Protestant Union

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Member states of the Protestant Union (purple) in the Holy Roman Empire

The Protestant Union or Evangelical Union (German: Protestantische Union) was a coalition of Protestant German states that was formed on May 14th, 1608 by Calvinist Frederick IV, Elector Palatine in order to defend the rights, lands and person of each member. It included both Calvinist and Lutheran states. It dissolved in 1621.

The union was formed after two events. First of all, the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II and Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria reestablished Roman Catholicism in Donauwörth in 1607. Secondly, in 1608, a majority of the Imperial Diet had decided that the renewal of the Peace of Augsburg of 1555 should be conditional upon the restoration of all church land appropriated since 1552. The Protestant princes met in Auhausen, near Nördlingen and on May 14, 1608, formed a military league of the Protestant states under the leadership of Frederick IV of the Palatinate. In response, the Catholic League was formed in the following year, headed by Duke Maximilian of Bavaria.[1]

Members of the Protestant Union included the Palatinate, Neuburg, Württemberg, Baden-Durlach, Ansbach, Bayreuth, Anhalt, Zweibrücken, Oettingen, Hesse-Kassel, Brandenburg, and the free cities of Ulm, Strasbourg, Nuremberg, Rothenburg, Windsheim, Schweinfurt, Weissenburg, Nördlingen, Schwäbisch Hall, Heilbronn, Memmingen, Kempten, Landau, Worms, Speyer, Aalen and Giengen.[2]

However, the Protestant Union was weakened from the start by the non-participation of several powerful German Protestant rulers, notably the Elector of Saxony. The Union was also beset by internal strife between its Lutheran and Calvinist members.[3]

In 1619, Frederick V of the Palatinate (successor to Frederick IV) accepted the crown of Bohemia in opposition to the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, and in 1620 the Protestant Union signed the Treaty of Ulm, declining to support him.[4] In January 1621, Ferdinand II imposed an Imperial ban upon Frederick V and moved his right to elect an Emperor to Maximilian. Electoral Palatinate also lost the Upper Palatinate to Bavaria. The Protestant Union met in Heilbronn in February and formally protested the actions of Ferdinand. Ferdinand ignored this complaint and ordered the Protestant Union to disband its army. In May, under the Mainz Accord, the members of the Union complied with Ferdinand's demand and, on May 14, 1621, it was formally dissolved.[5]

Guidelines of the Protestant Union[edit]

Document establishing the Protestant Union signed 14 May, 1608, now in Bavarian State Archive (Bayerische Hauptstaatsarchiv)

Wanting to strengthen the peace given by the Peace of Augsburg, Protestants formed a Union in order to advance their well-being, land, and people. Within this union, the Protestant leaders created guidelines and agreements to live by as follows:

  1. Each member shall keep in good faith with the order and their heirs, land and people, and no one shall enter into any other alliance.
  2. Each member of the union should keep a secret correspondence effectively to inform each other of all dangerous and offensive affairs which may threaten each other's heirs, land and people, and to this purpose each will keep in good contact with one another.
  3. Whenever important matters arise that concern the well-being of the union, the members of the union will help each other with faithful advice in order to uphold each and every one as much as possible.
  4. The wish of the union in matters concerning the liberties and high jurisdictions of the German Electors and Estates should be presented and pressed at subsequent Imperial and Imperial Circle assemblies, and not merely left to secret correspondence with each other.
  5. The union shall not affect our disagreement on several points of religion, but that notwithstanding these, we have agreed to support each other. No member is to allow an attack on any other in books or through the pulpit, nor give cause for any breach of the peace, while at the same time leaving untouched the theologian's rights of disputation to affirm the word of God.
  6. If one of the members of the union is attacked, the remaining members of the union shall immediately come to his aid with all the resources of the union.[6]


  • 1555: The Peace of Augsburg was signed by Charles V and Lutheran princes. This treaty allowed Roman Catholic and Lutheran princes the right to decide which freedom their respective state would be under, but gave no such protection to Calvinist princes.
  • 1608: Protestant Princes formed the alliance known as Protestant Union.
  • 1609: The Catholic League was created after the formation of the Protestant Union.
  • 1610: The Union intervened in the War of the Jülich Succession.[7]
  • 1618: The Thirty Years War began with the outbreak of the Bohemian Revolt.
  • 1619: Frederick V, Elector Palatine, accepted the crown of Bohemia.
  • 1620: The Union declared its neutrality in the conflict between Frederick and the Catholic League in the Treaty of Ulm.
  • 1621: Dissolution of the Union.


  1. ^ Anderson 1999, pp. 14–15; Wilson 2010, p. 12.
  2. ^ Ward 1905, p. 725; Schönstädt 1978, p. 305.
  3. ^ Anderson 1999, pp. 135, 215.
  4. ^ Wedgwood 1938, pp. 98-99, 110-11.
  5. ^ Wedgwood 1938, pp. 133-34.
  6. ^ Hofmann n.d.
  7. ^ Anderson 1999, p. 82.


Further reading[edit]

  • Rickard, J. (17 November 2000), Thirty Years' War (1618–48),
  • Helfferich, Tryntje. The Thirty Years' War: A Documentary History. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2009. Print.
  • Bohemian Protestants and the Calvinist Churches.
  • Odložilík, Otakar. Church History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (Dec., 1939), pp. 342–355. Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Society of Church History. Article Stable URL: