Habsburg Austria Part I

A shrewd marriage policy and a fortunate ambition led to a progressive expansion of the Habsburg dominions. In 1335 Albert II received Carinthia and Carniola from the emperor Ludovico the Bavaro, in 1363 Rudolf IV obtained Tyrol from Margherita Maultesch and in the following years the purchase of Vorarlberg was completed. Also in 1363 with the famous falsification of Privilegium maius, Rudolph IV claimed a position of privilege to his family over the other electoral princes. However, a politically unified organization of the Austrian territories proceeded very slowly. In 1379 the division of the Habsburgs into two branches caused a new division of the family’s possessions: the Leopold branch had Styria, Carniola, Carinthia, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, the Albertine branch Upper and Lower Austria. Only in 1457 Frederick V (III as emperor) recomposed the unity of the Habsburg dominions, defending their compactness, albeit with difficulty, against the renewed autonomy aspirations of the cities and nobles and opposing the expansion attempts of Mattia Corvinus, king of Hungary., who managed, however, for some years to occupy Lower Austria and part of Styria (1480-90), conquering Vienna itself in 1485. Maximilian I (1493-1519) was finally able to give life to a more solid and centralized government, establishing the courtly council (Hofrat), also with the functions of supreme court of justice, the courtly chamber (Hofkammer), the center of fiscal and financial administration, based in Innsbruck, and the Court Chancellery (Hofkanzlei). On the death of Maximilian (1519) his nephew Charles I of Spain (Charles V) united the Spanish possessions with those of Austria and Germany, forming that famous empire “on which the sun never set”. After Charles V had entrusted the hereditary domains to his brother Ferdinand I (1521), emperor from 1558 to 1564, the recognition of the latter as king of Bohemia (as early as 1526) laid the foundations of the future Austrian Empire. Ferdinand also attempted to create a unitary monarchy, in the bureaucratic and fiscal fields, through the establishment of a military council and a committee for common affairs (1556); but the links with the territories formerly of the Jagelloni, dominated by a largely autonomous landed aristocracy, made the undertaking difficult, complicated by religious factors. Austria proper had been relatively infected by the Reformation; Anabaptism in the Tyrol, while much more solid roots threw the heresy in Bohemia (Bohemian Protestant outbreaks were harshly repressed by Ferdinand II). On the other hand, the constant threat of the Turks, pushed up to Vienna in 1529, and the relative religious tolerance of the Habsburgs (Ferdinand I’s reform “libellus” in 1562 was contributed to the unity) who, favoring the loyalty of the nobility, managed to tame the violent peasant rebellion (1593-97). According to softwareleverage, in the seventeenth century, despite the failure of the imperial aims in the West in the Thirty Years War, Austria, albeit under Turkish pressure until the battle of Vienna (1683) and that of Zenta (1697), in which Prince Eugene of Savoy definitively beat the Turks putting an end to their attempt to invade Europe, continued to expand and strengthen becoming, with its 7 million residents, the only fearsome rival of Louis XIV’s France. Clement with the Protestants was also Maximilian II (1564-76), while with Rudolph II (1576-1612) religious intolerance forced the Lutherans to join the Evangelical Union (1608) which suffered the rivalry of the Catholic League. In the first half of the century, the counter-reformist Rodolfo was followed by Matthias, Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III, under whom the first energetic phase of the Counter-Reformation developed., which provoked the Bohemian rebellion (in May 1618 there was the defenestration of Prague); this was however crushed by Ferdinand II in the battle of the White Mountain (1620), so that in 1627 Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia became hereditary domains, followed by Tyrol (1665) and Hungary (1687). The Peace of Westphalia (1648) consecrated the conquests of the Counter-Reformation for Austria, unlike the other German states in which Protestantism had steadily established itself. On the economic level, Austria benefited from having suffered almost insignificant damage in the Thirty Years War and for the expansion of the demand for forest and agricultural products by the West in industrial take-off. Hence the transformation of many funds, the spread of direct management and, with the prosperity of landowners, a further blow to the autonomy of the cities and the Stände, already undermined everywhere by the tax burden and monopoly privileges of the nobles. The eighteenth century saw the birth of the modern Austrian state, thanks to the reform efforts of the sovereigns, while, among the alternating fortunes of the wars against France and Turkey, a new formidable competitor was emerging in Germany: Prussia. The stability and indivisibility of the domains, affirmed by Charles VI (who reigned from 1711 to 1740) with the Pragmatic Sanction issued in 1713, which repealed the Salic law, cost the war of the Austrian succession (1740-48) and territorial sacrifices in Italy and Silesia. The latter, ceded to Prussia, remained the target of a vain revenge until the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), which, despite Kaunitz’s skilful diplomacy (“overthrow of alliances”), seriously undermined Austrian influence in Germany.

Habsburg Austria 1

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