House of Habsburg: Marriage and Religion as Tools for Political Eminence in Spain and Europe

Essay by martiniflatCollege, UndergraduateB, April 2010

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Emerson � PAGE �1�

Martin Emerson

Final Research Assignment

22 April 2010

House of Habsburg: Marriage and Religion as Tools for Political Eminence in Spain and Europe


Before Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage to the Americas in 1492, Spain's only territorial possession outside the borders of Europe was the Canary Islands. By the middle of the sixteenth century however, Spain had gained control over large segments of the Caribbean, the Americas, parts of Africa and much of Europe. The rapid territorial expansion that followed was the foundation of the Spanish Empire and The Habsburg family's power in Spain, Europe and abroad.

A series of events led up to the royal family's worldly political eminence, propelled by Frederick III's (formerly known as Duke Frederick of Steiermark) successful marriage to Eleanor of Portugal in 1580. Frederick and Eleanor's marriage produced a son, Archduke Maximilian I, who later married Mary of Burgundy, sole heir to the prosperous lands of her father, Charles of Bold, duke of Burgundy ("Habsburg Dynasty").

As history progresses, we see the consequential developments of these marriages as well as the politically charged actions taken by members of the Habsburg family to secure additional territory, effectively expanding their dynastic political influence.

The House of Habsburg had a monumental impact on the world during the height of its dynasty beginning in 1506. Aside from the family's philosophy of marrying strategically to gain territorial possessions, religion also became an important tool to maintain their territories and political influence. Charles I, leader of the Spanish Empire and heir to the Habsburg's territorial holdings in Europe, led the religious fight in defense of Catholicism. When emperor Charles was just seventeen, a German monk criticized the Catholic Church's practices, essentially initiating the Protestant Reformation in Europe ("Charles V"). This caused religious upheaval...