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Hapsburg

Shifting Fortunes

Charles V divided his dominions between his son, Philip II of Spain, and his brother, Ferdinand of Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, who succeeded Charles as Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I. The Spanish and Austrian branches of the dynasty cooperated in the Thirty Years War (1618–48) and opposed the French in the Third Dutch War (1672–78) and in the War of the Grand Alliance (1688–97). The division of the family holdings, the acquisition of the royal crowns of Bohemia and Hungary, and the wars against the Turks in the 17th cent.—these factors transformed the dynasty into a polyglot monarchy, interested more in extending the family power in the Balkans than in purely German affairs.

The Hapsburgs lost Alsace, Franche-Comté, Artois, and part of Flanders and Hainaut during the wars against Louis XIV. In the War of the Spanish Succession, caused by the extinction of the Spanish Hapsburgs at the death (1700) of King Charles II, the family lost their claim to Spain. However, they retained the Austrian Netherlands and Lombardy and reconquered Hungary from the Turks. By the pragmatic sanction (1713), Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI guaranteed the indivisibility of the Hapsburg domains and the succession of his daughter, Maria Theresa.

In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) and in the Seven Years War (1756–63), Maria Theresa lost Silesia to Prussia but successfully defended the rest of her inheritance. On the death of Charles Albert of Bavaria, Holy Roman emperor as Charles VII (1742–45), the imperial title was bestowed on Archduchess Maria Theresa's husband, Francis, grand duke of Tuscany and former duke of Lorraine, who became Francis I.

Maria Theresa inaugurated the bureaucratic centralization that was carried forward by her son Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II. With him began the line of Hapsburg-Lorraine. An enlightened despot, Joseph II instituted reforms that included abolition of serfdom, revision of the penal code, religious toleration, and reduction of the power of the church. Leadership in the Hapsburg empire was given to the Germans. Tuscany, separated (1790) from the main family holding, was held until 1860 by a junior branch of the dynasty (except during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras). The duchy of Modena, acquired (1806) by marriage, was also possessed until 1859 by a junior branch.

The senior line was continued by the brother of Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, who repealed many of the reforms of Joseph II. Leopold's son, Francis II, assumed (1804) the title Francis I, emperor of Austria, and abdicated as Holy Roman emperor in 1806. Though repeatedly humbled by Napoleon I, Francis emerged at the Congress of Vienna (1815) as one of the most powerful European monarchs. Giving up the Austrian Netherlands, the Hapsburgs regained Dalmatia, Istria, and Tyrol. They were compensated with Salzburg and in N Italy with Lombardy and Venetia, which, with Tuscany, Modena, and Parma, made the Italian peninsula virtually a Hapsburg appendage.

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

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