Historical story

THE DEFENESTATION OF PRAGUE four hundred years later

On 23 May 1618, some representatives of the Bohemian aristocracy, galvanized by Count Thurn, they broke into the royal palace in Prague, intending to ask the sovereign, Ferdinand II to revoke the order that authorized the destruction of all non-Catholic sacred buildings, built in the territories of the great Bohemia. At that time the king was absent however in the palace there were several royal administrators and the delegation managed to capture two imperial governors, Jaroslav Bořita z Martinic and Vilém Slavata and one of their secretaries , Philip Fabricius , was also captured , and in response to the absence of the king, they threw them out of the castle windows. This event is known as the Defenestation of Prague it is considered the inaugural act of the Thirty Years' War.

The 30 Years War is considered by most historians as one of the most important events of the whole modern age, that middle period that separates the Middle Ages from the contemporary age and at the same time represents the very essence of the modern age. .

Let's start by saying that the Thirty Years War officially begins with the famous defenestation of Prague and is generally divided into four or five phases, the first phase sees the involvement of Austria and the House of Habsburg in numerous uprisings in Great Bohemia, during the second sentence mainly Denmark and the northern territories of the Holy Roman Empire will be involved, followed by a phase characterized by the irruption of Sweden in the German civil wars and finally a French phase that will lead to direct confrontation between the France of the Bourbons and the two branches of the House of Habsburg. The long phase of wars that began in 1618 with the defenestation of Prague, would have ended only in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia.

With the Thirty Years' War and in particular with its conclusion, linked to the Peace of Westphalia, the legal order and political geography of the entire European continent would have changed radically, for several reasons.

The first important consequence of the Thirty Years' War concerns the political sphere and in particular the political destiny of the Holy Roman Empire and the nascent Austrian Empire.

As we certainly know the Holy Roman Empire, heir to the Roman imperial tradition, was a central institution in Europe especially in the Middle Ages, but with the beginning of the modern age and the expansion of European dominions beyond the Atlantic, the centrality and the he influence of the Holy Roman Empire began to diminish, this is because unlike other nations the empire did not have a direct outlet on the Atlantic and this would have greatly hampered its ability to colonize and conquer new lands overseas.

In the Middle Ages, the empire and especially the emperor had conquered a central position also on the cultural level, in fact increasingly strengthening their role as "protector of Christianity" . The emperor together with the pope were the two most important positions in the European political order, and had a universal value, higher than the pope and the emperor there was only god.
The coexistence of two universal powers in competition between them would have given rise to a growing political rivalry between the temporal power of the emperor and the temporal power of the pope and as we know, this rivalry would have characterized the centuries of the investiture struggle in an extremely significant way. But in the sixteenth century those struggles and those clashes now appeared only as a distant and faded memory, the papacy in some ways had triumphed over the empire and the figure of the emperor himself had lost almost all political power.
In fact all the beginning of the 16th century, when the various Protestant movements exploded in Europe, the imperial power was purely symbolic, and the emperor held an office almost entirely devoid of political power and responsibility and his real power is linked only and exclusively to the territories of which he is actually sovereign and in the case of emperors such as Charles V of the House of Habsburg, this meant actually ruling over vast territories and possessions and perhaps it was the enormous power that came to concentrate in the hands of Charles V that he managed to reach an agreement with the various German princes to put an end to the wars of religion that between 1517 and in 1555 they bloodied the territories of the Holy Roman Empire.

Except for this brief parenthesis of apparent compactness, in the sixteenth century the empire now appeared as the set of numerous principalities that shared a past of glory and common memories, but which in reality, especially following the peace of Augusta, they were culturally and ideologically very distant.

The coexistence in the territories of the empire of Protestant principalities and Roman Catholic principalities and the religious extremism of one or the other Catholic confession would have represented the main political break.
Catholics considered heretics Protestants and wanted to get rid of it, on the other hand Protestants considered corrupt the Roman institutions and in turn wished to free them to lead them back to the path of the spirit and this mutual intolerance would manifest itself on numerous occasions and events between 1517, the year of the Protestant reform, and 1648.

The defenestation of Prague is the extreme consequence of this religious intolerance , Philip II, Catholic sovereign of Greater Bohemia had ordered, in the territories of his kingdom, the destruction of all the buildings of worship that did not belong to the Roman cult, but in his kingdom, thanks also to the broad policies of tolerance promoted on a higher level by the emperor , many Protestants lived including many aristocrats and nobles, such as Count Thurn and these Protestants had built their own buildings of worship in their cities and villages and would not have accepted so easily the idea of ​​having to forcibly convert to Roman Catholicism.

The first phase of the Thirty Years War also known as the Bohemian-Palatine phase or if you prefer the Bohemian-Palatine civil war begins for this reason, the Protestants rise up against the crown and the Catholics because they were simply forbidden to exercise their religious worship.

The subsequent phases of the Thirty Years' War, with the exception of the Swedish phase, will all have this same underlying reason and will be presented as just wars, fought not out of desire for conquest, not out of territorial ambitions, but to defend freedom of worship. of the European peoples.

In recent years, the political and philosophical debate on the concept of a just war will have illustrious and important interpreters and these speeches, accompanied by thirty years of war, will lead to the Peace of Westphalia, in which European foreign policy will be redesigned and reworked and above all European political geography will be reworked.

After Westphalia, the European political order will change radically, and it will be more difficult, but not impossible, for the ancient aristocratic families, to exchange possessions and kingdoms, national borders will be strengthened and will be better and better defined and from that moment on, those borders will represent the nations.

A nation exists because its borders are recognized by the nations with which it borders and in turn the nations with which it borders are recognized by it and this mutual recognition of European nations would have characterized the political geography in Europe at least until the outbreak of world wars.

It must also be said that, while this transformation took place on the level of foreign policy, internal politics also underwent important transformations, seeing the birth and evolution of increasingly centralized and efficient administrative systems, which would reach their apex, in the highly efficient Prussian bureaucracy in the second half of the 19th century. Furthermore, given that during the Thirty Years War many aristocrats had organized armies allying themselves with one or the other force at stake and seeing that, especially in Germany, these armies had been fueled by looting, the ruling houses initiated an important process of reworking the military forces.

At the beginning of the Thirty Years' War, the military forces in Europe were still strongly linked to the medieval tradition and the feudal system , and the strong link between these temporary armies and their own commanders had created numerous small mercenary armies.
Put simply, the various European lords were able to organize their own more or less large armies and offer their services to others European lords in exchange for a fee and the promise to plunder and pillage villages along their way. Many nobles had enriched themselves in this way, this is the case of Albrecht von Wallenstein , whose army played a fundamental role during the Danish phase of the Thirty Years War and the numerous successes in Denmark gave him such wealth, power and prestige that he could compete directly with the House of Habsburg and this most likely led to his death, Wallenstein was in fact assassinated after an important battle during the Swedish phase of the war.

Wallenstein's example is fundamental and makes us understand why, after the Thirty Years War, the European royals decided to reform their armies, or rather, they decided to establish their own national armies, loyal to the crown and above all permanent.
The reasons are simple to identify, first of all the presence of a permanent royal army considerably reduces the power of the various warlords, moreover, the progressive disappearance of these temporary "feudal" armies considerably reduced the number of looting that occurred in times of peace, since in fact, since there were no more temporary armies, at the end of the war they would not have turned their forces back to defenseless villages in search of easy loot.