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Stephen
J. Lee writes: “His Catholic convictions amounted… to a ‘consuming passion.’
Convinced that he had a divine mission to reconvert the Habsburg dominions to
Catholicism, he had already imposed ‘confessional absolutism’ on his own
province of Styria.”9
Thus, it was his intent to do the same in Bohemia. The Calvinists there had no
desire for Ferdinand’s will to be imposed on them and threw his appointed
Imperial governors out of a window in protest.10
By that time, the Bohemians had raised an army and offered their throne to the
Calvinist Elector Palatine Fredrick V. 11
In response, Ferdinand enlisted the aid of his nephew, Philip IV of Spain, to
crush the rebellion. Thus, the Bohemian Revolt can be seen as a struggle that
was rooted in the desire to assert a Protestant or Roman Catholic identity over
the other side. Ultimately, it brought the Catholic League and the Protestant
Union in a bitter feud that marked the commencement of the Thirty Years’ War.

The
entry of Catholic France on the side of the Protestant forces in 1635 marks a
turning point in which the Thirty Years’ War became secularized. While France
was predominantly Roman Catholic and had no intention of advancing the
Protestanization of Europe, she was also a rival of the Habsburg Holy Roman
Empire and Spain. Believing that the Habsburgs were too powerful, as they held
vast swathes of territories on the eastern border of France, Cardinal Richelieu
persuaded Louis XIII to join the war in a formal capacity in alliance with the
Swedish and German Protestants in order to curb Habsburg hegemony.12
Thus, religious tensions were no longer the dominant factors in the Thirty
Years’ War as it evolved into a politically motivated pan-European war. In the
end, “there can be little doubt that the period from 1648 onwards saw the
completion of Richelieu’s original ambitions: the separation of the Austrian
and Spanish Habsburgs, the expansion of the French frontier into the Empire,
and the substitution of French for Spanish military supremacy in Europe.”13
The signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in light of the cessation of the war
marked the beginning of a new religio-political peregrination for the Western
world. As a result, the previously Catholic-driven vision for Christendom was
rearranged into the realities of early modern Europe, characterized by
post-Enlightenment secularized politics and the privatization of religious
beliefs.

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In
light of the aforementioned examinations, it is the opinion of this author that
the Thirty Years’ War was the last act within a causal chain of events
initiated by the Protestant Revolution. The parties which found themselves
engaged in warfare across Europe were seeking to steady the church-state nexus
which had been overturned by the Reformation. During the first half of the war,
religious concerns played a central role. The outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War
was not the result of a new set of circumstances, but rather the continuation
of religious rivalries that had ravaged Europe. The Peace of Augsburg failed to
subdue the fires produced by the heat of the Reformation. All that was needed
was a spark to reignite the hostilities, which was provided by the Bohemian
Calvinist resistance to the imposition of Catholic. However, the war cannot be
seen as purely faith-based; after France’s formal ingress, the war degenerated
into a conflict motivated by political and territorial goals.  As a result, it is in my view that an entirely
secularized approach to the Thirty Years’ War is not merited. At its core, the
struggle can be traced back to the pressures produced by the theological,
socio-cultural and political implications of the Reformation.

1 This term means the “Christian
body” and denotes the fusing of church and state under the leadership of the
Roman Catholic Church and an emperor royal to Rome.

2 Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present:
500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 4.

3 Jacques Aldebert et al., Illustrated History of Europe: A Unique
Guide to Europe’s Common Heritage, 234.

4 Ibid., 234.

5 Rudolph W. Heinze, Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World
to the Wars of Religion AD 1350-1648, 372-373.

6 Ibid., 373.

7 Richard Bonney, The Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648, 7.

8 S.H. Steinberg, The Thirty Years War and the Conflict for
European Hegemony 1600-1660, 36.

9 Stephen J. Lee, The Thirty Years’ War, 22.

10 Bonney, The Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648, 13.

11 Aldebert et al., Illustrated History of Europe, 242.

12 Bonney, The Thirty Years’ War, 50.

13 Lee, The Thirty Years’ War, 67-68.

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