- historical event:
- The Habsburg dynasty became a European power on this day, when its first member, Rudolf, was crowned as king. The Habsburgs originate from what is now Switzerland, and took their name from Habsburg Castle, in the Aargau canton.
This day in 1273 marked the first time in history that a member of the Habsburg dynasty was crowned king. Rudolf of Habsburg was the founder of the dynasty’s power. He was a German count by origin, the owner of the land around Habsburg Castle, from which the dynasty took its name. The castle can still be visited today, in northern Switzerland (Aargau canton), roughly 13 km from the German border.
Count Rudolf inherited a vast amount of wealth and held great power in northern Switzerland and eastern France, but wasn’t among the more powerful feudal lords in the Holy Roman Empire. Even so, he won a majority of the votes at the elections in Frankfurt on 29 September 1278. Namely, the Holy Roman Empire was an elective monarchy – the ruler was chosen by seven Electors. After he was elected, the ruler would receive the title “King of the Romans” (Lat. rex Romanorum), but only the pope could crown him the “Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire”.
According to one theory, Rudolf was elected precisely because he didn’t seem powerful in comparison with the other candidates, who already possessed larger feudal estates. However, it is more likely that Rudolf was a skilled orator who managed to convince the Electors to support him at the given moment.
Rudolf was crowned on this day in the famous Aachen Cathedral, which was built back in the time of Charlemagne, the ruler who symbolically restored the Roman Empire. Rudolf skillfully used his newly-acquired powers to grant the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia to his sons. These territories would form the core of the Habsburg lands for the next 600 years.