|House of Habsburg|
|Imperial and Royal dynasty|
Coat of arms of the Counts of Habsburg
|Founder||Radbot, Count of Habsburg|
|Current head||None; main line extinct|
|Final ruler||Empress Maria Theresa|
|Dissolution||November 29, 1780|
The House of Habsburg (//; German: [ˈhaːpsbʊʁk]; alternatively spelled Hapsburg in English), also officially called the House of Austria (Haus Österreich in German, Casa de Austria in Spanish), was one of the most influential and distinguished royal houses of Europe. The throne of the Holy Roman Empire was continuously occupied by the Habsburgs from 1438 until their extinction in the male line in 1740. The house also produced kings of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Galicia, Portugal and Spain with their respective colonies, as well as rulers of several principalities in the Netherlands and Italy. From the 16th century, following the reign of Charles V, the dynasty was split between its Austrian and Spanish branches. Although they ruled distinct territories, they nevertheless maintained close relations and frequently intermarried.
The House takes its name from Habsburg Castle, a fortress built in the 1020s in present-day Switzerland, in the canton of Aargau, by Count Radbot of Klettgau, who named his fortress Habsburg. His grandson Otto II was the first to take the fortress name as his own, adding "Count of Habsburg" to his title. The House of Habsburg gathered dynastic momentum through the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. In 1273, Count Radbot's seventh generation descendant Rudolph of Habsburg became Roman-German King. He moved the family's power base to the Duchy of Austria, which the Habsburgs ruled until 1918.
A series of dynastic marriages enabled the family to vastly expand its domains to include Burgundy, Spain and its colonial empire, Bohemia, Hungary, and other territories. In the 16th century, the family separated into the senior Spanish and the junior Austrian branches, who settled their mutual claims in the Oñate treaty.
The House of Habsburg became extinct in the male line in the 18th century. The senior Spanish branch ended upon the death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 and was replaced by the House of Bourbon. The remaining Austrian branch became extinct in the male line in 1740 with the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. It was succeeded by the descendants of his eldest daughter Maria Theresa's marriage to Francis III, Duke of Lorraine. The successor house styled itself formally as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (German: Habsburg-Lothringen); because it was often still referred to as the House of Habsburg, historians use the appellation of the Habsburg Monarchy for the countries and provinces that were ruled by the family until 1918. The House of Habsburg-Lorraine continues to exist to this day and its members use the Habsburg name, for example Karl von Habsburg.
The Habsburg Empire had the advantage of size, but multiple disadvantages. There were rivals on four sides, its finances were unstable, the population was fragmented into multiple ethnicities, and its industrial base was thin. Its naval resources were so minimal that it did not attempt to build an overseas empire. It did have the advantage of good diplomats, typified by Prince Metternich; they had a grand strategy for survival that kept the empire going despite wars with the Ottomans, Frederick the Great, Napoleon and Bismarck, until the final disaster of the First World War. Along with the Capetian dynasty, it was one of the two most powerful continental European royal families, dominating European politics for nearly five centuries.
Their principal roles (including the roles of their cadet branches) were as follows:
Numerous other titles were attached to the crowns listed above.
The progenitor of the House of Habsburg may have been Guntram the Rich, a count in the Breisgau who lived in the 10th century, and forthwith farther back as the early medieval Adalrich, Duke of Alsace, father of the Etichonids from which Habsburg derives. His grandson Radbot, Count of Habsburg founded the Habsburg Castle, after which the Habsburgs are named. The origins of the castle's name, located in what is now the Swiss canton of Aargau, are uncertain. There is disagreement on whether the name is derived from the High German Habichtsburg (hawk castle), or from the Middle High German word hab/hap meaning ford, as there is a river with a ford nearby. The first documented use of the name by the dynasty itself has been traced to the year 1108. The Habsburg Castle was the family seat in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
The Habsburgs expanded their influence through arranged marriages and by gaining political privileges, especially countship rights in Zürichgau, Aargau and Thurgau. In the 13th century, the house aimed its marriage policy at families in Upper Alsace and Swabia. They were also able to gain high positions in the church hierarchy for their members. Territorially, they often profited from the extinction of other noble families such as the House of Kyburg.
By the second half of the 13th century, count Rudolph IV (1218–1291) had become one of the most influential territorial lords in the area between the Vosges Mountains and Lake Constance. Due to these impressive preconditions, on 1 October 1273, Rudolph was chosen as the King of the Romans and received the name Rudolph I of Germany.
In a crucial step towards the creation of his own power base in the Eastern Alps, Rudolph led a coalition against king Ottokar II of Bohemia who had taken advantage of the Great Interregnum in order to expand southwards, taking over first the Babenberg (Austria, Styria, Savinja), and then the Spanheim inheritance (Carinthia and Carniola). In 1278, Ottokar was defeated and killed in the Battle of Marchfeld. The lands he had acquired in the previous decades were reverted to the German crown. In 1282, the Habsburgs gained for themselves the rulership of the duchies of Austria and Styria, which they then held for over 600 years, until 1918. The southern portions of Ottokar's former realm, Carinthia, Carniola, and Savinja, were granted to Rudolph's allies from the House of Gorizia. The resulting arrangement, known as the "Habsburg-Gorizia equilibrium in the Eastern Alps" lasted for half a decade.
After Rudolph's death, the Habsburgs failed to maintain the Roman kingship. In the 1300s, their attempt to gain the Bohemian crown was frustrated first by Henry of Bohemia and finally by the House of Luxembourg. However, the weakening of the House of Gorizia in this succession struggle enabled them to expand southwards: in 1311, they took over the Savinja, and after the death of Henry of Bohemia in 1335, they assumed power in Carniola and in Carinthia. In 1369, they would succeed his daughter in Tyrol, as well. After the death of Albert III of Gorizia in 1374, they gained their first foothold on the Adriatic, in central Istria (Mitterburg), followed by Trieste in 1382. The original home territories of the Habsburgs, the Aargau with Habsburg Castle and much of the other original possessions in what is now Switzerland were lost in the 14th century to the expanding Swiss Confederacy after the battles of Morgarten (1315) and Sempach (1386).
Through the forged privilegium maius document (1358/59), a special bond was created between the House of Habsburg and Austria. The document, forged at the behest of Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria (1339–1365), also attempted to introduce rules to preserve the unity of the family's Austrian lands. In the long term, this indeed succeeded, but Rudolph's brothers ignored the rule, leading to the separation of the Albertian and Leopoldian family lines in 1379: the former would maintain Austria proper, while the latter would rule over Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, which became known as Inner Austria, as well as Tyrol and the original Habsburg lands in Swabia, now known as Further Austria.
By marrying Elisabeth of Luxembourg, the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund in 1437, Duke Albert V (1397–1439) of the Albertine line became the ruler of Bohemia and Hungary, expanding the family's political horizons. The next year, Albert V was crowned as the King of the Romans as Albert II. After his early death in war with the Turks in 1439, and after the death of his son Ladislaus Postumus in 1457, the Habsburgs lost Bohemia and Hungary again. National kingdoms were established in these areas, and the Habsburgs were not able to restore their influence there for decades. With Ladislaus's death, the Albertine line died out, and the Leopoldian line took over all the family possessions.
In 1440, Frederick III was chosen by the electoral college to succeed Albert II as the king. Several Habsburg kings had attempted to gain the imperial throne over the years, but success finally arrived on 19 March 1452, when Pope Nicholas V crowned Frederick III as the Holy Roman Emperor in a grand ceremony held in Rome. In Frederick III, the Pope found an important political ally with whose help he was able to counter the conciliar movement.
While in Rome, Frederick III married Eleanor of Portugal, enabling him to build a network of connections with dynasties in the west and southeast of Europe. Frederick was rather distant to his family; Eleanor, by contrast, had a great influence on the raising and education of Frederick's children and therefore played an important role in the family's rise to prominence. After Frederick III's coronation, the Habsburgs were able to hold the imperial throne almost continuously for centuries, until 1806.
As emperor, Frederick III took a leading role inside the family and positioned himself as the judge over the family's internal conflicts, often making use of the privilegium maius. He was able to restore the unity of the house's Austrian lands, as the Albertinian line was now extinct. Territorial integrity was also strengthened by the extinction of the Tyrolean branch of the Leopoldian line in 1490/1496. Frederick's aim was to make Austria a united country, stretching from the Rhine to the Mur and Leitha.
On the external front, one of Frederick's main achievements was the Siege of Neuss (1474–75), in which he forced Charles the Bold of Burgundy to give his daughter Mary of Burgundy as wife to Frederick's son Maximilian. The wedding took place on the evening of 16 August 1477 and ultimately resulted in the Habsburgs acquiring control of the Low Countries. After Mary's early death in 1482, Maximilian attempted to secure the Burgundian heritance to one of his and Mary's children Philip the Handsome. Charles VIII of France contested this, using both military and dynastic means, but the Burgundian succession was finally ruled in favor of Philip in the Treaty of Senlis in 1493.
After the death of his father in 1493, Maximilian has proclaimed the new King of the Romans, receiving the name Maximilian I. Maximilian was initially unable to travel to Rome to receive the Imperial title from the Pope, due to opposition from Venice and from the French who were occupying Milan, as well a refusal from the Pope due to enemy forces being present on his territory. In 1508, Maximilian proclaimed himself as the "chosen Emperor," and this was also recognized by the Pope due to changes in political alliances. This had a historical consequence in that, in the future, the Roman King would also automatically become Emperor, without needing the Pope's consent. In 1530, Emperor Charles V became the last person to be crowned as the Emperor by the Pope.
Maximilian's rule (1493–1519) was a time of great expansion for the Habsburgs. In 1497, Maximilian's son Philip the Handsome (also known as Phillip the Fair) married Joanna of Castile, also known as Joan the Mad, heiress of Castile, Aragon, and most of Spain. Phillip and Joan had six children, the eldest of whom became emperor Charles V and inherited the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon (including their colonies in the New World) as Charles I, Southern Italy, Austria, and the Low Countries.
The foundations for the later empire of Austria-Hungary were laid in 1515 by the means of a double wedding between Louis, only son of Vladislaus II, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and Maximilian's granddaughter Mary; and between her brother Archduke Ferdinand and Vladislaus' daughter Anna. The wedding was celebrated in grand style on 22 July 1515 and has been described by some historians as the First Congress of Vienna due to its significant implications for Europe's political landscape. All the children were still minors, so the wedding was formally completed in 1521. Vladislaus died on 13 March 1516, and Maximilian died on 12 January 1519, but his designs were ultimately successful: on Louis's death in 1526, Maximilian's grandson and Charles V's brother Ferdinand, became the King of Bohemia.
The Habsburg dynasty achieved the position of a true world power by the time of Charles V's election in 1519, for the first and only time in their history—the "World Emperor" ruling an "empire on which the sun never sets".
The Habsburgs' policies against Protestantism led to an eradication of the former throughout vast areas under their control.
After the abdication of Charles V in 1556, the Habsburg dynasty split into the branch of the Austrian Habsburgs (or German Habsburgs) and the branch of the Spanish Habsburgs. Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia, Hungary, and archduke of Austria in the name of his brother Charles V became suo jure monarch as well as the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor (designated as successor already in 1531). Philip II of Spain, son of Charles V, became King of Spain and its colonial empire, and ruler of the Mezzogiorno of Italy. The Spanish Habsburgs also ruled Portugal for a time (1580–1640).
The Seventeen Provinces and the Duchy of Milan were also left in personal union under the King of Spain, but remained part of the Holy Roman Empire. Furthermore, the Spanish king had claims on Hungary and Bohemia. In the secret Oñate treaty, the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs settled their mutual claims. The Spanish Habsburgs died out in 1700 (prompting the War of the Spanish Succession), as did the last male of the Austrian Habsburg line in 1740 (prompting the War of the Austrian Succession), and finally the last female of the Habsburg male line in 1780.
The Habsburgs sought to consolidate their power by the frequent use of consanguineous marriages. This resulted in a cumulatively deleterious effect on their gene pool. Marriages between the first cousins, or between uncle and niece, were commonplace in the family. A study of 3,000 family members over 16 generations by the University of Santiago de Compostela suggests that inbreeding directly led to their extinction.
Numerous members of the family show specific facial deformities: an enlarged lower jaw with an extended chin known as mandibular prognathism or "Habsburg jaw", a large nose with hump and hanging tip ("Habsburg nose"), and an everted lower lip ("Habsburg lip"). The latter two are signs of maxillary deficiency. A 2019 study found that the degree of mandibular prognasthism in the Habsburg family shows a statistically significant correlation with the degree of inbreeding. A correlation between maxillary deficiency and degree of inbreeding was also present but was not statistically significant.
The gene pool eventually became so small that the last of the Spanish line Charles II, who was severely disabled from birth, perhaps by genetic disorders, possessed a genome comparable to that of a child born to a brother and sister, as did his father, probably because of "remote inbreeding".
Ancestors of Charles II of Spain
The Austrian branch became extinct in the male line in 1740 with the death of Charles VI and in the female line in 1780 with the death of his daughter Maria Theresa; it was succeeded by the Vaudemont branch of the House of Lorraine in the person of her son Joseph II. The new successor house styled itself formally as House of Habsburg-Lorraine (German: Habsburg-Lothringen), although it was often referred to as simply the House of Habsburg. The heiress of the last Austrian Habsburgs Maria Theresa had married Francis Stephan, Duke of Lorraine (both of them were great-grandchildren of Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand III, but from different empresses). Their descendants carried on the Habsburg tradition from Vienna under the dynastic name Habsburg-Lorraine, although technically a new ruling house came into existence in the Habsburg-ruled territories, the House of Lorraine (see Dukes of Lorraine family tree). It is thought that extensive intra-family marriages within both lines contributed to their extinction.
Kingdoms and countries of Austria-Hungary:
Cisleithania (Empire of Austria): 1. Bohemia, 2. Bukovina, 3. Carinthia, 4. Carniola, 5. Dalmatia, 6. Galicia, 7. Küstenland, 8. Lower Austria, 9. Moravia, 10. Salzburg, 11. Silesia, 12. Styria, 13. Tirol, 14. Upper Austria, 15. Vorarlberg;
Transleithania (Kingdom of Hungary): 16. Hungary proper 17. Croatia-Slavonia; 18. Bosnia and Herzegovina (Austro-Hungarian condominium)
On 6 August 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved under the French Emperor Napoleon I's reorganization of Germany. However, in anticipation of the loss of his title of Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II declared himself hereditary Emperor of Austria (as Francis I) on 11 August 1804, three months after Napoleon had declared himself Emperor of the French on 18 May 1804.
Emperor Francis I of Austria used the official full list of titles: "We, Francis the First, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria; King of Jerusalem, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomeria; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Würzburg, Franconia, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola; Grand Duke of Cracow; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Sandomir, Masovia, Lublin, Upper and Lower Silesia, Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, and Friule; Prince of Berchtesgaden and Mergentheim; Princely Count of Habsburg, Gorizia, and Gradisca and of the Tyrol; and Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria".
The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created a real union, whereby the Kingdom of Hungary was granted co-equality with the Empire of Austria, that henceforth didn't include the Kingdom of Hungary as a crownland anymore. The Austrian and the Hungarian lands became independent entities enjoying equal status. Under this arrangement, the Hungarians referred to their ruler as king and never emperor (see k. u. k.). This prevailed until the Habsburgs' deposition from both Austria and Hungary in 1918 following defeat in World War I.
On 11 November 1918, with his empire collapsing around him, the last Habsburg ruler, Charles I of Austria (who also reigned as Charles IV of Hungary) issued a proclamation recognizing Austria's right to determine the future of the state and renouncing any role in state affairs. Two days later, he issued a separate proclamation for Hungary. Even though he did not officially abdicate, this is considered the end of the Habsburg dynasty. In 1919, the new republican Austrian government subsequently passed a law banishing the Habsburgs from Austrian territory until they renounced all intentions of regaining the throne and accepted the status of private citizens. Charles made several attempts to regain the throne of Hungary, and in 1921 the Hungarian government passed a law that revoked Charles' rights and dethroned the Habsburgs.
The Habsburgs did not formally abandon all hope of returning to power until Otto von Habsburg, the eldest son of Charles I, on 31 May 1961 renounced all claims to the throne.
Fragmentary references (see below) cite the Habsburgs as descendants of the early Germanic Etichonider, probably of Frankish, Burgundian or Visigothic origin, who ruled the Duchy of Alsace in the Early Middle Ages (7th–10th centuries). The dynasty is named for Eticho (also known as Aldarich) who ruled from 662 to 690.
Family tree of the ancestors of the Habsburg family, largely before becoming Holy Roman Emperors and (Arch)Dukes of Austria. This family tree only includes male scions of the House of Habsburg from 920 to 1308. Otto II was probably the first to take the Habsburg Castle name as his own, adding "von Habsburg" to his title and creating the House of Habsburg. See below for more references.