Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor Biography

(Holy Roman Emperor)

Birthday: July 9, 1578 (Cancer)

Born In: Graz, Austria

Ferdinand II was a member of the House of Habsburg and served as the Holy Roman Emperor (1619–1637), the king of Bohemia (1617–1619 and 1620–1637), and the king of Hungary (1618–1637). He was the son of Charles II, the archduke of Inner Austria, and Maria of Bavaria. His primary conflict began when the Protestant Bohemians overthrew him and elected Frederick V as their new king in 1619. This marked the beginning of a long battle known as the Thirty Years’ War. He was supported by the forces of Count of Tilly Johann Tserclaes; Maximilian I, duke of Bavaria; and Bohemian general Albrecht von Wallenstein. In 1629, he introduced the ‘Edict of Restitution,’ forcing Protestants to return all church property acquired since the 1552 ‘Peace of Passau.’ Though the Protestants gathered the support of the king of Sweden, Gustavus II Adolphus, the Catholics won the Battle of Nördlingen. Ferdinand II then signed the ‘Peace of Prague’ in 1635 and elected his son, Ferdinand III, as his successor. He died at the age of 58 and remains buried in Graz, Austria. His heart was buried separately in the ‘Augustinian Church.’
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Ferdinand II

Died At Age: 58


Spouse/Ex-: Eleonora Gonzaga, Maria Anna of Bavaria

father: Charles II, Archduke of Austria

mother: Maria Anna of Bavaria

siblings: Anne of Austria, Archduchess Catherine Renata of Austria, Archduchess Eleanor of Austria, Archduchess Gregoria Maximiliana of Austria, Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, Archduchess Maria Maddalena of Austria, Archduke Maximilian Ernest of Austria, Archduke of Austria, Bishop of Wroclaw, Charles of Austria, Constance of Austria, Leopold V, Margaret of Austria, Queen of Poland, Queen of Spain

children: Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, Archduke John Charles of Austria, Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, Cecilia Renata of Austria, Christine von Habsburg, Ferdinand III, Holy Roman Emperor, Jan Karel Habsburský, Karl von Habsburg

Born Country: Austria

Emperors & Kings Austrian Men

Died on: February 15, 1637

place of death: Vienna, Austria

City: Graz, Austria

More Facts

education: University of Ingolstadt

awards: Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece

  • 1

    What was Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor known for?

    Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor was known for leading the Counter-Reformation in the Holy Roman Empire and for his role in the Thirty Years' War.
  • 2

    How did Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor impact the religious landscape of Europe?

    Ferdinand II played a significant role in promoting Catholicism and suppressing Protestantism during the Counter-Reformation, leading to religious conflicts in Europe.
  • 3

    What was the Defenestration of Prague and its connection to Ferdinand II?

    The Defenestration of Prague was an event in 1618, where Protestant nobles threw two Catholic officials out of a window, sparking the Thirty Years' War, which was fueled by Ferdinand II's policies.

  • 4

    How did Ferdinand II consolidate his power as Holy Roman Emperor?

    Ferdinand II consolidated his power by centralizing authority, promoting Catholicism, and suppressing Protestantism in the Holy Roman Empire, often through military force.

  • 5

    What was the impact of the Peace of Westphalia on Ferdinand II's reign?

    The Peace of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years' War, significantly weakened Ferdinand II's authority and the power of the Holy Roman Empire, marking a turning point in European history.
Childhood & Early Years
Ferdinand II was born on July 9, 1578, in Graz, Styria (present-day Austria), to Charles II, the archduke of Austria, and Maria of Bavaria.
Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, was his paternal grandfather. Ferdinand II’s father, Charles II, ruled Inner Austria (Styria, Carniola, and Carinthia). His mother, Maria of Bavaria, was his father’s niece. She was the daughter of Albert (or Albrecht) V, the duke of Bavaria, and Charles II's sister Anna.
Ferdinand II was mostly educated by his mother. He initially attended the Jesuits' school in Graz and matriculated at the tender age of 8. Three years later, a separate place was arranged for his stay.
His parents did not want him to be associated with the Lutheran Styrian nobles. He was thus sent to Ingolstadt to study at the Jesuits' college in Bavaria. Thus, in early 1590, he left Graz. Following this, his maternal uncle, William V, Duke of Bavaria, became in-charge of his education.
He studied at the ‘University of Ingolstadt’ from 1590 to 1595 and was trained to turn into a rigid Catholic ruler. In 1596, he assumed power over his hereditary lands.
Following a pilgrimage to Loreto and Rome, he decided to crush Protestantism by forcing his subjects to convert to Roman Catholicism. In 1602, he expelled Protestant preachers from Styria and destroyed most of their churches.
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Early Reign
Ferdinand II stayed away from the conflict between his cousins, Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II and his brother Matthias.
He, however, managed to get the approval of the Spanish Habsburg rulers to succeed Matthias, who was childless. In exchange, he signed a secret treaty in 1617, which promised to give away Alsace and the fiefs in Italy to them. The same year, Ferdinand II became the king of Bohemia.
In 1618, he became the king of Hungary. However, on May 23 (22, according to some sources), 1618, Jindřich Matyáš Thurn, one of the two Czech rebels who had refused to accept Ferdinand II's succession, led his forces to the ‘Prague Castle.’
They held two governors and a secretary captive and threw them out of the window of the castle. This was the ‘Second Defenestration of Prague,’ which gave rise to a new revolt. Soon, the Protestants decided to form a provisional government.
The following year, the mostly Protestant diet of Bohemia dethroned Ferdinand II and elected Frederick V as their king. This spelled the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War. Though Ferdinand II was made the Holy Roman Emperor on August 28, 1619, he only received support from Poland, Spain, and a few German princes.
The Thirty Years' War
On November 8, 1620, his troops, headed by Flemish general Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, with the help of Maximilian I, duke of Bavaria, crushed Frederick V’s rebel forces at the White Mountain, close to Prague.
Initially, the war was confined to Germany but later, the French intervened and made it a European issue. Frederick V escaped to the Netherlands. The Protestants of both Upper and Lower Austria were forced to covert.
In 1625, in spite of receiving financial help from Spain and the Pope, Ferdinand II was financially drained. He still decided to strengthen his army and appealed to Albrecht von Wallenstein, who was one Bohemia’s wealthiest men. Wallenstein accepted his appeal on the condition that he should be allowed to control the direction of the war and should have authority over the wealth looted during the war. Wallenstein gathered around 30,000 men (which later increased to 100,000) and was able to crush the Protestants in Silesia, Anhalt, and Denmark.
In 1629, Ferdinand II’s ‘Edict of Restitution’ forced Protestants to return all property acquired since the ‘Peace of Passau’ of 1552 to the Roman Catholic church.
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His military aggressiveness made the Protestants seek the support of the king of Sweden, Gustavus II Adolphus. Some of Ferdinand II's allies started expressing their concerns about the rising powers of Wallenstein and the cruel and unethical methods he employed to fund his forces.
In 1630, Ferdinand II ousted Wallenstein and handed over the leadership of the war to the Count of Tilly. Tilly, however, could not prevent the Swedish army from advancing from northern Germany to Austria.
Some historians feel Ferdinand II was majorly responsible for the large loss of civilian life in the 1631 Sack of Magdeburg. Apparently, he had ordered Tilly to apply the ‘Edict of Restitution’ to the Electorate of Saxony. Tilly thus led the Catholic forces east, advancing to Leipzig, where they were badly defeated in First Battle of Breitenfeld (1631), by the Adolphus's Swedish forces.
Tilly died fighting in 1632. Following this, Wallenstein was recalled. He formed his own army within a week and ousted the Swedish forces from Bohemia. However, in November 1632, at the Battle of Lützen, the Catholic forces were crushed. Adolphus was killed in the same battle. Following this, Wallenstein's ambiguous conduct led to him being assassinated in 1634.
However, in spite of minor setbacks, the Catholic forces reclaimed Regensburg and won the Battle of Nördlingen (1634).
The Swedish army was drained. The fear of the overwhelming power of the Habsburgs caused France, under the leadership of Louis XIII of France and Cardinal Richelieu, to join the war on the Protestant side.
In 1635, Ferdinand II signed the ‘Peace of Prague,’ but the war did not end there. In 1636, he got his son, Ferdinand III, elected as his successor.
Family, Personal Life, & Death
In 1600, Ferdinand II got married to Maria Anna of Bavaria. She was the daughter of William V, the duke of Bavaria.
The couple had seven children: Archduchess Christine (born in 1601), Archduke Charles (born in 1603), Archduke John-Charles (born in 1605), Ferdinand III (born in 1608), Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria (born in 1610), Archduchess Cecilia Renata of Austria (born in 1611), and Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria (born in 1614).
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Maria Anna died in 1616, just 3 years before Ferdinand II’s coronation. In 1622, Ferdinand II married Eleonore of Mantua (Gonzaga) at Innsbruck. She was the daughter of Vincenzo I, the duke of Mantua, and Eleonora de' Medici.
Ferdinand II breathed his last in 1637, leaving his kingdom to his son Ferdinand III. He was buried in Graz, while his heart was buried separately in the ‘Herzgruft’ (the “heart crypt”) of the ‘Augustinian Church’ in Vienna.
Facts About Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor, was known for his deep interest in alchemy, astrology, and the occult.

He maintained a personal laboratory where he conducted experiments and studied these esoteric subjects.

Ferdinand II had a keen interest in the arts and was a patron of several renowned artists and musicians of his time.

He supported the development of cultural institutions and commissioned many works of art during his reign.

Despite being a powerful ruler, Ferdinand II was known for his compassion towards his subjects and was often described as a just and fair leader.

Ferdinand II was an avid collector of rare and exotic plants and animals.

He established botanical gardens and menageries in his palaces, where he housed a diverse array of species from different parts of the world.

In his spare time, Ferdinand II enjoyed hunting and outdoor activities.

He was known for his skill in falconry and horseback riding, and he often organized elaborate hunting expeditions for his courtiers and guests.

See the events in life of Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor in Chronological Order

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