Wallenstein, Albrecht Eusebius Wenzel von
WALLENSTEIN, ALBRECHT EUSEBIUS WENZEL VON
Duke of Friedland, Sagan, and Mecklenburg; b. Hermanice, Bohemia, Sept. 24, 1583; d. Eger, Bohemia, Feb. 25, 1634. Wallenstein, a member of the noble, but not rich, Waldstein family, was sent by his uncle, Heinrich von Slavata, to the Jesuit college at Olmütz where he converted to Roman Catholicism. After studying also at Altdorf, Bologna, and Padua, where he acquired his lifelong interest in astrology, Wallenstein joined the army of George Basta, an imperialist general of Rudolph II. Wallenstein's bravery in the Hungarian campaign against the Turks won him command of a company (1605). After returning to Bohemia, he married (1609) an elderly Moravian widow, Lucretia von Vičkov, whose estates he inherited at her death in 1614. The independently wealthy Wallenstein fought for the Emperor against the Venetians and, after the outbreak of the thirty years' war, against the Bohemian rebels. It was he who delivered the treasury of the Moravian Estates to Vienna, later using the money to raise a regiment in the imperial cause. He fought against Bethlen Gabor, the Transylvanian ally of the rebels, and against Count Ernst Mansfeld, and consequently was not present at White Mountain (November 1620), the crucial defeat of the Bohemian cause. Wallen-stein proceeded to amalgamate his estates with his conquests, and some purchases from Emperor ferdinand ii. He was appointed imperial count palatine (1622), prince (1623), and then duke of Friedland (1624); he quickly won favor at court and with the army. Wallenstein married Isabella Harrach, the wealthy daughter of a close imperial advisor, and used his riches to lend money to the Emperor and to extend his influence. He seems also to have been a firm ruler and capable administrator who took a sincere interest in the welfare of his subjects.
When Christian IV of Denmark declared war on Ferdinand II, Wallenstein joined forces with Johann Tserclaes of Tilly, general of the Catholic League, against the Danes. An army of more than 20,000 men flocked to Wallenstein's banner, attracted by his reputation and the promise of spoils. The campaigns of 1625, 1626, and 1627 witnessed Wallenstein's defeat of Mansfeld, and Gabor, and the conquest of Silesia and Mecklenburg. He was granted the latter in 1628, and named hereditary duke of Mecklenburg in June 1629. His siege of Stralsund was unsuccessful and his effort to extend Hapsburg power to the Baltic was thwarted. Eventually, Wallenstein urged Ferdinand II to sign a treaty with the Danes and at that time also expressed his opposition to the Edict of restitution (1629). Wallenstein's ambition made enemies for him at court and among the princes of the Catholic League. On Aug. 13, 1630, Ferdinand II dismissed Wallenstein from the imperial service. Upon returning to Friedland, Wallenstein quietly negotiated with Gustavus II Adolphus, King of Sweden and new leader of the Protestant cause. The Swedish victories at Breitenfeld (1631) and Lech (1632), as well as the death of Tilly, forced Ferdinand to recall Wallenstein. Reluctantly, Wallenstein returned, but eventually he launched a full-scale campaign against the Protestants. Wallenstein's victories at Prague and Nuremberg were followed by his defeat at Lützen, (November 1632). King Gustavus was killed in the battle, however, and the Swedes were demoralized. Wallenstein failed to attack the Swedes, preferring negotiations with Saxony, France, Brandenburg, and Sweden to fighting against them. It would appear that he was contemplating desertion of the imperial cause, and preparing a personal coup, which portended some reorganization of the Empire. By October 1633, however, these negotiations were broken off and Wallenstein renewed his campaign against the Saxons.
By this time, Ferdinand II, influenced by the Spanish ambassador and by Wallenstein's enemies, was determined to dismiss him. In January 1634, the Emperor signed a secret patent removing him. On February 18, Wallenstein was accused of high treason. While on his way to an intended meeting with Duke Benhard of Saxe-Weimar, Wallenstein was murdered by some Irish and Scots officers in the imperial army who were led by Col. Walter Butler and Capt. Walter Devereux. Haughty, boastful, and ambitious, Wallenstein was a skillful strategist, a brave soldier, and a clever diplomat. Sharp controversy over his motives and principles still rages among historians. Sometimes called a traitor to Catholicism, he has been hailed by others as a herald of German nationalism, by still others as a ruthless and calculating condottiere. As Friedrich Schiller wrote in his dramatic Wallensteins Tod, "his portrait fluctuates in history."
Bibliography: j. pekar, Wallenstein 1630–1634: Tragödie einer Verschwörung, 2 v. (Berlin 1937). c. v. wedgwood, The Thirty Years' War (New Haven 1939). h. von srbik, Wallensteins Ende (Vienna 1920). f. watson, Wallenstein: Soldier under Saturn (London 1938). c. j. friedrich, The Age of the Baroque, 1610–1660 (New York 1952). w. pickel, Gustav Adolf und Wallenstein in der Schlacht an der Alten Veste bei Nürnberg, 1632 (Nuremberg 1926). g. mann, Wallenstein, ed., c. kessler (New York 1976). h. diwald, Wallenstein (Munich 1969).
[p. s. mcgarry]
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