Albrecht von Wallenstein

Albrecht von Wallenstein

(1583-1634)

Albrecht Wensel Eusebius von Wallenstein was born in Hermanic, Bohemia (today the Czech Republic). Son of a noble Bohemian family, he was orphaned at the age of 13. He converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism in 1606, but his true belief was in astrology. He treasured an astrological horoscope com¬ piled for him by the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler. The start of the Bohemian revolt against the Holy Roman Empire (1618-1623) provided him with the opportu¬ nity to fully develop his military talents.

The fighting that began in Bohemia spread to much of Europe and became known as the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Von Wallenstein recruited thousands of soldiers to fight under his command. He also made loans to Emperor Ferdinand II of Rome. By 1623, von Wallenstein was the wealthiest man in Bohemia, and he had confiscated the lands and estates of many Protestant nobles. He consolidated his position through his mar¬ riage in 1623 to a daughter of Count von Harrackh, one of the emperor’s closest advis¬ ers.

The Thirty Years’ War entered its second phase in 1625 when Protestant Denmark joined the fray. Von Wallenstein won the Battle of Dessau Bridge and advanced all the way to the Baltic Sea. Granted the title of General of the North and Baltic Seas, he was at the very height of his power when the established German nobles forced Ferdinand II to dismiss him in 1630; they were envious of his power and success.

Von Wallenstein immediately began to cor¬ respond with Gustavus Adolphus (see no.50), the Lutheran king of Sweden, who had joined the war on the Protestant side.Adolph us spurned his offer of service, and von Wallenstein was lucky to be recalled by Ferdinand II in 1631.

The two great leaders of the war — von Wallenstein and Adolphus — met at the Battle of Lutzen in 1632. Von Wallenstein had almost 15,000 men and 21 heavy can¬ non, but 3,000 of his men were not present for the early part of the fighting. Adolphus led 16,300 men and approximately 60 can¬ non, as well as new fighting formations that von Wallenstein was unfamiliar with. The bat¬ tle was a near draw and was governed by chance in its later stages. The Swedes won the day, but Adolphus was killed in the fighting.

Von Wallenstein planned a revolt against Ferdinand II during 1633. Learning of this, the emperor ordered von Wallenstein brought to him, dead or alive. The scheming com¬ mander was assassinated at Eger, Bohemia, by Walter Devereux, an English captain, on February 25, 1634. His life and career were commemorated in a dramatic trilogy by the German poet Johann von Schiller.