Maximilian I (22 March 1459 – 12 January 1519), the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans (also known as King of the Germans) from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1508 until his death. Maximilian was born at Wiener Neustadt on 22 March 1459.
Maximilan I was good at fighting, but unfortunately not so good at gaining advantage from his military success. His father had always trouble with neighboring countries and cash flow problems and Maximilian I was the same, but he found a solution to this problem.
The greatest enemy of Maximilian I’s, Frederick III, was Charles the Bold. Frederick III hoped therefor to persuade Charles the Bold to let his only daughter and heiress, Mary of Burgundy, marry Maximilian I. Charles the Bold refused until he lost big against the Swiss in the siege of Neuss (1474–75). Charles the Bold needed a strong ally ASAP so now he wanted the wedding sooner rather than later. The betrothal was announced in 1476 and Charles wanted the wedding to take place as soon as possible. He asked his daughter for her approval by letter and Maximilian I also send her a letter and he sent a ring which is now considered the worlds first engagement ring.
Unfortunately Charles the Bold died in 1477 before his daughter and Maximilian I got married. The same year Mary of Burgundy married Maximilian I who was close in age to her, despite efforts of her uncle the French king Louis XI to more or less try to force her to marry his son and heir, (her cousin) Charles VIII who was just 6 years old at the time and 13 years younger than her! The reason that he wanted his oldest son to marry her despite his young age was the Mary of Burgundy was the heir of a lot of territories and he wanted that land for his son and future grand children. Now Maximilian’s children would get all that land instead of Charles VIII of France.
The Marriage of Mary of Burgundy and Maximilian actually made a lot sense. Maximilian had just like his dad economic issues and Mary of Burgundy was one of the richest women in Europe. Mary on the other hand was very rich, but also under a lot of pressure since her dad died before she got married and the French king wanted to exploit that situation. Maximilian was a good soldier and he did not like the French king so he could provide the muscles Mary needed. He was also much closer in age to her cause he was just 2 years younger.
Maximilan I is thought to be the first in history to present his fiancee with an engagement ring. He gave it to her less than 24 hours before the wedding.
Over the next centuries only the very rich could afford to buy both a wedding ring and an engagement ring. The ring was set with thin, flat pieces of diamonds in the shape of an “M”. Like this:
Mary of Burgundy was a girl that knew what she wanted and she had actually requested the two rings and not only that but she even specified the materials they ought to be. She wrote in a letter to Maximilian: “At the betrothal, your Grace must have a ring set with a diamond and also a gold ring.”
That she was a bit spoiled isn’t surprising considering the privileged childhood she had as the richest heiress in Europe. She received a good education worthy of the most eligible heiress in Europe. She was to have every whim satisfied. She grew up with an ardent interest in animals. Her grandmother Isabel gave her a menagerie of monkeys and parrots. She had pet animals including a giraffe and dogs. She loved music, chess and art. She grew to love physical exercise, especially hunting, riding and falconry. She would skate on the frozen ponds of the Coudenberg Palace and hunt for hours. When Mary stayed in Brussels, she enjoyed the great deer park of Warende that surrounded the ducal palace.
But that didn’t seem to bother Maximilian I of Austria because he seem to have actually been in love with Mary of Burgundy which was quite rare at the time, because marriage at that time was usually strictly business especially for royals and nobility.
He also gave Mary an engagement brooch:
Maximilian I wrote to a friend about Mary of Burgundy : : “I have a lovely good virtuous wife … She is small of body, much smaller than ‘die Rosina’, and snow-white. Brown hair, a small nose, a small head and features, brown and grey eyes mixed, clear and beautiful. Her mouth is somewhat high, but pure and red”.
The wedding itself was also very extravagant according to eye-witnesses:
“I beheld the pageants splendid, that adorned those days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the fleece of gold;
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.
I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the ground;
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound”.
Someone else commented: “Mounted on a large chestnut horse, clad in silver armour, his head uncovered, his flowing locks bound with a circlet of pearls and precious stones, Maximilian looks so glorious in his youth, so strong in his manliness, that I know not which to admire most—the beauty of his youth, the bravery of his manhood, or the promise of his future”.
The marriage is believed to have been very happy. They learned each others language and got 3 children together.
They had similar hobbies and Mary let Maximilian reign her estates and she wanted him to inherit her estates but that was not allowed so her children inherited her estates instead. But I will write more about that in another post :). All in all this marriage shows what the Habsburg family did best: Marrying into other wealthy families in other to gain power rather than waging war. Therefor their motto was: “Let others wage war, but thou, O happy Austria, marry; for those kingdoms which Mars gives to others, Venus gives to thee.”
Ciao, amici miei! Hilde