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Ferdinand I (Holy Roman Empire) (1503–1564)

FERDINAND I (HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE) (15031564)

FERDINAND I (HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE) (15031564), king of Bohemia, Hungary, and Croatia, 1526; king of the Romans 1531; Holy Roman emperor, 1558. The young Archduke Ferdinand was born on 10 March 1503 in Alcaláde Henares, Spain, and grew up under the supervision of his grandfather, King Ferdinand of Aragón and Castile. After the accession of his older brother Charles to the thrones of these Iberian kingdoms and election as Holy Roman emperor in 1519, Ferdinand was awarded the Habsburg Dynasty's holdings in central Europe via family treaties of 15211522.

The situation of these holdings when Ferdinand arrived in the early 1520s was challenging. The locals who had developed a historical relationship with the Habsburgs of earlier generations were now challenged to accept a Spanish-speaking ruler with more ties to his grandfather Ferdinand's Iberia than to his grandfather Maximilian's Austria. The spread and popularity of various Lutheran and Anabaptist ideas among the hereditary lands' population further complicated matters for the young ruler.

Ferdinand was also confronted with the Ottoman Dynasty's claims and influences in the neighboring kingdom of Hungary. Hungary had become a prize target of the neighboring ruling families' influence, and Ferdinand was able to stake out some claim to the Hungarian crown of St. Stephen because of negotiations with his wife's family, the Jagiellonians (the rulers of Poland-Lithuania, Bohemia, and Hungary), which had resulted in 1515 in a complicated set of marriage alliances. As a partial result of these negotiations, Archduke Ferdinand married Anne of Jagiełłon in the Austrian city of Linz in 1521.

Eager to build up his power and prestige, Archduke Ferdinand contributed substantially to the imperial campaigns in Italy against the French under King Francis I in 1525. His troops outnumbered those of his brother Charles V and played a major role in the imperial victory at Pavia that year. Charles recognized his younger brother's aid and importance by delegating increased authority to him in the empire, authority that would become publicly confirmed in 1531 with Ferdinand's election as king of the Romans (the title usually granted to the designated successor as emperor).

In 1526, Ferdinand's brother-in-law, the Bohemian and Hungarian King Louis II Jagiełłon, was killed on the battlefield at Mohács leading an army against the Ottomans. This led to the regency of Louis's widow (and Archduke Ferdinand's sister), Archduchess Mary, followed by the election of Ferdinand as king of Bohemia and then king of Hungary later the same year. (The last title was in dispute for much of the early sixteenth century.) Ferdinand was the last Hungarian ruler to be crowned at the medieval coronation and burial site of Székesfehérvár.

As king of the Romans, king of Bohemia, king of Hungary, and hereditary ruler of the various Habsburg dynastic lands of central Europe, Ferdinand was a substantial political power in early Reformation Europe. He is also credited with reorganizing the Habsburgs' administration of these territories along Burgundian lines and introducing elements of Italianate culture into the Austrian lands and Bohemia. The Belvedere summer palace in Prague, for example, is usually considered an expression of architectural styles and forms taken from sunnier Italian (and perhaps Spanish?) climes.

Handicapped by the ever-present threat of the Ottomans to the east as well as the disputes over the crown of St. Stephen in Hungary, Ferdinand was in a difficult position vis-à-vis the Lutheran princes in the empire from whom he wished (and needed) financial support. An Ottoman army unsuccessfully besieged the city of Vienna in 1529, and Ottoman cavalry forays into Habsburg territories continued into the early 1530s. Ultimately, Ferdinand rather unwillingly played a key role in negotiating the famous Religious Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which substantially established the legal framework of (Christian) religious cooperation in the Holy Roman Empire for the next sixty years.

When Ferdinand's brother Charles began laying down his imperial and other ruling responsibilities in the 1550s, Ferdinand was willing and able to pick many of them up, defending his and his sons' claims against those of his nephew, the future King Philip II of Spain (ruled 15561598), and taking over the empire as Ferdinand I in 1558. The House of Austria was now split between an Iberian and a central European branch. This oft-overestimated division would continue until the early eighteenth century. As emperor, Ferdinand participated (via representatives) in the frenzied final stages of the important Council of Trent, which ended in December 1563.

During his lifetime, Ferdinand engineered the election of his eldest son Maximilian to the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary, as well as his election as king of the Romans and heir to the imperial title. Ferdinand followed the example of his grandfather Emperor Maximilian I and not that of his brother Emperor Charles V in forgoing papal coronation, ruling instead as elected emperor. This precedent was followed by all his successors to the imperial title until the abolition of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

See also Augsburg, Religious Peace of (1555) ; Austria ; Bohemia ; Habsburg Dynasty ; Charles V (Holy Roman Empire) ; Holy Roman Empire ; Hungary ; Jagiellon Dynasty ; Maximilian I (Holy Roman Empire) ; Maximilian II (Holy Roman Empire) ; Vienna .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Source

Bauer, Wilhelm, et al., eds. Die Korrespondenz Ferdinands I. Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für neuere Geschichte Österreichs, vols. 11, 3031, 58. Vienna, 19122000. Covers years 15141534.

Secondary Sources

Bucholtz, Franz Bernhard von. Geschichte der Regierung Ferdinand des Ersten. 9 vols. Graz, 19681971. Reprint of 18311838 edition.

Fichtner, Paula Sutter. Ferdinand I of Austria: The Politics of Dynasticism in the Age of the Reformation. Boulder, Colo., 1982.

Ranke, Leopold von. Ferdinand I and Maximilian II of Austria: An Essay on the Political and Religious State of Germany Immediately after the Reformation. Translated by Lady Duff Gordon. New York, 1975. Reprint of 1856 edition.

Joseph F. Patrouch

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Ferdinand I

Ferdinand I

Ferdinand I (1503-1564) was Holy Roman emperor from 1555 to 1564. Before his accession and during his reign he pursued conciliatory policies toward the Protestants and the powerful German princes.

Born at Alcalá de Henares, Spain, on March 10, 1503, Ferdinand was the second son of Philip the Fair, Duke of Burgundy, and Joanna the Mad of Aragon and Castile. He lived for a long time in the shadow of his older brother, Charles, who was heir to the Hapsburg holdings in Germany and the Netherlands as well as to Spain and its Italian and South American possessions. In 1517 Charles went to Spain to take over the government, and the brothers met for the first time. Ferdinand was sent to the Netherlands to complete his education; there contact with Erasmian ideas had a lasting effect upon his attitude toward the Reformation.

On the death of their grandfather Emperor Maximilian I in 1519, Ferdinand's brother became Emperor Charles V, but Ferdinand received only the Hapsburg possessions of Upper and Lower Austria, Carinthia, Carniola, and, until 1534, Württemburg. In 1526, on the death of his brother-in-law Louis, Ferdinand became king of Bohemia and Hungary. His political position became rather ambiguous, for he had to combine the roles of German representative of imperial policy, German territorial prince, and independent king of Hungary, constantly harassed by the Turks. The necessity of finding support against the Turkish threat dictated much of his conciliatory attitude toward the Protestants.

The dangerous opposition of the Lutheran princes forced Charles V to secure Ferdinand's support. In 1531 Charles had Ferdinand elected king of the Romans, that is, designated successor to the imperial dignity. Later (1548-1551) Charles tried to dissuade Ferdinand from the imperial succession in order to preserve the empire for his own son Philip II. In 1551 a compromise was reached securing Philip's succession after Ferdinand's death. The agreement was not executed, however, and the imperial office remained in the hands of Ferdinand's direct descendants.

In German politics, which were closely connected to the religious issue, Ferdinand acted as a mediator between his brother and the Protestant princes. Although he remained a Catholic, Ferdinand supported efforts to reunite the confessions and to refer the disputed points to a general council. After Charles suffered a humiliating defeat by the Protestant princes in 1552, Ferdinand arranged the Treaty of Passau (1552), the first step toward the granting of religious freedom for the Lutheran princes (Treaty of Augsburg, 1555). Charles, however, refused to accept the decisions of the Augsburg Diet and abdicated. As emperor, Ferdinand continued his efforts toward reunion of the confessions with important concessions to the Protestants. He died in Vienna on July 25, 1564.

Further Reading

The life of Ferdinand I is recounted in Johannes Janssen, History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages (8 vols., 1883-1894; trans., 16 vols., 1896-1925). For additional information see Karl Brandi, The Emperor Charles V (1937; trans. 1939), and Friedrich Heer, The Holy Roman Empire (1967; trans. 1968). □

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Ferdinand I (Holy Roman emperor)

Ferdinand I, 1503–64, Holy Roman emperor (1558–64), king of Bohemia (1526–64) and of Hungary (1526–64), younger brother of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Brought up in Spain, he was expected to succeed his grandfather, Ferdinand II of Aragón, who, instead, made Charles his heir. In 1521, Charles gave him the Austrian duchies of the Hapsburgs. In the same year Ferdinand married Anna, daughter of Uladislaus II, king of Hungary and Bohemia, in fulfillment of a treaty (1515) between his grandfather, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Uladislaus II. When Anna's brother Louis II, who succeeded to the thrones of Bohemia and Hungary on his father's death (1516), was killed at the battle of Mohacs (1526), Ferdinand claimed the succession. He was elected king of Bohemia, but in Hungary he met the rival claim of John I (John Zapolya), supported by Sultan Sulayman I. John's claims were inherited by his son John Sigismund (king as John II). The sporadic warfare in Hungary was indecisive, except that Ferdinand had to pay tribute to the sultan for the strip of NW Hungary that he was allowed to keep with the royal title. In Bohemia, Ferdinand laid the groundwork for Hapsburg absolutism by virtually abrogating (1547) the prerogatives of the diet and the towns; he also began the reconversion of the kingdom to Catholicism by calling in the Jesuits. In Germany, Ferdinand increasingly acted as agent of Charles V, who in 1531 had him elected king of the Romans, which insured Ferdinand's succession as Holy Roman emperor. He had to deal with the Peasants' War and with the rebellions stirred up by Ulrich I, dispossessed duke of Württemberg, where Ferdinand was unpopular as governor. Ulrich secured the aid of Philip of Hesse and defeated Ferdinand at Lauffen (1534). Ferdinand was obliged to restore the duchy to Ulrich. In the war against the Protestant Schmalkaldic League (1546–47), Ferdinand was an important figure. Though a devout Catholic, Ferdinand was less committed against the Reformation than Charles V. When Charles's triumph against the league was turned to defeat by the betrayal of Maurice, elector of Saxony, Ferdinand acted as mediator in making the Treaty of Passau (1552), and in 1555 he negotiated a religious truce at Augsburg (see Augsburg, Peace of). Charles had practically surrendered the government of the empire to Ferdinand by 1556, although formal abdication was not complete until 1558. At the end of his reign, Ferdinand still hoped that the reconvened Council of Trent would bring about a union of the churches. He was succeeded by his son, Maximilian II, who had been crowned king of Bohemia (1562) and king of Hungary (1563) and had been elected king of the Romans (1562) before Ferdinand's death.

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Ferdinand I

Ferdinand I (1503–64) Holy Roman Emperor (1558–64), King of Bohemia and of Hungary (1526–64). His rule in Hungary was contested by John I, then by John II, both of whom were aided by the Ottoman Sultan. In Bohemia, Ferdinand secured the absolute rule of his Habsburg dynasty. In Germany, he helped to defeat the Protestant Schmalkaldic League (1546–47). Although a devout Catholic, Ferdinand negotiated the Peace of Augsburg (1555).

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