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Frederick III

Frederick III, 1415–93, Holy Roman emperor (1452–93) and German king (1440–93). With his brother Albert VI he inherited the duchies of Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola. He became head of the house of Hapsburg at the death (1439) of his distant cousin Albert II, whom he was elected (1440) to succeed as German king. Although Frederick was generally a weak ruler, he made considerable progress toward reuniting the Hapsburg family lands under his own branch. On Albert II's death Frederick became guardian for his young son Ladislaus Posthumus (see Ladislaus V) and regent of Austria for Ladislaus. In Bohemia and Hungary, however, he was unable to establish himself as regent for Ladislaus. In 1453 he temporarily lost Austria when he was forced to give up the youth. After the death (1457) of Ladislaus, Frederick relinquished Bohemia to George of Podebrad and Hungary to Matthias Corvinus. In Austria, his succession to Ladislaus as duke was challenged by his brother, but Albert's death (1463) left Frederick with an undisputed claim. In 1485, Matthias Corvinus, who had invaded Bohemia and Austria, occupied Vienna, and Frederick was forced to abandon his hereditary lands. However, longevity again proved an advantage; Matthias died in 1490, and Frederick recovered his possessions. In his relations with the Roman Catholic Church, Frederick was guided by his secretary, the brilliant Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (later Pope Pius II). In return for his support of Pope Eugene IV against Antipope Felix V (see Amadeus VIII), Frederick was promised an imperial coronation at Rome and various subsidies and revenues. He was the last emperor crowned at Rome. Frederick's greatest success was his acquisition of Burgundy, including the Netherlands and Belgium, for the house of Hapsburg. In 1473 at an interview at Trier with Charles the Bold of Burgundy, Frederick attempted to arrange the marriage of his son, later King Maximilian I, to Charles's daughter Mary of Burgundy. However, he was not prepared to meet Charles's demands and the negotiations ended abruptly. In 1477, soon after the defeat and death of Charles at Nancy, the marriage of Maximilian and the Burgundian heiress nevertheless took place and netted Austria a huge and cheap prize. This alliance set the pattern for the subsequent marriages and successions through which the Hapsburgs came to dominate a large part of the globe. In 1486, Maximilian was elected king of the Romans, or German king, and after 1490, Frederick resigned most of his duties to his son. The anagram AEIOU, inscribed on Frederick's personal possessions, has traditionally been explained as signifying Austria est imperare orbi universo [Lat., = it is Austria's destiny to rule the whole world] or Alles Erdreich ist Österreich untertan [Ger., = all the earth is subject to Austria].

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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