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Originally appearing in Volume V12, Page 788 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HABSBURG, or HAPSBURG, the name of the famous family from which have sprung the dukes and archdukes of Austria from 1282, kings of Hungary and Bohemia from 1526, and emperors of Austria from 1804. They were also Roman emperors and German kings from 1438 to 18o6, and kings of Spain from 1516 to 1700, while the minor dignities held by them at different times are too numerous to mention. The name Habsburg, a variant of an older form, Habichtsburg (hawk's castle), was taken from the castle of Habsburg, which was situated on the river Aar not far from its junction with the Rhine. The castle was built about 1020 by Werner, bishop of Strassburg, and his brother, Radbot, the founder of the abbey of Muri. These men were grandsons of a certain Guntram, who, according to some authorities, is identical with a Count Guntram who flourished during the reign of the emperor Otto the Great, and whose ancestry can be traced back to the time of the Merovingian kings. This conjecture, however, is extremely problematical. Among Radbot's sons was one Werner, and Werner and his son Otto were called counts of Habsburg, Otto being probably made landgrave of upper Alsace late in the 11th or early in the 12th century. At all events Otto's son Werner (d. 1167), and the latter's son Albert (d. 1199), held this dignity, and both landgraves increased the area of the Habsburg lands. Albert became count of Zurich and protector of the monastery of Sackingen, and obtained lands in the cantons of Unterwalden and Lucerne; his son Rudolph, having assisted Frederick of Hohenstaufen, afterwards the emperor Frederick II., against the emperor Otto IV., received the county of Aargau. Both counts largely increased their possessions in the districts now known as Switzerland and Alsace, and Rudolph held an influential place among the Swabian nobility. After his death in I232 his two sons, Albert and Rudolph, divided his lands and founded the lines of Habsburg-Habsburg and Habsburg-Laufenburg. Rudolph's descendants, counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg, were soon divided into two branches, one of which became extinct in 1408 and the other seven years later. Before this date, however, Laufenburg and some other districts had been sold to the senior branch of the family, who thus managed to retain the greater part of the Habsburg lands. Rudolph's brother Albert (d. 1239), landgrave of Alsace, married Hedwig of Kyburg (d. 1z6o), and from this union there was born in 1218 Rudolph, the founder of the greatness of the house of Habsburg, and the first of the family to ascend the German throne. Through his mother he inherited a large part of the lands of the extinct family of Zahringen; he added in other ways to his possessions, and was chosen German king in September 1273. Acting vigorously in his new office, he defeated and killed his most formidable adversary, Ottakar II., king of Bohemia, in 1278, and in December 1282 he invested his sons, Albert and Rudolph, with the duchies of Austria and Styria, which with other lands had been taken from Ottakar. This was an event of supreme moment in the history of the Habsburgs, and was the first and most important stage in the process of transferring the centre of their authority from western to eastern Europe, from the Rhine to the Danube. On Rudolph's death in July 1291 the German crown passed fora time away from the Habsburgs, but in July 1298 it was secured by his son, Albert, whose reign, however, was short and uneventful. But before 1308, the year of Albert's death, the long and troubled connexion of the Habsburgs with Bohemia had already begun. In 1306 Wenceslas III., the last Bohemian king of the Premyslide dynasty, was murdered. Seizing the opportunity and declaring that the vacant kingdom was an imperial fief, King Albert bestowed it upon his eldest son, Rudolph, and married this prince to Elizabeth, widow of Wenceslas II. and stepmother of Wenceslas III. But Rudolph died in 1307, and his father's attempt to keep the country in his own hands was ended by his murder in 1308. Albert's successor as German king was Henry of Luxemburg (the emperor Henry VII.), and this election may be said to initiate the long rivalry between the houses of Habsburg and Luxemburg. But the immediate enemy of the Habsburgs was not a Luxemburg but a Wittelsbach. Without making any definite partition, Albert's five remaining sons spent their time in governing their lands until 1314, when one of them, Frederick called the Fair, forsook this comparatively uneventful occupation and was chosen by a minority of the electors German king in succession to Henry VII. At the same time the Wittelsbach duke of Bavaria, Louis, known to history as the emperor Louis the Bavarian, was also chosen. War was inevitable, and the battle of Miihldorf, fought in September 1322, sealed the fate of Frederick. Louis was victorious: his rival went into an honourable captivity, and the rising Habsburg sun underwent a temporary eclipse. For more than a century after Frederick's death in 1330 the Habsburgs were exiles from the German throne. But they were not inactive. In 1335 his two surviving brothers, Albert and Otto, inherited Carinthia and part of Carniola by right of their mother, Elizabeth; in 1363 Albert's son Rudolph received Tirol; and during the same century part of Istria, Trieste and other districts were acquired. All King Albert's six sons had died without leaving male issue save Otto, whose family became extinct in 1344, and Albert, the ancestor of all the later Habsburgs. Of Albert's four sons two also left no male heirs, but the remaining two, Albert III. and Leopold III., were responsible for a division of the family which is of some importance. By virtue of a partition made upon their brother Rudolph's death in 1365 Albert and his descendants ruled over Austria, while Leopold and his sons took Styria, Carinthia and Tirol, Alsace remaining undivided as heretofore. Towards the middle of the 15th century the German throne had been occupied for nearly a hundred years by members of the Luxemburg family. The reigning emperor Sigismund, who was also king of Hungary and Bohemia, was without sons, and his daughter Elizabeth was the wife of Albert of Habsburg, the grandson and heir of Duke Albert III., who had died in 1395. Sigismund died in December 1437, leaving his two kingdoms to his son-in-law, who was crowned king of Hungary in January 1438 and king of Bohemia in the following June. Albert was also chosen and crowned German king in succession to Sigismund, thus beginning the long and uninterrupted connexion of his family with the imperial throne, a connexion which lasted until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 18o6. He did not, however, enjoy his new dignities for long, as he died in October 1439 while engaged in a struggle with the Turks. Albert left no sons, but soon after his death one was born to him, called Ladislaus, who became duke of Austria and king of Hungary and Bohemia. Under the guardianship of his kinsman, the emperor Frederick III., the young prince's reign was a troubled one, and when he died unmarried in 1457 his branch of the family became extinct, and Hungary and Bohemia passed away from the Habsburgs, who managed, however, to retain Austria. Leopold III., duke of Carinthia and Styria, who was killed in 1386 at the battle of Sempach, had four sons, of whom two only, Frederick and Ernest, left male issue. Frederick and his only son, Sigismund, confined their attention mainly to Tirol and Alsace, leaving the larger destinies of the family in the hands of Ernest of Carinthia and Styria (d. 1424) and his sons, Frederick and Albert and after the death of King Ladislaus in 1457 these two princes and their cousin Sigismund were the only representatives of the Habsburgs. In February 1440 Frederick of Styria was chosen German king in succession to his kinsman Albert. He was a weak and incompetent ruler, but a stronger and abler man might have shrunk from the task of administering his heterogeneous and unruly realm. Although very important
End of Article: HABSBURG, or HAPSBURG
HABITAT (a French word derived from habiter, Lat. h...

Additional information and Comments

Our family has a ring belonging to our ancestor named William Reining, the Duke of Reining. It depicts the Habsburg double headed eagle and there is something that appears to be perhaps a sword in the talons. There is a family story about a duke that was disowned because of a liason with a gypsy and that was when he came to America. Surely that was a Habsburg. We are assuming either correctly or incorrectly, that this was our William Reining. With so many obscure Habsburg dukes, we have been unable to locate a record of him up to this point. We were told that our great grandmother was first cousin to Victoria and the Czar and Kaiser (as a matter of fact, my grandfather was named Franz Joseph) but we believe that this is due to William 1V of England and Dorothy Bland the actress whom he never married but had ten illegitimate children with. Until the present generation, all first born boys in the family were named William and all girls named Dorothy in their honor. As near as we can tell, this has nothing to do with William Reining but we could be wrong. Any help your organization can extend to us in this research is greatly appreciated.
Does anyone know of a baby Habsburg girl being switched at birth for a servant's male child, so that there would be an heir to the throne. MY fiance's grandmother claimed to be a Habsburg whom this happened to. After the switch the baby girl was raised in the castle and then sent to AMerica with servants named Ignoc and Ursula Kovac. The Kovacs settled in Cambria, Wyoming, a small mining town. The kovacs were given a large sum of money for the journery to American and for the switching of babies. This allowed them to homestead near Newcastle, Wyoming. The baby girl was named May or Mary and supposively could speak 7 languages. IF anyone can add to the trueth of this story it would be greatly appreciated. The Kovacs grandaughter from this child spent most of her life morning her apparent loss of royalty? even though she was raised in wonderful America.
I know of someone firsthand who claims to be Habsburg royalty..Empress Zita's direct descendant..who's name is Marie.....who came to Canada with her parents from France, Italy. The story she has told me is truely mind wrenching and note worthy. Please contact me at
Surely the above comments are interesting. I too, have a story to tell. A "Prince Morton" (Hapsburg) from Austria visited New York City in 1906. He met a pretty 28-year old woman named Henrietta V. Reichhold, whose grandfather came from Darmstadt, Germany - he was born there in 1843 and his name was Henry William Reichhold. Henry was 4th or 5th Cousins to Prince Josef I, a Hohenzollern. So anyway, Prince Morton met and loved Henrietta and in 1906, Ms. Henrietta told Prince Morton that she was having his baby. Prince Morton left for Austria and did not return. Henrietta went to Batavia, New York to have their child. His name was William Ambrose (Reichhold) and he was subsequently adopted by a couple who were close friends of the family, the Roses - who were unable to have children of their own. In the 1920 Federal Census, William Ambrose is listed as a 'nephew'. Apparently, Prince Morton still loved Henrietta, because he told her that "Any of William's descendants, including William - can come to Austria and they will be considered princes and princesses." None of William's descendants ever went to Austria to visit or claim their titles. William Ambrose (Reichhold) Rose is my Grandfather. In researching the Royal Families of Europe, I found that it was quite common to carry on extra-maritial affairs, have concubines, etc. - this was generally accepted by society in those days... Harold Lee Thornburg
my last name is hapgood, and way way way back some where habsburg or hapsburg was change to hapgood. so i heard through my grandparents. if anyone knows anything else about this could you please tell me, email is
My great aunt told my aunt that we are decended from gypsies. That our great grandfather was a duke in Prussia and his son ran off with gypsy woman (my grandmother). Great grandfather was named Michael Frensch, and my grand parents were Josef and Mary (Reidway?) who came to America and settled in Buffalo. Please, does anyone know any more about my people? Josef and Mary were French who had 12 children.
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