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Maximilian I
Holy Roman Emperor-elect; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Burgundy
Portrait by Albrecht Dürer, 1519 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Maximilian holds his personal emblem, the pomegranate.
King of Germany (King of the Romans)
Reign 16 February 1486 – 12 January 1519
Coronation 9 April 1486
Predecessor Frederick III
Successor Charles V
Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria
Reign 19 August 1493 – 12 January 1519
Predecessor Frederick III
Successor Charles V
Duke of Burgundy
Reign 5 January 1477 – 27 March 1482
Predecessor Mary the Rich
Successor Philip IV
Spouse Mary, Duchess of Burgundy
Anne of Brittany{annulled}
Bianca Maria Sforza
Philip I of Castile

Margaret, Archduchess of Austria

House House of Habsburg
Father Frederick III
Mother Eleanor of Portugal
Born 22 March 1459(1459-03-22)
Wiener Neustadt, Austria
Died 12 January 1519 (aged 59)
Wels, Upper Austria
Burial Wiener Neustadt, Austria

Maximilian I of Habsburg (22 March 1459 – 12 January 1519), the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1493 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 until his death. He had ruled jointly with his father for the last ten years of his father's reign, from circa 1483. He expanded the influence of the House of Habsburg through both war and marriage,[1] but also lost the Austrian territories in today's Switzerland in the battle of Dornach 22 July 1499, where the Swiss won a final decisive victory. King Maximilian I had no choice but to agree to a peace treaty signed on 22 September 1499 in Basel granting the Swiss Confederacy de facto far-reaching independence from the Habsburgs. He is often referred to as "The Last Knight".


Reign in Burgundy and The Netherlands

Maximilian governed his first wife's vast inheritance in the Low Countries, and he prosecuted a war over them with Louis XI, King of France on her behalf.[1] Upon the Duke of Burgundy's death in 1477, the Duchy of Burgundy had been claimed by the French crown under Salic Law. Louis further attempted to expand his control into the Burgundian Netherlands. Mary, who was only 20 and yet unmarried, refused a proposed marriage to the Dauphin as a way to settle the dispute, and when she married Maximilian less than a year after her father's death, she used his power to try to take back the parts of her father's lands Louis had acquired. Maximilian was successful in the war and in stabilizing the Netherlands, but some of the Netherland provinces were hostile to him; when Mary died unexpectedly in March 1482, they signed a treaty with Louis in 1482 which forced Maximilian to give Franche Comté and Artois to Louis.[1] Maximilian continued to govern Mary's remaining inheritance in the name of their young son, Philip the Handsome. After the regency ended, Maximilian and Charles VIII exchanged these two territories for Burgundy and Picardy in the Treaty of Senlis (1493). Thus ultimately much of the Netherlands became and remained a Habsburg possession.

Reign in the Holy Roman Empire

Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I Arms.svg

Elected King of the Romans (Rex Romanorum) 16 February 1486 in Frankfurt am Main at his father's initiative and crowned on 9 April 1486 in Aachen, Maximilian also stood at the head of the Holy Roman Empire upon his father's death in 1493. After he married Bianca Maria Sforza, a daughter of the Duke of Milan on 16 March 1494, Maximilian sought to expand his power in parts of Italy.[1] This brought French intervention in Italy, inaugurating the prolonged Italian Wars.[1] He joined the Holy League to counter the French and lost, but after his death the Empire ultimately won. Maximilian was also forced to grant independence to Switzerland,[1] where he had tried to re-establish the lost Habsburg dominance.

He is possibly best known for leading the 1495 Reichstag at Worms which concluded on the Reichsreform ("Imperial Reform"), reshaping much of the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 1499 Treaty of Basel, Maximilian was forced to acknowledge the de facto independence of the Swiss confederacy from the Empire as a result of the Battle of Dornach.

In 1508, Maximilian, with Pope Julius II's assent, took the title of Erwählter Römischer Kaiser ("Elected Roman Emperor"), thus ending the centuries-old custom that the Holy Roman Emperor had to be crowned by the pope.

Tu felix Austria nube

Emperor Maximilian I and his family; with his son Philip the Fair, his wife Mary of Burgundy, his grandsons Ferdinand I and Charles V, and Louis II of Hungary (husband of his granddaughter Mary of Austria).

As part of the Treaty of Arras, Maximilian betrothed his three-year-old daughter Margaret to the Dauphin (later Charles VIII), son of his adversary Louis XI. Louis had attempted seven years earlier to arrange a betrothal between the Dauphin and Margaret's mother, Mary. Under the terms of Margaret's betrothal, she was sent to Louis to be brought up under his guardianship. Despite the death of Louis in 1483, shortly after Margaret arrived in France, she remained at the French court. The Dauphin, now Charles VIII, was still a minor, and his regent until 1491 was his sister, Anne of France. Anne's first betrothal, to the Duke of Lorraine, had ended when the Duke broke it off in order to pursue Mary of Burgundy (and died shortly afterwards). Despite Margaret's betrothal and continued presence at the French court, Anne arranged a marriage between Charles and Anne of Brittany. She, in turn, had been betrothed in 1483, and actually married by proxy in 1491, to Maximilian himself, but Charles and his sister wanted her inheritance for France. The final result of all of these machinations was that Charles repudiated his betrothal to Margaret when he came of age in 1491, invaded Brittany, forced Anne of Brittany to repudiate her unconsummated marriage to Maximilian, and married her. (They had four children who all died in infancy, and after Charles died, his widow married his cousin and successor, Louis XII.) Margaret still remained in France until 1493, when she was finally returned to her father. She married twice more.

In 1493, Maximilian contracted another marriage for himself, this time to the daughter of the Duke of Milan, whence ensued the lengthy Italian Wars with France. Thus Maximilian through his own marriages (and attempted marriage) sought to extend his sphere of influence against that of France. The marriages he arranged for both of his children more successfully fulfilled the same goal, and after the turn of the sixteenth century, his matchmaking focused on his grandchildren, for whom he looked opposite France towards the east.

In order to reduce the growing pressures on the Empire brought about by treaties between the rulers of France, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, and Russia, as well as to secure Bohemia and Hungary for the Habsburgs, Maximilian I met with the Jagiellonian kings Ladislaus II of Hungary and Bohemia and Sigismund I of Poland at the First Congress of Vienna in 1515. There they arranged for Maximilian's granddaughter Mary to marry Louis, the son of Ladislaus, and for Anne (the sister of Louis) to marry Maximilian's grandson Ferdinand(both grandchildren being the children of Philip the Handsome, Maximilian's son, and Juana la Loca of Castile). The marriages arranged there brought Habsburg kingship over Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. Both Anne and Louis were adopted by Maximilian following the death of Ladislaus. These political marriages were summed up in the following Latin elegiac couplet: Bella gerant aliī, tū fēlix Austria nūbe/ Nam quae Mars aliīs, dat tibi regna Venus, "Let others wage war, but thou, O happy Austria, marry; for those kingdoms which Mars gives to others, Venus gives to thee."

Death and legacy

Maximilian's cenotaph, Innsbruck

Maximilian died in Wels, Upper Austria, and was succeeded as Emperor by his grandson Charles V, his son Philip the Handsome having died in 1506. Although he is buried in the Castle Chapel at Wiener Neustadt, a cenotaph tomb for Maximilian is located in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck.[2]

Maximilian was a keen supporter of the arts and sciences, and he surrounded himself with scholars such as Joachim Vadian and Andreas Stoberl (Stiborius), promoting them to important court posts. His reign saw the first flourishing of the Renaissance in Germany. He commissioned a series of three monumental woodblock prints - The Triumphal Arch (1512-18, 192 woodcut panels, 295 cm wide and 357 cm high - approximately 9'8" by 11'8½"), and a Triumphal Procession (1516-18, 137 woodcut panels, 54 m long) which is led by a Large Triumphal Carriage (1522, 8 woodcut panels, 1½' high and 8' long), created by artists including Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Altdorfer and Hans Burgkmair.

Maximilian had a great passion for armour, not only as equipment for battle or tournaments but as an art form. The style of armour that became popular during the second half of his reign featured elaborate fluting and metalworking, and became known as Maximilian armour after the Emperor. Maximilian armour emphasized the details in the shaping of the metal itself, rather than the etched or gilded designs popular in the Milanese style. Maximilian also gave a bizarre jousting helmet as a gift to King Henry VIII - the helmet's visor featured a human face, with eyes, nose and a grinning mouth, and was modeled after the appearance of Maximilian himself.[3] It also sported a pair of curled ram's horns, brass spectacles, and even etched beard stubble.

Maximilian had appointed his daughter Margaret as both Regent of the Netherlands and the guardian and educator of his grandsons Charles and Ferdinand (their father, Philip, having predeceased Maximilian), and she fulfilled this task well. Through wars and marriages he extended the Habsburg influence in every direction: to the Netherlands, Spain, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, and Italy. This influence would last for centuries and shape much of European history.


Maximilian's ancestors in three generations
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor Father:
Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor
Paternal Grandfather:
Ernest, Duke of Austria
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Leopold III, Duke of Austria
Paternal Great-Grandmother:
Viridis Visconti
Paternal Grandmother:
Cymburgis of Masovia
Paternal Great-Grandfather:
Siemowit IV, Duke of Masovia
Paternal Great-Grandmother:
Alexandra of Lithuania
Eleanor of Portugal
Maternal Grandfather:
Edward of Portugal
Maternal Great-Grandfather:
John I of Portugal
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Philippa of Lancaster
Maternal Grandmother:
Leonor of Aragon
Maternal Great-Grandfather:
Ferdinand I of Aragon
Maternal Great-Grandmother:
Eleanor of Alburquerque


Maximilian I, by the grace of God elected Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King in Germany, of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, etc. Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limburg, Luxembourg, Gelderland, Landgrave of Alsace, Prince of Swabia, Count Palatine of Burgundy, Princely Count of Habsburg, Hainaut, Flanders, Tyrol, Gorizia, Artois, Holland, Seeland, Ferrette, Kyburg, Namur, Zutphen, Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire, the Enns, Burgau, Lord of Frisia, the Wendish March, Pordenone, Salins, Mechelen, etc. etc.

Marriages and offspring

Maximilian was married three times, of which only the first marriage produced offspring:

  • Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482). They were married in Ghent on 18 August 1477, and the marriage was ended by Mary's death in a riding accident in 1482. The marriage produced three children:
  1. Philip the Handsome (1478–1506) who inherited his mother's domains following her death, but predeceased his father. He married Joanna of Castile, becoming King-consort of Castile upon her accession in 1504, and was the father of the Holy Roman Emperors Charles V and Ferdinand I
  2. Margaret of Austria, (1480–1533), who was first engaged at the age of 2 to the French Dauphin (who became Charles VIII of France a year later) to confirm peace between France and Burgundy. She was sent back to her father in 1492 after Charles repudiated their betrothal to marry Anne of Brittany. She was then married to the Crown Prince of Castile and Aragon John, Prince of Asturias, and after his death to Philibert II of Savoy, after which she undertook the guardianship of her deceased brother Philip's children, and governed Burgundy for the heir, Charles.
  3. Francis of Austria, who died shortly after his birth in 1481.
  • Anne of Brittany (1477–1514) — they were married by proxy in Rennes on 18 December 1490, but the contract was dissolved by the Pope in early 1492, by which time Anne had already been forced by the French King, Charles VIII (the fiancé of Maximilian's daughter Margaret of Austria) to repudiate the contract and marry himself instead.
  • Bianca Maria Sforza (1472–1510) — they were married in 1493, the marriage bringing Maximilian a rich dowry and allowing him to assert his rights as Imperial overlord of Milan. The marriage was unhappy, and they had no children.
  • By Margareta Von Edelsheim, Maximilian is alleged to have been the father of:
  1. Margareta (1480-1537) wife of Count Ludwig Von Helfenstein-Wiesentheid, was killed by peasants on 16 April 1525 in the Massacre of Weinsberg during the Peasants' War.

See also


External links

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 22 March 1459 Died: 12 January 1519
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick III
German King
(formally King of the Romans)

Succeeded by
Charles V
Holy Roman Emperor
as Emperor elect

Archduke of Inner Austria,
Duke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola

Preceded by
Archduke of Further Austria,
Archduke of Upper Austria,
Count of the Tyrol

Preceded by
Mary the Rich
Titular Duke of Burgundy de jure uxoris
with Mary the Rich

5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Succeeded by
Charles V
Duke of Brabant, Limburg and Lothier,
Duke of Luxemburg, Margrave of Namur,
Count of Artois and Flanders,
Count of Charolais,
Count of Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland,
Count Palatine of Burgundy
by marriage
with Mary the Rich

5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Duke of Guelders, Count of Zutphen by marriage
with Mary the Rich

5 January 1477–27 March 1482
Succeeded by
Elisabeth of Brunswick
Preceded by
Titular Duke of Brittany de jure uxoris
with Anne of Brittany

18 December 1490–December 1491
Succeeded by


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