Albrecht von Wallenstein

Albrecht von Wallenstein

Infobox Military Person
name=Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein
lived=September 14, 1583 – February 25, 1634

caption=Albrecht von Wallenstein
placeofbirth=Heřmanice, Bohemia
placeofdeath=Cheb, Bohemia
allegiance= flag|Holy Roman Empire
serviceyears= - January 24, 1634
battles=Thirty Years' War

Audio|Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein.ogg|Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein (also "Waldstein"; _cs. Albrecht Václav Eusebius z Valdštejna; [Hughes-Hallett, Lucy. "Heroes: A History of Hero Worship." Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York, 2004. ISBN 1-4000-4399-9.] September 24, 1583 – February 25, 1634)Schiller, Friedrich. (1911) "Schillers Wallenstein", Macmillan & co., ltd.] was a Bohemian soldier and politician who gave his services (an army of 30,000 to 100,000 men) during the Danish Period of the Thirty Years' War to Ferdinand II. He was the supreme commander of the armies of Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand II and one of the major figures of the Thirty Years' War.

A successful generalissimo who ruled the Duchy of Friedland in northern Bohemia, Wallenstein was released from service in 1630 after Ferdinand grew wary of his ambition. Several Protestant victories over Catholic armies induced Ferdinand to recall Wallenstein, who again turned the war in favor of the Imperial cause. Dissatisfied with the emperor's treatment of him, Wallenstein considered allying with the Protestants. However, Ferdinand had the general assassinated at Eger (Cheb) by one of the army's officials, Walter Devereux.

Early life

Wallenstein was born in Heřmanice, Bohemia, into a poor Protestant branch of an old noble family. His parents, Vilém z Valdštejna ("Wilhelm von Waldstein") and Markéta Smiřická ("Margarete von Smiřicky"), died when he was 12 years old; he was raised by his maternal uncle, Albrecht Slavata z Chlumu a Košumberka ("Albrecht Slawata von Chlum und Koschumberg"). He was educated at the school of the Unity of the Brethren at Košumberk and at the Protestant grammar school at Goldberg in Silesia. From 1599 he continued his education at the University of Altdorf and then at Bologna and Padua.Ripley, George & Charles Anderson Dana. (1858) "The New American Cyclopaedia", D. Appleton and Company. pp. 185-189.]

Wallenstein then joined the army of Rudolf II in Hungary, where he saw, under the command of Giorgio Basta, two years of armed service (1604-1606) against the Ottoman Turks and Hungarian rebels. In 1606, he converted to Catholicism through his friendship with Jesuits and the Habsburgs. Wallenstein later would owe allegiance to the Imperial Habsburg Monarchy as a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Even though he was religious, Wallenstein did not become a zealot. Three years later he returned to Bohemia and soon married Lukrécie Nekšová z Landeka ("Lucretia Nikossie von Landeck"), a rich widow three years older than himself, whose estates in Moravia he inherited after her death in 1614. He used his wealth to win favour, offering and commanding 200 horses for Archduke Ferdinand of Styria for his war with Venice in 1617. He later endowed a monastery in her name, and had her reburied there. In 1617 Wallenstein married Isabella Katharina, daughter of Count Harrach. She bore him two children, a son who died in infancy and a surviving daughter. Examples of the couple's correspondence survive. Both marriages made him one of the wealthiest men in Bohemia and Moravia.

Thirty Years' War

The Thirty Years' War began in 1618, when the estates of Bohemia rebelled against Ferdinand of Styria and elected Frederick of Palatine, the leader of the Protestant Union, as their new king. Wallenstein associated himself with the cause of the Catholics and the Habsburg dynasty. Sympathizing with the Bohemians, he used his position as commander of the troops of the Moravian estates to escape with the Moravian treasure-chest to Vienna. There, however, he was told that it would be restored to the province, but he had shown his loyalty to Ferdinand, the coming Emperor.

He equipped a regiment of cuirassiers and won great distinction under Karel Bonaventura Buquoy in the wars against Ernst von Mansfeld and Gabriel Bethlen in Moravia, both supporters of the Bohemian revolt. Wallenstein recovered his lands, that had been seized by the rebels in 1619 and, after the Battle of White Mountain, he secured the estates belonging to his mother's family and confiscated tracts of Protestant lands. He grouped his new possessions into a territory called Friedland (Frýdlant) in northern Bohemia. A series of successes in battle led in 1622 to Wallenstein being made an imperial count palatine, in 1623 a prince, and in 1625 Duke of Friedland.Schiller, J. Friedrich Von. (1980) "Robbers and Wallenstein", Penguin Classics. pp. 12-13. ISBN 0-14-044368-1.] Wallenstein proved to be an able administrator of the duchy [see, e.g., the Wallenstein biography of Golo Mann.] , and also sent a large representation to Prague to emphasize his nobility.

In order to aid Ferdinand, meanwhile elected Holy Roman Emperor, against the Northern Protestants and produce a balance to the Army of the Catholic League under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, Wallenstein offered to raise a whole army for the imperial service in 1626. Wallenstein's popularity soon brought 30,000 (not long afterwards 50,000) men.Eggenberger, David. (1985) "An Encyclopedia of Battles", Courier Dover Publications. p. 161. ISBN 0-486-24913-1.] The two armies worked together over 1625–1627, at first against Mansfeld.

Having beaten Mansfeld at Dessau, Wallenstein cleared Silesia of the remnants of Mansfeld's army in 1627.Fuller, J. F. C. (1987) "A Military History of the Western World", Da Capo Press. p. 46-47. ISBN 0-306-80305-4.] At this time he bought from the emperor the Duchy of Sagan. He then joined Tilly in the struggle with Christian IV of Denmark, [Spielvogel, Jackson J. (2005) "Western Civilization", Thomson Wadsworth. p. 414. ISBN 0-534-64604-2.] and afterwards was rewarded with the Duchies of Mecklenburg, whose hereditary dukes were expelled for having helped the Danish king. This awarding of a major territory to someone of the lower nobility shocked the high-born rulers of many other German states.Wedgwood, C. V. (1961) "The Thirty Years War", Anchor Books. p. 219-220. ]

Wallenstein assumed the title of "Admiral of the North and Baltic Seas". However, in 1628 Wallenstein failed to capture Stralsund, which received help from Swedish troops, a blow that denied access to the Baltic and the chance of challenging the naval power of the Scandinavian kingdoms and the Netherlands. The situation further deteriorated when the presence of the Imperial catholic troops on the Baltic and the Emperor's "Edict of Restitution" brought King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden into the conflict. He attempted to aid forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under Hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski, which were fighting Sweden in 1629; however, Wallenstein failed to engage any major Swedish forces and this significantly affected the outcome of the conflict. [Dahlquist, Germund Wilhelm & Carl Von Clausewitz. (2003) "Principles of War", Courier Dover Publications. p. 81. ISBN 0-486-42799-4.]

Over the course of the war Wallenstein's ambitions and the exactions of his army had created a host of enemies, both Catholic and Protestant princes. Ferdinand suspected Wallenstein of planning a coup to take control of the Holy Roman Empire. The Emperor was advised to dismiss him and in September 1630 envoys were sent to Wallenstein to announce his removal. Wallenstein gave over his army to General Tilly, and retired to Jitschin (Jičín), the capital of his Duchy of Friedland. There he lived in an atmosphere of "mysterious magnificence".Ingrao, Charles W. (2000) "The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815", Cambridge University Press. pp. 45-46. ISBN 0-521-78505-7.]

However, Ferdinand was forced to call him into the field again. The successes of Gustavus Adolphus over General Tilly at the Battle of Breitenfeld and on the Lech (1632), where Tilly was killed, and his advance to Munich and occupation of Bohemia, demanded action. In the spring of 1632 Wallenstein raised a fresh army within a few weeks and took the field. He drove the Saxon army from Bohemia and then advanced against Gustavus Adolphus, whom he opposed near Nuremberg and after the Battle of the Alte Veste dislodged. In November came the great Battle of Lützen, in which Wallenstein was forced to retreat but in the confused melee, Gustavus Adolphus was killed.

Wallenstein then withdrew to winter quarters in Bohemia.

In the campaigning of 1633 Wallenstein's apparent unwillingness to attack the enemy caused much concern in Vienna and in Spain, (another Hapsburg dominion). At this time the dimensions of the war grew more European. Wallenstein was, in fact, preparing to desert the Emperor, as he was angry at Ferdinand's refusal to revoke the Edict of Restitution. Not much is known about his secret negotiations; but rumors told that he was preparing to force a "just peace" on the Emperor "in the interests of united Germany", at the same time hesitating - as he used to do in other respects — and trying to stay loyal to the Emperor as far as possible. With this apparent "plan" he entered into negotiations with Saxony, Brandenburg, Sweden, and France. But apparently the Hapsburg's enemies tried to draw him to their side. In any case, he gained little support. Anxious to make his power felt, he at last resumed the offensive against the Swedes and Saxons, winning his last victory at Steinau on the Oder in October. He then resumed negotiations.

Treachery and death

In December Wallenstein retired with his army to Bohemia, around Pilsen. It was soon felt in Vienna that he was definitely treacherous, a secret court found him guilty, and the Emperor sought for serious means of getting rid of him (a successor-in-command, the later emperor Ferdinand III, was already waiting). Wallenstein was aware of the plan to replace him, but felt confident that when the army came to decide between him and the Emperor the decision would be in his favour.

On January 24, 1634 the Emperor signed a secret patent (which was only opened to certain of Wallenstein's officers) removing him from his command. Finally an open patent charging Wallenstein with high treason was signed on February 18, and published in Prague. Losing the support of his army, Wallenstein now realized the extent of his peril, and on February 23 with a company of some hundred men, he went from Pilsen to Eger (Cheb), hoping to meet the Swedes under Duke Bernhard. After having arrived at Eger, however, certain senior Scottish and Irish officers in his force assassinated him on the night of February 25.

To carry out the assassination, dragoons under the command of the Irish general Walter Butler and the Scots colonels Walter Leslie and John Gordon, first rushed upon Wallenstein's trusted officers Terzky, Kinsky, Illo and Neumann whilst the latter were banqueting at Cheb Castle (which was under the command of John Gordon himself), and massacred them. Terzky alone managed to fight his way out into the courtyard, only to be shot down by a group of muskeeters.

A few hours later, an English captain, Walter Devereux, together with a few companions, broke into the burgomaster's house at the main square, where Wallenstein was lodged (again by John Gordon), and kicked open the bedroom door, whereupon Devereux ran his halberd through the unarmed Wallenstein, who, roused from sleep, is said to have asked in vain for quarter.

The German Emperor may not have commanded the murder, nor may he definitely desired it; but he had given free rein to the party who he knew wished "to bring in Wallenstein, alive or dead." After the assassination, he rewarded the murderers with honour and riches. [The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition]

Wallenstein was buried at Jitschin (Jičín).

Golo Mann's monumental and highly readable biography [Golo Mann, [ op.cit.] ] of Wallenstein is widely regarded as a masterpiece of historiography. Currently a large exhibition about Wallenstein is being prepared by the Czech National Museum and will be held at the Wallenstein Palace in Prague (current seat of Senate) from 15 November 2007 till 15 February 2008.

Wallenstein's particular genius was in recognizing a new way for funding war: instead of merely plundering one's enemies, he called for a new method of systematic "war taxes". Even a city or a prince on the side of the Emperor had to pay taxes towards the war. He understood the enormous wastage of resources that resulted from tax exactions on princes and cities of defeated enemies only, and desired to replace this with a "balanced" system of taxation; wherein both sides bore the cost of a war.He was unable to fully realize this ambition; and in fact his idea led to the random exploitation of whole populations on either side, until finally, almost fifteen years after his death, the war had become so expensive that the warring parties were forced to make peace. In any case, Wallenstein's idea inspired many, among them, Colbert, to "pluck the goose with a minimum of screeching".


*Golo Mann "Wallenstein, his life narrated", 1976, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (ISBN 0030918847).
*Luca Cristini. "1618-1648 la guerra dei 30 anni . volume 1 da 1618 al 1632" 2007 (ISBN 9788890301018)
*Luca Cristini. "1618-1648 la guerra dei 30 anni . volume 2 da 1632 al 1648" 2007 (ISBN 9788890301025)

External links

* [ The Thirty-Years-War]
* [ Biography at the Catholic Encyclopedia]
* [ An Exhibition at Prague, Czech Republic, Europe - Dedicated to Albrecht von Wallenstein]

NAME = Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Bohemian general of the Thirty Years' War to Ferdinand II
DATE OF BIRTH = September 24, 1583
PLACE OF BIRTH = Heřmanice, Bohemia
DATE OF DEATH = February 25, 1634
PLACE OF DEATH = Cheb, Bohemia

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