The Thirty Years’ War 1630–39

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Map Code: Ax01729

The eminence grise of the Protestant cause was, ironically, a Catholic cardinal: Richelieu of France, determined to frustrate the Habsburgs. He had bankrolled Denmark’s disastrous intervention; in 1630, he backed a winner in Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. The Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II had sacked his most successful military leader, General Wallenstein, and Adolphus rampaged through the Empire, winning decisive victories over veteran commander Tilly at Breitenfeld (1631) and Rain (1632). Tilley died at Rain, but in the course of another triumph at Lutzen, Adolphus was also slain. Minus their inspirational leader, the Swedish and their German allies were defeated at Nordlingen (1634), suing for peace with the Empire. This impelled Richelieu into overt action. France entered the war, joined by a revitalized Sweden under Field Marshal Baner. Baner defeated the Imperial Army at Wittstock (1636) while the French overcame the Spanish at Breisach (1638). Meanwhile, Emperor Ferdinand, the war’s instigator, had died.

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