Military History

‘ABLEST SOLDIER OF HIS AGE’

The military profession today is a matter of nationality. Modern-era soldiers spend their careers serving the country of their citizenship. It wasn’t always that way. In centuries past the international brotherhood of arms was almost a nationality in itself. Highly skilled professional officers routinely crossed national borders to offer their services where political or religious convictions took them—or where pay was better.

Even by the standards of those earlier times Germany’s Frederick Schomberg had a breathtakingly diverse military career, including service in six different armies and high command in five of those. Along the way he became a naturalized citizen of the Netherlands, England, France, Portugal and Brandenburg. He served in eight major wars, and his resume reads like an outline of 17th century military history.

Schomberg was born Friedrich Hermann von Schönberg in Heidelberg on Dec. 6, 1615, little more than two years before the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, the religious conflict that killed up to 75 percent of the population of German states. His family was an old and noble one in the Electorate of the Palatinate (corresponding roughly to the present-day state of Rhineland-Pfalz). The Schönbergs were Calvinist Protestants. Friedrich was the only child of Count Hans Meinhard von Schönberg, a Palatinate marshal and courtier. His English mother, Anne, was the daughter of Edward Sutton, the 5th Baron Dudley. Friedrich, however, was orphaned before he was a year old and raised by his grandmother. His education was sponsored by family friends, including the elector of the Palatinate, Friedrich V—the “Winter King” of Bohemia, over whom the Thirty Years’ War started.

In 1633, at age 17, Schönberg joined the army of Prince Frederick Henry of Orange and participated in the siege of Rheinberg amid the 1568–1648 Eighty Years’ War. The following year he joined the Swedish army in Germany and served in the Thirty Years’ War on the Protestant side. In 1635 he purchased a commission as a

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