Emperor Of Germany Rudolph II., born in Vienna, July 18, 1552, died Jan. 20, 1612. He was the son of Maximilian II. and Maria, daughter of Charles V., a bigoted princess, under whose charge he passed his early years. In 1664 he was sent to the court of Spain, where Philip II., who had then no male issue, designed him to be his successor, and here the Jesuits continued his education. In 1572 he was crowned king of Hungary and in 1575 of Bohemia, was in the latter year elected and crowned king of the Romans, and on Oct. 12, 1576, succeeded Maximilian in all his dominions. Under the tolerant rule of his father the Protestants had gained vastly in strength, especially in the Austrian states. Rudolph, led by the Spanish court and the Jesuits, proceeded at once to restore the Catholic party to its former position. The religious dissensions broke out in all their former bitterness, and Aix-la-Chapelle, the electorate of Cologne (where the dispute arose out of the ecclesiastical reservation), and the see of Strasburg became the theatre of war.
Failing to obtain redress from Rudolph, a number of the Protestant states formed in 1608 a confederacy known as " the Union," and in the following year the Catholic states established a counter confederacy styled "the League." While Germany was thus brought to the brink of a general struggle, the incapacity and intolerance of Rudolph, who had been involved in war with the Turks and Transylvania, had alienated his family, and provoked an insurrection in Hungary under Bocs-kay (1604) which threatened to overturn his throne. In 1608 he was forced to cede Hungary, Austria, and Moravia to his brother Matthias, who had gained the malcontents by promises of religious liberty (see Matthias); and in July, 1609, the Protestants of Bohemia extorted from the distressed emperor a letter patent (Majestätsbrief) guaranteeing the exercise of their religion. A new war was kindled in Germany by the disputed succession to the dominions of the duke of Jülich. In 1611 an attempt against the liberties of Bohemia, whose capital Prague was his favorite residence, cost Rudolph the crown of that kingdom, which was transferred to Matthias. Rudolph died soon after, stripped of all but his imperial dignities.
His temper had become extremely gloomy and mistrustful, and from superstitious fear he had never married and sought to keep his brothers from doing so. He was fond of science and the mechanical arts, in which last he personally excelled, but he was greatly addicted to alchemy as well as to astrology, which at his court found votaries in Tycho Brahe and Kepler. He encouraged letters, his reign being the most brilliant period of Bohemian literature. He was succeeded by Matthias.