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Albrecht von Wallenstein

Albrecht Wenzel Eusebius von Wallenstein (or Waldstein, Czech: Valdštejn), September 24, 1583 - February 25, 1634) was a Czech soldier and politician that gave his services (an army of 30k to 100k men) during the Danish Period of the Thirty Years' War to Ferdinand II for no charge except the right to plunder the territories that he conquered.

He was born into minor nobility in Hermanice, Bohemia. He was educated at the school of the Brothers of the Common Life at Koschumberg and the Jesuit college at Olomouc. From 1599 he continued his education at the university of Altdorf and then at Bologna and Padua.

He then joined the army of Rudolph II in Hungary, under the command of Giorgio Basta. In 1606 he returned to Bohemia, and soon married Lucretia Nikossie von Landeck, a rich elderly widow whose estates in Moravia he inherited after her death in 1614. He soon used his wealth to win favour, offering and commanding two hundred horse for Archduke Ferdinand of Styria for his war with Venice in 1617. He married Isabella Katharina, daughter of Count Harrach, in 1617.

At the beginnings of the Thirty Years War in 1618 with unrest in Bohemia he associated himself with the imperial cause. His estates seized, he escaped with the treasure-chest to Vienna. He equipped a regiment of cuirassiers and won great distinction under Buquoy in the war against Mansfeld and in the army which opposed Gabriel Bethlen in Moravia. He recovered his lands and after the Battle of White Mountain he secured the estates belonging to his mother's family and also confiscated tracts of Protestant lands. He grouped his new possessions into a territory called Friedland in northern Bohemia. A series of successes in battle led in 1622 to him being made an imperial count palatine, in 1623 a prince, and in 1625 duke of Friedland.

In 1626 in order to aid Ferdinand against the Northern Protestants and produce a balance to the Army of the Catholic League under Tilly, Wallenstein offered to raise a whole army for the imperial service. Wallenstein's popularity soon brought 30,000 (not long afterwards 50,000) men. The two armies worked together over 1625-27, at first against Ernst von Mansfeld.

Having beaten Mansfeld at Dessau, Wallenstein cleared Silesia of the remnants of Mansfeld's army in 1627. At this time he bought from the emperor the duchy of Sagan. He then joined Tilly in the struggle with Christian IV, and afterwards was rewarded with the duchy of Mecklenburg, the hereditary dukes being expelled for having helped the Danish king. In 1628 he failed to capture Stralsund, which got help from Swedish troops, a blow that denied access to the Baltic and the chance of challenging the naval power of the Scandinavian kingdoms and the Netherlands. The situation was further degraded when the emperor's "Edict of Restitution" brought Gustavus Adolphus into the conflict.

Over the course of the war Wallenstein's ambitions and the exactions of his army had created a host of enemies, both Catholic and Protestant princes. Then Ferdinand II suspected Albert Wallenstein of planning to take control of the Holy Roman Empire. The emperor was advised to dismiss him and in September 1630 envoys were sent to Wallenstein to announce his removal. Wallenstein gave over his army to Tilly, and retired to Jicin, the capital of his duchy of Friedland. There he lived in an atmosphere of "mysterious magnificence".

Soon the emperor Ferdinand II was forced to call him into the field again. The successes of Gustavus Adolphus over Tilly at the battle of Breitenfeld and on the Lech (1632), when General Tilly was killed, and his advance to Munich and occupation of Bohemia, demanded action. In the spring of 1632 Wallenstein raised a fresh army within a few weeks and took the field. He drove the Saxons from Bohemia and then he advanced against Gustavus Adolphus, whom he opposed near Nuremberg and after the battle of the Alte Veste dislodged. In November came the great Battle of Lützen, in which Wallenstein and the other imperialists were defeated, but Adolphus was killed. Wallenstein then withdrew to winter quarters in Bohemia.

In the campaigning of 1633 his apparent unwillingness to attack the enemy caused much concern. He was, in fact, preparing to desert the emperor, angered at Ferdinand's refusal to revoke the Edict. He began to prepare to "force a just peace on the emperor in the interests of united Germany." With this plan he entered into negotiations with Saxony, Brandenburg, Sweden and France. But he attracted little support, and anxious to make his power felt, he at last assumed the offensive against the Swedes and Saxons, winning his last victory at Steinau on the Oder in October. He then resumed the negotiations.

In December he retired with his army to Bohemia, around Pilsen. It was soon suspected in Vienna that Wallenstein was treacherous and the emperor sought for means of getting rid of him. Wallenstein was aware of the plans against him, but felt confident that when the army came to decide between him and the emperor the decision would be in his own favour.

On January 24, 1634 the emperor signed a secret patent removing him from his command, and a patent charging Wallenstein with high treason was signed on February 18, and published in Prague. Losing the support of his army Wallenstein realized the extent of his danger, and on February 23 with a company of some hundreds of men, he went from Pilsen to Cheb, hoping to meet the Swedes under Duke Bernhard. After the arrival of the party at Cheb, certain senior officers in his force, loyal to the emperor, killed him, probably at the orders of the emperor. Wallenstein was buried at Jicin, but in 1732 the remains were removed to Munchengratz.\n