By these accessions of territory, Ottocar became the most powerful prince of Europe, for his dominions extended from the confines of Bavaria to Raab in Hungary, and from the Adriatic to the shores of the Baltic.
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During this whole transaction Rudolph acted with becoming prudence and extreme circumspection. He had endeavored by the mildest methods to bring Ottocar to terms of conciliation; and when all his overtures were received with insult and contempt, and hostilities became inevitable, he did not seek a distant war till he had obtained the full confirmation of the Pope and had reestablished the peace of those parts of the empire which bordered on his own dominions. He first attacked the petty adherents of Ottocar, the Margrave of Baden, and the counts of Freiburg, Montfort, and Neuburg, and, having compelled them to do homage and to restore the fiefs which they had appropriated during the preceding troubles, he prepared to turn his whole force against the King of Bohemia, with a solicitude which the power and talents of his formidable rival naturally inspired.
The contest in which Rudolph was about to engage was of a nature to call forth all his resources and talents. Ottocar was a prince of high spirit, great abilities, and distinguished military skill, which had been exercised in constant warfare from his early youth. By hereditary right he succeeded to Bohemia and Moravia, and to these territories he had made continual additions by his crusades against the Prussians, his contests with the kings of Hungary, and still more by his recent acquisition of Austria, Carinthia, and Carniola.
In the tenth century Austria, with both Styria and Carniola, under the title of a margravate, was governed by Leopold I of the house of Bamberg. It continued in the possession of his family, and in 1156 was erected into an independent duchy by the emperor Frederick II, and conferred on Henry, fifth in descent from Leopold, as an indivisible and inalienable fief; in failure of male issue it was made descendible to his eldest daughter, and, in failure of female issue, disposable by will. In 1245 Frederick the Warlike, last duke of the Bamberg line, obtained a confirmation of this decree; but, dying in the ensuing year without issue and without disposing of his territories by will, a dispute arose relative to his succession. The claimants were his two sisters, Margaret, widow of Henry VII, King of the Romans, and Constantia, wife of Henry the Illustrious, Margrave of Misnia; and his niece Gertrude, daughter of Henry, his elder brother, the wife of Premislaus, eldest son of Wenceslaus, King of Bohemia and brother of Ottocar. But on the plea that neither of the claimants was a daughter of the last Duke, the Emperor Frederick II sequestrated these territories as fiefs escheating to the empire, and transferred the administration to Otho, Count of Werdenberg, who took possession of the country and resided in Vienna.
As this event happened during the contest between the see of Rome and the house of Swabia, Innocent IV, who had deposed and excommunicated Frederick, laid Austria under an interdict, and encouraged the kings of Bohemia and Hungary and the Duke of Bavaria to invade the country. The Pope first patronized the claims of Margaret, and urged her to marry a German prince; but on her application to the Emperor to bestow the duchy on her eldest son Frederick, he supported Gertrude, who, after the death of Premislaus, had espoused Herman, Margrave of Baden, nephew of Otho, Duke of Bavaria, and induced the anticaesar, William of Holland, to grant him the investiture.
On the demise of Frederick II his son Conrad was too much occupied with the affairs of Italy to attend to those of Germany; the imperial troops quitted Austria, and, Herman dying, Otho of Bavaria occupied that part of Austria which lies above the Ems. But Wenceslaus of Bohemia, prevailing on the states to choose his eldest surviving son Ottocar as their sovereign, under the condition that he should espouse Margaret, expelled the Bavarians and took possession of the whole country. Gertrude fled to Bela, King of Hungary, whose uncle Roman, a Russian prince, she married, and ceded to him her pretensions on Styria, on condition that he should assert her right to Austria. A war ensued between Ottocar and the King of Hungary, in which Ottocar, being defeated, was compelled to cede part of Styria to Stephen, son of Bela, and a small district of that country was appropriated for the maintenance of Gertrude. But the Hungarian governors being guilty of the most enormous exactions the natives of Styria rose and transferred their allegiance to Ottocar, who secured that duchy by defeating Bela at Cressenbrum, and by the treaty of peace which followed that victory. Ottocar had scarcely obtained possession of Styria before he deprived Gertrude of her small pittance, and the unfortunate princess took refuge from his tyranny in a convent of Misnia. Having thus secured Austria and Styria, and ascended the throne of Bohemia, Ottocar divorced Margaret, who was much older than himself; and to acquire that right of succession of Frederick the Warlike which he had lost by this separation from his wife he, in 1262, procured from Richard of Cornwall the investiture of Austria, Styria, and Carniola, as fiefs devolved to the empire. He either promised or gave compensation to Agnes, daughter of Gertrude by Herman of Baden, and to Henry, Margrave of Misnia, husband of Constantia.
Ottocar next purchased of Ulric, Duke of Carinthia and Carniola, who had no issue, the right of succeeding to those duchies on his death. In the deed of transfer, instituted December, 1268, Ulric describes himself as without heirs; although his brother Philip, Archbishop of Salzburg, was still living. On the death of Ulric, in 1269 or 1270, Ottocar took possession of those duchies, defeated Philip, who asserted his claims, and forced the natives to submit to his authority.
By these accessions of territory, Ottocar became the most powerful prince of Europe, for his dominions extended from the confines of Bavaria to Raab in Hungary, and from the Adriatic to the shores of the Baltic. On the contrary, the hereditary possessions of Rudolph were comparatively inconsiderable, remote from the scene of contest, and scattered at the foot of the Alps and in the mountains of Alsace and Swabia; and though head of the empire, he was seated on a tottering throne, and feebly supported by the princes of Germany, who raised him to that exalted dignity to render him their chief rather in name than in power.
Although the princes and states of the empire had voted succors, many had failed in their promised assistance, and, had the war been protracted, those few would have infallibly deserted a cause in which their own interests were not materially concerned. The wise but severe regulations of Rudolph for extirpating the banditti, demolishing the fortresses of the turbulent barons, and recovering the fiefs which several of the princes had unjustly appropriated, excited great discontent. Under these circumstances the powerful and imperious Ottocar cannot be deemed rash for venturing to contend with a petty count of Switzerland, whom he compared to those phantoms of sovereignty, William of Holland and Richard of Cornwall, or that he should conclude a king of Bohemia to be more powerful than an emperor. The event, however, showed that he had judged too hastily of his own strength and of Rudolph’s comparative weakness, and proved that, when the reins of government were held by an able hand, the resources of the empire were still considerable, and its enmity an object of terror.
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