Leopold I

Leopold I was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1640-1705). His reign was long, from 1658 to 1705. During this period, he had to fight severely against France and the Ottoman Empire. He withstood the second siege of Vienna and managed to isolate France. On the other hand, he attempted to carry out the Counter-Reformation in the Austrian Habsburg territories.

Life of Leopold I

 Leopold I was born in Vienna, Austria, the second son of Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand III. Originally, his elder brother Ferdinand IV was to become emperor, which Leopold I did not plan to do. Therefore, Leopold I followed the career of the clergy.

 Leopold I received an excellent education from an early age. He studied history, literature, astronomy, and natural philosophy. He also learned Italian, Spanish, and Latin. He also developed an interest in the arts, especially music. Of course, he also received a religious education and grew up a pious man.

 In 1654, shortly after his brother Ferdinand IV ascended to the throne, he died suddenly. Therefore, Leopold I suddenly became his successor. First, Leopold I inherited the Austrian Habsburgs’ estates. Namely, in 1655, Leopold I became Archduke of Austria; in 1656, he became King of Hungary; in 1657, his father died. Leopold I ran for election as Holy Roman Emperor, won, and ascended the throne.

 Reign of Leopold I : Austrian Habsburg

 During Leopold I’s reign, Austria became a powerful country. It even gave the Habsburgs a firm political foundation. In the past, the Spanish Habsburgs, such as Felipe II, had exerted influence over the Austrian Habsburgs, but it was the other way around during Leopold I’s reign. Or, the emperor was able to rack up victories in wars against Protestant lords in Germany. Also, the Habsburgs would continue to be the chosen Holy Roman Emperor because of the strength of the Austrian Habsburgs’ domain. Nevertheless, neither the empire nor the Habsburg domains became much more centralized in terms of political administration.
 Instead, Leopold I established control over the Habsburgs’ territories by promoting the Counter-Reformation. In the first place, Protestantism had advanced and was strong in Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia in the 16th century. Catholicism was weakening. But there were also conflicts among Protestants. The Ottoman empire was also influential. The Catholics also tried to recover its own influence by dispatching Jesuits. In the first half of the 17th century, this Counter-Reformation gradually began to produce results. Especially at the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, when the emperor gained the upper hand over the Protestant princes, the Counter-Reformation also began to take off.
 In the second half of the 17th century, when Leopold I ascended to the emperor’s throne, he further promoted the Counter-Reformation in the Habsburg territories. He promoted the formation of lay brotherhoods and actively dispatched priests and friars. The Jesuits were especially active in establishing colleges and preaching to the people. Friars such as the Franciscans and Capuchins were also active. Since Leopold I was initially a clergyman, as mentioned above, he tried to seize control of church governance in his own territory. He held the right to appoint the high clergy and even intervened in the monastic communities as much as he supported them. For this reason, he was often at odds with the papacy and had tense relations with him. On the other hand, some friars, such as the Jesuit Philip Muller, were able to exert a variety of influences on the emperor.
 Leopold I also used other means. He closed Protestant churches, fined them, and expelled their pastors. He also gave preferential treatment to those who converted to Catholicism by appointing them to public offices. On the whole, these were successful. But they also had their limitations. In Hungary, where Calvinism was firmly entrenched, resistance was particularly strong. Even in rural areas, his attempts were often unsuccessful. The lack of clergy was the main reason.
 Leopold I also used his arts and literature to secure loyalty of people to the Habsburgs. Leopold I’s character was described by ambassadors of other countries as follows. He was intelligent, curious, hardworking, and pious. But he was also timid and indecisive. A lover of learning, especially literature and music, he became their patron. He was a book collector and had a splendid court library. In music, he even composed his own music. He was especially fond of Italian music, and opera flourished. During Leopold I’s reign, Vienna became a center of music and other arts. Festivals and rituals flourished as a part of this. Baroque culture flourished. At the same time, these were a means of securing loyalty to the Habsburgs.

 Wars as Emperor

 During Leopold I’s time, the Holy Roman Empire was primarily concerned with wars against the Ottoman Empire and France.

 Until 1683, the Ottoman empire held the upper hand over the Holy Roman Empire. In 1683, the Ottomans moved so close to the center of the empire that they laid siege to Vienna (the Second Siege of Vienna). However, Leopold I survived this siege. After this, Leopold, with the help of the Pope, successfully fought back. In 1699, Leopold I finally succeeded in liberating the whole of Hungary from the Ottoman Empire. Hungary had been under strong Ottoman influence since the first siege of Vienna by Suleiman I in the first half of the 16th century. Leopold I finally liberated it.

 Leopold I also had a difficult battle with France., In the late 17th century, under Louis XIV, France had fully recovered from the decline in national power caused by the wars of religion in the 16th century and was developing into a powerful absolute monarchy. Louis XIV adopted a policy of foreign expansion and fought against the Spanish Netherland and the Holy Roman Empire. Leopold I, who was also suffering from the war with the Ottoman Empire, adopted an ambiguous policy toward France for the time being.

 However, after the second siege of Vienna, Leopold I had some leeway. In addition, the Dutch and the English, who were powerful countries at the time, became increasingly wary of France’s expansionist policies. Finally, in the 1680s, Leopold I formed the League of Augsburg with the Dutch republic and England and went to war with France. He won this victory and frustrated France’s foreign expansion.

 From 1701, Leopold I, England, and the Dutch republic waged the War of the Spanish Succession against France. As a background, King Carlos II of Spain died without an heir. At that time, Carlos II named Philip, grandson of Louis XIV, as his successor to the throne of Spain. Philip therefore ascended the throne as King Felipe V of Spain. However, since Spain and France were powerful countries, England and the Dutch republic opposed the union of Spain and France, seeing it as a threat.

 Furthermore, Leopold I opposed the union of Spain and France also for another reason. He wanted to unite the Austrian Habsburgs and the Spanish Habsburgs. To begin with, in the mid-16th century, during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Karl V, the emperor was also the king of Spain. However, when Karl V abdicated, he ceded the Holy Roman Empire and Austria to his brother Ferdinand I, and Spain and the Low Countries to his son Felipe II. As a result, the Habsburgs were divided into two families: Ferdinand’s Austrian Habsburgs and Felipe’s Spanish Habsburgs. Leopold I planned to unite these two Habsburgs. However, the above-mentioned will of Carlos II brought Spain into union with France. Leopold I thus joined the War of the Spanish Succession in order to prevent this.

 This war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Before that, Leopold I died in 1705. But Leopold I’s attempt was not a complete failure. The King of Spain was eventually succeeded by Felipe V. But the union of Spain with France was avoided. The Austrian Habsburgs also succeeded in acquiring parts of the southern Netherland (present-day Belgium) and Italy, which had been Spanish territory. Thus, the Austrian Habsburgs were able to acquire some of the Spanish Habsburg territories.

Emperor Leopold I

Travel and Attractions in Austria by Emperor Leopold I: Vienna

 Vienna is the best place to visit with a rich historical atmosphere concerning Leopold I. Under Leopold I I, Vienna developed into a full-fledged capital of the arts.

 Even today, Vienna is famous as a city of music. The most representative example is the Vienna State Opera. Founded more than 150 years ago, it is the center of Viennese music. The Theater an der Wien, for example, has a long history and is steeped in history. It is also known as the theater where Beethoven’s only opera “Fidelio” was premiered.

 Various musicians were active in Vienna. You can visit the birthplace of Schubert, who was born in Vienna, and the house where Haydn lived. It would be fun to enjoy the city of music in memory of Emperor Leopold I I, who laid the foundation for such a city of music.

Recommended or Selected References

菊池良生『ウィーン包囲 : オスマン・トルコと神聖ローマ帝国の激闘』河出書房新社, 2019

R.J.W.エヴァンズ『バロックの王国』新井皓士訳, 慶應義塾大学出版会, 2013

Linda and Marsha Frey, A question of empire : Leopold I and the War of Spanish Succession, 1701-1705, Columbia University Press, 1983

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