Austrian History (6)



In 1535, Ferdinand I permitted 3,000 Serbs to settle in the border area and gave them land in return for permanent military service as border guards.
Later, refugees from the provinces occupied by the Turks were settled there and by the end of the 17th century, the newly formed military border ran from the Adriatic Sea to the River Drau and was constantly being extended.
In 1850, the farms were transferred into privately owned properties whose owners were then obliged to guard the borders against smugglers and enforced disease control (Pestkordon).
The border guards were among the best soldiers of the Monarchy and very loyal to the government during the revolution of 1848. In the years 1849 to 1866 five regiments of border guards were under the command of the Ministry of War. The disbanding of the military border guards began in 1851 and the regiments were slowly incorporated into the general army.

Ferdinand I  (*1503 - †1564)

Ferdinand was the younger brother of Karl V and became Holy Roman Emperor (1556-1564), King of Bohemia (1526-1564) and King of Hungary (1526-1564).
Karl V had practically turned over the government of the empire to Ferdinand by 1556, although the formal abdication was not complete until 1558.
By the middle of the 16th century, most of the population was Protestant and Lutheranism predominated in most of the German-speaking areas but the Roman Catholic Church was able to maintain its strong presence throughout the Habsburg domains.
Ferdinand I tried to obtain concessions from Rome that would have helped to solve the problems between the moderate reformers and Catholics but Rome chose to continue with its doctrine and reforms, this increasing the divisions between Catholicism and Protestantism and laying the foundation for the Counter-Reformation.
Ferdinand I died in 1564 and his eldest son, Maximilian II, became Holy Roman Emperor.


Maximilian II (*1527 - †1576)

Maximilian II was Holy Roman Emperor (1564-1576), King of Bohemia (1562-1576) and King of Hungary (1563-76). His sympathy for Lutheranism caused grave concern in imperial and papal circles and in 1562, Maximilian swore to remain a Catholic and was then later elected Holy Roman Emperor in 1564.
Maximilian allowed a large degree of religious toleration in his Bohemian and Austrian possessions. His policy of neutrality, however, also allowed the Counter Reformation to make considerable gains in some parts of the empire. Maximilian died, refusing the sacraments, while preparing to invade Poland. His son succeeded him as Rudolf II.

Rudolph II  (*1552 - †1612)     

Rudolph succeeded his father as King of Hungary, Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor.
The Turks again started war on Hungary in 1593 and Rudolph was accused of causing a rebellion among Protestant nobles in Hungary by his brutal conduct of the war.

Matthias (*1557 - †1619)        

His brother Matthias confiscated Rudolph’s lands and restored law and order. After Rudolph’s death, Mathias became Holy Roman Emperor but remained childless and had to choose his cousin Ferdinand II (r.1619-1637) as successor to the throne.
Matthias secured his election as king of Bohemia in 1617 but the Protestant nobility of Bohemia insisted on confirmation of the religious rights that had been granted to them by Rudolph II.
In 1618, the Protestant nobles revolted and destroyed all hopes of a settlement and when Matthias died in March 1619, many of the provinces started to rebel against the Habsburgs.

The Schöner Brunnen in the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace

The Legend of the Schöner Brunnen

According to legend Mathias found a natural spring in the woods near to the Katterburg and was so overwhelmed by the taste of the spring water, saying “Oh, what a beautiful spring” (beautiful spring = schöner Brunnen).

Thereafter, the water from this ‘beautiful spring’ was thereafter used to supply the court needs and eventually gave the estate its new name, Schönbrunn.
The truth behind the legend is less spectacular and dates back to the first well house that was built on this site, which was known as ‘Schöner Brunnen’ - the beautiful well.

The name is most probably a reference to the design and splendour of the original well-house that was replaced by a new building in 1771.

The ‘new’ Schöner Brunnen is dominated by the figure of Egeria holding a vase under her arm from which she pours the spring water that was once so cherished by the Viennese court.




Ferdinand II  (*1578 - †1637)


The Thirty-Year War (1618-1648)     

Austria was far too weak and was forced to recognise the legitimacy of the reformation within the empire but was able to restore Catholicism in Bohemia and Austria during the Counter-Reformation.
The rising tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the early 1600’s and the Counter-Reformation disrupted and destroyed the achievements of past centuries.
The imperial and Catholic forces maintained the offensive in Germany, enabling Ferdinand II to establish his authority in Bohemia and Hungary. Ferdinand could maintain his hold on Hungary by confirming certain guarantees of religious freedom whereas at the same time imposing religious restrictions and a decree making Bohemia a catholic state and by doing so giving the Protestants six months to leave the country.
Denmark, Sweden and France intervened and upset Ferdinand’s plans of a compromise with the Protestant German princes.
The Thirty Year War ended in 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia. The treaty guaranteed the religious and political constitution of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburgs enjoyed more political and religious control than before and were free to enforce religious conformity.


Peace of Münster 1648