Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor

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Matthias of Austria (24 February 1557 – 20 March 1619) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1612, King of Hungary and Croatia from 1608 (as Matthias II) and King of Bohemia from 1611. He was a member of the House of Habsburg.[1]



Matthias was born in the Austrian capital of Vienna to Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria of Spain.

Matthias married Archduchess Anna of Austria, daughter of his uncle Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria, whose successor in Further Austria Matthias became in 1595. Their marriage did not produce surviving children.

In 1593 he was appointed governor of Austria by his brother, Emperor Rudolf II. He formed a close association there with the Bishop of Vienna, Melchior Klesl, who later became his chief adviser. In 1605 Matthias forced the ailing emperor to allow him to deal with the Hungarian Protestant rebels. The result was the Peace of Vienna of 1606, which guaranteed religious freedom in Hungary. In the same year Matthias was recognized as head of the House of Habsburg and as the future Holy Roman Emperor, as a result of Rudolf's illness. Allying himself with the estates of Hungary, Austria, and Moravia, Matthias forced his brother to yield rule of these lands to him in 1608; Rudolf later ceded Bohemia in 1611.

After Matthias's accession as Holy Roman Emperor, his policy was dominated by Klesl, who hoped to bring about a compromise between Catholic and Protestant states within the Holy Roman Empire in order to strengthen it. Matthias had already been forced to grant religious concessions to Protestants in Austria and Moravia, as well as in Hungary, when he had allied with them against Rudolf.

His conciliatory policies were opposed by the more intransigent Catholic Habsburgs, particularly Matthias's brother Archduke Maximilian, who hoped to secure the succession for the inflexible Catholic Archduke Ferdinand (later Emperor Ferdinand II). The start of the Bohemian Protestant revolt in 1618 provoked Maximilian to imprison Klesl and revise his policies. Matthias, old and ailing, was unable to prevent a takeover by Maximilian's faction. Ferdinand, who had already been crowned King of Bohemia (1617) and of Hungary (1618), succeeded Matthias as Holy Roman Emperor.

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