From Counts of Habsburg to Holy
The name is derived from the Swiss
Habichtsburg (Hawk Castle), the family seat in the 11th, 12th and 13th
centuries at Habsburg in the former duchy of Swabia in present-day
Switzerland (Switzerland did not then exist in its present form, and the
Swiss lands were part of the mainly Germanic Holy Roman Empire). From
Southwest-Germany the family extended its influence and holdings to the
south-eastern reaches of the Holy Roman Empire, roughly today's Austria
(1278 - 1382). Within only two or three generations, the Habsburgs had
managed to secure an initially intermittent grasp on the imperial throne
that would last for centuries (1273 - 1291, 1298 - 1308, 1438 - 1740, and
1745 - 1806).
After the marriage of Maximilian I with Mary, heiress of Burgundy (the Low
Countries) and the marriage of his son Philipp the Handsome with Juana,
heiress of Spain and its newly-founded empire, Charles V inherited an empire
where "the sun does not set".
Under Maximilian II, the Habsburgs first acquired the land upon which would
later be erected the Schönbrunn Palace: the Habsburgs' summer palace in
Vienna and one of the most enduring symbols of the dynasty.
Division of the House: Austrian and
After the April 21, 1521 assignment of
the Austrian lands to Ferdinand I from his brother Emperor Charles V (also
King Charles I of Spain) (1516 - 1556), the family split into the Austrian
Habsburgs and the Spanish Habsburgs. The Austrian Habsburgs held (after
1556) the title of Holy Roman Emperor, as well as the Habsburg Hereditary
Lands and the Kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary, while the Spanish Habsburgs
ruled over the Spanish kingdoms, the Netherlands, the Habsburgs' Italian
possessions, and, for a time, Portugal. Hungary, nominally under Habsburg
kingship from 1526 but mostly under Ottoman Turkish occupation for 150 years,
was reconquered in 1683 - 1699.
The Spanish Habsburgs died out in 1700 (prompting the War of the Spanish
Succession), as did the Austrian Habsburgs in 1740 (prompting the War of the
Austrian Succession). However, the heiress of the last Austrian Habsburg
(Maria Theresa) had married Francis Stephan, Duke of Lorraine, (both of them
were great-grandchildren of Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand III, but from
different empresses) and their descendants carried on the Habsburg tradition
from Vienna under the dynastic name Habsburg-Lorraine. (It is often
speculated that extensive intra-family marriages within both lines
contributed to their extinctions, but there were few such marriages in the
Austrian line. Smallpox killing young heirs was a greater cause.)
House of Habsburg-Lorraine: the
On August 6, 1806 the Holy Roman
Empire was dissolved under the French Emperor Napoleon I's reorganisation of
Germany. However, in anticipation of the loss of his title of Holy Roman
Emperor, Francis II declared himself hereditary Emperor of Austria (as
Francis I, thereof) on August 11, 1804, three months after Napoleon had
declared himself Emperor of France on May 18, 1804.
Emperor Francis I of Austria used the official great title: "We, Francis the
First, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria; King of Jerusalem, Hungary,
Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, and Lodomeria; Archduke of
Austria; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Würzburg, Franconia, Styria, Carinthia,
and Carniola; Grand Duke of Kraków; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave
of Moravia; Duke of Sandomir, Masovia, Lublin, Upper and Lower Silesia,
Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, and Friule; Prince of Berchtesgaden and
Mergentheim; Princely Count of Habsburg, Gorizia, and Gradisca and of the
Tyrol; and Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria".
In 1867 effective autonomy was given to Hungary under the terms of the
Ausgleich or "compromise" (see Austria-Hungary) until the Habsburgs'
deposition from both Austria and Hungary in 1918 following defeat in World
The current head of the Habsburg
family is Otto von Habsburg, Emperor Karl's eldest son.