House of Habsburg

The House of Habsburg (/ˈhæpsbɜːrɡ/; German: [ˈhaːpsbʊɐ̯k]; also spelled Hapsburg in English) and alternatively called the House of Austria (Haus Österreich in German, Casa de Austria in Spanish), was one of the most influential and distinguished royal houses of Europe. The throne of the Holy Roman Empire was continuously occupied by the Habsburgs from 1438 until their extinction in the male line in 1740. The house also produced emperors and kings of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia, Galicia, Portugal and Spain with their respective colonies, as well as rulers of several principalities in the Netherlands and Italy. From the 16th century, following the reign of Charles V, the dynasty was split between its Austrian and Spanish branches. Although they ruled distinct territories, they nevertheless maintained close relations and frequently intermarried. The House takes its name from Habsburg Castle, a fortress built in the 1020s in present-day Switzerland, in the canton of Aargau, by Count Radbot of Klettgau, who named his fortress Habsburg. His grandson Otto II was the first to take the fortress name as his own, adding "Count of Habsburg" to his title. The House of Habsburg gathered dynastic momentum through the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. In 1273, Count Radbot's seventh generation descendant Rudolph of Habsburg became Roman-German King. He moved the family's power base to the Duchy of Austria, which the Habsburgs ruled until 1918. A series of dynastic marriages enabled the family to vastly expand its domains to include Burgundy, Spain and its colonial empire, Bohemia, Hungary, and other territories. In the 16th century, the family separated into the senior Spanish and the junior Austrian branches, who settled their mutual claims in the Oñate treaty. The House of Habsburg became extinct in the male line in the 18th century. The senior Spanish branch ended upon the death of Charles II of Spain in 1700 and was replaced by the House of Bourbon. The remaining Austrian branch became extinct in the male line in 1740 with the death of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. It was succeeded by the descendants of his eldest daughter Maria Theresa's marriage to Francis III, Duke of Lorraine. The successor house styled itself formally as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (German: Habsburg-Lothringen); because it was often still referred to as the House of Habsburg, historians use the appellation of the Habsburg Monarchy for the countries and provinces that were ruled by the family until 1918. The House of Habsburg-Lorraine continues to exist to this day and its members use the Habsburg name, for example Otto von Habsburg. The Habsburg Empire had the advantage of size, but multiple disadvantages. There were rivals on four sides, its finances were unstable, the population was fragmented into multiple ethnicities, and its industrial base was thin. Its naval resources were so minimal that it did not attempt to build an overseas empire. It did have the advantage of good diplomats, typified by Prince Metternich; they had a grand strategy for survival that kept the empire going despite wars with the Ottomans, Frederick the Great, Napoleon and Bismarck, until the final disaster of the First World War. Along with the Capetian dynasty, it was one of the two most powerful continental European royal families, dominating European politics for nearly five centuries.


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