Kipper und Wipperzeit
Part I of Volume II, Issue I
It must all go to wrack and ruin, it cannot last for long, for it is now the devil’s work, and it will spawn a noble brood:
Clippers and whippers they are called, and thought to show great intelligence. Although it’s but the devil’s trick, they think it’s a masterpiece, whereby, beneath the guise of right, they rob the poor of all they possess.
These godless folks have as their aim, in daytime and as well as night, to ruin the poor, and do not spare, whatever they’ve set in their sight...
~ Translated from an early 17th century German broadsheet
Editor’s Note: This is Part I of Volume II, Issue I of The Macro Value Monitor. Part II, The Arrival of Inflation Heralds the Dawn of a Great Partitioning, will be published next week here. A full PDF of this issue is available here.
Early in the morning on Tuesday, May 23, in the year 1618, four Catholic lords entered the Bohemian Chancellory in Hradčany Castle, just west of the Vltava River in Prague. They proceeded directly to the main meeting hall, where they began preparing for the imminent arrival of the Protestant members of the recently dissolved Bohemian Assembly.
The Protestant lords were descending on Hradčany Castle that morning to learn whether the Catholic lords had a hand in persuading the new King of Bohemia, Ferdinand of Styria, to order the cessation of construction of Protestant churches on royal land. Although Habsburg emperors had been increasing Protestant rights and freedoms throughout the Holy Roman Empire, including the right to build Protestant churches on royal land, Ferdinand was a proponent of the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Upon his ascension to Bohemia’s throne in 1617, construction of Protestant churches on royal land in Bohemia had been halted. When the Protestant members of the Bohemian Assembly protested this infringement on their new rights, the new king responded by dissolving the Assembly. Incensed, the lords of Bohemia’s three main Protestant estates were demanding answers – and they arrived at the Chancellory meeting hall promptly at 9 a.m. to get them.
As the meeting commenced, Protestant Lord Paul Rziczan addressed the gathered members and described the contents of a letter they had received from the king, which had condemned the Protestant members of the Assembly, before directing his inquiry to the four Catholic lords present in the meeting hall:
His Imperial Majesty had sent to their graces the lord regents a sharp letter that was, by our request, issued to us as a copy after the original had been read aloud, and in which His Majesty declared all of our lives and honour already forfeit, thereby greatly frightening all three Protestant estates. As they also absolutely intended to proceed with the execution against us, we came to a unanimous agreement among ourselves that, regardless of any loss of life and limb, honour and property, we would stand firm, with all for one and one for all ... nor would we be subservient, but rather we would loyally help and protect each other to the utmost, against all difficulties. Because, however, it is clear that such a letter came about through the advice of some of our religious enemies, we wish to know, and hereby ask the lord regents present, if all or some of them knew of the letter, recommended it, and approved of it.
Upon hearing this accusation of conspiracy against the Protestant lords, the Catholic lords requested leave to seek the counsel of their leader, who was not present in the Chancellory that morning, before giving the full Assembly their response. But the Protestant lords refused to allow them out of their sights – they demanded an immediate answer.
Two of the Catholic lords, Adam II von Sternberg and Matthew Leopold Popel Lobkowitz, were found innocent in the ensuing interrogation, after being vouched for by their fellow Protestant assemblymen. Their piety and devotion made such a conspiracy with the king seem beyond their capability. They were removed from the meeting hall, with Adam II von Sternberg vehemently declaring as he left that they had never advised anything impinging on established Protestant rights.
The remaining two Catholic lords – Count Vilem Slavata of Chlum, and Count Jaroslav Bořita of Martinice – were known Catholic hardliners and supporters of the new king. Under further questioning they eventually admitted their role in the king’s letter condemning the Protestant lords, and told the gathered Assembly they would gladly accept being arrested and imprisoned for such a worthy Catholic cause.
The Protestant lords had other ideas. One of them, Count von Thurn, turned to Slavata and Bořita and said:
"You are enemies of us and of our religion, have desired to deprive us of our [rights], have horribly plagued your Protestant subjects ... and have tried to force them to adopt your religion against their wills or have had them expelled for this reason." Then, addressing the entire Assembly, he declared: "Were we to keep these men alive, then we would lose [our rights] and our religion ... for there can be no justice to be gained from or by them.”
The incited Protestant lords then rose up and proceeded to throw Slavata, Bořita and their attending scribe out of the top floor windows of the castle tower, where they plummeted seventy feet to the ground below.
Miraculously, they survived.
According to Catholic legend, they were caught in mid-air by angels, or possibly by the Virgin Mary herself, and then settled gently upon the ground. According to the Protestant pamphlets which circulated throughout Bohemia shortly afterward, they survived by landing on a soft mound of dung at the base of the tower; which may have been more of a metaphorical retort than a claim of literal fact.
Either by angels or by dung, real or otherwise, the two Catholic lords and their faithful scribe fled Prague alive, and as news of the defenestration spread, Catholic and Protestant realms throughout the Holy Roman Empire began preparing for war.
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