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Peter Ernst, Graf von Mansfeld

Peter Ernst, Graf von Mansfeld, also known as Ernst von Mansfeld or as von Mansfeldt (circa 1580 - 29 November 1626), German soldier, an illegitimate son of Peter Ernst, Fürst von Mansfeld[?], passed his early years in his father's palace at Luxemburg. He gained his earliest military experiences in Hungary, where his half-brother Charles (1543 - 1595,) also a soldier of renown, held a high command in the imperial army. Later he served under the Archduke Leopold, until that prince's ingratitude, real or fancied, drove him into the arms of the enemies of the house of Habsburg.

Although remaining a Roman Catholic, he allied himself with the Protestant princes, and during the earlier part of the Thirty Years' War he was one of their foremost champions. He was despatched by Charles Emmanuel, duke of Savoy, at the head of about 2000 men to aid the revolting Bohemians when war broke out in 1618. He took Pilsen, but in the summer of 1619 he suffered defeated at Zablati (10 June 1619); after this he offered his services to the emperor Ferdinand II and remained inactive while the titular king of Bohemia, Frederick V, elector palatine of the Rhine, was driven in headlong rout from Prague.

Mansfeld, however, was soon appointed by Frederick to command his army in Bohemia, and in 1621 he took up his position in the Upper Palatinate[?], successfully resisting the efforts made by Tilly[?] to dislodge him. From the Upper he passed into the Rhenish Palatinate[?]. Here he relieved Frankenthal[?] and took Hagenau[?]; then, joined by his master, the elector Frederick, he defeated Tilly at Wiesloch (25 April 1622) and plundered Alsace and Hesse.

But Mansfeld's ravages were not confined to the lands of his enemies; they were ruinous to the districts he was commissioned to defend. At length Frederick was obliged to dismiss Mansfeld's troops from his service. Then, joining Christian of Brunswick[?], the count led his army through Lorraine, devastating the country as he went, and in August 1622 defeating the Spaniards at the Battle of Fleurus[?]. He next entered the service of the United Provinces and took up his quarters in East Friesland[?], capturing fortresses and inflicting great hardships upon the inhabitants.

A mercenary and a leader of mercenaries, Mansfeld often interrupted his campaigns with journeys made for the purpose of raising money, or in other words of selling his services to the highest bidder, and in these diplomatic matters he showed considerable skill. About 1624 he paid three visits to London (where the populace hailed him as a hero), and at least one to Paris. King James I of England was anxious to furnish him with men and money for the recovery of the Palatinate, but it was not until January 1625 that Mansfeld and his army of "raw and poor rascals" sailed from Dover to the Netherlands. Later in the year, the Thirty Years' War having been renewed under the leadership of King Christian IV of Denmark and Norway, he re-entered Germany to take part therein. But on 25 April 1626 Wallenstein[?] inflicted a severe defeat upon him at the Battle of Dessau Bridge[?].

Mansfeld, however, quickly raised another army, with which he intended to attack the hereditary lands of the house of Austria. Pursued by Wallenstein, he pressed forward towards Hungary, where he hoped to accomplish his purpose with the aid of Bethlem Gabor, prince of Transylvania. But when Gabor changed his policy and made peace with the emperor, Mansfeld was compelled to disband his troops. He set out for Venice, but when he reached Rakowitza[?] he was taken ill, and there he died on 29 November 1626. He was buried at Spalato[?].


  • F. Stieve, Ernst von Mansfeld (Munich, 1890)
  • R. Reuss, Graf Ernst von Mansfeld im böhmischen Kriege (Brunswick, 1865)
  • A. C. de Vilk-rmont, Ernest de Mansfeldt (Brussels, 1866)
  • L. Graf Uetterodt zu Schaffenberg, Ernst Graf zu Mansfeld (Gotha; 1867)
  • J. Grossmann, Des Grafen Ernst von Mansfeld letzte Pläne und Thaten (Breslau, 1870)
  • E. Fischer, Des Mansfelders Tod (Berlin, 1873)
  • S. R. Gardiner, History of England, vols. iv. and v. (1901);
  • J. L. Motley, Life and Death of John of Barneveld (ed. 1904; vol. ii.)

Original text from 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica

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