1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Jenatsch, Georg

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17470221911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15 — Jenatsch, GeorgWilliam Augustus Brevoort Coolidge

JENATSCH, GEORG (1596–1639), Swiss political leader, one of the most striking figures in the troubled history of the Grisons in the 17th century, was born at Samaden (capital of the Upper Engadine). He studied at Zürich and Basel, and in 1617 became the Protestant pastor of Scharans (near Thusis). But almost at once he plunged into active politics, taking the side of the Venetian and Protestant party of the Salis family, as against the Spanish and Romanist policy supported by the rival family, that of Planta. He headed the “preachers” who in 1618 tortured to death the arch-priest Rusca, of Sondrio, and outlawed the Plantas. As reprisals, a number of Protestants were massacred at Tirano (1620), in the Valtellina, a very fertile valley, of considerable strategical importance (for through it the Spaniards in Milan could communicate by the Umbrail Pass with the Austrians in Tirol), which then fell into the hands of the Spanish. Jenatsch took part in the murder (1621) of Pompey Planta, the head of the rival party, but later with his friends was compelled to fly the country, giving up his position as a pastor, and henceforth acting solely as a soldier. He helped in the revolt against the Austrians in the Prättigau (1622), and in the invasion of the Valtellina by a French army (1624), but the peace made (1626) between France and Spain left the Valtellina in the hands of the pope, and so destroyed Jenatsch’s hopes. Having killed his colonel, Ruinelli, in a duel, Jenatsch had once more to leave his native land, and took service with the Venetians (1629–1630). In 1631 he went to Paris, and actively supported Richelieu’s schemes for driving the Spaniards out of the Valtellina, which led to the successful campaign of Rohan (1635), one of whose firmest supporters was Jenatsch. But he soon saw that the French were as unwilling as the Spaniards to restore the Valtellina to the Grisons (which had seized it in 1512). So he became a Romanist (1635), and negotiated secretly with the Spaniards and Austrians. He was the leader of the conspiracy which broke out in 1637, and resulted in the expulsion of Rohan and the French from the Grisons. This treachery on Jenatsch’s part did not, however, lead to the freeing of the Valtellina from the Spaniards, and once more he tried to get French support. But on the 24th of January 1639 he was assassinated at Coire by the Plantas; later in the same year the much coveted valley was restored by Spain to the Grisons, which held it till 1797. Jenatsch’s career is of general historical importance by reason of the long conflict between France and Spain for the possession of the Valtellina, which forms one of the most bloody episodes in the Thirty Years’ War.  (W. A. B. C.) 

See biography by E. Haffter (Davos, 1894).