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From Compromise to Rebellion: Religion and Political Power of the Nobility in the First Century of the Habsburgs' Reign in Bohemia And Moravia

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

In Bohemia and Moravia, a religious dualism prevailed following the Hussite revolution and the Compactata of 1436. Although the Compactata were abolished by the pope in 1462, the treaty of Kuttenberg guaranteed a right to individual choice in religion, something the nobility viewed as a crucial privilege. But such choice became a victim of a growing re-Catholicization in the sixteenth century. Although Catholic nobles were a minority in Bohemia and Moravia, they were better organized and supported the Habsburgs and the Council of Trent. Their efforts succeeded in contriving a situation in which non-Catholic nobles were tolerated, but excluded from serving in high state offices. Non-Catholic nobles, starting in the 1570s, attempted to organize themselves, and drew up the Confessio Bohemica, which would have given them control over education, church administration, church courts, and censorship. Although the Confessio never achieved legal status, Calvinist noblemen used the dynastic crises of the Habsburgs during the years 1608-11 to further their agenda. A charter, ratified in 1609, gave them control over the lower consistory courts, Charles University, and a body of Defensors who oversaw the preservation of religious liberties. They thereby established a "state within a state," and unavoidably set themselves up for later conflict with the Habsburgs. After their defeat at the battle of the White Mountain, a revised constitution (1627 in Bohemia, 1628 in Moravia) ended religious toleration by outlawing non-Catholic worship, and paving the way to a later absolutism.


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