Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor

   Born in Spain, Archduke Ferdinand I was the offspring of the Spanish–Austrian marriage arranged in 1495 by his grandfather, Emperor Maximilian I. His father was Maximilian’s son, Prince Philip (1478–1506), his mother Princess Juana (1479–1555), a daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. His elder brother, Charles V (1500–1558), who became king of Spain in 1516 and Holy Roman Emperor three years later, effectively ceded him the central European patrimony of their house in agreements concluded in 1521 and 1522.
   Married to Princess Anna (1503–1547), a daughter of the king of Hungary and Bohemia, Ferdinand was the founder of the Habsburg Empire in central and east central Europe. When his brother-in-law, King Louis, died fleeing the battlefield at Mohács in Hungary against the forces of the Ottoman Empire in 1526, Ferdinand persuaded the estates of both kingdoms to elect him as their ruler, though both the Ottoman sultan and native claimants kept him from gaining complete control of Hungary. A mediocre military leader, he would never recapture that realm from the Turks. He did, however, nudge the kingdom of Bohemia somewhat closer to hereditary, rather than elective, monarchy. Nor, as the Protestant Reformation spread from the German territories to his lands, was Ferdinand able to bring them back to Catholic orthodoxy, a goal to which he and the majority of his successors would unwaveringly aspire.
   But Ferdinand had great strengths as well. Imaginative and energetic, he developed an administrative framework for the new empire that endured well into the 18th century. The core of the structure was made up of a central treasury, court council, privy council, and somewhat later, a corresponding body for military affairs. A common chancellery conducted the written business of all these offices. The system functioned much less effectively in practice than on paper— Bohemia and Hungary both resisted cooperating with it—but it was widely imitated or adapted in many other German territories. A gifted negotiator who stood in for his brother in Germany ever more frequently over the years, Ferdinand was the architect of the 1555 Peace of Augsburg, which established some measure of confessional peace between Lutherans and Catholics in the second half of the 16th century. Emperor in his own name after 1558, he was also instrumental in keeping the cause of Catholic reform alive during the last session of the Council of Trent, which met from 1562 to 1563.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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