Founding Of The House Of Hapsburg

Author:      Coxe, William

 

Founding Of The House Of Hapsburg

 

 

 

 

1273

 

     The house of Hapsburg - also called the house of Austria - owes its

origin and firm establishment to the most celebrated of the Hapsburgs, a

German princely family who derived their name from Hapsburg castle, built

about 1020, on the banks of the Aare in Switzerland.  This founder of the

imperial line was Rudolph, son of Albert IV, Count of Hapsburg and Landgrave

of Alsace.  Rudolph was born in 1218, and died at Germersheim, Germany, in

1291.  He succeeded his father in Hapsburg and Alsace in 1239, and in 1273 was

elected German King (Rudolph I), with the substance, though not the title, of

the imperial dignity of the Holy Roman Empire.

 

     It is said that the electors desired an emperor, but not the exercise of

imperial power, and that in Rudolph they saw a candidate of comparative

lowliness, from whom their authority stood in little jeopardy.  At the age of

fifty-five the new sovereign assumed his throne in the face of difficulty and

danger.  He was opposed by the Spanish claimant, Alfonso of Castile, and

confronted a formidable rival in Ottocar, King of Bohemia, whose contumacy

disturbed the reign of Rudolph from its very beginning.

 

     Rudolph's enemies had appealed against him to Pope Gregory X, and

Rudolph, in turn sought the ratification of the Pontiff, to whom, immediately

after his election, he sent messengers with a letter imploring papal

countenance.  From this moment to the day when he finally overcame Ottocar in

the field and secured the possessions which became hereditary in the house of

Hapsburg, the historian narrates the steps whereby Rudolph advanced in his

career.

 

     Fortunately for the interests of Rudolph and the peace of Germany,

Gregory X was prudent, humane, and generous, and from a long experience of

worldly affairs had acquired a profound knowledge of men and manners.  An

ardent zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith was the leading feature

of his character, and the object of his greatest ambition was to lead an army

of crusaders against the infidels.  To the accomplishment of this purpose he

directed his aims, and, like a true father of Christendom, was anxious to

appease instead of fomenting the troubles of Europe, and to consolidate the

union of the German states, which it had been the policy of his predecessors

to divide and disunite.  By the most insinuating address he knew how to

conciliate the affections of those who approached him, and to bend to his

purpose the most steady opposition; and he endeavored to gain by extreme

affability and the mildness of his deportment what his predecessors had

extorted by the most extravagant pretensions.

 

     The ambassadors of Rudolph were received with complacency by the Pope,

and obtained his sanction by agreeing, in the name of their master, to the

same conditions which Otho IV and Frederick II had sworn to observe; by

confirming all the donations of the emperors, his predecessors, to the papal

see; by promising to accept no office or dignity in any of the papal

territories, particularly in the city of Rome, without the consent of the

Pope; by agreeing not to disturb nor permit the house of Anjou to be disturbed

in the possession of Naples and Sicily, which they held as fiefs from the

Roman see; and by engaging to undertake in person a crusade against the

infidels.  In consequence of these concessions, Gregory gave the new King of

the Romans his most cordial support, refused to listen to the overtures of

Ottocar, and after much difficulty finally succeeded in persuading Alfonso to

renounce his pretensions to the imperial dignity.

 

     An interview in October, 1275, between Rudolph and Gregory at Lausanne,

concluded his negotiations with the Roman see, and gave rise to a personal

friendship between the heads of the Church and the empire, who were equally

distinguished for their frank and amiable qualities.  In this interview

Rudolph publicly ratified the articles which his ambassadors had concluded in

his name; the electors and princes who were present followed his example, and

Gregory again confirmed the election of Rudolph, on condition that he should

repair to Rome the following year to receive the imperial crown.  At the

conclusion of this ceremony the new Emperor, with his consort and the princes

of the empire, assumed the cross, and engaged to undertake a crusade against

the infidels.

 

     During the negotiations of Rudolph with Gregory X, Ottocar had exerted

himself to shake the authority of the new chief of the empire, and to

consolidate a confederacy with the German princes.  He not only rejected with

disdain all the proposals of accommodation made at the instances of Rudolph by

the judicious and conciliating Pontiff, but prevented the clergy of Bohemia

from contributing the tenths of their revenue or preaching the crusade.  He

endeavored to alarm the princes of the empire by displaying the views of the

new sovereign, to recover the imperial fiefs which they had appropriated

during the interregnum, and by his promises and intrigues succeeded in

attaching to his cause the Margrave of Baden and the counts of Freiburg,

Neuburg, and Montfort.  But he secured a still more powerful partisan in

Henry, Duke of Lower Bavaria, by fomenting the disputes between him and his

brother the Count Palatine, and by ceding to him Scharding and other places

wrested from Bavaria by the Duke of Austria.

 

     When summoned by Rudolph to do homage for his fiefs, according to the

custom of the empire, he returned a haughty answer, treating him as Count of

Hapsburg; a second summons was received with silent contempt; on a third he

sent his ambassador, the Bishop of Seccan, to the Diet of Augsburg; and his

example was followed by Henry of Bavaria.  These ministers were, however, only

deputed to raise a feigned contest relative to the vote of Henry and to

protest against the election of Rudolph.  The ambassador of Henry urged the

protest with moderation and respect; but the Bishop of Seccan delivered a

virulent invective against the chief of the empire, in a style conformable to

the spirit and character of his powerful and haughty master.  He declared that

the assembly in which Rudolph had been chosen was illegal; that the

arbitration of Louis of Bavaria was unprecedented; that a man excommunicated

by the Pope for plundering churches and convents was ineligible to the

imperial throne, and that his sovereign, who held his dominions by an

indisputable title, owed no homage to the Count of Hapsburg.

 

     As he spoke in the Latin tongue, the Emperor interrupted him with a

dignified rebuke.  "Bishop," he said, "if you were to harangue in an

ecclesiastical consistory, you might use the Latin tongue; but when

discoursing upon your rights and the rights of the princes of the empire, why

do you employ a language which the greater part of those who are present do

not comprehend?" The rebuke of the sovereign justly roused the indignation of

the assembly; the princes, and particularly the Elector Palatine, started from

their seats, and were scarcely prevented from employing violence, even by the

interposition of Rudolph; and the ambassadors, quitting the assembly, retired

from Augsburg.

 

     The diet, irritated by this insult, passed a decree asserting the

unanimity of Rudolph's election; they declared Ottocar guilty of contumacy;

required him to restore Austria, Carinthia, and Carniola, which he had

usurped, and to do homage for the remainder of his dominions.  In case of

refusal the ban of the empire was denounced against him, and supplies of men

and money were voted to support their sovereign, to assert the imperial

dignity, and to reduce the rebellious princes to obedience.  The Burgrave of

Nuremberg and the Bishop of Basel were despatched to Ottocar in the name of

the diet, to demand his instant acknowledgment of Rudolph as king of the

Romans, and the restitution of Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola.

 

     They accordingly repaired to Prague, and delivered their message.  "Tell

Rudolph," replied the spirited monarch, "that he may rule over the territories

of the empire, but I will not tamely yield those possessions which I have

acquired at the expense of so much blood and treasure; they are mine by

marriage, by purchase, or by conquest." He then broke out into bitter

invectives against Rudolph, and after tauntingly expressing his surprise that

a petty count of Hapsburg should have been preferred to so many powerful

candidates, dismissed the ambassadors with contempt.  In the heat of his

resentment he even violated the laws of nations, and put to death the heralds

who announced to him the resolutions of the diet and delivered the ban of the

empire.

 

     During this whole transaction Rudolph acted with becoming prudence and

extreme circumspection.  He had endeavored by the mildest methods to bring

Ottocar to terms of conciliation; and when all his overtures were received

with insult and contempt, and hostilities became inevitable, he did not seek a

distant war till he had obtained the full confirmation of the Pope and had

reestablished the peace of those parts of the empire which bordered on his own

dominions.  He first attacked the petty adherents of Ottocar, the Margrave of

Baden, and the counts of Freiburg, Montfort, and Neuburg, and, having

compelled them to do homage and to restore the fiefs which they had

appropriated during the preceding troubles, he prepared to turn his whole

force against the King of Bohemia, with a solicitude which the power and

talents of his formidable rival naturally inspired.

 

     The contest in which Rudolph was about to engage was of a nature to call

forth all his resources and talents.  Ottocar was a prince of high spirit,

great abilities, and distinguished military skill, which had been exercised in

constant warfare from his early youth.  By hereditary right he succeeded to

Bohemia and Moravia, and to these territories he had made continual additions

by his crusades against the Prussians, his contests with the kings of Hungary,

and still more by his recent acquisition of Austria, Carinthia, and Carniola.

 

     In the tenth century Austria, with both Styria and Carniola, under the

title of a margravate, was governed by Leopold I of the house of Bamberg.  It

continued in the possession of his family, and in 1156 was erected into an

independent duchy by the emperor Frederick II, and conferred on Henry, fifth

in descent from Leopold, as an indivisible and inalienable fief; in failure of

male issue it was made descendible to his eldest daughter, and, in failure of

female issue, disposable by will.  In 1245 Frederick the Warlike, last duke of

the Bamberg line, obtained a confirmation of this decree; but, dying in the

ensuing year without issue and without disposing of his territories by will, a

dispute arose relative to his succession.  The claimants were his two sisters,

Margaret, widow of Henry VII, King of the Romans, and Constantia, wife of

Henry the Illustrious, Margrave of Misnia; and his niece Gertrude, daughter of

Henry, his elder brother, the wife of Premislaus, eldest son of Wenceslaus,

King of Bohemia and brother of Ottocar.  But on the plea that neither of the

claimants was a daughter of the last Duke, the Emperor Frederick II

sequestrated these territories as fiefs escheating to the empire, and

transferred the administration to Otho, Count of Werdenberg, who took

possession of the country and resided in Vienna.

 

     As this event happened during the contest between the see of Rome and the

house of Swabia, Innocent IV, who had deposed and excommunicated Frederick,

laid Austria under an interdict, and encouraged the kings of Bohemia and

Hungary and the Duke of Bavaria to invade the country.  The Pope first

patronized the claims of Margaret, and urged her to marry a German prince; but

on her application to the Emperor to bestow the duchy on her eldest son

Frederick, he supported Gertrude, who, after the death of Premislaus, had

espoused Herman, Margrave of Baden, nephew of Otho, Duke of Bavaria, and

induced the anticaesar, William of Holland, to grant him the investiture.

 

     On the demise of Frederick II his son Conrad was too much occupied with

the affairs of Italy to attend to those of Germany; the imperial troops

quitted Austria, and, Herman dying, Otho of Bavaria occupied that part of

Austria which lies above the Ems.  But Wenceslaus of Bohemia, prevailing on

the states to choose his eldest surviving son Ottocar as their sovereign,

under the condition that he should espouse Margaret, expelled the Bavarians

and took possession of the whole country.  Gertrude fled to Bela, King of

Hungary, whose uncle Roman, a Russian prince, she married, and ceded to him

her pretensions on Styria, on condition that he should assert her right to

Austria.  A war ensued between Ottocar and the King of Hungary, in which

Ottocar, being defeated, was compelled to cede part of Styria to Stephen, son

of Bela, and a small district of that country was appropriated for the

maintenance of Gertrude.  But the Hungarian governors being guilty of the most

enormous exactions the natives of Styria rose and transferred their allegiance

to Ottocar, who secured that duchy by defeating Bela at Cressenbrum, and by

the treaty of peace which followed that victory.  Ottocar had scarcely

obtained possession of Styria before he deprived Gertrude of her small

pittance, and the unfortunate princess took refuge from his tyranny in a

convent of Misnia.  Having thus secured Austria and Styria, and ascended the

throne of Bohemia, Ottocar divorced Margaret, who was much older than himself;

and to acquire that right of succession of Frederick the Warlike which he had

lost by this separation from his wife he, in 1262, procured from Richard of

Cornwall the investiture of Austria, Styria, and Carniola, as fiefs devolved

to the empire.  He either promised or gave compensation to Agnes, daughter of

Gertrude by Herman of Baden, and to Henry, Margrave of Misnia, husband of

Constantia.

 

     Ottocar next purchased of Ulric, Duke of Carinthia and Carniola, who had

no issue, the right of succeeding to those duchies on his death.  In the deed

of transfer, instituted December, 1268, Ulric describes himself as without

heirs; although his brother Philip, Archbishop of Salzburg, was still living.

On the death of Ulric, in 1269 or 1270, Ottocar took possession of those

duchies, defeated Philip, who asserted his claims, and forced the natives to

submit to his authority.

 

     By these accessions of territory, Ottocar became the most powerful prince

of Europe, for his dominions extended from the confines of Bavaria to Raab in

Hungary, and from the Adriatic to the shores of the Baltic.  On the contrary,

the hereditary possessions of Rudolph were comparatively inconsiderable,

remote from the scene of contest, and scattered at the foot of the Alps and in

the mountains of Alsace and Swabia; and though head of the empire, he was

seated on a tottering throne, and feebly supported by the princes of Germany,

who raised him to that exalted dignity to render him their chief rather in

name than in power.

 

     Although the princes and states of the empire had voted succors, many had

failed in their promised assistance, and, had the war been protracted, those

few would have infallibly deserted a cause in which their own interests were

not materially concerned.  The wise but severe regulations of Rudolph for

extirpating the banditti, demolishing the fortresses of the turbulent barons,

and recovering the fiefs which several of the princes had unjustly

appropriated, excited great discontent.  Under these circumstances the

powerful and imperious Ottocar cannot be deemed rash for venturing to contend

with a petty count of Switzerland, whom he compared to those phantoms of

sovereignty, William of Holland and Richard of Cornwall, or that he should

conclude a king of Bohemia to be more powerful than an emperor.  The event,

however, showed that he had judged too hastily of his own strength and of

Rudolph's comparative weakness, and proved that, when the reins of government

were held by an able hand, the resources of the empire were still

considerable, and its enmity an object of terror.

 

     Rudolph derived considerable support from his sons-in-law the Electors of

Palatine and Saxony, and from the Elector of Brandenburg; the Burgrave of

Nuremberg, the nobles of Alsace and Swabia, and the citizens and mountaineers

of Switzerland.  Having made the necessary preparations, he, with a judicious

policy, turned his attention to those princes who, from the vicinity of their

dominions, were in a state of continual enmity or warfare with the King of

Bohemia.  He concluded a treaty with Ladislaus, King of Hungary, and

strengthened the bond of union by betrothing his daughter to Andrew, Duke of

Slavonia and brother of Ladislaus.  He entered into an alliance with Meinhard,

Count of Tyrol, which he cemented by the marriage of his eldest son Albert

with Elizabeth, daughter of Meinhard.  But his views were still more promoted

by the general discontent which pervaded every part of the Austrian dominions,

and by the anathemas of Philip, titular Duke of Carinthia and Archbishop of

Salzburg, who absolved the people of his diocese from their oath of

allegiance, and exhorted them to shake off the yoke of a tyrant and receive

the chief of the empire.

 

     The prelate made repeated exhortations to Rudolph to hasten his

expedition.  He drew a hideous picture of Ottocar's oppressions; expatiated on

the discontents of the natives, and their inveterate hatred to the Bohemians,

and used all his eloquence to encourage the King of the Romans to invade the

country.  "I observe," he says, "the countenances of your adversaries pale

with terror; their strength is withered; they fear you unknown; your image is

terrible in their imaginations; and they tremble even at the very mention of

your name.  How will they act, and how will they tremble when they hear the

voice of the approaching thunder, when they see the imperial eagles rushing

down on them like the flash of the lightning!"

 

     The plan formed by Rudolph for the prosecution of the war was calculated

to divide the forces and distract the attention of Ottocar.  He himself was to

penetrate into Bohemia, while his son was to invade Austria, and Meinhard of

Tyrol to make a diversion on the side of Styria.  To oppose this threatened

invasion, Ottocar assembled a considerable army, sent a reenforcement to Henry

of Bavaria, augmented the garrison of Klosterneuburg, a fortress deemed

impregnable, fortified Vienna, and despatched a considerable party of his army

toward Teppel to secure his frontier; but resigning himself to supineness and

careless security, he passed that time, which should have been employed in

repressing the discontented by his presence and rousing the courage of his

troops, in hunting and courtly diversions.

 

     Rudolph, apprised of these dispositions, changed his plan, marched

against Henry of Bavaria, and compelled him, by force of arms, to desert the

Bohemian alliance.  He meditated a reconciliation between the Duke and his

brother the Count Palatine, and, to secure his cooperation, gave his daughter

Hedwige in marriage to Otho, son of Henry, with the promise of assigning a

part of Upper Austria as a pledge of her portion.  This success opened to him

a way into Austria.  Accompanied by Henry with a reenforcement of one thousand

horses, he traversed Lower Bavaria, by Ratisbon and Passau; overran that part

of Austria which lies to the south of the Danube, without resistance, was

received with joy by the natives, and rapidly marched toward Vienna.

 

     This well-concerted expedition bore rather the appearance of a journey

than a conquest, and Ottocar, awakened from his lethargy, received the

intelligence with astonishment and terror.  He now found even his ally Henry,

in whose assistance he had confided, serving with his enemies, his Austrian

territories invaded by a powerful army, the people hailing the King of the

Romans as their deliverer, and the adversary, who he had despised and

insulted, in the very heart of his dominions.  In these circumstances he

recalled his army from Teppel, and led them through the woods and mountains of

Bohemia to Drosendorf, on the frontiers of Austria, with the hope of saving

the capital.  But his troops being harassed by the fatigues of this long and

difficult march, and distressed for want of provisions, he was unable to

continue his progress, while Rudolph, advancing along the southern bank of the

Danube, made himself master of Klosterneuburg by stratagem, and encamped under

the walls of Vienna.  Here, being joined by Meinhard of Tyrol, who had overrun

Styria and Carinthia, and drawn the natives to his standard, he laid siege to

the city.  The garrison and people, who were warmly attached to Ottocar and

encouraged with the hopes of speedy relief, held out for five weeks; at length

the want of provisions and the threats of Rudolph to destroy the vineyards

excited a small tumult among the people, and the governor proposed a

capitulation.

 

     During this time the discontents in Ottocar's army increased with their

increasing distress; he was threatened by the approach of the Hungarians

toward the Austrian frontiers; he saw his own troops alarmed, dispirited, and

mutinous; and he was aware that on the surrender of the capital Rudolph had

prepared a bridge of boats to cross the Danube and carry the war into Bohemia.

In this situation, surrounded by enemies, embarrassed by increasing

difficulties, deserted or opposed by his nobles, his haughty spirit was

compelled to bend; he sued for peace, and the conditions were arranged by the

arbitration of the Bishop of Olmuetz, the Elector Palatine, and the Burgrave

of Nuremberg.  It was agreed, on the 22d of November, 1276, that the sentence

of excommunication and deprivation which had been pronounced against Ottocar

and his adherents should be revoked; that he should renounce all his claims to

Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, and Windischmark; that he should take

the oath of allegiance, do homage for the remainder of his territories to the

head of the empire, and should receive the investiture of Bohemia, Moravia,

and his other fiefs.  An article was also inserted, by which Ottocar promised

to deliver up to Ladislaus, King of Hungary, all the places wrested from him

in that kingdom.  To cement this union a double marriage was to be concluded

between a son and daughter of each of the two sovereigns; Rudolph engaged to

give a portion of forty thousand marks of silver to his daughter, and, as a

pledge for the payment, assigned to Ottocar a part of that district of Austria

which lies beyond the Danube.  The peace being concluded, the city of Vienna

opened its gates and readily acknowledged the new sovereign.

 

     Ottocar was obliged to submit to these humiliating conditions, and on the

25th of November, the day appointed for doing homage, crossed the Danube with

a large escort of Bohemian nobles to the camp of Rudolph, and was received by

the King of the Romans, in the presence of several princes of the empire.

With a depressed countenance and broken spirit, which he was unable to conceal

from the bystanders, he made a formal resignation of his pretensions to

Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola, and, kneeling down, did homage to

his rival, and obtained the investiture of Bohemia and Moravia, with the

accustomed ceremonies.

 

     Rudolph, having thus secured these valuable provinces, took possession of

them as fiefs reverted to the empire, and issued a decree placing them under

the government of Louis of Bavaria as vicar-general to the empire, in case of

his death or during an interregnum.  He at the same time established his

family in the Austrian dominions, by persuading the Archbishop of Salzburg and

the bishops of Passau, Freising, and Bamberg to confer on his sons, Albert,

Hartman, and Rudolph, the ecclesiastical fiefs held by the dukes of Austria.

His next care was to maintain the internal peace of those countries by

salutary regulations; and he gained the affection of the nobles by confirming

their privileges and permitting them to rebuild the fortresses which Ottocar

had demolished.  To superintend the execution of these regulations he fixed

his residence at Vienna, where he was joined by his Queen and family.

 

     In order to reward his retainers he was, however, compelled to lay

considerable impositions on his new subjects, and to obtain free gifts from

the bishop and clergy; and the discontents arising from these measures

probably induced Ottocar to attempt the recovery of the territories which he

had lost.

 

     Although the King of Bohemia had taken leave of Rudolph with the

strongest professions of friendship, and at different intervals had renewed

his assurances of unalterable harmony, yet the humiliating conditions which he

had subscribed, and the loss of such valuable provinces, filled him with

resentment; his lofty spirit was still further inflamed by his queen

Cunegunda, a princess of an imperious temper, who stimulated her husband with

continual reproaches.  He accordingly raised obstacles to the execution of the

treaty, and neglected to comply with many of the conditions to which he had

agreed.

 

     Rudolph, desirous to avoid a rupture, despatched his son Albert to

Prague. Ottocar received him with affected demonstrations of friendship, and

even bound himself by oath to fulfil the articles of the peace.  But Albert

had scarcely retired from Prague before Ottocar immured in a convent the

daughter he had promised to one of the sons of Rudolph, and sent a letter to

the King of the Romans, filled with the most violent invectives, and charging

him with a perfidious intention of renewing the war.

 

     Rudolph returned a dignified answer to these reproaches, and prepared for

the renewal of the contest which he saw was inevitable.  He instantly

reoccupied that part of Austria which he had yielded to Ottocar as a pledge

for the portion of his daughter.  He also obtained succors from the Archbishop

of Salzburg, the bishops of Passau, Ratisbon, and the neighboring prelates and

princes, and collected levies from Austria and Styria for the protection of

Vienna.  In an interview at Hainburg, on the frontiers of Austria, with

Ladislaus, King of Hungary, he adopted that Prince as his son, and concluded

with him an offensive and defensive alliance.  Unwilling, however, to trust

his hopes and fortune to his new subjects, many of whom were ready to desert

him, or to allies whose fidelity and attachment were doubtful, he applied to

the princes of the German empire, but had the mortification to be disappointed

in his expectations.  He was joined by a few only of the inferior princes; but

many who had not taken part in the former war were still less inclined to

support him on the present occasion; several gained by Ottocar either remained

neutral or took part against him; those who expressed an inclination to serve

him delayed sending their succors, and he derived no assistance even from his

sons-in-law the Electors of Palatine and Saxony.

 

     On the other hand, he was threatened with the most imminent danger, for

Ottocar, who during the peace had prepared the means of gratifying his

vengeance, had formed a league with Henry of Bavaria, had purchased either the

neutrality or assistance of many of the German princes, had drawn auxiliaries

from the chiefs of Poland, Bulgaria, Pomerania, and Magdeburg, and from the

Teutonic hordes on the shores of the Baltic.  He had also excited a party

among the turbulent nobles of Hungary, and spread disaffection among his

former subjects in Austria and Styria.  In June he quitted Prague, effected a

junction with his allies, directing his march toward the frontiers of Austria,

carried Drosendorf, after a short siege, by storm, and, descending along the

banks of the Taya, invested the fortress of Laa.

 

     Rudolph, convinced that his cause would suffer by delay, waited with

great impatience the arrival of a body of troops from Alsace, under the

command of his son Albert.  But as these troops did not arrive at the

appointed time he was greatly agitated and disturbed, became pensive and

melancholy, and frequently exclaimed that there was not one in whom he could

confide or on whose advice he could depend.  His household and attendants

partook of his despondency.  To use the words of a contemporary chronicle,

"All the family of King Rudolph ran to confessors, arranged their affairs,

forgave their enemies, and received the communion, for a mortal danger seemed

to hang over them." The citizens of Vienna caught the contagion and began to

be alarmed for their safety.  Seeing him almost abandoned by his German

allies, and without a sufficient army to oppose his adversaries, they

requested his permission to capitulate and choose a new sovereign, that they

might not be involved in his ruin.  Roused from his despondency by this

address, Rudolph prevailed on the citizens not to desert their sovereign; he

confirmed their privileges, declared Vienna an imperial city, animated them

with new spirit, and obtained from them a promise to defend the ramparts to

the last extremity.

 

     At this period he was joined by some troops from Alsace and Swabia, and

particularly by his confidant and confessor, the Bishop of Basel, at the head

of one hundred chosen horse, and a body of expert slingers.  This small but

timely reenforcement revived his confidence, and although he was privately

informed that his son Albert could not supply him with further succors, and

was advised not to hazard an engagement with an enemy so superior in number,

he resolved to commit his fortune to the decision of arms.  Turning then to

the chosen body newly arrived, he addressed them with a spirit which could not

fail of inspiring them with courage, and gave at the same time the most

flattering testimony to their zeal and fidelity.  "Remain," he said, "one day

at Vienna, and refresh yourselves after the fatigues of your march, and we

will then take the field.  You shall be the guard of my person, and I trust

that God, who has advanced me to this dignity, will not forsake me in the hour

of danger."

 

     Three days after the arrival of the Bishop of Basel Rudolph quitted

Vienna, marched along the southern bank of the Danube, to Hainburg, crossed

that river, and advanced to Marcheck, on the banks of the March or Morava,

where he was joined by the Styrians and Carinthians, and the forces led by the

King of Hungary.  He instantly despatched two thousand of his Hungarian

auxiliaries to reconnoitre and interrupt the operations of his adversary. They

fulfilled their orders with spirit and address, for Ottocar, roused by their

insults, broke up his camp, and marched to Jedensberg, within a short distance

of Weidendorf, whither Rudolph had advanced.

 

     While the two armies continued in this situation, some traitors repaired

to the camp of Rudolph and proposed to assassinate Ottocar, but Rudolph, with

his characteristic magnanimity, rejecting this offer, apprised Ottocar of the

danger with which he was threatened, and made overtures of reconciliation. The

King of Bohemia, confident in the superiority of his force, deemed the

intelligence a fabrication and the proposals of Rudolph a proof of weakness,

and disdainfully refused to listen to any negotiation.

 

     Finding all hopes of accommodation frustrated, Rudolph prepared for a

conflict, in which, like Caesar, he was not to fight for victory alone, but

for life.  At the dawn of day, August 26, 1278, his army was drawn up, crossed

the rivulet which gives name to Weidendorf, and approached the camp of

Ottocar.  He ordered his troops to advance in a crescent, and attack at the

same time both flanks and the front of the enemy, and then, turning to his

soldiers, exhorted them to avenge the violation of the most solemn compacts

and the insulted majesty of the empire, and by the efforts of that day to put

an end to the tyranny, the horrors, and the massacres to which they had been

so long exposed.  He had scarcely finished before the troops rushed to the

charge, and a bloody conflict ensued, in which both parties fought with all

the fury that the presence and exertions of their sovereigns or the magnitude

of the cause in which they were engaged could inspire.  At length the imperial

troops gained the advantage, but in the very moment of victory the life of him

on whom all depended was exposed to the most imminent danger.

 

     Several knights of superior strength and courage, animated by the rewards

and promises of Ottocar, had confederated either to kill or take the King of

the Romans.  They rushed forward to the place where Rudolph, riding among the

foremost ranks, was encouraging and leading his troops, and Herbot of

Fullenstein, a Polish knight, giving spurs to his horse, made the first

charge.  Rudolph, accustomed to this species of combat, eluded the stroke,

and, piercing his antagonist under his beaver, threw him dead to the ground.

The rest followed the example of the Polish warrior, but were all slain,

except Valens, a Thuringian knight of gigantic stature and strength, who,

reaching the person of Rudolph, pierced his horse in the shoulder, and threw

him wounded to the ground.  The helmet of the King was beaten off by the

shock, and being unable to rise under the weight of his armor he covered his

head with his shield, till he was rescued by Berchtold Capillar, the commander

of the corps of reserve, who, cutting his way through the enemy, flew to his

assistance.  Rudolph mounted another horse, and, heading the corps of reserve,

renewed the charge with fresh courage, and his troops, animated by his

presence and exertions, completed the victory.

 

     Ottocar himself fought with no less intrepidity than his great

competitor.  On the total rout of his troops he disdained to quit the field,

and, after performing incredible feats of valor, was overpowered by numbers,

dismounted, and taken prisoner.  He was instantly stripped of his armor, and

killed by some Austrian and Styrian nobles whose relations he had put to

death.  The discomfited remains of his army, pursued by the victors, were

either taken prisoners, cut to pieces, or drowned in their attempts to pass

the March; and above fourteen thousand perished in this decisive engagement.

 

     Rudolph continued on the field till the enemy were totally routed and

dispersed.  He endeavored to restrain the carnage, and sent messengers to save

the life of Ottocar, but his orders arrived too late, and when he received an

account of his death he generously lamented his fate.  He did ample justice to

the valor and spirit of Ottocar; in his letter to the Pope, after having

described the contest and the resolution displayed by both parties either to

conquer or die, he adds: "At length our troops prevailing drove the Bohemians

into the neighboring river, and almost all were either cut to pieces, drowned,

or taken prisoners.  Ottocar, however, after seeing his army discomfited and

himself left alone, still would not submit to our conquering standards, but,

fighting with the strength and spirit of a giant, defended himself with

wonderful courage, until he was unhorsed and mortally wounded by some of our

soldiers. Then that magnanimous monarch lost his life at the same time with

the victory, and was overthrown, not by our power and strength, but by the

right hand of the Most High."

 

     The body of Ottocar, deformed with seventeen wounds, was borne to Vienna,

and, after being exposed to the people, was embalmed, covered with a purple

pall, the gift of the Queen of the Romans, and buried in a Franciscan convent.

 

     The plunder of the camp was immense, and Rudolph, apprehensive lest the

disputes of the booty and the hope of new spoils should occasion a contest

between his followers and the Hungarians, dismissed his warlike but barbarous

allies with acknowledgments for their services, and pursued the war with his

own forces.  He took possession of Moravia without opposition, and advanced

into Bohemia as far as Colin.

 

     The recent wars, the total defeat of the army, and the death of Ottocar

had rendered that country a scene of rapine and desolation.  Wenceslaus, his

only son, was scarcely eight years of age; and the Queen Cunegunda, a foreign

princess, was without influence or power; the turbulent nobles, who had

scarcely submitted to the vigorous administration of Ottocar, being without

check or control, gave full scope to their licentious spirit; the people were

unruly and rebellious, and not a single person in the kingdom possessed

sufficient authority to assume and direct the reins of government.  In this

dreadful situation Cunegunda appealed to the compassion of Rudolph, and

offered to place her infant son and the kingdom under his protection.  In the

midst of these transactions Otho, Margrave of Brandenburg and nephew of

Ottocar, marched into Bohemia at the head of a considerable army, took charge

of the royal treasures, secured the person of Wenceslaus, and advanced against

the King of the Romans.

 

     Rudolph, weakened by the departure of the Hungarians and thwarted by the

princes of the empire, was too prudent to trust his fortune to the chance of

war; he listened therefore to overtures of peace, and an accommodation was

effected by arbitration.  He was to retain possession of the Austrian

provinces, and to hold Moravia for five years, as an indemnification for the

expenses of the war; Wenceslaus was acknowledged King of Bohemia, and during

his minority the regency was assigned to Otho; Rudolph, second son of the

Emperor, was to espouse the Bohemian princess Agnes; and his two daughters,

Judith and Hedwige, were affianced to the King of Bohemia and to Otho the

Less, brother of the Margrave.  In consequence of this agreement Rudolph

withdrew from Bohemia, and in 1280 returned to Vienna in triumph.  Being

delivered from the most powerful of his enemies, and relieved from all further

apprehensions by the weak and distracted state of Bohemia, he directed his

principal aim to secure the Austrian territories for his own family.  With

this view he compelled Henry of Bavaria, under the pretext of punishing his

recent connection with Ottocar, to cede Austria above the Ems, and to accept

in return the districts of Scharding, Neuburg, and Freistadt as the dowry of

his wife.

 

     But, though master of all the Austrian territories, he experienced great

difficulties in transferring them to his family.  Some claimants of the

Bamberg line still existed: Agnes, daughter of Gertrude and wife of Ulric of

Heunburg, and the two sons of Constantia by Albert of Misnia.  Those provinces

were likewise coveted by Louis, Count Palatine of the Rhine, and by his

brother Henry of Bavaria, as having belonged to their ancestors, and by

Meinhard of Tyrol, from whom he had derived such essential assistance, in

virtue of his marriage with Elizabeth, widow of the emperor Conrad and sister

of the Dukes of Bavaria.  The Misnian princes, however, having received a

compensation from Ottocar, withheld their pretensions, and Rudolph purchased

the acquiescence of Agnes and her husband by a sum of money and a small

cession of territory.  He likewise eluded the demands of the Bavarian princes

and of Meinhard by referring them to the decision of the German diet.  In the

mean time he conciliated, by acts of kindness and liberality, his new

subjects, and obtained from the states of the duchy a declaration that all the

lands possessed by Frederick the Warlike belonged to the Emperor, or to

whomsoever he should grant them as fiefs, saving the rights of those who

within a given time should prosecute their claims.  He then intrusted his son

Albert with the administration, convoked, on August 9, 1281, a diet at

Nuremberg, at which he presided in person, and obtained a decree annulling all

the acts and deeds of Richard of Cornwall and his predecessors, since the

deposition of Frederick II, except such as had been approved by a majority of

the electors.  In consequence of this decree another was passed specifically

invalidating the investiture of the Austrian provinces, which in 1262 was

obtained from Richard of Cornwall by Ottocar.

 

     Carinthia having been unjustly occupied by Ottocar, in contradiction to

the rights of Philip, Archbishop of Salzburg, brother of Ulric, the last duke,

the claims of Philip were acknowledged by Rudolph, and he took his seat at the

Diet of Augsburg as Duke of Carinthia.  On the conquest of that duchy he

petitioned for the investiture, but Rudolph delayed complying with his request

under various pretences, and, Philip dying without issue in 1279, the duchy

escheated to the empire as a vacant fief.

 

     Rudolph, being at length in peaceable possession of these territories,

gradually obtained the consent of the electors, and at the Diet of Augsburg,

in December, 1282, conferred jointly on his two sons, Albert and Rudolph,

Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola.  But at their desire he afterward

resumed Carinthia, and bestowed it on Meinhard of Tyrol, to whom he had

secretly promised a reward for his services, and in 1286 obtained the consent

of the electors to this donation.  By the request of the states of Austria

(1283), he declared that duchy and Styria an inalienable and indivisible

domain to be held on the same terms, and with the same rights and privileges,

as possessed by the ancient dukes, Leopold and Frederick the Warlike, and

vested the sole administration in Albert, assigning a specific revenue to

Rudolph and his heirs, if he did not obtain another sovereignty within the

space of four years.

 

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