Treaty of Bärwalde

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Treaty of Bärwalde
Gustav II of Sweden.jpg
Signed23 January 1631
LocationBärwalde, now Mieszkowice, Poland
Kingdom of France Hercule de Charnacé
Sweden Gustav Horn
Sweden Johan Banér
Parties France

The Treaty of Bärwalde (French: Traité de Barwalde; Swedish: Fördraget i Bärwalde; German: Vertrag von Bärwalde), signed on 23 January 1631, was an agreement by France to provide Sweden financial support, following its intervention in the Thirty Years' War.[1]

Under its terms, Gustavus Adolphus agreed to maintain an army of 36,000 troops, in return for France paying him 400,000 Reichsthalers a year. The treaty was due to last a minimum of five years.[2]


The first part of the Thirty Years' War was a conflict within the Holy Roman Empire, between Emperor Ferdinand and Protestant rebels in Bohemia. After 1620, it expanded into the Palatinate, but many Protestants remained neutral, viewing it as an inheritance dispute.

This changed in 1629, when the Edict of Restitution required that all properties transferred since 1552 be restored to their original owners. In nearly every case, this meant from Protestant rulers to the Catholic Church, effectively undoing the 1555 Peace of Augsburg. Rather than paying wages, Ferdinand also allowed Imperial armies to plunder the territories they passed through, which included those of his nominal allies.[3]

The combination created opportunities for foreign intervention. For Sweden, this began in June 1628, when they helped defend Stralsund against an Imperial army under Wallenstein. Christian IV of Denmark withdrew after the 1629 Treaty of Lübeck, and Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden decided on a full scale invasion. One motive was a desire to support fellow Protestants, but also ensure control of the lucrative Baltic trade.[4]

Europe in 1648; Pomerania and Brandenburg in blue, right

In June 1630, nearly 18,000 Swedish troops landed in the Duchy of Pomerania, occupied by Wallenstein since 1627. Gustavus spent the next few months building up his forces and signed an alliance with Bogislaw XIV, Duke of Pomerania. Although he expected support from the Lutheran rulers of Saxony and Brandenburg-Prussia, by the end of 1630, his only confirmed ally was Magdeburg, then besieged by the Catholic League.[5]

Despite concerns over the Edict and with their territories occupied by Imperial soldiers, Swedish intervention presented risks for potential allies. Brandenburg had its own ambitions in Pomerania, while experience with the Danes from 1625 to 1629 showed inviting external powers into the Empire was easier than getting them to leave. For German peasants, the presence of the Swedes simply replaced one set of plunderers with another. Gustavus had insufficient financial resources for so large an army, and his unpaid troops became increasingly mutinous and ill-disciplined.[6]

In January 1631, a conference of North German Protestant states was held in the Saxon capital of Leipzig, to discuss possible alternatives. In response, Gustavus advanced through Brandenburg and reached Bärwalde, on the Oder river, where he set up camp. This secured his rear before moving onto Magdeburg, while making a clear point to the meeting in Leipzig.[7]


Cardinal Richelieu, French chief minister 1624 to 1642

In the 16th and 17th centuries, Europe was dominated by the rivalry between France and the Habsburgs, rulers of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. During the 1620s, France was divided by renewed religious wars and Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister from 1624 to 1642, avoided open conflict with the Habsburgs. Instead, he financed their opponents, including the Dutch, the Ottomans, and Danish intervention in the Thirty Years War.[4]

From 1628 to 1630, France was also engaged in a proxy war with Spain over Mantua, in Northern Italy. Hoping to use Sweden to expel Spanish forces from Germany, in 1629 Richelieu appointed Hercule de Charnacé as French envoy in the Baltic region, responsible for negotiating a deal with Gustavus. Talks progressed slowly; de Charnacé quickly concluded the Swedish monarch was too powerful a character to be easily controlled and urged caution. One major issue was the insistence by Gustavus that Frederick V be restored as ruler of the Palatinate, a territory occupied by Maximilian of Bavaria, another French ally.[8]

The October 1630 Treaty of Ratisbonne concluded the Mantuan War in France's favour; in return, French negotiators agreed to end any alliances with members of the Holy Roman Empire, which had not been approved by Ferdinand.[9] Compliance would undermine French foreign policy and Louis XIII refused to ratify the deal. One consequence was an internal power struggle with the Queen mother, Marie de Medici, who demanded Richelieu be dismissed, an event known as the Day of the Dupes.[10]

Although Richelieu triumphed over his opponents, in the short term, Swedish support became even more important and de Charnacé was instructed to agree a treaty as soon as possible. It was finalised after discussions with the Swedish diplomats, Gustav Horn and Johan Banér, and signed at Bärwalde on 23 January 1631.[11]


The stated purpose of the agreement was securing the Baltics, and ensuring freedom of trade, including French trading privileges in the Øresund strait. Sweden agreed to maintain an army of 36,000 in Germany, of which 6,000 were cavalry; to support this force, France agreed to pay 400,000 Reichstaler or one million livres per year, plus an additional 120,000 Reichstalers for 1630. These subsidies were less than 2% of the total French state budget, but over 25% of the Swedish.[a] [13]

Gustavus promised to comply with Imperial laws on religion, allow freedom of worship for Catholics and respect the neutrality of Bavaria and the lands of the Catholic League. Both parties agreed not to seek a separate peace and the period of the treaty was set at five years.[14]


Gustav Horn, Swedish diplomat and soldier who signed the treaty

The haste with which the treaty was agreed concealed serious weaknesses, which soon became apparent. In May 1631, an army of the Catholic League under the Bavarian Count Tilly sacked the Protestant town of Magdeburg. Over 20,000 were alleged to have died in the most serious atrocity of the entire war, increasing the bitterness of the conflict and leading to intervention by other Protestant states. Gustavus embarked on a series of stunning military victories, and Protestant retribution for Magdeburg became a considerable embarrassment for Richelieu, who was a cardinal of the Catholic Church.[11]

Under the May 1631 Franco-Bavarian Treaty of Fontainebleau, Richelieu agreed to provide Maximilian military support if attacked by any other party. In theory, it did not conflict with the terms of Bärwalde, since Gustavus undertook to respect Bavarian and Catholic League neutrality. In practice, his obligation applied only so long as their compliance and as Richelieu pointed out to Maximilian, even Tilly's presence at Magdeburg violated that neutrality.[11]

The poorly worded Bärwalde treaty gave Gustavus a great deal of freedom, while Magdeburg brought him support from the Dutch and England among others. This made him increasingly independent of French control; his upward trajectory ended only with his death at Lützen in November 1632, although Swedish intervention continued.[15]


  1. ^ The Venetian Republic agreed to reimburse France one third of this subsidy, as Richelieu argued it weakened their opponents in Northern Italy.[12]


  1. ^ Parker, Adams 1997, p. 121.
  2. ^ Lutz, Kohler 2002, p. 102.
  3. ^ Knox 2017, p. 182.
  4. ^ a b Wedgwood 1938, pp. 385-386.
  5. ^ Parker, Adams 1997, p. 120.
  6. ^ O'Connell 1968, pp. 253-254.
  7. ^ Dodge 1895, pp. 192-194.
  8. ^ O'Connell 1968, p. 252.
  9. ^ Bireley 2014, p. 216.
  10. ^ O'Connell 1968, p. 236.
  11. ^ a b c O'Connell 1968, p. 255.
  12. ^ O'Connell 1968, p. 254.
  13. ^ Porshnev, Dukes 1995, p. 38.
  14. ^ O'Connell 1968, p. 256.
  15. ^ Brzezinski 2001, p. 85.


  • Bireley, Robert (2014). Ferdinand II, Counter-Reformation Emperor, 1578-1637. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1107067158.
  • Brzezinski, Richard (2001). Lützen 1632; climax of the 30 Years War. Osprey. ISBN 9781855325524.
  • Dodge, Theodore Ayrault (1895). Gustavus Adolphus: A History of the Art of War From Its Revival After the Middle Ages to the End of the Spanish Succession War (2018 ed.). Forgotten Books. ISBN 978-0331269321.
  • Knox, Bill (author), Tucker, Spencer (editor) (2017). Enduring Controversies in Military History Volume I: Critical Analyses and Context. Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-1440841194.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Lutz, Heinrich; Kohler, Alfred (2002). Reformation und Gegenreformation; Volume 10 of Oldenbourg Grundriss der Geschichte (in German). Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag. ISBN 3-486-49585-2.
  • O'Connell, Daniel Patrick (1968). Richelieu. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  • Parker, Geoffrey; Adams, Simon (1997). The Thirty Years' War. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-12883-8.
  • Porshnev, Boris Fedorovich; Dukes, Paul (1995). Muscovy and Sweden in the Thirty Years' War, 1630-1635. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052145139-6.

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