Even though the convening of peace conferences, both domestic and foreign, had been set peace did not come swiftly to the Empire.
After the close of the Reichstag of Regensburg and the signing of the Treaty of Hamburg, a structure for negotiation was in place. In theory, the purely domestic quarrels of the Empire were to be settled at Frankfurt in a meeting of the Princes of the Empire, the Deputationstag. The international dimension of the war was to be settled by negotiations at Münster and Osnabrück.
According to the Preliminary Treaty of Hamburg, the Congress of Westphalia was to open on 25 March, 1642. However, this was rendered impossible by delays in ratification of the treaty: the Emperor delayed his approval until 26 July, 1642. As a result, the official opening date was revised to 11 July, 1643.
Even then, only the Imperial representatives were there on time. As they had no-one with whom to negotiate, no progress was made.
On 14 May, 1643, Louis XIII died of natural causes. Anne of Austria, Habsburg and sister to Philip IV, was appointed regent to the infant Louis XIV.
Hopes of a softening of policy toward the Habsburgs were misplaced. Anne was far more zealous in the protection of her son’s interests than her brother’s. She confided the running of France to Mazarin, who continued Richelieu’s anti-Habsburg policies unabated.
While the diplomatic front remained static, the war did not.
The great French victory at Rocroi on 19 May, 1643 had caused Mazarin to shift his point of attack to the Low Countries. It was not until October, 1643 that de Guébriant finally received sufficient reinforcements to return to the offensive in Germany.
The French advanced into Swabia and on 19 November, 1643 captured Rottweil. However, on 24 November de Guébriant died of wounds received in the attack, leaving the army in the less-capable hands of his lieutenant, the Holstein mercenary Rantzau.
The Bavarian army under von Werth, together with reinforcements from the Emperor and Charles IV of Lorraine, responded swiftly to the threat to their winter quarters in Swabia. On 24 November, 1643, von Werth surprised and defeated Saxe-Weimar’s old troops, the Bernardines, at Tuttlingen.
Rantzau attempted to recoup his losses, but was defeated. Rottweil was recaptured by the Bavarians on 2 December, 1643 and the French were forced to retreat in confusion to the Rhine. They had lost as much as two-thirds of their army, with the experienced Bernardines being particularly hard hit.
In the wake of the Tuttlingen disaster, Turenne was recalled from the Italian front and placed in command of the Armeé d’Allemagne. The shattered army itself was reinforced somewhat.
Christian IV of Denmark had been drawing closer to his former Habsburg foes. He was entertaining the idea of entering the war on the Imperial side, which would have placed the Swedes in a perilous position. Oxenstierna determined to strike first.
The main Swedish field army under Torstensson was besieging Brünn (Brno) in Moravia. On 2 September, 1643, at Oxenstierna’s command, they suddenly retreated across the breadth of Germany. On 22 December, 1643 they began to advance up the Jutland peninsula. Christian was no more able to stop the Swedish veterans than he had been able to stop Tilly’s forces nearly a decade before.
The Emperor called Gallas to bring the Imperial forces in Bohemia westward to aid Christian. Gallas did not march west until the autumn of 1644 and, upon his juncture with the Danes at Kiel, lay utterly inert.
The loss of Jutland, combined with attacks against the areas of Denmark bordering Sweden and naval attacks by a powerful fleet the Dutch were persuaded to provide, proved too much for the Danes. In November, 1644, an armistice was signed with the Swedes.
To represent France at the Westphalian congress, Mazarin had appointed two ambassadors: Servien and d’Avaux. The two hated each other and were to spend as much time intriguing against each other as they did negotiating the peace.
The two departed France in the fall of 1643: however, their first order of business was to renegotiate France’s treaty of alliance with the Netherlands. With the attendant delays, the French did not appear in Westphalia until April of 1644.
The Danish war, and the consequent removal of the main Swedish forces from the Empire, opened up the possibility of another campaign against the weakened and isolated French.
Maximilian I was not slow to seize the opportunity. He importuned Ferdinand III for support, which was granted in the form of a corps under Hatzfeld. On 15 April, 1644, Maximilian sent his forces under Mercy across the Black Forest toward Turenne.
Mercy first besieged and, on 11 May, 1644, took Uberlingen on Lake Constance and then thought to undertake the siege of mighty Hohentweil. He thought better of the latter and, leaving a covering force, on 20 June, 1644 advanced west again.
On 26 June, 1644 Mercy appeared before Freiburg-im-Breisgau in numbers Turenne could not match. Turenne, his army too weak to hazard battle against the Bavarians, was forced to watch in impotent fury as the city was besieged and, on 28 July, 1644, fell.
Reinforcements under Enghien, dispatched by Mazarin in the hopes of saving Freiburg, arrived days too late. The Bavarians were well entrenched in the mountains around Freiburg. Nonetheless, Enghien (who has assumed command) determined to make a frontal assault.
The attacks were made on 3 August and 5 August, 1644. The battle was bloody but equivocal in result: each side lost roughly half its army and each remained on the field.
Freiburg remained in Bavarian hands, blunting by its closeness to Breisach the advantages possessing that place presented.
The battle concluded, Mercy determined to withdraw his army closer to his Bavarian bases. He was constantly harassed by the superior French cavalry, who despoiled him of his baggage train.
The main French army made no further advances east. Rather they moved down the Rhine into the Lower Palatinate, taking all of its strong places save only Frankenthal. They then captured Philipsburg and Mainz.
After the ambassadors began to trickle into Westphalia, the main negotiations related to formal matters. Each party objected to the delegations of powers granted the the other, on grounds of both form and substance. Additionally, each side spent time wrangling with the other over matters of precedence: who should stand in the first rank, who be styled “Excellency,” who be obliged to visit whom first and like matters.
It was not until December, 1644 that the initial French demands were delivered to the other ambassadors. Even so, the contained nothing of substance: only demands that the Imperial Estates should participate in the negotiations and that the Emperor should release the Elector of Trier from captivity.
At Frankfurt, meanwhile, the Deputationstag remained in session. The Princes managed to agree that the Imperial Aulic Court should consist half of Protestants, half of Catholics (a matter subsequently included in the Peace of Westphalia). In 1645, the Princes removed themselves to Westphalia, where they became submerged within the greater peace conference.
Prior to his recall to the west, Torstensson had begun to negotiate an alliance with Stephen Rákóczy, Bethlen Gabor’s successor as voivode of Transylvania. After completion of the subsidy treaty in February, 1644, Rákóczky raised the Hungarians in revolt.
Faced with this new threat, the Emperor recalled Gallas from the Danish war. Torstensson pursued, chivvying Gallas’s armies through country too devastated to support the Imperial army. Gallas returned to Bohemia in January, 1645, having lost somewhere between two-thirds and nine-tenths of his army.
With Gallas’s army shattered and Torstensson in hot pursuit, the Emperor and Rákóczy began to negotiate. The Emperor had, in the main, defeated Rákóczy in the field; in addition, the Emperor had defeated Rákóczy diplomatically, by procuring that the Turks should withdraw their countenance from Rákóczy’s venture.
Torstensson was intent on recovering those portions of Bohemia and Moravia he had lost to the Imperials during the Danish distraction. Pushing contemptuously past the Imperial forces, the Swedes advanced from Eger, through Budweis and Pilsen toward Tabor in Moravia.
The Emperor had raised such troops as he could and called to Maximillian I for assistance. The combined armies under Götz pursued Torstensson, catching up to him at Jankau near Tabor. On 6 March, 1645, battle was joined.
The forces were nearly evenly matched and the battle was hard fought. In the end, the Imperials were handed a crushing defeat, losing half their forces, their general Götz dead on the field.