A vigorous and ambitious monarch, King Christian IV sought to extend Danish political and economic power over northern Germany. To check the Danish invasion, the German Catholics enlisted the help of the private army of Albert of Wallenstein (1583-1634). Wallenstein recruited and paid an army that lived off the land.
The Great Powers in Conflict
A major physical obstacle blocking Spanish communications was the Palatinate, a rich area in the Rhineland ruled by a Calvinist prince, the Elector Palatine. In 1618 the Elector Palatine, Frederick V, also headed the Protestant Union. Frederick hoped to break the Catholic hold on the office of emperor upon the death of the emperor Matthias (r. 1612-1619), who was old and childless.
Like the great wars of the sixteenth century, the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648 was in part a conflict over religions. This time, however, most of the fighting took place in Germany. The Habsburg emperor, Ferdinand II (r. 1619-1637), made the last serious political and military effort to unify Germany under Catholic rule.
The Thirty Years’ War began as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants; it ended as a struggle to reduce the power of the Habsburgs. The war finally involved most of the European powers and their colonies. It was, in the context of the times, the first “world war.”
The United Provinces of the Northern Netherlands gained independence from Spain before the death of Philip II, though formal recognition of that independence came only in 1648. The Dutch state was an aristocratic merchant society, the first significant middle-class state in Europe with virtually no landed aristocracy. Despite its small size, it was a great power, colonizing in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, trading everywhere, and supporting an active and efficient navy.
Elizabeth’s reign was marked by intrigue, war, rebellion, and personal and party strife. Yet there were solid foundations under the state and society that produced the wealth and victories of the Elizabethan Age and its attainments in literature, music, architecture, and science. The economy prospered in an era of unbridled individual enterprise.
When Mary died in 1558, Henry VIII’s last surviving child was Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Boleyn. She had been declared illegitimate by Parliament in 1536 at her father’s request; Henry’s last will, however, had rehabilitated her, and she now succeeded as Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603). She had been brought up a Protestant, and so once more the English churchgoer was required to switch faith. This time the Anglican church was firmly established; the prayer book and Thirty-nine Articles of 1563 issued under Elizabeth have remained to this day the essential documents of the Anglican faith.