AUSTRIA ~ Duchy and Archduchy
Originally the OSTMARK, the Eastern march (of Bavaria), for which the name Ostarrichi was used as early as 996.
Carolingian Bavaria had an eastern Mark, which after the destruction of Avar power in the 890s extended into Pannonia, though it was driven back later by the Great Moravian Empire. Otto I (936-73) revitalised the Ostmark in the Danube region between the River Enns and the Wienerwald, and his son, Otto II, largely separated the Ostmark from Bavaria when he gave it to Leopold of Babenberg in 976.
The Mark also had land on the northern side of the Danube, in districts later called the Waldviertel and the Weinviertel, but they were wooded and, particularly in the Waldviertel, increasingly hilly moving away from the river, so that it was the right bank lands below the Enns that were the vital ones. The Mark expanded eastwards, reaching the Vienna region in 1002, though probably losing it again until the 1040s. By 1074 it had reached the River Leitha, which was for centuries the border river between Austria and Hungary on a small section of its course not far from Vienna.
The Margrave Leopold III (1095-1136) married the sister of the Emperor Henry V and was a possible successor to the childless Henry when he died in 1125. His son Leopold IV became Duke of Bavaria in 1138 when his half-brother, the German King Conrad III, deposed Duke Henry the Proud, of the House of Welf. In 1156 the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa sought reconciliation with his Welf relatives by restoring Henry the Lion to his father’s Duchy of Bavaria. The reluctance of Frederick’s half-uncle, Duke Henry Jasimirgott, who had succeeded his brother in both Bavaria and Austria, was overcome by raising Austria to a Duchy in compensation and by giving him, in the privilegium minor, a very large degree of independence. In 1192 Duke Leopold V acquired the Duchy of Styria, which besides Styria itself also included some lands west of the Enns in the Traungau.
The Babenberg Dukes died out with Frederick II the Warlike in 1246, at a time when the Great Interregnum was beginning. No successor had established himself by 1251, when the future King Otakar II of Bohemia seized Austria. He partitioned Styria with the King of Hungary. Otakar kept the Traungau, the Styrian lands that lay to the west of Austria, and also the lands to the south as far as the Semmering Pass. (When, after defeating the Hungarians in 1260, he added their share of Styria to his territory he did not return either of these regions to that Duchy but kept them in Austria, so that Wiener Neustadt, for example, belonged to Austria rather than Styria).
Otakar gave legitimacy to his coup by taking Frederick II’s sister, Margaret, the widowed daughter-in-law of the Emperor Frederick II, out of the convent to which she had retired, and marrying her even though he was twenty years younger than she. He later divorced her when his rule seemed secure. After the death of the last Spanheimer Duke in 1269 Otakar added Carinthia and Carniola to his dominions.
What eventually beat him was the end of the Interregnum with the election of Rudolf of Habsburg as King in 1273. The new King was determined to reassert royal authority. Otakar was deposed from the Duchies in 1276, and killed in battle in 1278. In 1282 Rudolf bestowed the vacant Duchies of Austria and Styria on his sons, thereby inaugurating the long Habsburg tenure of Austria.
Otakar’s transfer of the Traungau, which lay west of the Babenberg Duchy of Austria, from Styria to Austria began the creation of what eventually became known as Upper Austria (Oberösterreich). The Habsburgs continued Austria’s westward expansion, partly through the failure of the local lords (the last significant family, the Counts of Schaunburg, died out in 1559), and partly through reducing the extent of Bavarian lordship, though it was not until 1779 that the western border of Austria reached the Rivers Inn and Salzach with the acquisition of the Inn Viertel (the Inn Quarter).
In 1358 the newly succeeded Rudolf IV sought to raise the status of Austria when he took the title of Archduke Palatine, the authority for his action being a document called the privilegium major, which had been found in the archives. He had been disappointed that his father-in-law, the Emperor Charles IV, had ignored Austria when settling the question as to who were the Electors of the Empire.
The Emperor was not pleased with this unfilial self-glorification, and forced its abandonment, helped by the assumption (an undoubtedly true assumption) that the so convenient document had been forged. Rudolf, a man of great ability, died young. It was in 1452 that the acting head of the House of Habsburg, the Emperor Frederick III, successfully elevated himself and the princes of his House to the rank of Archduke. As it turned out, this elevation only affected the principal title of the ruling prince once, the exception being the Archduke Ferdinand, to whom his brother, Charles V, granted Austria in 1521. Otherwise the ruler of Austria always held a higher title (Ferdinand himself became King of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526).
The Duchy of Austria itself became known as the Archduchy and included the original lands plus its gains to east and west. There was an internal administrative division within the Duchy and Archduchy. The lands west of the original Mark formed the Land ob der Enns (above the Enns) and had its own governor and provincial Diet. The original Duchy was called Österreich unter der Enns (below the Enns), the River Enns being a right bank tributary of the Danube. Only its lower course formed the boundary between the two parts of the Archduchy. The upper course of the river lay within the Land above the Enns, whilst on the left (northern) bank of the Danube the boundary lay well to the east of where the Enns joined the Danube. Joined together the two parts of the Archduchy formed Österreich ob und unter der Enns, Austria above and below the Enns.
In all the various partitions of the Habsburg lands except one the same prince held both parts. The exception came after the death of Ladislas Postumus and the extinction of the senior line in 1457. Albert VI, the younger brother of the Emperor Frederick III, challenged his right to succeed, and by a decision of the Estates, Albert obtained the Land above the Enns and Frederick the Land below. In 1462 Albert gained control of some of the lower lands as well but his death in 1463 ended the disunion, though later in Frederick’s reign Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary, seized Vienna in 1485 and Wiener Neustadt, Frederick’s favourite residence, in 1487. Though he had lost much of the Land below the Enns Frederick refused to acknowledge its loss, a determination vindicated in 1490, when, already in his mid seventies, he outlived Matthias and saw the return of his lands.
In 1784 the separation between the two parts of the Archduchy was made total and they became the Archduchies of Niederösterreich and Oberösterreich, (Lower and Upper Austria), which eventually became two of the Länder of the Republic in 1918.