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Peace Treaties of Westphalia (October 14/24, 1648)*

In 1643, negotiations began on a general peace to end the Thirty Years War. The Peace of Westphalia, signed five years later, was actually two treaties, each negotiated in a different seat of an Imperial prince-bishop in the land of Westphalia. On October 14/24, 1648, the treaty between Emperor Ferdinand III and Queen Christina of Sweden and their respective allies was signed at Osnabrück (see part A, below); on the same day, the treaty between Ferdinand III and King Louis XIV of France and their respective allies was signed at Münster (see part B). For the Holy Roman Empire, the Peace meant a settlement to the political and territorial disputes that had begun with the German Reformation and an end to the conflicts sparked by the Bohemian conflict of 1618 and the Swedish invasion of June 1631.

The excerpt from the Treaty of Osnabrück confirmed: the Empire’s character as aristocratic-corporate state governed by the emperor and the Imperial estates, which enjoyed a new but limited right to relations with foreign powers (Art. VIII, §2); the international expansion of the Imperial estates with the admission of Sweden (Art. X, §9), whose monarch acquired territorial reparations in the form of half of Pomerania and other lands (Art. X); Brandenburg’s acquisition of the prince-archbishopric of Magdeburg and the other half of Pomerania (Art. XI-XIV); Bavaria’s retention of the Upper Palatinate and the electoral title from the Palatine line of the Wittelsbachs (Art. IV, §§3, 5). With regard to confessional relations, the Peace restored and improved the Religious Peace of 1555; it created confessional parity in Imperial collegial institutions and replaced majority rule in the Diet with two confessional caucuses of estates; it recognized the ownership of confessional lands and incomes according to the benchmark of January 1, 1624 (Art. V, §2); it canceled the rulers’ right to order subjects to choose between religious conformity and emigration (Art. V, §34). In addition to Catholicism and Lutheranism, the Peace extended religious toleration to a third confession, the Reformed faith (Art. II), and it recognized the formal dissociation of the Swiss Confederation with the Imperial corporate order (Art. VI). These provisions, even when enforced, by no means lifted the burdens the war had placed on the populations of the German lands. Following the provisions from the Treaty of Osnabrück is a much briefer excerpt from the Franco-Imperial Treaty of Münster, whose special provisions largely dealt with territorial concessions and the French king’s relationship to the Empire. The Peace would govern the Empire’s political relations for more than 150 years.

* Please note: Both the Julian calendar (Old Style) and the Gregorian calendar (New Style) were used in Europe between 1582 and 1752. Protestants retained the Julian calendar while Catholics used the Gregorian one. At the time, the two calendars differed by ten days. October 14, 1648, is the date of the signing of the Peace Treaties of Westphalia according to the Julian calendar; October 24, 1648 is the date according to the Gregorian calendar.

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(A) Peace Treaty of Osnabrück between Emperor Ferdinand III and Queen Christina of Sweden and their respective allies, Osnabrück (October 14/24, 1648)

In the Name of the most Holy and Indivisible Trinity. Amen.

Let it be known to each and every one whom it concerns or whom it could in any manner concern: that after the differences and troubles which began several years ago in the Roman Empire had increased to such a degree that not only all Germany, but likewise several neighboring kingdoms, especially Sweden and France, were thus involved, and from which arose a long and cruel war [ . . . ], at last, through God’s grace, it happened that both sides turned their thoughts towards a universal peace [ . . . ] and to this end appointed by common consent the 11th day of July (N.S.) (1) or the 1st day of July (O.S.) 1643 as the starting date for an assembly or congress of plenipotentiaries at Osnabrück and at Münster in Westphalia. Thus the ambassadors and plenipotentiaries of both sides appeared at the established time and place [ . . . ]. Having prayed for God’s help and duly exchanged their credentials (exact copies of which are appended to this instrument), they mutually, in the presence of and with the consent and approval of the electors, princes, and estates of the Holy Roman Empire, also for the glory of God and the security of Christendom, agreed to the following articles of peace and friendship.

(1) The document lists the dates in both the Julian and the Gregorian calendars.

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