- (1459–1519)Holy Roman emperor from 1493 until his death, Maximilian was one of the more dynamic and imaginative figures of his dynasty. Known even in his own lifetime as the Last of the Knights, he was skilled at self-dramatization, as can be seen in his two autobiographical epics, Theuerdank and Weisskunig. The first is a fanciful depiction of his journey to Brussels and his marriage to Duchess Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482); the second recounts his life as a whole, including numerous wars fought throughout much of Europe. His massive tomb complex in Innsbruck glorifies both his dynasty and himself. Dominated by oversized sculptures of ancestors both real and imagined, it was ordered by the emperor himself, though it was not until almost a century after his death that it was completed. Maximilian himself is not buried there.Maximilian was one of Renaissance Europe’s great patrons of arts, learning, and music. His efforts in all these directions laid the groundwork for the cultural infrastructure that would distinguish the Habsburg court in the centuries to come. Maximilian’s imagination extended to the practical side of princely rule as well. Much interested in military affairs, both as a matter of taste as well as need, he worked hard to make the imperial soldier, the Landsknecht, a more reliable fighting man. Maximilian was eager to reform the fiscal structure of the Holy Roman Empire, if only to provide himself with more predictable funding for the numerous conflicts in which he was engaged. These were often more focused on Habsburg, rather than German, concerns. One of his most soughtafter changes was levying a so-called Common Penny to support a prototype of a standing imperial army. This he never got, though the idea would come up repeatedly in the empire’s business throughout the next century and even beyond.To manage his affairs in the Austrian lands, Maximilian tried to set up provincial administrations to function in his place during many absences that took him to Italy, Burgundy, and German lands other than his own. These arrangements encountered local resistance as well. Indeed, they all but foundered, as Austrian provincial estates denied him extraordinary aid unless they retained their traditional deliberative practices. These included direct personal contact with their ruler when his fiscal requests were on their agenda. Nevertheless, close variants of Maximilian’s administrative schemes took hold under the regime of his grandson, Ferdinand I.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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