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Inner Austria

Late 18th century map of the Habsburg Inner Austrian province:
  Duchy of Styria
  Duchy of Carinthia
  Duchy of Carniola with March of Istria
  Princely County of Gorizia and Gradisca
  Imperial City of Trieste

Inner Austria (German: Innerösterreich, Slovene: Notranja Avstrija, Italian: Austria Interiore) was a term used from the late 14th to the early 17th century for the Habsburg hereditary lands south of the Semmering Pass, referring to the Imperial duchies of Styria, Carinthia and Carniola and the lands of the Austrian Littoral. The residence of the Inner Austrian archdukes and stadtholders was at the Burg castle complex in Graz.


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
  • Administration from 1748 3
  • Rulers of Inner Austria 4
    • Leopoldian line 4.1
    • Inner Austrian line 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6


The Inner Austrian territory stretched from the northern border with the Archduchy of Austria on the Alpine divide over Upper and Lower Styria down to Carniola, where the Lower and White Carniolan lands (the former Windic March) bordered on the Habsburg Kingdom of Croatia. In the west, the Carinthian lands stretched to the Archbishopric of Salzburg and the Habsburg County of Tyrol, while in the east, the Mur River formed the border with the Kingdom of Hungary.

In the south, the County of Görz, which had passed to the House of Habsburg in 1500, and Duino (Tybein) bordered on the Domini di Terraferma of Venice. The Imperial Free City of Trieste on the Adriatic Coast linked to assorted smaller possessions in the March of Istria around Pazin and the free port of Rijeka (later corpus separatum of Fiume) in Liburnia.


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The Styrian lands had already been ruled in personal union by the Babenberg dukes of Austria since 1192 and were finally seized with the Austrian lands by the Habsburg king Rudolph I of Germany upon his victory in the 1278 Battle on the Marchfeld. In 1335 Rudolph's grandson Duke Albert II of Austria also received the Carinthian duchy with the adjacent March of Carniola at the hands of Emperor Louis the Bavarian as Imperial fiefs.

Austria proper (Lower Austria), Inner Austria, and Upper Austria/Tyrol

When in 1365 Albert's son Duke Rudolf IV of Austria suddenly died at the age of 26, Emperor Charles IV enfeoffed his younger brothers Albert III with the Pigtail and Leopold III the Just, who however began to quarrell about the Habsburg heritage. By the 1379 Treaty of Neuberg they finally split late Rudolf's territories: The elder Albertinian line would rule in the Archduchy of Austria proper (then sometimes referred to as "Lower Austria" (Niederösterreich), but comprising modern Lower Austria and most of Upper Austria), while the younger Leopoldian line ruled the Styrian, Carinthian and Carniolan duchies, then subsumed under the denotation of "Inner Austria". At that time their share also comprised Tyrol and the original Habsburg possessions in Swabia, called Further Austria; both collectively referred to as "Upper Austria" (Oberösterreich) in that context, also not to be confused with the modern state of that name.

When Leopold III was killed in the 1386 Battle of Sempach against the Old Swiss Confederacy, the Leopoldian heritage fell to his eldest son Duke William the Courteous, who upon the death of his uncle Albert III in 1395 also raised claims to the Archduchy of Austria against Albert's only son and heir Duke Albert IV. Both sides came to an agreement to maintain the Neuberg division but also to assert the common rule over the Habsburg lands. Therefore, from 1404 William acted as Austrian regent for his minor nephew Albert V. The Tyrolean and Further Austrian lands passed to William's younger brother Duke Leopold IV the Fat. When Duke William died without issue in 1406, the Leopoldian line was further split among his younger brothers: while Leopold IV assumed the regency in Austria, the Inner Austrian territories passed to Ernest the Iron, while the Tyrolean/Further Austrian passed to the youngest brother Frederick of the Empty Pockets.

In 1457 the Leopoldian line again could assume the rule over the Austrian archduchy, when Ernest's son Duke Frederick V of Inner Austria succeeded his Albertine cousin Ladislaus the Posthumous who had died without issue. 1490 saw the reunification of all Habsburg lines, when Archduke Sigismund of Further Austria and Tyrol resigned in favour of Frederick's son Maximilian I. In 1512, the Habsburg territories were incorporated into the Imperial Austrian Circle.

Graz Castle, courtyard

The dynasty however was split up again in 1564 among the children of deceased Emperor Ferdinand I of Habsburg. Under the Inner Austrian line founded by his younger son Archduke Charles II, the lands became a centre of the Counter-Reformation, carried out by the Jesuits with great determination. The cadet branch prevailed again, when Charles' son and successor as regent of Inner Austria, Archduke Ferdinand II, was crowned King of Bohemia in 1617, King of Hungary in 1618, and finally succeeded his cousin Matthias in the Archduchy of Austria (as Ferdinand III) and as Holy Roman Emperor in 1619. His intentions to translate the absolutist and anti-reformationist Iner Austrian policies to Bohemia sparked the Thirty Years' War.

The Further Austrian/Tyrolean line of Ferdinand's younger brother Archduke Leopold V survived until the death of his son Sigismund Francis in 1665, whereafter all territories ultimately returned to common control with the other Austrian Habsburg lands. The political administration of Inner Austria was centralized at Graz in 1763.[1] Inner Austrian stadtholders went on to rule until the days of Empress Maria Theresa in the 18th century.

Administration from 1748

Duchies of Styria, Carinthia, Carniola etc., 1657 map by Joan Blaeu

Rulers of Inner Austria

Leopoldian line

Name Portrait Birth Marriages Death
Leopold III the Just
1 November 1351
fourth son of Albert the Wise and Joanna of Pfirt
Viridis Visconti
23 February 1365
six children
9 July 1386
aged 34
William the Courteous
c. 1370
eldest son of Leopold the Just and Viridis Visconti
Joan II of Naples
13 November 1401
no issue
15 July 1406
aged 36
Leopold IV the Fat
c. 1371
second son of Leopold the Just and Viridis Visconti
Catherine of Burgundy
15 August 1393
no issue
3 June 1411
aged 40
Ernest the Iron
c. 1377
Bruck an der Mur
third son of Leopold the Just and Viridis Visconti
(1) Margaret of Pomerania
14 January 1392
Bruck an der Mur
no issue
(2) Cymburgis of Masovia
25 January 1412
nine children
10 June 1424
Bruck an der Mur
aged 47
Frederick V the Peaceful
21 September 1415
first son of Ernest the Iron and Cymburgis of Masovia
Eleanor of Portugal
16 March 1452
five children
19 August 1493
aged 77

Frederick became Archduke of Austria in 1457, Habsburg territories united in 1490.

Inner Austrian line

Name Portrait Birth Marriages Death
Charles II
3 June 1540
fourth son of Ferdinand I and Anne of Bohemia and Hungary
Maria Anna of Bavaria
26 August 1571
fifteen children
10 July 1590
aged 50
Ferdinand III
under regency of
Ernest of Austria (1590–1593)
Maximilian III (1593–1595)
9 July 1578
second son of Charles II and Maria Anna of Bavaria
(1) Maria Anna of Bavaria
23 April 1600
seven children
(2) Eleonor Gonzaga
2 February 1622
no issue
15 February 1637
aged 58

Ferdinand became Archduke of Austria in 1619. All Habsburg territories again united in 1655.

See also


  1. ^  

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