Holy Roman Emperor


Maximilian was born on March 22, 1459 in Wiener Neustadt, Austria and died on January 12, 1519 Wels, Austria. Maximilian I was a member if the Habsburg Dynasty, he was the son of Holy Roman emperor Frederick III (the House of Habsburg) and Empress Eleonor (of the Portuguese royal house of Avis). He married Mary, Duchess of Burgundy in 1477 (1457-1482). Then in 1490 married Anne, Duchess of Brittany (1477-1514), by proxy, but that marriage was annulled in 1491. After that, in 1994, Maximilian married Bianca Maria Sforza (1472-1510). Maximilian had legitimate children, including Philip the Fair, duke of Burgundy and king of Castile, and Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy.


Through a double marriage of Jagiellonians and Habsburgs negotiated in Vienna in 1515, Maximilian set up the situation in which his grandson Ferdinand I (ruled 1558–1564) claimed the Bohemian and Hungarian thrones after the death of the Jagiellonian king Louis II (ruled 1516–1526) on the battlefield at Mohács, fighting the Ottoman army, in 1526. Maximilian is credited with engineering the marriage in 1496 of his son Philip to the Spanish heiress Joan I (queen of Castile 1504–1555; queen of Aragón 1516–1555).

Maximilian's marriage to the heiress of the great late-medieval Burgundian inheritance, Mary, brought those rich lands under the control of the Habsburgs.

His constant lack of money did not deter him from imagining magnificent schemes, many relating to projecting an image of himself and his rule to posterity. The most famous examples of these undertakings are the elaborate funerary monuments he planned for himself in the court chapel at Innsbruck. These monuments reveal a combination of imagined ties among his dynasty, medieval antecedents, and classical Rome (inspired by humanist interests in antiquity). His court has been seen as an important mediator for the spread of Italianate forms and ideas across the Alps into the rest of the Holy Roman Empire, particularly after his marriage in 1494 to one of the richest heiresses of his day, Bianca Maria Sforza, from Milan.

In the history of the Habsburg Dynasty, Maximilian built on his father's acquisition of the imperial crown, which remained in Habsburg hands with one brief exception until they declared the end of the empire in 1806.

Impact On Today

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, and a Triumphal Procession which, is led by a Large Triumphal Carriage, 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. It 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. It also sported a pair of curled ram's horns, brass spectacles, and even etched beard stubble.

Interesting Facts

He was a better knight than he was a general, and he appears to have been far more a storybook king than a hardworking 15th-century monarch. He spent a great deal of time and money perpetuating his own memory, both in works and pictures about himself and in several romantic versions of his own life which he wrote.

Maximilian also put new technology to good effect with his Zeughaus, or armoury, back in Innsbruck where the same expertise that was lavished on coins and memorial sculpture was used to produce state-of-the-art artillery to protect the scattered Habsburg possessions. Meanwhile, visitors to Austria can enjoy the wider aspects of Maximilian's world of hunting, fishing, diplomacy and having a good time.

His life was streaked by tragedy: his first wife, Mary of Burgundy, was killed by a fall from her horse while out hunting, pregnant with his third child; his son `Philip the Fair' died in his twenties; Philip's wife, Joanna, mother of Charles V, earned her epithet of `the Mad' by carrying her husband's embalmed body around with her on her travels, with frequent inspections.

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