As the saying goes, money makes the world go round. This is particularly true when there are wars to be waged – and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that was more or less the permanent state of affairs.
The Habsburgs were permanently short of money – as a result of the Thirty Years’ War, the conflicts with the Ottoman Empire and with France, as well as the increasing expenditure on the Court and on civil servants. Hence they tried hard to find new sources of money to supplement tax revenue – sometimes with more, sometimes with less success. While the experiments in alchemy undertaken at the Courts in Prague and Vienna tended to devour more money than they brought in, when it came to getting hold of loans and ‘gifts of money’ the Habsburgs were highly successful. It was above all the large banking and trading houses and the Jews who lent the money to the financially weak rulers – in the case of the Jews this was not always done voluntarily.