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Albert VII, Archduke of Austria, 1599

Albert VII (November 13, 1559 - July 13, 1621) was the ruling Archduke of Austria for a few months in 1619 and, jointly with his wife, sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands between 1598 and 1621. Prior to this, he had been a cardinal, archbishop of Toledo, viceroy of Portugal, and Governor General of the Netherlands. He succeeded his brother as reigning archduke of Lower and Upper Austria, but abdicated the same year, making it the shortest (and often ignored) reign in Austrian history.

Albert was born on November 13, 1559 as the fifth son of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and Maria of Spain. He pursued education in the Spanish Court in 1570, where he was appointed cardinal by the Pope on March 3, 1577. After the dynastic union of Spain with Portugal, Albert became the first viceroy of the kingdom and its overseas empire in 1583. In 1595, he was sent to Brussels to succeed his elder brother as Governor General of the Habsburg Netherlands, making his entry on February 11, 1596. His first priority was restoring Spain's military position in the Low Countries, as Spain was facing the combined forces of the Dutch Republic, England, and France. He surprised his enemies by capturing Calais in April 1596. He resigned as a cardinal in July 1598 and married soon after.

The first half of the reign of Albert and his wife Isabella was dominated by war. His reputation was damaged as a military commander when he was defeated in 1600 by the Dutch. Campaigns and the threat of diplomatic violence induced the Dutch Republic to accept a ceasefire in April 1607 and finally the conclusion of the Twelve Years' Truce in Antwerp on April 9, 1609. During the subsequent years of peace, Albert's health deteriorated markedly in the closing months of 1620. As the Twelve Years' Truce would expire the next April, he devoted his last energies to securing its renewal. In order to reach this goal, he was prepared to make far-reaching concessions, but neither the Spanish monarchy, nor the Dutch Republic, took his pleas for peace seriously.

Albert died on July 13, 1621, which coincided with the resumption of hostilities.

Family[]

Albert married Isabella Clara Eugenia on April 18, 1599. As the years passed, it became clear that the couple would never have children. When his health suffered in 1613-14, steps were taken to ensure the accession of the Spanish crown in the Netherlands.

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