The Integration of Bohemian and Hungarian Aristocrats into the Spanish Habsburg System via Diplomatic Encounters, Cultural Exchange, and News Management (1608–1655)
“Momentum” Holy Crown Research Team, Research Centre for the Humanities
Hungarian Historical Review Volume 12 Issue 2 (2023):3–36 DOI 10.38145/2023.2.171
The composite state of the Spanish Habsburgs had a fading military, financial and diplomatic predominance in Central Europe in the first half of the seventeenth century. The Bohemian and Hungarian aristocracy was, to varying extents, integrated into the Spanish Habsburg system. This article presents three forms of integration and diplomatic relationship. First, it examines diplomatic and political encounters in the main governmental bodies and diets advising the emperor in decision-making, or more specifically, in the Imperial Privy Council in Vienna and during the diets of the kingdom of Hungary. Spanish Habsburg politicians and diplomats acted in many powerful ways to establish connections with Bohemian and Hungarian aristocrats so that they follow and adjust to their political agenda. Bohemian families (Slavata, Martiniz) had close relations and alliances with Spanish councilors in Vienna (who acted as ambassadors of the Spanish king), and several Hungarian aristocrats had interactions with them during the diets in order to secure the long-term interests of the dynasty in the Kingdom of Hungary. Second, the exchange, purchase, and influence of cultural goods and objects (e.g., books and gifts) and the ways in which these cultural goods were put to use, as well as the migration of people, show that the relationship went well beyond power politics and formal diplomatic relations. Personal and cultural influence and even early signs of acculturation can be clearly detected in several Bohemian and Hungarian families (e.g., the Forgách, Pázmány, and Zrínyi families), who ordered and read hundreds of books from Spanish Habsburg authors (including several books from Spanish Habsburg diplomats) and cities and exchanged diplomatic gifts with their Spanish counterparts. People, including influential figures (soldiers and nobles), also moved among Habsburg political centers, prompted by diplomatic or family relations between Spanish Habsburg politicians and Bohemian or Hungarian families. Third, information gathered in Vienna radiated to all Spanish Habsburg states in different layers of granularity, density, and confidentiality. Top Spanish diplomats could access and transmit classified documents and the texts of international contracts obtained from Central European aristocrats and events. They also sent thousands of reports to their superiors about general news in Bohemia and Hungary. At the same time, lower-ranking nobles often struggled to keep up with and understand international events and trends and failed to get information about the key results of wars and imperial diets, since they lacked access to the network and the seniority to exert adequate influence.
Keywords: Spanish Monarchy, early modern diplomacy, Habsburg Studies, Central European aristocracy, early modern Hungary, early modern Bohemia
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