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Rebels and Ottomans – The Habsburg Monarchy Makes Peace (1606)

War and peace between the Ottoman sultans and the Holy Roman emperors was a major strand of Imperial history from the Ottomans’ first invasion of Hungary in 1526 to their decisive defeat at Imperial hands in Vienna in 1683. In contested Hungary, there were alternating periods of serious campaigning (1526-47, 1593-1606, 1663-83) and long, negotiated truces (1547-93, 1606-63). In its early phase, this contest played a significant role in the Protestant Reformation, for it provided the Protestant princes with a tactic that became a policy: no taxes without concessions on religion. During the next decades, some saw the Ottoman threat as a more or less welcome Habsburg problem, others as a threat to the Empire. Financial and symbolic goods played an important role in this rhythm. For example, the peace of 1547, which was renewed in 1562 and 1590, contained passages in which the Holy Roman emperor acknowledged the Ottoman overlordship of Hungary and agreed to pay the sultans 30,000 Venetian ducats per year in tribute.

Between major campaigns, the respective positions were held by two heavily fortified systems of defense. On the Habsburg side, the defensive line was called “the military frontier” and was manned by Croats, Vlachs, and Serbs who were both free farmers and resident warriors. Trading across the frontier was a reality, but so were raids in strength, which sometimes presaged major outbreaks of all-out war. One such incident occurred in 1592, when Emperor Rudolph II sent a large force to the front and helped spark the so-called Long War. The war broke out at a favorable time, at the height of the Imperial Diet’s willingness – a fruit of the Imperial coexistence – to support the Imperial war effort in Hungary far more generously than the estates had done in the past. The Imperial forces regained Esztergom/Gran, the seat of the Catholic primate, but lost Pest and were beaten badly by the Ottomans. As in the Thirty Years War, the victories scored by both sides in the Long War led to little permanent advantage, and by 1606 both sides were ready for peace. Exhausted by the war, Rudolph’s family united against him and forced him to entrust his younger brother, Archduke Matthias (d. 1619), with peace negotiations. In 1606, Matthias signed the Peace of Vienna (A) with Prince István Bocskay (1557-1606) of Transylvania. His hand completely forced, Rudolph then concluded peace with István’s protector, Sultan Ahmed I (r. 1603-1617) on November 11, 1606 (B). The latter act guaranteed the territorial status quo; the Holy Roman emperor was freed from the duty to pay tribute after submitting a single payment of 200,000 florins to the sultan; for the first time, the sultan recognized the emperor as a sovereign of the same rank; and the Hungarian villagers and nobles gained, at least on paper, guarantees of self-taxation and tax privileges.

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A) The Peace of Vienna with the Prince of Transylvania (June 23, 1606)

We, Matthias, by the grace of God Archduke of Austria, remind everyone by means of this treaty to what He is obliged. [ . . . ] We do this, because the Holy Imperial and Royal Majesty, Our lord and Our most honored brother, has graciously consented to Our mediation and granted Us full powers to pacify the disorders and rebellions that have erupted in the famous kingdom of Hungary. [ . . . ] Because, however, there continued to be some remaining difficulties, We agreed that those problems remaining from the earlier negotiations should be taken up once more. They should be negotiated and settled in a treaty conducive to the common good of the Christian community and for the sake of peace, also to preserve this kingdom. This is done so that the kingdom will not be consumed by internal strife, and that such a great spilling of Christian blood may be avoided. Thereby the neighboring kingdoms and provinces, too, will finally be liberated from the constant attacks, and they, together with the kingdom of Hungary, can breathe freely once again.

1. Concerning the state of religion, [ . . . ] it is stipulated [that the emperor] shall nowhere and in no way disturb, nor permit to be disturbed, the following in their religion and confession: all individual states and estates within the kingdom of Hungary, including the magnates and nobles, free cities and royal market communities, and the Hungarian troops in the kingdom's border zones. All of these states and estates are permitted free practice and pursuit of their religion, yet without prejudice to the Roman Catholic religion, so that the clergy and the churches and chapels of the Roman Catholics shall remain undisturbed and free, and whatever was taken by either side during the time of troubles shall be restored to them.

2. The conclusion of the previous treaty is confirmed, namely, that peace and reconciliation shall be made simultaneously with the Hungarians and with the Ottomans.

3. The royal governor (1) shall, as custom prescribes, be elected at the next sitting of parliament. His Imperial and Royal Majesty cannot reside in Hungary or in a neighboring land, because of his various obligations to Christendom, and it should not be necessary for the kingdom's inhabitants to travel to the more distant places where His Majesty does reside, and, where, furthermore, His Majesty cannot always have Hungarian councilors by his side. It is therefore decreed and established, that His Majesty [ . . . ] shall have full power and authority in the kingdom's affairs via the Governor and the Hungarian councilors, just as if His Imperial and Royal Majesty were present in person. This authority covers the holding of audiences, rights of nomination, judgment, legislation, negotiation, and command in all things which may be regarded as necessary to the preservation of the kingdom of Hungary.

4. [When peace returns the royal crown shall be returned to Bratislava/ Pressburg.]

5. [The treasurer, who administers the royal incomes, must be Hungarian and a layman.]

6. Lest the Holy Imperial and Royal Majesty's rights be in any way diminished, it remains in his authority and power to select whatever bishops He wants. Yet none shall be allowed in His council unless they possess episcopal sees or other episcopal rights. His Imperial and Royal Majesty will assure in a friendly manner that in the future, as in the past, among those who are worthy, the ones who descend from eminent families shall be preferred to others.

[ . . . ]

(1) In German called “the Palatin” – trans.

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