Peace of Prague Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Peace of Prague marked a critical stage in the Thirty Years’ War, revealing the desire of the Austrian Habsburgs to achieve success and inaugurating the last phase of the war.

Summary of Event

By 1635, the Thirty Years’ War Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) had reached a critical stage, for with the defeat of the Swedish army and its allies by the imperial forces under the king of Hungary at Nördlingen Nördlingen, Battle of (1634) on September 6, 1634, the way seemed open for peace. Swedish power, which had been dominant in Germany since 1630, was now seriously diminished, and even though Cardinal de Richelieu, Richelieu, Cardinal de chief minister of France, and Count Axel Oxenstierna, Oxenstierna, Axel chancellor of Sweden, arranged a new treaty of alliance at Compiègne in April, 1635, it did not appear that the arrangement enlisted much sympathy among the German princes. Instead, a peace movement grew in Germany itself, born of the general weariness and devastation of warfare and of the genuine fear among the German princes of domination by Sweden or the rising power of France. From their point of view, it was far better to arrange a German peace and permit the German people to reconstruct their devastated society. [kw]Peace of Prague (May 30, 1635) [kw]Prague, Peace of (May 30, 1635) Diplomacy and international relations;May 30, 1635: Peace of Prague[1210] Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;May 30, 1635: Peace of Prague[1210] Bohemia;May 30, 1635: Peace of Prague[1210] Prague, Peace of (1635)

The lead in arranging such a peace was taken by the leading Protestant power allied with Sweden, the Elector John George I John George I of Saxony, who had been negotiating for peace throughout much of 1634. The Battle of Nördlingen enhanced Habsburg power in the eyes of the German princes and served to further the momentum toward their agreement with the emperor. As early as November of 1634, Saxon and imperial agents reached agreement on the preliminaries of a treaty, and the king of Hungary signed a military truce with the Saxons at Laun in February, 1635. These measures resulted in the agreement called the Peace of Prague, which represented a compromise between John George and Emperor Ferdinand II Ferdinand II (Holy Roman Emperor) .

By the terms of the treaty, the Edict of Restitution Restitution, Edict of (1629) of March 6, 1629, was superseded by the provision that disputed church properties were to remain in the hands of those who possessed them on November 12, 1627, for a period of forty years, after which litigation in the imperial courts might challenge this ownership. The ecclesiastical principalities east of the Elbe River were to remain in Protestant hands, with the important archbishopric of Magdeburg reserved for a son of John George, but those in Lower Saxony and Westphalia were to remain as they had been restored to Catholic hands. Ferdinand II ceded the province of Lusatia to Saxony and made some concessions to the Lutherans in his remaining province of Silesia. In accordance with Saxon policy, the concessions made to Protestants were restricted to the Lutherans.

Axel Oxenstierna, chancellor of Sweden, negotiated with French minister Cardinal de Richelieu for peace after the previously dominant Swedes were defeated by imperial forces. The peace did not last, however, as the French and Swedes battled in the final phase of the Thirty Years’ War.

(Library of Congress)

Despite these concessions, the emperor stood to gain significantly from this peace. All the German powers were invited to subscribe to its terms, and to join in a national effort to exclude the Swedes and French from the empire. The empire was to raise an army for this purpose that would be under imperial command, and no prince was to keep an army of his own or to engage in military alliances. This would have increased the powers of the emperor considerably. To encourage other leading German princes to accept these terms, Maximilian I Maximilian I (elector of Bavaria) of Bavaria was guaranteed his electoral dignity and possession of most of the Palatinate, while George William George William of Brandenburg was enticed by the prospect of the succession in Pomerania. Only the family of the deposed elector Palatine and the so-called Bohemian exiles were excluded from the general amnesty offered to the emperor’s foes. Before long, apart from those excluded from its aegis, only Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, William of Hesse-Cassel, and the city of Strassbourg refused to accede to the terms of the Peace of Prague, which had been formally promulgated at Vienna.

John George of Saxony, Maximilian of Bavaria, and many of the other German princes were motivated primarily, and Emperor Ferdinand at least somewhat, by a genuine desire for peace and the good of the German nation. However, in the eyes of Ferdinand this goal was parallel with that of cooperating with his Spanish cousin in another round of their interminable dynastic wars. On May 21, 1635, in accordance with the terms of its alliance with Sweden, France had declared war on Spain. For the German rulers and for the German people of the numerous towns that adhered to the Peace of Prague, it soon became obvious that the treaty had not brought peace but had drawn the whole of Germany into an enlarged struggle between the Habsburgs Habsburgs;Austria and the Bourbons Bourbons . France, appearing on the left bank of the Rhine as the ally of Sweden, was now the major enemy of the empire. The German states, far from achieving a position in which their only task would have been to assist the Habsburg emperor in ridding Germany of the Swedish menace, now found that they were obliged to fight all the battles of both the Austrian and the Spanish Habsburgs.

Significance

At the Diet of Regensburg Regensburg, Diet of (1640-1641) in 1640-1641, a last effort was made to achieve a peace based on the Peace of Prague. The abandonment of the emperor by the new elector of Brandenburg, Frederick William Frederick William, the Great Elector , shattered any remaining hopes of success. The support of the Austrian Habsburgs for their Spanish relatives, along with the entrance of France into the struggle, had completely altered the nature of the war. The Peace of Prague, far from bringing peace, actually prolonged the war in Germany and elsewhere for another thirteen years.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Asch, Ronald G. The Thirty Years’ War: The Holy Roman Empire and Europe, 1618-1648. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. This work focuses on the Holy Roman Empire’s role in the war, including the disagreements with Bohemia that precipitated the conflict and the Peace of Prague.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Bireley, Robert. The Jesuits and the Thirty Years’ War: Kings, Courts, and Confessors. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. The author recounts the role the Jesuits played during the war at the Catholic courts of Vienna, Munich, Paris, and Madrid. He describes how Jesuit leaders in Rome confronted the challenges of running an international organization during the three-decade religious conflict.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gagliardo, John G. Germany Under the Old Regime, 1600-1790. London: Longman, 1991. The author provides a coherent overview of the political, cultural, social, and economic trends in the empire during its last two centuries.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Holborn, Hajo. The Reformation. Vol. 1 in A History of Modern Germany. 3 vols. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959. Reprint. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982. Still the best overall history of Germany in English for this period and a standard source.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ingrao, Charles W. The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. A well-balanced and literate work without being ponderous, covering the formation of the Habsburg Empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Parker, Geoffrey. The Thirty Years’ War. London: Methuen, 1985. Parker places the events of the war in their military context.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Poliensk , Josef V. War and Society in Europe, 1618-1648. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1978. A leading scholar on the Thirty Years’ War considers events from a central European perspective.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wedgwood, C. V. The Thirty Years’ War. London: J. Cape, 1938. Reprint. London: Folio Society, 1999. An extremely valuable account of the war, including its German and international ramifications.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

Ferdinand II; Frederick William, the Great Elector; Axel Oxenstierna; Samuel von Pufendorf; Cardinal de Richelieu; Albrecht Wenzel von Wallenstein. Prague, Peace of (1635)

Categories: History