Stories from German History - Florence Aston

The Thirty Years' War


On the 28rd of May, in the year 1618, a deputation of Protestants waited on the Emperor Matthias of Germany and demanded audience. From an earlier sovereign they had obtained a decree, known as the 'Charter of Majesty,' conceding perfect freedom in religious matters, and the right to build Protestant churches and schools. In spite of this permission, one of their churches in Bohemia had been pulled down and another closed.

The Emperor's attitude toward their mission admitted of no doubt. Two of the deputation, followed by their secretary, were promptly thrown out of the window sixty feet from the ground I

Luckily a stunted tree and a heap of waste paper broke the delegates' fall, so that they crawled away uninjured, but within a few days Germany was in arms, for this deed dated the commencement of the great Thirty Years' War, one of the most cruel and terrible wars that the world has ever known. Many of the princes in South Germany were Protestants, and the doctrines of such men as Luther, Calvin and Huss were spreading rapidly among the common people. Sectarian jealousy, however, led to the formation of leagues to defend the interests of the two religions, and these were known as the Catholic League and the Protestant Union.

The sons of the Emperor Maximilian II had indeed found their task too heavy for them. Their mother was the sister of Philip II of Spain, and in their childhood she had sent her three boys to Madrid to be educated under the eye of their bigoted Catholic uncle, who was often heard to declare that it was better not to rule at all than to rule over heretics.

Rudolph, the eldest son, was a clever youth, but wholly under the influence of Jesuit priests and a slave to superstition. His chief study was astrology, and when it was predicted that he would one day die by the hand of a kinsman of the second generation, he was so frightened that he shut himself away from society, would not marry nor allow his brother to do so, and spent the rest of his life in spying on imaginary murderers. He loved horses, and although he never rode them he kept many and would visit their stables by means of an underground passage from his palace.

The gloomy Rudolph was much feared by the Protestants, because of the influence which the Jesuits exercised over him; moreover he had oppressed the Protestants in Bohemia and Hungary.

His weakness and melancholy, which almost amounted to insanity, made him incapable of ruling. So in 1606 the Electors met and dethroned him, leaving him no territory to rule except Bohemia. He was stall called Emperor of Germany, but his brother, Matthias, was acknowledged head of the family. When Rudolph died in 1612 his brother, Matthias, was not only king of many lands, but was crowned German Emperor as well.

Matthias might have been a more capable emperor than Rudolph, but, like him, he was superstitious and completely under Jesuit influence, so much so that his own brother made him accept his cousin Ferdinand, Duke of Styria, as his coadjutor and guide.

After the "defenestration," as the Bohemians called the hurling of their deputies from the palace windows, the nobles of that country rose and chased all the Jesuits from their land.

In the midst of these troubles Matthias died, and Ferdinand was crowned Emperor of Germany on the 28th of August 1619, although Bohemia refused to acknowledge him as their king, and chose Frederick, the Elector Palatine of the Rhine, instead.

Ferdinand was in great danger, for he was well known as a persecutor of all heretics, and the Protestants of Austria, with their brothers of Bohemia, were already banding themselves against him. He sent his children to a place of safety, but refused to flee himself, although many of his clergy implored him to do so. One day, while in prayer before the crucifix, he thought he heard a voice which said, "Ferdinand, I will not forsake thee" so he remained, even while sixteen Austrian nobles broke in upon him and demanded privileges for the Protestants, thrusting a paper of agreement before him, and shouting rudely: "Sign it, Ferdy, sign it!" At that moment a regiment of horse entered Vienna, the nobles slunk away, and Ferdinand was saved.

The Elector Frederick was a young man of five and twenty, who had married Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of James I of England. He was very rich, for during his minority the revenues of 100 monasteries had been seized by his father and uncles. Unfortunately for him, since he was totally unfitted for leadership, he was looked upon as the head of the Protestant cause in Germany. When he was offered the crown of Bohemia in addition to his own Electorate on the Rhine, he hesitated long before coming to any decision. Most of his relations urged him to accept it, except his father-in-law of England, who did not approve of any one wearing another man's crown, nor joining in religious quarrels that might upset the peace of Europe. Poor Frederick was miserable in his irresolution. "If I take it, I shall be accused of ambition," he cried, "but if I refuse it, of cowardice."

Heidelberg Castle


His wife, the high-spirited and ambitious Elizabeth, was loud in her entreaties to him to accept the crown. So it was accepted, and the new King and Queen of Bohemia left their beautiful castle of Heidelberg, and started for Prague, the capital of Bohemia, taking with them their eldest son, the little five-year-old Frederick Henry.

On the borders of Bohemia they were received by deputies who formally offered them the crown.

There was immense enthusiasm in Prague as they entered. Bells were rung, speeches made and, delighted with her bright liveliness, ladies pressed round to kiss the hem of their new queen's robe.

But Elizabeth found the inhabitants of Prague a much simpler people than her own gay courtiers of Heidelberg. Frederick insisted upon taking into his service twelve young nobles, whose awkwardness was a source of much merriment to their mistress. One upset a cup of wine into the Queen's lap, another let every dish on his tray slip off without even noticing it, and offered the tray to her empty.

On Saint Elizabeth of Hungary's day old women brought the Queen gifts of cakes and bread in commemoration of their dear saint's loaves which had been turned into roses at her prayer. But the Protestant Court understood nothing of this and only laughed at the offerings, while one pert young page stuck a long roll of bread in his hat for a feather.

The citizens gave Queen Elizabeth 150 pieces of gold in a silver bowl, the Jews gave her an alms-dish in the shape of a silver ship, and when in November her fourth child, Prince Rupert, was born, he was presented with an ebony and ivory cradle covered with silver and gems and a chest full of baby garments of the costliest cambric and lace. Time after time the kindness of the honest Bohemians was misunderstood and laughed at, and their feelings hurt by rejection of their well-meant proofs of good will.

Frederick insulted the prejudices of his Bohemian subjects by breaking down an ancient crucifix which they held in great veneration, by preparing to sell the contents of Rudolph's royal museum, even by calling the army to exercise at inconvenient hours, and sending his eldest son away from Bohemia for safety.

Dangers were gathering fast, and by their lack of sympathy and understanding both Frederick and his queen were ill suited to hold the allegiance of the kindly, simple Bohemians. James I, the father of Elizabeth, refused to help them, thinking it wrong that the Protestant princes should rebel against their Emperor, although afterward, in 1624, he was induced to declare war against the Emperor and Spain, and troops were sent over to Holland.


By 1620 the army of the Emperor Ferdinand was in the field, led by the famous General Tilly. By birth a Hungarian peasant with a genius for strategy, Tilly had risen from the ranks. He was rough, uncouth and cruel, but bold as a lion, and wherever his green doublet, slouched hat and red feather appeared, there followed victory, but victory after terrible slaughter. He advanced on Prague and beat the Bohemian army before ever Frederick had joined it. The royal family fled for their old home at Heidelberg, but that had already been attacked, and there was no shelter for them there. A home was eventually found for Elizabeth at Custrin while her husband went to render what service he could in the field.

They were the laughing-stock of Germany. Placards were posted up advertising for a lost king, rude songs were sung, and pictures were sold in which they were depicted as a couple of beggars, he bearing a staff and she a candle. Men called the miserable Frederick the 'Winter King' or the 'Snow King,' saying that he had melted away; Elizabeth, it was said, had ruined her family by grasping so greedily at the Bohemian crown, by alienating the affections of her subjects in her selfish thoughtlessness, and lastly by keeping her husband near her when he ought to have been with his army in the field. The wreck of this young pair's happiness was unfortunately only the beginning of sorrows and sufferings beyond description for unhappy Germany.

The Thirty Years' War had fairly begun. Frederick's acceptance of the crown of Bohemia had been the spark that fired the straw, but the real cause of the outbreak was the determination of the Roman Catholics, under their Emperor Ferdinand II, whom they knew to be an ardent supporter of their faith, to gain back the territory of the Church, so much of which had passed into the hands of Protestants since the Reformation.

Numerous states joined in the fray on one side or the other. Everyone who had an old score to wipe out with his enemy, a grievance to vent, or a hope of gain, appeared on the field. The armies were composed of regular soldiers, volunteers of all nations and wild mercenaries, who were the terror of the countries through which they passed. When the army arrived at a village the sergeants would throw their knives into the quartermaster's hat, and he stuck each one into the door-post of the unfortunate villager upon whom their parties were to be quartered. The soldiers followed their sergeants until they found his knife, lodged in the house and plundered and stole anything that pleased their fancy.

The captains had a great deal of power over their men, and were responsible for them to their colonel. The lieutenants were ready to take the captain's place if he should fall in battle. The ensign carried the banner, which he guarded with his life, and received from the colonel of his regiment with the solemn words: "As your bride or your own daughter, from the right hand to the left; and if both your arms should be shot off, you should take it with your mouth; and if you cannot preserve it thus, wrap yourself therein, commit yourself to God, so to be slain, and die as an honourable man."

The armies were enormous, for in those days no one dreamed of leaving wife and children behind, so a huge mass of baggage wagons, containing thousands of camp-followers, straggled in the rear, and food and cattle, horses, bedding, furniture and clothes were plundered from the unhappy peasantry, who were considered fortunate if they escaped with their lives.

Mutiny in such a heterogeneous multitude was frequent, and when camps were pitched a gallows was always erected near the colonel's tent. Gambling, drinking and vice of all kinds was rampant, and the track where the army had passed would be marked by smoking ruins, mutilated corpses of men, women and children alike, and blackened ashes where fair villages had prospered only the day before.

The soldiers cared little about the religions for which they were supposed to be fighting, and although prayers were read every morning by the regimental chaplain, no idea of purity and goodness was connected with the service. The men were often grossly superstitious, and books still exist which reveal the incredible ignorance of the time. The wearing of a shirt, containing a thread woven by a maid under seven years old and laid on the altar while three masses were said, would make the wearer invulnerable. Soldiers would secrete about their persons a goat's beard, a wolf's eye, a bat's head or a piece of the halter that had hanged a man, believing that no weapon could harm them when protected by such a charm. Silver buttons were supposed to be of wondrous efficacy when used as bullets, also powder mixed with pounded dogs' bones, while a sword that was rubbed crosswise with rye bread baked on Easter night was held to be invincible.

In 1628 Frederick of Bohemia and his Queen were at The Hague in Holland, and the people of their beautiful city of Heidelberg in the Palatinate sent to them in vain for help, for Tilly and his army were encamped around it, and on the 16th September the city surrendered. Other cities in the neighbourhood followed suit, and Frederick, Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia, was now homeless and landless, a fugitive in a foreign country.

The Protestant cause in Germany was in a desperate state, and the Emperor Ferdinand was growing more and more powerful, when the war attracted the attention of great Protestant nations in the north—namely, the kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark.

Christian the Fourth of Denmark had interests of his own to guard, since he was also Duke of Holstein and had therefore a seat in the Imperial Diet, as the Emperor's parliament was called; so, with help from Charles the First of England, he landed on German soil. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, who was later to play so important a part, was then engaged in war with Russia, and for the time refrained from joining in the fray.

In the summer of 1625 the Emperor found himself in difficulties; he had no control over most of the armies that were ostensibly fighting on his side, and very little over his own General Tilly, who was then fighting in Lower Saxony, and he had not sufficient resources to raise a regiment of his own. At this juncture there came forward an old adherent of the Emperor, a Bohemian nobleman, who offered to provide an army at his own expense, on condition that he should be appointed its generalissimo with absolute command. This man was Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius Wallenstein, one of the greatest generals that Europe has ever known. Of noble Bohemian family, he was born at Prague in the year 1588, and designed for the Church, but so wild and unruly did he prove that at the age of sixteen he was sent by his father as a page into the service of the Margrave of Burgau. His father died soon afterward, and his guardians placed the boy under the tutorship of certain Protestant brethren, since called Moravian, against whose strict discipline he revolted, and became more wild and violent in conduct than ever.

One day, however, while asleep on a balcony of the castle at Innsbruck, he fell from a height of three stories without receiving any injury. This almost miraculous escape had a wonderful effect on his future career, for he believed that he had been preserved by the special intervention of the Virgin Mary, and, renouncing the Protestant faith in which he had been educated, he joined the Roman Catholic Church. He became at once silent, thoughtful, a seer of visions. He travelled much in Holland, England, France, Spain and Italy, taking up his abode for some time at the university of Padua, where he studied astrology, a science which was in future to be the guide of his life, since he retained little faith in any form of religion. Henceforth he was always accompanied by an old astrologer named Seth.

On his return he married an exceedingly rich old widow, and at her death, which occurred soon afterward, he found himself master of a handsome fortune. He then raised a troop of 200 horse at his own expense, and, joining Ferdinand, who was at the time only Archduke of Styria, accompanied him on an expedition against Venice, in which he behaved with great courage and decision; thereby winning the love of the soldiers, the favour of Ferdinand and marrying the young and beautiful Isabella von Harrach, the daughter of Ferdinand's privy councillor and favourite.

When the Bohemians rebelled in 1618, they had offered Wallenstein a command, but he remained faithful to his Emperor, and raised a regiment at his own expense to fight in his cause. The Bohemians thereupon confiscated all his estates, but this only bound him more closely than ever to Ferdinand, and when Bohemia and Hungary made peace, his lands were restored to him, and he was given in addition a handsome estate called Friedland.

The Duke of Friedland, as Wallenstein was thereafter called, was at that time the richest man in Bohemia, and lived in the greatest magnificence. It was after a period of idleness spent at Friedland that he came forward with his offer of 80,000 men to support the cause of Ferdinand the Emperor.

Within a few months, by means of lavish gifts and promises, Wallenstein had gathered together an army of adventurers from all quarters of Europe. Stern and cold in manner—some said that he never smiled—Wallenstein's gravity was such as to impress all whom he met. His discipline was severe, and yet he was the darling of his soldiery. The equipments he gave were good, pay was secure, any man of whatever rank who distinguished himself was rewarded with munificence and advanced to a post of honour. Wallenstein allowed no priests within his camp, and shut his eyes to the irregularities of his men so long as they performed their military duties properly. They regarded him with awe, and when he appeared among them in the morning with a countenance ghastly and haggard from midnight watching of the stars, they whispered of communings with spirits and devils, and looked upon him as a supernatural being.

Several of his generals were men of mark, notably Pappenheim, the leader of his cavalry, a man of wondrous strength and courage, of pure morals and a devout Roman Catholic. The wild soldiers reverenced his purity in an age of vice, loved him for his affectionate disposition and would follow him to death or victory. Yet he too, like his master, took all their cruelty and lawlessness as a matter of course.

Wallenstein enlisted Catholics and Protestants alike in his army, and levied contributions from townsmen and villagers of either faith. He cared nothing for the religious questions at issue, his sole aim being to restore the power of the Emperor of Germany to its fullest extent "We want no princes," he is said to have declared again and again, "but a single master as in France and Spain."


Tilly was generally mistrustful and jealous of Wallenstein, but the two marched into Holstein together, and forced the King of Denmark to sign an ignominious peace.

After this, Wallenstein appeared with his army before the city of Stralsund and summoned it to surrender, which the magistrate would immediately have done, had not the indignant citizens taken matters into their own hands and prepared for a siege. This angered Wallenstein, who always maintained that nothing was ever withheld from him that he desired to possess, and he swore that he would take Stralsund were it bound to heaven with chains of steel.

The citizens had heard of the unbridled ferocity of Wallenstein's soldiers when let loose on a fallen city. They knew that, should they yield, their town would be sacked and burned, their property looted and their wives and children cruelly slain, so they determined to defend their religion and liberty to the last drop of blood. Wallenstein swore that he would lay the town as flat as the top of the table, but he swore in vain. He could do nothing, and after carrying on the siege from March to August of the year 1628 he drew off his forces.

After this check the dreaded Wallenstein was no longer deemed invincible, and his enemies took the opportunity of falling on him on every side. The Jesuits opposed him violently, the Catholic League demanded that his army should be reduced, for it had increased to a strength of 100,000 men, who were maintained by forced contributions from the districts through which they passed, and so cruel and pitiless were they that even the provinces loyal to the Emperor's cause complained of their presence.

Wretched villagers were found dead in scores, their mouths filled with earth and grass, showing the tortures of starvation through which they had passed. Horrible stories were told of people who ate their own children, and dug up the bodies of the dead, so wild with hunger were they.

The princes, too, looked upon Wallenstein with disfavour, for had he not declared that the Emperor ought to be master in his own realm, and reduce them to the level of mere nobles i Even the Pope had complained. So when Ferdinand met his Diet at Ratisbon and asked to have his eldest son made King of the Romans, the only reply he met with was a request to dismiss Wallenstein, after which other matters should be attended to. So Wallenstein fell into disgrace, and was deprived of his command. "I pity, and forgive," he said quietly, when he heard of the Emperor's decision, "I grieve for his weakness, and obey."

In the year 1629 the great army was broken up; partly incorporated with Tilly's troops and partly disbanded; and Wallenstein returned home with sixty carriages containing his suite, and 100 wagons of luggage. He retired to the castle of Prague, where he lived in his former princely state. Six gates led to his palace, guarded night and day by sentinels, fifty soldiers in rich uniforms waited in his anteroom to obey his slightest wish, and twelve watchmen patrolled the corridors, to prevent the least noise while their master was busied in astronomical study. Six barons waited on him, sixty pages of noble birth were brought up in his service, and four gentleman ushers marshaled the 100 guests who were entertained every day at his table. His gardens were magnificent, and contained rare fruits and trees and large aviaries of strange birds, and his horses ate from marble mangers, and drank from troughs supplied with 'Punning water from his fountains.

In the midst of this magnificence lived the mysterious lord, dark and pale and silent, haughty and greatly dreaded, and yet ardently worshipped by those in his immediate service.

The year 1629 was a time of mourning and desolation for Germany. Impoverished and wasted, the land was the battlefield for all the nations of Europe. The ex-King and Queen of Bohemia had suffered great loss in their exile, for their eldest son, the young Prince Frederick Henry, who had grown into a youth of great promise, was drowned at sea.

In the midst of this melancholy prospect, a ray of hope broke through the clouds that hung dark above Protestant Germany. Denmark had been beaten off the field, but the King of Sweden, having concluded his war with Russia, turned his attention to his oppressed co-religionists across the Baltic.

Gustavus Adolphus, the son of Charles IX of Sweden, was born at Stockholm in the year 1594. From the first he was a child of exceptional promise, and when only ten years of age would sit by his father in the councils of State and listen to the debates. When future difficulties were discussed, the father would lay his band on the boy's fair hair and say: "Here is he who will provide for this! Ille faciet. He will do it."

Gustavus would give the replies to foreign envoys, either in Latin or in their own tongue, and so practised did he become that at the age of fifteen he could speak with ease German, Dutch, French, Italian and Latin. He was also studying Greek, and read with pleasure the works of Xenophon.

At fifteen his father sent him as governor to Finland, together with his tutor, Johann Skytte, who was to aid him with advice, and continue his studies. At sixteen, according to the old Scandinavian custom, his father presented him before the Thing, as the Swedish parliament was called, and he was formally invested with the shield and sword of a full-grown knight.

The Swedes were full of hope as they watched their future king, for the boy was a typical northern warrior, very tall and very strong, with bright blue eyes, which were, however, near-sighted, and fair golden hair that floated in a sunny cloud around his head. He was gentle and dignified, and grew into a man of deep piety and purity of life, daily studying the Holy Scriptures, since he said that kings, being responsible only to God, must learn His will more carefully than the common people. His religion was reflected in his gentle words and kind sympathy for others, and in the high sense of honour which is the characteristic of the perfect gentleman.

He had, however, a hasty temper, was eager and quick in speech, and in battle absolutely carried away with warlike fury; was beyond all restraint, exposing himself rashly to danger; yet he never received a wound until the battle in which he died. Again and again his horse was killed under him in action, and once he was dragged with the greatest difficulty out of a frown bog from under the hose's feet, but he was never hurt.

In 1611 his father died, leaving the seventeen-year-old youth King of Sweden and engaged in wars with Denmark, Russia and Poland. For several years he fought bravely in battle, establishing a discipline among his men, which made them very different from the ferocious soldiers of Wallenstein or 1511y. They were held firmly in check, pillaging was strictly forbidden, theft and violence were sharply punished, and no camp-followers were permitted to follow the army except the families of the soldiers themselves.

Gustavus was also careful for their bodily comforts. Instead of subsisting upon what food and clothing they could force from the miserable peasantry of the countries through which they passed, his soldiers were well fed and well shod. Their tents and clothing were good, warm sheepskins were provided for winter wear, and surgeons tended them when they were ill or wounded in battle. Schools were established for the men as well as for their children, and the camp was like a home.

As may be imagined, his service was very popular in spite of its strict discipline. Many English and Scottish gentlemen were among his officers, and all loved him, for he knew every officer by name and many of the men too, and was ever gentle and lenient with them so long as they tried to do their duty. If he saw a man ignorant of his drill, he would himself instruct him gently and kindly and with great patience, and such a man would remember the King's care of him and follow him to the death with all the fidelity of his simple soul.

To offenders of all kinds Gustavus was justly stern. After vain attempts to put a stop to dueling in his army, he once arrived on the spot where two officers were even then facing each other. "Fight till one is slain," he said quietly, "and then off with the head of the survivor t "And the practice of dueling in his army ceased.

In the year 1620 Gustavus made a private tour in Germany, calling himself Monsieur 'Gars,' from the initials of his name, Gustavus Adolphus Rex Sueviae. In Berlin he met the handsome, stately lady, Maria Eleanore, sister of the Elector of Brandenburg, whom he tenderly loved and soon afterward married.

Gustavus had for some time witnessed with grief the sufferings of his Protestant brethren in Germany, and as soon as he had concluded an honourable peace with Denmark and Poland, he discussed with his famous chancellor, Oxenstiern, the advisability of joining in the Thirty Years' War.

The Emperor Ferdinand had tried to stir up disaffection in Sweden, Austrians had fought against Gustavus in the Polish army, Wallenstein had insulted his ambassadors, but, apart from these private reasons, the maintenance of Protestantism in Europe made him determined to make his power felt. So on the 20th of May 1680 the King appeared before the Thing at Stockholm, carrying in his arms his only child, the little four-year-old princess, Christine. He presented her to the States as his successor, caused them to swear fidelity to her and kiss her hand, and then read a paper which contained his wishes respecting the government of the country in his absence and during the little Christine's minority should he fall in battle. Strong men melted into tears and blessed him, and, taking leave of wife and child, he embarked for Germany, full of hope and courage, yet with a sure presentiment that he would never return. "For me there remains henceforth no more rest but the eternal," he exclaimed, realizing the fearful difficulties which he must face.

Gustavus landed on the German coast in the midst of a violent thunderstorm, and, falling on his knees, called God to witness that the campaign was not undertaken for his own aggrandizement, but for the cause of His holy Gospel. So little sensation did his landing cause that the Imperial Court at Vienna called him the 'Snow King' in derision, saying that he would melt away if he approached the South, and when the Emperor Ferdinand was told, he merely shrugged his shoulders and remarked:

So we have another kingling on hand!"

The Swedish army consisted of but 15,000 men, but they were in excellent condition, and of his officers Gustavus himself said: "All these are captains and fit to command armies."

The Protestants hailed him as their deliverer, and named him the 'Lion of the North,' greeting with acclamations the Scandinavian giant with the blue eyes and cloud of yellow hair, who presented such a remarkable contrast to the gloomy Wallenstein and the ferocious Tilly.


The army of Wallenstein being dispersed, and Tilly fully occupied with the siege of Magdeburg, the only leader spared to grapple with the Lion of the North was one of Wallenstein's former generals, an Italian named Conti, who occupied Pomerania with 16,000 men. Even Conti had not thought it worth while to oppose the landing of Gustavus, since the only fear which the Swedes inspired was a belief that they might have brought Lapland witches and enchanters with them.

Fortune favoured Gustavus. Although Duke Bogislaus of Pomerania had never quarrelled with the Emperor, he was secretly inclined to the Swedes since Wallenstein had devastated his lands, so he admitted them into the town of Stettin, which Gustavus garrisoned and left under General Horn, while he himself passed on farther into Pomerania. The approach of winter was favourable to Gustavus, since Conti's army was composed of Italians who could not endure cold and exposure. The Imperialist generals asked him to make a truce till spring, but this he had no intention of doing, since his men bore cold, hunger and thirst well, and had warm fur-lined coats and sheepskin cloaks for winter. Reinforcements streamed in from every side, and the despised 'Snow Sing' gathered strength as he passed south, and, like a veritable snowball, grew larger and larger the farther he rolled. During the winter Pomerania and Mecklenburg were practically cleared of Imperialists. The Emperor was astonished and enraged, the courtiers no longer jeered and the Protestant princes began to speak with hope and decision.

This delay decided the fate of the unfortunate city of Magdeburg, for Tilly had to be speedily set at liberty to face the redoubtable Snow King from the North. Gustavus could not march himself to the relief of Magdeburg, since he was not yet sure of the cities in his rear, but he sent Colonel Falkenberg, one of his officers, who managed to enter the city disguised as a boatman, and took charge of the exhausted and dispirited garrison. On the 10th of May 1681 the Imperial party within the town demanded loudly that it should yield. At four o'clock in the morning Falkenberg hurried to the town hall for a consultation with the chief magistrates, but while he was thus engaged Pappenheim scaled the city wall at a place where a weary sentinel had fallen asleep. Falkenberg rushed out but fell dead, riddled with bullets, and though the citizens resisted as long as their ammunition lasted, they were obliged in the end to surrender.

Tilly's soldiers always held that they might work their will on any town taken by assault, and their cruel leader had no desire to restrain their ferocity, so there ensued the most horrible scene of this most horrible war. Some officers, who begged their general to have mercy on unresisting and innocent citizens, were ordered into retreat for an hour.

"I will then," said Tilly, "see what can be done, but the soldier must have something for his labour and danger. Magdeburg must bleed." Before the hour was past, however, crimes too horrible for description had been committed, and the wild soldiers were beyond all restraint. They respected neither old nor young, neither women nor children. Almost all the men were beheaded and most of the women too.

In the midst of the slaughter a fire broke out, and, thinking that the citizens were trying to deprive them of their plunder, the soldiers flew, sword in hand, on every living creature they met, mutilating, torturing and slaying on every hand. The blare of trumpets, roar of flames, and shrieks of victims were deafening, but nothing could bring to reason a soldiery mad with drink and insane with passion. For four days this terrible carnage lasted. Of 40,000 inhabitants only 600 wretched fugitives remained, and of the stately German city nothing was left standing save the cathedral, one convent and a few houses near them. Tilly entered in triumph and a Te Deism was sung in honour of the victory.

Afterward Tilly rode slowly through the town, gloating over the corpses and heaps of blackened ashes. He described the scene in a long letter to the Emperor, comparing the siege with that of Troy and Jerusalem. "And sincerely," he wrote, "do I pity the ladies of the Imperial family, that they could not be present as spectators of the same!"

The blood of every German Protestant ran cold at the news, and the Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, who had vacillated hitherto, immediately threw in their lot with the Swedes.

Tilly had already advanced on Leipzig and, threatening it with a worse fate than that of Magdeburg, swiftly reduced it to submission. He was encamped at Breitenwald, five miles from the city, and against him the united forces of Swedes and Saxons marched. There was a marked contrast between the two armies. Religious services were held daily in the Swedish camp, the men treated citizens and peasants with gentleness and consideration, they themselves were respected even by their enemies for their strict morality and quiet, dignified bearing, while Tilly's camp resounded daily with the oaths of licentious soldiers, the shrieks of tortured victims and sounds of fierce and drunken revelry.

The Swedes wore no armour and carried light field artillery, with a view to moving quickly from one place to another, but Tilly's men wore cuirasses, greaves and helmets, and were encumbered with heavy cannon which could not be moved when once placed in position on the field. To give Tilly his due, he had never under-estimated the gravity of the Swedish invasion as others had done. Of Gustavus he wrote: "The King of Sweden is an enemy both prudent and brave, inured to war, and in the flower of his age. His plans are excellent, his resources considerable, his subjects enthusiastically attached to him. His army, composed of Swedes, Germans, Livonians, Finlanders, Scotch and English, by its devoted obedience to their leaders, is blended into one nation. He is a gamester in playing with whom not to have lost is to have won a great deal."

It was the first time that Gustavus had engaged in battle with the tried Austrian forces. He arranged his men in masses, the Swedes on the right wing, the Saxons on the left Dressed simply in grey with a white hat and green feather, he rode slowly down the line, speaking words of kindly encouragement to his men. Then he rode to his position at the centre of the line, removed his cap with one hand and lowered his sword with the other. His example was followed by every man in the army, and the King's dear voice rang over the field:

"Good God, Thou who holdest in Thy hand victory and defeat, turn Thy merciful face to us Thy servants. We have come far, we have left our peaceful homes to combat in this country for liberty, for the truth and for Thy gospel. Glorify Thy holy name in granting us the victory."

Tilly advanced to the battle of Leipzig wholly unnerved, and it was said that he signed the capitulation in the gravedigger's house, since no other place had been available, and, on raising his head from writing, had shuddered to find the walls painted with skulls and cross-bones.

The horrors of Magdeburg preyed on his mind as he advanced to meet Gustavus. When he charged the Saxons they broke and fled, and so elated was he then that he sent to the Emperor at Vienna to announce a victory, but at the same time the Swedes routed Pappenheim's army, and, rallying the Saxons, encouraged them to attack Tilly in the rear. His artillery was captured and turned upon himself. Pappenheim, with seven wounds, fell and was left for dead, but was carried away later to a place of safety by a faithful peasant. Tilly, with four regiments of veterans who resolved to be cut in pieces sooner than yield, sought the shelter of a little wood, where they held out till nightfall.

The rest of the army fled, while the villagers, eager for revenge, pursued the fugitives and cut them down. Tilly stood stupefied, motionless, stunned with despair. He was seventy-two years of age, and had been victor in over thirty battles. Three bullets had already pierced his body before the miserable handful of men could persuade him to retreat. The curses of the peasants rang in his ears, and he was irritated by a rude song that they shouted at him with the chorus, "Fly, Tilly, fly!"

Only 2000 men could be collected from the 20,000 who had set out that day, and all the artillery and baggage were lost. This battle, which was fought on the 18th of May in the year 1681, is sometimes called the Battle of Breitenwald and sometimes the First Battle of Leipzig. It was Tilly's first defeat and the first great Protestant victory.


So shattered was the Catholic army that for a time all Germany lay open to Gustavus. His great Chancellor Oxenstiern wanted him to march on Vienna itself, but foreign conquest was not his aim. He only wished to unite in a Protestant alliance with the northern states, as a balance to the Catholic powers in the South, and deliver the Palatinate from its oppressors, knowing that he would arouse national jealousy as a foreign conqueror if he played too large a part himself.

He therefore sent the Elector of Saxony to rouse the Protestants of Bohemia, during which time the great Wallenstein himself sent from his retreat and made overtures of friendship, offering to gather together his old army and join the Swedes against his ancient rival Tilly and the Catholic League, with its weak Emperor, who had yielded to his dismissal.

Gustavus however did not trust him, and turned his attention to other affairs. He invited the fugitive Elector Palatine to join him, and he came, accompanied by seventy horsemen and forty carriages containing his suite, having taken leave of Elizabeth, whose spirits were by no means depressed either by exile or debt. She wrote cheerful letters home to England, full of hope for the future and joyous anecdotes of the merry life she led. Hunting stories occupy a large part of these epistles. On one occasion she wrote that her son, the Prince Rupert, had been lost, and, when the courtiers went to seek him, they found nothing but a pair of boots sticking out of a hole in the earth. Hauling at the boots produced the prince's tutor, who was firmly grasping Rupert's feet, who in his turn clung to a hound with its teeth firmly fixed in a fox! With such amusements and distractions to occupy her mind, the former Queen of Bohemia had no thought for her suffering country.

Frederick met Gustavus at Frankfort, was presented to the Queen of Sweden, who had joined her husband there, and marched by the side of his deliverer through the rejoicing towns. It was indeed a time of great rejoicing for the Protestant cities. On the 81st March Gustavus had been received into beautiful old Nuremberg amidst scenes of almost frantic enthusiasm. Tears streamed down the faces of the people as they pressed forward to kiss his horse, the sheath of his sword, even his boots. Those who remembered the ferocious Tilly and the gloomy Wallenstein hailed as their saviour the gentle, dignified giant with the steady blue eyes, open face and golden hair. The Italians named him; Il Re d'oro  (the gold-king), so profound was the impression his sunny brightness of appearance made upon them. Gustavus did not love this homage, which indeed almost made him afraid

"They make a god of me," he said; "and God will punish me for it."

"That old devil Tilly," as Gustavus always called him, was stirring again by then and had encamped by the River Lech in order to protect Bavaria. Gustavus advanced to the other side of the river, and, keeping up a furious cannonade for three days without intermission, he threw a bridge across the river under cover of the smoke. Tilly rushed to meet him, but was struck by a cannon-shot in the knee. Mortally wounded, he was carried off the field to Ingoldstadt, and there the old general died. He was seventy-three years of age, and out of his thirty-two battles had been victorious in all except the last two, in which he had matched his power against that of the Lion of the North.

The loss of this famous general left the Emperor no alternative but to make advances to the only man capable of taking the head of affairs. Wallenstein received his overtures very coldly indeed, and refused to assume command except upon his own terms. But he was soon at the head of a considerable force again, had driven the Saxons out of Bohemia, and by October 1682 had taken Leipzig.

Hearing that Pappenheim had been dispatched with a considerable force to besiege Halle, Gustavus advanced to meet the Imperial army before that general could have time to return. On the 6th of November the two armies met near the village of Lutzen. Wallenstein deepened the trenches which lay between them, and, to conceal the defects in his army, commanded all the horse-boys to mount and wait on the left wing till Pappenheim should arrive to take their place. The Swedish soldiers stood to arms all night, Gustavus commanding the right, and Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar the left, wing.



Gustavus wished to attack before daybreak, but the fog was so dense that it was impossible to move. Prayers were said at the head of each regiment and hymns were sung, and when the fog lifted at eleven o'clock, the Lion of the North charged, shouting as he led his men: "Now I In God's name, at them I Jesus, we fight for Thy holy name!"

A frightful struggle ensued, in the middle of which the King's arm fell powerless to his side, shattered by a musket-ball. "It is nothing. Follow me!" he cried to the men who closed round him, but the pain made him feel faint and he asked the Duke of Lauenburg to lead him out of the fight. As they turned, a second shot struck Gustavus, and he fell from his horse to the ground "I have enough, brother," he whispered to the Duke. "Save your own life," and within a few moments the disfigured corpse of Gustavus Adolphus lay buried under a heap of slain.

His horse, galloping riderless over the field, showed his followers what had happened, and now the full strength of the Swedish army manifested itself, for, goaded "to desperation, they fought with a fury that nothing could resist. The Imperialists were in full retreat when Pappenheim appeared an the scene, and the battle began all over again. The Swedish Yellow regiment, the flower of the army, lay dead, each man in his rank without having yielded an inch of ground.

Count Pi000lomini, one of Wallenstein's generals, had seven horses shot under him. Wallenstein rode hither and thither like one bearing a charmed life, his mantle riddled with bullets, yet without receiving one wound. The gallant Pappenheim received two shots in the breast, and was borne to his carriage, where he died. It was his forty-fourth battle. He had been born on the same day as Gustavus, and both were thirty-eight years old.

The mists of evening fell, and Wallenstein withdrew his troops, leaving the Swedish generals master of the field. But the victory was dearly bought, for more than 9000 men lay dead upon the plain. A large block of granite was dragged to the place where Gustavus Adolphus fell, and is inscribed with the letters G.A., and the date of the battle, 6th November 1682.

A fortnight later the incapable Frederick, Elector Palatine, died.

The Swedish chancellor, Oxenstiern, announced that he intended to carry on his deceased master's policy, and the Protestant army was led by Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and various Swedish officers, prominent among which were Generals Horn and Wrangel. But Duke Bernard had not that perfect control over his men which had characterized Gustavus Adolphus, and his army began to plunder and harry with as much violence as any Imperial troops. The Duke was a good man, honourable and just, and an earnest student of the Bible, but his strength of character was not sufficient to control an army.

Germany had been devastated from end to end, villages were deserted, and the wretched peasants took to the woods and dwelt like animals in caves and among the rocks. They became violent and wicked, and civilization was set back at least a century.

Wallenstein was by then heartily sick of the war. He would have liked the Palatinate for himself, and from that position felt capable of maintaining peace between the Protestant north and the Catholic south. Much mystery surrounds this period of his career, and he seems to have roused suspicion by his actions, for, determined to force a peace with the Swedes whether the Emperor wished it or not, he entered into negotiations with them, and at the same time, to test the temper of his men, tendered his resignation to the Emperor. This experiment at once succeeded, for a few of his regiments withdrew, but the majority pledged themselves to serve the Duke of Friedland against any foes he should care to combat

Strange stories spread abroad. The paper containing this pledge was shown to Wallenstein's officers at the beginning of a banquet and was said to have contained the reservation, "against any foes excepting always our Lord the Emperor," but it was signed by them when the evening was several hours old and they were too drunk to notice what they were doing. Probably a second document was substituted during the evening, for when produced afterward no reservation whatever was apparent, though the signatures stood duly at the foot

Wallenstein during this time remained inactive at Prague, while the Protestant army ravaged the country at will. Some whispered that he meant to seize the crown of Bohemia for himself. One of his officers, the Count Piccolomini, betrayed the story of the signed pledge to the Emperor, who was furious and demanded Wallenstein's arrest, alive or dead. Surprised by the desertion of Piccolomini, who had hitherto posed as one of his most devoted adherents, Wallenstein's suspicions were aroused, and he took refuge at Eger, a strong fortress on the western frontier of Bohemia, and once more entered into negotiations with the Swedes. But Bernard of Saxe-Weimar received his advances coldly, being doubtful of his sincerity. "One who does not believe in God," he said, "ought not to be trusted by men."

Wallenstein's days were now numbered. On the 25th of February 1688 a deputation of his officers met together and swore on the crosses of their swords to destroy him and his most faithful adherents. They invited Illow, Terzky, Kinski and other sworn followers of the Duke to a banquet, and, when arms were laid aside and the wine-cup had freely circulated, a cry was suddenly raised

"Long live the House of Austria!" A scuffle ensued, in which all Wallenstein's friends were assassinated, and to finish their work his enemies rushed from the officers' quarters to the lodging where the general lay sick of a fever.

For some days Wallenstein's astrologer, Semi, had warned him that the stars were hostile and that he stood in great danger.

"It is so," answered Wallenstein, "but it is also plainly written on the heavens that thou, friend Semi, wilt be thrown in prison."

Wallenstein was in bed when Gordon, Devereux and six others entered his room. He sprang from his bed," and, recognizing that his hour was come, spoke no word, but stretched out his arms as if to receive their weapons and fell pierced through and through.

So died the great Duke of Friedland. His estates were divided among his enemies, and his personal property among the soldiers. Almost the whole of his army remained faithful to the Emperor, who appointed his eldest son, later the Emperor Ferdinand III, general-in-chief.

The chief actors in the great drama of the Thirty Years' War had all passed from the scene, though the war itself did not cease, and years of misery were yet to come. In consequence of indecision and quarrelling among the

leaders, the Protestants lost 16,000 men in a great defeat at Nordlingen in 1684. The Netherlands then joined in the war, and the great French statesman, Richelieu, sent 6000 men to serve in Duke Bernard's army on condition of receiving Alsace in return.

The exhaustion of the country was more terrible than ever, for the war had continued so long that many of the soldiers had been born and bred amid the violence and licentiousness of camp life. The aspect of country and cities was fearful. Starving little children lay on the doorsteps. The dead lay by the roadside where they had dropped and there was none to bury them. One poor little village had been plundered twenty-eight times in two years, and twice in one day, and a deadly plague finished the work which the horrors of war had begun.

In the year 1687 the Emperor Ferdinand died, after a long career of cruelty under the guise of religion, during which he had turned the fair fields and prosperous cities of Germany into one great plain of smoking ruin. The year of his death was marked by the appearance of a ghastly famine, in which not only were the bodies of the dead disinterred for food, but living men were hunted down for the same purpose. Many hundreds committed suicide, being unable to bear the pangs of hunger any longer, and the survivors were swept away in thousands by pestilence, the natural consequence of their loathsome diet.

On the 8th of July 1689 died the good Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, sick with horror at the evils around and unable to control his men, who plundered and harried against his express command.

"I am weary of my life," said he, "for I can no longer continue with a safe conscience amid such lawless proceedings."

The miserable war dragged on nine years longer and the final event worthy of note was the capture of Prague by the Swedish general, Konigsmark.

At last, on the 24th of October 1648, peace was signed in Westphalia, by which the Emperor indemnified the Swedes with a sum of money and gave them the island of Rugen, part of Pomerania, and the bishoprics of Bremen and Verden. France was given practically the whole of Alsace. Romanists and Protestants were now placed on an equal footing, and all ecclesiastical property that had fallen into the hands of the Protestants was to be retained by them.

Thus ended the Thirty Years' War, during which the best and bravest men in the country had fallen, half the population of Germany had perished, and religion, civilization, manufacture and art were almost totally destroyed.

The power of the German Emperor over the German princes had never been considerable, and after 1648 it almost disappeared. From this time forward the separate states were at liberty to form alliances with foreign powers at will, and they became self-governing and practically independent countries.