Archduchy of Austria


May 21, 2022

The Archduchy of Austria (German: Erzherzogtum Österreich) is a former imperial state of the Holy Roman Empire. This State succeeded the Duchy of Austria in 1453; as the nucleus of the Habsburg Monarchy, it existed for more than 350 years, until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. Then, divided into two Crown Lands corresponding to the current Austrian Länder of Lower Austria and Upper Austria, its territory is an integral part of the Empire of Austria and Cisleithania within Austria-Hungary. The Austrian Archdukes of the House of Habsburg reside at the Hofburg in central Vienna. For convenience, this expression is sometimes used to designate all the hereditary territories of the Habsburgs (Habsburgische Erblande) dominated by the Austrian Archduke, which then also includes inner Austria (the duchies of Styria, Carinthia and of Carniola, as well as, later, the county of Goritz), the county of Tyrol, the possessions of former Austria and several other small territories.



Simple march of the ethnic duchy of Bavaria at the beginning of the Empire, Austria was elevated to an autonomous duchy by the Diet of the Empire meeting in Regensburg on September 8, 1156. Nine days later, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa issued a document of certification, the Privilegium Minus, for the benefit of Duke Henry II of Austria of the House of Babenberg, having renounced the Duchy of Bavaria. Based on a succession contract concluded in 1186, the Babenbergs also reigned over the Duchy of Styria after the death of Duke Ottokar IV in 1192. However, the extinction of the line on the death of Duke Frederick II of Austria in 1246 led to the vacancy of the Austrian fiefs, all coinciding with the absence of a central imperial power during the Great Interregnum. The possession of these territories by Ottokar II of Bohemia, king of Bohemia, provoked a conflict with Rodolphe de Habsbourg, elected king of the Romans in 1273. The first was designated duke by the Austrian nobility, while the second claimed the duchy as a fallen fief. dormant and having to return to his suzerain. Rodolphe defeated his rival at the Battle of Marchfeld in 1278; four years later he invests his two sons, Albert and Rudolph II at the head of the duchies of Austria and Styria.

The Archduchy

The title of "Archduke" given to the sovereigns of Austria, is an invention of the end of the Middle Ages. It is affirmed by the Privilegium Maius, a forgery created by Duke Rudolf IV of Austria in 1359, in reaction to his exclusion from the electoral college by the Golden Bull promulgated by Emperor Charles IV three years earlier. It is a question of guaranteeing to the dukes of Austria a unique title in the Empire, which makes them the equivalent of the prince-electors, the right to vote less: the powers of the emperor are strictly limited by the proclamation of the Non-evocando juice and a drastic reduction in participation in the imperial host; the archdukes take precedence over all other non-elector princes; finally, the escheat of the fiefdoms of the Habsburgs is made impossible by the double proclamation of the indivisibility of Austria and of a succession including the women in the event of absence of male descendants. Charles IV from the start refused the actual grant of the Privilegium Maius. It was the sovereigns of inner Austria who put the archducal pretensions into action. Thus, Ernest of Inner Austria, from 1414, was the first to use the title of archduke in a completely unilateral way in chancellery documents. His son Frederick V of Habsburg united all the duchies under a single prince and, becoming Emperor of the Romans under the name of Frederick III, sanctioned the Privilegium Maius in 1453 by giving it a legal character: the