Post 1600

European Religious Revolutions



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Between the 16th and 17th centuries outstanding religious reform transpired. This period brought a close to the Spanish fanaticism of Phillip II. During these centuries, the oppressive taxations under Phillip burdening Calvinists were eventually lifted and the Protestant and Catholic conflict was resolved in the Netherlands. The establishment of a Anglican Church, The affairs of Henry VIII, and the rule of Elizabeth prompted religious unity in England. The friction between the French nobility and the King, a struggle for political power and religious tolerance, was quelled in within this 100 year phase. The activities of the Holy Roman Empire were pacified with the advent of religious tolerance among princes, and the consequential fragmentation of the Catholic Hapsburg rule. Europe as an entity calmed into a more diverse religious power who was newly protective of individualist ideals synchronized with the political agenda of those in power. As can be best seen between the years 1560 and 1648, religious tumult mutated into political and economic struggles, ultimately shaping into bloody warfare.

Phillip II attempted to control Europe politically and economically by constructing an empire which would unify all groups under his rule. Phillip appointed his half-sister Margaret as regent of the Netherlands. Her duty was to place pressure on the Netherlands by heavily taxing the mainly Calvinist merchant class. Phillip sent twenty thousand Spanish troops under the duke of Alva to pacify the Low Countries. The duke of Alva misconstrued pacification to mean the "killing of all religious opposition". The duke constructed a Inquisition to kill all heretics. After the 17 territories in the Low Countries selected William of Orange to lead them out of this decade of religious restraint, Phillip II picked the duke of Parma to finish off the Calvinists. This leader knew the land well, and used German mercenaries to patiently seize the lower ten regions. Because of geographical hindrances blocking Farnese, duke of Parma, he could no longer push north, and Hapsburg Spain was only able to capture the Southern Low Countries known as present day Belgium. The northern Union of Utrecht remained Calvinist and the English once again were able to stabilize their economic source of power by having the strong Dutch connection once again. Phillip was displeased with this knowledge, and in order to maintain full power in Europe, he attacked lowly England. Phillip brought the Spanish Armada into the English Channel to quell England and secure the Netherlands as an economic stronghold. Unfortunately this worked to his disadvantage because although England was once one of the weakest powers in the West, her victory over the dominating Spain increased her political influence on other nations. Elizabeth was at many times requested of for help by the Dutch, and she never offered aid to the Protestants. Elizabeth I remained Anglican, and she fought for the Protestants in her own nation.

The feelings of nationalism greatly increased after the win over the Spanish Armada in 1588 to compound the recent reform church that had been recently adopted by England. Elizabeth had so many new ideas that the aristocracy feared loss of their social position and conspired with Mary queen of Scots to have her killed. Elizabeth I headed this new Anglican church by taking the middle course. . The Anglican Church of England broke away from the papacy during the rule of Henry VIII so that divorce would be acceptable. After the pope had denied an exception Many countries were beginning to follow a trend in which religion was less a barrier between peoples, and economical and government borders were being formed. The structure of the Anglican Church allowed for religious tolerance much like the Edict of Nantes. Her politique role was similar to the government's part in the conclusion to the French riots and civil war which allowed for further religious tolerance.

The conflicts in France were founded in the power struggle between the French king and the nobility. These two groups were in a constant plight over status and used religious and economic influence to gain political capital. A savage Catholic attack on Calvinist in Paris on August 24, 1572 was known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. This assault of Huguenots led to fighting causing the War of the Three Henrys. This war was a civil secular dispute between Henry of Navarre, Henry of Guise, and Henry III. This battle would lead to the Edict of Nantes in France, a legislative action that would allow tolerance towards Huguenots.

The lands of Bohemia were not able to appreciate this Protestant tolerance also, however. The current Peace of Augsburg guaranteed equality among the Lutherans and the Catholics, but still discriminated against Calvinists. In 1618 Calvinists threw two royal Catholic officials from a window 70 feet off the ground into a pile of horse manure. This action, known as the Defenestration of Prague, started what was to become the Thirty Years War. This war was fought in four phases. The first phase was called the Bohemian phase and included fighting between the Catholics of the area and Calvinists. This period ended in a suppression of the Bohemian rebels and a Hapsburg-Catholic victory. The second phase was known as the Danish phase, which included the use of Wallenstein by Ferdinand II to capture the duchy of Holstein, another Hapsburg victory. The third phase saw two great generals. The Swedish Adolphus Gustavus and the Hapsburg Wallenstein. Unfortunately both leaders were killed in this Swedish period, and it concluded with the Treaty of Prague, a reification of the centralized German power. The final phase known as the French period gave rise to the first Protestant victory. The introduction of the newly organized French power and the combined Swedish armies weakened the Holy Roman Empire enough to allow the French capture of Alsace by Richelieu. This gave power to the princes and resulted in the Peace of Westphalia, a treaty allowing German princes religious independence from the king and the Calvinists equality with all religions. This religious acceptance fragmented the Holy Roman Empire, and left it with no centralizing power.
Clearly, the newfound religious tolerance of Europe is exemplified in the end of the Spanish power and Inquisition, the formation of the Union of Utrecht, the Edict of Nantes, the foundation of the Anglican Church of England, and the Peace of Westphalia. Religion once was the single unifying power in Europe, but now religion has been diversified, tolerated, and now the individual mindset is one of self-progression, and identity. In order for states to unify themselves they must accept religious differences. Every instance in Europe in this time period proves that religious conflicts quickly are revealed to be political and economical issues at the core, and are resolved with warfare. Europe will never again be unified under one religion.

 

More about this author: Noah Goldblatt

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