European wars of religion

The European wars of religion were a series of religious wars waged in Europe in the 16th, 17th and early 18th century.[1][2] The wars were fought after the Protestant Reformation's beginning in 1517, which disrupted the religious and political order in the Catholic countries of Europe. However, religion was not the only cause of the wars, which also included revolts, territorial ambitions, and Great Power conflicts. For example, by the end of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), Catholic France was allied with the Protestant forces against the Catholic Habsburg monarchy.[3] The wars were largely ended by the Peace of Westphalia (1648), establishing a new political order that is now known as Westphalian sovereignty. However, religion-based armed conflict persisted in Europe, such as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (1639—1651) on the British Isles and the Savoyard–Waldensian wars (1655–1690) and Toggenburg War (1712) in the Western Alps, until the 1710s.[2]

The conflicts began with the minor Knights' Revolt (1522), followed by the larger German Peasants' War (1524–1525) in the Holy Roman Empire. Warfare intensified after the Catholic Church began the Counter-Reformation in 1545 against the growth of Protestantism. The conflicts culminated in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which devastated Germany and killed one-third of its population.[2] The Peace of Westphalia (1648) put an end to the war by recognising three separate Christian traditions in the Holy Roman Empire: Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism.[4][5] Although many European leaders were 'sickened' by the bloodshed by 1648,[6] religious wars continued to be waged in the post-Westphalian period until the 1710s,[2] and collective memory of the wars lasted even longer.

Schlacht am Weißen Berg C-K 063
The Battle of White Mountain (1620) in Bohemia was one of the decisive battles of the Thirty Years' War that ultimately led to the forced conversion of the Bohemian population back to Roman Catholicism

Definitions and discussions

The European wars of religion are also known as the Wars of the Reformation (and Counter-Reformation).[1][7][8][9] In 1517, Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses took only two months to spread throughout Europe with the help of the printing press, overwhelming the abilities of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and the papacy to contain it. In 1521, Luther was excommunicated, sealing the schism within Western Christendom between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutherans and opening the door for other Protestants to resist the power of the papacy.

Although most of the wars ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648,[1][2] religious conflicts continued to be fought in Europe until at least the 1710s.[6] These included the Savoyard–Waldensian wars (1655–1690),[6][2] the Nine Years' War (1688–1697, including the Glorious Revolution and the Williamite War in Ireland),[2] and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714).[2] Whether these should be included in the European wars of religion depends on how one defines a 'war of religion', and whether these wars can be considered 'European' (i.e. international rather than domestic).[10]

The religious nature of the wars has also been debated, and contrasted with other factors at play, such as national, dynastic (e.g. they could often simultaneously be characterised as wars of succession), and financial interests.[3] Scholars have pointed out that some European wars of this period had no religious elements at all, such as the Italian Wars (1494–1559, only involving Catholics) and the Northern Seven Years' War (1563–1570, only involving Lutherans).[1] Others emphasise the fact that cross-religious alliances existed, such as the Lutheran duke Maurice of Saxony assisting the Catholic emperor Charles V in the first Schmalkaldic War in 1547 in order to become the Saxon elector instead of John Frederick, his Lutheran cousin, while the Catholic king Henry II of France supported the Lutheran cause in the Second Schmalkaldic War in 1552 to secure French bases in modern-day Lorraine.[3] The Encyclopædia Britannica maintains that "[the] wars of religion of this period [were] fought mainly for confessional security and political gain".[3]

Overview of wars

Individual conflicts that may be distinguished within this topic include:

Holy Roman Empire

HolyRomanEmpire 1618
Religious situation in the Holy Roman Empire at the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War in 1618

The Holy Roman Empire, encompassing present-day Germany and surrounding territory, was the area most devastated by the wars of religion. The Empire was a fragmented collection of practically independent states with an elected Holy Roman Emperor as their titular ruler; after the 14th century, this position was usually held by a Habsburg. The Austrian House of Habsburg, who remained Catholic, was a major European power in its own right, ruling over some eight million subjects in present-day Germany, Austria, Bohemia and Hungary. The Empire also contained regional powers, such as Bavaria, the Electorate of Saxony, the Margraviate of Brandenburg, the Electorate of the Palatinate, the Landgraviate of Hesse, the Archbishopric of Trier, and Württemberg. A vast number of minor independent duchies, free imperial cities, abbeys, bishoprics, and small lordships of sovereign families rounded out the Empire.

Lutheranism, from its inception at Wittenberg in 1517, found a ready reception in Germany, as well as German-speaking parts of Hussite Bohemia (where the Hussite Wars took place from 1419 to 1434, and Hussites remained a majority of the population until the 1620 Battle of White Mountain). The preaching of Martin Luther and his many followers raised tensions across Europe. In Northern Germany, Luther adopted the tactic of gaining the support of the local princes and city elites in his struggle to take over and re-establish the church along Lutheran lines. The Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, and other North German princes not only protected Luther from retaliation from the edict of outlawry issued by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, but also used state power to enforce the establishment of Lutheran worship in their lands, in what is called the Magisterial Reformation. Church property was seized, and Catholic worship was forbidden in most territories that adopted the Lutheran Reformation. The political conflicts thus engendered within the Empire led almost inevitably to war.

The Knights' Revolt of 1522 was a revolt by a number of Protestant and religious humanist German knights led by Franz von Sickingen, against the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Emperor. It has also been called the "Poor Barons' Rebellion". The revolt was short-lived but would inspire the bloody German Peasants' War of 1524–1526.

Rebellions of Anabaptists and other radicals

Bundschuhfahne Holzschnitt 1539 Petrarcas Trostspiegel
Rebellious peasants surrounding a knight.

The first large-scale violence was engendered by the more radical element of the Reformation movement, who wished to extend wholesale reform of the Church to a similar wholesale reform of society in general. This was a step that the princes supporting Luther were not willing to countenance. The German Peasants' War of 1524/1525 was a popular revolt inspired by the teachings of the radical reformers. It consisted of a series of economic as well as religious revolts by Anabaptist peasants, townsfolk and nobles. The conflict took place mostly in southern, western and central areas of modern Germany but also affected areas in neighboring modern Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands (for example, the 1535 Anabaptist riot in Amsterdam[13]). At its height, in the spring and summer of 1525, it involved an estimated 300,000 peasant insurgents. Contemporary estimates put the dead at 100,000. It was Europe's largest and most widespread popular uprising before the 1789 French Revolution.

Because of their revolutionary political ideas, radical reformers like Thomas Müntzer were compelled to leave the Lutheran cities of North Germany in the early 1520s.[19] They spread their revolutionary religious and political doctrines into the countryside of Bohemia, Southern Germany, and Switzerland. Starting as a revolt against feudal oppression, the peasants' uprising became a war against all constituted authorities, and an attempt to establish by force an ideal Christian commonwealth. The total defeat of the insurgents at Frankenhausen on May 15, 1525 was followed by the execution of Müntzer and thousands of his peasant followers. Martin Luther rejected the demands of the insurgents and upheld the right of Germany's rulers to suppress the uprisings,[20] setting out his views in his polemic Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants. This played a major part in the rejection of his teachings by many German peasants, particularly in the south.

After the Peasants' War, a second and more determined attempt to establish a theocracy was made at Münster, in Westphalia (1532–1535). Here a group of prominent citizens, including the Lutheran pastor turned Anabaptist Bernhard Rothmann, Jan Matthys, and Jan Bockelson ("John of Leiden") had little difficulty in obtaining possession of the town on January 5, 1534. Matthys identified Münster as the "New Jerusalem", and preparations were made to not only hold what had been gained, but to proceed from Münster toward the conquest of the world.

Claiming to be the successor of David, John of Leiden was installed as king. He legalized polygamy and took sixteen wives, one of whom he personally beheaded in the marketplace. Community of goods was also established. After obstinate resistance, the town was taken by the besiegers on June 24, 1535, and then Leiden and some of his more prominent followers were executed in the marketplace.

Swiss Confederacy

In 1529 under the lead of Huldrych Zwingli, the Protestant canton and city of Zürich had concluded with other Protestant cantons a defence alliance, the Christliches Burgrecht, which also included the cities of Konstanz and Strasbourg. The Catholic cantons in response had formed an alliance with Ferdinand of Austria.

Schlacht bei Kappel
At the Second Battle of Kappel, Zwingli's supporters were defeated and Zwingli himself was killed.

After numerous minor incidents and provocations from both sides, a Catholic priest was executed in the Thurgau in May 1528, and the Protestant pastor J. Keyser was burned at the stake in Schwyz in 1529. The last straw was the installation of a Catholic reeve at Baden, and Zürich declared war on 8 June (First War of Kappel), occupied the Thurgau and the territories of the Abbey of St. Gall, and marched to Kappel at the border to Zug. Open war was avoided by means of a peace agreement (Erster Landfriede) that was not exactly favourable to the Catholic side, which had to dissolve its alliance with the Austrian Habsburgs. Tensions remained essentially unresolved.

On October 11, 1531, the Catholic cantons decisively defeated the forces of Zürich in the Second War of Kappel. The Zürich troops had little support from allied Protestant cantons, and Huldrych Zwingli was killed on the battlefield, along with twenty-four other pastors. After the defeat, the forces of Zürich regrouped and attempted to occupy the Zugerberg, and some of them camped on the Gubel hill near Menzingen. A small force of Aegeri succeeded in routing the camp, and the demoralized Zürich force had to retreat, forcing the Protestants to agree to a peace treaty to their disadvantage. Switzerland was to be divided into a patchwork of Protestant and Catholic cantons, with the Protestants tending to dominate the larger cities, and the Catholics the more rural areas.

In 1656, tensions between Protestants and Catholics re-emerged and led to the outbreak of the First War of Villmergen. The Catholics were victorious and able to maintain their political dominance. The Toggenburg War in 1712 was a conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons. According to the Peace of Aarau of 11 August 1712 and the Peace of Baden of 16 June 1718, the war ended with the end of Catholic hegemony. The Sonderbund War of 1847 was also based on religion.

The Schmalkaldic Wars and other early conflicts

Inname van Godesberg - Capture and destruction of Godesburg in 1583 (Frans Hogenberg)
Destruction of the fortress above the village of Godesberg during the Cologne War, 1583; the walls were breached by mines, and most of the defenders were put to death. Engraved by Frans Hogenberg, a Dutch engraver and artist of the 16th century.

Following the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, the Emperor demanded that all religious innovations not authorized by the Diet be abandoned by 15 April 1531. Failure to comply would result in prosecution by the Imperial Court. In response, the Lutheran princes who had set up Protestant churches in their own realms met in the town of Schmalkalden in December 1530. Here they banded together to form the Schmalkaldic League (German: Schmalkaldischer Bund), an alliance designed to protect themselves from the Imperial action. Its members eventually intended the League to replace the Holy Roman Empire itself,[21] and each state was to provide 10,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalries for mutual defense. In 1532 the Emperor, pressed by external troubles, stepped back from confrontation, offering the "Peace of Nuremberg", which suspended all action against the Protestant states pending a General Council of the Church. The moratorium kept peace in the German lands for over a decade, yet Protestantism became further entrenched, and spread, during its term.

The peace finally ended in the Schmalkaldic War (German: Schmalkaldischer Krieg), a brief conflict between 1546 and 1547 between the forces of Charles V and the princes of the Schmalkaldic League. The conflict ended with the advantage of the Catholics, and the Emperor was able to impose the Augsburg Interim, a compromise allowing slightly modified worship, and supposed to remain in force until the conclusion of a General Council of the Church. However various Protestant elements rejected the Interim, and the Second Schmalkaldic War broke out in 1552, which would last until 1555.[12]

The Peace of Augsburg (1555), signed by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, confirmed the result of the 1526 Diet of Speyer and ended the violence between the Lutherans and the Catholics in Germany. It stated that:

  • German princes could choose the religion (Lutheranism or Catholicism) of their realms according to their conscience. The citizens of each state were forced to adopt the religion of their rulers (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio).
  • Lutherans living in an ecclesiastical state (under the control of a bishop) could continue to practice their faith.
  • Lutherans could keep the territory that they had captured from the Catholic Church since the Peace of Passau in 1552.
  • The ecclesiastical leaders of the Catholic Church (bishops) that had converted to Lutheranism were required to give up their territories.

Religious tensions remained strong throughout the second half of the 16th century. The Peace of Augsburg began to unravel as some bishops converting to Protestantism refused to give up their bishoprics. This was evident from the Cologne War (1582–83), a conflict initiated when the prince-archbishop of the city converted to Calvinism. Religious tensions also broke into violence in the German free city of Donauwörth in 1606, when the Lutheran majority barred the Catholic residents from holding a procession, provoking a riot. This prompted intervention by Duke Maximilian of Bavaria on behalf of the Catholics.

By the end of the 16th century the Rhine lands and those of southern Germany remained largely Catholic, while Lutherans predominated in the north, and Calvinists dominated in west-central Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The latter formed the League of Evangelical Union in 1608.

The Thirty Years' War

By 1617 Germany was bitterly divided, and it was clear that Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia, would die without an heir. His lands would therefore fall to his nearest male relative, his cousin Ferdinand of Styria. Ferdinand, having been educated by the Jesuits, was a staunch Catholic. The rejection of Ferdinand as Crown Prince by the mostly Hussite Bohemia triggered the Thirty Years' War in 1618, when his representatives were defenestrated in Prague.

The Thirty Years' War was fought between 1618 and 1648, principally on the territory of today's Germany, and involved most of the major European powers. Beginning as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, it gradually developed into a general war involving much of Europe, for reasons not necessarily related to religion. The war marked a continuation of the France-Habsburg rivalry for pre-eminence in Europe, which led later to direct war between France and Spain. Military intervention by external powers such as Denmark and Sweden on the Protestant side increased the duration of the war and the extent of its devastation. In the latter stages of the war, Catholic France, fearful of an increase in Habsburg power, also intervened on the Protestant side.

Sack of Magdeburg 1631
The sack of Magdeburg in 1631. The Imperialist troops, particularly the Croat and Walloon regiments, went on a rampage of murder and mayhem that left only 10,000 survivors out of the city's 30,000 citizens and defenders. It was the war's worst massacre.

The major impact of the Thirty Years' War, in which mercenary armies were extensively used, was the devastation of entire regions scavenged bare by the foraging armies. Episodes of widespread famine and disease devastated the population of the German states and, to a lesser extent, the Low Countries and Italy, while bankrupting many of the powers involved. The war ended with the Treaty of Münster, a part of the wider Peace of Westphalia.

During the war, Germany's population was reduced by 30% on average. In the territory of Brandenburg, the losses had amounted to half, while in some areas an estimated two thirds of the population died. The population of the Czech lands declined by a third. The Swedish army alone, which was no greater a ravager than the other armies of the Thirty Years' War,[22] destroyed 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns during its tenure of 17 years in Germany. For decades armies and armed bands had roamed Germany like packs of wolves, slaughtering the populace like sheep. One band of marauders even styled themselves as "Werewolves".[22] Huge damage was done to monasteries, churches and other religious institutions. The war had proved disastrous for the German-speaking parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Germany lost population and territory, and was henceforth further divided into hundreds of largely impotent semi-independent states. The Imperial power retreated to Austria and the Habsburg lands. The Netherlands and Switzerland were confirmed independent. The peace institutionalised the Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist religious divide in Germany, with populations either converting, or moving to areas controlled by rulers of their own faith.

One authority puts France's losses against Austria at 80,000 killed or wounded and against Spain (including the years 1648–1659, after Westphalia) at 300,000 dead or disabled.[22] Sweden and Finland lost, by one calculation, 110,000 dead from all causes.[22] Another 400,000 Germans, British, and other nationalities died in Swedish service.[22]

With minor exceptions, the Thirty Years' War marked the end of trumpeting Christianity as the major motivation for mass-scale murder. According to Voltaire in his listing of "Christian barbarities", Christianity, from the sacrifice of Jesus up to 1769, was responsible for 9,468,800 deaths. A more popular figure from 1897 by The Rationalist's Manual by M. D. Aletheia gave a death toll of 56 million:

Let us look for a moment at the number of victims sacrificed on the altars of the Christian Moloch: 1,000,000 perished during the early Arian schism; 1,000,000 during the Carthaginian struggle; 7,000,000 during the Saracen slaughters in Spain. 5,000,000 perished during the eight Crusades; 2,000,000 of Saxons and Scandinavians lost their lives in opposing the introduction of the blessings of Christianity. 1,000,000 were destroyed in the Holy(?) Wars against the Netherlands, Albigenses, Waldenses, and Huguenots. 30,000,000 Mexicans and Peruvians were slaughtered before they could be convinced of the beauties(?) of the Christian creed. 9,000,000 were burned for witchcraft. Total, 56,000,000.

Low Countries

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Netherlands, or Low Countries, were engaged in a seemingly futile struggle for independence against the most dominant power of the times, Spain. The most politically significant turn of events came when Charles V of Spain transferred sovereignty of the Low Countries to his son Philip II. At this point in history the Low Countries were a loosely associated cluster of provinces. Philip II mishandled his responsibility through a series of bungled diplomatic maneuvers. Unlike his father, he had no basic understanding of the people placed under his direction. Charles V spoke the language; Philip II did not. Charles V was raised in Brussels; Philip II was considered a foreigner.

The religious element was a decisive factor in the development of hostilities despite the fact that the Dutch people at the time were overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Their theological basis was in the liberal tradition of Erasmus versus the conservative line of the Spanish Church. Nevertheless, Protestant religions, especially Calvinism, seeped into the Low Countries during the early part of the 16th century due to the fact that it was a major center for trade. This period was also known for the Inquisition. Under Charles’ reign, the Low Countries were subjected to the papal form of the Inquisition where laws were rarely enforced. An incident at Rotterdam involving the rescue of several heretics from burning at the stake made Philip introduce the Spanish form of the Inquisition. This did little to promote allegiance to Spain.

Calvinism thrived in the mercantile atmosphere of the Low Countries. Businessmen liked the role of the laity in Calvinist congregations. The Roman Catholic church was viewed as an unyielding patriarch, and the pompous hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church was resented even though Catholicism had respect as an important social, moral, and political force. Merchants welcomed the "new" religion. Not to be taken lightly was the imposition of taxes on the businesses and people of the Low Countries. The taxation was unilateral in nature: it was levied by a foreign political entity and the benefit derived from the taxes went to Spain. Spain was building an empire, and the low Countries paid dearly.

In 1559 Philip appointed Margaret of Parma as governess. She held little power since her authority had been carefully limited by advisors designated by Philip. This was a means of preserving absolute control over the Low Countries and it was an excellent vehicle to promote the spread of the Inquisition. Hardly a day passed without an execution. Protestant authorities substantiate a number of accounts associated with the "justice" of Philip. One account reveals an incident where an Anabaptist was hacked to death with seven blows of a rusty sword in the presence of his wife, who died at the horror of the sight. Another tells of an enraged man who interrupted Christmas Mass, took the host, and trampled it. He was put to torture by having his right hand and foot burned away to the bane. His tongue was torn out, he was suspended over a fire and was slowly roasted to death. Margaret interceded but the atrocities continued. Even the Catholics now joined with Protestants as Philip stated that he would rather sacrifice a hundred thousand lives than change his policy. Some diplomacy was used and when a compromise was reached on May 6, 1566, Philip eased off. During the ensuing lull, Protestants brought their worship into the open. A group called the "Beggars" grew in strength and proceeded to raise a sizable army.

On August 6, 1566, Philip signed a formal instrument declaring that his offer of pardon had been gotten from him against his will. He claimed that he was not bound by the compromise of May 6 and a few days later, Philip assured the Pope that any suspension of the Inquisition was subject to papal approval. The destruction of thirty churches and monasteries followed. Protestants entered cathedrals smashing holy objects, breaking up altars and statues and smashing stained glass windows. Bodies were exhumed and corpses were stripped. Numbers of malcontents drank sacramental wine and burned missals. One Count fed the Eucharistic wafers to his parrot in defiance. It was well known that most Protestant leaders condemned the violence perpetrated by the angry mobs, but the pillage and destruction of property was considered far less criminal than burning heretics at the stake. On the political front, William of Orange saw the opportunity to amass support for a large scale insurrection aimed at procuring independence from Spain. Philip became dissatisfied with Margaret, and seized the opportunity to relieve her. The choice was crucial. Instead of selecting a successor trained in handling diplomacy, Philip sent the Duke of Alva to crush the malcontents.

Duke of Alba (Alva)

Arrivée du duc d'Albe à Rotterdam - Eugène Isabey
Arrival of the Duke of Alva at Rotterdam in 1567
Engraving illustrating the devastation of the religious wars in the Dutch provinces

Philip gave full power to Alva in 1567. Alva's judgment was that of a soldier trained in Spanish discipline and piety. His object was to crush the rebels without mercy on the basis that every concession strengthens the opposition. Alva hand-picked an army of 10,000 men. He issued them the finest in armor while attending to their baser needs by hiring 2,000 prostitutes. Alva installed himself as Governor General and appointed a Council of Troubles which the terrified Protestants renamed "The Council of Blood." There were nine members: seven Dutch and two Spanish. Only the two Spanish members had the power to vote, with Alva personally retaining the right of final decision on any case that interested him. Through a network of spies and informers, hardly a family in Flanders did not mourn some member arrested or killed. One morning, 1,500 wee seized in their sleep and sent to jail. There were short trails held, often on the spot, for 40 or 50 at a time. In January, 1568, 84 people were executed from Valenciennes alone. William of Orange decided to strike back at Spain, having organized three armies. He lost every battle and the Eighty Years' War was underway (1568–1648).[23]

The Duke of Alva had money sent from Spain but it was intercepted by English privateers who were beginning to establish England as a viable world power. The Queen of England sent her apologies as a matter of diplomatic courtesy while unofficially enjoying Spain's troubles. Alva responded to his financial bind by imposing a new series of taxes. There was a 1% levy on all property, due immediately. He enforced a 5% perpetual tax on every transfer of realty and a 10% perpetual tax on every sale. This was Alva's downfall. Catholics, as well as Protestants, opposed him for eroding the foundations of business upon which the Dutch economy was built. What followed was a series of mutual confiscation of property as England and Spain played international cat-and-mouse.

Two new forces emerged to oppose Spain. Seizing upon the term, Beggars, used earlier in a derogatory manner by Margaret of Parma, the Dutch rebels formed the Wild Beggars and the Beggars of the Sea. The Wild Beggars pillaged churches and monasteries, cutting off the noses and ears of priests and monks. The Beggars of the Sea took to pirating under commission from William of Orange. William, who raised another army after a series of earlier defeats, again battled the Spanish without a single victory. He could neither control his troops nor deal with the fanatic Beggars. There existed no true unity between Catholics, Calvinists, and Protestants against Alva. The Beggars, who were nearly all ardent Calvinists, showed against the Catholics the same ferocity that the Inquisition and the Council of Blood had shown against rebels and heretics. Their captives were often given a choice between Calvinism and death. They unhesitatingly killed those who clung to the old faith, sometimes after incredible tortures. One Protestant historian wrote:

On more than one occasion men were seen hanging their own brothers, who had been taken prisoners in the enemy rank. The islanders found fierce pleasure in these acts of cruelty. A Spaniard had ceased to be human in their eyes.

On one occasion a surgeon at Veer cut the heart from a Spanish prisoner, nailed it on a vessel's prow, and invited the townsmen to come and fasten their teeth in it, which many did with savage satisfaction.[24]

Maastricht 1576
The Spanish Fury at Maastricht in 1576

While Alva rested, he sent his son Don Fadrique to revenge the Beggar's atrocities. Don Fadrique's troops indiscriminately sacked homes, monasteries and churches. They stole the jewels and costly robes of the religious. They trampled consecrated hosts, butchered men and violated women. No distinction was made between Catholic or Protestant. His army crushed the weak defenses of Zutphen and put nearly every man in town to death, hanging some by the feet while drowning 500 others. Sometime later after brief resistance, little Naarden surrendered to the Spaniards. They greeted the victorious soldiers with tables set with feasts. The soldiers ate, drank, then killed every person in the town. Don Fadrique's army later attempted to besiege Alkmaar but the rebels won by opening the dikes and routing the Spanish troops. When Don Fadrique came to Haarlem a brutal battle ensued. Haarlem was a Calvinist center that was known for its enthusiastic support of the rebels. A garrison of 4,000 troops defended the city with such intensity that Don Fadrique contemplated withdrawing. His father, Alva, threatened to disown him if he stopped the siege, so the barbarities intensified. Each army hung captives on crosses facing the enemy. The Dutch defenders taunted the Spanish besiegers by staging parodies of Catholic rituals on the cities ramparts.[25]

William sent 3,000 men in an effort to relieve Haarlem. They were destroyed and subsequent efforts to save the city were futile. After seven months, when the city's inhabitants had been reduced to eating weeds and heather, the city surrendered (July 11, 1573). Most of the 1,600 surviving defenders were put to death and 400 leading citizens were executed. Those that were spared were shown mercy only because they agreed to pay a fine of 250,000 guilders, a sizable sum even by today's standards. This was considered the last and most costly victory of Alva's regime. The Bishop of Namur estimated that in seven years, Alva had done more to harm Catholicism than Luther or Calvin had done in a generation. A new Governor of the Netherlands followed.


Oudewater 1575
Spanish Catholics invaded Oudewater and brutally massacred every single man, woman, and child that did not have the good fortune to flee from the town.
Baudaert battle scene Antwerp
Battle scene in Antwerp

Philip's half brother, the famous Don John, was placed in charge of the Spanish troops who, feeling cheated at not being able to pillage Zeirikzee, mutinied and began a campaign of indiscriminate plunder and violence. This "Spanish Fury" was used by William to reinforce his arguments to ally all the Netherlands' Provinces with him. The Union of Brussels was formed only to be dissolved later out of intolerance towards the religious diversity of its members. Calvinists began their wave of uncontrolled atrocities aimed at the Catholics. This divisiveness gave Spain the opportunity to send Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma with 20,000 well-trained troops into the Netherlands. Groningen, Breda, Campen, Antwerp, and Brussels, among others, were put to siege.

Farnese, the son of Margaret of Parma, was the ablest general of Spain. In January, 1579, a group of Catholic nobles formed a League for the protection of their religion and property. Later that same month Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht and Zeeland formed the United Provinces which became the Dutch Netherlands of today. The remaining provinces became the Spanish Netherlands and in the 19th century became Belgium. Farnese soon regained nearly all the Southern provinces for Spain.

Further north, the city of Maastricht was besieged on March 12, 1579. Farnese's attackers tunneled an extensive network of passages in order to enter the city beneath its walled defenses. The defenders dug tunnels to meet them. Battles were fought fiercely in underground caverns with limited maneuvering capabilities. Hundreds of besiegers were scalded or choked to death when boiling water was poured into the tunnels or fires were lit to fill them with smoke.[26] In an attempt to mine the city, 500 of Farnese's own men were killed when the explosives detonated prematurely.[26] It took more than four months but the besiegers finally breached the wall and entered the city at night. Catching the exhausted defenders sleeping, they massacred 6,000 men, women and children.[26] Of the city's 30,000 population, only 400 survived.[26] Farnese repeopled it with Walloon Catholics.

Maastricht was a major disaster for the Protestant cause and the Dutch began to turn on William of Orange. After several unsuccessful attempts, William was assassinated in 1584 and died penniless. Spain had taken the upper hand on land but the Beggars still controlled the sea. Queen Elizabeth of England began to aid the Northern provinces and actually sent troops there in 1585. While Philip wasted Farnese with ridiculous and useless battles against England and France, Spain had become spread too thin. The Spanish Armada suffered defeat at the hands of the English in 1588 and the situation in the Netherlands became increasingly difficult to manage.

Maurice of Nassau, William's son, had studied mathematics and applied the latest techniques in science to ballistics and siege warfare. He recaptured Deventer, Groningen, Nijmegen and Zutphen.

In 1592, Farnese died of wounds and exhaustion. Philip II died in 1598. As the period of sieges subsided, the War of Liberation continued. Archduke Albert and Isabel of Austria were given sovereign rights in the Netherlands forming a truce in 1609 that gave the Dutch a brief respite from war. But, in 1621, 12 years later, the war resumed when the Netherlands reverted to Spain when Albert and Isabel died childless. This period never experienced the fury of the early sieges; however, the struggle for independence went on. Attacks on Dutch border towns were made by Spinola, an Italian banker who pledged allegiance to Spain. Spain made progress in trying to suppress the Dutch but the Dutch recovered. They were financially supported by France and the money was poured into ships since Spain's control of the seas had been broken by England. Deeply involved in the Thirty Years' War, Spain decided to yield everything to the Dutch in order to be free to fight the French. The Treaty of Münster was signed on January 30, 1648, ending the War of Liberation.


In 1532, King Francis I intervened politically and militarily in support of Protestant German princes against the Habsburgs, as did King Henry II in 1551. However, both kings firmly repressed attempts to spread Lutheran ideas within France. An organised influx of Calvinist preachers from Geneva and elsewhere during the 1550s succeeded in setting up hundreds of underground Calvinist congregations in France.

The 1560s

La Rochelle-Tour St Nicolas
The fortified harbour of La Rochelle in western France became a Protestant stronghold that was fought over in two lengthy sieges.

In a pattern soon to become familiar in the Netherlands and Scotland, underground Calvinist preaching and the formation of covert alliances with members of the nobility quickly led to more direct action to gain political and religious control. The prospect of taking over rich church properties and monastic lands had led nobles in many parts of Europe to support a "princely" Reformation. Added to this was the Calvinist teaching that leading citizens had the duty to overthrow an "ungodly" ruler (i.e. one who was not supportive of Calvinism). In March 1560, the "Amboise conspiracy", or "Tumult of Amboise", was an attempt on the part of a group of disaffected nobles to abduct the young king Francis II and eliminate the Catholic House of Guise. It was foiled when their plans were discovered. The first major instances of systematic Protestant destruction of images and statues in Catholic churches occurred in Rouen and La Rochelle in 1560. The following year, the attacks extended to over 20 cities and towns, and would, in turn, incite Catholic urban groups to massacres and riots in Sens, Cahors, Carcassonne, Tours and other cities.[27]

In December 1560, Francis II died, and Catherine de' Medici became regent for her young son Charles IX. Although a Roman Catholic, she was prepared to deal favourably with the Huguenot House of Bourbon. She therefore supported religious toleration in the shape of the Edict of Saint-Germain (January 1562), which allowed the Huguenots to worship publicly outside of towns and privately inside of them. On March 1, however, a faction of the Guise family's retainers attacked an illegal Calvinist service in Wassy-sur-Blaise in Champagne. As hostilities broke out, the Edict was revoked.

This provoked the First War. The Bourbons, with English support and led by Louis I de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, and Admiral Coligny, began to seize and garrison strategic towns along the Loire. The Battle of Dreux and the battle of Orléans were the first major engagements of the conflict. In February 1563, at Orléans, Francis, Duke of Guise was assassinated, and Catherine's fears that the war might drag on led her to mediate a truce and the Edict of Amboise (1563), which again provided for a controlled religious toleration of Protestant worship.

However, this was generally regarded as unsatisfactory by both Catholics and Protestants. The political temperature of the surrounding lands was rising, as religious unrest grew in the Netherlands. The Huguenots tried to gain French government support for intervention against the Spanish forces arriving in the Netherlands. Failing this, Protestant troops then made an unsuccessful attempt to capture and take control of King Charles IX at Meaux in 1567. This provoked a further outbreak of hostilities (the Second War), which ended in another unsatisfactory truce, the Peace of Longjumeau (March 1568).

In September of that year, war again broke out (the Third War). Catherine and Charles decided this time to ally themselves with the House of Guise. The Huguenot army was under the command of Louis I de Bourbon, prince de Condé, and aided by forces from south-eastern France and a contingent of Protestant militias from Germany—including 14,000 mercenary reiters led by the Calvinist Duke of Zweibrücken.[28] After the Duke was killed in action, he was succeeded by the Count of Mansfeld and the Dutch William of Orange and his brothers Louis and Henry. Much of the Huguenots' financing came from Queen Elizabeth I of England. The Catholics were commanded by the Duke d'Anjou (later King Henry III) and assisted by troops from Spain, the Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.[29]

The Protestant army laid siege to several cities in the Poitou and Saintonge regions (to protect La Rochelle), and then Angoulême and Cognac. At the Battle of Jarnac (16 March 1569), the Prince de Condé was killed, forcing Admiral de Coligny to take command of the Protestant forces. Coligny and his troops retreated to the south-west and regrouped with Gabriel, comte de Montgomery, and in spring of 1570 they pillaged Toulouse, cut a path through the south of France and went up the Rhone valley to La Charité-sur-Loire. The staggering royal debt and Charles IX's desire to seek a peaceful solution[30] led to the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (8 August 1570), which once more allowed some concessions to the Huguenots. In 1572, rising tensions between local Catholics and Protestant forces attending the wedding of the Protestant Henry of Navarre, and the King's sister, Marguerite de Valois, culminated in the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre. This led to the Fourth and Fifth Civil wars in 1572 and 1573–1576.

Henry III

Henry of Anjou was crowned King Henry III of France in 1575, at Reims, but hostilities—the Fifth War—had already flared up again. Henry soon found himself in the difficult position of trying to maintain royal authority in the face of feuding warlords who refused to compromise. In 1576, the King signed the Edict of Beaulieu, granting minor concessions to the Calvinists, but a brief Sixth Civil War took place in 1577. Henry I, Duke of Guise, formed the Catholic League to protect the Catholic cause in France. Further hostilities—the Seventh War (1579–1580)—ended in the stalemate of the Treaty of Fleix.

The fragile compromise came to an end in 1584, when the King's youngest brother and heir presumptive, François, Duke of Anjou, died. As Henry III had no son, under Salic Law, the next heir to the throne was the Calvinist Prince Henry of Navarre. Under pressure from the Duke of Guise, Henry III reluctantly issued an edict suppressing Protestantism and annulling Henry of Navarre's right to the throne.

In December 1584, the Duke of Guise signed the Treaty of Joinville on behalf of the Catholic League with Philip II of Spain, who supplied a considerable annual grant to the League. The situation degenerated into the Eighth War (1585–1589). Henry of Navarre again sought foreign aid from the German princes and Elizabeth I of England. Meanwhile, the solidly Catholic people of Paris, under the influence of the Committee of Sixteen, were becoming dissatisfied with Henry III and his failure to defeat the Calvinists. On 12 May 1588, a popular uprising raised barricades on the streets of Paris, and Henry III fled the city. The Committee of Sixteen took complete control of the government and welcomed the Duke of Guise to Paris. The Guises then proposed a settlement with a cipher as heir and demanded a meeting of the Estates-General, which was to be held in Blois.

King Henry decided to strike first. On December 23, 1588, at the Château de Blois, Henry of Guise and his brother, the Cardinal de Guise, were lured into a trap and were murdered. The Duke of Guise had been highly popular in France, and the league declared open war against King Henry. The Parlement of Paris instituted criminal charges against the King, who now joined forces with his cousin, Henry of Navarre, to war against the League.

Charles of Lorraine, Duke of Mayenne, then became the leader of the Catholic League. League presses began printing anti-royalist tracts under a variety of pseudonyms, while the Sorbonne proclaimed that it was just and necessary to depose Henry III. In July 1589, in the royal camp at Saint-Cloud, a monk named Jacques Clément gained an audience with the King and drove a long knife into his spleen. Clément was executed on the spot, taking with him the information of who, if anyone, had hired him. On his deathbed, Henry III called for Henry of Navarre and begged him, in the name of Statecraft, to become a Catholic, citing the brutal warfare that would ensue if he refused. In keeping with Salic Law, he named Henry as his heir.

Henry IV

The situation on the ground in 1589 was that King Henry IV of France, as Navarre had become, held the south and west, and the Catholic League the north and east. The leadership of the Catholic League had devolved to the Duke de Mayenne, who was appointed Lieutenant-General of the kingdom. He and his troops controlled most of rural Normandy. However, in September 1589, Henry inflicted a severe defeat on the Duke at the Battle of Arques. Henry's army swept through Normandy, taking town after town throughout the winter.

The King knew that he had to take Paris if he stood any chance of ruling all of France. This, however, was no easy task. The Catholic League's presses and supporters continued to spread stories about atrocities committed against Catholic priests and the laity in Protestant England (see Forty Martyrs of England and Wales). The city prepared to fight to the death rather than accept a Calvinist king. The Battle of Ivry, fought on March 14, 1590, was another victory for the king, and Henry's forces went on to lay siege to Paris, but the siege was broken by Spanish support. Realising that his predecessor had been right and that there was no prospect of a Protestant king succeeding in Catholic Paris, Henry reputedly uttered the famous phrase Paris vaut bien une messe (Paris is well worth a Mass). He was formally received into the Roman Catholic Church in 1593 and was crowned at Chartres in 1594.

Some members of the League fought on, but enough Catholics were won over by the King's conversion to increasingly isolate the diehards. The Spanish withdrew from France under the terms of the Peace of Vervins. Henry was faced with the task of rebuilding a shattered and impoverished Kingdom and reuniting France under a single authority. The wars concluded in 1598 when Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes, which granted a degree of religious toleration to Protestants.

France, although always ruled by a Catholic monarch, had played a major part in supporting the Protestants in Germany and the Netherlands against their dynastic rivals, the Habsburgs. The period of the French Wars of Religion effectively removed France's influence as a major European power, allowing the Catholic forces in the Holy Roman Empire to regroup and recover.


In 1524, King Christian II converted to Lutheranism and encouraged Lutheran preachers to enter Denmark despite the opposition of the Danish diet of 1524. Following the death of King Frederick I in 1533, war broke out between Catholic followers of Count Christoph of Oldenburg and the firmly Lutheran Count Christian of Holstein. After losing his main support in Lübeck, Christoph quickly fell to defeat, finally losing his last stronghold of Copenhagen in 1536. Lutheranism was immediately established, the Catholic bishops were imprisoned, and monastic and church lands were soon confiscated to pay for the armies that had brought Christian to power. In Denmark this increased royal revenues by 300%. Christian III did also establish Lutheranism by force in Norway in 1537, Faroe Island in 1540, and Iceland in 1550. In 1536/1537 he also made Norway a puppet state under the Danish crown.[31] and it would be a puppet state until 1814, when Frederick VI gave away the crown of Norway to the king of Sweden as part of the Treaty of Kiel.

The Count's Feud, from 1534 to 1536, was a civil war over the Reformation of Denmark.

In 1625, as part of the Thirty Years' War, Christian IV, who was also the Duke of Holstein, agreed to help the Lutheran rulers of neighbouring Lower Saxony against the forces of the Holy Roman Empire by intervening militarily. Denmark's cause was aided by France, which, together with England, had agreed to help subsidize the war. Christian had himself appointed war leader of the Lower Saxon Alliance and raised an army of 20,000–35,000 mercenaries. Christian, however, was forced to retire before the combined forces of Imperial generals Albrecht von Wallenstein and Tilly. Wallenstein's army marched north, occupying Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and ultimately Jutland. However, lacking a fleet, he was unable to take the Danish capital on the island of Zealand. Peace negotiations were concluded in the Treaty of Lübeck in 1629, which stated that Christian IV could keep his control over Denmark if he would abandon his support for the Protestant German states.

Great Britain and Ireland

The Reformation came to Britain and Ireland with King Henry VIII of England's breach with the Catholic Church in 1533. At this time there were only a limited number of Protestants among the general population, and these were mostly living in the towns of the South and the East of England. With the state-ordered break with the Pope in Rome, the Church in England, Wales and Ireland was placed under the rule of the King and Parliament.

The first major changes to doctrine and practice took place under Vicar-General Thomas Cromwell, and the newly appointed Protestant-leaning Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. The first challenge to the institution of these reforms came from Ireland, where 'Silken' Thomas Fitzgerald cited the controversy to justify his armed uprising of 1534. The young Fitzgerald failed to gain much local support, however, and in October a 1,600 strong army of English and Welshmen arrived in Ireland, along with four modern siege-guns.[32] The following year Fitzgerald was blasted into submission, and in August he was induced to surrender.

Shortly after this episode, local resistance to the reforms emerged in England. The Dissolution of the Monasteries, which began in 1536, provoked a violent northern Catholic rebellion in the Pilgrimage of Grace, which was eventually put down with much bloodshed. The reformation continued to be imposed on an often unwilling population with the aid of stern laws that made it treason, punishable by death, to oppose the King's actions with respect to religion. The next major armed resistance took place in the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549, which was an unsuccessful rising in western England against the enforced substitution of Cranmer's English language service for the Latin Catholic Mass.

Following the restoration of Catholicism under Queen Mary I of England in 1553, there was a brief unsuccessful Protestant rising in the south-east of England.

Scottish Reformation

The Reformation in Scotland began in conflict. Fiery Calvinist preacher John Knox returned to Scotland in 1560, having been exiled for his part in the assassination of Cardinal Beaton. He proceeded to Dundee where a large number of Protestant sympathisers and noblemen had gathered. Knox was declared an outlaw by the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, but the Protestants went at once to Perth, a walled town that could be defended in case of a siege. At the church of St John the Baptist, Knox preached a fiery sermon that provoked an iconoclastic riot. A mob poured into the church and it was entirely gutted. In the pattern of Calvinist riots in France and the Netherlands, the mob then attacked two friaries in the town, looting their gold and silver and smashing images. Mary of Guise gathered those nobles loyal to her and a small French army.

However, with Protestant reinforcements arriving from neighbouring counties, the queen regent retreated to Dunbar. By now Calvinist mobs had overrun much of central Scotland, destroying monasteries and Catholic churches as they went. On 30 June, the Protestants occupied Edinburgh, though they were only able to hold it for a month. But even before their arrival, the mob had already sacked the churches and the friaries. On 1 July, Knox preached from the pulpit of St Giles', the most influential in the capital.[33]

Knox negotiated by letter with William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Elizabeth's chief advisor, for English support. When additional French troops arrived in Leith, Edinburgh's seaport, the Protestants responded by retaking Edinburgh. This time, on 24 October 1559, the Scottish nobility formally deposed Mary of Guise from the regency. Her secretary, William Maitland of Lethington, defected to the Protestant side, bringing his administrative skills. For the final stage of the revolution, Maitland appealed to Scottish patriotism to fight French domination. Support from England finally arrived and by the end of March, a significant English army joined the Scottish Protestant forces. The sudden death of Mary of Guise in Edinburgh Castle on 10 June 1560 paved the way for the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh, and the withdrawal of French and English troops from Scotland, leaving the Scottish Calvinists in control on the ground. Catholicism was forcibly suppressed.

The return of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Scotland in 1560, led to further tension between her and the Protestant Lords of the Congregation. Mary claimed to favour religious toleration on the French model, however the Protestant establishment feared a reestablishment of Catholicism, and sought with English help to neutralise or depose Mary. Mary's marriage to a leading Catholic precipitated Mary's half-brother, the Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant Lords in open rebellion. Mary set out for Stirling on 26 August 1565 to confront them. Moray and the rebellious lords were routed and fled into exile; the decisive military action becoming known as the Chaseabout Raid. In 1567, Mary was captured by another rebellious force at the Battle of Carberry Hill and imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle, where she was forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her one-year-old son James. Mary escaped from Loch Leven the following year, and once again managed to raise a small army. After her army's defeat at the Battle of Langside on May 13, she fled to England, where she was imprisoned by Queen Elizabeth. Her son James VI was raised as a Protestant, later becoming King of England as well as Scotland.

The Rising of the North, 1569 to 1570, was an unsuccessful attempt by Catholic nobles from Northern England to depose Queen Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots.

English Civil War

England, Scotland and Ireland, in personal union under the Stuart king, James I & VI, continued Elizabeth I's policy of providing military support to European Protestants in the Netherlands and France. King Charles I decided to send an expeditionary force to relieve the French Huguenots whom Royal French forces held besieged in La Rochelle. However tax-raising authority for these wars was getting harder and harder to raise from parliament.

In 1638 the Scottish National Covenant was signed by aggrieved presbyterian lords and commoners. A Scottish rebellion, known as the Bishops War, soon followed, leading to the defeat of a weak royalist counter-force in 1640. The rebels went on to capture Newcastle upon Tyne, further weakening King Charles' authority.

In October 1641, a major rebellion broke out in Ireland. Charles soon needed to raise more money to suppress this Irish Rebellion. Meanwhile, English Puritans and Scottish Calvinists intensely opposed the king's main religious policy of unifying the Church of England and the Church of Scotland under a form of High Church Anglicanism. This, its opponents believed, was far too catholic in form, and based on the authority of bishops.

The English parliament refused to vote enough money for Charles to defeat the Scots without the King giving up much of his authority and reforming the English church along more Calvinist lines. This the king refused, and deteriorating relations led to the outbreak of war in 1642. The first pitched battle of the war, fought at Edgehill on 23 October 1642, proved inconclusive, and both the Royalists and Parliamentarians claimed it as a victory. The second field action of the war was a stand-off at Turnham Green, and Charles was forced to withdraw to Oxford, which would serve as his base for the remainder of the war.

In general, the early part of the war went well for the Royalists. The turning-point came in the late summer and early autumn of 1643, when the Earl of Essex's army forced the king to raise the siege of Gloucester and then brushed the Royalist army aside at the First Battle of Newbury on 20 September 1643. In an attempt to gain an advantage in numbers Charles negotiated a ceasefire with the Catholic rebels in Ireland, freeing up English troops to fight on the Royalist side in England. Simultaneously Parliament offered concessions to the Scots in return for their aid and assistance.

With the help of the Scots, Parliament won at Marston Moor (2 July 1644), gaining York and much of the north of England. Oliver Cromwell's conduct in this battle proved decisive, and demonstrated his leadership potential. In 1645 Parliament passed the Self-denying Ordinance, by which all members of either House of Parliament laid down their commands, allowing the re-organization of its main forces into the New Model Army. By 1646 Charles had been forced to surrender himself to the Scots, and the parliamentary forces were in control of England. Charles was executed in 1649, and the monarchy was not restored until 1660. Even then, religious strife continued through the Glorious Revolution and thereafter.


The Silken Thomas Rebellion was an Irish rebellion in 1534. The Séan Ó Néill's Rebellion occurred from 1558 to 1567, and the Desmond Rebellions occurred in 1569–1573 and 1579–1583 in the Irish province of Munster.

Ireland entered into a continuous state of war with the rebellion of 1641, with most of the island controlled by the Irish Confederates. Increasingly threatened by the armies of the English Parliament after Charles I's arrest in 1648, the Confederates signed a treaty of alliance with the English Royalists. The joint Royalist and Confederate forces under the Duke of Ormonde attempted to eliminate the Parliamentary army holding Dublin, but their opponents routed them at the Battle of Rathmines (2 August 1649). As the former Member of Parliament Admiral Robert Blake blockaded Prince Rupert's fleet in Kinsale, Oliver Cromwell could land at Dublin on 15 August 1649 with an army to quell the Royalist alliance in Ireland.

Cromwell's suppression of the Royalists in Ireland during 1649 still has a strong resonance for many Irish people. The siege of Drogheda and massacre of nearly 3,500 people – comprising around 2,700 Royalist soldiers and all the men in the town carrying arms, including civilians, prisoners, and Catholic priests – became one of the historical memories that has driven Irish-English and Catholic-Protestant strife during the last three centuries. However, the massacre has significance mainly as a symbol of the Irish perception of Cromwellian cruelty, as far more people died in the subsequent guerrilla warfare and scorched-earth fighting in the country than at infamous massacres such as Drogheda and Wexford. The Parliamentarian conquest of Ireland ground on for another four years until 1653, when the last Irish Confederate and Royalist troops surrendered. Historians have estimated that up to 30% of Ireland's population either died or had gone into exile by the end of the wars. The victors confiscated almost all Irish Catholic-owned land in the wake of the conquest and distributed it to the Parliament's creditors, to the Parliamentary soldiers who served in Ireland, and to English people who had settled there before the war.


The execution of Charles I altered the dynamics of the Civil War in Scotland, which had raged between Royalists and Covenanters since 1644. By 1649, the struggle had left the Royalists there in disarray, and their erstwhile leader, the Marquess of Montrose, had gone into exile. However, Montrose, who had raised a mercenary force in Norway, later returned but did not succeed in raising many Highland clans, and the Covenanters defeated his army at the Battle of Carbisdale in Ross-shire on 27 April 1650. The victors captured Montrose shortly afterwards and took him to Edinburgh. On 20 May the Scottish Parliament sentenced him to death and had him hanged the next day.

Charles II landed in Scotland at Garmouth in Moray on 23 June 1650 and signed the 1638 National Covenant and the 1643 Solemn League and Covenant immediately after coming ashore. With his original Scottish Royalist followers and his new Covenanter allies, King Charles II became the greatest threat facing the new English republic. In response to the threat, Cromwell left some of his lieutenants in Ireland to continue the suppression of the Irish Royalists and returned to England.

Cromwell arrived in Scotland on 22 July 1650 and proceeded to lay siege to Edinburgh. By the end of August disease and a shortage of supplies had reduced his army, and he had to order a retreat towards his base at Dunbar. A Scottish army, assembled under the command of David Leslie, tried to block the retreat, but Cromwell defeated them at the Battle of Dunbar on September 3. Cromwell's army then took Edinburgh, and by the end of the year his army had occupied much of southern Scotland.

In July 1651, Cromwell's forces crossed the Firth of Forth into Fife and defeated the Scots at the Battle of Inverkeithing (20 July 1651). The New Model Army advanced towards Perth, which allowed Charles, at the head of the Scottish army, to move south into England. Cromwell followed Charles into England, leaving George Monck to finish the campaign in Scotland. Monck took Stirling on 14 August and Dundee on 1 September. In 1652, the army finished off the remnants of Royalist resistance, under the terms of the "Tender of Union".

In late 1688, William of Orange successfully invaded England. After the Convention of Estates deposed the Catholic king James VII on 11 April 1689, they offered the royal title to William and his wife Mary (the Protestant daughter of James), which they accepted on 11 May 1689. During the subsequent Jacobite rising of 1689, instigated by James' Roman Catholic and Anglican Tory supporters,[18] the Calvinist forces in the south and lowlands of Scotland triumphed. Despite this defeat, many Scottish Highland clans remained either Catholic or Episcopalian in sympathy. The Catholic Clan MacDonald was subject to the 1691 Glencoe Massacre for being late in pledging loyalty to the new Protestant king William II. Highland clans also rallied to the support of Catholic claimants to the British throne in later, failed Jacobite risings of the erstwhile Stuart King James III in 1715 and Charles Edward Stuart in 1745.


The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular rising in Yorkshire in 1536–37 against Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church.

Bigod's rebellion was an armed rebellion by English Roman Catholics in Cumberland and Westmorland against King Henry VIII of England and the English Parliament.

Death toll

These figures include the deaths of civilians from diseases, famine, etc., as well as deaths of soldiers in battle and possible massacres and genocide.

Lowest estimate Highest estimate Event Location From To Duration Main opponents* Character
3,000,000[34] 11,500,000[34] Thirty Years' War Holy Roman Empire 1618 1648 30 years Protestants (mainly Lutherans, Reformed and Hussites) against Catholics began as a religious war; quickly became a French-Habsburg political clash
2,000,000[35] 4,000,000[35] French Wars of Religion France 1562 1598 36 years Protestants (mainly Reformed) against Catholics began as a religious war, and largely remained such
315,000 868,000 (616,000 in Ireland)[36] War of the Three Kingdoms Great Britain and Ireland 1639 1651 12 years Protestants (Anglicans, Reformed, various other nonconformists), Catholics distributed in various fractions of the war civil, religion-state relation and religious freedom issues, with a national element
600,000[37] 700,000[37] Eighty Years' War Low Countries in the Holy Roman Empire 1568 1648 80 years Protestants (mainly Reformed) against Catholics conflicts over religion (and taxes and privileges) evolved into a war of independence
100,000 200,000 German Peasants' War Holy Roman Empire 1524 1525 1 year Protestants (mainly Anabaptists), Catholics against Protestants (mainly Lutherans), Catholics mixed economic and religious reasons, war between peasants and Protestant/Catholic landowners

The wars listed were the most severe in casualties; the remaining religious conflicts in Europe lasted for only a few years, a year, or less and/or were much less violent. Huguenot rebellions were possibly the most damaging conflict after the German Peasants' War and may have taken up to 100,000 lives.

Religious situation pre and post European wars

At the Reformation's zenith around 1590, Protestant governments and/or cultures controlled about half of the European territory; however, as a result of Catholic reconquests, only about one fifth was left in 1690.[6]

The Protestant Reformation
Peak of the Reformation & beginning of the Counter-Reformation (1545–1620)
The Counterreformation
End of the Reformation & Counter-Reformation (1648)
Edict of Fontainebleau
After the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685) expelled Huguenots from France

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Nolan, Cathal J. (2006). The Age of Wars of Religion, 1000–1650: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization, Volume 2. London: Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 708–710. ISBN 9780313337345. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Onnekink, David (2013). War and Religion after Westphalia, 1648–1713. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 1–8. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d John Hearsey McMillan Salmon. "The Wars of Religion". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  4. ^ Treaty of Münster 1648
  5. ^ Barro, R. J. & McCleary, R. M. "Which Countries have State Religions?" (PDF). University of Chicago. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 August 2006. Retrieved 7 November 2006.
  6. ^ a b c d e MacCulloch, Diarmaid (2004). Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490–1700. Penguin UK. p. 670. ISBN 9780141926605. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  7. ^ Shaw, Jeffrey M.; Demy, Timothy J. (2017). War and Religion: An Encyclopedia of Faith and Conflict. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 845. ISBN 9781610695176. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  8. ^ Cowell-Meyers, Kimberly (2002). Religion and Politics in the Nineteenth Century: The Party Faithful in Ireland and Germany. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1. ISBN 9780275971854. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  9. ^ Ishay, Micheline (2008). The History of Human Rights: From Ancient Times to the Globalization Era. Oakland: University of California Press. p. 99. ISBN 9780520256415. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  10. ^ Onnekink, p. 9–10.
  11. ^ a b c Onnekink, p. 2.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Onnekink, p. 3.
  13. ^ a b Coen, Pepplinkhuizen. "De aanslager der wederdopers in Amsterdam". Het aanzien van een millennium (in Dutch). Utrecht: Het Spectrum. pp. 43–45. ISBN 9027468443.
  14. ^ Beidler, James (2014). The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide. Cincinnati: Family Tree Books. p. 66. ISBN 9781440330674. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e Onnekink, p. 7.
  16. ^ H. H. Bolhuis (1 November 1986). "De geschiedenis der Waldenzen. Uit de diepte naar de hoogte". Protestants Nederland (in Dutch). Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  17. ^ a b Church, Clive H.; Head, Randolph C. (2013). A Concise History of Switzerland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 95–97. ISBN 9781107244191. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  18. ^ a b John S. Morrill (7 February 2018). "Jacobite". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  19. ^ Tom Scott (1989). Thomas Müntzer: Theology and Revolution in the German Reformation, p.24, London. ISBN 0-33346-498-2.
  20. ^ Michael A. Mullett (2004), Martin Luther, p. 166, London, Routledge. ISBN 9780415261685
  21. ^ Merriman, John (1996). A History of Modern Europe, Volume One: From the Renaissance to the Age of Napoleon (First ed.), p. 110, New York: W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-96888-X.
  22. ^ a b c d e Clodfelter, Micheal (2017). Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Encyclopedia of Casualty and Other Figures, 1492–2015. McFarland. p. 40. ISBN 978-0786474707.
  23. ^ B1ok, P.J., History of the People of the Netherlands, New York, (1898), p. 42
  24. ^ Op. Cit., Motley, Vol. II, p. 151.
  25. ^ Ibid., p, 101.
  26. ^ a b c d The Age of Reason Begins: A History of European Civilization in the Period of Shakespeare, Bacon, Montaigne, Rembrandt, Galileo, and Descartes: 1558–1648.
  27. ^ Salmon, pp.136–7.
  28. ^ Jouanna, p.181.
  29. ^ Jouanna, p.182.
  30. ^ Jouanna, pp.184–5.
  31. ^, Om; Institutt for arkeologi, konservering og historie (IAKH) ved UiO. "Norge blir et lydrike – Norgeshistorie". (in Norwegian). Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  32. ^ Ellis, S. "The Tudors and the origins of the modern Irish states: A standing army". In: Bartlett,Thomas, A Military History of Ireland (Cambridge 1996), 125–131).
  33. ^ MacGregor 1957, p. 127
  34. ^ a b Matthew White (January 2012). "The Thirty Years War (1618–48)". Necrometrics. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  35. ^ a b Matthew White (January 2012). "France, Religious Wars, Catholic vs. Huguenot (1562–1598)". Necrometrics. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  36. ^ Matthew White (January 2012). "British Isles, 1641–52". Necrometrics. Retrieved 12 February 2018.
  37. ^ a b "Victimario Histórico Militar".
  • Greengrass, Mark. The European Reformation 1500–1618. Longman, 1998. ISBN 0-582-06174-1
  • MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation: A History. New York: Penguin 2003.
Battle of Fleurus (1622)

The Battle of Fleurus of August 29, 1622 was fought in the Spanish Netherlands between a Spanish army, and the Protestant forces of Ernst von Mansfeld and Christian of Brunswick during the Eighty Years' War and Thirty Years' War. The bloody struggle left the Protestants mangled and the Spanish masters of the field, but unable to block the enemy's march.

Battle of Hamar

The Battle of Hamar (also known as the Siege of Hamar) was a short siege that lasted for three days in late June 1537, between the forces of Catholic bishop Mogens Lauritssøn and noble Truid Ulfstand. Truid Ulfstand and his forces came down from Trondheim to arrest the bishop as a part of the Reformation in Denmark–Norway and Holstein. The bishop heard that he was going to be arrested and barricade himself and his men inside his farm at Hamar before the Protestant troops came. The Protestant troops where superior both in numbers and military tech, (most of the Protestant troops where German Landsknecht, but the Catholic troops where mostly peasant militia) and when the Protestant troops arrived they laid siege to the farm. The commander of the Protestant forces had a parley with the bishop, and gave him three days to surrender or he would burn the farm. On the third day of the siege the bishop surrendered and was taken as a prisoner to Denmark, where he died in 1542.

According to the Hamar Chronicle, when the bishop left the city, he fell on his knees and thanked God for every day he had spent in the city. He asked the city to pray for him and said he would return. Then the chronicle states that he prayed: O Gud fader udi himmelen, findes vj icke för, da Gud giffue det vj findis i himmerige. Denne bön bad hand med grædende taare oc sagde, vale, vale, vale. (O God, Father in heaven, we do not exist for gifts from God, but to find heaven. He prayed this prayer while crying tears, and said farewell, farewell, farewell.)

The siege was one of the last stands against the Reformation in Norway, and the Norwegian riksråd was de facto abolished and Denmark-Norway became a real union that would last until 1814. Also the king of Denmark-Norway became the biggest landowner in Norway after confiscating church lands.

Battle of Sauðafell

The Battle of Sauðafell (Orrustan á Sauðafelli) occurred in 1550, when the forces of Catholic Bishop Jón Arason clashed with the forces of Daði Guðmundsson of Snóksdalur.

Bocskai uprising

The Bocskai uprising (in Hungary Bocskai's War of Independence Hungarian: Bocskai szabadságharc, Bocskai-felkelés) was a great revolt in Hungary, Transylvania and modern Slovakia, between 1604 and 1606 against Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, during the Long Turkish War. The leader of the rebels was István Bocskai, a significant Protestant Hungarian nobleman. The great Ottoman war burdened the Hungarian Kingdom and led to famine and epidemics. The armies of the Christian states also destroyed as the Ottoman and Tatar forces.

Rudolf persecuted the Protestants and the rich Hungarian noblemen were falsely accused of treason. Because of injuries István Bocskai organized the revolt and persuaded the Hungarian military units, the Hajduks, to join. Bocskai defeated the imperial forces and foreign mercenaries, and the Hungarian nobility, the Hungarian soldiers and peasants, and also the minorities went over to Bocskai's Hajduk army. Bocskai was supported by the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Khanate, Moldavia, Transylvania and Wallachia, but prevented a possible Ottoman siege of Vienna. Bocskai was declared for the Prince of Transylvania and Hungary, but recognized the fact that the challenge of independence of Hungary is not possible against the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. Bocskai marked the political route for his supporters, namely the preservation of the independent Transylvania, which may be a base for the unification of Hungary.


Condottieri (Italian: [kondotˈtjɛːri]; singular condottiero or condottiere) were Italian military leaders involved in classical formation battles, first as mercenary captains commanding free companies and later as generals of multi-national armies. In medieval Italian, condottiero meant "contractor" but the term later acquired the broader meaning of "military leader", also in reference to Italian Catholics serving as commanders for the Roman Catholic side during the Counter-Reformation (e.g. "Condottiero Alexander Farnese").Therefore, in Italian historiography, the term Condottiero:

refers to mercenary captains, named capitani di ventura ("venture captains"), contracted by the Italian city-states and the Papacy;

does not refer to simple hired soldiers

includes Italian generals fighting for foreign nations or Italian states in early modern conflicts such as the Italian Wars and the European Wars of Religion.

excludes military commanders in contemporary warfare.Some authors have described Guido da Landriano (the real figure behind the legendary Alberto da Giussano) as the "first condottiero" and Napoleon Bonaparte (in virtue of his Italian origins) as the "last condottiero": according to this view, the condottieri tradition would span a huge diverse period from the battle of Legnano in 1176 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Most historians would narrow it down to the years from c.1350 to c.1650, with a particular focus on the rise of the ventura captains and their transformation in captain generals fighting for the major powers during the struggle for political and religious supremacy in Europe.

Count's Feud

The Count's Feud (Danish: Grevens Fejde), also called the Count's War, was a war of succession that raged in Denmark in 1534–36 and brought about the Reformation in Denmark. In the international context, it was part of the European wars of religion. The Count's Feud takes its name from the Protestant Count Christopher of Oldenburg, who supported the Catholic King Christian II, deposed in 1523, over the election of Christian III, a staunch Protestant who had already implemented Lutheranism as the state religion in Schleswig and Holstein in 1528.

Destruction of Neuss

The Destruction of Neuss occurred in July 1586, during the Cologne War. Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma's troops surrounded the city of Neuss, an important Protestant garrison in the Electorate of Cologne. After the city refused to capitulate, Parma's army reduced the city to rubble through a combination of artillery fire, destructive house to house fighting, and plundering; during the battle, a fire started that destroyed most of the rest of the city. In total, approximately 3000 civilians died, out of a population of approximately 4500, and the entire garrison was killed.

First War of Villmergen

The First War of Villmergen was a Swiss religious war which lasted from 5 January until 7 March 1656, at the time of the Old Swiss Confederacy. On the one hand were the Protestant cities of Zürich and Bern, on the other the Catholic places in Central Switzerland. The Protestants tried to break the political hegemony of the Catholics, that had been in existence ever since the Second Kappel Landfrieden of 1531. The casus belli was the expulsion and execution of Protestants from the Schwyz commune of Arth. The Zürcher unsuccessfully besieged the Central Swiss-allied city of Rapperswil and thereby drove their forces together. The Bernese were defeated and repelled in the First Battle of Villmergen. The Third Landfrieden ended the conflict and restored the pre-war balance of power.

Hussite Wars

The Hussite Wars, also called the Bohemian Wars or the Hussite Revolution, were fought between the Christian Hussites and the combined Christian Catholic forces of Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, the Papacy and various European monarchs loyal to the Catholic Church, as well as among various Hussite factions themselves. After initial clashes, the Utraquists changed sides in 1423 to fight alongside Roman Catholics and opposed the Taborites and other Hussite spinoffs. These wars lasted from 1419 to approximately 1434.

The Hussite community included most of the Czech population of the Kingdom of Bohemia and formed a major spontaneous military power. They defeated five consecutive crusades proclaimed against them by the Pope (1420, 1421, 1422, 1427, 1431), and intervened in the wars of neighboring countries. The Hussite Wars were notable for the extensive use of early hand-held firearms such as hand cannons.

The fighting ended after 1434, when the moderate Utraquist faction of the Hussites defeated the radical Taborite faction. The Hussites agreed to submit to the authority of the King of Bohemia and the Roman Catholic Church, and were allowed to practice their somewhat variant rite.

Irish Confederate Wars

The Irish Confederate Wars, also called the Eleven Years' War (derived from the Irish language name Cogadh na hAon Bhliana Déag), took place in Ireland between 1641 and 1653. It was the Irish theatre of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms – a series of civil wars in the kingdoms of Ireland, England and Scotland (all ruled by Charles I). The war in Ireland began with a rebellion in 1641 by Irish Catholics, who tried to seize control of the English administration in Ireland to force concessions for Catholics. This developed into an ethnic conflict between Gaelic Irish and old English Catholics on one side, and English and Scottish Protestant colonists on the other. Catholic leaders formed the Irish Catholic Confederation in 1642, which controlled most of Ireland and was loosely aligned with the Royalists. The Confederates and Royalists fought against the English Parliamentarians and Scottish Covenanters. In 1649, a Parliamentarian army led by Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland and by 1653 had conquered the island.

The war was both a religious and an ethnic conflict – fought over who would govern Ireland, whether it would be governed from England, which ethnic and religious group would own most of the land, and which religion would predominate in the country. It was the most destructive conflict in Irish history.

Piedmontese Easter

Piedmontese Easter (Italian: Pasque piemontesi, French: Pâques piémontaises or Pâques vaudoises) was a series of massacres on Waldensians (also known as Waldenses or Vaudois) by Savoyard troops in the Duchy of Savoy in 1655.

Religious conflict

Religious conflict may refer to:

Religious violence

Religious war

European wars of religion

Religious intolerance

Religious controversies

Schmalkaldic War

The Schmalkaldic War (German: Schmalkaldischer Krieg) refers to the short period of violence from 1546 until 1547 between the forces of Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (simultaneously King Charles I of Spain), commanded by Don Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, and the Lutheran Schmalkaldic League within the domains of the Holy Roman Empire.

Second Schmalkaldic War

The Second Schmalkaldic War, also known as the Princes' Revolt (German: Fürstenaufstand, Fürstenkrieg or Fürstenverschwörung), was an uprising of German Protestant princes led by elector Maurice of Saxony against the Catholic emperor Charles V that broke out in 1552. Historians disagree whether the war concluded the same year with the Peace of Passau in August, or dragged on until the Peace of Augsburg in September 1555. The Protestant princes were supported by king Henry II of France, who was a Catholic, but sought to use the opportunity to expand his territory in modern-day Lorraine.The war can be regarded as a continuation of the First Schmalkaldic War (1546–1547), in which Charles V and Maurice of Saxony jointly defeated the Schmalkaldic League of almost the same Protestant German princes. This previous conflict was settled by the Augsburg Interim, which left both camps unsatisfied, especially the princes who were forced to reconvert themselves and their population to Catholicism, although winning some concessions.

Second War of Kappel

The Second War of Kappel (Zweiter Kappelerkrieg) was an armed conflict in 1531 between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the Reformation in Switzerland.

Sectarian violence

Sectarian violence and/or sectarian strife is a form of communal violence inspired by sectarianism, that is, between different sects of one particular mode of ideology or religion within a nation/community. Religious segregation often plays a role in sectarian violence.

Strasbourg Bishops' War

The Strasbourg Bishops' War (German: Bischöflichen Krieg, French: Guerre des Evêques) (1592–1604) was a conflict between Protestants and Catholics for control of the Bishopric of Strasbourg. It was one of only two sectarian or confessional conflicts, both highly localised, that occurred within the Holy Roman Empire between the Peace of Augsburg (1555) and the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War (1618). It was less bloody than the Cologne War (1583–88). It coincided with the Counter-Reformation and the Spanish Winter (1598–99), and the Catholic victory caused Protestants in Germany great worry that the tide had turned decidedly against them.

War of Religion

War of Religion may refer to:

European wars of religion, a series of European wars of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

French Wars of Religion, a specific series in the larger conflagration

Crusades, a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period

Wars of the Three Kingdoms

The Wars of the Three Kingdoms, sometimes known as the British Civil Wars, formed an intertwined series of conflicts that took place in the kingdoms of England, Ireland and Scotland between 1639 and 1651. The English Civil War proper has become the best-known of these conflicts; it included the abolition of the monarchy and the execution of the kingdom's monarch, Charles I, by the English Parliament in 1649.

The history of these wars is often extended to include the uprisings and conflicts that continued through the 1650s until the English Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, and sometimes to include Venner's uprising the following year. The wars were the outcome of broadly set tensions over religious and civil issues. Religious disputes centred on whether religion was to be dictated by the monarch or by choice, the conscience of the individual, with many people feeling that they ought to have freedom of religion (freedom of conscience). The related civil question was settling the extent to which the king's rule was to be constrained by Parliament—in particular the right to raise taxes and armed forces without consent of the Parliament.

The wars also had elements of national conflict, as Ireland and Scotland rebelled against England's primacy within the Three Kingdoms. The broad and durable victory of the English Parliament—ultimately (under Oliver Cromwell and the Army) overcoming the king, the Irish and the Scots, and then outlasting the Cromwellian Protectorate itself—helped establish the future of Great Britain and Ireland as a constitutional monarchy with political power centred on the Parliament in London.

These wars included the Bishops' Wars of 1639 and 1640; the Irish Rebellion of 1641; Confederate Ireland, 1642–1649; the Scottish Civil War of 1644–1645; and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649 (collectively the Eleven Years War or Irish Confederate Wars); and the First, Second and Third English Civil Wars of 1642–1646, 1648–1649 and 1650–1651.


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