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Habsburg family portrait by Martin van Meytens, 1764.        Source: Public Domain

The Rise and Fall of the Habsburg Empire (Video)


The Habsburg Empire, a dynasty spanning nearly 600 years, wielded vast influence over central and Eastern Europe. Unlike other monarchies, the Habsburgs were a family lineage rather than a single ruler. Their obsession with maintaining exclusivity through inbreeding led to genetic deformities like the notorious "Habsburg jaw."

Rising from Swiss origins, they expanded their dominion from Austria to encompass territories across Europe, even venturing into the Americas, Africa, and Asia. Key figures like Rudolf I and Maximilian I epitomized the dynasty's power and ambition. Maximilian's reign during the Renaissance marked a period of cultural revival and territorial expansion. He surrounded himself with scholars and pursued ambitious projects, though often at the expense of the treasury. His marriage to Mary of Burgundy added the Burgundian Netherlands to the Habsburg inheritance.

The empire's zenith under Charles V saw it become a European superpower, but religious conflicts and internal divisions soon took their toll. The Thirty Years War and subsequent conflicts further weakened the empire. By the 19th century, revolutions and the industrial revolution hastened its decline. Despite attempts at modernization, such as those by Maria Theresa and Joseph II, the empire's fate was sealed with the onset of World War I, marking the end of an era.

Top image: Habsburg family portrait by Martin van Meytens, 1764.        Source: Public Domain

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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