How exactly did Christian von Brunswick die?

Christian the Younger of Brunswick (or Braunschweig), nephew of King Christian IV of Denmark, was a cavalry commander of the Thirty Years’ War who fought for the House of Orange and later under Frederick V, Elector Palatine.

In 1622 he led a campaign against the Spanish during which his arm was severed. Then in 1625 he died after retreating from General Tilly in Hesse. He was only 26 years old! Even for the time, this seems like a young age for someone to die at. I’m trying to figure out exactly how it happened, and I can’t. Most of the in-depth information about this man is probably in German anyway. The English language websites offering biographical information of him are scanty at best; most of them are just copies of the Wikipedia entry anyway.

Is there anyone here who knows the details of how this man died? I’m trying to write a historical fiction involving him.

Don’t know answer, but there are two somewhat conflicting explanations in the Wikipedia article:


But it seems to me, that back in the 1600s, any type of serious wound could easily cause death, without antibiotics and sterile medical practices. But then again, like you said, he survived having his arm cut off.

Another observation - he was an extremely handsome guy and I like how realistic that painting is. Too bad he died without children!

The somewhat wordier German article says he got ill with a high fever and died while still encamped, so that seems to be about as specific as the medicinal science of the time would allow. You really need to make Der lange Anton his sidekick though, how can you beat an eight-foot guardsman?

I think he might have been photoshopped a bit there, as this painting was made one year earlier and looks like it might be the original:

Whose idea was it to paint him standing at such a bizarre and awkward angle?

The prime suspect would be Paulus Moreelse, I guess.

Yeah that portrait is not a good. His hair is weird!

That one long strand of hair hanging down was an actual style back then; I forget what it’s called but it was popular among dashing gentlemen.

That armor makes his ass look huge.

Since he was a cavalry commander he is wearing cuirassier armor, which had very long and wide tassets (leg protectors) which had the consequence of making the hips look wide. In typical German fashion, Christian’s suit is blackened and relatively no-frills. The members of the House of Orange, on the other hand, loved to deck themselves out in the most elaborately etched and gilded suits of cuirassier armor, as in this portrait of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange.

Here, you can see Frederick Hendrik of Orange leading a cavalry charge, dressed in a harness with gilded trim. The captain to his right, as well as all the cavalrymen who can be seen at the far-right of the painting, are wearing more basic outfits of the same design.

28 according to Catherine Wedgwood. Her passage on his fall:

Christian of Burnswick’s attack failed utterly. Worn out at twenty-eight, broken in reputation and fortune, ravaged by disease, he urged his tattered forces across the Hessian border, only to find that the Landgrave, without an army, without resources, already sentenced to the loss of his estates and terrified lest the imperial judgement should be put into force, would have nothing to do with the projects of the King of Denmark. Utterly dejected, Christian fell back on Wolfenbuttel where on June 16th 1626 he died, his vitals, so the Catholics reported, gnawed by a gigantic worm: the death of Herod.

From C.V. Wedgwood’s old classic on The Thirty Years War ( 1938, reprint 2005 by The New York Review of Books ). Which by the way, is despite its age the best prose account of that struggle, if not the most modern military history.

Anyway we can perhaps dismiss the Catholic propaganda of a ‘gigantic worm’ ( though parasitism would hardly be unusual ) and just go with ‘ravaged by disease’. That he survived having an arm amputated a few years earlier actually works against him - under the conditions of the day it undoubtedly took a lot out of him. Depressed, defeated, feverish ( with god knows what - could be a cold, could very well be typhus ), worn out physically by years of campaigning - his death isn’t such a shock, really. Remember disease was generally the biggest killer of armies and the young and strong died in droves from things like typhus during the Thirty Years War.