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Ferdinand II
Holy Roman Emperor, King in Germany, King of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia etc. Archduke of Austria
Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany
Reign 26 August 1619-15 February 1637
Coronation 9 September 1619, Frankfurt
Predecessor Matthias
Successor Ferdinand III
King of Bohemia
Reign 5 June 1617-15 February 1637
Coronation 29 June 1617, Prague
Predecessor Matthias
Successor Ferdinand III
King of Hungary and Croatia
Reign 1 July 1618-15 February 1637
Coronation 1 July 1618, Pressburg
Predecessor Matthias
Successor Ferdinand III
Archduke of Austria
Reign 1619-15 February 1637
Predecessor Matthias
Successor Ferdinand III
Spouse Maria Anna of Bavaria
Eleonor Gonzaga
Archduchess Christine

Archduke Charles

Archduke John-Charles

Ferdinand III

Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria

Archduchess Cecilia Renata of Austria

Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria

House House of Habsburg
Father Charles II, Archduke of Austria
Mother Maria Anna of Bavaria
Born July 9, 1578
Died February 15, 1637 (aged 58)

Ferdinand II (July 9, 1578 – February 15, 1637), of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor (1619-1637), King of Bohemia (1617-1619, 1620-1637), King of Hungary (1618-1625).[1][2]



He was born at Graz, the son of Charles II, Archduke of Austria, and Maria Anna of Bavaria. He was educated by the Jesuits and later frequented the University of Ingolstadt. After completing his studies in 1595, he acceded to his hereditary lands (where his older cousin, Archduke Maximilian III of Austria, had acted as regent between 1593 and 1595) and made a pilgrimage to Loreto and Rome. Shortly afterwards, he began to suppress non-Catholic faith in his territories.

In 1617, he was elected King of Bohemia by the Bohemian diet. He was also able to obtain the support of the Spanish Habsburgs in the succession of his cousin Matthias, who was heirless, as Holy Roman Emperor, in exchange for Alsace and other imperial fiefs in Italy.

His ultracatholicism caused immediate turmoil in his non-Catholic subjects, especially in Bohemia. He did not respect the religious liberties granted by the Letter of Majesty conceded, signed by the previous emperor, Rudolph II, which had guaranteed the freedom of religion to the nobles and the inhabitants of the cities. Additionally, Ferdinand was an absolutist monarch and infringed several historical privileges of the nobles. Given the relatively great number of protestants in the kingdom, including some of the nobles, the king's unpopularity soon caused the Bohemian Revolt. The Defenestration of Prague of 22 May 1618 is considered the first step of the Thirty Years' War.

In the following events he remained one of the staunchest backers of the Anti-Protestant Counter Reformation efforts as one of the heads of the German Catholic League. Ferdinand succeeded Matthias as Holy Roman Emperor in 1619. Supported by the Catholic League, including the Kings of Spain, Bavaria and Poland, Ferdinand decided to reclaim his possession in Bohemia and to quench the rebels. On 8 November 1620 his troops, led by the Belgian general Tilly, smashed the rebels of Frederick V of Palatinate, who had been elected as rival King in 1618. After Frederick's flight to the Netherlands, Ferdinand ordered forced conversion to Catholicism in Bohemia and Austria, causing Protestantism to nearly disappear in the following decades, and reduced the Diet's power.

In 1625, despite the subsidies received from Spain and the Pope, Ferdinand was in a bad financial situation. In order to muster an imperial army to continue the war, he applied to Albrecht von Wallenstein, one of the richest men in Bohemia: the latter accepted on condition that he could keep total control over the direction of the war, as well as over the booties taken during the operations. Wallenstein was able to recruit some 30,000 men (later expanded up to 100,000), with whom he was able to defeat the Protestants in Silesia, Anhalt and Denmark. In the wake of the overwhelming Catholic military successes, in 1629 Ferdinand issued the Edict of Restitution, by which all the land stripped to the Catholics after the Peace of Passau of 1552 would be returned.

His new ultracatholic demands caused the tottering Protestants to call in Gustavus II Adolphus, King of Sweden. Further, some of Ferdinand's Catholic allies started to complain about the excessive power gained by Wallenstein, as well as of the ruthless method he used to finance his huge army. Ferdinand replied by firing the Bohemian general in 1630. The lead of the war thenceforth was assigned to Tilly, who was however unable to stop the Swedish march from northern Germany towards Austria. Some historians directly blame Ferdinand for the large civilian loss of life in the Sack of Magdeburg in 1631: he had instructed Tilly to enforce the edict of Restitution upon Saxony, his orders causing the Belgian general to move the Catholic armies east, ultimately to Leipzig, where they suffered their first substantial defeat at First Breitenfeld.

Tilly died in 1632. Wallenstein was recalled, being able to muster an army in only a week, and to expel the Sweden from Bohemia. In November 1632 the Catholics were defeated in the Battle of Lützen, but Gustavus Adolphus died. A period of minor operations followed, perhaps because of Wallenstein's ambiguous conduct, which ended with his assassination in 1634, perhaps ordered by Ferdinand himself.

Despite Wallenstein's fall, the imperial forces recaptured Regensburg and were victorious in the Battle of Nördlingen. The Swedish army was substantially weakened, and the fear that the Habsburgs' power could at that point become overwhelming in the empire triggered France, led by Cardinal Richelieu, to enter the war on the Protestant side. In 1635 Ferdinand signed his last important act, the Peace of Prague, which however did not end the war.

He died in 1637, leaving to his son Ferdinand III an empire still entangled in a war and whose fortunes seemed to be increasingly fading away.

Marriages and issue

In 1600, Ferdinand married Maria Anna of Bavaria (1574-1616), daughter of Duke William V of Bavaria. They had seven children:

In 1622, he married Eleonore of Mantua (Gonzaga) (1598-1655), the daughter of Duke Vincenzo I of Mantua and Eleonora de' Medici, at Innsbruck.



Ferdinand II, by the grace of God elected Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King in Germany, King of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, etc. Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Luxemburg, of the Higher and Lower Silesia, of Wurtemburg and Teck, Prince of Swabia, Count of Habsburg, Tyrol, Kyburg and Goritia, Marquess of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgovia, the Higher and Lower Lusace, Lord of the Marquisate of Slavonia, of Port Naon and Salines, etc. etc.


See also

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 9 July 1578 Died: 15 February 1637
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Charles II
Archduke of Inner Austria
Succeeded by
Ferdinand III
Preceded by
King of Bohemia
King of Hungary
King in Germany
(formally King of the Romans)

Holy Roman Emperor (elect)
Archduke of Austria
Archduke of Further Austria
Succeeded by
Leopold V,
Governor since 1619


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