Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor

Annie Lee | Apr 13, 2023

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Leopold I († 5 May 1705 ibid.), VI of the House of Habsburg, born Leopold Ignaz Joseph Balthasar Franz Felician, was Holy Roman Emperor from 1658 to 1705 as well as king in Germania, Hungary (from 1655), Bohemia (from 1656), Croatia and Slavonia (from 1657). In terms of power politics, his reign in the west was dominated by the defense against French expansion under Louis XIV. In the southeast, the Habsburg territories were initially still threatened by Ottoman expansion, culminating in the Second Siege of Vienna. The imperial commanders were ultimately militarily successful, and a counteroffensive was launched that led to the capture of all of Hungary. As a result, the Habsburg sphere of power expanded beyond the Holy Roman Empire even more than before. Leopold's reign is therefore also considered the beginning of the Habsburg monarchy's position of great power. In terms of domestic policy, Leopold relied on an absolutist style of rule in the Habsburg lands. His time also saw the last peak of the Counter-Reformation. In the empire, on the other hand, he acted as a guardian of the balance between the confessions. Through a skilful policy he succeeded in leading the emperorship to a strong significance for the last time. The death of the last Spanish king from the House of Habsburg, Charles II, led to the War of the Spanish Succession, in which Leopold represented his family's succession.

He was one of very few rulers to leave a lasting cultural mark as the composer of 230 works.

He was the son of Emperor Ferdinand III (1608-1657) and the Spanish Infanta Maria Anna. His older brother was Ferdinand, later Ferdinand IV. His sister Maria Anna was married to King Philip IV of Spain. His half-sister Eleonore married King Michael of Poland and later Duke Charles V of Lorraine. His half-sister Maria Anna Josepha was the wife of Jan Wellem, Duke of Jülich-Berg and later Elector of Palatinate, whose sister Eleonore Leopold married in his third marriage. His paternal grandfather, Emperor Ferdinand II, married to Maria Anna of Bavaria, and his maternal grandmother, Margaret of Austria, wife of the Spanish King Philip III, were siblings.

He also had close family ties with Louis XIV, his lifelong rival, who was almost the same age. They were cousins through their Spanish mothers and soon brothers-in-law through their respective Spanish wives.

He was small in stature, rather ugly and possessed a strongly pronounced Habsburg lower lip. As the emperor's second son, Leopold was originally intended for a clerical career. He was to become bishop of Passau. Therefore, he was given an excellent education. He received his education from Johann Ferdinand Count Porzia and the Jesuits Christoph Miller and Johann Eberhard Neidhardt. His upbringing shaped in him a baroque Catholicism. At first, he also had strong counter-Reformation leanings.

After the unexpected death of his elder brother Ferdinand in 1654, who had been Roman-German king and king of Hungary and Bohemia as Ferdinand IV, Leopold became his heir at the age of only fourteen. He became sole heir to the Habsburg hereditary lands in 1654, and was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary on June 27, 1655, in St. Martin's Cathedral in Bratislava, and King of Bohemia on September 14, 1656, in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague.

The succession in the empire turned out to be much more difficult. The French minister Mazarin brought a candidacy of Louis XIV into play. To this end, he conducted a costly and elaborate publicity campaign in the empire. There was also talk of a Bavarian and even a Protestant candidacy (Sweden, Electoral Brandenburg, Electoral Saxony or Electoral Palatinate). In contrast, there was hardly any talk of a Habsburg emperorship. After the death of his father (1657), the question had to be resolved. An interregnum began, which, with a duration of one year, was one of the longest in the history of the Holy Roman Empire.

Only after protracted negotiations with the electors was Leopold able to prevail over the French King Louis XIV and his candidates Duke Philip William of Palatinate-Neuburg as well as Archduke Leopold William and Elector Ferdinand Maria of Bavaria, who had also expressed interest. The election took place on July 18 and the coronation on August 1, 1658 in the imperial cathedral of St. Bartholomew in Frankfurt.

The emperor relied primarily on the court. In winter, Leopold spent most of his time at the Hofburg in Vienna. He spent the spring at Laxenburg, the summer at Favorita, and the fall at Kaiserebersdorf Palace.

The court, in turn, was closely connected with the central authorities. It was dominated by the high aristocracy from Austria and Bohemia. Similar to the court at Versailles, it was thus intended to attract the high nobility. The government offices and the military also offered attractive positions to attract the imperial nobility to Vienna as well. The court followed the Spanish court ceremonial. Baroque splendor unfolded, for example, in great festivities. In 1672, the court, including the central government authorities, comprised 1966 people. A hundred years earlier, there had been only 531 people. In the same period, costs had increased fivefold.

In the course of his first marriage on December 12, 1666, to Margarita Theresa of Spain, a festive season began that lasted almost a year. On the occasion of the empress's birthday, the opera "Il Pomo d'oro" (The Golden Apple) by Antonio Cesti was premiered for five hours each on July 12 and 13, 1668. For this "festa teatrale" a comedy house was specially built on the model of Venice. The opera itself was a high point of Baroque culture. In addition to Antonio Cesti, several renowned composers were involved, such as Johann Heinrich Schmelzer and the emperor himself, who set two scenes to music, as well as the librettist Francesco Sbarra and others. At the same time, the opera was an example of the pomp and extravagance of the time. The opera cost a total of 100,000 florins.

The imperial court, like the emperor himself, was characterized by the Catholic spirit. The emperor apparently had no extramarital affairs. There were no mistresses as at the French court. Various clergymen had a strong influence, such as the Jesuit and later bishop Emerich Sinelli, the Capuchin Marco d'Aviano, the Franciscan Christoph de Royas y Spinola and the Augustinian Abraham a Sancta Clara. Marco d'Aviano preached successfully mobilizing in the spirit of the old crusades during the Turkish wars since 1683.

At the imperial court, various court parties formed that tried to influence the emperor's policies. Between them there were endless intrigues, conflicts and rapidly changing alliances.

With little political training, he left the affairs of state to experienced advisors until the early 1680s. Initially, his former educator Porzia was first minister. He was followed by Johann Weikhard Prince von Auersperg (1615-1677) and the president of the court council Wenzel Eusebius Prince Lobkowitz (1609-1677). Auersperg was overthrown as the leading minister in 1669. In 1674 Lobkowitz also lost his post. Both had established connections with France without the emperor's knowledge.

Since then, the emperor himself determined the guidelines of policy. There were no longer any senior ministers. The chancellor Johann Paul Hocher (1616-1683) and his successors were bourgeois upstarts. An important diplomatic aide in the policy against France was Francis of Lisola. A constant problem was the financial situation. Significantly, the president of the court chamber, Georg Ludwig von Sinzendorf, was overthrown for embezzlement. A stabilization of finances succeeded under Gundaker Count Starhemberg. In imperial politics, Imperial Vice-Chancellor Leopold Wilhelm von Königsegg-Rothenfels and, earlier, Wilderich von Walderdorff played important roles in the background. Since the large number of members made the Privy Council barely functional, Leopold had the Privy Conference set up as a primarily foreign policy advisory body. Later, specialized commissions were also established. His governmental actions could certainly be compared to the manner of Louis XIV.

Leopold's time saw the establishment and development of an imperial legation system at the courts of the most important imperial estates and the imperial districts. The imperial principal commissioner and the Austrian legation to the Diet played an important role. Another positive aspect was that the Imperial Court Chancellery and the Austrian Court Chancellery tended to work together rather than getting lost in a dispute over competences.

If Leopold had essentially determined the direction of politics himself after the first years, the "war party" around Eugene of Savoy and the later Emperor Joseph succeeded in pushing Leopold largely into the background in the last years.

His motto was: consilio et industria = by advice and diligence

Absolutism and its limits

In terms of domestic policy, Leopold's reign in the Habsburg lands was absolutist in orientation. Leopold's absolutism was ecclesiastical and courtly in character and aimed less at establishing a central administration. In this respect, the hereditary lands fell behind Brandenburg-Prussia. The connection between church and state found expression, among other things, in the emperor's making St. Leopold III the patron saint of Austria. His trips to Klosterneuburg resembled state pilgrimages after 1663. The absolutist tendencies also had their limits. Thus, the corporative bodies were able to assert themselves in the various Habsburg territories.

It was also significant that during his reign, after the death of Prince Sigismund Franz, Tyrol and the Vorlande fell to the emperor in 1665. This once again strengthened his position in imperial politics. The annexation of Tyrol, which had hitherto been ruled by a Habsburg collateral line, to the main line of the house was significantly promoted by the emperor's second marriage to Claudia Felizitas of Austria-Tyrol.

Economic and social policy

In social terms, the pressure of the noble landlords on the peasants increased. The emperor attempted to intervene in a regulatory manner, for example through the "Tractatus de iuribus incorporalibus" of 1679. Until 1848, it formed the basis for the relationship between landlords and peasants. For the peasants it brought better legal security, but at the same time the landlords could continue to demand unlimited robot labor. To combat the growing number of poor in the city of Vienna, Leopold had a penitentiary and workhouse built in 1671. In addition, a large poorhouse was built in 1691. In 1696, 1000 people were already housed there. The plague wave of 1678 also occurred during Leopold's time.

On the other hand, in the sign of mercantilism, the first manufactories were founded. A first oriental trading company quickly went out of business. In 1666, a central economic organization was created in the form of the Kommerzkollegium. This was responsible for supervising trade, commerce and customs. The institution included officials and representatives of the merchants. It became a model for comparable organizations in other German territories.

Counter-Reformation and Jewish Policy

Leopold pursued a counter-Reformation policy aimed at suppressing Protestantism, which was particularly strong in Hungary. In all Habsburg lands, pressure was exerted on the remaining Protestants to convert to Catholicism, which was handled differently in some cases by the regional authorities and estates. In Bohemia, Protestantism could only continue underground. In Silesia, the number of Protestant places of worship had fallen to 220 by 1700, while their number had been 1400 around 1600. Only at the end of Leopold's reign did the pressure on the Protestants ease somewhat, only to increase again under Charles VI.

Jewish financiers and court Jews, especially from Frankfurt, such as Samuel Oppenheimer and Samson Wertheimer, played an important role in financing the wars. This was in contrast to his anti-Jewish policy in the hereditary lands. In this context belongs the expulsion of the Jews in 1670

The collapse of Samuel Oppenheimer's bank in 1703 in the wake of anti-Semitic riots led to state bankruptcy. The state reacted by founding a state-owned bank "Banco del Giro" and issuing a first form of paper money ("Giro-Zeddel"). The bank was not very successful and was handed over to the City of Vienna as early as 1705. It evolved into the "Wiener Stadtbank".

Robot riots in Bohemia

Bohemia suffered from the high tax demands from Vienna. These were passed on to the peasants by the landlords. In addition, there were epidemics of plague and the relentless policy of re-Catholicization. When the emperor came to Bohemia in 1679, he was presented with numerous complaints. After the emperor left the country again, numerous complainants were arrested. All together, this led to a great peasant uprising in March 1680, which covered large parts of Bohemia. It was not until the end of May that peace was provisionally restored by force of arms. Numerous participants in the uprising were executed, sentenced to forced labor or imprisonment.

On the other hand, Leopold reacted with a robot patent issued in 1680. This Pardubitz Pragmatica newly regulated the relationship between the landlords and the peasants and stipulated, among other things, that the burden of robot work for the landlord was limited to three days per week. However, the decree was hardly heeded by the landlords; as early as 1680 and also later there were repeated riots.

Disputes in Hungary

In Hungary, the absolutist form of rule, the counter-reformation measures and also the Peace of Vasvár in 1664, which was perceived as disgraceful

After the victory over the Ottomans in 1683, Leopold tried to pursue again the anti-Protestant and absolutist policy in Hungary. In the process, the harshness of the governor Antonio of Caraffa increased the Hungarian backlash. Leopold apparently relented and now tried to win over the Hungarian nobility to strengthen the royal position. This included abandoning the counter-reformation course. In fact, he succeeded in weakening the nobility's right to have a say. The nobility also renounced their right of resistance, which had been guaranteed since the Middle Ages. In 1687, Archduke Joseph was crowned Hungarian king on this changed legal basis. Moreover, also against the background of the imperial victory in the Battle of Mohács, the Hungarian Estates Assembly agreed to hereditarily confer the Hungarian kingship on the House of Habsburg.

Transylvania fell to Habsburg in 1697, having already been militarily secured since 1688. However, in this case Leopold recognized the previous rights of the inhabitants and religions. In an imperial diploma of 1691, the country regained its old constitution and the political autonomy of nations.

The territorial gains after the conquest of Belgrade in 1688 beyond the Sava River were lost again in 1690, while the Hungarian acquisitions were asserted. In the Peace of Karlowitz of 1699, the Ottoman Empire renounced Hungary and Transylvania and most of Slavonia.

Throughout Hungary, Leopold encouraged immigration, even of Orthodox Serbs and Albanians. With the Einrichtungswerk of 1689 he supported the new settlement especially with Germans, later called (Danubian) Swabians.

In connection with the War of the Spanish Succession, there was another uprising in Hungary in 1701. This new Kuruc uprising, led by Francis II Rákóczi, tied up strong military forces that were lacking elsewhere. At times, bands of insurgents even threatened Vienna.

Electoral Capitulation and First Confederation of the Rhine

Regarding the function as Holy Roman Emperor, the beginning was difficult. He had to sign an electoral capitulation marked by the weakness of the emperorship after the end of the Thirty Years' War. Even in terms of foreign policy, he was put in tight fetters by the electors who were responsible for its formulation. According to this, he was not allowed to support the enemies of France, meaning Habsburg Spain, which was at war with Louis XIV. Whereas the Peace of Westphalia had granted the right of alliance to all imperial states, this was restricted to the head of the empire, of all people.

Since 1658, the First Confederation of the Rhine, in which many important imperial states joined forces with France and Sweden, was directed against the emperor. On the French side, the alliance was the work of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, who headed the government for Louis XIV, who had not yet come of age. On the side of the imperial states, the Elector of Mainz, Johann Philipp von Schönborn, played an important role. He sought to weaken imperial influence and to establish a more strongly estates-based order in the empire. The protector of the Confederation of the Rhine was France. The goal was to preserve the principles of the Peace of Westphalia. However, it was also important to keep the Austrian Habsburgs out of the Spanish-French War and the Northern War. However, the Confederation of the Rhine did not succeed in becoming a significant power factor. In terms of foreign policy, the conclusion of peace between France and Spain was no longer an issue, and in terms of domestic policy, the Estates were once again given a forum for participation with the convening of an Imperial Diet in Regensburg.

France's expansionist drive toward the Rhine during the period of Louis XIV's personal rule caused France to lose support among most of the imperial states. The Confederation of the Rhine was not renewed around 1668. The threat of the Ottomans in the east and France in the west led the imperial estates to lean more heavily on the emperor again.

Denominational Policy

While under the Catholic, personally pious Leopold, the Counter-Reformation reached a final climax in his hereditary lands and especially in Hungary, he acted much more cautiously in the empire. He adhered to the equal rights of the confessions prescribed by the Peace of Westphalia. He did not question the religious peace renewed in Osnabrück. More and more, he himself appeared as the upholder and defender of the Peace of Westphalia.

Marriage and patronage policy

The emperor turned to the imperial estates through various measures, in particular through an appropriate marriage policy. The members of the House of Habsburg were married in the way that best served the emperor's policy. He himself married Eleonore Magdalene of Palatinate-Neuburg in 1676 in his third marriage. His eldest son Joseph took Wilhelmine Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg as his wife. Thus two leading houses of the anti-Habsburg princes were linked to the imperial house. With the elevation of Ernst August of Brunswick-Calenberg to the rank of elector, he wanted to further strengthen the support of the Guelphs.

Leopold succeeded in orienting most of the imperial estates back toward Vienna. This was true for the Palatines and the Guelphs, and to some extent also for the Brandenburgers. Leopold made it possible for Frederick I to call himself King in Prussia for his territory that did not belong to the empire. He supported the Elector of Saxony Frederick August I in becoming King of Poland. Especially among smaller imperial estates, Leopold strove to increase the imperial clientele, especially by raising estates and conferring titles. The elevation of the East Frisian Cirksena family or the Fürstenbergs to the rank of princes, with corresponding seats in the Imperial Diet, increased Leopold's following in the empire. In the ecclesiastical states, Leopold endeavored to fill them with persons loyal to the Habsburgs.

To dissuade the princes from federalist ambitions in the empire, Leopold strengthened the less powerful estates through his patronage policy. Imperial knights and imperial cities were directly subordinate to him anyway, while the other smaller estates saw him as their patron vis-à-vis the larger estates. Against the princes, he also strengthened the estates and their right to approve taxes.

He also achieved greater support for the imperial estates through his efforts to no longer rule autocratically or only with the help of the electors, as his immediate predecessors had done. He acted as an arbiter vis-à-vis the various groups, some of which were in competition with each other. Despite the rivalry among the major imperial estates, Leopold, supported by his followers in the imperial estates, always remained master of the situation in the empire.

Of lasting significance was that Leopold increasingly registered political interests in the former imperial Italy. In his time, however, Habsburg did not succeed in taking over the Duchy of Milan against Spain and France.

Relationship with the Electors

Problematic for him was that the electors at the height of Louis XIV's reunion policy were rather not on his side. The French king had brought the Brandenburgers to his side with subsidy payments. Louis XIV was able to successfully exert pressure on the electors of Mainz, Cologne and the Palatinate because of their proximity to the French border. His attempt to politically upgrade the Bohemian electorship, which had hitherto only played a role in the election of the king, led to the formation of oppositional electoral associations in 1683 and 1695. The problematic relationship with the electors improved with the generational change in these territories, which Leopold achieved through the aforementioned marriage policy and measures of privileging. At the end of his reign, the secular electoral courts were, at least temporarily, tied to the Hofburg. In the War of the Spanish Succession, however, the Bavarian Elector Max Emanuel and his brother Elector Joseph Clemens of Cologne broke away again and supported France.

Perpetual Reichstag

A structural change in the empire was the further development of the Imperial Diet convened in Regensburg on January 20, 1663, into the Perpetual Diet. The permanence of the Diet was not planned. It was initially convened to approve funds for the Turkish wars. In addition, a variety of problems were negotiated, which ultimately led to the Reichstag remaining together. In addition to financial issues, the constitution of the empire itself was up for debate. There was, for example, the dispute over electoral capitulation. Should this continue to be drawn up by the electors or should other imperial estates also be involved? Should a new electoral capitulation be drawn up each time there was a change of throne, or would one be drawn up for the long term? These and similar questions could not be resolved, which eventually led to the Reichstag's failure to disperse. The Perpetual Diet was detrimental to the Electoral College, as there was no longer a period free of Reichstags during which Electoral Diet sessions could fill the gap. Overall, the development towards the Perpetual Diet was the most important development in the political structure of the empire during Leopold's time. Initially, he was rather skeptical about it, but later this development became important for strengthening his rule. The increase in the importance of the Imperial Diet did not weaken the emperor, as some feared and others hoped, but rather supported him in the empire. Through the Perpetual Diet, Leopold was able to exert a much better influence on the imperial estates.

Military Constitution

In the beginning, the Reichstag had a hard time providing the necessary funds for the war against the Ottomans. That this succeeded was only due to the personal intervention of the emperor and Archbishop Schönborn. However, Leopold did not succeed in raising a unified central imperial army against the resistance of the major imperial estates. He remained dependent on the contingents of the armed estates and the financial contribution of the small territories. At least, for the first time, an imperial general and an imperial war council were created as a supervisory body. When there would have been time after the first peace with the Ottomans, it was also not possible to build up a modern imperial army. This was seen by contemporaries such as Samuel von Pufendorf and Leibniz as a threat to the empire as a whole. Against the backdrop of the growing French threat, the 1681

Leopold's reign was marked in foreign policy terms by the Habsburg-French conflict and the struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Although he himself had little enthusiasm for war, he felt compelled to wage war in the West and East throughout his reign. There were often interactions between the theaters of war and between policies in the West and the East. For example, his main opponent, Louis XIV, used the binding of imperial forces in the east for his expansionist policy on the empire's western borders.

Wars in Poland and against the Ottomans

The first war in which Leopold intervened was the struggle in Poland (1655-1660) against Charles X of Sweden, who threatened the Hungarian border from there.

The disputes over the succession of the Prince of Transylvania George II Rákóczi resulted in the first Turkish War (1662-1664) in Leopold's reign. The offensive of the Ottomans led by Ahmed Köprülü failed due to the victory of the imperial troops and the imperial troops under Count Montecúccoli, who had previously reorganized the army, in the battle of Mogersdorf an der Raab in 1664. Leopold I ended the war in the Peace of Eisenburg. The peace, however, was unfavorable for the emperor, as it did not concretely challenge the Turkish position of power. The background was that Leopold wanted to end the war as soon as possible in order to turn his attention to the threat in the west. There was great resentment among the Hungarian nobility, which was partly responsible for the great magnate conspiracy.

Wars in the West

In the Dutch War (1672-1679), Leopold had to defend not only the interests of Austria but also those of the empire against the French king Louis XIV. In the end, however, Leopold proved to be inferior to the French troops. The emperor and the empire had to enter into the Peace of Nijmegen in 1679. This brought France the then Spanish Free County of Burgundy and Freiburg.

The French king exerted increased pressure on the empire between 1679 and 1683 with the so-called Reunion Chambers, which were appointed by him. With the help of Prince-Bishop Wilhelm Egon von Fürstenberg, the French king succeeded in seizing Strasbourg. Leopold's alliance with the Netherlands and Sweden was unsuccessful. In the end, he had to acknowledge the French acquisitions.

Last Ottoman expansion attempt

The internal crisis in Hungary, brought about by the imperial policy itself, and the emperor's conflicts with France led the new Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha to make a new push. This culminated in the Second Vienna Turkish Siege. This lasted from July 13 to September 12, 1683.

The emperor and his court had left Vienna earlier. He stayed first in Passau and then in Linz. Leopold had gathered an imperial German-Polish relief army which, under the Polish King John III Sobieski and Duke Charles V of Lorraine, liberated Vienna after the Battle of Kahlenberg. Leopold's merit was to gain the support of the Empire, the Poles and Pope Innocent XI for this war, which strengthened the imperial troops to almost four times their number.

Great Turkish War

The victory of 1683 finally ended the Ottomans' expansion in Central Europe. As a result, imperial policy in the east was offensive.

In the course of the Great Turkish War (1683-1699) the whole of Hungary was taken back from the Ottomans. In 1686 Buda and in 1687 Mohács fell. In 1688 the troops under Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria conquered Belgrade. In 1691 Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm I of Baden, also called Turk Louis, who had been leading the forces since 1689, was victorious at Szlankamen, which opened the way for the imperial army to the southeast.

As a result of the wars in the West, the pressure on the Ottomans eased somewhat. This changed with the appointment of Eugene of Savoy. He was victorious over the Ottoman army at Zenta in 1697.

The Peace of Karlowitz (1699) also confirmed Leopold's possession of previously Turkish-controlled parts of Hungary. He also gained Slavonia and Transylvania. This marked the beginning of Austria's actual rise to great power status.

War of the Palatine Succession

Parallel to the Turkish War, a new source of conflict arose in the West with France when it laid its alleged claim to the inheritance of the Electoral Palatinate. This led to the emperor's alliance with various estates of the empire in 1685. The resulting Palatine War (1688-1697) was fought as an imperial war. During it, the French occupied the Rhineland and devastated the Rhine Palatinate. Leopold and the Viennese diplomacy succeeded in 1689 in bringing about a broad European alliance and also in securing the support of most of the imperial states. However, this cooperation was not very successful. More important were the military successes of the imperial commander, Prince Eugene, in the Italian theater of war in 1695.

After the War of the Palatinate Succession, the Peace of Rijswijk in 1697 secured Austria's claim to the Spanish Netherlands. With the return of Freiburg, Luxembourg and Breisach, it meant a partial return to the status quo ante. The so-called Rijswijk clause was to prove a problem for the Palatine Protestants.

Spanish succession problem

It was foreseeable at a relatively early stage that the Spanish King Charles II would die without descendants. It was also foreseeable that the other European powers, and France in particular, would not accept the union of the Austrian and Spanish Habsburg lands. Leopold had been negotiating with France on this issue since the 1660s. Both sides agreed on a division of the Spanish possessions in a secret treaty of 1668. The Spaniards themselves brought in the Bavarian Elector Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria as heir to the throne, but he died shortly thereafter. After that, Louis XIV and the English King William III developed another partition plan. Leopold's son Charles was to get Spain and the colonies, while Philip of Anjou was to receive essentially the Italian possessions. In the will of Charles II, who died in 1700, Philip of Anjou was explicitly named as heir. Leopold, however, was convinced that as head of the House of Habsburg he was entitled to the Spanish possessions. However, he was aware that the European powers would not support an undivided Habsburg Empire. Instead, he planned the creation of two new Habsburg lines. While Charles was to receive the Spanish possessions, Joseph was intended for the Austrian inheritance. In 1703, Charles was proclaimed king of Spain. In a treaty, the emperor and his brother Joseph ceded to Charles all claims to the Spanish possessions except for Lombardy. At the same time, a secret settlement was concluded on the succession in the House of Habsburg (Pactum mutuae successionis). In it, the mutual succession of both lines was affirmed.

War of the Spanish Succession

Leopold had already started the war for the Spanish inheritance in 1701 on his own, without any other allies, by launching a campaign in Italy. Nor had there been a formal declaration of war against France or Philip of Anjou, who was recognized as king in much of Spain. Leopold had already secured the support of the considerable Electorate of Brandenburg's army in 1700 by pledging, on the occasion of the upcoming royal coronation of Frederick III of Brandenburg, to recognize him as king in Prussia both within and outside the empire.

As late as 1701, the Hague Grand Alliance was formed, consisting of Austria, the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands, England and Prussia against France. The declaration of war followed in 1702. In the empire, the Wittelsbachian Bavaria (Bavarian Diversion in the War of the Spanish Succession) and Electoral Cologne and Brunswick joined France. An imperial execution was issued against Electorate of Cologne and Brunswick. In Hungary the situation was aggravated by the rebellion of Francis II Rákóczi. In 1704 the commanders of the allies Eugene of Savoy and John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough were victorious over the French in the Battle of Höchstädt. Bavaria became under imperial occupation.

In the middle of the war, the emperor died at the age of 65 in Vienna, the city of his residence.

To make the court as attractive as possible, Leopold created an ambitious building program. It turned Vienna into a baroque city. The construction of Schönbrunn Palace can be traced back to Leopold, as can the Leopoldine Wing of the Hofburg and the foundations for the Baroque transformation of the city. In 1683 he had the Trinity Column erected in Vienna to commemorate a plague wave he had survived. It contains a statue of himself praying in ceremonial armor and became the model for similar monuments elsewhere.

In 1703, he allowed the founding of the Wienerisches Diarium, the later Wiener Zeitung. In 1704, work began on the Linienwall, a fortification between the suburbs and the suburbs, on the site of which the Vienna Gürtel street system now stretches.

Leopold was gifted in languages. In addition to German and Latin, he also spoke Spanish and French. His favorite language, however, was Italian. He was interested in literature, science and history. He excelled as a collector of books, antiques and coins, advised by court librarian Peter Lambeck. He significantly supported the founding of universities in Innsbruck, Olomouc and Wroclaw. He also promoted the plans for the foundation of an academy by Leibniz. This did not come to pass, but in 1692 the Academy of Fine Arts was founded. He was honorary head of the natural science society Leopoldina, named after him. He also founded the Collegium der Historie. Influenced by mercantilism, he brought important cameralists to his court. However, mercantilist ideas were hardly put into practice. He was even fond of alchemy.

Leopold was a gifted composer and music lover who played several instruments and conducted his own chamber orchestra. He left behind more than 230 compositions of various kinds, from smaller sacred compositions and oratorios to ballets and German Singspiels. Above all, he promoted Italian music, especially Italian opera. Nevertheless, he was the first non-Italian to appoint Johann Heinrich Schmelzer as imperial court conductor. Italian influences, often religiously tinged, also played an important role in literature.

Like the empress mother Eleonora Magdalena and other members of the imperial court, Leopold was an avid theatergoer and became a great patron of the theatrical arts. From 1 January 1659, Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini, who had been summoned to Vienna from Venice in 1651 by Ferdinand III with his father Giovanni, was in his service for the organization of festivities, the construction of theaters and the arrangement of comedies and operas. In 1659 Leopold had a wooden theater for comedies built on the so-called Rosstummelplatz, today's Josefsplatz, which was dismantled three years later, perhaps due to Jesuit opposition to comedies. Only a few years later, in 1668, Burnacini was commissioned to build the theater on the Kurtine in the immediate vicinity. It was in this famous theater that the great grand opera Il pomo d'oro by Antonio Cesti was premiered. This was followed by the performance of numerous operas and plays until the wooden building, which was located next to the fortifications near the Hofburg, was demolished on the occasion of the Second Ottoman Siege of 1683 due to acute fire danger.

His actions were deliberate and ultimately successful. Personal shyness coupled with the awareness of his imperial dignity. He was personally modest, pious and completely unmilitary. Anton Schindling judges that Leopold's reserved character was a stroke of luck for the House of Habsburg in view of the difficult initial situation. He was able to wait patiently, was imbued with dynastic consciousness and lawfulness.

In contrast to Louis XIV, who made great efforts to establish a certain image in the public eye, in Leopold's case, well-meaning journalism and propaganda also helped. However, unlike in France for Louis XIV, the court's control efforts remained relatively small. The cultivation of Leopold's image, which was supported by many actors in the traditional imperial consciousness, contributed to the fact that the public associated Leopold with the resurgence of imperial prestige. He was referred to as Leopold the Great and, like Louis XIV, was seen as the Sun King. The small German historiography of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century drew a negative picture of Leopold. The latter accused the emperor of national disinterest and of shying away from French expansionist efforts.

In fact, Leopold was underestimated for a long time. Oswald Redlich described him as the architect who had turned Austria into the "world power of the Baroque. In terms of imperial politics, Anton Schindling called him the "emperor of the Peace of Westphalia" because he had recognized the decisions made there and knew how to use them politically. His fight against the reunion policy in the West shows that Leopold still took his office as emperor seriously, unlike his successors. However, expansion in the southeast also meant that the Habsburg sphere of power was growing out of the empire. His favoring of the Hohenzollerns, Guelphs and Wettins was a prerequisite for their increase in power and thus for the internal conflicts in the empire of the 18th century.

Leopold secured a century of stable development for the empire, which his contemporary Samuel von Pufendorf had seen on the verge of dissolution after the end of the Thirty Years' War.

Leopold I died in Vienna on May 5, 1705. His funeral is a typical example of the burial ritual practiced in the Baroque period for high-ranking personalities. After his death, Leopold I was laid out in public for three days: dressed in a black silk cloak, gloves, hat, wig and rapier, his body was put on display; next to the catafalque were candelabras with burning candles. The insignia of secular power, such as crowns and medals, were also represented.

After the public display, the corpse was placed in a wooden coffin lined with precious fabrics, which was then transferred to the Vienna Capuchin Crypt after the public ceremonies and there lifted into the metal sarcophagus, which had already been elaborately designed during the emperor's lifetime.

The preservation of the corpse had been carried out immediately before the public laying out: The rapidly decomposing internal organs had been removed, the cavities had been filled with wax, and the surface of the corpse had also been treated with disinfecting tinctures. The body parts removed from the corpse were wrapped in silk cloths, soaked in spirit, and the containers were then soldered shut. The emperor's heart and tongue were placed in a gilded silver cup, which was placed in the Habsburg heart crypt. His entrails, eyes and brain were buried in a gilded copper cup in the ducal crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

Leopold I is one of those 41 persons who received a "Separate Burial" with the body divided among all three traditional Viennese Habsburg burial sites (Imperial Crypt, Heart Crypt, Duke's Crypt).

He married in his first marriage in 1666 in Vienna his niece and cousin Margarita Teresa of Spain (1651-1673), the daughter of Philip IV of Spain and his wife Maria Anna of Austria. The marriage produced four children:

In his second marriage he married his second cousin Claudia Felizitas of Austria-Tyrol (1653-1676) in Graz in 1673. The marriage produced two children who died young:

In his third marriage, he married his second cousin Eleonore Magdalene of Palatinate-Neuburg (1655-1720), daughter of Elector Philipp Wilhelm and his wife Elisabeth of Hesse-Darmstadt, in Passau in 1676. Ten children were born of the marriage:


  1. Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Leopold I. (HRR)
  3. a b Anton Schindling: Leopold I. In: Anton Schindling, Walter Ziegler (Hrsg.): Die Kaiser der Neuzeit. München 1990, S. 169.
  4. a b Volker Press: Kriege und Krisen. Deutschland 1600–1715. München 1991, S. 350.
  5. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Volker Press: Leopold I.. In: Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB). Band 14, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-428-00195-8, S. 256–260 (Digitalisat).
  6. Die Krönung wurde von Georg Lippay, Primas von Ungarn und Erzbischof von Gran vollzogen.
  7. A 16. században és a 17. század első felében az osztrák Habsburgok több tízezres seregeket tartottak fegyverben, de ezeket a haderőket a háborúk vége után rendszeresen feloszlatták.
  8. A „Nagy” melléknevet a törökök ellen indított visszafoglaló háború éveiben használta. Egykorú irodalmi szövegekben Leopoldus Magnus néven, emlékérmeken LEOP. M. rövidítéssel szerepel. A magyar irodalomban a fenti név nem honosodott meg.
  9. Legközelebb a fia, I. József király hívta össze a magyar rendeket. Az újabb pozsonyi országgyűlés 1808. április 3-a és június eleje között ülésezett.
  10. Mind Esterházy Pál, mind Széchényi Pál feltétel nélkül Habsburg-hű volt. Ugyanakkor a két politikus a rendi alkotmány visszaállításában volt érdekelt, míg a szintén udvarhű Kollonich Lipót az abszolutista berendezkedést tartotta kívánatosnak. A hazafiság és az aulikus magatartás nem zárta ki egymást, ugyanakkor nem minden aulikus főúr és főpap támogatta az abszolutizmust.
  11. Ekkor mind a versailles-i, mind a bécsi udvarban biztosra vették II. Károly spanyol király halálát, aki betegeskedései ellenére három évtizeddel tovább élt.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Schumann, Jutta (13 September 2012). Die andere Sonne: Kaiserbild und Medienstrategien im Zeitalter Leopolds I. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 3–. ISBN 978-3-05-005581-7.
  13. ^ a b John P. Spielman; Leopold I of Austria (1977)
  14. ^ a b c d e f Jutta Schumann, Die andere Sonne: Kaiserbild und Medienstrategien im Zeitalter Leopolds I., Walter de Gruyter, 13 settembre 2012, pp. 3–, ISBN 978-3-05-005581-7.
  15. ^ a b John P. Spielman; Leopold I of Austria (1977)
  16. ^ a b Joseph A. Biesinger; "Germany: European nations" in Facts on File library of world history. pg 529.

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