Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

From Wikipedia,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

Maximilian I
Maximilian I as Emperor.JPG
Maximilian I as Emperor, by Bernhard Strigel, circa 1507-1508
Holy Roman Emperor
King of the Romans
King in Germany
Reign4 February 1508 – 12 January 1519
Proclamation4 February 1508, Trento [1]
Predecessor Frederick III
Successor Charles V
King of the Romans
Reign16 February 1486 – 12 January 1519
Coronation9 April 1486
Predecessor Frederick III
Successor Charles V
Alongside Frederick III (1486–1493)
Archduke of Austria
Reign19 August 1493 – 12 January 1519
Predecessor Frederick V
Successor Charles I
Born22 March 1459
Wiener Neustadt, Inner Austria
Died12 January 1519 (aged 59)
Wels, Upper Austria
( m. 1477; died 1482)
( m. 1490; annulled 1492)
( m. 1494; died 1510)
House Habsburg
Father Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor
Mother Eleanor of Portugal
Religion Roman Catholicism
Signature Maximilian I's signature

Maximilian I (22 March 1459 – 12 January 1519) was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 until his death. He was never crowned by the pope, as the journey to Rome was blocked by the Venetians. [2] He was instead proclaimed emperor elect by Pope Julius II at Trent, thus breaking the long tradition of requiring a Papal coronation for the adoption of the Imperial title. Maximilian was the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Eleanor of Portugal. He ruled jointly with his father for the last ten years of the latter's reign, from c. 1483 until his father's death in 1493.

Maximilian expanded the influence of the House of Habsburg through war and his marriage in 1477 to Mary of Burgundy, the ruler of the Burgundian State, heir of Charles the Bold, though he also lost his family's original lands in today's Switzerland to the Swiss Confederacy. Through marriage of his son Philip the Handsome to eventual queen Joanna of Castile in 1498, Maximilian helped to establish the Habsburg dynasty in Spain, which allowed his grandson Charles to hold the thrones of both Castile and Aragon. [3] The historian Thomas A. Brady Jr. describes him as "the first Holy Roman Emperor in 250 years who ruled as well as reigned" and also, the "ablest royal warlord of his generation." [4]

Nicknamed "Coeur d’acier" (“Heart of steel”) by Olivier de la Marche and later historians (either as praise for his courage and martial qualities or reproach for his ruthlessness as a warlike ruler), [5] [6] Maximilian has entered the public consciousness as "the last knight" (der letzte Ritter), especially since the eponymous poem by Anastasius Grün was published (although the nickname likely existed even in Maximilian's lifetime). [7] Scholarly debates still discuss whether he was truly the last knight (either as an idealized medieval ruler leading people on horseback, or a Don Quixote-type dreamer and misadventurer), or the first Renaissance prince — an amoral Machiavellian politician who carried his family "to the European pinnacle of dynastic power" largely on the back of loans. [8] [9] Historians of the second half of the nineteenth century like Leopold von Ranke tended to criticize Maximilian for putting the interest of his dynasty above that of Germany, hampering the nation's unification process. Ever since Hermann Wiesflecker's Kaiser Maximilian I. Das Reich, Österreich und Europa an der Wende zur Neuzeit (1971-1986) became the standard work, a much more positive image of the emperor has emerged. He is seen as an essentially modern, innovative ruler who carried out important reforms and promoted significant cultural achievements, even if the financial price weighed hard on the Austrians and his military expansion caused the deaths and sufferings of tens of thousands of people. [6] [10] [11]

Background and childhood

Frederick III and Eleanor of Portugal.

Maximilian was born at Wiener Neustadt on 22 March 1459. His father, Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, named him for an obscure saint, Maximilian of Tebessa, who Frederick believed had once warned him of imminent peril in a dream. In his infancy, he and his parents were besieged in Vienna by Albert of Austria. One source relates that, during the siege's bleakest days, the young prince wandered about the castle garrison, begging the servants and men-at-arms for bits of bread. [12] The young prince was an excellent hunter, his favorite hobby was hunting for birds as a horse archer.

At the time, the dukes of Burgundy, a cadet branch of the French royal family, with their sophisticated nobility and court culture, were the rulers of substantial territories on the eastern and northern boundaries of France. The reigning duke, Charles the Bold, was the chief political opponent of Maximilian's father Frederick III. Frederick was concerned about Burgundy's expansive tendencies on the western border of his Holy Roman Empire, and, to forestall military conflict, he attempted to secure the marriage of Charles' only daughter, Mary of Burgundy, to his son Maximilian. After the Siege of Neuss (1474–75), he was successful. The wedding between Maximilian and Mary took place on 19 August 1477. [13]

Reign in Burgundy and the Netherlands

Weisskunig, garden scene with Maximilian and Mary in Hortus conclusius. Maximilian wrote, "Had we but peace, we would sit here as in a rose garden." [14]

Maximilian's wife had inherited the large Burgundian domains in France and the Low Countries upon her father's death in the Battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. Already before his coronation as the King of the Romans in 1486, Maximilian decided to secure this distant and extensive Burgundian inheritance to his family, the House of Habsburg, at all costs. [15]

The Duchy of Burgundy was also claimed by the French crown under Salic Law, [16] with Louis XI of France vigorously contesting the Habsburg claim to the Burgundian inheritance by means of military force. Maximilian at once undertook the defence of his wife’s dominions. Without support from the Empire and with an empty treasury left by Charles the Bold's campaigns (Mary had to pawn her jewels to obtain loans), [17] he carried out a campaign against the French during 1478–1479 and reconquered Le Quesnoy, Conde and Antoing. [18] He defeated the French forces at Battle of Guinegate (1479), the modern Enguinegatte, on the 7th of August 1479 [19] Despite winning, Maximilian had to abandon the siege of Thérouanne and disband his army, either because the Netherlanders did not want him to become too strong or because his treasury was empty. The battle was an important mark in military history though: the Burgundian pikemen were the precursors of the Landsknechte, while the French side derived the momentum for military reform from their loss. [20]

Maximilian and Mary's wedding contract stipulated that their children would succeed them but that the couple could not be each other's heirs. Mary tried to bypass this rule with a promise to transfer territories as a gift in case of her death, but her plans were confounded. After Mary's death in a riding accident on 27 March 1482 near the Wijnendale Castle, Maximilian's aim was now to secure the inheritance to his and Mary's son, Philip the Handsome. [15]

The Cranenburg House in Bruges, a favorite residence of Mary and Maximilian, near which he usually organized jousting tournaments, and also the place in which he was imprisoned for eleven weeks in 1488. [21] Ca. 1905.

The Guinegate victory made Maximilian popular, but as an inexperienced ruler, he hurt himself politically by trying to centralize authority without respecting traditional rights and consulting relevant political bodies. The Belgian historian Eugène Duchesne comments that these years were among the saddest and most turbulent in the history of the country, and despite his later great imperial career, Maximilian unfortunately could never compensate for the mistakes he made as regent in this period. [22] [23] Some of the Netherlander provinces were hostile to Maximilian, and, in 1482, they signed a treaty with Louis XI in Arras that forced Maximilian to give up Franche-Comté and Artois to the French crown. [16] They openly rebelled twice in the period 1482–1492, attempting to regain the autonomy they had enjoyed under Mary. Flemish rebels managed to capture Philip and even Maximilian himself, but they released Maximilian when Frederick III intervened. [24] [25] In 1489, as he turned his attention to his hereditary lands, he left the Low Countries in the hands of Albert of Saxony, who proved to be an excellent choice, as he was less emotionally committed to the Low Countries and more flexible as a politician than Maximilian, while also being a capable general. [26] By 1492, rebellions were completely suppressed. Maximilian revoked the Great Privilege and established a strong ducal monarchy undisturbed by particularism. But he would not reintroduce Charles the Bold's centralizing ordinances. Since 1489 (after his departure), the government under Albert of Saxony had made more efforts in consulting representative institutions and showed more restraint in subjugating recalcitrant territories. Notables who had previously supported rebellions returned to city administrations. The Estates General continued to develop as a regular meeting place of the central government. [27] [28] The harsh suppression of the rebellions did have an unifying effect, in that provinces stopped behaving like separate entities each supporting a different lord. [29] [30] Helmut Koenigsberger opines that it was not the erratic leadership of Maximilian, who was brave but hardly understood the Netherlands, but the Estates' desire for the survival of the country that made the Burgundian monarchy survive. [31] Jean Berenger and C.A. Simpson argue that Maximilian, as a gifted military champion and organizer, did save the Netherlands from France, although the conflict between the Estates and his personal ambitions caused a catastrophic situation in the short term. [32] Peter Spufford opines that the invasion was prevented by a combination of the Estates and Maximilian, although the cost of war, Maximilian's spendthrift liberality and the interests enforced by his German bankers did cause huge expenditure while income was falling. [33] Jelle Haemers comments that the Estates stopped their support towards the young and ambitious impresario (director) of war (who took personal control of both the military and financial details during the war) because they knew that after Guinegate, the nature of the war was not defensive anymore. [34] Maximilian and his followers had managed to achieve remarkable success in stabilizing the situation though, and a stalemate was kept in Ghent as well as in Bruges, before the tragic death of Mary in 1482 completely turned the political landscape in the whole country upside down. [35]

In early 1486, he retook Mortaigne, l'Ecluse, Honnecourt and even Thérouanne, but the same thing like in 1479 happened – he lacked financial resources to exploit and keep his gains. Only in 1492, with a stable internal situation, he was able to reconquer and keep Franche Comté and Arras on the pretext that the French had repudiated his daughter. [36] [37] In 1493, Maximilian and Charles VIII of France signed the Treaty of Senlis, with which Artois and Franche-Comté returned to Burgundian rule while Picardy was confirmed as French possession. The French also continued to keep the Duchy of Burgundy. Thus a large part of the Netherlands (known as the Seventeen Provinces) stayed in the Habsburg patrimony. [16]

In 1493, Frederick III died, thus Maximilian I became defacto leader of the Holy Roman Empire. He decided to transfer power to the 15-year-old Philip. [38] During the time in the Low Countries, he contracted such emotional problems that except for rare, necessary occasions, he would never return to the land again after gaining control. When the Estates sent a delegation to offer him the regency after Philip's death in 1506, he evaded them for months. [39] [40]

Philip I of Castile and Margaret of Austria, usually attributed to Pieter van Coninxloo (1460–1513), circa 1494

As suzerain, Maximilian continued to involve himself with the Low Countries from afar. His son's and daughter's governments tried to maintain a compromise between the states and the Empire. [41] Philip, in particular, sought to maintain an independent Burgundian policy, which sometimes caused disagreements with his father. [42] As Philip preferred to maintain peace and economic development for his land, Maximilian was left fighting Charles of Egmond over Guelders on his own resources. At one point, Philip let French troops supporting Guelders' resistance to his rule pass through his own land. [43] Only at the end of his reign, Philip decided to deal with this threat together with his father. [44] By this time, Guelders had been affected by the continuous state of war and other problems. The duke of Cleves and the bishop of Utrecht, hoping to share spoils, gave Philip aid. Maximilian invested his own son with Guelders and Zutphen. Within months and with his father's skilled use of field artillery, Philip conquered the whole land and Charles of Egmond was forced to prostrate himself in front of Philip. But as Charles later escaped and Philip was at haste to make his 1506 fatal journey to Spain, troubles would soon arise again, leaving Margaret to deal with the problems. By this time, her father was less inclined to help though. He suggested to her that the Estates in the Low Countries should defend themselves, forcing her to sign the 1513 treaty with Charles. Habsburg Netherlands would only be able to incorporate Guelders and Zutphen under Charles V. [45] [46] [47]

Following Margaret's strategy of defending the Low Countries with foreign armies, in 1513, at the head of Henry VIII's army, Maximilian gained a victory against the French at the Battle of the Spurs, at little cost to himself or his daughter (in fact according to Margaret, the Low Countries got a profit of one million of gold from supplying the English army). [48] [49] For the sake of his grandson Charles's Burgundian lands, he ordered Thérouanne's walls to be demolished (the stronghold had often served as a backdoor for French interference in the Low Countries). [48] [50]

Reign in the Holy Roman Empire

Recapture of Austria

Siege of Kufstein, 1504

Maximilian was elected King of the Romans on 16 February 1486 in Frankfurt-am-Main at his father's initiative and crowned on 9 April 1486 in Aachen. Much of Austria was under Hungarian rule, as a result of the Austrian–Hungarian War (1477–1488). Maximilian was now a king without lands. After the death of king Matthias Corvinus of Hungary, from July 1490, Maximilian began a series of short sieges that reconquered cities and fortresses that his father had lost in Austria. Maximilian entered Vienna without siege, already evacuated by the Hungarians, in August 1490. He was injured while attacking the citadel guarded by a garrison of 400 Hungarians troops who twice repelled his forces, but after some days they surrendered. [51] [52] With money from Innsbruck and southern German towns, he raised enough cavalry and Landsknechte to campaign into Hungary itself. Despite Hungary's gentry's hostility to the Habsburg, he managed to gain many supporters, including several of Corvinus's former supporters. One of them, Jakob Székely, handed over the Styrian castles to him. [53] He claimed his status as King of Hungary, demanding allegiance through Stephen of Moldavia. In seven weeks, they conquered a quarter of Hungary. His mercenaries committed the atrocity of totally sacking Székesfehérvár, the country's main fortress. [54] When encountering the frost, the troops refused to continue the war though, requesting Maximilian to double their pay, which he could not afford. The revolt turned the situation in favour of the Jagiellonian forces. [55] Maximilian was forced to return. He depended on his father and the territorial estates for financial support. Soon he reconquered Lower and Inner Austria for his father, who returned and settled at Linz. Worrying about his son's adventurous tendencies, Frederick decided to starve him financially though.

The crown of Hungary thus fell to King Vladislaus II. [55] In 1491, they signed the peace treaty of Pressburg, which provided that Maximilian recognized Vladislaus as King of Hungary, but the Habsburgs would inherit the throne on the extinction of Vladislaus's male line and the Austrian side also received 100,000 golden florins as war reparations. [56]

In addition, the County of Tyrol and Duchy of Bavaria went to war in the late 15th century. Bavaria demanded money from Tyrol that had been loaned on the collateral of Tyrolean lands. In 1490, the two nations demanded that Maximilian I step in to mediate the dispute. His Habsburg cousin, the childless Archduke Sigismund, was negotiating to sell Tyrol to their Wittelsbach rivals rather than let Emperor Frederick inherit it. Maximilian's charm and tact though led to a reconciliation and a reunited dynastic rule in the 1490. [57] Because Tyrol had no law code at this time, the nobility freely expropriated money from the populace, which caused the royal palace in Innsbruck to fester with corruption. After taking control, Maximilian instituted immediate financial reform. Gaining control of Tyrol for the Habsburgs was of strategic importance because it linked the Swiss Confederacy to the Habsburg-controlled Austrian lands, which facilitated some imperial geographic continuity.

Maximilian became ruler of the Holy Roman Empire upon the death of his father in 1493.

Italian and Swiss wars

Sallet of Maximilian I, c. 1490–95, by Lorenz Helmschmid, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As the Treaty of Senlis had resolved French differences with the Holy Roman Empire, King Louis XII of France had secured borders in the north and turned his attention to Italy, where he made claims for the Duchy of Milan. In 1499/1500 he conquered it and drove the Sforza regent Lodovico il Moro into exile. [58] This brought him into a potential conflict with Maximilian, who on 16 March 1494 had married Bianca Maria Sforza, a daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, duke of Milan. [16] [58] However, Maximilian was unable to hinder the French from taking over Milan. [58] The prolonged Italian Wars resulted [16] in Maximilian joining the Holy League to counter the French. His campaigns in Italy generally were not successful, and his progress there was quickly checked. Maximilian's Italian campaigns tend to be criticized for being wasteful. Despite the emperor's work in enhancing his army technically and organization-wise, due to financial difficulties, the forces he could muster were always too small to make a decisive difference. [59] [60] One particularly humiliating episode happened in 1508, with a force mustered largely from hereditary lands and with limited resources, the emperor decided to attack Venice. The diversionary force under Sixt Trautson were routed by Bartolomeo d'Alviano (Sixt Trautson himself was among the fallen), while Maximilian's own advance was blocked by the main Venetian force under Niccolò di Pitigliano and a French army under Alessandro Trivulzio. Bartolomeo d'Alviano then pushed into the Imperial territory, seizing Gorizia and Trieste, forcing Maximilian to sign a truce. [61] In Italy, he gained the derisive nickname of "Massimiliano di pochi denari" (Maximilian the Moneyless). [62]

The situation in Italy was not the only problem Maximilian had at the time. The Swiss won a decisive victory against the Empire in the Battle of Dornach on 22 July 1499. Maximilian had no choice but to agree to a peace treaty signed on 22 September 1499 in Basel that granted the Swiss Confederacy independence from the Holy Roman Empire.

Jewish policy

Joos van Cleve - Portrait of Emperor Maximilian I, from Statutes of the Order of the Golden Fleece, as Sovereign of the Order, after 1508

Jewish policy under Maximilian fluctuated greatly, usually influenced by financial considerations and the emperor's vacillating attitude when facing opposing views. In 1496, Maximilian issued a decree which expelled all Jews from Styria and Wiener Neustadt. [63] Between 1494 and 1510, he authorized no less than thirteen expulsions of Jews in return of sizeable fiscal compensations from local government (The expelled Jews were allowed to resettle in Lower Austria. Buttaroni comments that this inconsistency showed that even Maximilian himself did not believe his expulsion decision was just.). [64] [65] After 1510 though, this happened only once, and he showed an unusually resolute attitude in resisting a campaign to expel Jews from Regensburg. David Price comments that during the first seventeen years of his reign, he was a great threat to the Jews, but after 1510, even if his attitude was still exploitative, his policy gradually changed. A factor that probably played a role in the change was Maximilian's success in expanding imperial taxing over German Jewry: at this point, he probably considered the possibility of generating tax money from stable Jewish communities, instead of temporary financial compensations from local jurisdictions who sought to expel Jews. [66]

In 1509, relying on the influence of Kunigunde, Maximilian's pious sister and the Cologne Dominicans, the anti-Jewish agitator Johannes Pfefferkorn was authorized by Maximilian to confiscate all offending Jewish books (including prayer books), except the Bible. The confiscations happened in Frankfurt, Bingen, Mainz and other German cities. Responding to the order, the archbishop of Mainz, the city council of Frankfurt and various German princes tried to intervene in defense the Jews. Maximilian consequently ordered the confiscated books to be returned. On May 23, 1510 though, influenced by a supposed "host desecration" and blood libel in Brandenburg, as well as pressure from Kunigunde, he ordered the creation of an investigating commission and asked for expert opinions from German universities and scholars. The prominent humanist Johann Reuchlin argued strongly in defense of the Jewish books, especially the Talmud. [67] Reuchlin's arguments seemed to leave an impression on the emperor (who followed his advice, against the recommendation of his own commission), [68] who gradually developed an intellectual interest in the Talmud and other Jewish books. Maximilian later urged the Hebraist Petrus Galatinus to defend Reuchlin's position. Galatinus dedicated his work De Arcanis Catholicae Veritatis, which provided 'a literary "threshold" where Jews and gentiles might meet', to the emperor. [69] [70] In 1514, he appointed Paulus Ricius, a Jew who converted to Christianity, as his personal physician. He was more interested in Ricius's Hebrew skills than in his medical abilities though. On 1515, he reminded his treasurer Jakob Villinger that Ricius was admitted for the purpose of translating the Talmud into Latin, and urged Villinger to keep an eye on him. Perhaps overwhelmed by the emperor's request, Ricius only managed to translate 2 out of 63 Mishna tractates before the emperor's death. [71] Ricius managed to publish a translation of Joseph Gikatilla's Kabbalistic work The Gates of Light, which was dedicated to Maximilian, though. [72]


Innsbruck, imperial capital under Maximilian, [73] seat of the Hofkammer (Court Treasury) and the Court Chancery, which functioned as "the most influential body in Maximilian's government". [74] Painting of Albrecht Dürer (1496)

Within the Holy Roman Empire, there was also a consensus that deep reforms were needed to preserve the unity of the Empire. [75] The reforms, which had been delayed for a long time, were launched in the 1495 Reichstag at Worms. A new organ was introduced, the Reichskammergericht, that was to be largely independent from the Emperor. A new tax was launched to finance it, the Gemeine Pfennig, though its collection was never fully successful. [75] The local rulers wanted more independence from the Emperor and a strengthening of their own territorial rule. This led to Maximilian agreeing to establish an organ called the Reichsregiment, which met in Nuremberg and consisted of the deputies of the Emperor, local rulers, commoners, and the prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire. The new organ proved politically weak, and its power returned to Maximilian in 1502. [58] To create a rival for the Reichskammergericht, Maximilian establish the Reichshofrat, which had its seat in Vienna. Unlike the Reichskammergericht, the Reichshofrat looked into criminal matters and even allowed the emperors the means to depose rulers who did not live up to expectations. During Maximilian's reign, this Council was not popular though. [76]

The most important governmental changes targeted the heart of the regime: the chancery. Early in Maximilian’s reign, the Court Chancery at Innsbruck competed with the Imperial Chancery (which was under the elector-archbishop of Mainz, the senior Imperial chancellor). By referring the political matters in Tyrol, Austria as well as Imperial problems to the Court Chancery, Maximilian gradually centralized its authority. The two chanceries became combined in 1502. [74] In 1496, the emperor created a general treasury (Hofkammer) in Innsbruck, which became responsible for all the hereditary lands. The chamber of accounts (Raitkammer) at Vienna was made subordinate to this body. [77] Under Paul von Liechtenstein, the Hofkammer was entrusted with not only hereditary lands' affairs, but Maximilian's affairs as the German king too. [78]

Due to the difficult external and internal situation he faced, Maximilian also felt it necessary to introduce reforms in the historic territories of the House of Habsburg in order to finance his army. Using Burgundian institutions as a model, he attempted to create a unified state. Michael Erbe opines that the model was not very successful, but one of the lasting results was the creation of three different subdivisions of the Austrian lands: Lower Austria, Upper Austria, and Vorderösterreich. [58]

Historian Joachim Whaley points out that there are usually two opposite views on Maximilian's rulership: one side is represented by the works of nineteenth century historians like Heinrich Ullmann or Leopold von Ranke, which criticize him for selfishly exploiting the German nation and putting the interest of his dynasty over his Germanic nation, thus impeding the unification process; the more recent side is represented by Hermann Wiesflecker's biography of 1971-86, which praises him for being "a talented and successful ruler, notable not only for his Realpolitik but also for his cultural activities generally and for his literary and artistic patronage in particular". [79] [80]

Maximilian talking to German knights (depiction from the contemporary Weisskunig)

According to Whaley, if Maximilian ever saw Germany as a source of income and soldiers only, he failed miserably in extracting both. His hereditary lands and other sources always contributed much more (the Estates gave him the equivalent of 50,000 gulden per year, a lower than even the taxes paid by Jews in both the Reich and hereditary lands, while Austria contributed 500,000 to 1,000,000 gulden per year). On the other hand, the attempts he demonstrated in building the imperial system alone shows that he did consider the German lands "a real sphere of government in which aspirations to royal rule were actively and purposefully pursue." Whaley notes that, despite struggles, what emerged at the end of Maximilian's rule was a strengthened monarchy and not an oligarchy of princes. If he was usually weak when trying to act as a monarch and using imperial instituations like the Reichstag, Maximilian's position was often strong when acting as a neutral overlord and relying on regional leagues of weaker principalities such as the Swabian league, as shown in his ability to call on money and soldiers to mediate the Bavaria dispute in 1504, after which he gained significant territories in Alsace, Swabia and Tyrol. His fiscal reform in his hereditary lands provided a model for other German princes. [81] Benjamin Curtis opines that while Maximilian was not able to fully create a common government for his lands (although the chancellery and court council were able to coordinates affairs across the realms), he strengthened key administrative functions in Austria and created central offices to deal with financial, political and judicial matters - these offices replaced the feudal system and became representative of a more modern system that was administered by professionalized officials. After two decades of reforms, the emperor retained his position as first emong equals, while the empire gained common institutions through which the emperor shared power with the estates. [82]

In 1508, Maximilian, with the assent of Pope Julius II, took the title Erwählter Römischer Kaiser ("Elected Roman Emperor"), thus ending the centuries-old custom that the Holy Roman Emperor had to be crowned by the Pope.

Execution of the garrison troops after the Siege of Kufstein (1504). The garrison and its commander Hans von Pienzenau had angered Maximilian during the siege by refusing his offer of surrender and using brooms to sweep up damage caused by his cannons. Eighteen including Pienzenau were beheaded before Erich von Braunschweig, a favoured commander, pleaded for the lives of the rest. [83] [84]

At the 1495 Diet of Worms, the Reception of Roman Law was accelerated and formalized. The Roman Law was made binding in German courts, except in the case it was contrary to local statutes. [85] In practice, it became the basic law throughout Germany, displacing Germanic local law to a large extent, although Germanic law was still operative at the lower courts. [86] [87] [88] [89] Other than the desire to achieve legal unity and other factors, the adoption also highlighted the continuity between the Ancient Roman empire and the Holy Roman Empire. [90] To realize his resolve to reform and unify the legal system, the emperor frequently intervened personally in matters of local legal matters, overriding local charters and customs. This practice was often met with irony and scorn from local councils, who wanted to protect local codes. [91] Maximilian had a general reputation of justice and clemency, but could occasionally act in a violent and resentful manner if personally affronted. [92] [93] [94] [95]

In 1499, as the ruler of Tyrol, he introduced the Maximilianische Halsgerichtsordnung (the Penal Code of Maximilian). This was the first codified penal law in the German speaking world. The law attempted to introduce regularity into contemporary discrete practices of the courts. This would be part of the basis for the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina established under Charles V in 1530. [96] [97] Regarding the use of torture, the court needed to decide whether someone should be tortured. If such a decision was made, three council members and a clerk should be present and observe whether a confession was made only because of the fear of torture or the pain of torture, or that another person would be harmed. [98]

Fresco at the Fuggerhäuser on the Maximilianstraße (named after the emperor since 1957, originally named after Maximilian I of Bavaria). Description: "The council of the free imperial city paying homage to Emperor Maximilian I". RP-F-F00997-CD.

Maximilian was always troubled by financial shortcomings; his income never seemed to be enough to sustain his large-scale goals and policies. For this reason he was forced to take substantial credits from Upper German banker families, especially from the Baumgarten, Fugger and Welser families. Jörg Baumgarten even served as Maximilian's financial advisor. The connection between the emperor and banking families in Augsburg was so widely known that Francis I of France derisively nicknamed him "the Mayor of Augsburg" (another story recounts that a French courtier called him the alderman of Augsburg, to which Louis XII replied: "Yes, but every time that this alderman rings the tocsin from his belfry, he makes all France tremble.", referring to Maximilian's military ability). [99] [100] At the end of Maximilian's rule, the Habsburgs' mountain of debt totalled six million gulden to six and a half million gulden, depending on the sources. By 1531, the remaining amount of debt was estimated at 400,000 gulden (about 282,669 Spanish ducats). [101] In his entire reign, he had spent around 25 million gulden, much of which was contributed by his most loyal subjects – the Tyrolers. The historian Thomas Brady comments: "The best that can be said of his financial practices is that he borrowed democratically from rich and poor alike and defaulted with the same even-handedness". [102] By comparison, when he abdicated in 1556, Charles V left Philip a total debt of 36 million ducats (equal to the income from Spanish America for his entire reign), while Ferdinand I left a debt of 12.5 million gulden when he died in 1564. [103] [104] [105] [106]

According to Brady Jr., Maximilian was no reformer of the church though. Personally pious, he was also a practical caesaropapist who was only interested in the ecclesiastical organization as far as reforms could bring him political and fiscal advantages. [107]


Economy and economic policies under the reign of Maximilian is a relatively unexplored topic, according to Benecke. [108]

Overall, according to Whaley, "The reign of Maximilian I saw recovery and growth but also growing tension. This created both winners and losers.", although Whaley opines that this is no reason to expect a revolutionary explosion (in connection to Luther and the Reformation). [109] Whaley points out, though, that because Maximilian and Charles V tried to promoted the interests of the Netherlands, after 1500, the Hanseatic League was negatively affected and their growth relative to England and the Netherlands declined. [110]

Tu felix Austria nube

19th century reproduction (by Julien Bernard Van der Plaetsen) of a 1507 fresco depicting Mary of Burgundy and Maximilian holding the coat of arms of Burgundy. The couple stood as a pair of equals, similar to other portrayals, despite Maximilian's status as Emperor. The original work was created to celebrate Charles's status as the new Duke of Burgundy. [111]
Illustration from Die fürstliche Chronik, or Kaiser Maximilians Geburtsspiegel by Jakob Mennel (1518). Under the outspread wings of the triple-crowned peacock was the coats of arms of 14 European kingdoms connected to the Habsburg dynasty through marriages

As part of the Treaty of Arras, Maximilian betrothed his three-year-old daughter Margaret to the Dauphin of France (later Charles VIII), son of his adversary Louis XI. Under the terms of Margaret's betrothal, she was sent to Louis to be brought up under his guardianship. Despite Louis's death in 1483, shortly after Margaret arrived in France, she remained at the French court. The Dauphin, now Charles VIII, was still a minor, and his regent until 1491 was his sister Anne. [112] [113]

Dying shortly after signing the Treaty of Le Verger, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, left his realm to his daughter Anne. In her search of alliances to protect her domain from neighboring interests, she betrothed Maximilian I in 1490. About a year later, they married by proxy. [114] [115] [116]

However, Charles VIII and his sister wanted her inheritance for France. So, when the former came of age in 1491, and taking advantage of Maximilian and his father's interest in the succession of their adversary Mathias Corvinus, King of Hungary, [117] Charles repudiated his betrothal to Margaret, invaded Brittany, forced Anne of Brittany to repudiate her unconsummated marriage to Maximilian, and married Anne of Brittany himself. [118] [119] [120]

Margaret then remained in France as a hostage of sorts until 1493, when she was finally returned to her father with the signing of the Treaty of Senlis. [121] [122]

In the same year, as the hostilities of the lengthy Italian Wars with France were in preparation, [123] Maximilian contracted another marriage for himself, this time to Bianca Maria Sforza, daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, with the intercession of his brother, Ludovico Sforza, [124] [125] [126] [127] then regent of the duchy after the former's death. [128]

Years later, in order to reduce the growing pressures on the Empire brought about by treaties between the rulers of France, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, and Russia, as well as to secure Bohemia and Hungary for the Habsburgs, Maximilian met with the Jagiellonian kings Ladislaus II of Hungary and Bohemia and Sigismund I of Poland at the First Congress of Vienna in 1515. There they arranged for Maximilian's granddaughter Mary to marry Louis, the son of Ladislaus, and for Anne (the sister of Louis) to marry Maximilian's grandson Ferdinand (both grandchildren being the children of Philip the Handsome, Maximilian's son, and Joanna of Castile). [129] [130] The marriages arranged there brought Habsburg kingship over Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. [131] [132] In 1515, Louis was adopted by Maximilian. [133] Maximilian had to serve as the proxy groom to Anna in the betrothal ceremony, because only in 1516 did Ferdinand agree to enter into the marriage, which would happen in 1521. [134]

Thus Maximilian through his own marriages and those of his descendants (attempted unsuccessfully and successfully alike) sought, as was current practice for dynastic states at the time, to extend his sphere of influence. [132] The marriages he arranged for both of his children more successfully fulfilled the specific goal of thwarting French interests, and after the turn of the sixteenth century, his matchmaking focused on his grandchildren, for whom he looked away from France towards the east. [132] [135]

Emperor Maximilian I and his family; with his son Philip the Fair, his wife Mary of Burgundy, his grandsons Ferdinand I and Charles V, and Louis II of Hungary (husband of his granddaughter Mary of Austria).

These political marriages were summed up in the following Latin elegiac couplet, reportedly spoken by Matthias Corvinus: Bella gerant aliī, tū fēlix Austria nūbe/ Nam quae Mars aliīs, dat tibi regna Venus, "Let others wage war, but thou, O happy Austria, marry; for those kingdoms which Mars gives to others, Venus gives to thee." [136] [137]

Contrary to the implication of this motto though, Maximilian waged war aplenty (In four decades of ruling, he waged 27 wars in total). [138] His general strategy was to combine his intricate systems of alliance, military threats and offers of marriage to realize his expansionist ambitions. Using overtures to Russia, Maximilian succeeded in coercing Bohemia, Hungary and Poland into acquiesce in the Habsburgs' expansionist plans. Combining this tactic with military threats, he was able to gain the favourable marriage arrangements In Hungary and Bohemia (which were under the same dynasty). [139]

At the same time, his sprawling panoply of territories as well as potential claims constituted a threat to France, thus forcing Maximilian to continuously launch wars in defense of his possessions in Burgundy, the Low Countries and Italy against four generations of French kings (Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, Francis I). Coalitions he assembled for this purpose sometimes consisted of non-imperial actors like England. Edward J. Watts comments that the nature of these wars was dynastic, rather than imperial. [140]

Fortune was also a factor that helped to bring about the results of his marriage plans. The double marriage could have given the Jagiellon a claim in Austria, while a potential male child of Margaret and John, a prince of Spain, would have had a claim to a portion of the maternal grandfather's possessions as well. But as it turned out, Vladislaus's male line became extinct, while the frail John died (possibly of overindulgence in sexual activities with his bride) without offsprings, so Maximilian's male line was able to claim the thrones. [141]

Death and succession

Maximilian's cenotaph, Hofkirche, Innsbruck
Maximilian's death mask

During his last years, Maximilian began to focus on the question of his succession. [142] His goal was to secure the throne for a member of his house and prevent Francis I of France from gaining the throne. According to the traditional view, the resulting "election campaign" was unprecedented due to the massive use of bribery. [143] The Fugger family provided Maximilian a credit of one million gulden, which was used to bribe the prince-electors. [144] However, the bribery claims have been challenged. [145] At first, this policy seemed successful, and Maximilian managed to secure the votes from Mainz, Cologne, Brandenburg and Bohemia for his grandson Charles V. The death of Maximilian in 1519 seemed to put the succession at risk, but in a few months the election of Charles V was secured. [58]

In 1501, Maximilian fell from his horse and badly injured his leg, causing him pain for the rest of his life. Some historians have suggested that Maximilian was "morbidly" depressed: from 1514, he travelled everywhere with his coffin. [146] In 1518, feeling his death near after seeing an eclipse, he returned to his beloved Innsbruck, but the city's innskeepers and purveyors did not grant the emperor's entourage further credit. The resulting fit led to a stroke that left him bedridden on 15 December 1518. He continued to read documents and received foreign envoys right until the end though. Maximilian died in Wels, Upper Austria, at three o'clock in the morning on 12 January 1519. [147] [148] [149] He was succeeded as Emperor by his grandson Charles V, his son Philip the Handsome having died in 1506. For penitential reasons, Maximilian gave very specific instructions for the treatment of his body after death. He wanted his hair to be cut off and his teeth knocked out, and the body was to be whipped and covered with lime and ash, wrapped in linen, and "publicly displayed to show the perishableness of all earthly glory". [150] Gregor Reisch, the emperor's friend and confessor who closed his eyes, did not obey the instruction though. He placed a rosary in Maximilian's hand and other sacred objects near the corpse. [151] [152] He was buried on borrowed money. [147]

Although he is buried in the Castle Chapel at Wiener Neustadt, an extremely elaborate cenotaph tomb for Maximilian is in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck, where the tomb is surrounded by statues of heroes from the past. [153] Much of the work was done in his lifetime, but it was not completed until decades later.[ citation needed]


Military innovation, chivalry and equipments

Albrecht Altdorfe's 'Der große Venezianische Krieg', which depicts the Landsknechte in Maximilian's triumphal procession — c. 1512-1515

Maximilian was a capable commander (Although, he lost many wars, usually due to the lack of financial resources. The notable commentators of his time, including Machiavelli, Piero Vettori and Guicciardini rated him as a great general, or in the words of Machivelli, "second to none", but pointed out that extravagance, terrible management of financial resources and other character defects tended to lead to the failures of grand schemes.) [154] [155] [156] [157] [158] and a military innovator who contributed to the modernization of warfare. [159] He and his condottiero George von Frundsberg organized the first formations of the Landsknechte based on inspiration from Swiss pikement, but increased the ratio of pikemen and favoured handgunners over the crossbowmen, with new tactics being developed, leading to improvement in performance. Discipline, drilling and a highly developed staff by the standard of the era were also instilled. [160] [161] [162] The "war apparatus" he created later played an essential role in Austria’s rank as great power. Maximilian was the founder and organiser of the arms industry of the Habsburgs. [163] He started the standardization of the artillery (according to the weight of the cannon balls) and made them more mobile. [10] He sponsored new types of cannons, initiated many innovations that improved the range and damage so that cannons worked better against thick walls, and concerned himself with the metallurgy, as cannons often exploded when ignited and caused damage among his own troups. [164] According to contemporary accounts, he could field an artillery of 105 cannons, including both iron and bronze guns of various sizes. [165] The artillery force is considered by some to be the most developed of the day. [166] [167] The arsenal in Innsbruck, created by Maximilian, was one of the most notable artillery arsenal in Europe. [168] His typical tactic was: artillery should attack first, the cavalry would act as shock troups and attack the flanks, infantry fought in tightly-knitted formation at the middle. [164]

Behamisch facht (Bohemian battle) from the Weißkunig, Woodcut 175, depicting the Battle of Wenzenbach, one of the last knights' battles (1504), which was won by Maximilian and his ally Albert the Wise. In this battle, Maximilian was dragged from his horse by halberds, but rescued from being butchered by Erich von Braunschweig. [169]

Maximilian was described by the nineteenth century politician Anton Alexander Graf von Auersperg as 'the last knight' (der letzte Ritter) and this epithet has stuck to him the most. [170] Some historians note that the epithet rings true, yet ironic: as the father of the Landsknechte (of which the paternity he shared with George von Frundsberg) and "the first cannoneer of the nation", he ended the combat supremacy of the cavalry and his death heralded the military revolution of the next two centuries. Moreover, his multifaceted reforms broke the back of the knight class both military and politically. [171] [172] [173] He threw his own weight behind the promotion of the infantry soldier, leading them in battles on foot with a pike on his shoulder and giving the commanders honours and titles. [174] With Maximilian's establishment and use of the Landsknechte, the military organisation in Germany was altered in a major way. Here began the rise of military enterprisers, who raised mercenaries with a system of subcontractors to make war on credit, and acted as the commanding generals of their own armies. [175] [176] Maximilian became an expert military enterpriser himself, leading his father to consider him a spendthrift military adventurer who wandered into new wars and debts while still recovering from the previous campaigns. [177]

The emperor would not live to see the fruits of his military reforms, which were also widely adopted by the territories in the Empire and other nations in Europe. Moreover, the landsknechte's mode of fighting boosted the strength of the territorial polities, while more centralized nations were able to utilize them in ways German rulers could not. Kleinschmidt concludes that, in the end, Maximilian did good service to the competitors of his own grandson. [178] [179] [180]

While favouring more modern methods in his actual military undertakings, Maximilian had a genuine interest in promoting chivalric traditions like the tournament, being an exceptional jouster himself. The tournaments helped to enhance his personal image and solidify a network of princes and nobles over whom he kept a close watch, fostering fidelity and fraternity among the competitors. Taking inspiration from the Burgundy tournament, he developed the German tournament into a distinctive entity. [181] In addition, during at least two occasions in his campaigns, he challenged and killed French knights in duel-like preludes to battles. [182]

HJRK B 21 - Mechanical breastpiece used for Bundrennen, a tournament type which was probably only organized in the Imperial Court, c. 1490. Only three mechanical breastplates remain (one in Paris, two in Vienna). The breastplate was designed to carry a shield that, when hit properly, will be ejected over the jouster's head and burst apart, releasing triangle tin segments. [183] [184]

Knights reacted to their decreased condition and loss of privileges in different ways. Some asserted their traditional rights in violent ways and became robber knights like Götz von Berlichingen. The knights as a social group became an obstacle to Maximilian's law and order and the relationship between them and "the last knight" became antagonistic. [164] Some probably also felt slighted by the way imperial propaganda presented Maximilian as the sole defender of knightly values. [185] In the Diet of Worms in 1495, the emperor, the archbishops, great princes and free cities joined force to initiate the Perpetual Land Peace (Ewige Landfriede), forbidding all private feuding, in order to protect the rising tide of commerce. [186] The tournament sponsored by the emperor was thus a tool to appease the knights, although it became a recreational, yet still deadly extreme sport. [164] After spending 20 years creating and supporting policies against the knights though, Maximilian changed his ways and began trying to engage them to integrate them into his frame of rulership. In 1517, he lifted the ban on Franz von Sickingen, a leading figure among the knights and took him into his service. In the same year, he summoned the Rhenish knights and introduced his Ritterrecht (Knight's Rights), which would provide the free knight with a special law court, in exchange of their oaths for being obedient to the emperor and abstaining from evil deeds. He did not succeed in collecting taxes from them or creating a knights' association, but an ideology or frame emerged, that allowed the knights to retain their freedom while fostering the relationship between the crown and the sword. [187] [188]

Maximilian had a great passion for armour, not only as equipment for battle or tournaments, but as an art form. He prided himself on his armor designing expertise and knowledge of metallurgy. Under his patronage, "the art of the armorer blossomed like never before." Master armorers across Europe like Lorenz Helmschmid, Konrad Seusenhofer, Franck Scroo and Daniel Hopfer (who was the first to etch on iron as part of an artistic process, using an acid wash) created custom-made armors that often served as extravagant gifts to display Maximilian's generosity and devices that would produce special effects (often initiated by the emperor himself) in tournaments. [189] [190] [191] 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 features a human face, with eyes, nose and a grinning mouth, and was modelled after the appearance of Maximilian himself. [192] It also sports a pair of curled ram's horns, brass spectacles, and even etched beard stubble. [192]

Hunt of Maximilian, December, from the famous series of tapestries named Hunts of Maximilian completed in 1530s. The boar sword (a specialized sword made for boar hunting) that Maximilian was holding was invented by him. [193] [194] [195]

Maximilian associated the practical art of hunting (as well as fishing and falconry) with his status as prince and knight. He introduced parforce and park hunting to Germany. He also published essays on these topics. In this he followed Frederick II Hohenstaufen and was equally attentive to naturalist details but less scientific. His Tyrol Fishery Book (Tiroler Fischereibuch) was composed with the help from his fish master Martin Fritz and Wolfgang Hohenleiter. [196] To keep fish fresh, he invented a special kind of fish container. [197] While he was unconcerned with the disappearance or weakening of the knight class due to the development of artillery and infantry, Maximilian worried greatly about the vulnerablity of ibexes, described by him as "noble creatures", in front of handguns and criticized the peasants in particular for having no moderation. [198] In 1517, the emperor banned the manufacturing and possession of the wheellock, which was designed and especially effective for hunting. [199] Another possible reason for this earliest attempt at gun control might be related to worries about the spreading of crimes. [200] He investigated, classified and protected game reserves, which also damaged the farmers' crops as he forbade them to erect fences. Game population quickly increased though. In one case, he became an unintentional species conservationist: As he had Tyrolean mountain lakes stocked with trouts, a variety of the last trout originating from the Danube, the Kaiser Max trout, has survived until this day in Gossenköllesee. [201]

Freydal, fol.164. A post-tournament festivity: Grotesque dancers performed a moresca while Freydal, in a mask and holding torches, observed them.

Another art associated with chivalry and military activities was dancing. As the landsknechte's fighting techniques were developed, they no longer preferred fighting along a straight line (as exercised by even the Swiss until the end of the fifteenth century), but leaned towards a circle-wise movement that enhanced the use of the space around the combatant and allowed them to attack the opponents from different angles. The circle-wise formation described by Jean Molinet as the "snail" would become the hallmark of landsknechte's combat. The new types of combat also required the maintenance of a stable bodily equilibrium. Maximilian, an innovator of these types of movements, also saw value in their effects over the maintenance of group discipline (apart from the control of centralized institutions). As Maximilian and his commanders sought to popularize these forms of movements (which only became daily practice at the end of the fifteen century and gained dominance after Maximilian's death in 1519), he promoted them in tournaments, in fencing and in dancing as well – which started to focus on steps and the movements of the feet over the movements of the head and the arms. The courtly festivals became a playground for innovations, foreshadowing developemts in military practices. [202] [203] Regarding dancing, other elements favoured by Maximilian's court were the Moriskentan ("Moors' dance", "Morris-dance", or Moresca), the masquerades (mummerei) and the use of torchbearers. Torchbearers are a part of almost all of the illustrated costumed circle dances in the Weisskunig and Freydal, with Maximilian himself usually being one of them. [204] [205] [206] Masquerades usually included dancing to the music of fifes and drums, performed by the same musicians who served the new infantry forces. [207] The famous humanist philosopher Julius Caesar Scaliger, who grew up as a page at Maximilian's court, reportedly performed the Pyrrhic war dance, which he reconstructed from ancient sources, in front of the emperor. [208] [209] [210] The annual Tänzelfest, the oldest children's festival in Bavaria, reportedly founded by Maximilian in 1497 (the event only appeared in written sources from 1658), includes dancing, processions, and reenactment of city life under Maximilian. [211] [212]

Cultural patronage, reforms and image building

Page from Theuerdank, Second Edition. 1519: Coloured by Leonard Beck. Chapter 80: Maximilian's horse is hit by a cannonball and falls.

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. Many of them were commissioned to assist him complete a series of projects, in different art forms, intended to glorify for posterity his life and deeds and those of his Habsburg ancestors. [213] [214] He referred to these projects as Gedechtnus ("memorial"), [214] [215] which included a series of stylised autobiographical works: the epic poems Theuerdank and Freydal, and the chivalric novel Weisskunig, both published in editions lavishly illustrated with woodcuts. [213] In this vein, he commissioned a series of three monumental woodblock prints: The Triumphal Arch (1512–18, 192 woodcut panels, 295 cm wide and 357 cm high – approximately 9'8" by 11'8½"); and a Triumphal Procession (1516–18, 137 woodcut panels, 54 m long), which is led by a Large Triumphal Carriage (1522, 8 woodcut panels, 1½' high and 8' long), created by artists including Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Altdorfer and Hans Burgkmair. [216] [217] According to The Last Knight: The Art, Armor, and Ambition of Maximilian I, Maximilian dictated large parts of the books to his secretary and friend Marx Treitzsaurwein who did the rewriting. [218] Authors of the book Emperor Maximilian I and the Age of Durer cast doubt on his role as a true patron of the arts though, as he tended to favor pragmatic elements over high arts. [219] On the other hand, he was a perfectionist who involved himself with every stage of the creative processes. His goals extended far beyond the emperor's own glorification too: commemoration also included the documentation in details of the presence and the restoration of source materials and precious artifacts. [220]

Ambraserheldenbuch. Fol. 149r. The large initial marks the start of the 10th "Aventiure" of Kudrun.

In 1504, Maximilian commissioned the Ambraser Heldenbuch, a compendium of German medieval narratives (the majority was heroic epics), which was written by Hans Ried. The work was of great importance to German literature because among its twenty five narratives, fifteen was unique. [221] [222] [223] This would be the last time the Nibelungenlied was enshrined in German literature before being rediscovered again 250 years later. [224] [225] Maximilian was also a patron of Ulrich von Hutten whom he crowned as Poet Laureate in 1517 and the humanist Willibald Pirckheimer, who was one of Germany's most important patrons of arts in his own right. [226] [227] [228] [229] [230]

Hans Burgkmair, The Imperial Eagle, 1507, NGA 39804. The Imperial Eagle is sheltering Maximilian, presented here as a seated Apollo, the Muses and other figures. This is considered an allegory, suggested by Konrad Celtis (bottom figure), of the emperor, the University of Vienna and the Empire. Apollo was the god often associated with the emperor by many artists and humanists, who designed a mission for him not only as the promoter of arts and sciences but also in the realm of politics. Under the wings is the scientific model of the University of Vienna, designed by Celtis. [231] [232]

Under his rule, the University of Vienna reached its apogee as a centre of humanistic thought. He established the College of Poets and Mathematicians which was incorporated into the university. [233] Maximilian invited Conrad Celtis, the leading German scientist of their day to University of Vienna. Celtis found the Sodalitas litteraria Danubiana (which was also supported by Maximilian), an association of scholars from the Danube area, to support literature and humanist thought. Maximilian supported and utilized the humanists partly for propaganda effect, partly for his genealogical projects, but he also employed several as secretaries and counsellors - in their selection he rejected class barriers, believing that "intelligent minds deriving their nobility from God", even if this caused conflicts (even physical attacks) with the nobles. He relied on his humanists to create a nationalistic imperial myth, in order to unify the Reich against the French in Italy, as pretext for a later Crusade (the Estates protested against investing their resources in Italy though). [234] Maximilian told his Electors each to establish a university in their realm. Thus in 1502 and 1506, together with the Elector of Saxony and the Elector of Brandenburg, respectively, he co-found the University of Wittenberg and the University of Frankfurt. [235] The University of Wittenberg was the first German university established without a Papal Bull, signifying the secular imperial authority concerning universities. This first center in the North where old Latin scholarly traditions were overthrown would become the home of Luther and Melanchthon.

As he was too distant, his patronage of Humanism and humanistic books in particular did not reach the Netherlands though (and as Mary of Burgundy died too young while Philip the Fair and Charles V were educated in the Burgundian tradition, there was no sovereign who fostered humanistic Latin culture in the Netherlands, although they had their own mode of learning.) [236]

Hans Burgkmair, ‘’Weisskunig’’, The young White King learns black magic.

In philosophy, besides Humanism, esotericism had a notable influence during Maximilian's time. Johannes Trithemius dedicated the De septem secundeis ("The Seven Secondary Intelligences"), which argued that the cycle of ages was ruled by seven planetary angels, in addition to God (the First Intelligence). [237] [238] The historian Martin Holleger notes though that Maximilian himself did not share the cyclical view of history, typical for their contemporaries, nor believed that their age would be the last age. He had a linear understanding of time – that progresses would make the world better. [239] The kabbalistic elements in the court as well as Trithemius himself influenced the thinking of the famous polymath and occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (who in Maximilian's time served mainly as secretary, soldier and diplomatic spy). [240] [241] The emperor, having interest in the occult himself, intended to write two books on magic (Zauberpuech) and black magic (Schwartzcunnstpuech) but did not have time for them. [242] [243]

The Italian philosopher Gianfrancesco Pico della Mirandola dedicated his 1500 work De imaginatione, a treatise on the human mind (in which he synthesized Aristotle, Neoplatonism and Girolamo Savonarola), to Maximilian. [244] [245] The Italian philosopher and theologian Tommaso Radini Tedeschi also dedicated his 1511 work La Calipsychia sive de pulchritudine animae to the emperor. [246] [247]

The establishment of the new Courts and the formal Reception of Roman Law in 1495 led to the formation of a professional lawyer class as well as a bureaucratic judiciary. Legal scholars trained in mos italicus (either in Italian universities or in newly established German universities) became in demand. [248] [249] [250] [251] Among the prominent lawyers and legal scholars who served Maximilian in various capacities and provided legal advices to the emperor were Mercurino Gattinara, Sebastian Brandt and Ulrich Zasius. [252] [253] Together with the aristocrats and the literati (who participated in Maximilian's propaganda and intellectual projects), the lawyers and legal scholars became a main group in Maximilian's court. Konrad Stürtzel, the Chancellor, belonged to this group. In Maximilian's court – more egalitarian than any previous German or Imperial court, with its burghers and peasants – all these groups were treated equally in promotions and rewards. The individuals were also blending in many respects, usually through marriage alliances. [254] [255] [256]

Black Hours of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, M 1856, now in the Austrian National Library in Vienna (Codex Vindobon. 1856). The book was made for Maximilian's future father-in-law Charles the Bold in 1466 by Bruges, [257] then given to Galeazzo Maria Sforza likely in 1475/76 during his and Charles's brief alliance, [258] became Bianca Maria Sforza's property, and was finally brought to Maximilian's library after Bianca's and Maximilian's marriage in 1494. [259] [260]

Maximilian was an energetic patron of the library. [261] Previous Habsburg rulers such as Albert III and Maximilian's father Frederick III (who collected the 110 books that were the core inventory of the later library) had also been instrumental in centralizing art treasures and book collections. [262] [263] Maximilian became a bibliophile during the time he was in the Low Countries. [264] As husband of Mary of Burgundy, he would come into possession of the huge Burgundian library, which according to some sources [265] [266] was brought to Austria when he returned to his native land. According to the official website of the Austrian National Library though, the Habsburgs only brought the collection to Vienna in 1581. [259] Maximilian also inherited the Tyrol library of his uncle Sigismund, also a great cultural patron (which had received a large contribution from Eleanor of Scotland, Sigismund's wife and also a great lover of books). [267] [268] When he married Bianca Maria, Italian masterpieces were incorporated into the collection. [259] The collection became more organized when Maximilian commissioned Ladislaus Sunthaim, Jakob Mennel and Johannes Cuspinian to acquire and compose books. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the library had acquired significant Bohemian, French and Italian book art. In 1504, Conrad Celtis spoke the first time of the Bibliotheca Regia (which would evolve into the Imperial Library, and as it is named today, the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek or the Austrian National Library), an organized library that had been expanded through purchases. [265] [269] Maximilian's collection was dispersed between Innsbruck, Vienna and Wiener Neustadt. [259] The Wiener Neustadt part was under Conrad Celtis's management. The more valuable part was in Innbruck. [270] [271] Already in Maximilian's time, the idea and function of libraries were changing and it became important that scholars gained access to the books. [272] [273] Under Maximilian, who was casual in his attitude to scholars (which marvelled the French chronicler Pierre Frossart [a], it was fairly easy for a scholar to gain access to the emperor, the court and thus the library. [275] [276] But despite the intention of rulers like Maximilian II (and his chief Imperial Librarian Blotius) and Charles VI to make the library open to the general public, the process was only completed in 1860. [277] [278]

Margarita philosophica by Gregor Reisch (1504)

During Maximilian's time, there were several projects of an encyclopaedic nature, among them the incomplete projects of Conrad Celtis. However, as the founder of the Collegium poetarum et mathematicorum and a "program thinker" (programmdenker, term used by Jan-Dirk Müller and ‎Hans-Joachim Ziegeler), he established an encyclopaedic-scientific model that increasingly integrated and favoured mechanical arts in relation to the combination between natural sciences and technology and associated them with divina fabrica (God's creation in the six days). In consistence with Celtis's design, the University's curriculum and the political and scientific order of Maximilian's time (which was also influenced by developments in the previous eras), the humanist Gregor Reisch, who was also Maximilian's confessor, produced the Margarita Philosophica, "the first modern encyclopaedia of any importance", first published in 1503. The work covers rhetoric, grammar, logic, music, mathematical topics, childbirth, astronomy, astrology, chemical topics (including alchemy), and hell. [279] [280]

Universalis Cosmographia, Waldseemüller's 1507 world map which was the first to show the Americas separate from Asia

An area that saw many new developments under Maximilian was cartography, of which the important center in Germany was Nuremberg. In 1515 Dürer and Johannes Stabius created the first world map projected on a solid geometric sphere. [281] [282] Bert De Munck and Antonella Romano make a connection between the mapmaking activities of Dürer and Stabius with efforts to grasp, manipulate and represent time and space, which was also associated with Maximilian's "unprecedented dynastic mythmaking" and pioneering printed works like the Triumphal Arch and the Triumphal Procession. [283] Maximilian assigned Johannes Cuspinianus and Stabius to compile a topography of Austrian lands and a set of regional maps. Stabius and his friend Georg Tannstetter worked together on the maps. The work appeared in 1533 but without maps. The 1528 Lazarus-Tannstetter map of Tabulae Hungariae (one of the first regional maps in Europe) though seemed to be related to the project. The cartographers Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann dedicated their famous work Universalis Cosmographia to Maximilian, although the direct backer was Rene II of Loraine. [284] The 1513 edition of Geography, which contained this map and was also dedicated to Maximilian, by Jacobus Aeschler and Georgius Ubelin, is considered by Armando Cortes to be the climax of a cartography revolution. [285] The emperor himself dabbled in cartography. [286] According to Buisseret, Maximilian could "call upon a variety of cartographic talent unrivalled anywhere else in Europe at that time" (that included Celtis, Stabius, Cuspinianus, Jacob Ziegler, Johannes Aventinus and Tannstetter). [287] The development in cartography was tied to the emperor's special interest in sea route exploration, as an activity concerning his global monarchy concept, and his responsibilities as Duke consort to Mary of Burgundy, grandfather of the future ruler of Spain as well as ally and close relation to Portuguese kings. He sent men like Martin Behaim und Hieronymus Münzer to the Portuguese court to cooperate in their exploration efforts as well as to act as his own representatives. [288] [289] Another involved in the network was the Flemish Josse van Huerter or Joss de Utra who would become the first settler of the island of Faial in the Portuguese Azores. Maximilian also played an essential role in connecting the financial houses in Augsburg and Nuremberg (including the companies of Höchstetter, Fugger and Welser etc) to Portuguese expeditions. In exchange for financial backing, King Manuel provided German investors with generous priveleges. The humanist Conrad Peutinger was an important agent who acted as advisor to financiers, translator of voyage records and imperial councillor. [290] Harald Kleinschmidt opines that regarding the matter of world exploration as well as the "transformation of European world picture" in general, Maximilian was "a crucial though much underestimated figure" of his time. [291]

The emperor's program of restoring the University of Vienna to its former pre-eminence was also concerned with astrology and astronomy. He realized the potential of the print press when combined with these branches of learning, and employed Georg Tannstetter (who, in 1509, was appointed by Maximilian as the Professor of Astronomy at the University of Vienna and also worked for a joint calendar reform attempt with the Pope) to produce yearly practica and wall calendars. In 1515, Stabius (who also acted as the court astronomer), Dürer and the astronomer Konrad Heinfogel produced the first planispheres of both southern and northerns hemispheres, also the first printed celestial maps. These maps prompted the revival of interest in the field of uranometry throughout Europe. [292] [293] [294] [295] The Ensisheim meteorite fell on earth during the reign of Maximilian (7 November 1492). This was one of the oldest meteorite impacts in recorded history. King Maximilian, who was on his way to a campaign against France, ordered for it to be dug up and preserved at a local church. The meteorite, as a good omen, was utilized for propaganda against France through the use of broadsheets with dramatic pictures under the direction of the poet Sebastian Brandt (as Maximilian defeated a far larger French army to his own in Senlis two months later, the news would spread even more). [296] [297] [298] On the subject of calendars and calendar reform, already in 1484, the famous Flemish scientist Paul of Middelburg dedicated his Praenostica ad viginti annos duratura. His 1513 magnum opus Paulina de recta Paschae celebratione was also dedicated to Maximilian, together with Leo X. [299] [300]

De recta Paschae celebratione by Paul of Middelburg, 1513.

In addition to maps, other astrological, geometrical and horological instruments were also developed, chiefly by Stiborius and Stabius, who understood the need to cooperate with the emperors to make these instruments into useful tools for propaganda also. [301] [302] In the field of music, the emperor's favourite instrument maker was Hans Georg Neuschel, who created an improved trombone (Neuschel was a talented trombonist himself). [303] [304] In 1500, an elaborated lathe (Drehbank) was created for the emperor's personal carpentry hobby. This is the earliest extant lathe, the earliest known surviving lapidary instrument as well as one of the earliest example of scientific and technological furniture. [305] The earliest surviving screwdriver has also been found attached to one of his suits of armour. [306] Regiomontanus reportedly made an eagle automaton that moved and greeted him when he came to Nuremberg. [307]

Maximilian continued with the strong tradition of supporting physicians at court, started by his father Frederick III, despite Maximilian himself had little personal use for them (he usually consulted everyone's opinions and then opted for some self-curing folk practices). [308] [309] [310] He kept on his payroll about 23 court physicians, whom he "poached" during his long travels from the courts of his relatives, friends, rivals and urban hosts. [310] An innovative solution was entrusting these physicians with healthcare in the most important cities, for which purpose an allowance and horses were made available to them. [311] Alessandro Benedetti dedicated his Historia Corporis Humani: sive Anatomice (The Account of Human Body: or Anatomy) to the emperor. [312] As Humanism was established, the Medical Faculty of the University of Vienna increasingly abandoned Scholasticism and focused on studying laws of disease and anatomy based on actual experiences. [313]

Part of the Tabula Peutingeriana, one of three Roman maps to have survived to this day, discovered (possibly stolen) by Conrad Celtis who bequeathed it to Konrad Peutinger, who then donated it to Maximilian. [314] [315]

Maximilian had an interest in archaeology, "creative and participatory rather than objective and distancing" (and sometimes destructive), according to Christopher S.Wood. [316] His chief advisor on archaeological matters was Konrad Peutinger, who was also the founder of classical Germanic and Roman studies. [317] Peutinger commenced an ambitious project, the Vitae Imperatorum Augustorum, a series of biographies of emperors from Augustus to Maximilian (each biography would also include epigraphic and numismatic evidences), but only the early sections were completed. The search for medals ultimately led to a broad craze in Germany for medals as an alternative for portraiture. At the suggestion of the emperor, the scholar published his collection of Roman inscriptions. [318] [319] [320] Maximilian did not distinguish between the secular and the sacred, the Middle Ages and antiquity, and considered equal in archaeological value the various searches and excavations of the Holy Tunic (rediscovered in Trier in 1513 after Maximilian demanded to see it, and then exhibited, reportedly attracting 100,000 pilgrims), Roman and German reliefs and incriptions, etc. and the most famous quest of all, the search for the remains of hero Siegfried. Maximilian's private collection activities were carried out by his secretary, the humanist Johann Fuchsmagen, on his behalf. Sometimes, the emperor came in contact with antiquities during his campaigns – for example, an old German inscription found in Kufstein in 1504, that he immediately sent to Peutinger. [321] [322] [220] [323] Around 1512–1514, Pirckheimer translated and presented Maximilian with Horapollo's Hieroglyphica. The hieroglyphics would be incorporated by Dürer into the Triumphal Arch, which Rudolf Wittkower considers "the greatest hieroglyphic monument". [324] [325] [326] [327]

Illustration from Historia Friderici et Maximiliani, 1513/14. The 1462 siege of the Vienna citadel, in which the imperial family resided, by Albert VI, Frederick III's younger brother and Maximilian's uncle.

Maximilian's time was an era of international development for cryptography. [328] His premier expert on cryptography was the Abbot Trithemius, who dedicated Polygraphiae libri sex (controversially disguised as a treatise on occult, either because its real target audience was the selected few such as Maximilian or to attract public attention to a tedious field) to the emperor and wrote another work on steganography (Steganographia, posthumously published). [329] [330] [331]

Die Polygraphiae is the first printed work on the topic of cryptography. Title page: Trithemius was presenting his work to Maximilian. [332] [333]

In the fields of history and historiography, Trithemius was also a notable forger and inventive historian who helped to connect Maximilian to Trojan heroes, the Merovingians and the Carolingians. [334] [335] The project had contributions from Maximilian's other court historiographers and genealogists such as Ladislaus Suntheim, Johann Stabius, Johannes Cuspinian and Jakob Mennel. While his colleagues like Jakob Mennel and Ladislaus Suntheim often inserted invented ancient ancestors for the missing links, Trithemius invented entire sources, such as Hunibald (supposedly a Scythian historian), Meginfrid and Wastald. [336] [337] [338] [339] The historiographer Josef Grünpeck wrote the work Historia Friderici III et Maximiliani I (which would be dedicated to Charles V). According to Maria Golubeva, Maximilian and his court preferred the fictional settings and reimagination of history (such as the Weisskunig, an "unique mixture of history and heroic romance"), so no outstanding works of historiography (such as those of Molinet and Chastelain at the Burgundian court) were produced. [340] The first history of Germany based on original sources (patronized by Maximilian and cultivated by Peutinger, Aventin, Pirchkheimer, Stabius, Cuspianian and Celtis) was the Epitome Rerum Germanicarum written by Jakob Wimpheling, in which it was argued that the Germans possessed their own flourishing culture. [341] [342] [343]

Illuminated chansonnier by Heinrich Isaac, one of the greatest masters of High Renaissance music. This one shows the beginning of his four-voice motet Palle, palle; probably written in Florence in the 1480s and copied during that period. Palle (Italian for "balls") is a reference to the coat-of arms of the Medici family, his employers at the time.

He had notable influence on the development of the musical tradition in Austria and Germany as well. Several historians credit Maximilian with playing the decisive role in making Vienna the music capital of Europe. [344] [345] [346] Under his reign, the Habsburg musical culture reached its first high point [347] and he had at his service the best musicians in Europe. [348] He began the Habsburg tradition of supporting large-scale choirs, which he staffed with the brilliant musicians of his days like Paul Hofhaimer, Heinrich Isaac and Ludwig Senfl. [349] His children inherited the parents' passion for music and even in their father's lifetime, supported excellent chapels in Brussels and Malines, with masters such as Alexander Agricola, Marbriano de Orto (who worked for Philip), Pierre de La Rue and Josquin Desprez (who worked for Margaret). [350] After witnessing the brilliant Burgundian court culture, he looked to the Burgundian court chapel to create his own imperial chapel. As he was always on the move, he brought the chapel as well as his whole peripatetic court with him. In 1498 though, he established the imperial chapel in Vienna, under the direction of Goerge Slatkonia, who would later become the Bishop of Vienna. [351] Music benefitted greatly through the cross-fertilization between several centres in Burgundy, Italy, Austria and Tyrol (where Maximilian inherited the chapel of his uncle Sigismund). [352]

The Triumphal Arch

Among some authors, Maximilian has a reputation as the "media emperor". The historian Larry Silver describes him as the first ruler who realized and exploited the propaganda potential of the print press both for images and texts. [353] The reproduction of the Triumphal Arch (mentioned above) in printed form is an example of art in service of propaganda, made available for the public by the economical method of printing (Maximilian did not have money to actually construct it). At least 700 copies were created in the first edition and hung in ducal palaces and town halls through the Reich. [354]

Historian Joachim Whaley comments that: "By comparison with the extraordinary range of activities documented by Silver, and the persistence and intensity with which they were pursued, even Louis XIV appears a rather relaxed amateur." Whaley notes, though, that Maximilian had an immediate stimulus for his "campaign of self-aggrandizement through public relation": the series of conflicts that involved Maximilian forced him to seek means to secure his position. Whaley further suggests that, despite the later religious divide, "patriotic motifs developed during Maximilian's reign, both by Maximilian himself and by the humanist writers who responded to him, formed the core of a national political culture." [79]

Historian Manfred Hollegger notes though that the emperor's contemporaries certainly did not see Maximilian as a "media emperor": "He achieved little political impact with pamphlets, leaflets and printed speeches. Nevertheless, it is certainly true that he combined brilliantly all the media available at that time for his major literary and artistic projects". [10] Tupu Ylä-Anttila notes that while his daughter (to whom Maximilian entrusted a lot of his diplomacy) often maintained a sober tone and kept a competent staff of advisors who helped her with her letters, her father did not demonstrate such an effort and occasionally sent emotional and erratic letters (the letters of Maximilian and Margaret were often presented to foreign diplomats to prove their trust in each other). [355] Maria Golubeva opines that with Maximilian, one should use the term "propaganda" in the sense suggested by Karl Vocelka: "opinion-making". [356] Also, according to Golubeva, unlike the narrative usually presented Austrian historians including Wiesflecker, Maximilian's "propaganda", that was associated with 'militarism', universal imperial claims and court historiography, with a tendency towards world domination, was not the simple result of his Burgundian experience – his 'model of political competition' (as shown in his semi-autobiographical works), while equally secular, ignored the negotiable and institutional aspects inherent in the Burgundian model and, at the same time, emphasized top-down decision making and military force. [357]

During Maximilian's reign, with encouragement from the emperor and his humanists, iconic spiritual figures were reintroduced or became notable. The humanists rediscovered the work Germania, written by Tacitus. According to Peter H. Wilson, the female figure of Germania was reinvented by the emperor as the virtuous pacific Mother of Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. [358] Inheriting the work of Klosterneuburg canons and his father Frederick III, he promoted Leopold III, Margrave of Austria (who had family ties to the emperor), who was canonized in 1485 and became the Patron of Austria in 1506. [359] [360] [361] To maximize the effect that consolidated his rule, the emperor delayed the translation of Leopold's bones for years until he could personally be there. [362] [363]

Albrecht Dürer - Feast of the Rosary, 1506. Dürer started the work for the German-speaking community of Venice, who were united as a Fraternity of the Rosary. The figure of the Virgin alludes to Mary of Burgundy while the infant Jesus is associated with Philip the Fair. [364]

He promoted the association between his own wife Mary of Burgundy and the Virgin Mary, that had already been started in her lifetime by members of the Burgundian court before his arrival. These activities included the patronage (by Maximilian, Philip the Fair and Charles V) of the devotion of the Seven Sorrows [365] [366] [367] [368] as well as the commission (by Maximilian and his close associates) of various artworks dedicating to the topic such as the famous paintings Feast of the Rosary (1506) and Death of the Virgin (1518, one year before the emperor's death) by Albrecht Dürer, [369] [370] the famous diptych of Maximilian's extended family (after 1515) by Strigel, [371] the Manuscript VatS 160 by the composer Pierre Alamire. [372]

Maximilian's reign witnessed the gradual emergence of the German common language. His chancery played a notable role in developing new linguistic standards. Martin Luther credited Maximilian and the Wettin Elector Frederick the Wise with the unification of German language. Tennant and Johnson opine that while other chanceries have been considered significant and then receded in important when the research direction changes, the chanceries of these two rulers have always been considered important from the beginning. As a part of his influential literary and propaganda projects, Maximilian had his autobiographical works embellished, reworked and sometimes ghostwritten in the chancery itself. He is also credited with a major reform of the imperial chancery office: "Maximilian is said to have caused a standardization and streamlining in the language of his Chancery, which set the pace for chanceries and printers throughout the Empire." [373] The form of written German language he introduced into his chancery was called Maximilian's Chancery Speech ( Maximilianische Kanzleisprache) and considered a form of Early New High German. It replaced older forms of written language that were close to Middle High German. This new form was used by the imperial chanceries until the end of the 17th century and therefore also referred to as the Imperial speech. [374]


League of Cambrai (1508) as depicted on a bas-relief in the cenotaph
Innsbruck's Golden Roof

Always short of money, Maximilian could not afford large scale building projects. However, he left a few notable constructions, among which the most remarkable is the cenotaph (designed by Maximilian [375]) he began in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck, which was completed long after his death, and has been praised as the most important monument of Renaissance Austria [376] and considered the "culmination of Burgundian tomb tradition" (especially for the groups of statues of family members) that displayed Late Gothic features, combined with Renaissance traditions like reliefs and busts of Roman emperors. [377] The monument was vastly expanded under his grandson Ferdinand I, who added the tumba, the portal, and on the advice of his Vice Chancellor Georg Sigmund Seld, commissioned the 24 marble reliefs based on the images on the Triumphal Arch. The work was only finished under Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595). The reliefs were carved by the Flemish sculptor Alexander Colyn [378] while the statues were cast by the bronze-founder Stefan Godl following the designs of Gilg Sesshelschreiber and Jörg Kölderer. [379] The bronze busts of Roman emperors were created by Jörg Muskat. [380]

Courtyard of Innsbruck Castle, Albrecht Dürer

After taking Tyrol, in order to symbolize his new wealth and power, he built the Golden Roof, the roof for a balcony overlooking the town center of Innsbruck, from which to watch the festivities celebrating his assumption of rule over Tyrol. The roof is made with gold-plated copper tiles. The structure was a symbol of the presence of the ruler, even when he was physically absent. It began the vogue of using reliefs to decorate oriel windows. The Golden Roof is also considered one of the most notable Habsburg monuments. Like Maximilian's cenotaph, it is in an essentially Gothic idiom. [381] The structure was built by Niclas Türing (Nikolaus Turing) while the paintings was done by Jörg Kölderer. [382]

The Innsbruck Hofburg was redesigned and expanded, chiefly under Niclas Türing. [383] [384] By the time Maximilian died in 1519, the palace was one of the most beautiful and renowned secular structures of the era (but would be rebuilt later in the Baroque style by Maria Theresa). [385] [b]

The famous sculpture Schutzmantelmadonna ( Virgin of Mercy), donated in 1510 by Maximilian to the Frauenstein Pilgrimage Church in Molln, was a work by Gregor Erhart. [387] [388]

Modern postal system and printing

Franz von Taxis received the Postmaster order from Frederick III, Maximilian's father

Together with Franz von Taxis, in 1490, Maximilian developed the first modern postal service in the world. The system was originally built to improve communication between his scattered territories, connecting Burgundy, Austria, Spain and France and later developing to an Europe-wide, fee-based system. Fixed postal routes (the first in Europe) were developed, together with regular and reliable service. From the beginning of the sixteenth century, the system became open to private mail. [389] [390]

The capital resources he poured into the postage system as well as support for the related printing press (when Archduke, he opened a school for sophisticated engraving techniques) were on a level unprecedented by European monarches, and earned him stern rebuke from the father. [391]

The development of the printing press led to a search for a national font. In 1508 or 1510, Maximilian (possibly with Dürer's advice) commissioned the calligrapher Leonhard Wagner to create a new font. Wagner dedicated his calligraphy work Proba centum scripturatum (including one hundred fonts) to Maximilian, who chose the Schwabacher-based font Fraktur, deemed the most beautiful one. While he originally envisioned this font for Latin works, it became the predominant font for German writings, while German printers would use Antiqua for works written in foreign languages. The font would spread to German-influenced countries and remain popular in Germany until being banned in 1941 by the Nazi government as a "Jewish" font. [392] [393] [394] [395] Burgkmair was the chief designer for most of his printing projects. Augsburg was the great center of the printing industry, where the emperor patronized printing and other types of craft through the agency of Conrad Peutinger, giving impetus for the formation of an "imperial" style. Burgkmair and Erhard Ratdolt created new printing techniques. [396] [397] As for his own works, as he wanted to produce the appearance of luxury manuscripts, he mixed handcrafted elements with printing: his Book of Prayers and Theuerdank (Weisskunig and Freydal were unfinished before the emperor's death) were printed with a type that resembled calligraphy (the Imperial Fraktur created by Johannes Schönperger [398]). For prestigious recipients, he used parchment rather than paper. At least one copy of the Book of Hours was decorated by hand by Burgkmair, Dürer, Hans Baldung, Jörg Breu and Cranach. [399]

Political legacy

Maximilian had appointed his daughter Margaret as the Regent of the Netherlands, and she fulfilled this task well. Tupu Ylä-Anttila opines that Margaret acted as defacto queen consort in a political sense, first to her father and then Charles V, "absent rulers" who needed a representative dynastic presence that also complemented their characteristics. Her queenly virtues helped her to play the role of diplomat and peace-maker, as well as guardian and educator of future rulers, whom Maximilian called "our children" or "our common children" in letters to Margaret. This was a model that developed as part of the solution for the emerging Habsburg composite monarchy and would continue to serve later generations. [400]

Through wars and marriages he extended the Habsburg influence in every direction: to the Netherlands, Spain, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, and Italy. This influence lasted for centuries and shaped much of European history. The Habsburg Empire survived as the Austro-Hungarian Empire until it was dissolved 3 November 1918 – 399 years 11 months and 9 days after the passing of Maximilian.

Geoffrey Parker summarizes Maximilian's political legacy as follows: [401]

By the time Charles received his presentation copy of Der Weisskunig in 1517, Maximilian could point to four major successes. He had protected and reorganized the Burgundian Netherlands, Whose political future had seemed bleak when he became their ruler forty years earlier. Likewise, he had overcome the obstacles posed by individual institutions, traditions and languages to forge the sub-Alpine lands he inherited from his father into a single state: ‘Austria’, ruled and taxed by a single administration that he created at Innsbruck. He had also reformed the chaotic central government of the Holy Roman Empire in ways that, though imperfect, would last almost until its demise three centuries later. Finally, by arranging strategic marriages for his grandchildren, he had established the House of Habsburg as the premier dynasty in central and eastern Europe, creating a polity that his successors would expand over the next four centuries.

The Britannica Encyclopaedia comments on Maximilian's achievements: [139]

Maximilian I [...] made his family, the Habsburgs, dominant in 16th-century Europe. He added vast lands to the traditional Austrian holdings, securing the Netherlands by his own marriage, Hungary and Bohemia by treaty and military pressure, and Spain and the Spanish empire by the marriage of his son Philip [...] Great as Maximilian’s achievements were, they did not match his ambitions; he had hoped to unite all of western Europe by reviving the empire of Charlemagne [...] His military talents were considerable and led him to use war to attain his ends. He carried out meaningful administrative reforms, and his military innovations would transform Europe’s battlefields for more than a century, but he was ignorant of economics and was financially unreliable.

Hugh Trevor-Roper opines that, although Maximilian's politics and wars accomplished little, "By harnessing the arts, he surrounded his dynasty with a lustrous aura it had previously lacked. It was to this illusion that his successors looked for their inspiration. To them, he was not simply the second founder of the dynasty; he was the creator of its legend - one that transcended politics, nationality, even religion." [402]

Maximilian's life is still commemorated in Central Europe centuries later. The Order of St. George, which he sponsored, still exists. [403] In 2011, for example, a monument was erected for him in Cortina d’Ampezzo. [404] Also in 1981 in Cormons on the Piazza Liberta a statue of Maximilian, which was there until the First World War, was put up again. [405] On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of his death there were numerous commemorative events in 2019 at which Karl von Habsburg, the current head of the House of Habsburg, represented the imperial dynasty. [406] [407] [408] A barracks in Wiener Neustadt, Maximilian-Kaserne (formerly Artilleriekaserne), a military base for the Jagdkommando of the Austrian Armed Forces, was named after Maximilian. [409]

Amsterdam still retains close ties with the emperor. He once came to the city as a pilgrim and recovered from an illness here. As the city supported him financially in his military expeditions, he granted its citizens the right to use the image of his crown, which remains a symbol of the city as part of its coat-of-arms. The practice survived the later revolt against Habsburg Spain. [410] The central canal in Amsterdam was named in 1615 as the Keizersgracht (Emperor's Canal) after Maximilian. The city beer (Brugse Zot, or The Fools of Bruges) of Bruges, which suffered a four century long decline that was partially inflicted by Maximilian's orders (that required foreign merchants to transfer operations to Antwerp – later he would withdraw the orders but it proved too late.), [411] [412] is associated with the emperor, who according to legend told the city in a conciliatory celebration that they did not need to build an asylum, as the city was full of fools. [413] The swans of the city are considered a perpetual remembrance (allegedly ordered by Maximilian) for Lanchals (whose name meant "long necks" and whose emblem was a swan), the loyalist minister who got beheaded while Maximilian was forced to watch. [414] In Mechelen, Burgundian capital under Margaret of Austria, every 25 years, an ommegang that commemorates Maximilian's arrival as well as other major events is organized. [415]


Official style

We, Maximilian, by the Grace of God, elected Roman Emperor, always Augmenter of the Empire, King of Hungary, Dalmatia, Croatia, etc. Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Britany, Lorrain, Brabant, Stiria, Carinthia, Carniola, Limbourg, Luxembourg, and Guldres; Count of Flanders, Habsburg, Tyrol, Pfiert, Kybourg, Artois, and Burgundy Count Palatine of Haynault, Holland, Zeland, Namur, and Zutphen; Marquess of the Roman Empire and of Burgau, Landgrave of Alsatia, Lord of Friesland, the Wendish Mark, Portenau, Salins, and Malines, etc. etc. [421]

Chivalric orders

A gold-and-silver coin featuring the bust of a crowned man in armour, holding a sceptre and a sword. The bust is surrounded with the text 'Maximilianus Dei Gra Rex & Imper Augustus'.
A gold-and-silver coin featuring five coats of arms, three crowned, and the chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The coin is surrounded by text.
Maximilian's coin with the Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece

On 30 April 1478, Maximilian was knighted by Adolf of Cleves (1425-1492), a senior member of the Order of the Golden Fleece and on the same day he became the sovereign of this exalted order. As its head, he did everything in his power to restore its glory as well as associate the order with the Habsburg lineage. He expelled the members who had defected to France and rewarded those loyal to him, and also invited foreign rulers to join its ranks. [422]

Maximilian I was a member of the Order of the Garter, nominated by King Henry VII of England in 1489. His Garter stall plate survives in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. [423]

Maximilian was patron of the Order of Saint George founded by his father, and also the founder of its secular confraternity. [424]

Appearance and personality

Maximilian by Bernhard Strigel, around 1500

Maximilian was strongly built with an upright posture, had neck length blond or reddish hair, a large hooked nose and a jutting jaw (like his father, he always shaved his beard, as the jutting jaw was considered a noble feature). [425] Although not conventionally handsome, he was well-proportioned and in his youth was considered physically attractive, with an affable, pleasing manner. [426] [427]

Maximilian was a late developer. According to his teacher Johannes Cuspinian, he did not speak until he was nine-year-old, and after that only developed slowly. Frederick III recalled that when his son was twelve, he still thought that the boy was either mute or stupid. [428] In his adulthood, he spoke six languages (he learned French from his wife Mary) [429] and was a genuinely talented author. [430] Other than languages, mathematics and religion, he painted and played various instruments and was also trained in farming, carpentry and blacksmithing, although the focus of his education was naturally kingship. [431] According to Fichtner, he did not learn much from formal training though, because even as a boy, he never sat still and tutors could not do much about that. [432] Gerhard Benecke opines that by nature he was the man of action, a "vigorously charming extrovert" who had a "conventionally superficial interest in knowledge, science and art combined with excellent health in his youth" (he remained virile into his late thirties and only stopped jousting after an accident damaged a leg). [433] He was brave to the point of recklessness, and this did not only show in battles. He once entered a lion's enclosure in Munich alone to tease the lion, and at another point climbed to the top of the Cathedral of Ulm, stood on one foot and turned himself round to gain a full view, at the trepidation of his attendants. In the nineteenth century, an Austrian officer lost his life trying to repeat the emperor's "feat", while another succeeded. [434] [435]

Historian Ernst Bock, with whom Benecke shares the same sentiment, writes the following about him: [436]

His rosy optimism and utilitarianism, his totally naive amorality in matters political, both unscrupulous and machiavellian; his sensuous and earthy naturalness, his exceptional receptiveness towards anything beautiful especially in the visual arts, but also towards the various fashions of his time whether the nationalism in politics, the humanism in literature and philosophy or in matters of economics and capitalism; further his surprising yearning for personal fame combined with a striving for popularity, above all the clear consciousness of a developed individuality: these properties Maximilian displayed again and again.

Maximilian idealized as Saint George, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472 – 16 October 1553). Ca. 1515. [437]

Historian Paula Fichtner describes Maximilian as a leader who was ambitious and imaginative to a fault, with self-publicizing tendencies as well as territorial and administrative ambitions that betrayed a nature both "soaring and recognizably modern", while dismissing Benecke's presentation of Maximilian as "an insensitive agent of exploitation" as influenced by the author's personal political leaning. [438]

Berenger and Simpson consider Maximilian a greedy Renaissance prince, and also, "a prodigious man of action whose chief fault was to have 'too many irons in the fire'". [439] On the other hand, Steven Beller criticizes him for being too much of a medieval knight who had a hectic schedule of warring, always crisscrossing the whole continent to do battles (for example, in August 1513, he commanded Henry VIII's English army in the second Guinegate, and a few weeks later joined the Spanish forces in defeating the Venetians) with little resources to support his ambitions. According to Beller, Maximilian should have spent more time at home persuading the estates to adopt a more efficient governmental and fiscal system. [440]

Thomas A. Brady Jr. praises the emperor's sense of honour, but criticizes his financial immorality — according to Geoffrey Parker, both points, together with Maximilian's martial qualities and hard-working nature, would be inherited from the grandfather by Charles V: [441] [442]

[...]though punctilious to a fault about his honor, he lacked all morals about money. Every florin was spent, mortgaged, and promised ten times over before it ever came in; he set his courtiers a model for their infamous venality; he sometimes had to leave his queen behind as pledge for his debts; and he borrowed continuously from his servitors—large sums from top offcials, tiny ones from servants — and never repaid them. Those who liked him tried to make excuses.

Holleger concurs that Maximilian's court officials, except Eitelfriedrich von Zollern and Wolfgang von Fürstenberg, did expect gifts and money for tips and help, and the emperor usually defended his counselors and servants even if he acted against the more blatant displays of material greed. Maximilian though was not a man who could be controlled or influenced easily by his officials. Holleger also opines that while many of his political and artistic schemes leaned towards megalomania, there was a sober realist who believed in progression and relied on modern modes of management underneath. Personally, "frequently described as humane, gentle, and friendly, he reacted with anger, violence, and vengefulness when he felt his rights had been injured or his honor threatened, both of which he valued greatly." The price for his warlike ruling style and his ambition for a globalized monarchy (that ultimately achieved considerable successes) was a continuous succession of war, that earned him the sobriquet “Heart of steel” (Coeur d’acier). [10] [443]

Marriages and offspring

16th century stained glass window in St George's Church (Georgskapelle): Philip the Handsome, Maximilian I, Bianca Maria Sforza, Mary of Burgundy with Archduchess Margaret (left to right)
Maximilian in the last year of his life, holding his personal emblem, a pomegranate. Portrait by Albrecht Dürer, 1519.

Maximilian was married three times, but only the first marriage produced offspring:

  • Maximilian's first wife was Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482). They were married in Ghent on 19 August 1477, and the marriage was ended by Mary's death in a riding accident in 1482. Mary was the love of his life. Even in old age, the mere mention of her name moved him to tears (although, his sexual life, contrary to his chivalric ideals, was unchaste). [444] The grand literary projects commissioned and composed in large part by Maximilian many years after her death were in part tributes to their love, especially Theuerdank, in which the hero saved the damsel in distress like he had saved her inheritance in real life. [445] [446] His heart is buried inside her sarcophagus in Bruges according to his wish. [447]

Beyond her beauty, the inheritance and the glory she brought, Mary corresponded to Maximilian's ideal of a woman: the spirited grand "Dame" who could stand next to him as sovereigns. To their daughter Margaret, he described Mary: from her eyes shone the power (Kraft) that surpassed any other woman. [448] [449]

The marriage produced three children:

Habsburg realms (green) under Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
  1. Philip I of Castile (1478–1506) who inherited his mother's domains following her death, but predeceased his father. He married Joanna of Castile, becoming king-consort of Castile upon her accession in 1504, and was the father of the Holy Roman Emperors Charles V and Ferdinand I.
  2. Margaret of Austria (1480–1530), who was first engaged at the age of 2 to the French dauphin (who became Charles VIII of France a year later) to confirm peace between France and Burgundy. She was sent back to her father in 1492 after Charles repudiated their betrothal to marry Anne of Brittany. She was then married to the crown prince of Castile and Aragon John, Prince of Asturias, and after his death to Philibert II of Savoy, after which she undertook the guardianship of her deceased brother Philip's children, and governed Burgundy for the heir, Charles.
  3. Francis of Austria, who died shortly after his birth in 1481.
  • Maximilian's second wife was Anne of Brittany (1477–1514) – they were married by proxy in Rennes on 18 December 1490, but the contract was dissolved by the pope in early 1492, by which time Anne had already been forced by the French king, Charles VIII (the fiancé of Maximilian's daughter Margaret of Austria) to repudiate the contract and marry him instead.
  • Maximilian's third wife was Bianca Maria Sforza (1472–1510) – they were married in 1493, the marriage bringing Maximilian a rich dowry and allowing him to assert his rights as imperial overlord of Milan. The marriage was unhappy, and they had no children.

In Maximilian's view, while Bianca might surpass his first wife Mary in physical beauty, she was just a "child" with "a mediocre mind", who could neither make decisions nor be presented as a respectable lady to the society. Benecke opines that this seems unfair, as while Bianca was always concerned with trivial, private matters (Recent research though indicates that Bianca was an educated woman who was politically active), [450] she was never given the chance to develop politically, unlike the other women in Maximilian's family including Margaret of Austria or Catherine of Saxony. Despite her unsuitability as an empress, Maximilian tends to be criticized for treating her with coldness and neglect, which after 1500 only became worse. [451] Bianca, on the other hand, loved the emperor deeply and always tried to win his heart with heartfelt letters, expensive jewels and allusions to sickness, but did not even get back a letter, developed eating disorders and mental illness, and died a childless woman. [452] [453]

In addition, he had several illegitimate children, but the number and identities of those are a matter of great debate. Johann Jakob Fugger writes in Ehrenspiegel (Mirror of Honour) that the emperor began fathering illegitimate children after becoming a widower, and there were eight children in total, four boys and four girls. [454]

  • By unknown mistress:
  1. Martha von Helfenstein or Margaretha, Mathilde, Margareta, née von Edelsheim (?-1537), wife of Johann von Hille (died 1515), remarried Ludwig Helferich von Helfenstein (1493-1525, married in 1517 or 1520); Ludwig was killed by peasants on 16 April 1525 in the Massacre of Weinsberg during the German Peasants' War. They had a surviving son named Maximilian (1523-1555) [455] [456] Some sources reported that she was born in 1480 or her mother was Margareta von Edelsheim, née Rappach. [457]
  • By Margareta von Edelsheim, née Rappach (?-1522) Dingel reports that she was born around 1470 [458] while others report that in 1494 she was still a minor when she married von Rottal: [459]
  1. Barbara von Rottal (1500–1550), wife of Siegmund von Dietrichstein. Some report that she was the daughter of Margareta von Edelsheim, née Rappach, [460] while Benecke lists the mother as unidentified. [456]
  2. George of Austria (1505–1557), Prince-Bishop of Liège.
  • By Anna von Helfenstein:
  1. Cornelius (1507– c. 1527).[ citation needed]
  2. Maximilian Friedrich von Amberg (1511–1553), Lord of Feldkirch.[ citation needed]
  3. Leopold ( c. 1515–1557), bishop of Córdoba, Spain (1541–1557), with illegitimate succession.[ citation needed]
  4. Dorothea (1516–1572), heiress of Falkenburg, Durbuy and Halem, lady in waiting to Queen Maria of Hungary; wife of Johan I of East Frisia.
  5. Anna Margareta (1517–1545), lady in waiting to Queen Maria of Hungary; wife of François de Melun ( –1547), 2nd count of Epinoy.[ citation needed]
  6. Anne (1519–?). She married Louis d'Hirlemont.[ citation needed]
  7. Elisabeth (d. 1581/1584), wife of Ludwig III von der Marck, Count of Rochefort.[ citation needed]
  8. Barbara, wife of Wolfgang Plaiss.[ citation needed]
  9. Christoph Ferdinand ( d.  c. 1522).[ citation needed]
  • By unknown mistress (parentage uncertain):
  1. Guielma, wife of Rudiger (Rieger) von Westernach.[ citation needed]

Triumphal woodcuts

A set of woodcuts called the Triumph of Emperor Maximilian I. See also Category:Triumphal Procession of Maximilian I – Wikimedia Commons

Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 004.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 005.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 006.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 007.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 008.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 009.jpg People from Calicut People from Calicut Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 012.jpg Hans burgkmair il vecchio, spadaccini con alabarde, dalla serie della processione trionfale di massimiliano I, 1526 (ristampa del 1796).jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 013.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 014.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 015.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 016.jpg Triumphzug Kaiser Maximilians 1.jpg Triumphzug Kaiser Maximilians 2.jpg Wartime Triumphs Musikantendarstellungen Cart with Horn Musicians Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 001.jpg Hungarian combatants, escort of Emperor Maximilian I Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 002.jpg Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I - 003.jpg The Triumphal Chariot of Maximilian I


  1. ^ "'The Emperor', he writes, 'not only calls them his friends, but treats them as such, and it appears to me that he seeks their society gladly, and is much influenced by them. There is certainly no other ruler who is so willing to learn from those more learned than he is, and whose own mind is so cultivated that his questions are themselves instructive'.") [274]
  2. ^ "Zweifellos ist beim Tod des Kaisers 1519 die Innsbrucker Hofburg eines der schönsten und bedeutendsten Profanwerke jener Epoche gewesen." [386]

See also

  • Family tree of the German monarchs. He was related to every other king of Germany.
  • First Congress of Vienna - The First Congress of Vienna was held in 1515, attended by the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I, and the Jagiellonian brothers, Vladislaus II, King of Hungary and King of Bohemia, and Sigismund I, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania
  • Landsknecht - The German Landsknechts, sometimes also rendered as Landsknechte were colorful mercenary soldiers with a formidable reputation, who became an important military force through late 15th- and 16th-century Europe


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  • Hermann Wiesflecker, Kaiser Maximilian I. 5 vols. Munich 1971–1986.
  • Manfred Hollegger, Maximilian I., 1459–1519, Herrscher und Mensch einer Zeitenwende. Stuttgart 2005.
  • Larry Silver, Marketing Maximilian: The Visual Ideology of a Holy Roman Emperor (Princeton / Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2008).

External links

Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 22 March 1459  Died: 12 January 1519
Regnal titles
Preceded by Holy Roman Emperor
4 February 1508 – 12 January 1519
Succeeded by
King of the Romans
16 February 1486 – 12 January 1519
Archduke of Austria
19 August 1493 – 12 January 1519
Preceded by Archduke of Further Austria
19 March 1490 – 19 August 1493
Reunited rule
Preceded byas sole ruler Duke of Brabant, Limburg,
Lothier, Luxemburg and Guelders;
Margrave of Namur;
Count of Zutphen, Artois,
Flanders, Charolais,
Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland;
Count Palatine of Burgundy

19 August 1477 – 27 March 1482
with Mary the Rich
Succeeded by