Childhood & Early Life
Frederick III was born in Innsbruck on September 21, 1415. He was the eldest son of the duke of Inner Austria, Ernest the Iron, belonging to the Leopoldian descent of the Habsburg Dynasty, and his second wife, Cymburgis of Masovia.
Following the 1379 ‘Treaty of Neuberg,’ the Leopoldinian rulers had control over the duchies of Styria, Carniola, and Carinthia, also known as Inner Austria.
Although Frederick had eight siblings, only three of them lived to adulthood: his younger brother, Albert (later Albert VI, the archduke of Austria), and his sisters, Margaret (the electress of Saxony) and Catherine.
In 1424, when Frederick was just 9, his father died, making him the duke of Inner Austria (as Frederick V). His uncle, Duke Frederick IV of Tyrol, became his regent.
In 1431, Frederick attempted to gain the full control of his kingdom, but his relatives did not let him do so. Eventually, in 1435, Albert V, the duke of Austria (later King Albert II of Germany), allowed him to rule over his Inner Austrian kingdoms. However, Frederick's younger brother, Albert, wished to rule as a co-ruler, which started a long rivalry.
Frederick made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1436, and he was accompanied by many nobles who had been knighted by the ‘Order of the Holy Sepulchre.’
Following Duke Frederick IV’s death in 1439, Frederick took control of Tyrol and Austria (as a regent for Sigismund, the duke’s heir). He also served as the regent of his nephew Ladislaus, the son of King Albert II and Elizabeth of Luxembourg, in Further Austria. Ladislaus died before coming of age. Frederick thus assumed power in the Habsburg Dynasty.
In 1442, Frederick formed an alliance with Rudolf Stüssi, burgomaster of Zurich, and they joined hands against the Old Swiss Confederacy, fighting in the Old Zurich War (Alter Zürichkrieg). However, they were defeated in the war.
In 1448, he signed the ‘Concordat of Vienna’ with the See of Rome. The treaty was valid till 1806 and controlled the relationship between the Habsburgs and Rome.
As late King Albert II’s cousin, Frederick was on the list of candidates for the imperial election. On February 2, 1440, he was elected as the king of the Romans (as Frederick IV) in Frankfurt. He was thus the ruler of the kingdoms of Styria, Carniola, and Carinthia (Inner Austria).
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Marriage & Coronation
In 1452, Frederick went to Italy to get married and to attend his coronation as the Holy Roman Emperor. He was to get married to 18-year-old infanta Eleanor, who was the daughter of Edward, the king of Portugal,
She brought a massive dowry, which helped Frederick pay off his debts. They met on February 21, in Siena, and traveled to Rome.
According to the tradition, the couple had to spend a night outside Rome before entering it on March 9. On arriving in Rome, Frederick and Pope Nicholas V greeted each other.
Frederick had earlier been unable to get hold the Iron Crown of Lombardy from Monza. He was also not crowned the king of Italy by the archbishop of Milan (due to Frederick's differences with Francesco Sforza, the lord of Milan).
However, Frederick made the pope crown him with the German crown. His coronation was held on March 16, in spite of protests by the Milanese ambassadors.
That afternoon, Frederick and Eleanor’s marriage was supervised by the pope. On March 19, Frederick and Eleanor were anointed by Vice-Chancellor Francesco Condulmer at ‘St. Peter's Basilica.’ Following this, the pope crowned Frederick with the Imperial Crown. He was the final emperor to be crowned in Rome.
Frederick was not an aggressive ruler but some if his strategies were significantly successful.
He was initially opposed by his brother, Albert VI. He held Ladislaus the Posthumous, the ruler of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia (born in 1440) captive and became his guardian to gain his authority on Lower Austria. In 1452, Ladislaus was rescued by the Lower Austrian estates.
He also acted as a regent of his first cousin, Sigismund of the Tyrolian branch of the Habsburg Dynasty. However, he was unsuccessful at gaining authority over Bohemia and Hungary in the Bohemian–Hungarian War (1468–1478).
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His forces were crushed in the Austrian–Hungarian War (1477–1488), too, as Matthias Corvinus, the Hungarian king, defeated him in 1485. Matthias continued to remain in Vienna until he died in 1490 in the ‘Siege of Vienna.’
He gained control of Lower Austria from Ladislaus in 1457. He also succeeded Albert VI in Upper Austria. This made him move his court to various places, such as Graz, Linz, and Wiener Neustadt.
During the ‘Siege of Neuss’ (1474–1475), he made Charles the Bold of Burgundy give his daughter Mary of Burgundy’s hand in marriage to his son, Maximilian. Thus, Burgundy was acquired, and the House of Habsburg became a force to reckon with in Europe.
His daughter Kunigunde was later married off to Albert IV, the duke of Bavaria. However, this was termed a political loss for Frederick.
Albert IV soon usurped some of the imperial fiefs and then proceeded to marry Kunigunde (who lived in Innsbruck), offering the fiefs as a dower.
Frederick agreed initially. However, when Albert took control of Regensburg, Frederick went against him. On January 2, 1487, before Frederick could inform his daughter about his disapproval of the marriage, Kunigunde married Albert. This almost led to a war, but the mediation of Frederick's son, Maximilian, prevented any further conflict. In 1469, he founded bishoprics in Vienna and Wiener Neustadt.
Personal Life, Final Years & Death
Frederick and Eleanor had five children: Christoph (born in 1455), Maximilian (born in 1459), Helene (born in 1460), Kunigunde (born in 1465–1520), and Johannes (born in 1466)
Frederick reportedly stayed away from bonding with his children and Eleanor. Thus, Eleanor had a dominant influence on the children and played an important role in the House of Habsburg's rise.
Throughout the last decade of Frederick's life, the kingdom saw him and Maximilian rule jointly. In 1492, he was awarded the ‘Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.’
Frederick's personal motto was “A.E.I.O.U.,” which was printed on his belongings. He did not ever explain its meaning to anybody, leading to various interpretations. Just before his death, he is said to have claimed that the abbreviation stood for “Alles Erdreich ist Österreich untertan” ("All the world is subject to Austria").
On August 19, 1493, Frederick died in Linz, Austria. He was 77 at the time of his death. Gangrene had apparently affected his left foot, and thus the foot had to be amputated on June 8, 1493.
Though he survived the amputation, he was plagued by multiple infections and that resulted in his death. He was buried in ‘St. Stephen's Cathedral,’ Vienna. His grave was built by Nikolaus Gerhaert von Leyden and remains to be one of the most significant pieces of art of the late Middle Ages. The tomb was completed in 1513, long after Frederick's death.