Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moments in Time #1: Gustavus and Tilly

The year was 1632, the critical turning point of the brutal Thirty Years' War. The year prior, the Kingdom of Sweden under its magnificent monarch and general, Gustavus Adolphus, soundly thrashed the Imperial/Catholic forces under Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly at the decisive Battle of Breitenfeld. This was a stunning victory. Up to that point, the Protestant cause seemed hopeless, and the Catholic armies appeared unstoppable. He'd (along with his co-commander, Albrecht von Wallenstein) led them to victory after victory, forcing Frederick V off the thrones of Bohemia and the Palatinate, and then moving on to humiliate Christian IV of Denmark, helping to force him out of the war. Gustavus Adolphus was the first to bring this successful general to heel.

The two commanders met again at the Battle of Rain. Gustavus Adolphus was again victorious. Tilly himself was severely wounded by a cannonball during the battle, and he would die some days later. Gustavus, after hearing of Tilly's wounds, sent his own personal physician to tend to the Count. When he learned of this, Tilly replied:

Your king is truly a noble knight.

Gustavus was magnanimous in victory, and Tilly, in his final days acknowledged and praised Gustavus for his act of kindness- he was gracious in defeat. Despite the fact that these two men were bitter enemies fighting in a brutal, hate-filled war that would kill fully one-quarter of Germany's population, they still engaged in this act of decency and respect, allowing a fleeting moment of our species' higher impulses to shine through at a time where they were far too rare. I hope that we will be able to emulate their example in our own times where such magnanimity and graciousness are depressingly uncommon and seemingly discouraged.

Gustavus met his own death only a few months later.

Left: Gustavus Adolphus, right: Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly
Gustavus Adolphus Count of Tilly chivalry Thirty Years War

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