Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor

Annie Lee | Jan 2, 2024

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Ferdinand II († February 15, 1637 in Vienna) was Holy Roman Emperor from September 1619 until his death. Archduke of Inner Austria since 1590, he gradually united the territories of the Habsburg Monarchy under his rule. In 1617 he became King of Bohemia, but temporarily 1619

Already as sovereign of Inner Austria from 1596, he advocated a course of absolutism and recatholicization. He also followed this course as king of Hungary and Bohemia. The Bohemian estates rose up against him, which triggered the Thirty Years' War. After defeating the rebels, he used draconian measures, especially in Bohemia, to enforce the primacy of royal power and Catholicism as the only permitted denomination in the Habsburgs' immediate sphere of power. In the following phase of the war, the emperor's general, Wallenstein, was victorious. Ferdinand subsequently tried to ruthlessly impose recatholicization and imperial power in the empire as well. The culmination of this was the Restitution Edict of 1629, which was supposed to restore numerous prince-bishoprics, prince-bishoprics and secularized monasteries to the Catholic Church. He failed with it because of the resistance of the electors. In the Peace of Prague of 1635, he sought a settlement with the imperial estates, but was unable to end the war because he was unable to prevent the foreign powers from pursuing their own interests in the German theater of war.

Ferdinand II was the son of Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria (1540-1590) and Maria of Bavaria (1551-1608), a daughter of Albrecht V, Duke of Bavaria. He thus came from a collateral line of the Habsburgs in Inner Austria (Styria, Carinthia and Carniola).

The grandfather was Ferdinand I, an uncle was Maximilian II, cousins were Rudolf II and Matthias and Maximilian of Bavaria.

His strict Catholic mother handed over the boy's education to the Jesuits in Ingolstadt in 1590. There he attended the grammar school and, until 1595, the university. The court master Balthasar Ferdinand von Schrattenbach was officially in charge of his education. Ferdinand lived according to his status and had a court of 30 people. His cousin, the later Elector Maximilian I of Bavaria, who was five years older, studied together with him. Their personal relationship, however, was rather distant. The Jesuit education was largely responsible for Ferdinand's resolute rejection of Protestantism. Ferdinand was personally very pious and attended mass at least once a day. He was prudish and, as emperor, had paintings from the collection of Rudolf II depicting the nude burned.

With the death of his father, Ferdinand had already succeeded him as ruler of the inner-Austrian lands in 1590. However, the government was officially headed by Archdukes Ernst (at that time regent in Lower Austria), from 1593 Maximilian the Deutschmeister, but practically by his mother, until he himself took over the government. In 1595 he returned to Graz, and in December 1596, immediately after his coming of age, the estates of Styria and a year later those of Carinthia and Carniola paid homage to him.

His religiosity led him to give the Catholic religion the highest importance also for political action. Already at the beginning of his reign, he set a sign of his Catholic and counter-Reformation sentiments. He traveled to the pilgrimage site of Loreto in the Marches and made valuable donations. Before the altar of the Mother of God, he voluntarily made a solemn vow to restore Catholicism to the sole religion in his states at any cost. In the course of the journey he also met with Pope Clement VIII. Back in his lands, he expanded the Graz residence.

The central political problem from the prince's point of view were the estates' claims to a say in the matter by the mostly Protestant nobility and the constant threat from the Ottomans. Ferdinand's father had been forced to make religious concessions to the estates against the background of Ottoman encroachments. In the inner-Austrian lands, the counter-reformation and recatholicization were carried out with determination. Important sponsors were the Jesuits in Graz, who also directed the university there. Ferdinand is credited with the saying, "Better to rule a desert than a land full of heretics."

Supported above all by Martin Brenner, the Prince-Bishop of Seckau, he went further than his predecessors in his counter-Reformation measures. Previously, they had been directed primarily at the inhabitants of the cities and market towns. Ferdinand now demanded that the nobility also profess Catholicism. He gave their Protestant relatives the choice of either converting to Catholicism or leaving the country. Only in their homes could the nobles live their faith. The creation of a homogeneous Catholic noble class had the desired side effect that the peasants of the landlords were also forced to change their faith. In Graz, numerous wagonloads of Protestant writings were burned. Protestant churches in the country were destroyed. Protestant preachers and scholars such as the mathematician Johannes Kepler were expelled from the country. The exodus of numerous wealthy Protestant families severely damaged the country's economy.

He also pursued re-Catholicization by promoting religious life. He founded a whole series of Capuchin monasteries in his domain. Ferdinand, however, tried in vain to establish his own bishopric of Graz. Within only a few years, he effectively eliminated Protestantism in his domain.

The fight against Protestantism went hand in hand with the goal of asserting monarchical rule over the right of the estates to participate. He once said to the estates of Styria that he did not want to be a princeps modificatus, but a princeps absolutus. However, his counter-reformation measures led to the nobility showing little inclination to grant the necessary funds for the Turkish campaign. This led to the capture of the important fortress of Kaniza by the Ottomans in 1600.

In the brotherly quarrel between Rudolf II and Matthias, Ferdinand remained undecided. He changed his position several times. At times he also tried to mediate, because he thought that the dispute would mainly benefit the Protestant aristocratic party. After Rudolf was deposed as king of Bohemia in 1611 in favor of Matthias, Ferdinand swung completely to Matthias' camp. One reason was probably that he hoped to become the heir of the childless Matthias.

Emperor Matthias had hesitated to settle his succession since 1612. Only under pressure did he propose his cousin Ferdinand as his successor as king in Bohemia in 1617, after the archdukes Maximilian III and Albrecht VII had renounced their claims to Bohemia and Hungary. Their renunciation of the Austrian hereditary lands followed later. As a possible competitor for Bohemia and Hungary, the Spanish king Philip III had also remained, who had been staking his claims since 1613. The Austrian House of Habsburg had concluded the Treaty of Oñate with Philip, which had led to the Spanish Habsburgs renouncing their bid for the imperial crown. As compensation, Spain had received the bailiwicks of Hagenau and Ortenburg and imperial fiefs in northern Italy. The treaty had also stipulated the priority of a male heir from the Spanish line over a female heir from Austria. Therefore, in 1617, before the death of Matthias, Ferdinand became king of Bohemia with the support of the highest chancellor, Zdeněk Vojtěch of Lobkowicz. Given the counter-Reformation zeal in his ancestral domain, this met with criticism from the Bohemian estates. In Hungary, after negotiations, he was elected king in 1618. On July 1, 1618, he was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary in St. Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava. In both countries, on Ferdinand's orders, a counter-Reformation policy was immediately launched.

In part, the causes for the revolt of the Bohemian estates still stemmed from the reign of Matthias, but were reinforced by Ferdinand's counter-reformation policies. The Defenestration of Prague on May 23, 1618, was a revolutionary event of unimagined magnitude, affecting high-ranking officials of Ferdinand. Ferdinand was involved in the events in Prague only from a distance. At times, the Bohemian insurgents were so successful that they were able to threaten Vienna. But the displeasure of the Estates and the criticism of the Counter-Reformation measures affected not only Bohemia but also Austria itself. On June 5, 1619, there was the so-called Sturmpetition, a deputation of Protestant nobles at the Hofburg. They tried in vain to obtain from Ferdinand a protection of the estates' and confessional rights and had to give way to imperial soldiers under the command of Gilbert de Saint-Hilaire.

Elector Frederick of the Palatinate sought to enlist the support of the Protestant Union for his election as counter-king of Bohemia and to prevent Ferdinand's election as Roman emperor. Ferdinand, for his part, solicited military support from Spain, financial aid from the Pope, and renewal of the Catholic League. The involvement of the Union and the League indicated that the conflict would have an impact beyond the narrower Habsburg sphere of influence. The Bohemian estates had declared Ferdinand deposed (as an "enemy of Bohemian liberty") and awarded the crown to the reformed Elector Palatine Frederick V on August 27, 1619.

With the death of Emperor Matthias on March 20, 1619, Ferdinand also succeeded to the parts of the Austrian hereditary lands ruled by Matthias. Only Tyrol and the Vorlande remained under the rule of a collateral line.

Now, winning the imperial crown became of central importance to Ferdinand. His claim is reflected in his motto: "Legitime certantibus corona" (roughly: the crown is due to the fighter for the just cause). The imperial election was to take place in Frankfurt on August 28. Because one day before, on August 27, 1619, Elector Frederick V of the Palatinate had been elected as the new Bohemian king, there were ominous omens for the election, because Ferdinand intended, despite the election of a new Bohemian king, to still exercise his previous right to vote for the Bohemian elector when he was elected emperor. In fact, he did so, and the ensuing protest of a Bohemian delegation, which had come specially for the occasion, was rejected by the assembled Electoral College. Thereupon the envoys of the Electoral Palatinate, who had decided to elect the Bavarian Duke Maximilian I as the new emperor, withdrew their already given vote, because the duke had announced to renounce the vote in favor of Ferdinand. In a further ballot, Ferdinand was then elected unanimously - a remarkable event considering the events that had taken place in Prague. The coronation of Ferdinand as emperor took place on September 9. The election of the emperor not only brought Ferdinand the prestige and the remaining rights of the emperor, but it also gave him the right to take action against Frederick of the Palatinate.

On his return journey from Frankfurt to Vienna, Ferdinand stopped in Munich, among other places. There, an alliance of Maximilian I and the Catholic League was prepared, which improved his position vis-à-vis the rebelling Bohemian estates. In the treaty Maximilian was granted unlimited supreme power over the Catholic League. The emperor could no longer give instructions to the duke in this capacity. In addition, Upper Austria, which had joined the Bohemians, was pledged to Bavaria. Secretly, the transfer of the electoral dignity from Frederick of the Palatinate to Maximilian was also already arranged. Subsequently, Ferdinand also succeeded in obtaining the support of Spain and Protestant Electoral Saxony in exchange for considerable territorial concessions. The Protestant Union remained neutral. Saxon troops marched into Lusatia. To enforce the Eight against Frederick, Ferdinand had Spanish and League troops enter the Rhenish Palatinate and violently suppress Protestantism in the occupied territories, bringing the religious war to Germany.

League troops under the supreme command of Tilly entered Upper Austria and broke the resistance. Immediately, the Counter-Reformation began there as well. In 1626, the Upper Austrian Peasants' War broke out against the Bavarian pledge and the action against the Protestants, which was violently put down. It was not until 1628 that the area was returned to Ferdinand in exchange for the Upper Palatinate and parts of the Rhine Palatinate.

Ferdinand was confronted not only with the estates' unrest in his Austrian hereditary lands and with the uprising in Bohemia, but also with an uprising in Hungary. On August 27, 1620, Gábor Bethlen was elected Hungarian king instead of Ferdinand.

The decision in this crisis was made in Bohemia. The troops of the League marched into the country. In the Battle of White Mountain, Frederick was defeated by the troops of Maximilian of Bavaria on November 8, 1620. Frederick had to flee and the rebellion collapsed. In 1621, the Hungarian rebels also surrendered.

In the Empire, the Catholic armies defeated Frederick V of Baden-Durlach and Christian of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and advanced as far as Westphalia and Lower Saxony.

The forces of the estates - in many cases also associated with Protestantism - were decisively weakened throughout the Habsburg sphere of power. Ferdinand could now not only pursue his counter-Reformation goals even more intensively, but also adopt an absolutist course.

As agreed, Ferdinand gave Duke Maximilian the electoral dignity together with the Upper Palatinate in return for his help, after he had outlawed Frederick and declared him deprived of his dignity and lands.

After the victory, an example was made on June 21, 1621, with the execution of 21 people, some of them important, such as the rector of Prague University Jan Jessenius. Subsequently, the Protestant preachers were expelled. In 1624 Catholicism was proclaimed the only permitted denomination in Bohemia. Only in Silesia was the Counter-Reformation carried out less strictly. The noble supporters of the rebellion were deprived of their property. About half of the landed property changed hands after 1620. The value of the confiscated land was 40 million florins. There were considerable emigration movements of Protestant or estates-oriented people. How high the number was, however, is unclear. First of all, Catholic local nobles benefited from the redistribution of property. This is especially true of Wallenstein. He acquired estates worth 15 million guilders. About a quarter of the estates fell to noble families who had not previously been resident in Bohemia. Among them were such well-known families as the Metternichs or the Trautmannsdorffs. After Wallenstein's death, his property was also divided up. Mostly foreign families profited from this. These now owned a total of 40% of the estates. A large part of the Protestant nobility and the wealthy bourgeoisie emigrated against this background, the so-called exiles. At least a quarter of the nobility left the country.

A certain conclusion of the reorganization measures of Bohemia in the sense of absolutism was brought about by the Verneuerte Landesordnung of 1627 and a counterpart for Moravia. Bohemia was now the hereditary property of the Habsburgs. The king now occupied the highest offices, the Diet lost its legislative powers, the king decreed that the nobility be included in the list (incolate) and the prelates returned to the Diet.

Comparable coercive measures against Protestants also existed in the other Habsburg territories. The Counter-Reformation was weakest in Hungary. There were no coercive measures there. What was significant in the long term was that the Catholic Church renewed itself internally in accordance with the decisions of the Council of Trent. As in his original domain, Ferdinand now encouraged the establishment of new religious orders everywhere. Higher education and the universities were often controlled by the Jesuits. A pompous baroque Catholicism developed.

Ferdinand proved to be a ruler who often used his advisors to make political decisions, not infrequently listening to the latest advice. He liked to have expert opinions prepared. He is described as vacillating and often indecisive, comfortable and not particularly gifted, but with a shrewd instinct for his power, for the interests of the Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs as a whole, dignified, always insisting on justice and law, tough and fanatical in religious matters, but otherwise rather good-natured and indulgent, also generous, a man of pleasure, above all indulging his passion for hunting, happy and enterprising in his youth, obese and ailing in his last years.

The most important advisory body was the Privy Council, which was still quite small at the time and comprised about twelve councilors. It met every fourth or fifth day at the imperial court. Of particular importance was Privy Councillor Prince Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, de facto First Minister, whose skills made him a diplomat and close advisor. Also important were Gundaker of Liechtenstein and his brothers Charles and Maximilian, Maximilian Count of Trautmannsdorff, the Archbishop of Olomouc Franz von Dietrichstein, the Court War Councilor Gerhard von Questenberg, the Privy Councilor and Austrian Court Chancellor Johann Baptist Verda von Verdenberg, the Hungarian magnate Nikolaus Esterházy and the Chancellor of Bohemia Wilhelm Slavata. The conduct of the war was in the hands of the powerful generalissimo Albrecht von Wallenstein, who deployed most of the imperial army as a general contractor on his own account and reserved all decisions for himself.

The Spanish envoy Oñate was also central. The latter managed to form a very influential Spanish-oriented court party. In addition to Slavata, Martinitz and Lobkowitz were also counted among this party. In addition, clergymen played an important role, also in political matters. Of these, the emperor's confessor, Wilhelm Lamormaini SJ, in particular had great influence on the strictly religious emperor. Ferdinand II is said to have trusted him "to the point of blind obedience." The court pulpit orator, Johannes Weingartner SJ, also played a role. While the Jesuits and the "Spaniards" were considered the "war party" at court, who sought to encourage the emperor in his pious excesses as well as in intransigence in the pursuit of political war aims, Eggenberg, Trautmannsdorff, Liechtenstein, the imperial vice-chancellor Stralendorf, Questenberg and the Viennese bishop Anton Wolfradt sought to exert a more moderating influence, as did Wallenstein.

Important to Ferdinand in his decisions was the question of whether his actions were legally permissible. Numerous expert opinions were obtained for this purpose. He wanted to know from his spiritual advisors whether his actions would be in accordance with divine law or natural law.

After the defeat of Bohemia and the occupation of the Palatinate, Ferdinand seemed to have won across the board. That the war nevertheless continued had causes in which Ferdinand was not uninvolved. First of all, there was the ruthless action in Bohemia, which caused resentment in the Protestant camp. In addition, the transfer of the electoral dignity from the Palatinate to Bavaria was not sufficiently coordinated with the Protestant electors. This threatened to tip the confessional political balance in the direction of Catholicism. The occupation of parts of the Palatinate also threatened to involve Ferdinand and the empire in international conflicts with France, for example.

Against this background, the war was rekindled when Christian IV of Denmark, who as Duke of Holstein was also an imperial prince and head of the Lower Saxon Imperial Circle, joined forces with the estates of the Lower Saxon Imperial Circle against Ferdinand and his allies. Neither the emperor's nor the league's power was sufficient to fight these new opponents. Out of necessity, the emperor accepted Wallenstein's offer to equip an army and place it at Ferdinand's disposal.

Wallenstein's imperial army soon became the strongest in the empire, with the troops of the Bavarian-led Catholic League playing only a secondary role. In this respect, thanks to Wallenstein, Ferdinand was able to free himself from his dependence on the League from the first years of the war. Wallenstein's army, together with Tilly's troops, was able to defeat the enemy and occupy almost all of northern Germany. In particular, the destruction of Magdeburg was seen as an attack on Protestantism as a whole. In 1629, in the Peace of Lübeck, the Danish king had to renounce any interference in German affairs in the future.

Ferdinand deprived the dukes of Mecklenburg, who had given aid to King Christian IV of Denmark against Tilly and Wallenstein, of their lands and enfeoffed Wallenstein with them. However, the plan to seize naval supremacy on the Baltic Sea failed due to the fierce resistance that Stralsund put up to Wallenstein's siege, with support from Sweden.

After Ferdinand had subjected all of Germany to his power, he saw the opportunity to apply his Counter-Reformation goals to the entire empire. To this end, he issued the Edict of Restitution on March 6, 1629, which was intended to restore the status quo of ecclesiastical property in the empire to the state it was in 1552, before the Peace of Augsburg, without the consent of the Protestant imperial estates. If enforced, the edict would have had enormous consequences for property relations in the empire, as the result would have been extensive expropriations and restitutions of formerly Catholic property, including the archdioceses of Bremen and Magdeburg, to the Catholic Church.

The intentions of restitution, issued at the height of imperial power, met with criticism from Wallenstein because they gave rise to fears of a long continuation of the war and then actually resulted in it, because the fears of the Protestants triggered by them lingered on for a long time. The edict not only threatened Protestantism, but also disregarded the rights of the imperial estates. For the imperial princes, this seemed to be the first step toward an absolutist system in the empire as well, and this danger was also viewed critically by Catholic imperial estates, although the Electors Maximilian I of Bavaria and his brother Ferdinand of Cologne were among the staunch supporters of the edict and thus of the strengthening of the Catholic Church in the empire.

In addition, the imperial princes distrusted Wallenstein, whom the emperor had made a sovereign equal to them by elevating him to Duke of Mecklenburg after ostracizing the previous dukes. They rightly feared that other warlords were striving for the same and ultimately wanted to take over the leadership of the empire as a "proto-Napoleonic" military aristocracy; therefore, in 1627, Elector Maximilian resolutely prevented the plan of Tilly and Pappenheim to divide occupied Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel among themselves, which was advocated by Wallenstein; the Elector also repeatedly expressed the fear that Wallenstein himself would sooner or later aspire to the imperial crown.

The emperor had also intervened militarily in 1629 as feudal lord of Imperial Italy in the question of succession in the Duchy of Mantua against the French in the Mantuan War of Succession. In doing so, he acted under pressure from the Spanish branch of the Habsburg family, which wanted Ferrante Gonzaga to prevail against the French pretender Carlo Gonzaga. This intensified the criticism in the empire, since Ferdinand was waging a foreign war without the approval of the Electoral College.

In 1630, the criticism of the Protestant and Catholic electors culminated at the Regensburg Electors' Diet. Ferdinand was there concerned with the election of his son Ferdinand as Roman king and with financial support in the war for Mantua. The situation was aggravated when it became known that Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had landed in Pomerania. The leader of the anti-Emperor opposition now became Maximilian of Bavaria, of all people, the Emperor's cousin and brother-in-law and founder of the Catholic League. The electors demanded a reduction in the size of the imperial army, which they perceived as threatening, and the dismissal of Wallenstein, who had long appeared to them as the real ruler of the empire. The emperor was forced to give in to the demands to a large extent. Wallenstein was dismissed as commander-in-chief of the imperial troops without undertaking the feared coup. Tilly took over this post. The imperial army was reduced in size despite the Swedish threat. In the dispute over Mantua, Ferdinand had to make peace. The election of Ferdinand III was denied and the execution of the Edict of Restitution was suspended. The emperor, who shortly before had seemed superior, had lost considerable power. His goal of re-Catholicization and the establishment of absolutism in the empire had thus failed.

The landing of the Swedish king Gustav Adolf was the beginning of a new phase of the war. First he was victorious in some minor battles in Brandenburg and then he forced the Electors of Brandenburg and Saxony to sign treaties of alliance with him. Together with a small Saxon army, the Swedish army defeated the army of the Catholic League at Breitenfeld so decisively that the way to southern Germany was open to the Swedes afterwards.

Ferdinand had thus lost all the successes he had achieved so far and, with the consent of the Bavarian Elector Maximilian, felt compelled to give Wallenstein the generalship again in order to protect Bavaria and his Austrian hereditary lands. In the Treaty of Göllersdorf of April 14, 1632, Wallenstein was once again appointed "Generalissimus," with the right that he alone commanded the imperial army. The emperor also had to grant him other extraordinary rights. Thus, Wallenstein was given the right to negotiate independently with the enemies of war without the participation of the emperor. In fact, Wallenstein won important victories at Nuremberg and Lützen in the course of 1632, and in the Battle of Lützen, which ended in a draw, the Swedish king Gustav Adolf was killed. With him, the Protestant side had lost its admired military leader. However, he found a determined political successor in the Swedish Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, who immediately began to restructure the Swedish army.

In 1633, the Counter-Reformation screw was tightened once again, so tightly that even foreign ambassadors in Vienna, even if they served Protestant princes, either had to be Catholic themselves or leave the country within three days. Wallenstein, a religiously indifferent convert who had never bothered about the confessional affiliation of his officers and soldiers, was forbidden to accept Protestants from the Habsburg hereditary lands into the imperial army in the future, which he angrily protested, since the recruiting business had become difficult anyway. However, as with the Edict of Restitution, the emperor remained intransigent, which made Wallenstein doubt more than ever Ferdinand's will and ability to conclude the long-awaited peace.

However, Wallenstein's position at the imperial court in Vienna was increasingly undermined during 1633 by opponents, including in particular the Spanish ambassador, the court war council president Heinrich Graf Schlick, and Bohemian nobles. The emperor was informed by reports from Piccolomini of secret negotiations between the generalissimo and Saxony, Sweden, and France, mediated by the Protestant émigré Wilhelm Count Kinsky and the Saxon field marshal Franz Albrecht of Saxe-Lauenburg. In addition, there were warnings and complaints from the Bavarian Elector Maximilian about the imminent conquest of the city of Regensburg by the Swedes, which also took place in November 1633 and had not been prevented by Wallenstein.

At the beginning of 1634, the emperor, prompted by the so-called Pilsener Revers (an address of surrender from his colonels to Wallenstein), came to the conclusion that Wallenstein was planning a military coup. A kind of secret court was now held over Wallenstein without his knowledge, and he was declared guilty, ostracized and finally killed. To what extent Ferdinand knew of the killing intentions, approved of them or even commissioned them is unclear. However, after the fact, the imperial court took pains to justify Wallenstein's murder and to prove him guilty of high treason. Wallenstein's Silesian general Schaffgotsch was also accused of high treason in Regensburg, tortured and executed without confession in order to confiscate his goods and pay off the murderers.

Wallenstein's successor as commander-in-chief of the imperial army was Ferdinand II's son, the Hungarian king and later emperor Ferdinand III. Under his leadership and with the help of Bavarian troops under Elector Maximilian I, the city of Regensburg was first recaptured from the Swedes in July 1634 and then the Swedish army was defeated at the Battle of Nördlingen in early September 1634. As a result, all of southern Germany was occupied by imperial troops. Ferdinand II now sought to put an end to the war by making concessions to the Protestant princes, and to this end concluded the Peace of Prague with Saxony in 1635, in which he renounced the implementation of the Edict of Restitution and which most of the Protestant princes joined.

For Ferdinand, the treaty was ambivalent. On the one hand, he now had to officially renounce the Edict of Restitution under imperial law. On the other hand, the signing by most of the imperial estates was a success. This ended the fundamental opposition of the Protestant estates and the Swedes lost their support in the empire. The Estates renounced their right to maintain troops and to enter into alliances. All alliances, such as the League, were abolished and the establishment of an imperial army was assured. However, these decisions ultimately had little effect.

The entry of France into the war, also in 1635, meant that the war continued. At the Regensburg Electors' Day, Ferdinand was still able to achieve the election of his son Ferdinand III as king on December 22, 1636, then he returned to Vienna, where he died on February 15, 1637. His tomb is in the mausoleum built for him and his family in Graz. His heart and intestines were buried separately and were originally in the same urn, which was also initially kept in the mausoleum in Graz. The container was later transferred to Vienna, where it was buried in the Royal Monastery. At the end of the 18th century, Joseph II had the entrails of Ferdinand II buried in the ducal crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral and the heart in a new cup in the Habsburg heart crypt in the Loreto Chapel of the Augustinian Church in Vienna.

Ferdinand II was of small, stocky build, with a pronounced Habsburg lower lip. He may have had a hunchback, or at least a severe back condition. Nevertheless, he was a passionate hunter and only physically limited in his later years.

He is said to have been cheerful and friendly to those around him, but his good-naturedness often degenerated into weakness, especially toward self-serving officials. Despite his personal modesty, he ruined his finances through his excessive generosity. He was diligent and conscientious in the fulfillment of his duties as regent, but dependent on his councillors and confessors, between whose factions he vacillated.

In addition to his numerous devotional exercises, he was a friend of music. He spoke Italian fluently and knew Latin reasonably well.

The drawing of the emperor's personality in the novel Wallenstein by Alfred Döblin completely departs from the historical truth after a certain point.

In his first marriage, Ferdinand married his cousin Maria Anna of Bavaria (1574-1616), daughter of Duke Wilhelm V and his wife Princess Renata of Lorraine, in Graz on April 23, 1600. This close relationship was criticized even by Ferdinand's confessor.

The marriage produced seven children:

In his second marriage he married Princess Eleonore of Mantua (1598-1655), daughter of Duke Vincent I of Mantua and his second wife Princess Eleonora de' Medici, in Innsbruck on February 2, 1622. The marriage was associated with hopes of inheriting Mantua, which led to military intervention during the Thirty Years' War. The marriage remained childless.

Both marriages that Ferdinand entered into are said to have been happy ones.


  1. Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Ferdinand II. (HRR)
  3. ^ "Habsburg family tree". Habsburg family website. 28 October 2023. Retrieved 28 October 2023.
  4. a b Dieter Albrecht: Ferdinand II. In: Anton Schindling, Walter Ziegler (Hrsg.): Die Kaiser der Neuzeit. 1519–1918. Heiliges Römisches Reich, Österreich, Deutschland. München 1990, S. 127.
  5. a b c d Dieter Albrecht: Ferdinand II. In: Anton Schindling, Walter Ziegler (Hrsg.): Die Kaiser der Neuzeit. 1519–1918. Heiliges Römisches Reich, Österreich, Deutschland. München 1990, S. 128.
  6. a b Brigitte Vacha (Hrsg.): Die Habsburger. Eine europäische Familiengeschichte. Wien 1992, S. 197 f.
  7. Dieter Albrecht: Ferdinand II. In: Anton Schindling, Walter Ziegler (Hrsg.): Die Kaiser der Neuzeit. 1519–1918. Heiliges römisches Reich, Österreich, Deutschland. Beck, München 1990, ISBN 3-406-34395-3, S. 125–141, hier: S. 128.
  8. Benda Kálmán: Habsburg-politika és rendi ellenállás a XVII. század elején, Történelmi Szemle, 1970. 411–412. o.
  9. Benda Kálmán: Habsburg-politika és rendi ellenállás a XVII. század elején, Történelmi Szemle, 1970. 411–414. o.
  10. Marczali Henrik Nagy Képes világtörténet

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