The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor

Detail of "Aeneas Piccolomini Introduces Eleonora of Portugal to Frederick III" by Pinturicchio (1454-1513)
Detail of "Aeneas Piccolomini Introduces Eleonora of Portugal to Frederick III" by Pinturicchio (1454-1513)

Frederick III of Habsburg (born September 21 in Innsbruck, 1415; died August 19, 1493 in Linz) was elected as German King as the successor of Albert II in 1440. He was the son of Duke Ernest the Iron from the Leopoldinian line of the Habsburg family ruling Inner Austria, i.e. Styria, Carinthia and Carniola, and of his wife Cymburgis of Masovia. As an Austrian Habsburg Duke, he was Frederick V since 1424, and Frederick IV as king , while he oly became Frederick III with his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor. He married only in 1452, when he was already 37, namely Princess Eleonore of Portugal , whose dowry helped him to alleviate his financial problems.

In 1446, he entered into the Vienna Concordate with the Holy See, which remained in force until 1806 and regulated the relationship between the Habsburgs and the Vatican.

Frederick was the last Emperor to be crowned in Rome, being crowned in 1452 by Pope Nicholas V. He opposed the reform of the Holy Roman Empire at that time and could barely prevent the electors from electing another king.

His politics were hardly spectecular but still successful. His first major opponent was his brother Albert VI, who challanged his rule. He did not manage to win a single conflict on the battlefield, and thus resorted to more subtle plans. He held his nephew Ladislaus Postumus, the ruler of Austria proper, Hungary and Bohemia, (born in 1440) as a prisoner and attempted to extend his guardianship over him in perpetuity to maintain his control over Lower Austria. Ladislaus was freed in 1452 by the Lower Austrian estates. He acted similarly towards his nephew Sigismund of the Tyrolian line of the Habsburg family. He failed to gain control over Hungary and Bohemia in spite, and was even defeated by the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus in 1485, who manged to reside in Vienna until his death in 1485. Ultimately, Frederick prevailed in all those conflicts by outliving his opponents and sometimes inheriting their lands from, such as in the case of Ladislaus Postumus, from whom he gained Lower Austria in 1457, and Albert VI, whom he succeeded in Upper Austria. These conflicts forced him to an anachronistic itinerent existence, as he had to move his court between various place through the years, residing in Graz, Linz and Wiener Neustadt. Wiener Neustadt owes him its castle and the "New Monastary".

Still, in some ways his policies were astonishingly successful. In the Siege of Neuss, he could force Charles the Bold of Burgundy to give his daughter Mary of Burgundy as wife to Frederick's son Maximilian. With the inheritance of Burgundy, the House of Habsburg began to rise to predominance in Europe. This gave rise to the saying "Let others wage wars, but you, happy Austria, shall marry", which became a motto of the dynasty.

The marriage of his daughter Kunigunde of Austria to Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria , was another result of intrigues and deception, but rather a defeat for Frederick. Albert had illegally taken control over some imperial fiefs, asked to marry Kunigunde (who lived in Innsbruck, far from her father) and offered the Emperor to give the fiefs to the daughter as a dowry. Frederick agreed, but withdrew his approval when Albert also took control of Regensburg. Before the daughter learned of this, Albert married her on January 2, 1487. A war could only be prevented by intermediation by the Emperor's son, Maximilian.

In some smaller issues, Frederick was quite successful: in 1469 he managed to establish bishoprics in Vienna and Wiener Neustadt, in which all previous Dukes of Austria had failed over the centuries.

Frederick died in a failed attempt to have his left leg amputated. His grave in the Cathedral of Saint Stephan in Vienna, built by Niclaes Gerhaert van Leyden , is one of the most important works of plastic art of the late middle ages

For the last ten years of Frederick's life, he and Maximilian ruled jointly.

Preceded by:
Albert II
King of Germany
Also Holy Roman Emperor
Succeeded by:
Maximilian I
Preceded by:
Ernest the Iron
Duke of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola
co-regent: Albert VI
Preceded by:
Ladislaus Postumus
Archduke of Austria
co-regent: Albert VI

Last updated: 02-04-2005 04:47:53
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55