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Characters of Wallenstein, Octavio, Buttler, Countess Terzky
Wallenstein. From a painting by A. van Dyck
LIFE OF WALLENSTEIN.
ALBRECHT WENZEL EUSEBIUS VON WALDSTEIN was born Sept. 24, 1583, at Hermanic (German Hermanitz) in the northeastern part of Bohemia. His parents, though poor, belonged to the old aristocracy, and were connected with some of the wealthiest and most influential families in the kingdom. Both father and mother were Protestants, and the boy was at first brought up in the Protestant faith. Left an orphan at the age of twelve, he was taken charge of by his uncle Heinrich Slawata von Chlum and sent to the school of the Bohemian Brothers in Koschumberg, and in 1597 to the Protestant school at Goldberg in Silesia. The generally accepted statement that Wallenstein was sent to a Jesuit school in Olmütz and there converted to Catholicism has been recently disproved.2 In August, 1599, he was matriculated in the Protestant Academy of Altorf, from which he was dismissed early in 1600 on account of his many boyish escapades. Afterward he is said to have served as a page at the court of the margrave Karl of Burgau in Innsbruck, where, according to a widespread story, his fall from a window and his miraculous escape caused his conversion to Catholicism.3 Probably, however, he was influenced by the practical consideration that Catholicism would promote his interests better than Protestantism. His conver
sion was at all events a more or less formal matter, for he never showed any great zeal for Catholicism, nor for any other form of religion. After leaving the Court of Burgau he entered for several years upon extensive travels through Holland, France and Italy. In Italy he visited the universities of Bologna and Padua, where he studied military tactics and astrolI The correct form of the name is Waldstein, but, since he is best known by the name of Wallenstein, the latter form will be used in this Introduction.
2 Cf. Stieve, Wallensteins Übertritt zum Katholizismus, Münchener Sitzungsberichte of 1897, p. 199. According to Stieve, Wallenstein was never a disciple of the Jesuits in Olmütz. His conversion to Catholicism did not take place before 1602, according to some authorities not before 1606.
3 Cf. Murr, p. 304.
ogy, and acquired some taste for Italian culture, which he afterward tried to spread in his domains.
Upon his return from his travels he entered (1604) the imperial army which was then fighting in Hungary against the Turks and the Protestant Hungarians, and proved himself a brave soldier. The most important event of his youth was his marriage in 1609 with Lucretia Nekesch von Landeck, a very rich Moravian widow, who was considerably older than himself. At her death in 1614 he inherited her extensive property in Moravia, which, together with a large estate left him by his uncle, made him one of the wealthiest noblemen in Bohemia. He now possessed the necessary means for playing a prominent rôle at the Austrian court and availed himself of every opportunity of serving the Habsburg princes. When in 1617 Archduke Ferdinand of Styria (afterward Emperor Ferdinand II) waged war against Venice, Wallenstein hastened to his assistance with troops raised at his own expense, and distinguished himself as a brave and efficient officer. At the outbreak of the Bohemian revolution in 1618 he at once declared himself in favor of the imperial cause and took up arms in behalf of Ferdinand. Sickness prevented him from taking part in the battle of the White Hill (Nov. 8, 1620), but he did good service in several smaller engagements of the war, especially against Bethlen Gabor and in the subjection of Bohemia to imperial rule. For his fidelity to the cause of Austria he was appointed commandant of Prague, one of the most responsible positions in Bohemia.
Wallenstein's military achievements from 1620 to 1625 were comparatively insignificant. During these years he devoted his chief energies to the extension and wise administration of his private possessions. The complete success of the imperial arms placed Bohemia entirely at the mercy of the emperor. All those who had in any way participated in the rebellion were severely punished. The leaders who had not escaped in time were executed, hundreds of wealthy and distinguished families were exiled and their estates confiscated. The Jesuits were recalled, the Protestant clergy expelled, and the inhabitants forced to conform to the Catholic church. The lands of the Protestant nobles were in part bestowed by the emperor upon his faithful officers, but most of the confiscated estates were sold at auction. Wallenstein availed himself of this opportunity, and being favored by the court, was able with his vast wealth to buy at nominal prices immense tracts of these
confiscated lands. He thus extended his estates in northeastern Bohemia until they finally covered some sixty square miles. These estates were formed into a territory called Friedland. In 1622 he was made an Imperial Count, and in 1623 he was raised to the rank of Prince of Friedland. In 1623 he married Isabella Katharina of Harrach, daughter of Ferdinand's most influential minister, Count Karl of Harrach, and thus strengthened his position at court. In 1625 he was created Hereditary Duke of Friedland and was thus made a Prince of the Empire with the right to administer justice, coin money, confer titles, etc.
The phenomenal progress of the imperial arms did not succeed in crushing Protestantism in Germany. In 1624 the Protestant party was slowly reorganizing its forces to make another mighty effort to assert its rights and recover its position in the empire. In 1625 a formidable coalition of German Protestant princes was constituted by the help of England, and Christian IV of Denmark was placed at its head. The army of the League, which had thus far fought the battles of the emperor, was not strong enough to cope successfully with the powerful armies of the Protestant coalition. Moreover, the interests of the Catholic League were in many respects opposed to the aggressions of the House of Habsburg. The League represented the authority of the Catholic princes of the empire, and its armies could not be depended upon, in case the imperial policy should ever antagonize or endanger the power of the princes. What the emperor now needed was an army independent of the League, subject only to his orders and to be used not simply for the defence of Catholicism, but also for the furtherance of his dynastic ambitions. But the imperial treasury was empty, for Ferdinand was very incompetent in the management of his finances, and besides, no general in the empire seemed able to effect the organization of such an army. When the cause of the emperor seemed desperate, Wallenstein saw that his opportunity had come, and offered to raise and equip an imperial army of twenty thousand men at his own expense. The maintenance of this army was to be no burden upon the imperial treasury, for the troops were to be supported by forced contributions, levied upon the provinces in which they were quartered. The larger and stronger the army, the more easily could these contributions be extorted, for the presence of an overwhelming imperial force would awe the people to submission. Wallenstein's proposal implied nothing less than government by mil
itary force. Naturally the emperor hesitated. It was a revolutionary proposition which involved the violation of a fundamental principle of the empire. If he accepted it, it would evoke the bitterest opposition on the part of the princes, and if he refused it, his cause seemed hopeless. Finally, after considerable hesitation the emperor yielded, and on Apr. 7, 1625, Wallenstein received the commission to recruit an imperial army of twenty-four thousand men. His enormous wealth and well-known generosity enabled him to accomplish this task easily. Recruits from Germany and all parts of Europe flocked to his standard, attracted by prospects of rich booty and the hope of rapid promotion. In a short time the size of his army far exceeded the promised number.
With this army, which was really his own, Wallenstein marched northward to cooperate with Tilly against Christian IV and Mansfeld, the Protestant leaders, but nothing of any consequence was accomplished by him in 1625. Before exposing his raw troops to the vicissitudes of war, he wished to win their confidence and organize them into a thoroughly disciplined army. He had a keen eye for military capacity, and had remarkable powers of organization. He made his soldiers feel that individual worth regardless of ancestry or religion were to him of prime consideration, and he rapidly advanced and munificently rewarded all who had rendered efficient service. In his army he had men of illustrious birth as well as soldiers of humble ancestry, but he did not discriminate between them so long as they served him well. Strict submission to the general's will was demanded of all alike.
Active operations were begun in 1626. Wallenstein's army had meanwhile steadily increased, so that together with Tilly's forces it numbered seventy thousand soldiers, while the army of the Protestant coalition contained about sixty thousand. Wallenstein's military career from 1626 to 1628 was an almost unbroken series of victories. His characteristics as a general can only be touched upon here. As a tactician he was by no means so inventive as his later rival Gustavus Adolphus, but he applied the old tactics of the Spanish school with great skill and thoroughness. He was very careful not to expose his soldiers to unnecessary danger, and generally avoide battle until his force outnumbered that of his adversary. He never won a really great battle, but his military manœuvres were so cautiously and carefully planned that he succeeded repeatedly in driving the enemy from the field without serious