (1619) the Savoy gave him the dominions of Castel-Nuovo (Castelnuovo d'Asti, today Castelnuovo Don Bosco ) and Buttigliera ( Buttigliera d'Asti ), both in the Principality of Piedmont, as marquisate.

Bohemian and Palatinate War (1618–1623)

Mansfeld's army besieged Pilsen, 1618

Returning from Italy, Mansfeld moved to Bohemia in 1618 to support the Protestant estates that had revolted against the Habsburg rule ( second lintel in Prague ). He was - in consultation with the leaders of the Union - still in Savoyard pay because the Savoy was claiming the Bohemian royal throne . In November 1618 Mansfeld succeeded in taking the city of Pilsen , loyal to the Habsburg castle ; to punish the emperor imposed the imperial ban on him. Defeated at Sablat in June 1619 , Mansfeld reorganized his troops and fought in Bohemia and Lower Austria in 1619/20. In 1620 he retired to Pilsen, where he began negotiations with the imperial family. He did not personally take part in the Battle of the White Mountain , for which he received 100,000 guilders from the opposing fund. But he continued the struggle for Bohemia until May 1621.

From the spring of 1621 Mansfeld served the outlawed Count Palatine Friedrich (the expelled winter king of Bohemia) as a military leader in the fight for the Electoral Palatinate ancestral lands against overpowering opponents - the Kaiser and his allies (Spain, Bavaria and the League) . In the autumn Mansfeld had to give up the Upper Palatinate , which had become untenable , but moved to the Rhine and brought the longed-for relief to the Palatinate fortress Frankenthal , which was besieged by the troops of the Spanish General Cordoba (October). He spent the winter of 1621/22 in Alsace with his army, which he let live out of the country and continuously reinforced with spoils of war. On April 27, 1622, he beat the Bavarian League Lieutenant General Tilly near Mingolsheim , but did not take advantage of the success. The next day the Count Palatine, still claiming royal dignity, elevated his general to prince in Bruchsal. For the defeated Tilly, who was supported in good time by the Spanish General Cordoba, the severe defeat of Margrave Georg Friedrich von Baden-Durlach near Wimpfen (May 6, 1622) saved the strategic situation.

Insufficiently supported by the overburdened state of the Palatinate, the Mansfeld troops wreaked havoc. B. the war damage register of the Upper County of Katzenelnbogen for the year 1622 a Mansfeld invasion of Hessen-Darmstadt, today's southern Hesse. Numerous cities and villages - u. a. Langen , Darmstadt , Nauheim , Ober-Ramstadt , Nieder-Modau , Neunkirchen , Weiterstadt , Raunheim , Rüsselsheim and Büttelborn as well as the Nidda and Bingenheim and places of the Fulda Mark like Echzell and Berstadt - are on the damage list.

In July 1622, when the battle for the Rhine Palatinate had become hopeless, Mansfeld (since April Prince et Comte de Mansfelt ) and the Guelph Duke Christian von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (called the Halberstädter ) were dismissed in Alsace along with the mercenary army by the Count Palatine. Soon afterwards, taken in pay by the States General, the two mercenary leaders overcame a Spanish army under Córdoba on their way through the Habsburg Netherlands, which wanted to relocate them to the north near Fleurus ( Battle of Fleurus , August 29, 1622). In the autumn of the same year Mansfeld occupied the county of East Friesland ; Duke Christian followed him later. Both kept the empire troubled in 1623 until the Braunschweig resident was almost devastated on August 6, 1623 in the battle of Stadtlohn . At the beginning of 1624 Mansfeld in East Frisia had to release the remnants of his troops.

Later war deals and operations (1624-1626)

Painting showing the siege of Breda in 1624/25
Siege of Breda by the Spaniards - the English troop contingent under Mansfeld was involved in the relief attempt in 1625; Painting by Pieter Snayers

A short time later, Mansfeld offered to switch to English service: King James I , the father-in-law of Frederick V of the Palatinate, had decided, after unsuccessful negotiations with Spain, to militarily enforce the liberation of his son-in-law's homeland. In April 1624, Mansfeld arrived at St James's Palace to discuss plans for an expedition on the continent . A few weeks later he went back to the mainland, where he tried to get subsidies , especially in Paris . These were granted in the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye on September 6, 1624 by the French crown, although not in the amount hoped for. At the beginning of November Mansfeld arrived back in England, where he began to raise troops. But there were only a few recruits who voluntarily stood under Mansfeld's banner. "While many Englishmen willingly cheered for the Protestant cause, lit bonfires and rang church bells, few were ready to die for them," noted one historian. The poorly armed, poorly equipped and poorly supplied troops gathered around Dover in December , from where they were to cross the English Channel to Calais and march overland into the Electoral Palatinate . But in France, considering the strong opposition in the interior of the country, they shied away from an open confrontation with Spain - the French refused the right to march through. The Mansfeld expedition was transported to the United Provinces of the Netherlands on January 31, 1625, where it was stuck without a clear destination and steadily melted away under the adverse winter conditions. When spring came, only about 5,000 remained of the original 12-15,000 men. The others were sick, dead, or deserted. The remnants of this troop took part in the unsuccessful operations around the siege of Breda in the spring and summer of 1625 .

Then Mansfeld moved to northern Germany, where, at the behest of his financiers - the kings of France and England - he had to submit to King Christian IV of Denmark, who had meanwhile intervened in the turmoil of the empire. On April 25, 1626 Mansfeld was severely beaten by Wallenstein near Dessau . After he had reorganized and strengthened his army in Kurbrandenburg, he set out on a campaign to Hungary in June, where he wanted to unite with Bethlen Gábor in a joint attack on the imperial hereditary lands. Wallenstein had pursued him since July from the middle Elbe through Silesia to Moravia and Hungary, was able to prevent a Mansfeld invasion of Bohemia, but could not get hold of his opponent. The campaign ended in the autumn without a battle decision.


On the way to the Dalmatian coast, from where he wanted to travel by ship to Venice in order to raise money for new advertisements, Mansfeld reached Bosnia. In the village of Racovica, in the mountains above Sarajevo , he suffered a hemorrhage , allegedly due to tuberculosis , still dictated his will and died the following night (29/30 November 1626). His body was allegedly buried on an island near Spalato, which was then Venetian .

His last weeks are shrouded in mystery. More credible than the rumor that he was poisoned by the Turks is the statement by other sources that he succumbed to a hemorrhage ( un flux de sang ). According to legend, Mansfeld is said to have expected death after he had dictated his will, standing in full armor, leaning on two servants. However, the fact that he no longer even had the strength to sign his last will speaks against this: instead, the document, whose dispositions were so important to him, bears the signatures of his personal doctor and a lieutenant colonel; the authentication was carried out in early 1627 by three other Mansfeld officers who had brought the will to Venice.

It is unlikely that the hemorrhage was the result of cirrhosis of the liver - final bleeding from esophageal varices - because Mansfeld was known for his moderate lifestyle and was apparently not an alcoholic. The dying scene, similar to that of other professional warriors, was already stylized as a soldier's heroic death shortly after its end and therefore certainly does not allow a reliable statement to be made about what actually happened. Based on the sources, another cause of death is far more likely: hemorrhage from pulmonary tuberculosis (popularly known as pulmonary consumption ); Since no details are known about the hemorrhage, one should not speculate here.

Meaning: War entrepreneurship in the early 17th century

As was customary in his time, Ernst von Mansfeld acted as a private entrepreneur on governmental (manorial, authoritative) assignments, whereby he also pursued personal goals. Especially in the years 1621–1625, shortly before the appearance of Wallenstein, he was a well-known main representative of those great war entrepreneurs who had only emerged on this scale from around 1615 and who knew how to provide their employers with a full, powerful army of all mercenaries To set up military branches (cavalry, infantry, artillery) without the client having to be able to provide the necessary maintenance. A substitute was made by contributions that the army command drove in the occupied area, as well as pledges of booty to the troops and the subsidies of interested third powers, especially from abroad, which Mansfeld was able to obtain again and again. Under the difficult conditions of the early 17th century - inadequate level of development of the then state, its taxation and administrative system - its performance was above all an organizational and logistical one. His strategic-operational behavior as a general as well as the effects of his army maintenance (devastation of the permeated Reich territories) must always be seen against this background; they were conditioned by the martial law of that time (the so-called custom of war , especially in looting) and by the private organization of the mercenary armies of the time (regimental structure, position of the colonels).


  • Wolfgang Brünink: The Count of Mansfeld in East Friesland. (1622–1624) (= treatises and lectures on the history of East Frisia. Vol. 34). Verlag Ostfriesische Landschaft, Aurich 1957 (at the same time: Cologne, Univ., Diss., 1954).
  • Ernst Fischer: Mansfeld's death. A critical contribution to the history of the Thirty Years War (= annual report for the Luisenstädtische Gymnasium in Berlin. 13, 1877/78, supplement, ZDB -ID 344453-3 ). Donny, Berlin 1878.
  • Reinhard R. HeinischMansfeld, (Peter) Ernst II. Count of. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 16, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-428-00197-4 , p. 80 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Walter Krüssmann: Ernst von Mansfeld (1580–1626). Count's son, mercenary leader, war entrepreneur against Habsburg in the Thirty Years War (= historical research. Vol. 94). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-428-13321-5 (also: Cologne, Univ., Diss., 2007).
  • Fritz Redlich : The German Military Enterpriser and His Work Force. A study in European economic and social history (= quarterly journal for social and economic history. Supplements No. 47–48, ISSN  0341-0846 ). 2 volumes. Steiner, Wiesbaden 1964–1965.
  • Rudolf Reuss: Count Ernst von Mansfeld in the Bohemian War 1618–1621. A contribution to the history of the Thirty Years War. Schwetschke, Braunschweig 1865, online .
  • Ludwig Count Ütterodt zu Scharffenberg: Ernest Graf zu Mansfeld. (1580-1626). Historical representation. Perthes, Gotha 1867, online .
  • Ludwig Count Ütterodt zu Scharffenberg:  Mansfeld, Peter Ernst II. Prince of . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1884, pp. 222-232.
  • Antoine Charles Hennequin Comte de Villermont: Ernest de Mansfeldt. 2 volumes. Devaux, Brussels 1865-1966, Volume 1 online ; Volume 2 online .
  • Constantin von Wurzbach : Mansfeld, Ernst von . In: Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich . 16th part. Kaiserlich-Königliche Hof- und Staatsdruckerei, Vienna 1867, p. 400 ( digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Ernst von Mansfeld  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Krüssmann, Ernst von Mansfeld , pp. 389 ff. And 662 f.
  2. ^ Hessisches Archiv-Dokumentations- und Informations-System, Hessisches Staatsarchiv Darmstadt (HStAD), War History (E 8 A), HStAD Best.E 8 A No. 31/1 , No. 28/4 , as of January 8, 2007
  3. On the agreements of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and their meaning in detail Krüssmann: Ernst von Mansfeld , pp. 542–544, 548 and 550.
  4. ^ Charles Carlton: Charles I. The personal monarch. 2nd edition. Routledge, London / New York NY 1995, ISBN 0-415-12141-8 , p. 56.
  5. ^ Ronald G. Asch: Jakob I. (1566-1625). King of England and Scotland. Ruler of Peace in the Age of Religious Wars (= Kohlhammer-Urban-Taschenbücher 608). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-17-018680-9 , p. 197.
  6. Ernst Fischer: Des Mansfelders death. A critical contribution to the history of the Thirty Years War (= annual report for the Luisenstädtische Gymnasium in Berlin. 13, 1877/78, supplement, ZDB -ID 344453-3 ). Donny, Berlin 1878.
  7. ^ Krüssmann: Ernst von Mansfeld , pp. 657-662 ( states and war entrepreneurs in the early 17th century ).
  8. ^ Fritz Redlich: The German Military Enterpriser and His Work Force. A study in European economic and social history (= quarterly journal for social and economic history. Supplements No. 47–48, ISSN  0341-0846 ). 2 volumes. Steiner, Wiesbaden 1964/65.
  9. ^ Krüssmann: Ernst von Mansfeld , pp. 662-673 ( Mansfeld as a war entrepreneur ).