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For the Sake of Dynastic Interests

The Thirty Years War ended with the devastation of the Czech lands. Up to one third of the population is estimated to have been lost. This was linked with a tightening of the servitude of serfs and high corvée dues, whereby serfs had to work free of charge for the benefit of their lord.   Because of the increased obligations, insurrections broke out in 1680, 1717 and 1738. In defence of their ancient rights, peasants from the Chodsko region living in the vicinity of Domažlice also rose up against their manorial nobility in the years 1692–1695. The uprising was suppressed, their old rights were definitively annulled, and the leader of the rebellion, Jan Sladký Kozina, ended up on the gallows.

The Jesuits exerted major efforts during the re-Catholicisation of the country, which the Hapsburgs placed great stress on. The order in Bohemia was active from as early as the second half of the sixteenth century. In 1622 they took control of Charles University. The conversion to Catholicism was controlled with the aid of annual confessional lists sent to Prague to the proconsulate. Catholicism was also consolidated by the baroque concept of religion, which was meant to impress with its splendour and ostentation. One example of this was the spectacular celebrations in 1729 during the canonisation of John of Pomuk (Jan Nepomucký). He became the patron saint of the Czech lands, confessors, millers and raftsmen. His is not just venerated at home, but also throughout Europe and the world.

A period of calm did not come after the end of the Thirty Years War. The land, which was slowly healing its wounds after being exhausted by the war, was threatened by the Turks, who conquered nearly all of Hungary. In 1683, after 150 years, they laid siege to Vienna for the second time with a large army. Imperial princes and the Polish king John III Sobieski came to the aid of the Hapsburgs.  A long Hapsburg army offensive followed after the defeat of the Turks in Vienna.
The monarchy waged wars against France and the “Sun King” Louis XIV. The growth in war expenditures led to a higher tax burden on the population.

When the Spanish branch of the Hapsburgs died out in 1700, the great empires laid claim to the throne (both the French Bourbons and the Central European Hapsburgs). The idea of the unification of France and Spain as one entity led to the creation of an anti-French coalition with the participation of Great Britain, the Netherlands and the imperial princes. The sudden death of Emperor Joseph I in 1711 meant that only one living male remained in the Hapsburg dynasty – the future emperor Charles VI. Great Britain became frightened of the unification of the two empires and the subsequent strengthening of the Hapsburgs on the continent. Remaining loyal to the principle of preserving the balance of power, Britain abandoned its existing ally and contributed to ending the wars through the conclusion of a peace treaty in Utrecht and Rastatt. A Bourbon took the throne in Spain and the Hapsburgs were compensated with Spanish territories in Italy and what is now Belgium.

From the very beginning of his reign, Charles VI (1711–1740) strived to resolve the situation that would arise were he to die without a male descendant. The Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 declared the monarchy to be indivisible. It also stipulated the order of succession in the male and female lines of the family.  Charles devoted a great amount of effort to having this recognised and accepted in all of the Hapsburg lands as well as on the international political stage. By the time of his death, the Pragmatic Sanction was recognised by all the important European powers, but only after many concessions had been granted.  All the same, Maria Theresa eventually had to defend her claims through the force of arms in the War of the Austrian Succession. The Pragmatic Sanction was the basis for legislation in the Hapsburg monarchy until 1918.