History of Germany and Austria

The tyranny of Ferdinand speedily led to the confederacy of Leipsic, of which Gustavus Adolphus, the heroic King of Sweden, was chief. After bearing the banner of Protestantism in triumph through Germany, that Lion of the North fell in the battle of Lutzen, and the fortunes of the Elector seemed desperate. But when the Emperor had closed his checkered career, and been succeeded by his son Ferdinand III, and when Germany was suffering from famine and poverty, the consequence of the long war, the Protestants, with the aid of France, found matters assuming a more favorable aspect. Turenne won the battle of Sommerhausen; Wrangel captured Prague; and the great Condé's victory at Lens, where the Archduke Leopold, brother of the Emperor, had his army routed, compelled Ferdinand to consent to the Peace of Westphalia, by which the Palatine family were restored and religious equality decreed.

The peace was grateful to the inhabitants after their long struggle. Their losses were gradually repaired, their lands cultivated, and their towns rebuilt; but on the death of Ferdinand, and the accession of his unamiable son, Leopold, in 1658, the Hungarians rose in insurrection, made Tekeli their prince, and called in the Turks to their aid. The reigning Sultan, in 1683, raised the most formidable force ever sent against Christendom; and Lorrain, the Imperial general, retired before the Turkish crescent. Leopold and his household fled from Vienna; two-thirds of the inhabitants followed; the city was besieged, and it would have fallen but for the timely arrival of John Sobieski, king of Poland, who defeated the invaders, and took the famous standard of Mohammed, which was sent as a present to the Pope. Fearful was the vengeance which Leopold now took on the Hungarians. A scaffold, erected in the market-place of Eperies, stood there so many months, that the executioners were weary of victims. At length, the Hungarian nobles having been summoned to Vienna, declared the crown hereditary: the States at Presburg confirmed the decree; and the Emperor's son, Joseph, at the age of nine, was acknowledged as King of Hungary.

When Charles, king of Spain, breathed his last, without heirs, and Louis XIV sent his grandson Philip V to Madrid, Leopold, whose mother was daughter of Philip III, claimed the Spanish throne for his second son, the Archduke Charles. England supported the Austrian claim, and the war was still raging when, in 1705, Leopold dying, was succeeded on the Imperial throne by his son Joseph, who seized Mantua and Milan, assailed the temporal power of the Pope, and made everything bend to his power. In the midst of his successes he expired, in 1711, and Charles VI, whom the allies were attempting to place on the Spanish throne, having obtained the Imperial crown, the treaty of Utrecht terminated the War of Succession. To that treaty Charles at first refused his assent; but when a French army under Marshal Villars had passed the Rhine, he acceeded to the views of the allies, and obtained Milan, Naples, and the Netherlands.

One of the greatest and most successful captains of that age was Prince Eugene. His father being a member of the house of Savoy, and his moth er a niece of Cardinal Mazarin, he applied to Louis XIV first for an abbey, and then for a regiment. The Grand Monarch, little understanding the applicant's character, refused in both cases. Prince Eugene, taking service with the Emperor, was associated with the illustrious Marlborough in those brilliant victories that have made the name of the 'handsome Englishman' immortal, had the distinction of expelling the French from Italy, and in 1717, undertook the memorable siege of Belgrade, the strongest castle in Europe. Surrounded in his camp by a hundred and fifty thousand Turks, he routed them with immense slaughter, and captured the place, which remained in possession of Austria for twenty-two years.

Charles, anxious that the hereditary dominions of the house of Austria should be settled on his daughter, the celebrated Maria Theresa, obtained the assent of the European powers to a pragmatic sanction. But hardly had his eyes closed in 1740, when events verified the observation of Prince Eugene: 'The best guarantee in this case would be an army of a hundred thousand men.' Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, claimed Selesia, captured Breslau, after winning the battle of Molwitz; while Charles of Bavaria, whom Louis XV had caused to be crowned as King of Bohemia, was chosen Emperor, with the title of Charles VII. But Maria Theresa, though deserted by her allies, was a woman of too high spirit to be daunted by adverse circumstances. She convoked the States of Hungary, and taking her infant son in her arms, addressed the assembly in Latin, the idiom of the States - ' I place in your hands,' she said, 'the daughter and son of your kings. They look to you for succor, and depend on you for safety.'