Rudolf II Habsburg was an emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, king of Bohemia, and king of Hungary.
He was born in Vienna on July 18, 1552, and died in Prague on January 20, 1612. His father was Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor, king of Bohemia, king of Hungary; his mother was Maria, a daughter of Charles V.
Rudolf was the first son and successor of Maximillian. Acceding to the Habsburg lands, he reversed his father's tolerant policy toward Protestantism and gave assistance to the Counter-Reformation. Although Rudolf was a learned man, he was incapable of ruling because he was plagued by melancholy and later became subject to occasional fits of insanity. Other members of his family began to intervene in imperial affairs.
Following a revolt in Hungary (1604-6) by Stephen Bocskay and his Ottoman allies, most of the actual ruling power passed to Rudolf's brother Matthias; the revolt was provoked by Rudolf's attempt to impose Roman Catholicism in Hungary. In 1608, Matthias forced Rudolf to cede Hungary, Austria, and Moravia to him. Seeking to gain the support of the Bohemian estates, Rudolf issued a royal charter called the Majestšt in 1609 that guaranteed religious freedom to the nobles and cities. This effort was in vain, and Rudolf was forced to give up Bohemia to Matthias in 1611. Rudolf's turbulent reign was a prelude to the Thirty Years' War.
Rudolf II was one of the most eccentric European monarchs of that or any other period. Rudolf collected dwarfs and had a regiment of giants in his army. He was surrounded by astrologers, and he was fascinated by games and codes and music. He was typical of the occult-oriented noblemen of this period and epitomized the liberated northern European prince. He was a patron of alchemy and supported the printing of alchemical literature.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04