Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor

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Frederick of Habsburg (September 21, 1415 – August 19, 1493) was Duke of Austria as Frederick V from 1424, the successor of Albert II as German King as Frederick IV from 1440, and Holy Roman Emperor as Frederick III from 1452. He was succeeded by his son Maximilian I, in 1493 after ten years of joint rule.



Born in Innsbruck, he was the son of Duke Ernest the Iron from the Leopoldinian line of the Habsburg family ruling Inner Austria, i.e. the duchies of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, and of Ernest's wife Cymburgis of Masovia. He became Inner Austrian duke as Frederick V upon his father's death in 1424. In 1440 he was elected German king as Frederick IV and in 1452 crowned Holy Roman Emperor as Frederick III by Pope Nicholas V. He married in 1452, at age 37, the 18-year-old Infanta Eleanor, daughter of King Edward of Portugal, whose dowry helped him to alleviate his debts and cement his power.

In 1442, Frederick allied himself with Rudolf Stüssi, burgomaster of Zürich, against the Old Swiss Confederacy in the Old Zürich War (Alter Zürichkrieg).

In 1448, he entered into the Vienna Concordat with the Holy See, which remained in force until 1806 and regulated the relationship between the Habsburgs and the Holy See.

Frederick was the last Emperor to be crowned in Rome. He opposed the reform of the Holy Roman Empire at that time and was barely able to prevent the electors from electing another king.


Frederick's style of rulership was marked by hesitation and a sluggish pace of decision making. The Italian humanist Enea Silvio Piccolomini and later Pope Pius II, who at one time worked at Frederick's court, described the Emperor as a person who wants to conquer the world while remaining seated. Although regarded as a personality weakness by older academic research, it is now rather seen as a result of having to act on many fronts, leading to an overwhelmed ruler who then had to resort to delaying tactics. Frederick is credited with having the ability to patiently sit out difficult political situations.[1]

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