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A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever – The Miseroni Lapidaries - Part 4

Following the call of the Emperor

7. The Miseroni Family in Prague

The records from the Hofstaatsverzeichnis of 1612, the list of the members of the Privy Chamber of Rudolf II indicates that Ottavio has entered Imperial Service in Prague as Edelsteinschnaider or gem cutter on the 22.1.1589 (some secondary sources say 1588) with a monthly salary of 15 Taler whereas Giovanni Ambrogio was paid from 1.1.98 a salary of 10 Taler and Alessandro 12 Taler from 1.12.1605. Aurelio is also referred to be present in Prague but not directly paid by the Imperial Household.

Next to the three Miseroni brothers, the 1612 Hofstaatsverzeichnis mentions as gem cutter at the Court of Rudolf II, also a Hannes Schwaiger (from 1.12.1602 with a monthly salary of 10 Taler), Caspar Lehman (from 1.6.1603 with a salary of 30 Taler) and Giovanni Castrucci (from 1.4.1610 with a salary of 20 Taler). Giovanni Castrucci is one the famous comesso masters and his presence in Prague is already mentioned in Court documents from 1605. His father Cosimo was also active for Rudolf II. It can be recalled that Anselmus de Boodt, mentioned in the same list, is paid 40 Taler a month as physician.


The Braun and Hogenberg 1572 view of Prague from the southwest with the Hradschin and Mala Strana (Lesser Town) to the left and Staré Mesto (Old Town) and Nové Mesto (New Town) to the right with the Moldova River separating them


Aerial view of Prague today with key sites of our story

Ottavio evidently decided to stay in Prague and married (or had to marry) Laura the year after his arrival. Laura was the daughter of the Imperial beret maker and hat feather decorator, Ferrante Castello. They had their first child Dionysia in the same year.

In the tradition of the times, Ottavio had a large family with four daughters (Dionysia, Octavia, Polyxena Lucretia, and Ludmilla) and five sons (Aurelio, Hieronymo, Dionysio, Frantisek, and Karel Jan Ambroz). The first child was born in 1590 and the last one, Ludmilla in 1620. Of all these, only Dionysio, born in 1607 had inherited the talents of a gem cutter and followed his ancestor’s tradition. The other brothers became civil servants and administrators.

Many of the foreign artists in Prague had their homes and workshops in the Menší město pražské or Mala Strana or Lesser (small) Town section of Prague nestled at the foot of the Palace, the Hradschin. Also the Miseroni’s settled there. The Italians were a large fraction of these foreigners and had founded in 1573 their own caritative association, the Welsche (Italian) Gemeinde. They had their own chapels and church service in Italian. The association bought in 1602 a house from a Domenico Bossi in the Mala Strana and transformed it in 1602 into a hospital Pro deo et paupebrae , for God and the poor, so to care for the sick elderly, pregnant women and orphans. The chapels of the hospital were dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Patron Saint of Milan, S.Carlo Borromeo.


The view from the Hradschin Castle toward the Mala Strana and the Church of St. Thomas, the first church of the Italians before they build in 1600 their own Chapel, the Welsche Kapelle in the Staré Město or Old Town of Prague and the Welsche Spital in the Mala Strana. It is quite possible that Ottavio married Laura in this church

 Ottavio Miseroni started to show very quickly his extraordinary talents in the design and manufacture of precious stone carvings. In this he was certainly helped by the training he had received by his father and uncle in Milan and the artistically stimulating atmosphere which Rudolf II had created, by assembling outstanding artists of all types at his Court in Prague and taking a personal interest in their work.

The work on lapidary objects was also facilitated in Prague by the richness of Bohemia in precious and semiprecious stones for which search Rudolf II employed the appropriate experts and had Anselmus de Boodt to prepare the ultimate dictionary. Next to the famous Bohemian red garnets also jasper was well known and many Bohemian stones were shipped to Florence for the making of the Medici Chapel but alas we do not have yet an indication from where the jade came which Ottavio transformed then so skilfully in stemmed cups. The value of “stones” from Bohemia, be it because of their precious metal content or their intrinsic beauty, was aptly described at these times by: ….Bohemia is a land where when the herdsmen throws a stone to a cow, the stone he picks up has more value than the cow!

The Miseroni facilities for making these works of art were located in the Bubeneč village just outside the walls of Prague or about 2 Km north from the Mala Strana via the Sand Gate. At this location the Kaisermühle or imperial paper mill was located and it was customary in these times that the precious paper was sold by goldsmiths and used by engravers so that trades close to Miseroni’s work were at hand. At this site, with plenty of running water to drive wheels, the semiprecious rough stones were stored and cut. Other operations, such as large piece carving and polishing, stone sawing for comesso work, enamel mixing, and smelting were carried out because the workshop of Miseroni in Mala Strana was unsuited.

The final carving and engraving facility was located in Mala Strana and we have a large contemporary painting dated 1653, by Karel Skreta, which shows the Ottavio’s son Dionysio Miseroni and his family just contiguous to the room where engraving and carving were done. Ottavio had started his artistic career in Milan in the workshops of his father and uncle and continued this tradition in Prague by concentrating on the creation of superb vessels in semiprecious stones and rock crystal in close collaboration with the Flanders goldsmiths such Paulus von Vianen and Jan Vermeyen.

Ottavio also produced cameos and religious objects such as monstrances and reliquaries in semiprecious stone with many of them now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.


Cameo with the profile of Rudolf II by Ottavio Miseroni in Onyx with gilded silver frame and 5cm in size made around 1612 and taking Adrian de Vries’s portraits of the Emperor as stylistic example. Now in the KHM in Vienna


Reliquaries for a piece of the cloth of Virgin Mary (left) and of Saint Anne, her mother, made in multicoloured stones by Ottavio Miseroni after 1618 on order for the very pious Empress Anna, wife of Emperor Matthias I, brother and successor of Rudolf II. The pieces have a height to 30cm and are made with chalcedony, agate, jasper, carnelian, rock crystal, lapis lazuli, and decorated with diamonds, rubies, pearls, gold and enamelled gilded silver. Now in the KHM in Vienna


The Triton cup made by Ottavio around 1600 in moss agate from Kozakov in Northern Bohemia (17cm high, 18cm long and 14cm wide) showing how he adroitly exploited the variety of colours available and evolved to a softer and less stereotype cup form. From the collection of Rudolf II and now in the KHM in Vienna


The young Bacchus shell cup made by Ottavio around 1605 (19cm high, 19cm long and 17cm wide) in green red agate from Kozakov with enamelled gold mounting and lip by Jan Vermeyen. The boy in gold has a green leaf crown and was once holding a fishing rod in his right hand. It is attributed also to Ottavio. From the collection of Rudolf II and now in the KHM in Vienna


Low double maskaron cup made by Ottavio around 1605 (10cm high, 23cm long and 11cm wide) in green red banded agate from Kozakov with enamelled gold mounting by Jan Vermeyen. This cup illustrates the skill with which Ottavio transformed this rigid material into sensuous forms achieving a perfect balance between the green and red cup lobes and gradually abandoning the maskaron face as a decorative element. From the collection of Rudolf II and now in the KHM in Vienna


The stemmed convolute cup made by Ottavio around 1607 (14cm high, 20cm long and 18cm wide) in olive green jade with enamelled gold mounting by Jan Vermeyen. In this design the rigid structural symmetry has been abandoned and each side of this convoluted shell offers another view giving the impression that it was formed by the simple pressure of fingers on malleable matter. This is the jade or lapis nephriticus or isiada or glazür cup which Anselmus de Boodt has witnessed in Prague and made reference to its size and purchasing price in Gemmarum et lapidum historia. Now in the KHM in Vienna


The Neptune cup, with lid, made by Ottavio around 1615 (32cm high, 37cm long and 24/34cm wide) in green, fibrous and matte jade with gilded silver mounting. This piece has been brought personally to Emperor Ferdinand II in Vienna by Ottavio on September 1622, when after the death of Rudolf II and Matthias I interest in his work diminished and 29 pieces were already made but not paid for. The cup is mentioned in the protocol of the Treasurer in Vienna, Nicolas of Kurland as:… above all a crockery or large cup in gälzur also called isiada(the Italian term for jade) without foot, handles have to be made for it. This is one of the largest pieces Ottavio made. Again also in this case we do not know the origin of this nephrite jade

Rudolf II very much appreciated the work of the four Miseroni brothers, Ottavio, Giovanni Ambrogio, Aurelio, and Alessandro. Rudolf II elevated them, at the occasion of their 20 years of activity in Prague, on nd of September 2, 1608 into hereditary peerages of his territories. A head of an Imperial Eagle on top of the open tournament helmet with crown was added to the Miseroni family coat of arms on this occasion.


The Miseroni family coat of arms carried since their elevation to hereditary peerage in 1608

With the death of Rudolf II on th of January 20,1612 and the tensions of the dynastic transition to his brother Matthias I and then 1617 to Ferdinand II, the glorious days of artistic creation in Prague started to wane. Matthias I, no friend of the arts, had transferred the Court and mayor parts of the Imperial Administration to Vienna and Ferdinand II had to cope with political troubles and the Thirty Year War.

The Court owed several artists money for articles delivered and services rendered and the entry of October 18,th 1612 in the accounting ledger of the Court lists all the unpaid bills. At this date a total of 75,205 Taler were paid to different artists and artisans of which two positions involving 9,025 Taler and 57 Kronen and 2,435 Taler and 10 Kronen concerned work by Ottavio. Bills amounting to 11,765 Taler of other artisans and persons were still left open and unsettled.

Eodem Octauio Miseron auch Irer Mt: Steinshneider, vmb arbeit vnd hergegebene Edelgestein, auch Geshürl von Jaspis vnd Christal vermüg Außzüg vnd Abraittung sambt zweyer von Haiden see: vnd auch mir darüber habenden shein noch Per Resto 9,025 Tal 57 kr

Mehr gedachten Miseron, wegen Allerley verkhaufften drinckhgeshürl, so auch in Ir Mt khunst Cammer khomben, vnd Ine die Hof Cammer Hat bezahlen sollen, sambt dem Interesse, 2,435 fl 2,087 Tal 10 kr

Ottavio’s order book started to suffer and, looking for other income, he sent in spring 1613 four barrels of selected Bohemian jasper, of the type he had used for his stemmed shell cups, to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Firenze for the future decoration of the Medici Chapel.


Emperor Matthias I (1557-1619), the brother and successor to Rudolf II and Ferdinand II (1578-1637), King of Bohemia and future Emperor

The troubles brewing in Bohemia during the last years of Rudolf II reign were related to the spiny question of religious tolerance. With over 80% of the population in Bohemia being Protestant but the ancient Nobility and the Habsburg Court of Catholic faith, the struggle for religious tolerance versus a reinforced Counter Reformation ignited the fuze which finally leads to the disastrous Thirty Year War in Central Europe.

In July 1609 Rudolf II, although in favor of the Counterreformation and the repression of Protestant faith, was under heavy political pressure by his brother Matthias which had already wrestled the control of Hungary and Moravia from him. Under these conditions the Protestant Estate in Silesia and Bohemia exchanged their continued support for Rudolf II with the establishment of an official declaration, the Majestätsbrief. In this declaration, opposed by the Jesuit educated Catholic Hardliner and Chancellor of Bohemia, Vojtěch Zdeněk von Lobkowicz, Rudolf II granted all persons in Bohemia and Silesia religious freedom. The Protestants were allowed to establish their own ecclesiastic organization and build churches not only on the territory of nobles but also on royal property. This last point became the root of a dramatic conflict between the Catholics and Protestants of Bohemia because the agreement did not clearly define if the properties of the Catholic cloisters and dioceses were royal properties or not. If this was true then Protestant churches could be build also on the ground owned by Catholic Dioceses.

Two Protestant churches, build in 1609 in the Bohemian town of Klostergrab, the actual Hrob and in Braunau, the actual Broumov, became casus belli in this dispute. Thechurch in Broumov was closed and that in Hrob torn down and desecrated in 1617 by the local Catholic Ecclesiastic rulers. This happened with the direct political support from the regents of Bohemia, Wilhelm Count Slavata and Jaroslav Borzita Count of Martinicz. A letter of protest was send to Emperor Matthias I and Ferdinand II, already King of Bohemia since 1617, but received a curt and unsatisfactory response. Further protests by the assembled Protestant nobility were answered, in letter dated 21 March 1618, with an order to disperse . Instead, the Protestant Estates defiantly assembled in Prague on 18 May 1618 . The more radical leaders of the Protestant nobility, under the leadership of Count Matthias Thurn, met on 22 May 1618 and determined to confront the regents on the following day.


Chancellor of Bohemia, Vojtěch Zdeněk von Lobkowicz (1568-1628) in a painting of 1603 by Batholomeus Spranger and a print showing Heinrich Matthias, Count of Thurn Valsassina (1567-1640), the leader of the rebellious Protestant faction

Next morning an assembly of 200 Protestants, led by Count Thurn, stormed the administrative offices on the Hradschin and accused the two Imperial governors present, Wilhelm Count Slavata and Jaroslav Borzita Count of Martinicz, for violating the Majestätsbrief and the right of freedom of religion confirmed therein. After a short trial the two governors were found guilty and thrown, in pure Prague tradition, together with their scribe Philip Fabricius, out of the high windows of the Bohemian Chancellery. A similar action, the first Prague defenestration, happened on th of July 30,1419 when followers of the heretic Jan Hus tried to free imprisoned companions and threw 7 catholic administrators from the window, killing them.

This time all three survived the fall from a height of 17m with only minor injuries. This feat was quickly interpreted by the Catholics as divine intervention. They hid in the nearby Palace of Countess Polyxena Lobkowicz, wife of Vojtěch Zdeněk who was away in Vienna. Polyxena incidentally has been the fourth wife of Wilhelm von Rosenberg, a strong supporter of alchemists in Prague and a former employer of Anselmus de Boodt.


An illustration of the defenestration on a flyer from 1618 and the window in the Hradschin from where it all happened


Jaroslav Borzita Count of Martinicz (1582-1649) and Wilhelm Count Slavata (1572-1652), the two representatives of Ferdinand II, were also thrown from the Hradschin window

Ottavio Miseroni, quite concerned with the situation and fearing an interruption of the mob into his workshops, hid 15 finished and 30 unfinished works, as he said …"from the rebels."

The subsequent course of events in Prague and Bohemia, starting from this localized incident and finally engulfing many parts of Central Europe in what was to become the Thirty Year War, has been summarized recently in an excellent review by Chris Atkinson (http://www.pipeline.com/~cwa/TYWHome.htm) and of which adapted sections are inserted below.

With the defenestration of Count of Martinicz and Wilhelm Count Slavata, which amounted to an attempted murder of his regents, little hope of reconciliation of Ferdinand II and Bohemian Protestant nobles remained. The Bohemian Estates, protesting their undying devotion to the monarch and the hatred of his faithless ministers, nevertheless prepared for war and moved swiftly.

On May 24,1618, the very day following the defenestration, the rebels published an appeal to their fellow Protestants and justification of their actions, the famous Apologia .

With this in hand, Bohemian emissaries began to canvas opponents of the House of Austria for support.

On May 25,1618, the government of Bohemia was placed under the control of a committee of thirty, with civil matters under the control of William Ruppa and military matters consigned to Matthias Thurn. These then raised taxes, confiscated Catholic lands, ejected the hated Jesuits from Bohemia and ordered a levée en masse. All Bohemia joined the rebels, save the cities of Krummau, where the Castle of Rudolf's II son was and the beer towns of Pilsen and Budweis.

The precipitate actions of the Bohemians presented the other Habsburg lands in the East with a dilemma: whether to join the Bohemians, assist the Emperor, or remain neutral. For the moment, the last course was the one adopted. On 26 June 1618 the Estates of Moravia assembled at Olomouc. Under the influence of Karel Žerotín, a Moravian elder statesman whose character combined absolute rectitude, devout Protestantism and strict loyalty to the House of Austria, the Estates determined to remain loyal to the Emperor. As a matter of prudence in troubled times, they did raise an army.

Sensing the upcoming military conflict, the ambitious Albrecht Eusebius Wenzel Waldstein, Duke of Friedland and Mecklenburg started to position himself to intervene. He was one of the richest landowners of Moravia, having married the extremely rich widow Lukrezia von Witschkow, and thus was able to propose to Ferdinand II to rise with 40,000 Talers of his own funds a cavalry regiment to assist the Emperor. Ferdinand II was quite pleased by this offer as he had known Waldstein from his previous commanding skills in a war against Venice and moreover did not have enough funds on its own to do so. This is the man who was to rise to fame under the Germanized form of his name: Wallenstein.


Albrecht Eusebius Wenzel Waldestein (or Wallenstein) (1583-1634) and his horoscope established in 1608 by Johannes Kepler describing him as a man with great ambition and hunger for power, a marriage with a rich but not beautiful wife and an end as leader of a group of discontented persons. Wallenstein was very impressed by theses predictions and annotated the text with notes in which he listed the events confirming the predictions of Kepler. Such a note is seen on the left margin of the text above

On July 3,1618 the Silesian Estates assembled at Breslau. They also determined to remain neutral but raise an army, a force of 6,000 to be retained within Silesia as a defensive measure. The appointment of Margrave of Brandenburg Johann-Georg von Jägersdorf as general over the Silesian force somewhat belied the Silesian’s claim of neutrality. Johann-Georg was embroiled in a dispute with the Emperor, who claimed Johann-Georg’s lands had escheated to the State. For the moment, Upper Lusatia too determined to play a waiting game.


An engraving showing the Margrave of Brandenburg Johann-Georg von Jägersdorf (1577-1623) and a 1703 map of Lausatia (Lausitz) contiguous to Silesia and Bohemia

The Habsburg domains in Austria and Hungary were even less supportive of Ferdinand’s II cause. The Hungarians and Ober- and Niederösterreich (Upper and Lower Austria) refused to subsidize his wars; Oberösterreich went so far as to fortify the passes and deny passage of his troops although they later repented and even voted a small subsidy.

One of the motivations for the rebel’s acts was undoubtedly fear that Matthias I would soon be replaced on the Habsburg and Holy Roman Empire throne by Ferdinand of Steirmark, already the King of Bohemia and future Emperor Ferdinand II. Jesuit-educated Ferdinand was a staunch defender of the Roman church who had succeeded in re-Catholicizing his previously Protestant domains of Kärnten and Steiermark.

Ferdinand II had been selected by the family as heir apparent for all of the Habsburg lands in Central Europe. To effectuate this, it was necessary for various other members of the House to renounce their expectations, for others to appoint him heir and lastly for Ferdinand to be presented to the Estates or Diet or other assemblage to be accepted or elected as heir.

Ferdinand II opposed negotiation with the rebels. Fearing that Matthias I would conclude a dishonorable peace with his future subjects, Ferdinand II acted. Matthias, old, sick and befuddled, was entirely dependent on his chief minister, Cardinal Khlesl. Khlesl had long been an opponent of Ferdinand, whom he saw as a threat to his power. Further, it was Khlesl who, in the face of the Bohemian rebellion, was trying to find an equitable solution and dispatched emissaries to negotiate. On 20 July 1618 he had Khlesl arrested and spirited off first to a castle in Tirol and then to Rome.


Engraving showing Cardinal Khlesl (1552-1630), Emperor Matthias’s chief minister and the portrait of the young Friedrich V von der Kurpfalz (1596-1632), the leader of the Protestant Union

Matthias I, without his trusted servitor, was rendered powerless. From that moment, it was Ferdinand II who ruled. This represented a triumph for the Spanish arm of the House of Austria. Ferdinand II, and the war party he led, had received support from the Spanish Ambassador, Count Oñate. The Spanish were determined to reverse what they saw as a decline in the prestige, the reputacion , of the House of Austria and other parties were also interesting themselves in affairs in Prague. Of those, the Elector Friedrich V of the Palatinate was a prominent one and, representing the Protestant hardliners, dispatched Augustus von Solms as his emissary to the Bohemian rebels.

He arrived in Prague in early September 1618 and began assuring the Directors that Friedrich V would procure support for them in Germany and prevent Ferdinand II from recruiting troops there. The Bohemians had high hopes that Friedrich V could bring the support of the Protestant Union, a league of German Protestant princes of which Friedrich V was the head. Hopes were placed as well on Friederich’s father-in-law, James I of England. He had married Elizabeth Stuart the 24th of February 1613 in the Whitehall Palace in London, and on his brother-in-law, the Elector of Brandenburg. Friedrich V could however not act too openly as had had sworn loyalty to the Emperor.

Karel Žerotín and a Moravian delegation appeared soon after. In contrast to the blandishments of the other Princes, they offered no more than that Moravia would stand surety for the observance of the Bohemian liberties would the Kingdom but reconcile to its King. The offer was politely rejected and Žerotín returned empty-handed. Despite the nominal neutrality of Silesia, Johann-Georg von Brandenburg-Jägersdorf could barely be persuaded against sending his forces into Bohemia in support of the rebels.


James I of England (1566-1625) and his daughter Elizabeth Stuart (1596-1662). She married Friedrich V of Kurpfalz and thus became for less than a year, Queen of Bohemia. She is also known as the Queen of Hearts due to her initial popularity with the people in Prague

Pressed on by this firebrand, on October 1, 1618 the Silesian diet determined to send 4,000 troops into Bohemia to aid the rebellion, although they did not formally join the rebellion. In mid-June 1618 Thurn was dispatched to reduce Krummau and Budweis to obedience with the raw recruits raised by the Bohemian levee. The Duke of Savoy, fearful of Spanish power in northern Italy, had raised an army in anticipation of the war of Mantuan Succession. When peace broke out he dispatched that army to the aid of the Bohemian rebels. They arrived in Bohemia in August 1618. The force was commanded by Ernst von Mansfeldt, illegitimate son of the former Habsburg governor of the Southern Netherlands and an experienced mercenary commander. The city of Pilsen in eastern Bohemia had remained loyal to the Emperor. In the fall of 1618, Mansfeldt’s forces moved against the place. After several weeks of siege, the town fell on 21 November 1618.

Ferdinand II, with the aid of Spanish subsidies, was able to raise an army to suppress the rebellion. This army, under the Flanders veteran Count Bucquoy, invaded southern Bohemia. They had been given free passage through Moravian territory by decision of the Moravian Estates. They advanced as far as Cáslav, before being pushed back by Mansfeldt and troops dispatched by the Silesians’ allies.


Charles Bonaventure de Longueval (1571-1621), Comte de Bucquoy, Marshall of the imperial troops and Ernst von Mansfeldt (1580-1626), the Commander of Savoyan Army in Bohemia

By early November, Bucquoy was at bay within the walls of Budweis. Mansfeldt left a blocking force under Hohenlohe before the walls and pressed forward into Austria, whose borders his army crossed on 25 November 1618. Short on supplies and hampered by the lateness of the season, he did not advance far. Instead he turned back to Moravia. The Moravian diet had assembled on December 4 1618. Thurn appeared with a cavalry escort designed to intimidate the assembly. Nonetheless, at Žerotín’s urging the Moravians remained loyal to the Emperor. The campaigning season over, the parties attempted to prepare themselves for the next spring’s contest. The Elector Palatine attempted to garner support for the rebellion from Savoy, and his father-in-law James I of England, but both did not.

The Emperor, meanwhile, was attempting to procure mediation of the dispute by the Protestant Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony, the Catholic Archbishop Elector of Mainz and the Catholic Duke of Bavaria, Maximillian. Neither the Bohemians nor, indeed, the Emperor himself were particularly serious about this conference. Emperor Matthias I died in 20 March 1619 at Vienna. This complicated Ferdinand’s position further since, as the House of Austria’s designated heir, would now have to seize the reins of all of the disparate Habsburg realms.

Oberösterreich politely rebelled, asserting that upon the death of Matthias I ruler-ship had passed to Archduke Albrecht, brother of Rudolf II. They refused to follow any other Habsburg, and, as Albrecht was old, ill and in the far-away Netherlands, this meant that they intended to follow no Habsburg at all. Pending the arrival of Albrecht, in April 1619 government was placed in the hands of a committee of Protestant noblemen, who swiftly allied themselves with the Bohemians.

The Niederöstereichischen Protestants too were restive, presenting Ferdinand II with innumerable petitions and protests against infringement of their rights. Save for Kärnten, Styria and the Tirol, all of the Habsburg’s hereditary possessions. the Erbländer , were in ferment or open rebellion.

In mid-April 1619, the Bohemians, angered that Moravia had given free passage to the Emperor’s troops, dispatched an army of 10,000 under Thurn to invade that country. Upon the approach of the Bohemian army, the Estates removed Žerotín and the rest of Moravia’s former leaders and joined the Bohemian rebellion.

When the Moravians changed sides Wallenstein fled to Vienna with a few of his soldiers and the Moravians’ entire war treasury.

Strengthened by the Moravian armies, in early May 1619 Thurn advanced into Niederösterreich or Lower Austria. He took the city of Laa and crossed the Danube at Fischamend. In June 1619 the rebels stood before the walls of Vienna.

Without a siege train, Thurn evidently expected that the city would fall to him by virtue of internal rebellion. It is certainly true that the Protestant nobility were restive, and on 5 June 1619 went so far as to menace Ferdinand II in his own throne room. However, Ferdinand II was not to be cowed. The timely arrival of Habsburg cavalry dispatched from the Netherlands by the King of Spain terrified the rebellious noblemen into inaction. Seeing the pointlessness of further waiting before the Viennese walls, on 14 June 1619, Thurn withdrew. In any event, there was need of Thurn’s troops in Bohemia. Bucquoy’s army in Budweis had been strongly reinforced. When Bucquoy learned that Mansfeldt was moving from Pilsen to support Hohenloe’s troops besieging Budweis, he sent out a force of his own from Budweis to ambush the relieving force.


Budweis the only town not conquered by the Protestants and the siege of Pilsen by Mansfeldt in a contemporary print

On 10 June 1619 Mansfeldt’s army was brought to bay at the village of Záblati. The Bohemian force was utterly destroyed by the troops led by Wallenstein. Mansfeldt escaped and retreated to Pilsen with the remnants of his cavalry, but his entire infantry force, the baggage train consisting of 300 carriages and the army cash box with 100,000 Talers was lost. In the wake of the defeat, the rebels were forced to raise the siege of Budweis. On 15 June 1619 Hohenloe retreated to Sobyeslau where he awaited reinforcement by Thurn. Bucquoy took control of the strong places of southern Bohemia and sent a force under Dampierre to Moravia to roll up the rebels there. However, Dampierre was defeated at Wisternitz in early August 1619. Bucquoy himself began to march northward through Bohemia. The rebel army, unpaid, ill-trained and badly led, was powerless to stop him. Hohenloe deployed his troops to block Bucquoy’s path to Prague, leaving him free rein elsewhere.


The Battle of Záblati, on a print from 1630, with the one thousand cuirassiers or mounted armored cavalry soldiers of Wallenstein charging, from the eight o’clock position towards the position of Mansfeld at four o’clock and an ancient army cash box of these times

The Golden Bull of 1365 fixed in minute detail the election of a Holy Roman Emperor and the precedence of his electors. Matthias I was dead, and the chaos in his eastern realms would not prevent the election of his successor. As his duty demanded, the Elector-Archbishop of Mainz sent out the summons for the meeting of the Electors, the Kürfurstentag , to be called to order on 28 July 1619 at Frankfort am Main. Ferdinand II, in his capacity as King of Bohemia, was an Elector. In his capacity as Habsburg he was also the leading candidate; it had been centuries since anyone other than a member of the House of Austria had ascended the Imperial throne. Accordingly, Ferdinand II set out from Vienna on 11 July 1619. He arrived in Frankfurt on 28 July 1619, after having met with Lord Doncaster, dispatched by James I of England with offers of mediation in the Bohemian dispute.

The Electors, like the Empire, were divided on religion. The three religious electors, the Electors of Mainz, Trier and Cologne were Catholic, as was Ferdinand II. The Elector of Saxony was a Lutheran; the Electors of Brandenburg and the Palatinate Calvinist.

The Elector of Palatine, Friedrich V tried to delay the election, fearing that an Imperial Ferdinand would put an end to the Bohemian rebellion. Firstly he sought to have the Kürfurstentag adjourned, and when that failed, he sought to have the Bohemian matter settled as a precursor to the election. This delayed matters, but not for long. Ferdinand II consented that the Electors should mediate between him and the Bohemian Estates. The date of the election was set for 28 August 1619.

When the day came, each of the Electors, other than the Elector Palatine, cast his vote for Ferdinand II. In the end, isolated, even the ambassador of the Palatinate cast his vote for Ferdinand II. Ferdinand of Styria, King of Bohemia, by unanimous vote, had become now also Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor.


Ferdinand II (1578-1637) with the Court midget and dog and Ferdinand’s signature

The Imperial dignity was among the most powerful weapons in Ferdinand's arsenal. Over the ensuing eighteen years, he ruled entirely by Imperial fiat. He punished his foes and rewarded his allies based entirely on his expansive view of his Imperial powers. As the Imperial election was getting underway, diplomats send by Friedrich V were attempting to procure allies for the Bohemians Rebels.

Friedrich V was head of the Protestant Union, a military alliance of some of the more militant German Protestant principalities.


The Charter document of the Protestant Union concluded in Auhausen in 1608 by 8 protestant dukes and 17 Estates under the leadership of Friedrich V. In 1609 the opposing Catholic League was formed under the impulse of Maximilian I of Bavaria

The Union had already met in June 1619 in Heilbronn. The Bohemians petitioned them for aid, but received no more than a guaranty of a 200,000 florin loan and a promise to raise troops to impede the passage of Imperial troops from the Spanish Flanders. Carlo Emmanuele, Duke of Savoy, had been one of the few supporters of the Bohemian cause to actually do something. He had supplied Mansfeldt’s army and had secretly served as its paymaster until his role was discovered after the battle of Záblati. Friedrich V attempted to persuade him to restore his support. Since none of the greater European powers was willing to embrace the Bohemian cause, Carlo Emmanuele was willing only to concede limited support This help was conditioned on the Palatinate supplying the Bohemians an army and supporting Carlo Emmanuele in a bid for the Bohemian throne.


Carlo Emmanuele I di Savoia (1562-1630) called also Testa d' feu or head of fire for his military actions and early supporter of the Bohemian Revolution and Kurfürst Johann Georg I von Sachsen (1585-1656), both candidates, next to Friedrich V Kurfürst von der Pfalz, a candidates for the throne of Bohemia

On 8 July 1619, another meeting of the Bohemian Estates was opened. It was also attended by representatives of Moravia, Silesia and Lusatia. All of these states agreed on 31 July 1619 to the Act of Confederation which bound their states together as on a loose federal basis. The constitutions of the confederates were also adjusted to give all of the states a right to elect the Bohemian King and to strictly circumscribe the authority of that King once elected. That done, the estates turned to the fate of the King they had.

On 19 August 1619, the Estates of Bohemia, Lusatia, Moravia and Silesia declared Ferdinand II deposed as their King. There were three possible candidates for the newly vacant throne: Carlo Emmanuele di Savoia, who desired the throne and had served the Bohemian cause with arms and gold; Johann Georg I von Sachsen, who claimed not to want the throne at all and Friedrich V Elector of Palatine, who had intrigued for the Bohemians most unsuccessfully and would be given the throne in the hope that at least one of his relatives, who comprised most of the Protestant rulers of Europe would assist him and his new Kingdom.

The Estates offered to Friedrich V, the Elector of Palatine the crown of Bohemia on the 26th of August 1619. He first hesitated to take the final step of defiance versus Emperor Ferdinand II, but economic reasons, getting the hand on the mineral rich Bohemia, and his conviction to be a crusader of the rights of the Protestants finally made him inclined to accept the nomination

The Protestant Union, assembled at Rothenburg on 12 September 1619, produced but few who approved of his taking the throne. None of his relatives, particularly his father-in-law James I of England, would support him.

On the 25th of September he declared that… he did not want to oppose the will of the Almighty and accepted the nomination.

On October 31st Friedrich V arrived with 568 persons and one hundred carriages in Prague where he was received enthusiastically. His arrival and crowning on November 1st was celebrated with sumptuous parties although Bohemia had suffered much from the war and many refugees were camping at the doors of Prague. The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and the Republic of Venice recognized his title.


Friedrich V (1596-1632) crowned as King of Bohemia with the Royal insignias, the orb, scepter and the crown of Saint Wenceslas. He is wearing the English Order of the Garter as sign of his connection to the English Royal House and a contemporary print showing the crowing ceremony in Prague

Friedrich’s relation with the Bohemians and people in Prague turned rapidly sour. Although Bohemia was a potentially rich country, the troubles of the past years had emptied the coffers of the government and Friedrich V needed desperately funds to further assert his position. As the King of Bohemia did not have a personal income and only limited taxation power, he had to rely on those funds and taxes the nobles and Estates wanted to forward to him. This was nothing new and had already caused the Habsburg Kings continuously headaches. His intention to increase taxes dramatically to finance future wars against the Catholics was not accepted by the Bohemian Estates as just previous attempt to do this caused the dismissal of Friedrich II from the throne. Few months later, unable to raise funds he started to pawn personal jewelry, sell personal property and in May 1620 transferred two tons of gold, the treasury of his native Kurpfalz, to Prague in a desperate attempt to be able to finance an army. This drove the Kurpfalz into bankruptcy.

Furthermore, not speaking Czech, he had brought with him trusted persons from the German speaking Pfalz to run the government. This caused rapidly frictions and an alienation of Estates and the Clergy. Contributing to the degradation of the situation was also Abraham Scultetus, professor of theology and personal preacher Friedrich V. As a convinced and radical Calvinist he was particular upset that in all the former Catholic Churches of Bohemia, holy images, reliquiraries and statues where still present although Protestant Ecclesiastic Rules forbade them. Scultetus had no consideration for the Utraquist Rites which the majority of the Protestant Bohemians were following.


Abraham Scultetus (1566-1625), the personal preacher of Friedrich V and organizer of the iconoclasm in the St. Veits Cathedral in Prague

With the tacit approval of the King, Scultetus organized from the 21st of December 1619 the iconoclasm or destruction of religious symbols in the Cathedral of St. Veits on the Hradschin. Many of the prestigious religious works of art objects purchased or commissioned by Rudolf II and Maximilian II, his father, were removed and destroyed. Just before year-end also the famous Altar of the Virgin Mary in the Cathedral, made by Lucas Cranach, was demolished. A report by a witness of these destructions makes reference to the theft of the very artistically elaborate Holy Cross which was standing at Rudolf II sarcophagus and which the Emperor had let come from Milan at great expense. Further unrest in the population was caused by the rumor that also the Tomb Saint Wenceslas, the Patron Saint of Bohemia was to be opened and desecrated by the Calvinist.

We can image how under the conditions of Calvinist Puritanism the business of Ottavio Miseroni, all aimed to please they eye and the mind, suffered. The Emperor still owned him over 13,000 Talers and Ottavio complained that he has come into financial straits as ….. he had to support nine poor children and that the workshop caused expenses for diamond tools, emery powder and other similar materials as also for the workers and journeymen in his employment.

In the meantime Ferdinand II, confronted also by a renewed invasion of Hungary and a siege of Vienna by the Count of Transylvania, Gabor Bethlen, was finally able to assure the support of Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria. Himself not financially able to raise an army, he concluded on October 8th 1619 with Maximilian I a contract in which the latter, in the name of the Catholic League, would make available an army of 30,000 to battle Friedrich V. Maximilian I conquered rapidly Oberösterreich, Upper Austria, a territory which Ferdinand II had committed to him as reimbursement for the expenses involved in the raising of the army and then moved into southern Bohemia.


Maximilian I of Bavaria (1573-1651), helping Ferdinand II, his classmate at the Jesuit College in Ingolstadt, to drive with Johann t'Serclaes von Tilly (1559-1632) in command, Friedrich V at the Battle of the White Mountain from Prague

Johann Georg I von Sachsen, sensing the end of Friedrich V, invaded Bohemia from his native Sachsen in the north and Maximilian’s Army of 29,000 men with Charles Bonaventure de Longueval, Comte de Bucquoy and Johann t'Serclaes von Tilly in command, marched from the south toward Prague. Friedrich V had hastily assembled his troops and positioned 15,000 poorly trained and ill equipped soldiers on a small mountain of 379m height, the Weisse Berg or Bílá Hora, just outside Prague .

On November 8th, the Imperial troops commanded by Tilly were encamped at the foot of the hill in a less than favorable position for attack. Tilly was convinced that he would not be able to make a successful assault when suddenly a Carmelite monk harangued the Catholic troops by brandishing a painting of the Holy Family. This painting had been removed, like many others, from a church by the Calvinist and desecrated. The enraged Catholic troops vowed to avenge these Calvinist misdeeds and with the battle cry, Salve Maria, rushed suddenly en masse uphill totally surprising the Bohemian troops which offered little resistance and fled toward Prague.


The watershed battle at White Mountain on November 8th 1620 bringing an end, after one year and 9 days, to the reign of Friedrich V as King of Bohemia and the memorial tumulus on top of the hill today


Aerial view of the site of Bílá Hora hill, the White Mountain, about 6 Km as the crow flies from the Palace on the Hradschin

Friedrich V was 5 Km away in Prague in a banquet with the English Ambassador. He was hoping to have news that James I, his father in law, was finally supporting him militarily. Upon hearing about the defeat of his troops and the arrival of first enemy soldiers at the gates of the Castle, he took immediate action. On the suggestions of his Chancellor Christian von Anhalt, Friedrich V fled from Prague with his wife and son and some counselors, carrying little more than few bags and headed toward Breslau in Silesia and then to his final exile in the Netherlands. His had even left his Order of the Garter behind which, found by soldiers rummaging through the palace, made him the subject of satiric pamphlets later on by showing him wearing it and running away with his pants down.

The defeat at Bílá Hora had dire consequences for the Rebels in Bohemia as they had to bear the full hatred the Catholic Emperor Ferdinand II was showing against Protestants.


Karl von Liechtenstein (1569-1627), a Bohemian Protestant which had converted 1599 to Catholicism and later became, opportunistically, a supporter of Emperor Matthias I. He is one of the ancestors of the actual House of Liechtenstein with their residence in Vaduz, Lichtenstein.

Ferdinand II nominated Karl von Liechtenstein as his Governor in Prague and put him in charge of the political purge. 61 supporters of Friedrich V were arrested and 27 members of the Bohemian Estate condemned to death. The public execution started of five o’clock in the morning the 21st of July 1621 lasted four and half hours. The first to be executed was Count Joachim Andreas von Schlick, Count of Bassano and Weisskirchen, one of the leaders of the Rebellion and present during the defenestration. His head and right hand, together with the head of twelve others where nailed onto the Old Town Tower near the Charles bridge and left there for more than a year.


Contemporary colored print showing the executions of the Bohemian Rebels in front of the Old Town or the Staré Město Town Hall and the same spot today. Note the dial of the clock of the Apostles on both images


The Charles Bridge over the Moldova in Prague, connecting the Mala Strana with the Staré Město and the Old Town Tower onto which the heads of the rebels were nailed after their execution.

The elective Kingdom of Bohemia was abolished and incorporated, for the next 300 years and till 1918 and the establishment of the Czechoslovakian Republic, into the hereditary Habsburg Monarchy. The Bohemian Estates were deprived of any political power and the Letter of Majesty, written by Rudolf II and providing religious freedom was publicly ripped in pieces by the Emperor. Except for Lutherans, as gratitude for the intervention of the Protestant Kurfürst Johann Georg I. von Sachsen against Friedrich V, all other Protestant Confessions were proscribed and over 30.000 families, not wanting to change their religion, driven into exile.

In September 1622, with the conditions a little safer, Ottavio Miseroni traveled to Vienna to bring to Ferdinand II in Vienna personally the items which the deceased pious wife of Emperor Matthias, Anna of Tirol had ordered and were waiting ready in his workshop. These items where religious objects such small altars and six candelabras in comesso work carried out in the multicolored Bohemian jasper from Kosakov. The other objects brought to Vienna were several cups of which also one in jade. Some of these cups were not yet finished and still missing the enameled gold and gilded silver decorations. Only about 10 years later goldsmiths in Vienna completed some of these works with decorations stylistically quite different from those of the Flanders goldsmiths in Prague.

Ottavio Miseroni did live two more years and died the 6th of July 1624 at an age of 57. He was buried in the Miseroni Family vault in the church of S. Maria Magdalena which subsequently has been closed in 1787 and in 1830 transformed into an apartment building. The cover plate of the tomb vault has been lost but luckily Georg Daniel Wunschewitz, a collector of heraldic emblems, visited the site and made a sketch of it in 1732.


The sketch of Ottavio Miseroni tomb plate with the Miseroni crest in the church of S. Maria Magdalena in Prague as recorded by Georg Daniel Wunschewitz in 1732 confirming him a Milanese Gemmicidae having worked for the Emperors Rudolf II, Matthias I and Ferdinand I

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