The capital of Austria, Vienna, is a rich center for cultural history and architecture. It also contains several memories of the royal Habsburgs blood line. Unlike other great powers in Europe, the Habsburg had a different strategy to reach power than through war and blood shed: marriage! By ensuring influence by marrying into the great houses of Europe, the Habsburgs created a dynasty in Europe during the 16th century.
The empire in which the sun never sets
When emperor Karl V died in 1558, the Habsburgs were not only German emperors, but Dukes of Burgundy (today’s low-counties), Kings of Bohemia and Hungary and Spain (which included half of America and the Philippines). The empire was not built through war, but through careful diplomacy and politics by marriage.
With the vast empire came great problems. The Thirty Years War 1618 – 1648 between Protestants and Catholics threatened Austria from the north, and the Islamic Turks in the Ottoman empire was a constant threat from Balkan. The Protestant army, led by King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and funded by the French, almost reached Vienna in a successful war that would lead to the rise of Sweden as a European superpower. The Ottomans besieged Vienna, where the Habsburgs Imperial residence were located, twice (1529 and 1683).
However, the Habsburg empire prevailed and the only female ruler during the dynasty, Maria Teresia (1717-1780), was sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Transylvania, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma. Through marriage, she was Duchess of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman Empress.
Although the Habsburgs managed to avoid much blood sheds through politics-by-marriage, the idea that blood is thicker than water does not apply to genetics: due to the amount of inbreeding, many of the off-springs suffered from genetically disordered: among them, the (in)famous characteristic “Habsburg-jaw”.
The last reign of the Habsburg ended after World War I in 1918. In Vienna you can now experience remains of the dynasty. We recommend visits to the Imperial Crypt where the sovereigns are buried. Also, the Hofburg palace and its surroundings is a must visit during your stay in the capital of Vienna, including the Treasury and Museum of Art History.