Birthday: March 10, 1503
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Ferdinand I
Born Country: Spain
Born in: Alcala de Henares, Spain
Famous as: King
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Anne of Bohemia and Hungary (m. 1521–1547)
father: Philip I of Castile
mother: Joanna of Castile
siblings: Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
children: Archduchess Anna of Austria, Archduchess Barbara of Austria, Archduchess Eleanor of Austria, archduchess helena, Archduchess Magdalena of Austria, archduchess margaret, Catherine of Austria; Queen of Poland, Charles II; Archduke of Austria, Elizabeth of Austria (1526–1545), Ferdinand II; Archduke of Austria, Joanna of Austria; Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Johann von Habsburg, John of Habsburg, Margarete Erzherzogin von Österreich, Maria of Austria; Duchess of Jülich-Cleves-Berg, Maximilian II, Ursula von Habsburg
Died on: July 25, 1564
place of death: Vienna, Austria
Who was Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor?
Ferdinand I (also known as Fernando I in Spanish) served as the Holy Roman Emperor from 1556 (coronation in 1558), the king of Bohemia and Hungary from 1526, and the king of Croatia from 1527, until his death in 1564. Prior to ascending to the throne, he was the ruler of the Austrian lands of the Habsburgs, in the name of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, who was his elder brother. He also built connections with many German princes. One of the most significant events during his reign was the constant conflict with the Ottoman Empire, which resulted in many religion-based wars. Through the ‘Peace of Augsburg’ (1555), he ended the religious conflicts in Germany. He allowed the territorial princes to fix the religion of their kingdoms. He turned the elected crowns of Bohemia and Hungary into hereditary properties of the house of Habsburg. Ferdinand thus made his land more cohesive, but he failed to conquer a large part of Hungary. He believed in the motto "Let justice be done, though the world perish." In spite of mostly remaining under the shadow of his brother, Charles V, Ferdinand eventually became one of the most efficient Habsburg rulers of the 16th century. He extended the kingdom of the Austrian Habsburgs and managed to restore peace in his empire after years of religious wars.
Childhood & Early Life
Ferdinand was born on March 10, 1503, in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. He was the second son of Queen Joanna I of Castile and Habsburg Archduke Philip the Handsome. His parents were staunch Catholics.
His father was the heir to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. His mother belonged to the House of Trastámara and was the daughter of Isabel I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon.
Ferdinand was named after his maternal grandfather, Ferdinand II of Aragon. He also shared his birthday with his grandfather.
He was educated in Spain and could not speak or write German when he was young.
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In 1518, Ferdinand was sent to Flanders after his brother, Charles, arrived in Spain (as King Charles I).
After the death of Ferdinand’s grandfather, Maximilian I, his brother, Charles, took to the throne as Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor (1519). Ferdinand was made responsible for governing the Austrian hereditary lands (present-day Austria and Slovenia).
He served as the Archduke of Austria from 1521 to 1564. Although he ruled under his brother, Ferdinand gathered influence in his land. He also built associations with several German territorial princes.
He represented Charles in German affairs for more than 3 decades and also served as the president of the ‘Reichsregiment’ (the imperial governmental council).
Initially, he followed all of Charles’s policies. Following his loss of Württemberg to Lutheran Philip the Magnanimous of Hesse (in 1534), he helped the emperor crush the ‘Protestant Schmalkaldic League’ in 1546–1547.
However, he became angry when Charles refused to reinstate him in the recaptured Württemberg. Charles tried to ensure that his son, Philip (the future Philip II of Spain), succeeded him instead.
Ferdinand thus decided to come out of the shadows of his brother’s rule. He was the imperial heir since 1531. In 1553, he finally made Charles agree to exclude Philip from the line of succession of the German throne. The throne was to be succeeded by Ferdinand’s son, who later became known as Maximilian II.
In 1552, Ferdinand signed the ‘Treaty of Passau’ with Lutheran elector Maurice of Saxony. In 1555, the ‘Peace of Augsburg’ was signed. It ensured peace among Germany’s religious factions for a long time.
Ferdinand was also largely successful in his foreign policies. After the death of his brother-in-law, King Louis II of Bohemia and Hungary, in 1526, Ferdinand wished to rule both the kingdoms.
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He took over Bohemia without much resistance. However, János Zápolya, claimed Hungary. Hungary was eventually divided among Ferdinand, Zápolya, and the Ottoman Empire.
In 1538, the ‘Peace of Nagyvárad’ (Grosswardein in German) was signed. Ferdinand succeeded Zápolya but could not execute the agreement during his lifetime.
The Ottoman Empire continued to threaten peace in Europe throughout Ferdinand’s reign. The Turks could not conquer Vienna in 1529 but were a threat Austria in 1532 and 1541.
Ferdinand did not get any assistance from the German princes, even after asking for help repeatedly. Finally, in 1562, he agreed to recognize the Turkish sultan (for Austria’s share of Hungary) and thus established peace.
He became the emperor in 1558, after Charles’s abdication. He had already taken control of Charles’s imperial functions by 1555.
Following this, the Habsburg lands were divided into easily governable Austrian and Spanish portions. Spain went to Philip and Germany was to be ruled by Ferdinand. Ferdinand, as the newly elected emperor, centralized his administration. Ferdinand then decided to restore Roman Catholicism in his kingdom.
The Peace of Augsburg
The ‘Peace of Augsburg’ was the first long-term legal deal for the coexistence of Lutheranism and Catholicism in the German kingdom. It was signed on September 25, 1555, by the Diet of the Holy Roman Empire, which had gathered earlier that year in Augsburg.
The deal allowed the state princes to select either Catholicism or Lutheranism as the religion of their lands and allowed emigration of residents who disagreed with the choice. It marked an end to the religious issues between the two factions, though it had no policies for other Protestant branches, such as Calvinism.
Charles V wished to stay away from the proceedings of the Diet when it started. Instead, he let Ferdinand deal with the matter. Exceptions were made in a few cases, such as in case of Lutheran knights. The Catholics opposed this, but Ferdinand managed the matters efficiently.
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The ‘Peace of Augsburg’ prevented internal conflicts for a long time, helping Germany regain peace.
The Siege of Vienna
Vienna was the capital of the Austrian Empire of the Hapsburgs. The Ottoman Empire’s failure to conquer Vienna spelled the end of the Turkish annexation of Europe. This was also one of the greatest events during Ferdinand’s time.
In 1529, Sultan Suleiman of the Ottoman Empire launched a campaign against Ferdinand, who was then the Archduke of Austria.
Suleiman reached Vienna in September that year. However, his army had been weakened by then. Moreover, heavy rains in October affected his forces adversely.
Austria defended the attacks efficiently. In late October, Suleiman launched a final attack, but this, too, was countered remarkably by Austria. By winter, Suleiman decided to retreat, as he had lost a lot of soldiers by then. This loss at Vienna forced Suleiman to go back to Ottoman Hungary. He made another failed attempt to conquer Vienna in 1532. Following this, he stopped thinking about conquering Europe.
Family & Personal Life
Ferdinand got married to Anne Jagiellonica (also known as Anna of Bohemia and Hungary) on May 26, 1521, in Linz, Austria, according to the terms of the ‘First Congress of Vienna.’ Anne was the daughter of King Vladislaus II of Bohemia and Hungary and Anne de Foix.
Ferdinand and Anne had 15 children. Two of them died in childhood.
He was succeeded by Maximilian II, his eldest son, after his death in Vienna in 1564. Ferdinand remains buried in ‘St. Vitus Cathedral’ in Prague.
Ferdinand has been seen as the main motif in many coins and medals. The Austrian silver Renaissance coin of €20, which was issued on June 12, 2002, featured him.