Biography of Emperador del Sacro Imperio Fernando de Austria (1503-1564)

Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, King of Bohemia and Hungary, born in Alcalá de Henares March 10, 1503 and died in Vienna July 25, 1564.

Biographical synthesis

Son of Felipe the beautiful and Juana la Loca, spent the first years of his life in Castile, where he/she was educated by his maternal grandfather Fernando el Católico. After the arrival of his brother, Carlos, to Spain in 1517, he/she was sent by him to Flanders, where he/she remained until he/she was appointed President of the Council of Regency of Germany, in 1521, year where he/she married Anna of Hungary. Representative of his brother in the territories of the Empire from 1521 until 1556, in the year 1531 was named King of the Romans. After the battle of Mohács, he/she was elected to the throne of Bohemia and Hungary. In 1556 after the abdication of his brother, he/she received in heritage territories of the Empire, except for the Duchy of Burgundy and the Netherlands.

His early years and his departure from Spain

Second son of Juana la Loca and Felipe the beautiful one, was born during one of many trips that their parents made to Castile. After the return of their parents to the Duchy of Burgundy, Fernando was under the tutelage of his maternal grandparents. Year 1504 occurred the death of Isabel the Catholic and Juana and Felipe returned to occupy the throne of Castile, although the premature death of his father and the alleged madness of his mother, led to his grandfather, Fernando the Catholic, to assume the Regency of the Kingdom mentioned. These events have affected the future of Fernando, who was educated in Castile, where the young infant barely had contact with his older brother, Carlos, which was educated in Burgundy.

Fernando accompanied his grandfather during the last years of his life and he/she did know his subjects which was her favourite grandson. Thus in the year 1512, after writing his will in Burgos, Fernando the Catholic named him heir to the throne of Aragon, but finally had to give up this way, since this could lead to the outbreak of a civil war between two brothers, which only would bring benefits to the high nobility, to the detriment of the power of the monarchy. Thus after the death of his grandfather in 1516, Fernando received in heritage the Government of the city of Taranto, in the Kingdom of Naples; and an annual pension of fifty thousand ducats. The infante who at that time had thirteen years of age, saw as its around formed a faction of nobles, who supported his candidacy to the crowns of Castile and Aragon, to the detriment of Carlos. In view of these developments, the cardinal Cisneros, who had been appointed regent, decided to intervene and move the infant of some influences that could be harmful for him and for the stability of the Kingdom. So after receiving instructions from Carlos, dismissed the guardian of the infant, but Núñez de Guzmán, his master, fray Álvaro de Osorio, to your waiter, Gonzalo de Guzmán; and its Treasurer, Sancho Paredes; among others, and he/she turned to Fernando instruction, thus by the brother of this Council, appointed Alonso Téllez ayo of the infant, which had instructions to accompany him at all times.

After the arrival of Carlos to Spain in 1517, Fernando paid tribute to the heir to the throne, in their first meeting in wet, November 11; and the order of the Golden Fleece, received from the hands of his brother in the monastery of Velcro. The future Carlos V, by Council of Maximiliano I, had decided to move his brother in Spain, to prevent possible outbreaks of violence. Thus in the year 1518, Fernando left his residence in Marietta, and went to Santander, where on 23 May of the same year, left for Flanders. Upon arrival, he/she lived for three years with her aunt Margaret, Duchess of Savoy. The departure of Spain infante, provoked protests from prominent nobles, who estimated required his presence on the peninsula, until Carlos had no heirs, this was his legitimate successor. It should be noted that many of the supporters of Fernando formed part of the commune movement and this maintained frequent contacts with some of the exiles subsequently.

Their participation in European politics

After the death of Maximiliano I, Fernando's life changed completely. In 1519, Margarita de Saboya proposed to Carlos present the infant to the imperial election, although this idea was discarded by the new head of the House of Austria. Two years later, in 1521, Fernando married Anna of Hungary and after the diet of Worms, he/she was appointed President of the Council of Regency, which had as its mission to conduct German Affairs in the absence of Carlos V, also his brother ceded the Government of the Duchy of Württemberg, which equated him with the rest of German princes.

Fernando was the representative of Carlos in the Empire from 1521 until 1556 and was in constant communication with it, thanks to the outstanding involvement of its Ambassador at the Court of Spain, Martín Salinas. During these years he/she worked as an important work in the Imperial diets as head of the Catholic party, and despite the fact that initially was not to carry out a policy of religious tolerance, as evidenced by their participation in the battle of Mühlberg (1547); years later, he/she began the negotiations that would lead to the peace of Augsburg (1555), which recognized the religious freedom of the German princes, what amounted in practice to recognize the political division of Germany. It should also highlight their efforts in organizing the defences of the borders of the Empire against the Turks. Thus tried his brother to take measures against Soliman the magnificent, since 1523, although the war kept Carlos V con Francisco I, made this proposition would be suspended, until the Organization of the Holy League in 1538, since since the battle of Mohács (August 28, 1526), the heritage of the House of Austria territories were in grave danger and Fernando had to face successive sites of the city of Vienna. Finally we must mention, that from his post, he/she supported his brother, recruiting men in Germany, so they fought in the wars against France and funding, on occasions, the welded of mercenaries, due to the precarious economic situation in which the emperor was.

Due to the European situation, the situation of Fernando in Germany changed with the passing of the years, so in the year 1525 he/she received from his brother the promise that once he/she was crowned Emperor by the Pope, would do everything possible that they be granted the title of King of the Romans, which in practice meant its recognition as heir to the territories of the Empire. In 1526 after the death of Luis II of Hungary, in the aforementioned battle of Mohács, he/she was elected King of Hungary and Bohemia, which would produce certain estrangement with Carlos V following the refusal received from this to ask for your help for the defense of their new territories. In these years of instability, the new King, had to face the attacks of Juan Zápolya, candidate for the Hungarian throne; the constant threat posed hosts Turkish and a revolt of their subjects Bohemians in 1547. In 1531 he/she received the title of King of the Romans, which improved its position, after which did participate to his brother's ambitions around the Milan, which was reason for conflict between both brothers for years. While the collaboration between Fernando and Carlos V was constant, the distance between the two was becoming ever more and misunderstandings and disputes occurred. In 1555 the situation between the two became very tense, since after the death of Juana la Loca in Tordesillas, Carlos decided to retire. The conflict erupted since Fernando refused to accept that Felipe II received as inheritance the Duchy of Burgundy and the Netherlands, since it considered that these were part of the Empire, although finally thanks to the intervention of María of Hungary, welcomed the division proposed by his brother. But the rupture between both branches of the family, was patent since then, so Fernando not attended the formal abdication of Carlos V in Brussels, despite the pleas of this.

The 14 March 1558 the diet of Frankfurt elected Emperor Fernando of Austria, without counting with the support of the Pope Paulo IV, which refused to receive the Ambassador sent by this, Martín de Guzmán, since it considered that Carlos before abdicate should have requested consent, making it officially Fernando not could be recognized as emperor. For the Pope that three Protestant princes had participated in the imperial election, it meant that both Fernando and his son, the future Maximiliano II, were a few heretics. Fernando had to wait for that took Pio IV power, to be recognized by the Church of Rome.

Fernando of Austria died on July 25, 1564, at the age of sixty-one, as his heir his son Maximiliano II. During the last years of his life he/she tried to in vain strengthen his power and maintain harmony with his nephew Felipe II.


JOVER ZAMORA, J.M. (dir). The Spain of Carlos V, in history of Spain of Menéndez Pidal. Vol XX. Madrid, Espasa Calpe, 1994.

SUTTER FICHTNER, P. Ferdinad of Austria: the politics of dynasticism in of age of the reformation. New York, Columbia University Press, 1982.