This series has six easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Ottocar Attempts to Reverse Election.
The last Hapsburg Emperor ended the dynasty at the end of World War I. From the time of this story to the end of World War I the empires they ruled were major powers. Before our story begins, they were a local Count in Switzerland. Their family name came from their stronghold. The castle was constructed in 1020.
In 1273 Count Rudolph Hapsburg was elected Holy Roman Emperor. He was opposed by the Spanish claimant, Alfonso of Castile, and the formidable Ottocar, King of Bohemia. It is said that the electors desired an emperor, but not the exercise of imperial power, and that in Rudolph they saw a candidate of comparative lowliness, from whom their authority stood in little jeopardy. The trouble with having a weak emperor was the other rivals could make things difficult for him.
Rudolph’s enemies had appealed against him to Pope Gregory X, and Rudolph in turn sought the ratification of the Pontiff, to whom, immediately after his election, he sent messengers with a letter imploring papal countenance. From this point Mr. Coxe takes up the story.
This selection is from History of the House of Austria. by William Coxe published in 1807. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
William Coxe (1748-1828) wrote numerous histories while traveling throughout Europe tutoring and advising various nobles.
Fortunately for the interests of Rudolph and the peace of Germany, Gregory X was prudent, humane, and generous, and from a long experience of worldly affairs had acquired a profound knowledge of men and manners. An ardent zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith was the leading feature of his character, and the object of his greatest ambition was to lead an army of crusaders against the infidels. To the accomplishment of this purpose he directed his aims, and, like a true father of Christendom, was anxious to appease instead of fomenting the troubles of Europe, and to consolidate the union of the German states, which it had been the policy of his predecessors to divide and disunite. By the most insinuating address he knew how to conciliate the affections of those who approached him, and to bend to his purpose the most steady opposition; and he endeavored to gain by extreme affability and the mildness of his deportment what his predecessors had extorted by the most extravagant pretensions.
The ambassadors of Rudolph were received with complacency by the Pope, and obtained his sanction by agreeing, in the name of their master, to the same conditions which Otho IV and Frederick II had sworn to observe; by confirming all the donations of the emperors, his predecessors, to the papal see; by promising to accept no office or dignity in any of the papal territories, particularly in the city of Rome, without the consent of the Pope; by agreeing not to disturb nor permit the house of Anjou to be disturbed in the possession of Naples and Sicily, which they held as fiefs from the Roman see; and by engaging to undertake in person a crusade against the infidels. In consequence of these concessions, Gregory gave the new King of the Romans his most cordial support, refused to listen to the overtures of Ottocar, and after much difficulty finally succeeded in persuading Alfonso to renounce his pretensions to the imperial dignity.
An interview in October, 1275, between Rudolph and Gregory at Lausanne, concluded his negotiations with the Roman see, and gave rise to a personal friendship between the heads of the Church and the empire, who were equally distinguished for their frank and amiable qualities. In this interview Rudolph publicly ratified the articles which his ambassadors had concluded in his name; the electors and princes who were present followed his example, and Gregory again confirmed the election of Rudolph, on condition that he should repair to Rome the following year to receive the imperial crown. At the conclusion of this ceremony the new Emperor, with his consort and the princes of the empire, assumed the cross, and engaged to undertake a crusade against the infidels.
During the negotiations of Rudolph with Gregory X, Ottocar had exerted himself to shake the authority of the new chief of the empire, and to consolidate a confederacy with the German princes. He not only rejected with disdain all the proposals of accommodation made at the instances of Rudolph by the judicious and conciliating Pontiff, but prevented the clergy of Bohemia from contributing the tenths of their revenue or preaching the crusade. He endeavored to alarm the princes of the empire by displaying the views of the new sovereign, to recover the imperial fiefs which they had appropriated during the interregnum, and by his promises and intrigues succeeded in attaching to his cause the Margrave of Baden and the counts of Freiburg, Neuburg, and Montfort. But he secured a still more powerful partisan in Henry, Duke of Lower Bavaria, by fomenting the disputes between him and his brother the Count Palatine, and by ceding to him Scharding and other places wrested from Bavaria by the Duke of Austria.
When summoned by Rudolph to do homage for his fiefs, according to the custom of the empire, he returned a haughty answer, treating him as Count of Hapsburg; a second summons was received with silent contempt; on a third he sent his ambassador, the Bishop of Seccan, to the Diet of Augsburg; and his example was followed by Henry of Bavaria. These ministers were, however, only deputed to raise a feigned contest relative to the vote of Henry and to protest against the election of Rudolph. The ambassador of Henry urged the protest with moderation and respect; but the Bishop of Seccan delivered a virulent invective against the chief of the empire, in a style conformable to the spirit and character of his powerful and haughty master. He declared that the assembly in which Rudolph had been chosen was illegal; that the arbitration of Louis of Bavaria was unprecedented; that a man excommunicated by the Pope for plundering churches and convents was ineligible to the imperial throne, and that his sovereign, who held his dominions by an indisputable title, owed no homage to the Count of Hapsburg.
As he spoke in the Latin tongue, the Emperor interrupted him with a dignified rebuke. “Bishop,” he said, “if you were to harangue in an ecclesiastical consistory, you might use the Latin tongue; but when discoursing upon your rights and the rights of the princes of the empire, why do you employ a language which the greater part of those who are present do not comprehend?” The rebuke of the sovereign justly roused the indignation of the assembly; the princes, and particularly the Elector Palatine, started from their seats, and were scarcely prevented from employing violence, even by the interposition of Rudolph; and the ambassadors, quitting the assembly, retired from Augsburg.
The diet, irritated by this insult, passed a decree asserting the unanimity of Rudolph’s election; they declared Ottocar guilty of contumacy; required him to restore Austria, Carinthia, and Carniola, which he had usurped, and to do homage for the remainder of his dominions. In case of refusal the ban of the empire was denounced against him, and supplies of men and money were voted to support their sovereign, to assert the imperial dignity, and to reduce the rebellious princes to obedience. The Burgrave of Nuremberg and the Bishop of Basel were dispatched to Ottocar in the name of the diet, to demand his instant acknowledgment of Rudolph as king of the Romans, and the restitution of Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola.
They accordingly repaired to Prague, and delivered their message. “Tell Rudolph,” replied the spirited monarch, “that he may rule over the territories of the empire, but I will not tamely yield those possessions which, I have acquired at the expense of so much blood and treasure; they are mine by marriage, by purchase, or by conquest.” He then broke out into bitter invectives against Rudolph, and after tauntingly expressing his surprise that a petty count of Hapsburg should have been preferred to so many powerful candidates, dismissed the ambassadors with contempt. In the heat of his resentment he even violated the laws of nations, and put to death the heralds who announced to him the resolutions of the diet and delivered the ban of the empire.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history