Version classiqueVersion mobile

Telling Tales

David Blamires

17. The Thirty Years War

Texte intégral

1Without any question the period of the Thirty Years War, from 1618 to 1648, was one of the most horrifying in the history of Germany. Not only were huge numbers of soldiers killed in battle in virtually every part of the Holy Roman Empire, but even greater numbers of the civilian population died in the conflict or through starvation or disease. Houses, churches, villages and towns were burnt and destroyed, and by the end of the war the population had been reduced from about sixteen millions to about four. Although the war took place on German soil, many foreign powers were deeply involved also – Denmark, Sweden, Poland, France and, to a much lesser extent, Britain. The soldiers on both sides came from all over Europe, with armies being composed of men from many nationalities. Scots in particular fought at every level, especially on the Swedish side, and on the Imperialist side Croats were notorious for their barbarity. If people in Britain today know anything about the Thirty Years War, it is most likely to reflect the sufferings of the common people and to be linked with the picture given in Brecht’s Mother Courage (published 1949). The ins and outs of the struggles for political power between the Emperor and the princes are less well known.

2The picture of the Thirty Years War that Britain had in the nineteenth century is dominated, as one might expect, by Friedrich Schiller (1750-1805). His position as a popular historian – he was appointed Professor of History at the University of Jena in 1788 – and as Germany’s leading dramatist made him immensely influential. His History of the Thirty Years War in Germany appeared in an English translation by Captain Blaquiere in London in 1799 and in Dublin in 1800. While another translation by J. M. Duncan was published in 1828, Blaquiere’s version was reissued by Charles Jugel in Frankfurt am Main in 1842 to satisfy the historical and cultural interests of the increasing numbers of British tourists to Germany, especially to the Rhineland. Schiller’s trilogy Wallenstein, first published in Germany in 1800, was translated by Coleridge in the same year and reissued a number of times during the nineteenth century. Further translations of parts or the whole of the trilogy were made by G. Moir (1827), F. L. Gower (1830), E. Thornton (1854), W. R. Walkington (1862), J. A. W. Hunter (1885), C. G. N. Lockhart (1887) and T. Martin (1894), demonstrating a continually renewed interest in the play throughout the nineteenth century. Quotations from both the trilogy and the History of the Thirty Years War were used by both R. B. Paul in A History of Germany, ... on the plan of Mrs. Markham’s Histories (London: John Murray, 1847) and Samuel Rawson Gardiner in The Thirty Years War 1618-1648 (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1874), two much used textbooks.

3Apart from Schiller few notable German prose-writers or dramatists seem to have concerned themselves with the Thirty Years War. The greatest of contemporary reflections of the period, Grimmelshausen’s protean novel Simplicissimus (1669), was not translated into English until 1912, and to my knowledge Conrad Ferdinand Meyer’s Gustav Adolfs Page (Gustavus Adolphus’s Page) (1882) was not translated into English at all. But for much of the nineteenth century British readers had the translation of a popular novel by Caroline Pichler, which appeared under a variety of titles – Waldstein, or the Swedes in Prague (1828), The Swedes in Prague, or the Signal Rocket (1839), The Swedes in Prague (London: James Burns, 1845) and The Signal Rocket (1878). Born in Vienna, Caroline Pichler (1769-1843) was a prolific Austrian writer, and it is interesting to note that the publisher James Burns, who was keenly committed to German writers, especially Fouqué and Hauff, also issued Pichler’s Quentin Matsys. Pichler’s novel is the only one translated into English to view the war from the Habsburg and Catholic side. Her Wallenstein, however, is the nephew of the great Wallenstein, and the setting is Prague at the end of the Thirty Years War. The novel centres on a complicated love-story involving the Catholic Wallenstein and the Protestant Helen, but ends with Wallenstein marrying another, worthier woman who turns out to be the daughter of Count Königsmark, while Helen eventually marries an aged nobleman in Sweden. There is less of religious parti pris in this novel than in the late nineteenth-century British Protestant stories to which we shall come in due course.

4It is against this background that I want to turn now to look at how the Thirty Years War was dealt with in Britain in books for children. To begin with, there are the history textbooks or instructional books that we have looked at in another chapter for their general presentations of German history. The proportions of space allotted by them to the Thirty Years War are as follows:

Julia Corner, A History of Germany, and the Austrian Empire (1841): 10
out of 270 pp.; 1/27th
Robert B. Paul, A History of Germany, ... on the plan of Mrs. Markham’s
Histories (1847): 40 out of 480 pp.; 1/12th
Wilhelm Pütz, Handbook of Modern Geography and History, Part III
(1850): 8 out of 312 pp.; 1/39th
Scenes and Narratives from German History (SPCK, c. 1858-60): 51 out of
206 pp.; 1/4th
Charlotte M. Yonge, Aunt Charlotte’s Stories of German History (1878):
27 out of 344 pp.; 1/13th
S. Baring-Gould, Germany (1886): 28 out of 427 pp.; 1/16th
H. E. Marshall, A History of Germany (1913): 23 out of 449 pp.; 1/19th

5The two extreme cases can easily be explained: Pütz deals with the whole of Europe, not merely Germany, so the ratio reflects that. The SPCK book, on the other hand, is highly selective in its coverage and focusses on only eight key figures or events in German history. Given the strongly Protestant tenor of the publishing house, it is not surprising that three of the eight sections centre on Protestant concerns and that two concern Wallenstein’s role in the Thirty Years War and the Siege of Magdeburg.

6Between them these seven books target a wide age-range of children and young people and display a variety of approaches to writing history. Pütz’s account is extremely concentrated with little room for description, anecdote or interpretation, while Baring-Gould seems to be writing for a popular adult readership that would include the enquiring adolescent. Corner and Paul are more obviously textbooks, the former calculated for a slightly younger readership than the latter. The SPCK book targets the younger age range with an emphasis on incident, story and focal characters. By contrast, Yonge, though her title ends with the words ’for the little ones’, would appear to have adolescents in mind as her readers. The same is true of Marshall.

7Books for children and adolescents commonly aim at attracting their readers’ interest through providing pictures and telling anecdotes. Pütz reveals the serious nature of his readership through his book’s lack of illustrations, and Corner has none relating to this particular section on the Thirty Years War. Paul has three engravings, depicting Wallenstein’s castle of Friedland in Bohemia, the entry of Gustavus Adolphus into Munich, and the Swede’s Stone, which marks the spot on the field of Lützen where Gustavus fell (1632). The SPCK book shows Gustavus kneeling in prayer before his army and a family leaving their burning home in Magdeburg. Yonge’s book follows its author’s focus on kings and rulers by providing portraits of Matthias, Friedrich V, Ferdinand II, Gustaf Adolf and Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar along with pictures of St. Vitus’ church in Prague, the death of Wallenstein and the signing of the Peace of Westphalia. Baring-Gould gives portraits of Tilly and Wallenstein and reproduces a seventeenth-century view of Vienna. Marshall has a colour plate showing Wallenstein on the battlefield. Clearly, there are many personalities and incidents that offer an opportunity for illustration, and each serves its purpose in the different books. As it is impossible to deal with every aspect of the treatment of the Thirty Years War in these books, I shall concentrate on the three military leaders, Tilly, Wallenstein and Gustavus. What is particularly striking to note is the kind of stereotypes that emerge.

8Count Tilly, the first leader of the Imperial forces, figures in only one illustration, but his physical appearance was such that none of the books except Pütz and the SPCK book can resist describing his hat with its long red feather and his green satin doublet. But whatever Tilly’s genius as a military leader may be, no author can paint a sympathetic portrait of him. The siege of Magdeburg, with the horrifying destruction and plunder of buildings and the massacre of the greater part of its population, marks Tilly indelibly for his English authors and readers with a barbaric and cruel reputation, no different from the Croat soldiers who are everywhere depicted as the epitome of barbarism.

9In the wake of Schiller the later Imperial leader, Wallenstein, is the central figure in all accounts of the war. His threat to take Stralsund even if it were bound with chains to heaven (an image that Schiller strikingly uses in Wallenstein’s Camp) is retailed by Paul, SPCK, Baring-Gould and Marshall. His fascination with astrology is mentioned by Corner, Paul, SPCK and Yonge. The major interest, however, lies in Wallenstein’s assassination. Corner deals with this in very general terms, mentioning no names. Paul devotes four pages full of detail to the subject, but points out that ’modern historians’do not give credence to the false oath story, though it was believed to be true in Schiller’s time. The assassins are named as Gordon, Butler, Leslie and Devereux. Pütz with customary terseness simply declares: ’... on the 25th February, 1634, he was assassinated at Eger by some of his own officers’ (p. 56). SPCK names the assassins, but gets their nationalities muddled, referring to Butler and Gordon as Scots, Leslie and Devereux as Irish (Butler was Irish, Leslie a Scot). Yonge merely refers to ’six Scottish and Irish officers of his guards’ (p. 247). Baring-Gould gives the four names and describes the murder, commenting ambiguously: ’Though the treachery of Wallenstein is undeniable, his murder must ever remain as a stain on the history of Austria’ (p. 256). Finally, Marshall depicts the event in some detail, but mentions neither the names nor the nationalities of the assassins. One may wonder whether Marshall, and Corner before her, did not want to clutter their readers’ minds with names that were to occur only once in their histories, or whether they did not want them to know of the involvement of Scots and Irishmen in this murky event. There was not much sorrowing over the death of Wallenstein, but the assassins’ actions certainly did not fit in with the ideals of honesty, courage and straightforwardness that would characterize a British hero.

10Of course, for Protestant Britain the true hero of the Thirty Years War is Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, everywhere lauded for his personal courage, sober frugality (a great contrast here to Wallenstein), modesty, Protestant piety and, not least, his handsome physique. Hezekiah Butterworth’s Zigzag Journeys in Northern Lands (Boston: Estes & Lauriat, 1883) devotes almost all its space on Sweden to an ardent account of Gustavus’ achievements. Corner simply calls him ’the renowned king of Sweden’, while Paul declares:

He was of gigantic height, with an open countenance, large blue eyes, and a mild but majestic bearing; presenting in his whole appearance a remarkable contrast to the gloomy Wallenstein, the ferocious Tilly, and most of the German princes, who affected a mysterious demeanour, to cover their low plans of personal ambition (pp. 337-38).

11SPCK tells a similar story. Yonge concentrates on his Christian qualities, but Baring-Gould once more dwells on his physical qualities. Marshall alludes to his sobriquet of ’Lion of the North’, explaining: ’And a lion of strength he looked with his mane of tawny hair and great broad shoulders’ (p. 345). His physical appearance may be dealt with at length, but all the same for the British writers what matters more is the fact that Gustavus is exemplary in his Christian bearing, his simple piety and trust in God. However, as Marshall describes his corpse after the Battle of Lützen there are distinct echoes of Vergil’s depiction of the dead Hector after the fall of Troy: ’... among the slain, his fair face trampled and disfigured, his yellow hair clotted and dark with the dust and blood of battle, lay the ”Golden King of the North” ’ (p. 349).

12It would be possible to look at other aspects of the various authors’ treatment of the Thirty Years War, but they would not materially alter the picture so far given. Most of the accounts refer to the British connexion through the fact that Frederick, the Elector Palatine and ’Winter King’, was married to and egged on by James VI and I’s daughter Elizabeth. They also point to the participation of English, Scottish and Irish soldiers as volunteers, especially on the Protestant side. This is a matter of some importance in the fictional works dealing with the war. Though the English angle is slight in the historical works, most authors betray a sense of emotional involvement in at least some of the events they describe. Corner, for example, immediately after mentioning the sack of Magdeburg, states: ’I am not fond of dwelling on such scenes as this, nor of describing their horrors very minutely; but it is well, now and then, to read of, and reflect on, the dreadful miseries of war, that we may be thankful for the blessings of peace’ (p. 124). The Jesuits come in for occasional comment, as when Paul reiterates the Bohemians’ description of them as ’that hypocritical pestilent sect’ (p. 325), but in talking about Frederick he also speaks of the ’stupid barbarism, which was at that time the distinguishing characteristic of the Calvinists’ (p. 326). But what each of the various authors was trying to do was to give a picture of the war in the context of the whole history of Germany, and there was little space for detail.

13For the more advanced student, and thus not intended for young children, the distinguished historian Samuel Rawson Gardiner produced a much fuller account in the series ’Epochs of Modern History’ entitled The Thirty Years’ War (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1874, already sixth edition 1884). This ’little book’, in which Gardiner synthesizes the work of many German historians, he characterizes as

an expression of the sympathy which an Englishman cannot but feel for the misfortunes as well as the achievements of his kindred on the Continent, and as an effort to tell something of the bygone fortunes of their race to those amongst his own countrymen to whom, from youth or from the circumstances of education, German literature is a sealed book (Preface, p. viii).

14These history books, whether conceived as textbooks or written for a broader readership, show British writers grappling with the problem of introducing children and adolescents to the largely unknown history and culture of Germany. It may be coincidence that Julia Corner’s history made its first appearance in 1841, the year after Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but the 1840s certainly mark a considerable growth of interest in Germany and in the translation of German literature. Crucially, this includes children’s books, though it was not until the mid 1850s that a German fictional work dealing with the Thirty Years War was translated into English. This was Gustav Nieritz’s Siege of Magdeburg, published in a collection of his Tales for the Young (Edinburgh: Paton & Richie, 1855). The German original, Die Belagerung von Magdeburg, had appeared in 1846. Nieritz was a prolific Protestant writer of children’s books, many of which, like this, had historical subjects. Several were translated into English from about 1850 onwards and are dealt with in another chapter. Nieritz’s procedure was generally to paint a graphic picture of a person struggling against deprivation, misery and injustice, only to win through in the end. The fictional account of the siege of Magdeburg in the SPCK book is conceived in similar terms. The horrors are recounted as affecting a family with four children, an apprentice and the children’s nurse. Father and apprentice are killed, the family house burnt, mother and babe in arms are run through by a Croat’s sword, while another flings the four-year-old boy into the flames of a burning house. Only the old nurse and the two older children survive.

15The sack of Magdeburg and some indication of the role of Gustavus Adolphus are mentioned in the first English children’s book to deal with the Thirty Years War, but they are not its focus. The book’s significance for us is concealed by its title – A Story about a Christmas in the Seventeenth Century – which makes no reference to Germany or the war. It was written by Mrs Percy Sinnett (Jane Sinnett) and published by Chapman & Hall in 1846. The story centres on the problems faced by the family of a wealthy Protestant merchant called Merck in the Silesian town of Schweidnitz in the early period of the war. Events are set in motion through the refusal of Frau Merck’s uncle in Sagan to send his ward to Wallenstein’s new military school, an act that leads to his imprisonment. Merck sends Albert Thorn, a man whom the family is sheltering, to intercede with Wallenstein and be allowed to bring Merck’s widowed sister-in-law and daughter back to Schweidnitz. Though Albert is subjected to trickery by the disagreeable Imperial Captain Gripenclau, whom Merck’s sister-in-law has quartered on her, Wallenstein treats him generously, having seen and remembered Albert’s bravery on the opposing side at the Battle of the Dessau Bridge (1626), and grants his request. Later, however, Schweidnitz is occupied by Imperial forces, and Captain Gripenclau takes over the Mercks’ house. Father and two sons are imprisoned, while mother and daughters take refuge in a hidden hermitage in the back garden. Eventually peasant forces led by the disguised Albert attack the Imperial soldiers, burn down a large house and release Merck and his companions from prison. The reunited Merck family then escape into the Giant Mountains and find refuge with other fugitive Protestants.

16Although the book is written from a Protestant viewpoint, the author does not demonize the Catholics. In fact, she gives a particularly sympathetic role to Father Anselmus, a Franciscan friar, who not only comforts Frau Merck in her distress at her husband’s imprisonment, but also promises to find asylum for the girls in a convent where his sister is abbess. Antagonism between the Imperialists and the Protestants focusses largely on the soldiery and peasants, whose actions are relentless and unrestrained. Once the Imperialists have taken Schweidnitz the townspeople are given eight days to renounce their Protestantism or be killed. Merck of course refuses and is imprisoned. The cruelty of the war is further illustrated by the fact that the Protestant Albert turns out to be the son of the Imperialist and Catholic Colonel von Hardenfels, who demands, but does not receive, his recantation. Obviously, the book attempts first and foremost to tell a story that will grip and also to some degree instruct its target readers, but within a small space it gives a good idea of major aspects of the Thirty Years War as viewed through the purported experiences of a single Protestant family.

17It was not until the last quarter of the nineteenth century that children were provided with more independently written fiction based on the events of the Thirty Years War. First we find J. B. De Liefde’s The Maid of Stralsund (1876), in later editions retitled A Brave Resolve: or, the Siege of Stralsund. It was followed by G. A Henty’s The Lion of the North (1886), Deborah Alcock’s The King’s Service (c. 1890), Sarah M. S. Clarke’s translation of W. Noeldechen’s Baron and Squire (1892), Grace Stebbing’s Never Give In (1890s) and a further novel by Henty, Won by the Sword (1900). This cluster may perhaps reflect increased British interest in the history of Germany following the unification of Germany under Prussia after the Franco-Prussian War. All the books of British origin engage their young readers through the simple device of having one or more of their leading characters British, more often Scottish than English. This is entirely plausible, since neither the Imperialist nor the Protestant side consisted solely of German stock. As already noted, Wallenstein’s assassins were Scots or Irish, and Gustavus’ army contained many Scots. Even Noeldechen’s novel has a minor English character, a man in the service of Elizabeth, wife of the Elector Palatine.

18Jacob B. De Liefde’s The Maid of Stralsund, like Deborah Alcock’s The King’s Service, is written from a strongly Protestant viewpoint. It covers the period from April 1628 to the Battle of Lützen on 16 November 1632, beginning with the Siege of Stralsund. Like all the other fictional works, it provides a good deal of background information and narrative of the progress of the war. This is articulated in relation to a love-story centred on Helena, the daughter of the Calvinist pastor Hermann, her would-be husband Theodore Wechter, son of a wealthy magistrate and later defector to the Imperialist side, and her gallant English admirer, Harry Wyndham, of whom Theodore is viciously jealous. Towards the end of the siege Wyndham is taken prisoner by Wallenstein’s troops and imprisoned in the fortress of Templin for two years. He escapes with the help of a gipsy and rejoins the Swedish camp. Gustavus sends him with a despatch to Stralsund, and en route he fights a party of Croats, but prevents their officer from being killed. Some time later Wyndham learns that Helena and her father are in Magdeburg, now about to be besieged. Disguised as an Imperialist, Harry helps them to escape, rather implausibly aided by the Croat officer who coincidentally turns up. Equally implausibly they are helped to cross the Elbe by an Imperialist officer who turns out to be the turncoat Theodore Wechter. Later still, in the stand-off between Wallenstein and Gustavus at Nuremberg, Wyndham meets Wechter the father again. He sends a message via a gipsy to Theodore, trying to induce him to join the Swedish army, but with no success. Finally, in the Battle of Lützen Wechter and his son are reunited, but both killed. Wyndham marries Helena and takes her to England.

19While De Liefde’s plot depends a lot on coincidences and unexpectedly renewed encounters, there is precedent for such things in Grimmelshausen’s infinitely profounder narrative, Simplicissimus. In the gipsy figures who appear at several points in the story we have a minor diversion from the relentlessly middle and upper class characters who otherwise populate it. De Liefde points up the usual contrasts between Gustavus and Wallenstein, but he does not reproduce the grotesque picture of Tilly, treating him less emotively. The plot places the reader firmly on the Protestant side, and the defection of Theodore Wechter to the Imperialists may be read as a condemnation of the Imperialist position generally. Good deeds, acts of generosity towards individuals, of which there are several in the course of the novel, are reciprocated in later incidents. But Wechter the father and Theodore the son, in political (and religious) opposition to each other, can only be united in death on the battlefield. The effects of the war are poignantly shown in the destruction of family relationships between the central characters. Wyndham and the other Englishmen share the soldier’s lot, but in the end we see the Englishman withdrawing from the fray that has not yet ended and taking his fatherless bride with him. Thus, German womankind is rescued by the help of the doughty, honest Englishman. The story ends at Lützen, but the war went on for another sixteen years, which are laconically summarized in half a dozen pages.

20Ten years after De Liefde, George Arthur Henty dealt with the same period of the war in The Lion of the North. Henty had already devoted one book, The Young Franc-Tireurs (1872), to the Franco-Prussian War, looking at it from the French side, but the majority of his boys’ stories focus on adventures in far-flung parts of the British Empire. Only in The Lion of the North and later With Frederick the Great (1897/98) and Won by the Sword does he turn to German or partly German subjects. Henty was particularly keen on getting the historical context of his adventure stories correct, and he spent a lot of time reading source material. This is quite apparent in The Lion of the North, which retails great slabs of factual information about the military operations and historical background. In his preface he records his indebtedness to James Grant’s Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn (Edinburgh and London, 1851).

21The story is told through the experience of a young Scot called Malcolm Munro, who goes with his uncle to join the Scots in the service of Gustavus Adolphus. As is the case with Henty’s novels generally, the boy hero achieves astonishing feats of military adventure through a combination of youthful vigour, a cool head, quick intelligence, steadfastness, courage and directness. Henty’s ideal of military conduct also requires honesty, loyalty and modesty. His heroes fight for a cause they believe in and for a leader whom they can unreservedly admire. Gustavus fulfils this role perfectly. As Henty declares, he

was indeed beloved as well as admired by his soldiers. Fearless himself of danger, he ever recognized bravery in others, and was ready to take his full share of every hardship as well as every peril.
He had ever a word of commendation and encouragement for his troops, and was regarded by them as a comrade as well as a leader... He had an air of majesty which enabled him to address his soldiers in terms of cheerful familiarity, without in the slightest degree diminishing their respect and reverence for him as their monarch (p. 140).

22Malcolm’s actions in the siege of Mansfeld lead him into a warm relationship with the Count of Mansfeld’s family and in particular with Thekla, his daughter. Later in the story, disguising her as a boy, Malcolm enables her to escape captivity in Prague, but has to leave her in Pilsen while he himself infiltrates Wallenstein’s quarters as a clockmaker, a skill he had learnt whilst in Nuremberg. He learns about the conspiracy regarding Wallenstein and uses his knowledge to persuade Wallenstein to let him go to Oxenstierna to convince the latter of Wallenstein’s desire to make common cause with him. Malcolm manages to take Thekla with him, and at the end of the book he marries her and returns to England. Such romantic episodes are always marginal in Henty’s stories: the hero’s personal adventures are his priority.

23The Lion of the North covers the period from Gustavus’ landing in Pomerania to the Battle of Lützen, but goes on to include the murder of Wallenstein and the Battle of Nördlingen. The siege of Magdeburg is passed over quickly:

The ferocious Tilly had determined upon a deed which would, he believed, frighten Germany into submission: he ordered that no quarter should be given, and for five days the city was handed over to the troops. History has no record since the days of Attila of so frightful a massacre (p. 97)

24But in the section dealing with the passage of the Lech Henty produces the stock account of Tilly, complete with the description of his hat with the large red ostrich feather (pp. 181-82).

25In dealing with the murder of Wallenstein Henty emphasizes that his youthful hero, Malcolm, does not find his fellow Scot, Leslie, a ’cheerful companion’. A page later he calls him a ’treacherous officer’ (p. 339). Leslie, Gordon, Butler and Devereux are all named and their treachery against Wallenstein condemned. Henty’s judgement of Wallenstein is remarkably favourable:

Wallenstein was no bigot, his views were broad and enlightened, and he was therefore viewed with the greatest hostility by the violent Catholics around the king, by Maximilian of Bavaria, by the Spaniards, and by the Jesuits, who were all powerful at court. These had once before brought about his dismissal from the command, after he had rendered supreme services, and their intrigues against him were again at the point of success when Wallenstein determined to defy and dethrone the emperor. The coldness with which he was treated at court, the marked inattention to all his requests, the consciousness that while he was winning victories in the field his enemies were successfully plotting at court, angered the proud and haughty spirit of Wallenstein almost to madness, and it may truly be said that he was goaded into rebellion. The verdict of posterity has certainly been favourable to him, and the dastardly murder which requited a lifetime of brilliant service has been held to more than counterbalance the faults which he committed (p. 342).

26In the preface to The Lion of the North Henty indicated his hope of writing another book about the latter part of the Thirty Years War, but it was not until 1900 that he published Won by the Sword. There are many parallels between the two books, since Henty’s plots frequently recycled similar kinds of incident and his young heroes often ended up marrying the daughters of the aristocrats to whose aid they came. However, after the death of Gustavus Henty turned to the French side in the war in order to find suitably worthy leaders for his new young hero to serve and emulate. Once more we have another young Scot as hero, one Hector Campbell, who is fifteen at the outset of his adventures. His father has been killed at the siege of La Rochelle, and he becomes a lieutenant in the household of Viscount Turenne, performing tireless deeds of fortitude and ingenuity, which always seem to involve swimming across icy rivers in the dark. With each success he is promoted and eventually gains an estate and barony in Poitou, finally marrying the daughter of a widowed baroness and, because of hostility from the party of the Duke of Beaufort, departing for England. In the middle stage of his career Hector is involved with the Duke of Enghien, whose personal bravery is greatly admired, but whose impetuosity is not. Turenne is the preferred model of military conduct, disciplined, thoughtful, fair-minded, considerate of those over whom he has charge. Won by the Sword is of lesser import for those interested in the depiction of Germany in the Thirty Years War, because its focus is on France during the period of Mazarin.

27Contrasting markedly with Henty’s stories of young male adventure, Deborah Alcock’s The King’s Service is decidedly a girls’ book. It covers the same period as The Lion of the North and, as one would expect of a book published by the Religious Tract Society, treats its subject from an emphatically Evangelical viewpoint. The whole book is underpinned by the antithesis Protestant = good, pious, trustworthy; Catholic = bad, deceitful, etc. Once more we have a Scottish dimension, with an initially feckless Scottish nobleman, Charlie Graham, being persuaded to fight along with Gustavus and taking his young nephew Hugh, aged twelve, and his older niece Giovana or Jeanie along with him to Germany. Their father is presumed dead, but the latter part of the story shows him alive and manipulated by the Jesuits; his son is tricked and abducted by a Jesuit symbolically called Krausman (’crooked man’). Meanwhile, Jeanie has become companion to a dispossessed Bohemian noblewoman called Gertrud von Savelburg, whose lands have coincidentally been granted to the children’s father as a supporter of the Habsburgs. The book ends, of course, with the marriage of Gertrud and the Scottish father, who now turns away from Catholicism to Evangelical Christianity.

28Another part of the story centres on a romantic relationship between Jeanie and August von Lübeling, the son of a noble family with whom Gertrud and Jeanie gain shelter in Nuremberg. August fights in the Battle of Lützen and is the page who attempts to conceal Gustavus’ identity when the latter is killed. This is based on historical documentation, as a footnote in the book indicates. The incident is mentioned, but without the name, by H. E. Marshall (pp. 348-49). Henty also uses the incident in The Lion of the North, where he gives the page’s name, more accurately, as Leubelfing (p. 254). The Swiss writer Conrad Ferdinand Meyer takes this occurrence as his point of departure in his novella Gustav Adolfs Page, but in making the page August’s sister, who serves the Swedish king in male disguise, he contravenes the historical record. Nonetheless, he creates a work of literature that is far superior in every way to all the children’s books here under discussion and to Caroline Pichler’s romantic novel. Meyer’s novella perhaps further influences Wilhelm Noeldechen’s Baron and Squire, for there the page Leubelfinger is described as ’a remarkably handsome youth, but his features were almost too lovely and girlish for those of a soldier’ (p. 159). Returning now to The King’s Service, August von Lübeling – a further coincidence – dies later in the care of Charlie Graham. Uncle Charlie’s life is totally changed through his training as a Protestant soldier, and he is made to declare at the end of the book: ’”I have learned that godliness is the truest manliness, and the soldier of Christ the best of soldiers”’ (p. 231).

29Last among the children’s books to be considered here is Sarah M. S. Clarke’s Baron and Squire. It is a translation of Wilhelm Noeldechen’s Die Zwillingsbrüder. Eine Erzählung aus dem Zeitalter des 30jährigen Krieges für die deutsche Jugend (The Twin Brothers. A Story for German Young People from the Period of the Thirty Years War) (Bielefeld: Velhagen und Klasing, 1892). Noeldechen wrote around twenty historical books for children and some plays and verse between 1883 and 1908 and, unless Die Zwillingsbrüder was actually published earlier than the Gesamtverzeichnis des deutschen Schrifttums states, it was translated into English and published extraordinarily quickly. Sarah Clarke did a lot of translations from German as well as writing a couple of children’s books of her own on German topics.

30What is fascinating about Baron and Squire is the fact that this is a German view of the Thirty Years War, not a British adventure story set in the period of the war. Unlike the other story-books we have looked at, it does not single out a particular section of this lengthy war, but attempts to give an account of the whole through the life-stories of twin brothers who, after they reached the age at which they could join the forces of Gustavus Adolphus, soon found themselves separated and caught up on opposing sides in this long drawn out conflict. The brothers Berthold and Winfried embody the oppositions from the start, as they are the offspring of a Calvinist father and a Lutheran mother whose marriage was opposed by their respective fathers. As children they are playmates of the son of the Elector Palatine before Heidelberg is besieged by Tilly in July 1622, but they escape with their foster-mother and her English husband, who is devoted to Elizabeth, the Elector’s wife and daughter of James VI and I. Later the boys and their mother flee to Naumburg, where they are given refuge by their maternal grandfather, who nonetheless remains emotionally alienated from their mother till she dies. After the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631) the brothers become separated and Winfried, wounded, is taken into the troops of Count Pappenheim. Berthold participates in the siege of the fortress of Marienberg, across the River Main from Würzburg, and joins the company of Duke Bernard of Saxe-Weimar. In the Battle of Lützen, in which Gustavus is killed, the brothers meet briefly and accidentally on opposite sides. Berthold continues with Bernard of Saxe-Weimar, while Winfried, who is a reluctant active soldier, becomes secretary to Wallenstein. A Jew, Simeon Ben Sina, who mistakes Winfried for his brother Berthold, facilitates Winfried’s return to their childhood home at Wiesenbach, near Heidelberg, and here, after the Battle of Nördlingen (1638) the brothers meet again. Berthold continues with Bernard during the latter’s involvement with Richelieu, as France takes a more active role in the war, while Winfried is forced back into soldiery by John of Werth on the Imperialist side. After the Battle of Rheinfelden the brothers are reunited, and Berthold joins the forces of Charles Lewis, the young Elector Palatine, his childhood friend. Bernard takes the fortress of Breisach from the Imperialists, but dies not long afterwards. Berthold and Winfried regain possession of their ancestral castle of Dilsberg, not far from Heidelberg, and the war ends with the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in the cities of Münster and Osnabrück.

31Noeldechen’s book manages to combine a broad chronicle of the war with an adventure story focussed on the twin brothers. The latter’s differences of personality reflect contrasting aspects of the war, Berthold being a committed soldier on the Protestant side, while Winfried is pushed hither and thither and forced into Imperialist service. Winfried’s experience was a commonplace of the war. Soldiers changed sides not out of principle, but because circumstances such as defeat or capture dictated it. Noeldechen’s viewpoint is nonetheless essentially Protestant, and he describes events largely from the perspective of his aristocratic twin heroes. The latter enjoy a certain privilege, but the roughness and brutality of the ordinary soldiers is evident in the experience of the brothers’ foster-mother and her own elderly mother, who is suspected of witchcraft and viciously treated. The difference between Noeldechen and the British authors lies chiefly in the fact that the German writer regards himself primarily as a historian and keeps his other concerns in check. He does not present an idealized form of Protestantism, but reveals its harsh divisions and emotional consequences in the unyielding attitudes of the boys’ grandfathers. Its cruelty is shown in the torture of the suspected witch. Nor is Noeldechen out to promote a particular kind of youthful military idealism in the way that is second nature to Henty. He is not writing from a soldier’s (or would-be soldier’s) viewpoint, but has broader, more humane objectives that look for tolerance and kindliness.

32All the British fictional stories have an agenda that includes more than recounting a section of the Thirty Years War. Each looks at the war from the Protestant viewpoint; no sympathy is accorded to the Imperialist Habsburg side, and that is perfectly understandable, given the nineteenth-century Protestant culture of Britain and given the fact that James VI and I and to a lesser extent Charles I supported, however inadequately, the Protestant cause through the dynastic link with Elector Frederick of the Palatinate. De Liefde and Alcock give prominence to religious aspects of the war, and both attempt in this way to interpret the suffering and personal sacrifice involved in the war as something to be accepted for Christ’s sake. Sinnett even sounds an eirenic note in having a Catholic friar actually help the Protestant Merck family. The roles of father and son Wechter in De Liefde and of the twin brothers in Noeldechen point to a view of the war as fratricidal, as tearing families apart, and this is the case also with Alcock. Henty is more concerned with specifically military aspects of the war, though he propounds clear standards of moral conduct that go beyond purely military situations. The endings to both his novels, and indeed to De Liefde and Alcock, are optimistic in that they picture the linking of nationalities through the institution of marriage. Every British hero marries a German wife. However, this is nowhere a marriage of equals: it reflects the power situation in both political and gender terms. The German women are rescued by marriage, and the British soldiers are in a position where they can withdraw from the war, having achieved proud success and demonstrated their virility.

33Both the histories and the fictional accounts of the war place more weight on the presentation of facts than on the motives of the opposing parties or the constraints under which they operated. Of course, the histories have only a limited space for the Thirty Years War in their accounts of German history as a whole, and with the novels (apart from Noeldechen) history is a background rather than the prime purpose of the books. Even so, it is noteworthy that the British books make play with stereotypes and tend to simplify the issues. Their Protestant tenor leads to a playing down or a complete omission of the fact that Richelieu provided financial support for Gustavus. Julia Corner acknowledged this, commenting that it proved that Richelieu ’was more influenced by political than religious motives, since, in order to lessen the power of the House of Austria, he was ready to support the enemies of the Catholic church’ (p. 126). Paul mentions Richelieu’s support in the second part of the war, but makes no allusion to the Treaty of Bärwalde earlier. Pütz refers tersely to ’an alliance with the French’ (p. 53). There is no mention of French support at all in SPCK, Yonge or Baring-Gould, while Marshall refers to it more or less as an afterthought (p. 353). Gardiner, by contrast, devotes a full paragraph to the Treaty (pp. 129-30). As far as the novels go, neither De Liefde nor Alcock have anything, while Henty, in The Lion of the North, states early on: ’it did not suit the interests of France that Ferdinand should become the absolute monarch of all Germany’ (p. 23). A few pages later he explains:

In January [1631] Gustavus concluded a treaty with France, which agreed to pay him an annual subsidy of 400,000 thalers on the condition that Gustavus maintained in the field an army of 30,000 infantry and 6000 cavalry, and assured to the princes and peoples whose territory he might occupy the free exercise of their religion (p. 42).

34The suppression of information about the French support given to Gustavus is presumably due to the fact that the writers did not want to admit another dimension to Gustavus Adolphus’ ambitions, but insisted in portraying him as a purely Protestant hero. The French connexion would have sullied his purity of motive and displayed more of the political complexity that characterizes the Thirty Years War. Perhaps some of the authors supposed this might have puzzled or misled their young readers, but the SPCK book reveals a bitter anti-French stance in its remarks about the Peace of Westphalia:

... the country which profited most by the peace was the one which had had the least to do with the war – namely, France. The cunning ambassadors of that kingdom persuaded the Germans, with very little reason, to give them up the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun, together with the province of Alsace, all of which were separated from Germany by treaty, and have been kept by France to this day (p. 412).

35These comments in a book published around 1860 may be seen as capturing the mood that led to the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. But that is another story and told in another chapter.


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.


Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search