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Maximilian II 1527–1576 Holy Roman Emperor

Maximilian II
1527–1576
Holy Roman Emperor

Maximilian II held multiple thrones. He served as Holy Roman Emperor* (1564–1576), king of Bohemia (1549/1562–1576), and king of Hungary (1563–1576). Maximilian failed to achieve many of his political goals, but he had a lasting influence as a patron* of the arts.

Maximilian was a member of the Habsburgs, one of Europe's most powerful families. His father, Ferdinand I, ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1558 to 1564. Maximilian spent his early years in the Austrian city of Innsbruck, the imperial residence of the Habsburgs. Although raised as a Catholic, Maximilian probably became familiar with Protestant ideas through one of his tutors.

In 1544 Maximilian went to live at the court of his uncle, Charles V, the king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor (ruled 1519–1556). In 1548 he married the emperor's daughter Maria. Maximilian was generally expected to succeed his father as emperor, but he faced opposition from papal* circles because of his tolerant attitude toward Protestants. He considered himself a Christian and wanted to be neither Catholic nor Protestant. For a time, Maximilian's Spanish relatives also tried to block his rise to power.

Nevertheless, after the death of Ferdinand in 1564, Maximilian II became Holy Roman Emperor. He did not enjoy much success as a statesman during his reign. Despite his tolerant policies, he failed to restore unity between Catholics and Protestants. In addition, constant lack of money curbed many of his political goals.

Although Maximilian II faced many problems, he was a popular emperor who spoke German, Spanish, Czech, Italian, French, and Latin. Maximilian wanted to make Vienna a center of European intellectual life. At his court in Vienna, he created an academy of famous European scholars and scientists. The palace he built southeast of Vienna held a rare collection of non-European plants and animals. It became an important center for the study of natural science in central Europe.

A supporter of the arts, Maximilian hired many talented painters, sculptors, and architects. Some of his paintings still hang in collections in Vienna. The emperor was also a great music lover, who arranged to have musical activities of the highest order at his court.

(See alsoBohemia; Holy Roman Empire; Hungary. )

* Holy Roman Emperor

ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, a political body in central Europe composed of several states that existed until 1806

* patron

supporter or financial sponsor of an artist or writer

* papal

referring to the office and authority of the pope

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