Peace of Prague (1635)

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The Peace of Prague on May 30, 1635 was concluded in the Thirty Years' War between Emperor Ferdinand II and the Catholic League under Bavarian Elector Maximilian I on the one hand and the Protestant Electorate of Saxony with Elector Johann Georg I as the leading representative of the Protestant imperial estates on the other. The treaty was supposed to end the war between the two parties and had the further goal of driving the mercenaries of the foreign powers Sweden and France out of the Reich territory . With the exception of Bernhard von Sachsen-Weimar and Landgrave Wilhelm V von Hessen-Kassel , it was gradually ratified by almost all other Protestant imperial estates.

However, the peace treaty did not result in a general end to the conflict in the Holy Roman Empire. France and Sweden , whose interests were not taken into account in the treaty, continued the war, both in the imperial territory against the emperor and his allies, as well as against the Spanish Habsburgs, who fought against France with the support of Habsburg imperial troops from the Spanish Netherlands . The war was to last around 13 years until the Peace of Westphalia of 1648; in those some provisions of the Prague Peace Treaty were finally adopted.

Historical research has long neglected the Peace of Prague, despite its importance.

Before and after history

Archduke Ferdinand King of Hungary, from 1637 Emperor Ferdinand III., Oil painting by Jan van den Hoecke , 1643
Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony

In Pirna and Leitmeritz , the emperor's delegations under the leadership of the imperial commander-in-chief Archduke Ferdinand, King of Hungary and the Saxon elector, who was still allied with the Swedes, had been negotiating the terms of the treaty in secret for several months. The aim of both parties was to restore peace between the emperor and the Protestant imperial estates. The aim of the imperial side was to win the military support of Saxony and other Protestant imperial estates. The imperial side was not only concerned with being able to take unified action against the external enemies of the empire, France and Sweden, but also with gaining more powers and a free hand for military measures. However, all ideas could only be realized after the battle of Nördlingen in September 1634. The devastating defeat of the Swedes made it possible for Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony to break away from the unloved alliance with them without fear of punitive action.

It has long been debated in research whether imperial policy pursued tendencies towards the enforcement of absolutism during contract negotiations . The Austrian historian Adam Wandruszka speaks of a "relative absolutism".

After both sides agreed to the peace treaty, the treaty initially only applied to Saxony. The accession of further imperial princes and imperial cities to the treaty dragged on for several months and in individual cases such as B. in the case of Mecklenburg remained unclear for years. The emperor had achieved great success, however, because the majority of the German Protestant imperial estates, most of which had already joined the Swedes before the battle of Breitenfeld in 1631, had returned to the emperor's side after approving the treaty.

The peace provisions

  • As a concession to the Protestant side, the edict of restitution issued by Emperor Ferdinand II in March 1629 was suspended for 40 years. The confessional distribution of secular church property between Protestants and Catholics in the empire was restituted according to the 1627 acquis. The “normal year” was set to 1627, since the Catholic elector's report was submitted on November 12, 1627, which led to the edict of restitution. The year 1627 was also chosen because the Swedish King Gustav Adolf and his troops marched in shortly afterwards, and the Swedes should not take advantage of the provisions of the peace.
  • In the Habsburg countries, the regulation of the confessional distribution of church property was left to the emperor. This subsequently confirmed the complete re-Catholicization there.
  • Protestant owners of imperial direct monies received neither a seat nor a vote in the Reichstag; The only exception was the electoral Saxon Prince August von Sachsen-Weißenfels , who was elected administrator of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg in 1628 .
  • The imperial estates were forbidden to conclude military alliances with one another and with foreign powers. This should currently apply to both the Heilbronner Bund and the Catholic League .
  • New regulations for the Reich War Constitution were made. The emperor should have his own army , which should be composed of the troops of all imperial classes. Imperial princes were allowed to retain command of their own contingent, but only in the function of the emperor's generals. The task of the imperial army was to expel foreign troops from the imperial territory.
  • Very important and momentous new regulations of the Reich War Constitution concerned the powers of the Commander-in-Chief and the Emperor with regard to the employment, payment and supply of mercenaries and officers. This question was connected with the so-called "Reformation" of the regiments, i. H. the dissolution or amalgamation of melted regiments, which went hand in hand with the dismissal of officers who could then be employed by the enemy.
  • Providing the mercenaries and horses with food and quarters became more and more important for the maintenance of the armies, because large parts of the country had already been plundered without new crops being grown. The previously practiced method of “living out of the country” was made more difficult, especially since looting was counterproductive if you wanted to stay longer in the area yourself. The imperial estates were promised to preserve their rights to the land, to obtain approval and to pay for quarters and supplies. The respective army command needed good contacts to the local authorities, but they were also happy to be bribed. Of course, all agreements only applied to armies under imperial command. They did not apply to hostile armies and not to foreign countries, which is why the emperor also urged them to look for winter quarters in France during the campaign of the imperial army under Matthias Gallas , which was planned for 1636 .
  • The most important territorial change in the contract was the transfer of the margravate Upper Lusatia and Lower Lusatia to the Protestant Saxon Elector Johann Georg I through the so-called traditional recession. Both countries, which previously belonged to the Bohemian crown , were ceded to Saxony by the emperor to settle war debts, because in 1620 the Saxon elector had helped the Catholic emperor Ferdinand II to suppress the Bohemian class uprising . Legally, the margravate remained until 1815 fiefdoms of the Bohemian Crown, which had been hereditary bestowed on the Wettins . In addition, Kursachsen also received four Magdeburg offices.

Effects and consequences

  • The Prague peace treaty between Emperor Ferdinand II and the Protestant Elector of Saxony, in addition to all the Catholic imperial estates, soon joined the following Protestant imperial princes and imperial cities, which had been allied with Sweden: the Dukes of Saxony, Coburg, Holstein, Mecklenburg and Pomerania, Anhalt, Hesse -Darmstadt and Baden and among others also the cities of Frankfurt (Main), Heilbronn, Lübeck, Memmingen, Nuremberg, Speyer, Ulm, Worms.
  • It was not until August 1635 that the peace treaty signed: Elector Georg Wilhelm von Brandenburg and Duke Georg von Braunschweig , the latter under pressure from his family.
  • The Duchy of Württemberg, represented by Duke Eberhard III , became the most prominent Protestant imperial estate. , excluded from the peace treaty by a secondary recession. Duke Eberhard III. tried by all means to achieve a subsequent inclusion. Emperor Ferdinand III. urged the Hohentwiel fortress to be ceded , but the commandant Konrad Widerhold refused. The Hohenasperg fortress was therefore ceded to the emperor and remained in imperial possession until the end of the war.
  • Landgrave Wilhelm V of Hessen-Kassel did not join the Peace of Prague and organized his resistance from East Friesland .
  • The hostile relationship with Sweden resulted in a wave of patriotism in many leaflets. With an appeal to the many German mercenaries who served in the Swedish army, the emperor tried to use the newly awakened national sentiment militarily. He called for joining the now unified German Reichsheer. Although the appeal was linked with promises of reward, but at the same time with threats up to the death penalty, it did not lead to a decisive weakening of the Swedish army.
  • The alliances between Sweden and Saxony and Brandenburg, which were canceled by the peace treaty, made it possible for the Swedish Commander-in-Chief Axel Oxenstierna to be able to blackmail the French Cardinal Richelieu more financially so that the Swedes alone would now have to fight the imperial troops in the north and east of the empire so that the French troops could operate more easily in the south and west.
  • The enmity with Sweden enabled the emperor to improve his relationship with Denmark, which was still one of his opponents in the early stages of the war. After 1640 Denmark could be supported in its war against Sweden.

Longer term effects

The Peace of Prague prepared the Peace of Westphalia in many of its provisions relating to imperial law. As a critic of the peace negotiations, the Saxon general Hans Georg von Arnim had predicted, the peace treaty did not bring about an end to the fighting in the territory of the empire because the claims of the two foreign powers Sweden and France were not included in the treaty. Ferdinand II thought that this was - at least the emperor - not even attempted, but that with the help of the united imperial estates he could succeed in driving Swedes and French out of the empire without having to make political or territorial concessions. This turned out to be a fatal error, because on the one hand the unification of the imperial estates did not succeed completely and on the other hand the emperor now had to take into account the interests of the united imperial estates when waging war against the Swedes, while the Swedes were ruthless - especially against Brandenburg and Saxony - could proceed. In France, Cardinal Richelieu stuck to his strategy of keeping everything flowing in Germany with the help of the Swedes. Therefore, the ravages of the war in the empire continued for years.

Results of recent research

The peace treaty, largely negotiated and formulated by the commander-in-chief of the imperial army, the later (from 1637) Emperor Emperor Ferdinand III. , had the obvious goal of ending the war between the Protestant imperial estates and the Catholic emperor and his allies. However, it was not to be expected that the military forces strengthened as a result would be sufficient to achieve the further goal of driving the mercenaries of the two foreign powers Sweden and France out of the territory of the Reich. Ferdinand's guideline was the struggle with France, the “source of all evil”, which he wanted to wage in cooperation with Spain. So it was then his failure to have made the Swedes no offers to leave the country, i. H. buy them out and / or accept territorial offers in order to end the military conflict with them.

As recent research has shown, the route chosen instead was to revive the old aversions of the Saxon Elector towards the Swedes, who in 1631 had made the conclusion of their alliance difficult and long delayed, and then to let them "mature". The emperor was aware that there were conflicts among the Protestant imperial estates in terms of cooperation with the Swedes and that the estates were not in agreement with one another. From this the emperor drew the fatal conclusion that he could finally split and weaken the “Protestant Party”, and he also expected to keep himself financially harmless. The high severance costs to be expected in the event of a negotiated withdrawal of the Swedes were to be paid solely by the Protestant imperial estates, because they were the ones that the Swedes had called into the country. This fundamental attitude of the emperor can hardly be overestimated, although it was neither formulated nor laid down. Necessary decisions were left to the Elector of Saxony.

Discussions about a peace treaty had existed since 1632, while Wallenstein was still alive . He and other high-ranking members of the military, such as Hans Georg von Arnim and Franz Albrecht von Sachsen-Lauenburg, were convinced that according to the Kaiser’s ideas, a violent expulsion of the foreign powers from the Reich was not possible. They were of the opinion that a comprehensive peace treaty could not be reached without taking into account the interests and ideas of the foreign powers Sweden and France and making them offers, but about the nature of which no agreement could be reached.


  • Heinrich Hitzigrath: The journalism of the Prague peace (1635). Hall 1880.
  • Ernst Dürbeck: Electoral Saxony and the implementation of the Prague Peace in 1635. Leipzig, Diss. 1908.
  • Adam Wandruszka : Imperial patriotism and imperial politics at the time of the Peace of Prague of 1635. A study on the history of German national consciousness (= publications of the Institute for Austrian Historical Research . Vol. 17). Böhlau, Graz a. a. 1955.
  • Kathrin Bierther (arr.): The Peace of Prague of 1635. In the series: The policy of Maximilian I of Bavaria and his allies 1618–1651. Letters and files on the history of the Thirty Years War. New episode, part 2, volume 10, volumes 1–4. Oldenbourg, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-486-56013-1 .
  • Kathrin Bierther: On the edition of sources on the Peace of Prague of May 30, 1635 between Emperor Ferdinand II and Elector Johann Georg I of Saxony. In: Konrad Repgen (ed.): Research and sources on the history of the Thirty Years War. Aschendorff, Münster 1981, ISBN 3-402-05631-3 , pp. 1-30.
  • Michael Kaiser: The Peace of Prague of 1635. Notes on a file edition. In: Journal for Historical Research 28 (2001), pp. 277–297.
  • Georg Schmidt : "Absolute Dominat" or "German Freedom". The struggle for the imperial constitution between the Peace of Prague and the Peace of Westphalia. In: Robert von Friedeburg (ed.): Right of resistance in the early modern times. Results and prospects of research in a German-British comparison. (Journal for Historical Research, Supplement 26). Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-10629-6 , pp. 265-284.

Web links

Wikisource: Peace of Prague  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Christoph Kampmann : Europe and the Empire in the Thirty Years War. History of a European conflict. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-17-018550-0 , p. 210, note 30 .
  2. ^ Adam Wandruszka: On "Absolutism" Ferdinand II. In: Communications of the Upper Austrian State Archives. Volume 14, Linz 1984, pp. 261–268, online (PDF) in the forum, here p. 266. In contrast, Heiner Haan: Emperor Ferdinand II. And the problem of imperial absolutism. In: Historical magazine . Volume 207, 1968, pp. 297-345.
  3. ^ Lothar Höbelt: From Nördlingen to Jankau. Imperial strategy and warfare 1634-1645 . In: Republic of Austria, Federal Minister for National Defense (Hrsg.): Writings of the Army History Museum Vienna . tape 22 . Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-902551-73-3 , p. 13 f .
  4. ^ Christian Pantle: The Thirty Years' War. Propylaen Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-549-07443-5 , p. 194 .
  5. CV Wedgwood: The 30 Years War. Licensed edition Cormoranverlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-517-09017-4 . Paul List Verlag Munich 1967, pp. 340, 346
  6. a b Lothar Höbelt: From Nördlingen to Jankau. Imperial strategy and warfare 1634-1645 . In: Republic of Austria, Federal Minister for National Defense (Hrsg.): Writings of the Army History Museum Vienna . tape 22 . Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-902551-73-3 , p. 84-88 .
  7. Stefan Zizelmann: To country and denomination. The Foreign and Imperial Policy of Württemberg (1628–1638). Frankfurt am Main 2002. pp. 287f.
  8. ^ Christian Pantle: The Thirty Years' War. When Germany was on fire . Propylaen Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-549-07443-5 , p. 195 .
  9. CV Wedgwood: The 30 Years War. Licensed edition Cormoranverlag, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-517-09017-4 . Paul List Verlag Munich 1967, pp. 340–346
  10. ^ Lothar Höbelt: From Nördlingen to Jankau. Imperial strategy and warfare 1634-1645 . In: Republic of Austria, Federal Minister for National Defense (Hrsg.): Writings of the Army History Museum Vienna . tape 22 . Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-902551-73-3 , p. 440 f .
  11. a b Lothar Höbelt: From Nördlingen to Jankau. Imperial strategy and warfare 1634-1645 . In: Republic of Austria, Federal Minister for National Defense (Hrsg.): Writings of the Army History Museum Vienna . tape 22 . Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-902551-73-3 , p. 438-440 .