Vienna Porcelain Manufactory: Habsburg Service, centrepiece with portraits of Albrecht II, Maximilian I and Frederick III, porcelain, 1821–1824

Reigns and Rulers III

The background to the rise of the Habsburgs


In the middle of the fifteenth century the Habsburgs assumed the Roman-German imperial title, retaining it – with one interruption of only a few years – until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Nonetheless, the dominant role played by the dynasty over the ensuing centuries in Central European history was not pre-ordained: in the late Middle Ages there were numerous power struggles amongst the male members of the family.

Emperor Frederick III was the only Habsburg to be crowned by the Pope in Rome. With a reign lasting 53 years, he was also the longest-serving regent of the Holy Roman Empire – albeit also one of the weakest. The reign of his son Maximilian I marked the beginning of the rise of the Habsburgs to become one of the leading powers of Europe: he united the Habsburg patrimonial lands, extended the dominion of the family and became a powerful ruler.

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