The Last of the War and the Peace of Westphalia

The Mutiny of the Weimaraners

Bavaria having made peace, the French and Swedes should have had things their own way within the Empire. This was not to be the case.

Hispano-Dutch Entente

The reason was the de facto end of Spain’s war against the Dutch The two ancient enemies had reached a preliminary peace treaty and the Dutch war efforts were slackening. This gave the Spanish an opportunity to shift their forces to the southern frontiers of the Low Countries and the war against France.

Mazarin Orders Turenne Across the Borders

In response, Mazarin ordered Turenne to move his forces into northern France. The Weimaraners, proud successors of Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar’s army, refused to serve beyond the German frontiers. They marched off to rejoin the Swedes (whose service Saxe-Weimar had forsworn thirteen years before). Turenne pursued, but was unable to restore more than a fraction of his troops to the French service, and only then by retaining them in Germany.

Von Werth Enters the Imperial Service

Fortunately for the French and Swedes, the Emperor was having troop problems of his own.

Von Werth Joins the Emperor

After conclusion of the Peace of Ulm, Ferdinand III had lured Maximilian I of Bavaria’s cavalry general, Jan van Werth, into his service. Werth confidently assumed that he could bring the majority of the Bavarian forces over with him.

The Bavarian Army Refuses Imperial Service

He was incorrect. When presented with Werth’s orders, the Bavarians mutinied to a man, preferring to remain faithful to Maximilian I. Maximilian’s wisdom in building up a truly territorial army consisting of Bavarians was confirmed, and Werth entered the Imperial service without a man at his back.

The Swedes Enter Bohemia

The west of Germany having been pacified, after taking Nördlingen in April, 1647 the Swedes shifted their point of attack eastward.

The Fall of Eger

The Swedish forces under Wrangel besieged the city of Eger in northern Bohemia. Despite the intervention of the Imperials under Melander the place fell in July, 1647.

The Swedes moved forward, although a portion of their forces were destroyed by Werth’s surprise attack at Triebel on 25 August, 1647.

Maximilian Returns to Imperial Alliance

Maximilian I perceiving the difficulties in which the French found themselves and fearful that they and the Emperor would disregard his interests in making peace, determined to return to Imperial alliance. In September, 1647 he entered into the Treaty of Pilsen with Ferdinand III.

Imperial Advances in Conjunction with Bavaria

The Bavarian army moved through the Upper Palatinate and reinforced the Imperial arms in Bohemia. Wrangel fell back through Saxony and Hesse to the far side of the river Weser. Melander dallied in Hesse battling on behalf of Hesse-Darmstadt against his former employer, the Landgravine Amalia-Elisabeth, and pursued no further.

The End of the Eighty Years War

On 30 January, 1648, the Spanish and Dutch officially recognized the tacit peace between them. They entered into the Treaty of Münster, which recognized Dutch independence and ended the eighty years of war which had followed on the Dutch revolt.

The Dutch did so in despite of the 1644 treaty of alliance between themselves and the French, under which they had pledged to make no separate peace with Spain.

The Last Campaigns

Suedo-French Campaign Against Bavaria

What was to be the last campaigning season of the war opened in March, 1648 with Turenne and Wrangel uniting their forces in Ansbach for an attack against Bavaria.

The united forces moved south, pushing the Imperials and Bavarians under Melander across the Danube.

The Battle of Zusmarhausen

The opposing armies finally met at Zusmarhausen near Augsburg. There, on 17 May, 1648, the last of the Imperial field armies defeated. Melander was killed and his army broken.

Advance Into Bavaria

After Zusmarhausen, the Imperial and Bavarian forces fell back, first to Augsburg and then beyond the Inn. Piccolomini was recalled from Spanish service and placed in command of the remaining Imperial forces. He managed to hold the Swedes behind the Inn, although all Bavaria behind that line was devastated with a fury notable even for that age.

Their errand of destruction completed, the Swedes withdrew beyond the Lech, pursued by Piccolomini. It was then, in November, 1648, that the news reached the armies in Bavaria that peace had broken out.

The Advance Into Bohemia

Königsmarck Enters Bohemia

Prior to invading Bavaria, Wrangel had dispatched a small column under Königsmarck to invade Bohemia once more.

Passing through the Upper Palatinate into Bohemia, destroying all in his path, on 26 July, 1648, Königsmarck appeared before the walls of Prague.

The Kleine Seite Betrayed

Despite his small forces, Königsmarck was able to enter one quarter of the city, the Kleine Seite. This was because the place was betrayed into his hands by a former Imperial officer.

Prague Defended

Despite possession of a portion of the city, and later reinforcements received under Karl-Gustav (later Charles X of Sweden), the Swedes were unable to take the remainder of the town. The most valiant defenders of the place were the young Bohemian students of the Caroline University, led by their Jesuit preceptors. The stalemate was only ended by the arrival in November, 1648 of the news of the conclusion of the Peace of Westphalia.

The Peace of Westphalia

The Making of the Peace

With the train of military disasters unfolding before him, the Emperor was ready for peace. So too was Mazarin, with his grip over France being loosened by the beginning of the series of rebellions which became known as the Fronde. The Swedes were long since tired of German adventures. Thus, on 24 October, 1648, the Treaties of Münster and Osnabrück, collectively known as the Peace of Westphalia, were proclaimed.

The Terms of the Peace

The Peace as Compromise

The Peace of Westphalia represented a compromise rather than an unconditional surrender. Each of the combatants had experienced abrupt reversals of fortune during the course of the war: thus neither was willing to proceed on the assumption that the Emperor’s dire military straits would continue.

Further, the interests of the Swedes and the French were sufficiently divergent that the Emperor was able to play one off against the other. For example, the Swedish desire for a guarantee of Protestant rights in the Habsburg domains was scotched by the French at Imperial insistence.

The peace thus concluded thus had something for everyone and everything for no-one.

Territorial Transfers

The primary component of the peace from the international perspective was a complex series of land transfers within the Empire. This was particularly true of the Swedish acquisition of eastern Pomerania, which lead to a complex chain reaction of land transfers, mostly representing re-secularization of bishoprics returned to the Catholic church under the Edict of Restitution.

After these transfers, all dreams of the Roman church of its re-establishment in northern Germany were ended.


The French received Alsace (although on those ambiguous terms which were to lead to centuries of bloodshed) and Breisach, and the right to garrison Phillipsburg. In return, they paid an indemnity to Archduke Ferdinand Charles.

They also received confirmation of their rights to Metz, Toul and Verdun in Lorraine (which they had held since the mid-sixteenth century) and their rights to Pinerolo in the Savoy.


The indomitable Amalie-Elisabeth received the abbacy of Hersfeld, a portion of Schaumberg and the Marburg inheritance.


The Swedes received the western half of Pomerania, together with certain lands in the eastern part, notably the city of Stettin and the island of Rügen, as well as the port of Wismar and the bishoprics of Bremen and Verden (which they had taken from the Danes in the 1643-45 war).


In recompense for its loss of half of Pomerania, all of which should have passed to Brandenburg upon the death of the last duke in 1637, Frederich-Wilhelm received the Bishoprics of Halberstadt, Minden and Camin. He was also to receive Halberstadt (less four areas ceded to Johann-Georg of Saxony) upon the death of its current administrator.


Johann-Georg received a portion of Magdeburg, as well as confirmation of his control of Lusatia.


In recompense for the loss of Minden, the Brunswick dukes received the right to appoint a Protestant administrator over the bishopric of Osnabrück, in alternation with a Catholic bishop. Thus, upon the death of a Catholic bishop, the deceased prelate would be followed in office by a Protestant administrator of the house of Brunswick, who, upon his death, would be followed in turn by a Catholic bishop, and so on.

Bavaria and the Palatinate

Maximilian was allowed to retain the Upper Palatinate. The lower was returned to Carl-Ludwig, son of the dispossessed Frederick V.

The Eighth Electorate

As a compromise between the pretensions of the two branches of the House of Wittelsbach, the Bavarian and the Palatine, an eighth electorate was created and granted to Carl-Ludwig. The original Palatine electorate remained in the hands of Maximilian I.

Constitutional Changes

The constitution of the Empire was so adjusted as to render its already loose structure utterly incoherent, with a particular laxity imposed in matters of religion.

Princely Liberties

The Princes of the Empire were granted an expanded version of their German liberties, the Landeshoheit. They could make military alliances amongst themselves and with foreigners, could wage war and make peace, only provided the alliances and wars were not directed against the Emperor. As the future was to display, this was an empty proviso.

Unanimity in Matters of Religion

To protect against the Emperor and Catholic Electors using the machinery of Imperial state to advance the old religion, Protestants were to be admitted as judges in the Imperial courts in numbers equal to the Catholics, and in any matter before the Diet which had religious implications unanimity of decision was required.

Calvinists Admitted

The followers of John Calvin were at last to be considered followers of the Augsburg Confession, and thus receive the same rights under the Imperial constitution as the Catholics and Lutherans.


Within the Empire, a broad amnesty was granted to all. However, in Austria and Bohemia, no such oblivion was given: only those who had risen in rebellion after 1630 were to be restored, and there were so few of these as to render the amnesty meaningless.

Protestant Rights in Habsburg Lands Not Protected

Despite the Swedes best efforts, Ferdinand III was unwilling to concede any toleration to Protestants in his lands (save only for limited rights for Lutherans in Silesia). The Bohemian exiles, who had fought so long and valiantly against the Emperor, would not be returning home.

Adjustment of Secularized Lands

The Edict of Restitution was finally laid in its grave. The Peace set the normaljahre to 1 January, 1624, with all lands in Protestant hands at that date to remain so for at least forty years. Since this date was before the Imperial advances in north Germany attendant upon the Danish war, the north German Protestant lands were to remain secularized.

Papal Protests

The Pope protested the loss of lands, but purely pro forma, in order to preserve the Church’s rights should the war rekindle. Even these mild protests were met with a provision in the final treaty in which the parties agreed to ignore any formal protest the Church might lodge. The Papacy itself was unwilling to endanger the fragile peace through excessive vigor in preservation of its rights: the bull formally protesting the settlement, Zelo Domus Domine, was not issued until 20 August, 1650, although it was backdated to 26 November, 1648.

Reservatio Ecclesiasticorum

The Catholics received confirmation that there would be no more creeping secularizations accomplished by changes in the religion of holders of bishoprics. The Protestants were to recognize the reservatio ecclesiasticorum, and any prelate converting to the reformed faith would henceforward lose his benefices.

Monetary Settlements

Various of the parties received monetary settlements, either to compensate them for losses of lands, or to assist in payment of the long-suffering soldiery.

Payments to Sweden

“Contentment of the soldiery” had been a primary goal of Swedish policy at the Congress of Westphalia. In addition, the Swedish army, not trusting the government, themselves sent a plenipotentiary to the Congress to protect their interests.

These efforts were rewarded by a payment of 5,000,000 Reichsthaler to the unpaid Swedish troops.

Payments to Hesse-Cassel

Amalie-Elisabeth received 600,000 Reichsthaler to assist her in paying off her not inconsiderable army.

The Austrian Archduke

In return for their receipt of whatever their rights in Alsace were to be, France paid Archduke Ferdinand Charles 3,000,000 livres and assumed certain of his debts.