Albert I of Germany

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Albert I of Habsburg (German: Albrecht I.) (July 1255 – 1 May 1308) was King of the Romans and Duke of Austria, the eldest son of German King Rudolph I of Habsburg and his first wife Gertrude of Hohenburg.

Contents

Life

In 1282 his father, the first German monarch from the House of Habsburg, invested him and his younger brother Rudolph II with the duchies of Austria and Styria, which he had seized from late King Ottokar II of Bohemia. By the 1283 Treaty of Rheinfelden his father entrusted Albert with their sole government, while Rudolph II ought to be compensated by the Further Austrian Habsburg home territories. Albert and his Swabian ministeriales appear to have ruled the duchies with conspicuous success, overcoming the resistance by local nobles.

King Rudolph I was unable to secure the succession to the German throne for his son, especially due to the objections raised by Ottokar's son King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia, and the plans to install Albert as successor of the assassinated King Ladislaus IV of Hungary in 1290 also failed. Upon Rudolph's death in 1291, the Prince-electors, fearing Albert's power and the implementation of a hereditary monarchy, chose Count Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg as King of the Romans. A rising among his Styrian dependents compelled Albert to recognize the sovereignty of his rival, and to confine himself for a time to the government of the Habsburg lands at Vienna.

He did not abandon his hopes of the throne, however, which were eventually realised: In 1298, he was chosen German king by some of the princes, who were bothered about Adolph's attempts to gain an own power basis in the lands of Thuringia and Meissen, again led by the Bohemian king Wenceslaus II. The armies of the rival kings met at the Battle of Göllheim near Worms, where Adolph was defeated and slain. Submitting to a new election but securing the support of several influential princes by making extensive promises, he was chosen at the Imperial City of Frankfurt on 27 July 1298, and crowned at Aachen Cathedral on 24 August.

Although a hard, stern man, Albert had a keen sense of justice when his own interests were not involved, and few of the German kings possessed so practical an intelligence. He encouraged the cities, and not content with issuing proclamations against private war, formed alliances with the princes in order to enforce his decrees. The serfs, whose wrongs seldom attracted notice in an age indifferent to the claims of common humanity, found a friend in this severe monarch, and he protected even the despised and persecuted Jews. Stories of his cruelty and oppression in the Swiss cantons (cf. William Tell) did not appear until the 16th century, and are now regarded as legendary.

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