Albrecht V: abducted from the clutches of his guardians

Antoni Boys (called Anton Waiss): Albrecht V (II), historicizing painting, between 1579 and 1587

On the death of his father in 1404, when Albrecht was just seven years old, he came under the guardianship of Wilhelm, Leopold and Ernst, the warring brothers from the Leopoldine line. Albrecht duly became one of the principal reasons for the bitter feuds between the brothers.

Antoni Boys (called Anton Waiss): Albrecht V (II), historicizing painting, between 1579 and 1587

At the desire of the Lower Austrian Estates, the brothers’ guardianship of Albrecht was limited in time to the 24 April 1411. After this, aged fourteen, Albrecht was to gain his majority in keeping with Habsburg dynastic law. As the date moved ever closer, his guardians attempted to delay the declaration of the boy’s majority for as long as possible, being unwilling to forego the rich revenues from the two Austrian duchies.

In reaction to this the Lower Austrian Estates took spectacular action: in the spring of 1411 they abducted Albrecht with his consent from the custody of his guardians and took him to Eggenburg in Lower Austria, where he was invested with his sovereign rights and the guardianship of his relatives was officially declared at an end. One of his guardians, Duke Leopold, is said to have fallen into a rage and suffered a stroke at the news, later dying from the consequences. As a result, new agreements were concluded in respect of the division of the territories. Albrecht received Lower and Upper Austria, while Ernst was granted the Inner Austrian lands and Friedrich became ruler over Tyrol and the Forelands.

Albrecht’s rule over the two Austrian duchies developed promisingly. After the complications of the quarrel about the dynastic inheritance he succeeded in consolidating his territories with the support of energetic and loyal counsellors, making reforms in security, the courts and finances.

Martin Mutschlechner