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Ferdinand II

Ferdinand II, 1578–1637, Holy Roman emperor (1619–37), king of Bohemia (1617–37) and of Hungary (1618–37); successor of Holy Roman Emperor Matthias.

Grandson of Ferdinand I, son of Archduke Charles of Styria, Ferdinand was educated by the Jesuits and supported the Counter Reformation. He was chosen successor to Matthias and became, before the emperor's death, king of Bohemia and Hungary. His Catholicism, however, alienated the Bohemian nobles, who rebelled (1618) and chose (1619) Frederick V (Frederick the Winter King), elector palatine, as their ruler. This began the Thirty Years War. The Bohemians at first were successful and pressed upon Vienna, but Ferdinand, allied with Maximilian I of Bavaria and the Catholic League, won back Bohemia in 1620 in the battle of the White Mt. War continued in the Palatinate.

In Hungary, Gabriel Bethlen was successful in opposing Ferdinand in 1619 and 1620, but after the defeat of the Bohemians a peace was signed (1621). During the Danish phase (1625–29) of the Thirty Years War, Tilly, commander of the Catholic League, and Wallenstein, head of the imperial army, defeated the Danes, and a favorable peace was made with Denmark. Ferdinand, then at the height of his power, issued (1629) the Edict of Restitution, ordering the restoration of ecclesiastical property secularized after 1552. That further antagonized the Protestant princes, but they did not take up arms. At that time, however, Gustavus II (Gustavus Adolphus) of Sweden, a Protestant, came into the war.

Ferdinand in 1630 had dismissed Wallenstein under pressure from the princes of the empire, who felt the general was becoming too powerful. In 1632, however, after a series of defeats, Wallenstein was restored. He was later suspected of treason and dismissed. In 1634, Wallenstein was assassinated, almost certainly at the instigation of Ferdinand. The battle of Nördlingen marked the resurgence of the imperialists, but the war was wrecking Germany and the house of Hapsburg. The Peace of Prague (1635), the last important act of the irresolute Ferdinand, did not end the fighting. The war reached its unhappy conclusion in the reign of his son, Ferdinand III.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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