Consequences of Czech Defeat

Consequences of Czech Defeat

The Czech defeat at the Battle of White Mountain was followed by measures that effectively secured Hapsburg authority and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church. Many Czech nobles were executed; most others were forced to flee the kingdom. An estimated five-sixths of the Czech nobility went into exile soon after the Battle of White Mountain, and their properties were confiscated. Large numbers of Czech and German Protestant burghers emigrated. In 1622 Charles University was merged with the Jesuit Academy, and the entire education system of the Bohemian Kingdom was placed under Jesuit control. In 1624 all non-Catholic priests were expelled by royal decree.

The Revised Ordinance of the Land (1627) established a legal basis for Hapsburg absolutism. All Czech lands were declared hereditary property of the Hapsburg family. The legislative function of the diets of both Bohemia and Moravia was revoked; all subsequent legislation was to be by royal decree, receiving only formal approval from the diets. The highest officials of the kingdom, to be chosen from among the local nobility, would be strictly subordinate to the king. Thus, little remained of an autonomous and distinct Bohemian Kingdom.

Hapsburg rule was further buttressed by the large-scale immigration into Bohemia of Catholic Germans from south German territories. The Germans received most of the land confiscated from Czech owners and came to constitute the new Bohemian nobility. The remaining Czech Catholic nobles gradually abandoned Czech particularism and became loyal servants of the imperial system. German Catholic immigrants took over commerce and industry as well.

The religious wars continued after the Czech defeat. The Thirty Years' War (1618-48) of the German Protestant princes against the Holy Roman Emperor involved foreign powers and extended beyond German territory. Czechs fought on all sides: most of the rebellious Czech generals joined Protestant armies; Albrecht of Wallenstein was the most prominent Czech defector to the imperial cause. Bohemia served as a battlefield throughout the war. Prince Bethlen Gabor's Hungarian forces, reinforced by Turkish mercenaries, fought against the emperor and periodically devastated Slovakia and Moravia. Protestant German armies and, later, Danish and Swedish armies, laid waste the Czech provinces. Cities, villages, and castle fortresses were destroyed. Lusatia was incorporated into Saxony in 1635.

The Thirty Years' War ended during the reign of Ferdinand III (1637-56). In 1648 the Treaty of Westphalia confirmed the incorporation of the Bohemian Kingdom into the Hapsburg imperial system, which established its seat in Vienna (see fig. 4). Leopold I (1656-1705) defeated the Turks and paved the way for the restoration of the Kingdom of Hungary to its previous territorial dimensions. The brief reign of Joseph I (1705-11) was followed by that of Charles VI (1711-40). Between 1720 and 1725, Charles concluded a series of treaties by which the various estates of the Hapsburg lands recognized the unity of the territory under Hapsburg rule and accepted hereditary Hapsburg succession, including the female line.

The struggle between the Bohemian estates and Hapsburg absolutism resulted in the complete subordination of the Bohemian estates to Hapsburg interests. In the aftermath of the defeat at White Mountain, the Czechs lost their native noble class, their reformed religion, and a vibrant Czech Protestant culture. With the influx of foreigners, primarily Germans, the German language became more prominent in government and polite society. It seemed that Bohemia was destined to become a mere province of the Hapsburg realm.

Country Studies main page | Czech republic Country Studies main page