Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | September 27, 2013

The Death Penalty in the Thirty Years War

Speaking of the death penalty, in The Thirty Years War, C.V. Wedgwood has a passage (pp. 138-39) about how the Emperor Ferdinand II dealt with some of the leaders of the Bohemian revolt in 1621:

The arrested leaders were tried by a special commission from which there was no appeal, and more than forty of them were sentenced to imprisonment and death. …

In the last week of May 1621, the sentences reached Vienna for Ferdinand’s signature. He felt that it was his duty and knew that it was in his interest to strike hard, but when it came to condemning so many men to death, even his imagination was touched, and starting up from the council table he fled from the room, mopping the sweat from his forehead. In the morning, after consulting his confessor, he was calm again, signed upwards of twenty death sentences without more ado and sent orders for immediate execution.

Um, I guess it was a good thing that he talked with his confessor. Well, not so good for the Bohemian rebels. Incidentally, I can think of some Texas governors who could probably sign twenty death sentences before breakfast.

Tribute to the 27 victims

Twenty-seven of the condemned men were executed in Prague in June 21, 1621, in the town square (now identified as the “Old Town Square”). Today, the Old Town Square features 27 cobblestone crosses as memorials to those men.

Image Credit: photo by Julie Otten, October 2007. Public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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