History of Germany between 1618 - 1739
From 1618 to 1648 the Thirty Years' War ravaged in the Holy Roman Empire. The causes were the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the efforts by the various states within the Empire to increase their power and the Catholic Emperor's attempt to achieve the religious and political unity of the Empire. The immediate occasion for the war was the uprising of the Protestant nobility of Bohemia against the emperor, but the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark (1625–29), Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630–48) and France under Cardinal Richelieu. Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for predominance in Europe.
The fighting often was out of control, with marauding bands of hundreds or thousands of starving soldiers spreading plague, plunder, and murder. The armies that were under control moved back and forth across the countryside year after year, levying heavy taxes on cities, and seizing the animals and food stocks of the peasants without payment. The enormous social disruption over three decades caused a dramatic decline in population because of killings, disease, crop failures, declining birth rates and random destruction, and the out-migration of terrified people. One estimate shows a 38% drop from 16 million people in 1618 to 10 million by 1650, while another shows "only" a 20% drop from 20 million to 16 million. The Altmark and Württemberg regions were especially hard hit. It took generations for Germany to fully recover.
The war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. Alsace was permanently lost to France, Pomerania was temporarily lost to Sweden, and the Netherlands officially left the Empire. Imperial power declined further as the states' rights were increased.
From 1640, Brandenburg-Prussia had started to rise under the Great Elector, Frederick William. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 strengthened it even further, through the acquisition of East Pomerania. The second half of the 17th century laid the basis for Prussia to become one of the great players in European politics later on. The emerging Brandenburg-Prussian military potential, based on the introduction of a standing army in 1653, was symbolized by the widely noted victories in Warsaw (1656) and Fehrbellin (1675) and by the Great Sleigh Drive (1678). Brandenburg-Prussia also established a navy and German colonies in the Brandenburger Gold Coast and Arguin. Frederick William, known as "The Great Elector", opened Brandenburg-Prussia to large-scale immigration of mostly Protestant refugees from all across Europe, most notably Huguenot immigration following the Edict of Potsdam. Frederick William also started to centralize Brandenburg-Prussia's administration and reduce the influence of the estates.
In 1701, Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, succeeded in elevating his status to King in Prussia. This was made possible by the Duchy of Prussia's sovereign status outside the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and approval by the Habsburg emperor and other European royals in the course of forming alliances for the War of the Spanish succession and the Great Northern War. From 1701 onward, the Hohenzollern domains were referred to as the Kingdom of Prussia, or simply Prussia. Legally, the personal union between Brandenburg and Prussia continued until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. However, by this time the emperor's overlordship over the empire had become a legal fiction. Hence, after 1701, Brandenburg was de facto treated as part of the Prussian kingdom. Frederick and his successors continued to centralize and expand the state, transforming the personal union of politically diverse principalities typical for the Brandenburg-Prussian era into a system of provinces subordinate to Berlin.
From 1713 to 1740, King Frederick William I, also known as the "Soldier King", established a highly centralized, militarized state with a heavily rural population of about three million (compared to the nine million in Austria).
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.