The Edict of Restitution

The Edict of Restitution

The Edict of Restitution, issued in March 1629, was the most ambitious attempt by Emperor Ferdinand II and the Catholic Church to restore German Catholic Institutions lost to the Protestants during the previous century. The main objective of the Edict was to make sure that the ‘Ecclesiastical Reservation’ of the Peace of Augsburg was enforced. This would mean Catholics could take back  a number of monasteries, convents and other institutions that had been secularised by the Protestants.

The Edict secured Habsburg authority and significantly decreased the property and power of the Protestants. Many Protestants fled to avoid persecution, while five-sixths of the Czech nobility were forced into exile.

North east Germany felt the biggest impact. Ferdinand struggled to assert his authority here, so he would benefit from being able to assert more power. Ferdinand assigned Imperial administrators to control the secularised cities and states.  As a result, he re-established Imperial authority to a territory that had been free from Imperial rule for almost a century.

But the German princes had no way of responding. They knew that Wallenstein had an impressive army of 134,000 troops on the field which he could use to enforce his authority if necessary.

Wallenstein did not like the Edict but he followed the emperor’s orders, stating that he would teach the Electors to be dependent on the emperor rather than the other way round. The princes responded by encouraging Maximilian of Bavaria to put pressure on Ferdinand to dismiss Wallenstein.

The prince’s opportunity came in 1630. Ferdinand wanted his son to be elected King of the Romans so he called a meeting of the Electors. Despite his huge power bases, Ferdinand still needed the Electors to secure his power dynasty.Ferdinand also planned to persuade the Electors to support greater Imperial involvement in the European wars.

George William of Brandenburg and John of Saxony, who were both Protestant, refused to attend in protest at the Edict of Restitution. The Electors refused to allow the country to become involved in wars that would have no reward, but Maximilian still asked Ferdinand for the dismissal of Wallenstein.

Ferdinand knew that to win the support of the Electors he would have to dismiss Wallenstein. He did so in August 1630. This was a huge success for the Electors.

However, their celebrations were overshadowed by the arrival of Gustavus Adolphus and 4,000 men in Pomerania in July 1630. Without Wallenstein, Ferdinand would have to turn to Tilly and Maximilian again.

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Edict of Restitution". 2023. Web.