Ferdinand III was Holy Roman Emperor from 15 February 1637 until his death, as well as King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia and Archduke of Austria. He was the last emperor to have real power over the Holy Roman Empire.
Ferdinand was born in Graz, the eldest son of Emperor Ferdinand II of Habsburg and his first wife, Maria Anna of Bavaria. Educated by the Jesuits, he became Archduke of Austria in 1621, King of Hungary in 1625, and King of Bohemia in 1627.
In 1627 Ferdinand enhanced his authority and set an important legal and military precedent by issuing a Revised Land Ordinance that deprived the Bohemian estates of their right to raise soldiers, reserving this power solely for the monarch.
Following the death of Albrecht von Wallenstein (who had previously denied him the overall military command of the Catholic side) in 1634, he was made titular head of the Imperial Army in the Thirty Years' War. Later that year he joined with his cousin, the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand, who was nominally responsible for the capture of Donauwörth and Regensburg, and for the defeat of the Swedes at the Battle of Nördlingen. Leader of the peace party at court, he helped negotiate the Peace of Prague with the Protestant states, especially Saxony in 1635.
Having been elected King of the Romans in 1636, he succeeded his father as Holy Roman Emperor in 1637. He hoped to make peace soon with France and Sweden, but the war dragged on, finally ending in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia (Treaty of Münster with France, Treaty of Osnabrück with Sweden), negotiated by his envoy Maximilian von und zu Trauttmansdorff, a diplomat who had been made a count in 1623 by his father Ferdinand II.
During the last period of the war, in 1644 Ferdinand III gave all rulers of German states the right to conduct their own foreign policy (ius belli ac pacis) – the emperor hoped to gain more allies in the negotiations with France and Sweden. This edict, however, contributed to the gradual erosion of the imperial authority in the Holy Roman Empire.
After 1648 the emperor was engaged in carrying out the terms of the treaty and ridding Germany of the foreign soldiery. In 1656 he sent an army into Italy to assist Spain in her struggle with France, and he had just concluded an alliance with Poland to check the aggressions of Charles X of Sweden when he died on 2 April 1657.
The royal titles Ferdinand III used were:
Ferdinand III, by the grace of God elected Holy Roman Emperor, forever August, King of Germany, King of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Rama, Serbia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Cumania and Bulgaria, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Luxemburg, of the Higher and Lower Silesia, of Württemberg and Teck, Prince of Swabia, Count of Habsburg, Tyrol, Kyburg and Goritia, Marquess of the Holy Roman Empire, Burgovia, the Higher and Lower Lusace, Lord of the Marquisate of Slavonia, of Port Naon and Salines, etc. etc.
|Croatia, Habsburg Kingdom of
|8 December 1625
|2 April 1657
|Archduke Ferdinand III (IV of Austria), Holy Roman Emperor