UDC 930


Elezović Dalibor Milorad
University of Pristina, Serbia
PhD, Associate professor, Department of history

The paper presents the political image of the Holy Roman Empire in the late 16th and early 17th century. Car Rudolf II was a patron of science and art, generally uninterested in politics and national issues. He moved the capital of the state from Vienna to Prague. The Empire was burdened and internal social unrest and ongoing clashes with the Ottomans. The animosity between the emperor and his brother Matthias, went towards the formation of an open alliance against the emperor’s government.

Keywords: Cologne conflict, Holy Roman Empire, Ottomans, Prince Matija, Rudolf II, Second War, the Habsburgs, the Roman Catholic Church

Article reference:
Elezović D.M. The historical panorama of the holy roman empire at the turn of the 16th and 17th century // History and archeology. 2015. № 3 [Electronic journal]. URL: https://history.snauka.ru/en/2015/03/2080

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Holy Roman Empire greeted the end of the 16th century headed by Rudolf II (1576-1612) the ruler generally uninterested in politics, who was not very mindful of the administration of the state. At that time Empire represented a loose union of independent principality and continued to disintegrate due to the Reformation. The power in the Empire was loose, and religious divisions and the threat of the Ottoman Empire have caused further problems. The Reformation and the conflict among classes have made the country unstable, with weak influence of the emperor and the Reichstag, who held the session for a total of five times between 1582 and 1608. The importance of these sessions had minor effects on the political situation in the Kingdom. The Emperor himself attended the session, only the first two Reichstags, which was assessed in historiography as one of the main indicators of its passive conduct of the state. Specifically, the first disagreement between Catholic and Protestant estates occurred in 1608, which was interpreted as a sign of religious tightening before the Thirty Years War [7, 37; 10, 180]. A good example for understanding the religious antagonism (as a starting point in addressing religious issues in the Hapsburg state historiography indicates Augsburg religious peace) in the Kingdom, is the question of calendar reform of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) from 1582 [3, 185; 15, 417].

While the king was moving his palace from Vienna to Prague, on the other side Cologne War started (1583-1585). The occasion was the crossing of the Cologne Archbishop Gebhard Truhseza 1583 in Protestantism, in order to get married to Agnes of Mansfield. Peace of Augsburg was prescribing celibacy for bishops, and forbade his attempt of secularization, that the church’s property now falls in his hands. The situation was particularly bad for the internal state issues as the Archbishop of Cologne was one of the menus, which are chosen by the emperor. Besides,  the political situation on the Rhine was important for the emperor because of the French and Dutch issues. The Catholics, led by Ernst Vitelsbaha, took the advantage in Cologne War. The marginalization of the Emperor and highlighting Vitelsbaha clearly shows changes and posture of Catholic nobility in Empire [17, 95-96].

Cologne conflict was the initiator of a new religious conflict that began in Strasbourg about the predominance of Protestants and Catholics over the diocese. The conflict reached its peak in 1592 by double selection of bishops, Protestant candidate, Johan Georg and Catholic Karla Lorraine. In 1599, the emperor ended the conflict by putting aside the Catholic candidate and his own ordination. But the Protestant candidate, Johan Georg, gave up the pretense in 1604 with the monetary compensation.

This was one of several small victories of Catholics in the Empire, which in the overall situation had some great reverb. These examples clearly show that the emperor has no longer played a leading role in the Empire but it passed on to other forces, especially in Catholic Bavaria which was the forefront. Modern historiography considers that this situation was the result of passive policy of Rudolf II caused by his health condition [17, 106; 2, 340-346].

The Ottomans ,who caused constant skirmishes and who were responsible for establishing military border in the first half of the 16th century in which the refugees were resettled (the Serbs mostly),  were a constant threat to the Empire. However, the situation with the population of the Military Frontier has also caused some difficulties, maintenance of border fortifications cost a lot of money, and there was also a threat  that such military border without nobility, for peasants of other Habsburg countries can become an alternative. According to Karl Focelki, intensified propaganda against the Turks was initiated precisely to forestall such an eventual resettlement of peasants from other parts of the country. Surely those were not the only reasons for the demonization of the Ottomans in the pamphlets, who were accounted for opponents worse than they really were. One of the reasons the campaign was hiding in an attempt of the Roman Catholic Church to present the Ottomans as a punishment for the sins of Christians, by which the population has led to obedience to ecclesiastical and civil authorities [18, 14]. Apart from constant minor skirmishes on the border, there was a major military clashes with the Ottomans between 1592 and 1606, in the famous Long War. The mood for the war against the Empire grew in Istanbul but also in the border regions of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in Bosanski pashaluk, headed by Telli Hasan Pasha. In 1593 the war took on a more serious character, especially the Battle of Sisak 22 June 1593, in which the Christian forces took away a decisive victory in defense of the further penetration of the Ottomans [10, 224-225; 8, 11-17].

The greatest threat to the Empire marked the loss of the fortress Gyori who was in the general area of ​​Vienna and was considered a key bulwark against the Ottomans. Sinan Pasha with 40,000 people came before the fort, which was unprepared for serious assault. The commander of the fort Ferdinand Harden surrendered the fort in exchange for the free withdrawal, which took him to a military court and then scaffold in Vienna. Fort Gyori was restored on 25 March 1598, when it was conquered by surprise by Adolph Schwarzenberg and Nicholas Palfi. The propaganda of that feat presented Rudolf II as the central event of his reign, and a large number of works of art was devoted to this topic. Returning of the Győr overshadowed the surrender of Kanjiza in 1600. The success of imperial policies represented a contract with Prince Sigismund Bathory of Transylvania from 1595. Bathory expressed his willingness, after he was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, and since he got the hand of Princess Maria Cristina to replace the Principality of Transylvania for Opel and Ratibor in Silesia. However, reforms that were conducted by the imperial general Transylvania did not yield results, and the population was not won over to the side of the Habsburgs. Bathory was soon disappointed with his decision and returned to Transylvania. When it comes to the war with the Ottoman Empire, neither the emperor nor sultan did not have the strength for decisive military actions [10, 181-182].

Rudolf II did not rush to end the war, especially when he realized that the war distracts people from internal state problem. He tried through diplomatic channels to establish a coalition against the Ottoman Empire; he negotiated with Persia, Russia, Poland and the Italian states. The war ended in 1606, against the will of Rudolf II, at the initiative of his brother Matthias; Peace was signed in Žitvatoroku, and itscircumstances deepened discord among brothers. Thanks to this peace, it was the first time that a Christian ruler is recognized by the Sultan, who does not call Rudolf II his son in the contract ,but his brother, by which he affirms the equality [15, 120-121]. In parallel with the final phase of the Long War, Stefan Pockaja’s uprising rebel took place in Hungary, which has greatly influenced the policy of the Empire in this area. The conflict was supported by the Ottomans, and was resolved by the prince Matija on 23th June 1606, by Vienna peace [15, 121; 5, 313-315; 16,102].

Social conflicts that were present from the time of the late middle aged peasants’ rebellions, especially from the time of the Great German Peasant War, were raging during the Long War. The financial burden during the war was growing, taxes and expenses were transferred from the landlords, the nobility and clergy, to the peasants. Besides this, in the border zone towards the Ottoman territory where the threat from the intrusion Turkish army was high, were formed the special forms of peasant units. Depending on the intensity of danger, each thirty or tenth was included in these units and sometimes when it was about great danger, even every third person; which approximately meant that three peasants were obliged to equip one  soldier  for the war. With fiscal and military burdens, re-Catholicizing caused the dissatisfaction , forced by the Roman Catholic Church and the Habsburgs. It led to a general uprising of the peasant’s rebellion in Upper and Lower Austria, riots started back in 1595 as a protest against the induction of Catholic priests instead of Protestant preacher, and an increase in forced labor. The emperor was forced to react 1597 and reduce forced labor in fourteen days. Mercenary army engaged by the Archduke Matthias, conducted a terrible reprisals against the rebels. The rebels were treated by horrific punitive expedition that threatened to turn them into martyrs, thus the authorities have sought to criminalize peasants, in order to seem like they were punished for other offenses [1, 118-119; 5, 306-312; 4].

The antagonism between the emperor and his brother Matthias was getting more powerful, Matthew was only five years younger, and therefore his chances to succeed his brother were minimal. He has been devoted to the priestly career, but he was not satisfied with it and tried to strengthen its position in the Empire. After the death of Prince Ernst, who was close to Rudolf II because they grew up together at the Spanish court, Matija was appointed for shtathalter of Upper and Lower Austria, as well as in-Chief at war with the Ottomans. Matija continued to strengthen its influence in the Kingdom in cooperation with one of the most influential people in the country at that time Kleslo Melchior (1553-1630), who was a prince’s chancellor and first counselor from 1599 [5, 298-299, 331]. Boundless ambitions of Prince Matthias, supported by the gray eminence of Kleslo led to conflict between brothers and asking questions of succession to the crown. Rudolf II was opposed about launching the issues of succession of Empire, despite the fact that he was not married and had no legitimate children, not wanting to hear for the opportunity to be inherited by his hated brother [18, 114-115].

The animosity between brothers went towards the formation of an open alliance against the Emperor and on the same side of his brother, which was publicly demonstrated at the assembly in 1600 in Šotvin. After the conference in Linz [12, 137], princes conspired against the emperor and in a document published in 1606, Matthias was listed as the head of the house of Habsburg. In contrast, the agreements which the latter has signed with the Ottomans and Bockaj, Rudolf II did not want to admit. Matthias was able to form an alliance in 1608 among the majority of Protestants of Austria and Hungary, also joined by the Moravian estates. The Emperor has approached to the Czech estates, and allowed to all classes in Sovereigns privilege [6, 115-116] in 9th July 1609, freedom of religion, and all the provisions against Protestants were repealed [10, 186; 19, 146-147; 13, 194-195].

Strengthening the position of Rudolf II, caused the prince Matija organize a march against Prague in 1608 , which ended with the contract in Liben by which the emperor had to leave him Moravia, Hungary, Upper and Lower Austria. However, the overall political situation made it strengthen the position of the emperor. He didn’t also escalate the conflict over succession of Julis Kleveberg in 1609. [15, 424-425]. that threatened to cause serious conflicts. Only one of the princes of the House of Habsburg who supported the emperor was Archduke Leopold V (1586-1632), who was  appointed of Bishop of Passau and later Strasbourg ,without having monastic rank, by Rudolf II  [10, 186]. However, unraveling was slowly approaching, in the spring of 1610; it was supposed to convene the Assembly in Prague. In the historiography there is the opinion that the compromise could have been found, but Matthew did not want to miss the opportunity, he marched in Prague and on 23 May 1611, was crowned for Czech king. Rudolf II remained nothing but the Prague palace that his brother left him out of pity, in which it has spent the last months of life, soon ended by the death on 20th January 1612. [5, 328-330; 10, 147-148].

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