Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor

(1578–1637)
   Ferdinand II was born in the Styrian capital of Graz, the son of Ferdinand I’s youngest son, Archduke Charles (1540–1590), and his wife, Marie of Bavaria (1551–1608). Charles had been given the so-called Inner Austrian lands, roughly corresponding to today’s Styria and Carinthia, in the division of the Habsburg patrimony laid out in Ferdinand I’s will. Ferdinand II would do much to establish primogeniture in his house, thereby considerably strengthening the hold of the head of the dynasty on its resources.
   Raised in a sternly Catholic environment, Ferdinand became the territorial ruler of Inner Austria in 1596. Following a sojourn in Italy, he returned and made it clear that he intended to recatholicize his lands where Protestantism had made heavy inroads. His infirm and heirless uncles, the grandsons of Ferdinand I, agreed that he was the fittest prospect his house had at hand to govern the bulk of the Habsburg Empire and to succeed to the imperial throne in 1619. But Ferdinand II’s reputation for religious orthodoxy did not sit well with many of his subjects, especially in Bohemia. The decision of the estates of that kingdom to reject him in favor of the German Elector Palatine Frederick V precipitated the Thirty Years’ War in 1618. It eventually afflicted much of continental Europe.
   Although Ferdinand did not succeed in reincorporating Germany into the Catholic fold, he did, through the Renewed Land Ordinances (1627) in Bohemia, succeed in limiting the power of the local estates to the point where Habsburg rule became truly hereditary in all those lands. He also moved forward the work of recatholicizing the kingdom, forcing non-Catholic nobility to abandon their properties, then installing an aristocracy loyal to its Habsburg king.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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