Von Wallenstein (in Czech, Valdštejn) was the kind of person who would not endear himself to many Czechs during the Thirty Years’ War. Although a Protestant, he sided with the Catholics – and with Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II – and put his considerable military acumen to work in battling for the Catholic Hapsburg monarchy.
Wallenstein was born on September 24, 1583, in Heřmanice, now in the Hradec Králové district of the Czech Republic. He was raised speaking two languages, German and Czech, though he was more fluent in Czech when he was a child. When Albrecht was ten years old, his mother died; two years later, his father died. He was then sent to live with his uncle Jindřich, who sent him to study first at a school run by the Unity of the Brethren (to which he, and then Albrecht, belonged) at Košumberk Castle. Later, at the age of fourteen, Albrecht was sent to the Protestant Latin school in what is now the city of Złotoryja in southwest Poland. It was here that his German skills improved, until he was as fluent in German as in Czech.
At the ripe old age of sixteen, Albrecht changed schools once more. It was 1599, and he was a student at the University of Altdorf, near Nuremberg. His love of the high life – specifically, getting involved in fights – led to him being jailed for a time.
With the new century, 1600, came another change of scenery. Albrecht studied at the universities of Padua and Bologna, adding more languages to his repertoire. He learned Italian and Latin, and was conversant in French and Spanish.
Still in his teens, Albrecht joined the Emperor’s army. At this time, it should be noted, the Holy Roman Emperor was Rudolf II, who was noted for his tolerance of other religious faiths. After seeing combat against the Turks, Albrecht decided to go back to school, attending the University of Olomouc. He spent enough time with the Jesuits there to convert to Catholicism – which made for uneasy family dynamics, since his sister Kateřina was married to Karel the Older of Zierotin, who was the head of the Moravian Protestants.
Rather late in life, considering the time in which he lived, Albrecht married in 1609. It was a very advantageous match for Albrecht; his bride was a rich widow, Lucretia of Víckov, who, thanks to her husband, owned the towns of Rymice, Lukov, Vsetín, and Všetuly/Holešov. Furthermore, he did not have to live with her for long; she died in 1614, and he inherited everything. In all fairness, he did give money to a monastery on behalf of his late wife, and had her remains moved to a grave there.
In 1623, almost a decade after his first wife’s death, Albrecht remarried. His second wife was named Isabella Katherina, and they had two children together, a son and a daughter. Their son died in childhood; their daughter survived. Again, it was an advantageous match for Albrecht; Isabella was the daughter of a very wealthy man, Count Harrach.
However, Albrecht’s country was already embroiled in the Thirty Years’ War, which started in 1618. Soon, Albrecht would be called upon to fight for the new Emperor, Ferdinand II, against his own countrymen.
To be continued…