emperor maximilian ii

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Elisabeth of Austria (5 July 1554 – 22 January 1592) born an Archduchess of Austria, was Queen of France from 1570 to 1574 as the consort of Charles IX of France. A member of the House of Habsburg, she was the daughter of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria of Spain.

Elisabeth was the fifth child and second daughter of her parents’ sixteen children, of whom eight survived infancy. During her childhood, she lived with her older sister Anna and younger brother Matthias in a pavilion in the gardens of the newly built Schloss Stallburg near Vienna. They enjoyed a privileged and secluded childhood and were raised as devout Catholics. Her father Maximilian visited her often and Elisabeth seems to have been his particular favorite child. She resembled him, not only in appearance but also in character: Elisabeth was just as intelligent and charming as her father.

With her flawless white skin, long blond hair and perfect physique, she was considered one of the great beauties of the era. She was also regarded as demure, pious, and warm-hearted but naive and intensely innocent because of her sheltered upbringing. Still, she was intellectually talented. Elisabeth’s brothers were educated by the Flemish writer and diplomat Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq. The curious princess soon joined and even overshadowed them in their studies. Her mother Maria personally supervised the religious education of her daughters, and from her early childhood she was impressed by her namesake Saint Elisabeth of Hungary and reportedly took her as a model.

In 1569, after the failure of marriage plans with Kings Frederick II of Denmark and Sebastian I of Portugal, the French offer was seriously considered. Queen Catherine de’ Medici, mother of Charles IX and the power behind the throne, initially preferred Elisabeth’s elder sister Anna over her; but the oldest Archduchess was already chosen as the new wife of her uncle King Philip II of Spain. Queen Catherine finally agreed to marriage with the second daughter Elisabeth, as France absolutely needed a Catholic marriage in order to combat the Protestant parties as well as to cement an alliance between the Habsburg emperors and the French Crown.

Elisabeth was first married by proxy on 22 October 1570 in the Cathedral of Speyer (Elisabeth’s uncle, Archduke Ferdinand of Further Austria-Tyrol, served as proxy for the French King). After long celebrations, on 4 November she left Austria accompanied by high-ranking German nobles, including the Archbishop-Elector of Trier. Once in French territory, the roads were impassable thanks to the constant rain; this caused the decision that the official wedding was to be celebrated in the small border town of Mézières-en-Champagne (now Charleville-Mézières). Before reaching her destiny, Elisabeth stayed in Sedan, where her husband’s younger brother Henry, Duke of Anjou, received her. The King, curious about his future wife, dressed himself as a soldier and went to Sedan to observe her incognito while she was walking in the palace of Sedan’s garden with Henry: he was reportedly happy about what he saw.

King Charles IX of France and Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria were formally married on 26 November 1570 in Mézières; Charles, Cardinal de Bourbon, performed the ceremony. The occasion was celebrated with immense pomp and extravagance, despite the dire state of French finances. The new Queen’s wedding gown was of silver and her tiara was studded with pearls, emeralds, diamonds and rubies.

Because of the difficult journey and the cold weather, at the beginning of 1571 Elisabeth was very sick. Since the wedding took place far away from Paris, it was only in the spring that the German-French alliance was celebrated once again with magnificent feasts in the capital. On 25 March 1571 Elisabeth was consecrated as Queen of France by the Archbishop of Reims at the Basilica of St Denis. The new Queen officially entered Paris four days later, on 29 March. Then, she disappeared from public life.

Elisabeth was so delighted about her husband that she, to general amusement, did not hesitate to kiss him in front of others. However, King Charles IX already had a long-term mistress, Marie Touchet, who famously quoted: “The German girl doesn’t scare me” (L'allemande ne me fait pas peur); after a brief infatuation with his teenage bride, the King soon returned to his mistress, encouraged by his own mother, Queen Catherine, who made sure that her new daughter-in-law was kept out of any affairs of state.

Although they never fell in love, the royal couple had a warm and supportive relationship. Charles realised that the liberal ways of the French Court might shock Elisabeth and, along with his mother, he made an effort to shield her from its excesses. Queen Elisabeth spoke German, Spanish, Latin and Italian with fluency, but she learned French with difficulty; also, she felt lonely in the lively and dissolute French court; one of her few friends was, surprisingly, her controversial sister-in-law, Margaret of Valois. Busbecq, her former tutor who accompanied her in her trip to France, was made her Lord Chamberlain.

The Queen, shocked with the licentious ways of the French court, dedicated her time to embroidery work, reading and especially the practice of charitable and pious works. She continued to hear Mass twice a day, despite being horrified at how little respect was shown for religion by the supposedly Catholic courtiers. Her one controversial act was to make a point of rejecting the attentions of Protestant courtiers and politicians by refusing the Huguenot leader, Gaspard II de Coligny the permission to kiss her hand when they paid homage to the royal family.

Despite her strong opposition to the Protestantism in France, she was horrified when she received news of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on 24 August 1572, when thousands of French Protestants were slaughtered on the streets of Paris. During the massacre, the Queen was given petitions to speak for the innocent, and she managed to assure a promise to spare the lives of the foreign (especially numerous German) Protestants. Elisabeth, then heavily pregnant, never publicly rejoiced at so many deaths - like other prominent Catholics did. According to Brantôme, the next morning after the massacre, the shocked Queen asked her husband if he knew about that: when the King told her that he was the initiator, she said she would pray for him and the salvation of his soul.

 A few months later, on 27 October 1572, the Queen gave birth her first child, a daughter, in the Louvre Palace. She was named Marie Elisabeth after her grandmother, Empress Maria, and Queen Elizabeth I of England, who were her godmothers.

By the time of Marie Elisabeth’s birth the already poor health of the King deteriorated rapidly, and after long suffering, in which Elizabeth rendered him silent support and prayed for his recovery, he died on 30 May 1574; the Queen, who was at his bedside (weeping “tears so tender, and so secret,” according to one eyewitness), was at the end expelled from the King’s chamber by her mother-in-law, Queen Catherine.

After having completed the 40 days mourning period, Elisabeth, now called la reine blanche (the White Queen), was compelled by her father to return to Vienna. Shortly before, Emperor Maximilian II made the proposition of a new marriage for her, this time with her dead husband’s brother - now King Henry III of France; however, she firmly refused. By Letters Patent dated on 21 November 1575, King Henry III gave up the County of Upper and Lower March (Haute et Basse-Marche) to his sister-in-law Elisabeth as her dower; in addition, she received the title of Duchess of Berry and in 1577 she obtained the Duchies of Auvergne and Bourbon in exchange. On 28 August 1575 Elisabeth visited her almost three-year-old daughter in Amboise for the last time and on 5 December she finally left Paris after leaving little Marie Elisabeth under the care of her grandmother Queen Catherine. Elisabeth would never see her daughter again.

Elisabeth died on 22 January 1592 victim of pleurisy, and was buried in a simple marble slab in the church of her convent.

Here is a scenario I’ve had rumbling around in my head for quite some time, about my own take on a universe with a successful First French Empire, one of the more popular scenarios in alternate history.  

In this world, the divergence occurred with a more intelligent Napoleon who did not exploit his allies, particularly Spain, so much and managed to end the war in Europe after years of heavy fighting via treaty with Great Britain and Russia in 1814, and so quiet settled over Europe. However, while the Continental System worked while Napoleon was alive, it did not hold together too long after him. After the passing of Napoleon Bonaparte, control of the Continental System and of the First French Empire passed to Napoleon II, who quickly made a mess of things.  

By trying to rule with an iron fist but lacking his father’s charisma, daring, or intelligence, by the mid-1840s the Continental System began to come apart. Revolutions tore through much of Europe, creating new states overnight and forcing Russia, Britain, and Portugal to hold off striking France while it was down to deal with their own domestic problems. For a time, it seemed as if France would fall on its own, were it not for the intervention of Maximilian Joseph Eugene Auguste Napoleon de Beauharnais, nephew to Napoleon II via Napoleon I’s first marriage and husband of Grand Duchess Maria of Russia.  

Originally sent by the Russians to try to calm France and perhaps let Napoleon II fall and France with him, Maximilian instead took the support given to him by the French nobility and ruling classes, who in their distaste for Napoleon II would side with anyone, and gathered enough support to enact the so-called “Quiet Coup” upon Napoleon II in 1848. Spiriting Napoleon II out to Corsica, where he would live out his days in his family’s mansion, proved to be the easiest part of the coup, as Maximilian, now taking on the title of Emperor of France, was forced to wage war to settle down the extremist revolutionaries in France while settling with the revolutionaries in the countries outside of France.  

In the end, the Continental System fell, to be replaced by the Continental Alliance with the new nations of Germany, Italy, Holland, and the Danubian Federation that had sprung up in place of the previous states under France’s protection. Under the Continental Alliance, nations dependent on or allied to France would have equal partnership in all affairs foreign and domestic, and would be allowed sovereignty separate to France’s own. In addition, Maximilian gave the Papal Lands to Italy in exchange for a permanent presence in the Vatican as well as the Pope staying for 6 months of every year in Avignon, and set free the more rebellious lands in Germany to better consolidate France’s gains. In the end, the new alliance proved to work with the new governments in place, and became the largest and most powerful alliance in Europe.  

For his treachery, Russia never forgave Maximilian for stealing away the Grand Duchess and betraying them, and formed the Holy Alliance with Prussia in 1852 (joined by the Ottoman Empire in 1901) to fend off the French in Europe. The Holy Alliance and Continental Alliance have fought many border clashes since then, and even two wars, the latter of which, lasting from 1912-1914, resulted in the freeing of Serbia and Bosnia from Ottoman rule as well as the expansion of Greek territory beyond the pittance they had originally been given. Even years later, in 1930, the Russians and Prussians hold a strong distaste for France, even while pushing their affairs toward the East and the quagmire that is China, seeking to gain a greater foothold than Britain or her ally China.  

Britain, ever the enemy of France, was eventually forced to move its affairs beyond Europe with a disastrous war in Egypt against France and an even worse war for the Turkish Straits that ended British dominion over Europe. Instead, the British grew their alliance with the United States into full partnership and expanded their influence over much of the Americas, save for the French ally that is the Empire of Brazil. The British Empire is still the largest in the world and, despite its lack of a presence in Europe, is still one of the strongest nations on Earth. Though, in recent years, the strength of the British has begun to be supplanted by their American allies, who are rapidly growing into a superpower themselves.  

It is, in fact, the growth of Russia and the United States toward superpower-dom (the latter more than the former) that has prompted France’s push for a more unified Continental Alliance via the Continental Free Economic Zone (CFEZ). Under the CFEZ, the nations allied to or dependent upon France would share a policy of open borders and a shared market for their goods to travel between nations, as well as strengthening the military ties between all members. In Paris, Maximilian II dreams of someday uniting the Continental Alliance into a single nation, a “Europa Universalis” that would be a superpower unto itself. While France is, without a doubt, the strongest power on the ground in Europe, and its colonial empire still great, a push toward uniting with much of Europe would keep the British and Russians from ever standing against them.  

His ambitions are well-supported within the Continental Alliance. The peoples of the allied nations have enjoyed reaping the benefits of their alliance, particularly after the last war. Fair wages, good working hours, pensions, the beginnings of nationalized healthcare, and more have spread through the CA. Even without the CFEZ, art and entertainment is distributed freely around the CA. The prestigious universities of Denmark, for instance, already open their doors to all students from the CA, and have thus gained a reputation of academic excellence in Europe. Budapest, the shining capital of the Danubian Federation, reigns as the second-greatest city in the alliance besides Paris, and is a major hub of Eastern European art, literature, music, and cinema. Germans, Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, Serbs, Dutch, Danes, and French have come together to make the Continental Alliance one of the greatest alliances in the entire world. Now, it is up to Emperor Maximilian II to keep it that way against the Russian and American giants.

Queens of Spain from The Royal House of Habsburg (1/2)

The Royal House of Habsburg was one of the most influential royal houses of Europe. Rudolph of Habsburg become King of Germany in 1273 and the dynasty of the House of Habsburg was truly entrenched in 1276 when Rudolph became ruler of Austria, which the Habsburgs ruled until 1918.  From the sixteenth century, following the reign of Charles V, the dynasty was split between Austrian and Spanish branches. Although they ruled distinct territories, they nevertheless maintained close relations and frequently intermarried. 


Isabella of Portugal (24 October 1503 – 1 May 1539) was an Infanta of Portugal, by birth, and a Holy Roman Empress, Queen of Germany, Italy, Spain, Naples and Sicily, Duchess of Burgundy etc. as the spouse of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. She was the daughter of Manuel I of Portugal and Maria of Aragon. She served as regent of Spain during the absence of her spouse for long periods.


Mary I of England (18 February 1516 – 17 November 1558) was the only child of Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon to survive to adulthood. She was the Queen of England and Ireland from July 1553 after the dead of her younger half-brother, Edwar VI  (son of Henry andJane Seymour). In 1554, Mary married King Philip of Spain, becoming Queen consort of Habsburg- Spain on his accession in 1556. 


Elisabeth of Valois or Isabel de Valois (2 April 1545 – 3 October 1568) was the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. The 14-year-old Elisabeth married the 32-year-old King Philip II of Spain on 2 February 1560. His second wife, Mary I of England, had recently died, making Elisabeth as Philip’s third wife. Elisabeth had originally been betrothed to Philip’s son, Carlos, Prince of Asturias, but political complications unexpectedly necessitated instead a marriage to Philip. They had 2 daughters, Infantas Isabella and Catherine of Spain. 


Anna of Austria (1 November 1549 – 26 October 1580). She was the eldest daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, and Maria of Spain.  She was Queen of Spain by virtue of her marriage to her maternal uncle, King Philip II of Spain. She was Philips’ fourth and most beloved wife. 


Margaret of Austria (25 December 1584 – 3 October 1611) was  the daughter of Archduke Charles II of Austria and Maria Anna of Bavaria.  Margaret married Philip III of Spain, her first cousin, once-removed, on 18 April 1599 and became a very influential figure at her husband’s court. Philip had an “affectionate, close relationship” with Margaret, and paid her additional attention after she bore him a son in 1605.

Emperor Maximilian II

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Emperor Maximilian II

Born: July 31, 1527
Died: October 12, 1576

Maximilian II was king of the Germans and Holy Roman Emperor, successor to his father, Ferdinand I. Born in Vienna, he was educated principally in Spain. He gained experience in warfare during his uncle Charles V’s campaign against the French in 1544, and took a leading role in imperial business at a fairly young age. He married his cousin, Maria, in 1548 and returned to Germany, where talks were being held about the imperial succession.  Charles V wished his son Phillip to succeed him as emperor, but his brother Ferdinand, who had already been designated as the next occupant of the imperial throne, and Maximilian objected to this proposal. At length a compromise was reached: Philip was to succeed Ferdinand, but during the former’s reign Maximilian was to govern Germany. This arrangement was not carried out, and is only important because the insistence of the emperor seriously disturbed the harmonious relations which had hitherto existed between the two branches of the Habsburg family.

Maximilian’s policies of religious neutrality and peace in the Empire afforded its Roman Catholics and Protestants a breathing-space after the first struggles of the Reformation. He disappointed the German Protestant princes by his refusal to invest Lutheran administrators of prince-bishoprics with their imperial fiefs. Yet on a personal basis he granted freedom of worship to the Protestant nobility and worked for reform in the Roman Catholic Church, including the right of priests to marry. This failed because of Spanish opposition. Maximilian II was also a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece.