Rudolf II

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Rudolf von und zu Habsburg, King of Bohemia as Rútolf II., *1551 - †1616

As a young boy, Rudolf was sent with his brother Ernest to Aragon, half as a hostage, half as a guest of Phillip I. de Aragon y Navarra. He was exposed to an emotionally cold and bigoted environment, which was the total opposite of the atmosphere in Vienna. On the other side he received fair education. After the death of infante don Carlos, he realized that fear is not good counsellor and became introvert, but energic. He was also a silent supporter of Protestantism as his father was. The stay in Aragon not only confused but repelled him. When both came back, they were quite different from Austrian princes who remained in Vienna, especially Mathias, who was very ambitious. Rudolf was colder, reserved, more cautious and less léger and popular.

As his father wished, he became the Bohemian king in 1575, the Roman king in 1575 and finally, after Maxmillians's death, HRE Emperor in 1576. Since 1576, as a Roman Emperor, he let Austria--as yet a Archduchy--enjoy the status of a kingdom, incorporating the Archduchy of Austria, County of Tyrolia, Duchy of Styria and Duchy of Carinthia. With the Agafon's son Tomu's signature of the treaty with Austria in 1588, the Austro-Bohemo-Dalmatian triply monarchy was established; Austria became kingdom by imperial decree. It was Rudolf's very first important act. Rudolf thought that Dalmatia might balance the loss of Hungary in 1527. Although Dalmatia was in difficulty, with support of RTC and Hungarian king Sigismund III. Vasa, Rudolf was successful in holding Turks off in the south-east from 1593-1606 (the so-called 15-Years War).

In year 1583 Rudolf II, after moving the imperial capital from Vienna to Prague, married Isabel Clara Eugenia de Aragon y Navarra (daughter of Phillip I. of Aragon; *1566 - †1633), and one year later had a son, Maxmillian.

He decided in 1609 to prepare his son for his role of ruler and so young Maxmillian became Margrave of Moravia. He was inspired by first Přemyslids and by king Jean de Luxembourg, who put his son Vaclav (later king Karel I.) into position of Moravian margrave to let him learn something about the job of ruler. It started to be a tradition for first-born sons.

Rudolf's adventuristic brother Mathias started to realize his political ambitions in 1578 in the so-called Aventeur in Netherlands. After its collapse, he lived for a short time quietly in Linz. When Ernest was called to pick up the governorship of Netherlands, Mathias became--because of strong push of his mother Maria of Aragon and Navarra--governor of Upper and Lower Austria. In 1598, an open conflict between Rudolf and Mathias began. Mathias approved (unconsulted) tough re-Catholisation of Austrian lands with Melchior Khlesl as bishop of Vienna and his personal chancellor. His policies of terror in Austria led to peasant revolts during 1594-1597. Rudolf ordered Mathias to stop these revolts many times; Mathias did so with violent intervention led by Croatian ban Morakšić. Rudolf knew that Mathias would sooner or later try for his throne, so Rudolf mobilized his ally - Sigismund III. Vasa. They managed to keep Mathias quiet. In 1599 Ernest (Rudolf's brother and last close friend) died.

Being now the second oldest, Mathias again hoped to dethrone Rudolf. Accusing Rudolf of insanity and irresponsibility, he tried to convince High Estates in Dalmatia and Austria to rebel against his brother. His aim was to force Rudolf to abdicate in favor of Mathias.

As a King of Bohemia, Rudolf deliberately reacted to the threat of Mathias and--now being strong enough to prevent possible rebellion of protestant aristocracy--he signed in 1603 so-called Privilege (Privilegium libertas exercitii religionis), seeing it as a culmination of his father's endeavors in establishment of religious freedom. Privilege ensured freedom of religion, for Protestants the right to build churches, the right to found schools and to take part in University of Prague. For Jews it meant they were already not part of regalia, but legally equal citizens to Christians in Rudolf's realm. Privilege became valid in Moravia in 1604.

Mathias' attempts to search for help from Bohemian, Moravian, Lusatian and Silesian Estates went cold. Only the Dalmatian Estates and part of the Catholic Austrian aristocracy supported him. After Mathias unsuccessfully attacked the Protestant Austrian aristocracy, he was defeated by combined forces of Rudolf, Maxmillian and the head of Austrian Protestants Leopold of Styria on his March to Prague. Then he was forced to sign Vienna Treaty: Rudolf allowed the Kingdom of Bohemian Crown Lands to secede and became independent of Austro-Dalmatian Monarchy. Mathias became in 1612, as Mathias I, Austro-Dalmatian King and Emperor of HRE, followed by his son Josef I. Bohemian Kingdom and its crown lands were still formally members of Holy Roman Empire, but its Elector vote was mute, as the Bohemian king as Elector automatically approves any election.

During the Rudolphine Period, huge development of sciences and arts appeared; in 1582 the Gregorian calendar was introduced with these emperor's words: "Es ist nicht wichtig woher ist es hergestammt, sondern wie gut ist es." In 1594 the first blast-furnace was opened in Kénikshóf pejm Péraun (Hradec Králové u Berouna, Königshof beim Beraun) and in 1600 professor Johannes Jessenius conducted the first anatomical autopsy in Prague. On 1615, the Bohemian Estates decided to use Czech language only internally, not insisting it to be the official language.

Preceded by:
king Maxmillian I.
Bohemia flag.gif
Bohemian king
1575-1616
Succeeded by:
king Maxmillian II.
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