Bohemia Part 3: The Winter King

Some of you might have noticed that my book is tentatively titled The Winter King. That’s just a working title for now until I find something better. After all the changes I’ve made, there will be neither winter nor a king involved. However, the battle taking place in the prologue excerpt does resemble the Battle of White Mountain (below) at least a little bit.

Once Frederick became king, he quickly felt the Emperor’s wrath. Spanish troops moved into and occupied his home in the Rhineland and there was nothing he could do about it. Also, annoyingly, his father-in-law refused to support the rebellion.

Just as -or maybe even more-annoyingly, the Protestant Union wasn’t overly helpful either. After raising its own army and facing off with the Catholics, it proclaimed its neutrality with the Treaty of Ulm. What’s the point of such an organization, or of being in charge of it, if they stick in the mud when the going gets tough (to mix more than one metaphor, it’s that annoying!)

Maximilian I, Duke-Elector of Bavaria
Maximilian I, Duke-Elector of Bavaria

Ferdinand in the meantime, had fended off yet another besieger of Vienna- Transylvanian Calvinist Bethlen Gabor- and was gathering allies left and right. He made a dastardly deal with Elector Maximilian of Bavaria, offering him the Palatine electorate- or is it electorship, elector-job, electorocracy? Anyway, it was still Frederick’s position- even if he couldn’t occupy it just then- so that wasn’t very nice. In return for future glory, Maximilian provided troops  and a very able general, Count Tilly. Maximilian headed the Catholic League which was in this case far more cooperative than its Protestant counterpart and most of the troops were provided on its behalf.

Louis XII of France offered help, mainly because he was having his own trouble with Calvinists and was feeling spiteful, but he never delivered. That was okay though,because Ferdinand was doing quite well gathering Protestant allies, too. Most significant was the Elector of Saxony, the very same one who declined the Bohemian crown. He was Lutheran, and the only thing he hated more than Catholics was Calvinists, so it all worked out.

Christian I, Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg
Christian I, Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg

With Spain, Bavaria and Saxony firmly in his camp, Ferdinand then ordered Frederick to leave Bohemia immediately, or become an outlaw. Frederick dug in his heels. After all, he still had 30,000 troops. Still, they were only good in theory. Commanded by his right-hand man, Christian of Anhalt, this army was inexperienced, untrained and ill-equipped.

Within a few months, Tilly and Buquoy had put down the rebellious Austrians and Hungarians and were moving on Prague. Saxony conquered the Bohemian allies of Lusatia and Silesia, and by November 1620, Anhalt was forced to make a stand at White Mountain, just outside Prague. Faced with Tilly’s disciplined forces, the Bohemians crumbled within hours while Frederick and Elizabeth were forced to flee for their lives. Frederick was then stripped of all of his lands and titles and lived the rest of his life in exile. He became known as the Winter King, because that was about as long as he got to rule.

The Battle of White Mountain
The Battle of White Mountain

After such a complete victory, you’d think it would all be over. Unfortunately, a combination of factors ensured that the war would go on and on. One was Ferdinand’s extremely harsh reaction. The rebellion’s leaders were executed, and hundreds of estates in Bohemia confiscated. This meant there were a lot of powerful exiles who wanted their stuff back and were willing to fight for it.

In addition, the German princes were used to pretty much governing themselves for the past hundred years, and Ferdinand dealing so harshly with a senior elector was worrying at best, and illegal at worst.  It looked like Ferdinand was prepared to implement absolute rule, and that was not cool. In addition, Spain and Bavaria carving up Frederick’s lands meant a Catholic outpost in lands that had traditionally been Protestant, with Spain positioned a bit too close for comfort to the Netherlands with whom they’d been fighting for a hundred years, literally.

So yeah, it was on!


2 thoughts on “Bohemia Part 3: The Winter King

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