End of Europe's Middle Ages
Pope Gregory X (1273-1292) ended the Interregnum of the Holy Roman Empire that lasted from 1254 to 1273 by using his influence to get Rudolf, count of Hapsburg, elected as emperor. Rudolf was acceptable to the electors only because he renounced all imperial claims over the papal states and also because he appeared sufficiently weak that imperial authority would not be enforced. Rudolf used his limited resources wisely, acquiring Austria through war. This acquisition transformed the Hapsburg family from a second-rank power with interests in western Germany to a major force in the Empire. Fearing Rudolf's attempts to reestablish hereditary succession, the princes elected the seemingly weak ruler, Adolf of Nassau (1292-1298). Adolf proved to be unexpectedly ambitious and consequently in 1298 was deposed by Rudolf's son Albert, who was elected emperor. Albert's attempt to reestablish the principle of hereditary succession was checked by French influence, and in 1308 Henry VII of the house of Luxembourg became emperor.
The imperial title was returned to the Hapsburgs in 1438. Before his death, Sigismund I, the last Luxembourg emperors, married his daughter to Albert of Austria, bringing the Hapsburgs the extensive lands of Hungary and Bohemia. In 1438 Albert (1438-1439) was duly elected emperor and was the first of a long line of Hapsburg rulers that held the imperial title practically without interruption until 1806.
Marriages continued to expand Hapsburg power. Albert's son, Frederick III (1440-1493), negotiated the marriage of Mary, the daughter and heiress of Duke Charles the Rash of Burgundy, with his son Maximilian. Maximilian (1493-1519) thus inherited the Burgundian lands and laid the basis for Hapsburg predominance in Europe in the sixteenth century.
The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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