The Schmalkaldic War, 1546-1547

A.) Prehistory of the War

The AUGSBURG CONFESSION of 1530 had been a compromise formula which avoided a war in that year, but neither the Lutheran nor the Imperial-Catholic side regarded it final. In 1531 Germany's protestant princes and cities founded the SCHMALKALDIC LEAGUE, which was confirmed and extended in 1536.
When peace was concluded between France and the Emperor in 1544, the latter was free to act against the German princely opposition. An understanding was reached with the pope, and dilpomacy was used to undermine the cohesion of the League.

B.) The War

The war began by Duke MAURICE of ALBERTINE SAXONY invading and occupying ERNESTINE SAXONY, the lands of Duke-Elector JOHN FREDERICK, one of the leaders of the Schmalkaldic League. As Duke Maurice was a Lutheran himself, he was seen by his opponents as the Traitor from Meissen. Duke John Frederick, with the League army in Württemberg at the time of the invasion, marched his army home, liberated Ernestine Saxony, occupied Albertine Saxony and invaded BOHEMIA where KING FERDINAND, opposed him. John Frederick's hope for a rising of Bohemia's protestants did not materialize; the Imperial forces appeared and forced Duke John Frederick to retreat. In the BATTLE OF MÜHLBERG (1547), the Schmalkaldic forces were routed, Duke John Frederick wounded and taken prisoner. He submitted to Emperor Charles V. and the Duke of Alva.
After Mühlberg, only the cities of Bremen and Magdeburg continued to resist. Count PHILIP OF HESSEN surrendered and joined John Frederick in imprisonment. Catholic Duke Heinrich IX., the Younger, of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, exiled in 1542, was restored to his Duchy.
Bremen had successfully resisted several attempts of armies siding with the Emperor (under Count Anton of Oldenburg and under Duke Erich of Braunschweig-Calenberg) to take the city in February-May 1547 and refused to pay the fine of 100,000 fl. imposed on her by Emperor Charles V.; in May 1548 the ban was declared against the city.
The city of Magdeburg similarly rejected the fine imposed on her and withstood attempts to take her by siege, the last in 1550/1551 undertaken by now Duke Elector of Saxony Maurice. In 1551 a compromise treaty was signed, which guaranteed the city freedom of religion.

The city of Konstanz (Constance) had accepted the reformation and rejected the demands of the Augsburg Reichstag of 1548, even repelled a Habsburg attack on August 6th. But then, fatigued by the conflict, a narrow majority voted for the acceptance of the AUGSBURG INTERIM; another Imperial ultimatum caused the resistance to collapse (Sept. 13th); Habsburg troops were garrisoned in the city which lost her status as Free Imperial City; the protestant leaders were banned.
Under pressure, STRASSBURG accepted the Augsburg Interim; the reformers, among them MARTIN BUCER, left the city.
In Cologne, Archbishop Hermann von Wied was deposed, replaced by Adolf von Schaumburg.
Electoral Saxony, with Wittenberg, the center of the Lutheran Reformation, was given to Duke Maurice. BUGENHAGEN, MELANCHTHON, Luther's widow KATHARINA VON BORA temporarily left the city.

C.) War Goals and Post-War Policy

It was Charles V. goal to destroy the princely opposition, and he succeeded by drawing an important protestant, Duke Maurice over into his camp, by decisively defeating the League forces and taking their two most prominent leaders prisoner, by ousting a bishop opposed to him and inclined toward the reformation, by forcing a number of cities to submit to the guidelines set by the Augsburg diet.
His policy to then establish control over the reformation using the tool of diet legislation (Augsburg Interim etc.), however, failed as the princely opposition regrouped (1551) and found French support (1552). See Campaign of 1552.

Bremen im 16. Jahrhundert (Bremen in the 16th Century), from Ein Streifzug durch die Geschichte Bremens (A stroll through Bremen's History), in German
Magdeburger Chronik (Magdeburg Chronicle, in German)
Reformation in der Stadt Konstanz, from Kirche ans Netz, in German
The Magdeburg Centuries. A bibliographic and historiographic study, by Ronald Diener
Auf dem Weg zur Residenzstadt : Reformation und Krieg (On the road to Residence City : Reformation and War), from Stadtgeschichte Bonn, in German
Biography Hermann von Wied, from BBKL, in German
Battle of Mühlberg, 1547, p.81, from Habsburg and Valois, by Stanley Leathes
DOCUMENTS Image : Siege of Ingolstadt 1546, from Mappe di Citta' ed altre mappe antiche diverse, comment in Italian

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on June 6th 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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