I have the pleasure of welcoming historical fiction author, Laura Libricz, whose novels take place in 17th century Germany. On June 10th, she is re-releasing The Master and the Maid, the first novel of her Heaven’s Pond trilogy.
Today, Laura introduces us to the Thirty Years War, that took place in the beginning of the 17th century in Central Europe. The events of the Thirty Years War had a profound effect on European and English History; many of the later English Civil War leaders received their training during this time.
But in the beginning, there was the Winter King and the Queen of Hearts…Take it away, Laura!
1613. Religious strife is reaching a crescendo in Europe. The Protestant Union, the alliance of German states, is in place to defend the lands and interests of the union’s members. The Catholic League, formed by Maximillian, the Hapsburg ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, is in the opposition. James VI and I, King of Scotland, England and Ireland, hopes to strengthen the English ties to the Protestants in Germany.
Friedrich V, ruler of the Rhenish Palatinate and head of the Protestant Union, and Princess Elizabeth Stuart, second child and only surviving daughter to King James married on Valentine’s Day in 1613. In an attempt to keep all the fronts happy, James was also trying to match his son Charles I with Infanta Maria Anna of Catholic Spain at the same time.
Friedrich V and Princess Elizabeth had only met briefly before the wedding, which turned out to be a gala affair. This is reflected in John Donne’s poem Epithalamion, or Marriage Song, on the Lady Elizabeth and Count Palatine wedding on St Valentines Day. Their marriage was reported to be a happy one and together they had thirteen children (including Prince Rupert of the Rhine). They resided in Heidelberg.
Their serious problems began after the Bohemian Revolt in Prague in 1618. The incidents were attributed to the beginning of the Thirty Years War. The Protestant lords in Germany wanted to come to Prague’s aid, but they had neither the funds nor the troops to do so. But there were a few generals, dukes, lords, landholders and businessmen who had no scruples or loyalties but did have a desire to further their personal enterprises. Together with other members of the Protestant Union, Germany recruited Count Ernst von Mansfeld, the man hailed as a mercenary general, or a ‘military entrepreneur.’The illegitimate son of Count Peter Ernst von Mansfeld-Vorderort, Mansfeld was one of ten children, due to inherit next to nothing and out to better himself the only way he knew how: in a military career. It was in his best interests to see that a war carried on. He was known for threatening to change sides as soon as he smelled defeat.
The diverse conflicts and intrigues between the European powers were spiralling out of control. Many European leaders believed that they, or their territories, would also benefit if a war continued. Contributing to this was the means to fight that war; a steady stream of manpower-for-hire—men who because of economic, political and personal pitfalls were willing to join the ever-growing mercenary market.
Scottish and Irish soldiers began at first as a trickle to the continent. A small number of Irish men went to fight for the Hapsburgs while the bulk of the men were Anglo-Scottish, traveling at first to Bohemia for the Protestant cause. By 1625 their numbers tripled and totaled 127,000 by the end of the war in 1648.
In direct defiance of Ferdinand II, the then ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, Friedrich Wilhelm V was elected King of Bohemia on 26 August, 1619. Friedrich was not Bohemia’s first choice for the job and he was reluctant to take it. His advisers told him such an act would lead to war. But Elizabeth encouraged him and expected support from James I. Friedrich was also assured of financial support from other allies as well. Together with a very pregnant Elizabeth, the couple rode from Heidelberg to Prague and they were crowned King and Queen of Bohemia in November 1619.
Despite the conflicting nature of support for Friedrich, the English did levy soldiers and send them to the aid of the Protestants in both Bohemia and in the Palatinate. It was a way for the English government to remove a questionable layer of society, dissidents and criminals. Other Anglo-Scottish men volunteered for military service. If these mercenaries lived and worked up through the military ranks, they could do quite well for themselves and maybe even return home bearing a higher social standing.
Friedrich’s support dwindled, and the Catholic Imperial troops countered. In 1620, Mansfeld and the Protestant Union suffered crushing defeat at the Battle of White Mountain. Friedrich and Elizabeth had to flee. Because the Palatinate had fallen to the Spanish, Friedrich and Elizabeth were forced into exile and settled in The Hague. The Protestant Union was falling apart. Bohemia was lost, but there was still interest from other Protestant sources to continue the war. Friedrich summoned Mansfeld again on behalf of the Protestant Union. Mansfeld accepted and hired an army, attracting soldiers with promise of pay and even paying them an initial sum. But Mansfeld had no intention and no money to continue paying them. Afterwards many soldiers had to find their own means, namely through pillage and plunder.
Friedrich was now mocked as the Winter King because his reign lasted only a year. Elizabeth, known as the Winter Queen, was also called the Queen of Hearts because of her charm and beauty.
Friedrich and Elizabeth never regained their titles. The necessary support from the English and the Dutch was never rekindled. Friedrich died in 1632 after an infection, and Elizabeth continued to live in exile until 1660 when the Stuarts were restored to the English throne and she was allowed to come back to England. She attempted to claim titles back for her children, the most famous being Sophia of Hanover whose family later took over the English throne in 1714 and founded the Hanoverian dynasty.
Laura earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of Höfner musical instruments into the world market.
Laura’s first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series which will be coming out later in 2016.
Pre-orders for The Master and the Maid are available through Amazon.