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 Albert VII, Archduke of Austria

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Albert VII, Archduke of Austria

  • Birth 15 Nov 1559 Wiener Neustadt, Wiener Neustadt Stadt, Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Austria
  • Death 13 Jul 1621 Brussels, Arrondissement Brussel-Hoofdstad, Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium
  • Burial Brussels, Arrondissement Brussel-Hoofdstad, Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium
  • Memorial ID 19231

Austrian Royalty. He was the fifth son of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Maria of Spain, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Isabella of Portugal. He ruled as Archduke of Austria for a few months in 1619, succeeded his brother Matthias, but abdicated in favor of Ferdinand II the same year, making it the shortest (and often ignored) reign in Austrian history. He was the husband of Archduchess Isabella Clara Eugenia, the daughter of King Phillip II of Spain, and they presided as regents of the Netherlands for the Spanish monarchy between 1598 and 1621. Prior to this, he had been a cardinal, archbishop of Toledo, viceroy of Portugal and Governor General of the Habsburg Netherlands. Born in Wiener Neustadt, in the state of Lower Austria, he was sent to the Spanish Court at the age of eleven, where his uncle, King Philip II, looked after his education. Originally intending to pursue an ecclesiastical career, he was appointed a cardinal in 1577 at the age of eighteen and was given Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, Italy as his titular church. Philip II planned to make him archbishop of Toledo as soon as possible, but the current incumbent, Gaspar de Quiroga y Sandoval, lived much longer than expected, and he was never ordained as a priest or a bishop. After the dynastic union with Portugal, he became the first viceroy of the kingdom and its overseas empire in 1583 and was also appointed Papal Legate and Grand Inquisitor for Portugal. As viceroy of Portugal he took part in the organization of the Great Armada of 1588 and fended off an English counter-attack on Lisbon in 1589. In 1593 Philip II recalled him to Madrid, where he would take a leading role in the government of the Spanish Monarchy. Two years later, the rebellious Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone and Hugh Roe O'Donnell offered Albert the Irish crown in the hope of obtaining Spanish support for their cause. After the death of his older brother, Archduke Ernst of Austria in 1595, he was sent to Brussels, Belgium to succeed him as Governor General of the Habsburg Netherlands. His first priority was restoring Spain's military position in the Low Countries and during his first campaign season, he surprised his enemies by capturing the cities of Calais and nearby Ardres from the French and the city of Hulst from the Dutch, as part of the Franco-Spanish War that lasted from 1596 until 1598. However, these successes were offset by the third bankruptcy of the Spanish crown later that year, followed by a series of military disasters. He made overtures for peace with Spain's enemies, but only King Henry IV of France agreed to enter official negotiations. Under the mediation of the papal legate Cardinal Alessandro de'Medici (who later became Pope Leo XI), Spain and France concluded the Peace of Vervins on 2 May 1598. A few days after the treaty, Philip II announced his decision to marry his eldest daughter Isabella, to Albert and to cede them the sovereignty over the Habsburg Netherlands. The Act of Cession did however stipulate that if the couple would not have children, the Netherlands would return to Spain. After obtaining the pope's permission, he formally resigned from the College of Cardinals in July 1598 and left for Spain two months later. Pope Clement VIII celebrated the union by procuration on November 15, 1598 at the city of Ferrara, Italy, and the actual marriage took place in Valencia, Spain on April 18, 1599. The first half of their reign was dominated by war and his reputation as a military commander suffered badly when he was defeated by the de facto Dutch leader Maurice of Orange at the Battle of Nieuwpoort in Belgium on July 2, 1600 and he was replaced by the Genuese Ambrogio Spinola. His inability to conclude the lengthy siege of Ostend, Belgium (1601 to 1604), resulted in his withdrawal from the tactical command of the Spanish Army of Flanders. On July 24, 1604 England, Spain and the Archducal Netherlands signed the Treaty of London. Spinola's continued military campaigns and the threat of diplomatic isolation induced the Dutch Republic to accept a ceasefire in April 1607. The subsequent negotiations between the warring parties failed to produce a peace treaty but ultimately did lead to conclusion of the Twelve Years' Truce in Antwerp, Belgium on April 9, 1609. Under the terms of the Truce, the United Provinces were to be regarded as a sovereign power for the duration of the truce. Albert had conceded this point against the will of Madrid and it took him a lot of effort to persuade King Philip III to ratify the agreement. When Philip's ratification finally arrived, his quest for the restoration of peace in the Low Countries finally came to fruition and his reign saw a strengthening of princely power in the Habsburg Netherlands. Agriculture and industrial activities were restored and non-Catholics were no longer persecuted, as long as they did not worship in public. As the years passed, it became clear that he and Isabella would not have children. When his health suffered a serious breakdown in the winter of 1613-1614, steps were taken to ensure the succession of Philip III in accordance to the Act of Cession. As a result, the States of the loyal provinces swore to accept the Spanish King as heir of the Archdukes in a number of ceremonies between May 1616 and January 1617. Philip III however predeceased Albert on 31 March 1621 and the right to succeed the Archdukes passed to his eldest son Philip IV. In the closing months of 1620, his health again deteriorated. As the Twelve Years' Truce would expire the following April, he devoted his last energies to securing its renewal, and in order to reach this goal, he was prepared to make far-reaching concessions. Much to his frustration, neither the Spanish Monarchy, nor the Dutch Republic took his pleas for peace seriously, and his death at Brussels, Belgium in the summer of 1621 therefore more or less coincided with the resumption of hostilities. After his death, Isabella was appointed the Governor of the Netherlands on behalf of the King of Spain, joined the Third Order of Saint Francis, and retired to a convent, where she remained until her death.

Bio by: William Bjornstad





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 27 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19231
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Albert VII, Archduke of Austria (15 Nov 1559–13 Jul 1621), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19231, citing Cathedral of Saint Michael and Saint Gudula, Brussels, Arrondissement Brussel-Hoofdstad, Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium ; Maintained by Find A Grave .