King Habsburg Miksa I of Hungary aka Emperor Maximilian II of the HRE (r.1563-1576)

King Miksa I of Hungary

First of all, it should be noted that the Kingdom of Hungary didn’t cease to exist as a state after the Battle of Mohács in 1526. The state institutions, laws, officials, and traditions remained intact. The rulers came from the Habsburg dynasty, but at their coronation, they had to swear to uphold the constitution and the laws of the Hungarians. And they did; some of them even learned the Hungarian language. Not that they loved their Hungarian subjects so much, but they needed the Hungarians’ swords to defend Vienna.

The Partition of Hungary after 1541
On September 8, 1563, King Miksa I of Hungary (r. 1564-1576) – known as Maximilian II of the German-Roman Empire – was crowned in Pozsony (Pressburg, Bratislava), the son and heir of King Ferdinand I (r. 1527-1564), whose 12-year reign is best remembered for the Treaty of Drinápoly with the Ottomans and the Treaty of Speyer, which settled the status of the Principality of Transylvania.
The signature of Maximilian II
Miksa was born in Vienna in 1527, the eldest child of Ferdinand I and Queen Anne of Jagello of Hungary. The heir to the throne was raised according to the strict Spanish court etiquette, but he showed a keen interest in Protestant religious movements from an early age but also differed from the rest of the dynasty by his lively nature and love of the arts.
Maximilian and his younger brothers Ferdinand II and John
Miksa was often referred to as the ‘strange emperor’ in this context, and his unusually tolerant behavior later earned him the nickname ‘the Lutheran Habsburg’. King Ferdinand I was also seriously concerned about his son’s thinking, and in 1548 he was forced to ‘re-educate’ his brother, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1519-1556), entrusted his heir apparent to the care of his brother. Miksa spent two years in Spain, where he married his uncle’s daughter Maria and served for a time as governor, but his character was not changed by the fervently Catholic environment.
Emperor Charles V
The heir to the throne returned to Vienna in 1552 and from then on took an active part in the government of the Austrian part of the Empire. After Ferdinand inherited the imperial title from his brother in 1556, the management of affairs in Hungary fell largely to Miksa, who played a decisive role in the development of the Borderland Castle System and in negotiations with the Estates of Pozsony.
Pozsony (Bratislava, Pressburg)
Despite the succession dispute between the two branches of the Habsburg dynasty, he had over the years acquired the right to all his father’s titles: he was crowned King of Bohemia in 1549, then King of Rome in Frankfurt in 1562, and on 8 September 1563 in Pozsony, he was crowned with the Hungarian Holy Crown. In the summer of 1564, Ferdinand could close his eyes in the knowledge that the empire he had built remained intact; this, of course, proved to be a heavy burden on relations between the two Habsburgs.
Emperor Ferdinand of the HRE
Miksa’s 12-year reign was later remembered rather dimly, but in reality, the decisions made during the reign of the “strange emperor” largely determined the future of Hungary and the Central European region. The emperor followed Ferdinand’s policy of a kingdom divided into three parts, and in 1565-67 he started a new war with Transylvania for the northeastern counties of the Kingdom of Hungary.
Young Maximilian, the son of Emperor Ferdinand I
After the victories of Miksa’s commander Lazarus of Schwendi, a new general headquarters was established in Tiszántúl, and the organization of the Chamber of Szepes made the financial administration of the eastern part of the country and the supply of the outlying border castles more efficient. However, the successes against Transylvania contrasted sharply with the ineffectiveness of the Viennese court in 1566, when Suleiman I (r. 1520-1566) took Gyula and Szigetvár in the last campaign of his life; many judge the reign of Miksa on the basis of these failures, although many historians claim the king had no realistic chance of holding these remote fortresses.
You can read more about General Schwendi here:
Lazarus von Schwendi (1522-1583)
Thus, even if we condemn the monarch’s risk-averse behavior, some historians otherwise evaluate his strategy positively, since it was this consideration that led to the conclusion of the Treaty of Drinápoly in 1568 and the Treaty of Speyer in 1570 with János Zsigmond (as king elect, 1540-1570). Others, however, are not so forgiving of his policies. Read my essay about the plight of the kingdom, “between two pagans”:
As a result of these two treaties, the Danube basin entered a period of truce that lasted more than two decades and brought prosperity to both Transylvania and the Kingdom of Hungary. In the eastern Transylvanian Principality, however, Miksa’s will did not prevail in the end, for after the death of János Zsigmond, power was seized by Báthory István (r. 1571-1586), who later – in 1575 – defeated the Habsburg monarch in the competition for the Polish throne.
The sword of Miksa (Photo: René Hanke)
During the 12 years of his reign, Miksa’s strategy was therefore to avoid unnecessary risks and to secure opportunities for peaceful development, a strategy that was closely in line with the policy of the late King Ferdinand I. Similarly, because of the troubled relations with the Spanish Habsburg branch, the emperor and king stayed away from the Mediterranean war against the Turks led by Philip II (r. 1556-1598), in which the Ottomans were severely defeated at Lepanto in 1571.
The coin minted by Miksa in 1565
Miksa’s religious tolerance, in addition to creating relative calm, won him the favor of his subjects, although his figure, along with his kingdom, later faded from Hungarian memory. After he died in 1576, the monarch was succeeded on the imperial thrones of Hungary, Bohemia, and the Holy Roman Empire by his son Rudolf (reigned 1576-1508).
King Miksa and his family
/Source: Rubicon/

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