Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Sep 6, 2022

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Maximilian I (* March 22, 1459 at the castle in Wiener Neustadt, Lower Austria; † January 12, 1519 at Wels Castle, Upper Austria) of the Habsburg dynasty was Duke of Burgundy by marriage from 1477, Roman-German King from 1486, Lord of the Habsburg Hereditary Lands from 1493, and Roman-German Emperor from February 4, 1508 until his death.

Maximilian was nicknamed "the last knight"; his motto was Per tot discrimina rerum ("Through so many dangers").


Maximilian of Austria was born on March 22, 1459 at the castle in Wiener Neustadt and baptized three days later in St. George's Cathedral by the Archbishop of Salzburg. He was the son of the Roman-German Emperor Frederick III of the House of Habsburg and his wife Eleonore Helena of Portugal. His father was sovereign of the Austrian hereditary lands, and the newborn received the title of Archduke of Austria by birth. Since four siblings did not survive early childhood, Maximilian had only one younger sister, Kunigunde (1465-1520).

Due to chronic lack of money and inheritance disputes within the Austrian lands, Frederick III was unable to pursue a consistent imperial policy. The intrafamilial opposition of his brother Albrecht VI ("Bruderzwist") came to a head in 1462 with the siege of the emperor at the Hofburg in Vienna (16.

Maximilian spent his youthful years at the meager and simple farms in Wiener Neustadt and Graz Castle. There he grew up in an informal, free atmosphere and developed into a lively boy who sometimes displayed a stubborn nature. The malposition of the lower jaw led to a strong formation of the "Habsburg lower lip", which is why Maximilian temporarily suffered from a speech defect. At first, his father even feared that his son might be considered a moron or even mute due to the defective pronunciation. As a child, Maximilian was caught in the tension between his unequal parents: the withdrawn, lethargic Frederick was regarded as an eternal procrastinator. With extremely pragmatic views, he suspiciously avoided any political risk. Eleonore, on the other hand, was an energetic and spirited woman who sometimes made the emperor feel her undisguised disapproval. All her care was for the children, which is why Maximilian was more attracted to her. She laid the foundation for her son's pronounced monarchical consciousness and sharpened his sense of representation. For the eight-year-old Maximilian, the early death of his beloved mother on September 3, 1467, meant a tremendous break. From now on, the teachers appointed by his father (e.g. Thomas Berlower, Jakob von Fladnitz) determined the boy's upbringing and education. The content of learning was shaped by the influences of early humanism. In addition, the emperor attached great importance to physical hardening and the acquisition of practical knowledge, which is why he had Maximilian taught the "seven knightly skills" (riding, climbing, shooting, swimming, wrestling, dancing & courting, tournament fighting). In tournaments in particular, Maximilian regularly demonstrated extraordinary skill and earned a reputation as a daredevil, excellent fighter. In addition, he showed great interest in the art of weaponry and hunting.

Marriage candidate

Frederick III's participation in the Regensburg Christian Day (June - August 1471) marked the emperor's return to the stage of imperial politics. He solemnly entered the city on June 16, 1471 with the twelve-year-old Maximilian. The emperor used this major political event to present his son to the representatives of the imperial estates and foreign envoys. As the only guarantor of dynastic continuity, Maximilian gained increasing importance for the House of Habsburg and, as the emperor's son, occupied a special position among the European princes.

As early as 1463, Pope Pius II, who had formerly been an advisor to Frederick III as Enea Silvio Piccolomini, had proposed a marriage between Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy. The aspiring Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, took up the idea and saw in Maximilian a potential marriage candidate for his only daughter Mary. The heterogeneous duchy was considered the most desirable country in Europe at this time, for not only was its fabulous wealth, brought about by the skillful trade of the Flanders cities, praised, but it was also considered the last refuge of chivalric life and the ever-disappearing chivalric culture. Despite the medieval cultural traditions, the extensive and economically important estate of the House of Burgundy (a collateral line of the French royal house) had developed into a modern administrative state. Finally, Charles the Bold and Emperor Frederick III met in September 1473 on the occasion of a court day in Trier. As part of the marriage negotiations, Charles demanded, among other things, his elevation to king. The hint from France that Louis XI would consider such a gesture an unfriendly act, the rejectionist attitude of the electors, and the ever-increasing demands of the Burgundian duke led to the failure of the talks. After two months of negotiations, Frederick III and Maximilian quietly departed from Trier on November 25, 1473, leaving Charles the Bold furious.

Duke of Burgundy and Roman-German King

On August 19, 1477, Archduke Maximilian of Austria married in Ghent at Ten Walle Castle, Hereditary Duchess Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold, who had died shortly before at the Battle of Nancy. Maximilian became Duke of Burgundy by this marriage iure uxoris. The marriage of the two, which was transfigured as a love affair by Maximilian himself after the early death of his wife, had already been agreed between their families in the fall of 1476, after there had been repeated negotiations in this regard since 1463. On April 21, 1477, the marriage was concluded by proxy (Latin: per procurationem), i.e. without the personal presence of the spouses.

A few months after his marriage, Maximilian was knighted in Bruges on April 30, 1478, and then appointed Sovereign (Grand Master) of the Order of the Golden Fleece. With Maria, Maximilian had three children: Philip (a second son, Francis, died after birth in 1481.

The dynastic connection with Burgundy became the starting point of the centuries-long Habsburg-French antagonism. For the inheritance of Charles the Bold was not without controversy. France did not want to recognize Mary's succession and occupied the actual Duchy of Burgundy, which was part of the French fiefdom. In this situation, the Estates of the Netherlands made Mary's recognition conditional on political concessions and wrested the Great Privilege from her. France's attempts to reconquer other formerly French territories from the Burgundian inheritance in the War of the Burgundian Succession were prevented by Maximilian's troops' victory at the Battle of Guinegate in 1479. However, soon thereafter he betrothed his young daughter to the young French king Charles VIII, to whom she was to bring those very territories as a dowry. But this did not happen (see below).

Mary's early death after a hunting accident in 1482 affected Maximilian both personally and politically: the Burgundian inheritance now fell to Maximilian and Mary's son Philip. Maximilian could now exercise his sovereign rights only as guardian of his four-year-old son, but was not recognized as such by the Dutch estates. In the protracted war against the French, Maximilian was on the brink of defeat several times. In Bruges, Flanders, his discontented subjects even threw him into prison from January to May 1488. His father Frederick, however, assembled an army, freed him and managed to stabilize the situation in Burgundy to some extent.

Two years earlier, on February 16, 1486, Frederick had managed to have Maximilian elected Roman-German king in the imperial cathedral of Frankfurt am Main while he was still alive. On April 9, 1486, his coronation took place in the imperial cathedral of Aachen.

On March 19, 1490, Sigmund of Tyrol renounced in favor of Maximilian the regency of Upper Austria, which at that time included Tyrol, the Austrian foothills and the remaining ancestral lands on Swiss territory.

From October to December 1490 Maximilian undertook a campaign against Hungary and regained Vienna, Wiener Neustadt and Bruck for the Habsburgs. While still in Hungary, he married Anne, the young duchess and heiress of Brittany, on December 19, 1490 - again per procurationem. However, he had to witness that his daughter Margaret's unconsummated marriage to Charles VIII (the 1483 marriage had only been symbolically consummated) was dissolved in 1491 and the latter married Anne instead, which was a double humiliation for Maximilian. Charles sent Margaret, who had spent much of her childhood at the French court, back to Maximilian. On March 16, 1494, Maximilian married Bianca Maria Sforza (1472-1510) in a second marriage at Hall in Tyrol.

Lord of the Habsburg Hereditary Lands, Reigning King and Emperor

Maximilian's victory in an alleged battle at Villach is not historically documented. After the death of his father, Emperor Frederick III, in 1493, Maximilian succeeded him as reigning Roman-German king and lord of the Habsburg hereditary lands. In 1497, he exchanged the dominion of Haigerloch for the dominion of Rhäzüns.

When in 1495 Charles VIII conquered in a coup d'état the Kingdom of Naples, to whose crown he laid claim, Maximilian formed the Holy League with the Duke of Milan, the Republic of Venice, Pope Alexander VI and King Ferdinand II of Aragon. On this occasion he betrothed his daughter Margaret to Ferdinand's son John of Aragon and Castile, the prospective heir to the crowns of Aragon and Castile. In 1496 Maximilian married his son Philip to Ferdinand's daughter Joan. The heir to the Spanish throne, John, died only a few months after marrying Maximilian's daughter Margaret in 1497, and the new heir to the realms of the Crown of Aragon and the Crown of Castile became Isabella of Aragon and Castile, who was married to King Manuel of Portugal. After her death on August 23, 1498, the throne rights passed to her son Miguel da Paz. When he died on July 20, 1500, Joan, the wife of Philip the Fair, succeeded him as Aragonese-Castilian heir to the throne. Maximilian's alliance with Ferdinand made France feel threatened from both the east and the southwest, further intensifying the Habsburg-French rivalry that would shape the history of Europe for the next 250 years.

In 1495, Maximilian initiated a comprehensive reform of the empire at the Diet of Worms (Maximilian administrative reform). Of the institutions that emerged from it, the newly formed imperial districts and the Imperial Chamber Court endured.

He was unable to realize his intention of deciding on a Turkish war at the Imperial Diet. Subsequently, the dispute with France took priority, and a first peace agreement with the Ottoman Empire was reached in 1498. Secret negotiations in 1510 for the purpose of forming an alliance against Venice failed.

With the last Meinhardian prince, Count Leonhard of Gorizia, Maximilian negotiated from 1497 onwards

Even more important for the future of the House of Austria were Maximilian's efforts to acquire Bohemia and Hungary. As early as 1491, Maximilian had succeeded in concluding an inheritance treaty with King Vladislav II of Bohemia and Hungary in Pressburg. The treaty stipulated that the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary would fall to the House of Austria if Vladislav remained without heirs. However, since the latter had children from his marriage to Anne de Foix-Candale, daughter Anna born in 1503 and son Louis II born in 1506, at Maximilian's instigation the agreement of Pressburg in Vienna was extended in 1506 by the plan of reciprocal marriages between the respective heirs to the throne.

At the Imperial Diet in Cologne in 1505, Maximilian essentially decided the Landshut War of Succession in favor of Albrecht IV of Bavaria (the so-called Cologne Decree), but in the process established the new Duchy of Palatinate-Neuburg and, in the course of the mediation, also acquired the formerly Bavarian districts of Kufstein, Kitzbühel and Rattenberg.

On August 8, 1507, at the Imperial Diet in Constance, King Maximilian appointed Elector Frederick III of Saxony as his Imperial Vicar for the period of his absence from the Empire because of the planned campaign to Rome and his coronation as Emperor. (This temporary bestowal of the imperial vicarship is immortalized on the coins, the Locumtenenstalern of the Elector of Saxony).

On February 4, 1508, with the approval of Pope Julius II, Maximilian accepted the title of Roman Emperor Elect in the Cathedral of Trento, after his Rome campaign had failed due to the resistance of the Republic of Venice.

In order to alleviate the growing pressure on the empire from treaties of assistance signed by the rulers of France, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia and Russia, but also to secure Bohemia and Hungary for Habsburg, Maximilian met with the Jagiellonian kings Vladislav II of Hungary and Bohemia and Sigismund I of Poland in Vienna in 1515. On that occasion he also elevated the Radziwill family to the rank of imperial princes. The double marriage arranged there between Maximilian's grandsons - Archduke Ferdinand I (Charles V was also discussed as an alternative) and Archduchess Maria - with the children of King Vladislav II, Anne of Bohemia and Hungary and Louis II King of Bohemia and Hungary (1506-1526), which was consummated in 1521, brought the House of Habsburg the crowns of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. On July 22, 1515, in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, the emperor made a promise, alongside Anne of Bohemia and Hungary, to take the princess himself as his wife and make her empress if within a year one of his grandsons - Ferdinand or Charles - had not made the marriage declaration. However, this did not happen, as the declaration was made by Archduke Ferdinand in 1516.

Maximilian also maintained friendly relations with the Grand Princes of Moscow Ivan III and Vasily III, but the church union sought by the emperor and the pope did not succeed.

Death and afterlife

Maximilian died on January 12, 1519, in Wels Castle on the arduous journey from Innsbruck to the Diet in Linz, presumably of intestinal cancer. Like other kings and emperors of the Middle Ages (such as Sigmund of Luxembourg), Maximilian staged his death. After having always carried his coffin with him for four years, he now presented himself as an exceptionally humble and guilt-ridden sinner and penitent. After receiving the last rites, he gave the imperial seal and forbade anyone to address him by his titles. He ordered that he not be embalmed after his death, but instead decreed that his body be scourged and that his hair be shorn and teeth broken out. He had his shroud and leggings brought to him (allegedly out of shame) shortly before death, still dressed himself, and decreed that he be placed in the coffin in this manner. He also ordered that his body be dressed in the vestments of the Order of St. George and then sewn into a sack made of linen, damask and white silk with the addition of lime and ashes. In addition to religious considerations of penance, the methods of preserving corpses that were common at the time also played a role in this process, which is recorded in Cuspinian. "The portrait of the dead that has survived of him," writes Reformation historian Thomas Kaufmann, "is a document shocking in its realism: a pale yellow face with deeply sunken cheeks, the toothless mouth slightly open; a half-closed eyelid reveals a twisted pupil."

True to the will of Wels, Maximilian I was buried in his baptistery, the Chapel of St. George at the castle in Wiener Neustadt, under the steps of the Gothic high altar of the time, like his father Frederick III in the regalia of the Order of St. George - and in such a way that priests would come to stand exactly above his heart during Mass. His heart was buried separately and interred in the Church of Our Lady in Bruges in the sarcophagus of Mary of Burgundy. Maximilian's famous tomb with numerous bronze figures, which he had commissioned during his lifetime for St. George's Chapel in Wiener Neustadt, remained unfinished. It was only his grandson Ferdinand I who had it erected in the specially built court church in Innsbruck.

Maximilian was succeeded as emperor by his grandson Charles V, who had grown up in the Netherlands and was the son of Philip and John, who had already died in 1506. After Philip's death, Maximilian appointed his daughter Margaret, who had married Philibert of Savoy in the meantime but was widowed at an early age, as guardian of his grandchildren and regent over the Netherlands.

The Habsburg Hereditary Lands, Burgundy and the Empire

For the history of Austria, Maximilian is regarded as a figure of unification, which his father Frederick had also pursued: the division of the House of Habsburg into the Albertine and the Leopoldine lines, which had begun with the Neuberg Partition Treaty in 1379 quite against the intention of Rudolf the Founder, came to an end in 1490. Sigmund of Tyrol ensured the reunification of the Habsburg hereditary lands by his renunciation in Upper Austria in favor of his brother Ernst's grandson, called the Iron, after Frederick had already reunited Lower Austria and Inner Austria in 1463.

Maximilian was able to hand over the empire to his grandson Charles V in universal monarchy.

Through fifteen years of war, he prevented the division of the Netherlands by its neighboring states. In the war against France, he was able to secure rule in most of the lands of the Burgundian dukes, only the Duchy of Burgundy itself remained under French control.

With the alliance between Maximilian and the kings of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, concluded in 1494, and the resulting marriage of Archduke Philip and Archduchess Margaret to the children of the Spanish royal house, and the Habsburg-Jagiellonian betrothal (and later double marriage) concluded on July 22.  July 1515 in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, the Habsburg-Jagiellonian betrothal (and later double marriage) laid the foundation for the later world renown of the House of Habsburg: His grandson Charles, Emperor Charles V, was to rule over an empire in which "the sun never set.

At the same time, the next division of the Habsburg dominions began with his son Philip the Fair. With his son Charles, the Spanish line was established (Casa de Austria), while Philip's younger son, Ferdinand, continued the Austrian line.

1480 marks the first Turkish invasion of the Holy Roman Empire, specifically Carinthia and Styria. Maximilian tried unsuccessfully to motivate the German estates to wage war against the Ottoman Empire.


Since Maximilian paid homage to a pompous lifestyle, which was, however, also conditioned by his social position, many conflicts in which he became involved and legacies of earlier rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, he left behind an enormous mountain of debt. The costs of his innumerable wars and his court maintenance were not nearly covered by current revenues, so that the emperor had to constantly take out new loans from his principal banker, Jakob Fugger. In 1501, therefore, he even acquired a house in Augsburg. Because of his 17 stays (a total of 2 years and 211 days), the French King Francis I gave him the derisive name "Mayor of Augsburg." Since Maximilian could hardly keep up with his debt service, the Augsburg banking house managed to obtain numerous privileges. But other cities also had to pay for the horrendous costs. Thus, he visited the free imperial city of Memmingen, located close to Augsburg, a total of thirteen times and called it his Ruh und Schlafzell. As an imperial city, Augsburg had to make payments in money and in kind for each of his visits, but Augsburg (like the other imperial cities) had already been obliged to do so under the earlier kings and emperors of the Holy Empire.

The dictates of the empty coffers ultimately also led Maximilian to marry the daughter of the Italian condottiere prince Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Bona of Savoy, Bianca Maria Sforza, in a completely unchaste manner, which her uncle Ludovico Sforza had arranged. In return, Maximilian received the truly imperial dowry of 400,000 gold ducats in cash and another 40,000 ducats in jewels. Ludovico thus achieved his great goal of obtaining the Duchy of Milan as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire.

Art and literature

Maximilian, himself highly educated and a friend of humanism and the Renaissance, cultivated a great interest in science, literature and art, and he also promoted these in the empire. He published poetic works conceived by himself, partly written by himself, partly by Marx Treitzsaurwein von Ehrentrei(t)z, Melchior Pfintzing and Hans Ried. The Theuerdank, largely written by his own hand, allegorizes Maximilian's courtship; the Weißkunig (unfinished), written by Marx Treitzsaurwein von Ehrentrei(t)z, recounts his exploits up to 1513. Both were illustrated with woodcuts by Hans Burgkmair the Elder, Hans Schäufelin, and other artists. The Freydal, a third planned work on the emperor's tournaments, however, remained a fragmentary project in terms of text size and number of illustrations. The Ambras Heroes' Book was commissioned by the emperor between 1504 and 1516. His almost modern propagandistic use of the medium of woodcut is also evidenced by his book illustrations.

Maximilian supported humanism by implementing a concept by Konrad Celtis and founding a Collegium poetarum et mathematicorum in 1501. This was to be part of the University of Vienna and include two chairs for poetics and rhetoric and two for mathematics and its scientific fields of application. This institutionalization of humanism was a pioneering act.

The merit of Maximilian and his chancellor Niclas Ziegler for the creation of an exemplary German style of writing is highly appreciated by those who followed. The efforts towards unity were expressed in the repression of distinctly southern German features in favor of central German ones. Thus, in southern Germany, a writing tradition soon developed that also included letterpress printing, which was called 'Gemeine Deutsch' (common German) and which for a long time continued to represent competition for the East Middle German tendency of New High German writing language development, which was becoming more and more prevalent.

Maximilian is considered the donor of the Frauensteiner Schutzmantelmadonna in Molln, a work by Gregor Erhart. Among others, he and Bianca Maria Sforza are depicted under the mantle. Probably mediated by Willibald Pirckheimer, Maximilian came into contact with Albrecht Dürer in 1512; from 1515 he granted him an annual pension of 100 florins. It is significant, however, that it is not the Maximilian but the Dürer period that is spoken of in the art-historical review. It would be a misunderstanding to see Maximilian as a great patron of the arts. All his commissioned works reflect his preoccupation with family trees, heraldry or historical themes. This was aimed first and foremost at recording the memory of his person and his family for the future and forever. To this end, he commissioned the most important artists of his time - first and foremost Dürer. The fact that, in addition to the famous Nuremberg artist, an average artist by today's standards such as Jörg Kölderer from Innsbruck was also active at the imperial court - first as court painter and later as court architect - testifies to the emperor's approach to art, which was often more "pragmatic" than based on aesthetic criteria. Complex statements could sometimes be vividly conveyed even with simple images, and in conjunction with the texts conceived by Maximilian himself, they unfolded their memorable effect.

Feudal knight and Renaissance prince

As a patron of the arts, promoter of the sciences, humanist, but also in his love of ostentation, Maximilian presented himself as a typical Renaissance ruler, and his efforts to increase his popularity already bore all the traits of a "modern" ruler. At the same time, however, Maximilian stylized himself in accordance with the Burgundian tradition of chivalry as the ideal image of the medieval knight. Maximilian's large-scale poems are not only a last, lingering monument to a bygone era, but also partly encoded autobiographies, which, in addition to real events, also make reference to plans and projects of the emperor, which he was unable to carry out due to lack of money. At the same time, however, the emperor was consciously creating his own legend - the unfinished Freydal later earned him the reputation of being the best tournament fighter of his time.

Maximilian was given the nickname The Last Knight, because he still embodied the already diminished ideal of the old Burgundian chivalry. At the same time, however, he proved to be a forward-looking, modernizing ruler of the dawning modern age, so that this was also extended to The First Canon.

His choice of St. George as his patron saint reflects the chivalric virtues that also played an important role for Maximilian. Maximilian's thoughts, however, went so far as to become pope himself, in order to unite all temporal and ecclesiastical power in himself as the highest-ranking monarch of Christendom. Strictly speaking, the romantic slogan of Maximilian as the last knight does not apply, because his self-image as sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of St. George and as advocate of a crusade to liberate Jerusalem from the Ottomans was not a backward-looking reverie. Rather, it must be seen against a backdrop of political urgency resulting from a real threat.

Many of his ambitious plans remained unfinished. However, he firmly believed that the projects he did not realize during his lifetime would be completed by his descendants. The family trees he commissioned, fictitiously extended to ancient or biblical roots, and genealogical research to prove the most ancient and illustrious lineage possible for the Habsburg dynasty served to legitimize it in the competition with rival noble dynasties - as rulers over the Holy Roman Empire. References to antiquity played a strong role for him, since he saw himself - regent over the Holy Roman Empire - as a legitimate successor to ancient rulers. He was a master of an almost modern-looking self-portrayal and was the first ruler to use the medium of woodcut for this purpose, which was also an innovative production technique. His autobiographical book projects Freydal, Theuerdank and Weißkunig were all illustrated with it, the monumental Ehrenpforte is the largest multi-part woodcut of the Dürer period and illustrates the possibilities of this technique. Likewise the large-scale work the Triumphzug, which was also reproduced with this technique to reach more audience. The graphic design was done by the most important artists of the time, besides Dürer, especially the Augsburg Hans Burgkmair d. Ä. It was not for economic reasons that he turned to the seemingly cheap medium of paper, but because he recognized the new possibilities of illustrating printed matter. Here, almost any reproducibility and the uncomplicated transportability of paper should be mentioned. The emperor always took a lively interest in the realization of his commissions, providing the artists with written concepts and always having his commissions submitted to him for correction. This made it possible for him to stamp the works with a kind of protected product brand of his own, so to speak, and to distribute them using various media.

Imperial domestic policy and administrative reforms

The imperial reform of Emperor Maximilian I marks a turning point in European history; it represents the transition from the Middle Ages to the early modern period. After centuries of erosion of imperial rights, the power of the central imperial authority, the emperorship, had reached an administrative low point.

For Emperor Maximilian, his hereditary lands were those territories that he owned hereditarily as a prince of the empire, in contrast to the rest of Germany, of which he was the head as elected emperor, but which did not belong to his immediate sphere of power. The hereditary nature of the fiefs and the Imperial Diet imposed restrictions there to which the monarch was not subject in his own hereditary possessions.

On November 24, 1494, Maximilian convened an Imperial Diet for February 2, 1495, in Worms. It then lasted from March 26 to August 7, 1495. The Archbishop and Elector of Mainz, Berthold von Henneberg, as Imperial Chancellor, had a strong influence on the reforms adopted there. At the Diet of Worms, the other princes elected him as spokesman for the imperial estates. In this function, he wrestled the consent of the later Emperor Maximilian I to an imperial regiment. The Eternal Land Peace was just as much due to his protracted efforts as the establishment of the Imperial Chamber Court and the "handling of peace and law" as a treaty between the king and the estates.

Ultimately, compromises were reached between the emperor and the imperial estates; they led to four interrelated fundamental reform laws in the Reichsabschied of 1495. Since the Diet of Worms under Maximilian, this institution became the supreme legal and constitutional institution without any formal act of institution or legal basis. In the struggle between the emperor and the imperial princes for a more centralist or more federalist character of the empire, the Diet developed into one of the guarantors for the preservation of the empire.

The foundation for a comprehensive reform of the empire was laid at this Diet in Worms. As regent of the hereditary lands, Maximilian sought to initiate a comprehensive administrative reform with a focus on the financial and judicial sectors, such as the problem of the perpetual imperial peace, the establishment of an imperial chamber court and the levying of the common penny as the first empire-wide tax. To this end, a civil service was to be created at the level of the sovereign instead of the previous officials, who were recruited solely from the nobility and the estates. For Maximilian, the administrative apparatus as it had developed in the domain of his wife Mary of Burgundy was a model, so in terms of a streamlined and strictly hierarchical administration.

Maximilian intended to introduce similar measures to strengthen the authority of the institution of the emperor throughout the Holy Roman Empire. Maximilian attempted to counteract the administrative, historical and cultural heterogeneity of the imperial territory and the immanent centrifugal forces derived from it with this reform project. He wanted to bind the princes of the empire more closely to the emperor and the empire and synchronize their independent political and administrative actions. The reactions to his endeavors manifested themselves in stronger resistance, so that his plans could only be implemented in a fragmentary manner. A protracted conflict ensued between the emperor, the imperial estates and the imperial princes.

One result of this, albeit incomplete, imperial reform was the introduction of new administrative institutions. The imperial territory was initially divided into six and later into ten imperial districts. The imperial districts were now the new regional administrative units entrusted with the collection of imperial taxes, the enforcement of orders from imperial bodies, and the establishment and maintenance of imperial troop contingents. However, the reform could not break up the complex structures of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Likewise, the establishment of an Imperial Chamber Court is associated with Maximilian. This was a court authority dominated by the estates, which initially convened at various locations in the HRR, but then took up residence in Speyer over a longer period of time beginning in 1527. It was the first instance for the estates of the empire. It was also connected with the negotiations for the Perpetual Land Peace, as negotiated at the Diet of Worms in 1495, which brought with it the definitive and indefinite, perpetual, unconditional prohibition of feuding in place of the medieval right of feud. The introduction of the imperial regiment as a kind of imperial government, a governing body of the estates, failed because of the imperial estates.

According to Moraw (1995), the convening of the Reichstag and the adoption of the reform intentions led to a stronger, de facto recognition of the institution of the Reichstag through an habituation of the political elites in a politically organized gathering and action that lasted for months.


Maximilian is said to have fathered at least 14 illegitimate children. (Selection):

By imperial resolution of Franz Joseph I of February 28, 1863, Maximilian I was included in the list of "the most famous war princes and generals of Austria worthy of perpetual emulation", in whose honor and memory a life-size statue was erected in the Hall of Generals of the then newly built Imperial and Royal Court Arms Museum (today: Army History Museum Vienna). Hofwaffenmuseum (today: Heeresgeschichtliches Museum Vienna) was erected. The statue was created in 1870 by the sculptor Josef Gasser from Carrara marble, and was dedicated by Emperor Franz Joseph himself.

In the TV film Maximilian - The Game of Power and Love by Andreas Prochaska, first broadcast in 2017, Maximilian was portrayed by Jannis Niewöhner. In the documentary film Maximilian - Der Brautzug zur Macht (also: Love, Money and Power - Maximilian I.) by Manfred Corrine, first broadcast in 2017, the background and context of the era were explained by historians. In 2019, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Maximilian I, numerous exhibitions and commemorative events were held in Austria, in Italy (South Tyrol), in Switzerland and in Germany. The exhibitions in Augsburg were the most extensive and shed the most light on Maximilian's life and work. Among others, the emperor was commemorated in Kufstein, where Maximilian commissioned the construction of the Emperor's Tower in the fortress there after the conquest of Kufstein, built from 1518 to 1520 by Michael Zeller, "der Preuß".


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  1. Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Maximilian I. (HRR)
  3. ^ "Internal division, political competition among the representatives in the Estates, the tradition of a strong corps of officials used to governing the state in a centralising manner, and the arrival of a new, ambitious 'impresario of war' as the head of state undermined the privileges of 1477.", pg.100.[56]
  4. Hermann Wiesflecker: Kaiser Maximilian I. Das Reich, Österreich und Europa an der Wende zur Neuzeit. Band 1. München 1971, S. 65 f.
  5. Grundlegend zum Leben Maximilians ist Hermann Wiesflecker: Kaiser Maximilian I. Das Reich, Österreich und Europa an der Wende zur Neuzeit. 5 Bände. München 1971 ff., wo die Quellen detailliert verarbeitet sind.
  6. a b Oficialmente, la titulación sancionada por el romano pontífice era emperador romano electo.
  7. Из многочисленных портретов Максимилиана I (1459—1519) никакой другой не сформировал образ популярного монарха более убедительно, чем эта картина Дюрера, написанная им в год смерти императора, фигура которого развёрнута по отношению к зрителю в пол оборота. Кроме того, Максимилиан держит а руках гранат вместо символа императорской власти — «императорского яблока», значение которого не так однозначно. По старой традиции, данный плод должен был напоминать о завоевании Гранады в 1492 году Фердинандом Арагонским, приходившимся тестем его сыну Филиппу. С другой стороны, гранат, который начали очищать и где видны неповреждённые зёрна, как нельзя лучше в контексте написания портрета подходит как символ девиза «Больше быть, чем казаться».[источник не указан 1145 дней]

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