their own political advantage. Shortly after his assumption of rule in late 1596 as archduke in Inner Austria, Ferdinand embarked on a rigorous, often harsh recatholicization ofthe territory, despite warnings from councillors that such a campaign was politically unwise. Encouraged by Jesuits, Ferdinand felt himself called by God to restore Catholicism in his lands and was then confirmed in this sense of mission by his unanticipated success in Inner Austria. Soon after the dust settled following the Bohemian rebellion of 1618 and he was elected emperor in 1619, he initiated Counter-Reformation measures in the Austrian and Bohemian lands that would lead to the effective restoration of Catholicism, but not until the end of the century. Catholicism came to constitute one of the three pillars of the multi-ethnic Habsburg monarchy, along with the dynasty and the aristocracy.

Drawn increasingly into the conflict in Germany that became the Thirty Years' War, his forces and those of his ally Maximilian controlled much of north and central Germany by late 1627. Urged on by his Jesuit confessor, William Lamormaini, and supported by the Catholic electors, he promulgated in 1629 the fateful Edict of Restitution. It reclaimed for the Catholic Church the extensive church lands that had been seized, illegally according to the Catholics, by Protestants since the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. This extremist measure revealed the religious nature of the war for Ferdinand and Maximilian, alienated Protestant states hitherto loyal to Ferdinand, especially Saxony and Brandenburg, and helped provoke the Swedish invasion of 1630. Gustav Adolf s decisive victory over the Catholic forces at Breitenfeld in September 1631 reversed the whole course of the war. After the military balance had been re-established by the battle of Nordlingen in 1634, Ferdinand retreated from his militant programme, compromised on the Edict of Restitution, and concluded with Saxony in 1635 the Peace of Prague, to which most German states subsequently adhered. This agreement prepared the way for the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 which finally put an end to the religious wars on the Continent. After their disruption in many areas of Europe by the long war, the processes of reform and confessionalization would continue at least until early into the eighteenth century.

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