Archbishop of Toledo, Archduke Albrecht VII of Austria, Governor General of the Austrian Netherlands, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, King Felipe II of Spain, Pope Clement VIII, Pope Gregory XIII, Pope Leo XI
Archduke Albrecht VII of Austria (November 13, 1559 – July 13, 1621) was the ruling Archduke of Austria for a few months in 1619 and, jointly with his wife, Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, 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 Habsburg Netherlands. He succeeded his brother Archduke Matthias as reigning Archduke of Lower and Upper Austria, but abdicated in favor of Ferdinand II the same year, making it the shortest (and often ignored) reign in Austrian history.
Archduke Albrecht was the fifth son of Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II and Infanta Maria of Spain, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (King Carlos I of Spain) and Infanta Isabella of Portugal.
Archduke Albrecht was sent to the Spanish Court at the age of eleven, where his uncle, King Felipe II, looked after his education, where he was apparently quite intelligent. Initially he was meant to pursue an ecclesiastical career.
On March 3, 1577 he was appointed cardinal by Pope Gregory XIII, with a dispensation because of his age of eighteen, and was given Santa Croce in Gerusalemme as his titular church.
King Felipe II planned to make Albrecht Archbishop of Toledo as soon as possible, but the incumbent, Gaspar de Quiroga y Sandoval, lived much longer than expected; he died on November 12, 1594.
In the meantime Albrecht only took lower orders. He was never officially ordained a priest or bishop, and thus he resigned the See of Toledo in 1598. He resigned the Cardinalate in 1598.
After the dynastic union with Portugal, Albrecht became the first viceroy of the kingdom and its overseas empire in 1583. At the same time he was appointed Papal Legate and Grand Inquisitor for Portugal.
As viceroy of Portugal he took part in the organization of the Great Armada of 1588 and beat off an English counter-attack on Lisbon in 1589. In 1593 Felipe II recalled him to Madrid, where he would take a leading role in the government of the Spanish Monarchy. Two years later, the rebellious Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone and Hugh Roe O’Donnell offered Albrecht the Irish crown in the hope of obtaining Spanish support for their cause.
While pursuing a war with Spain, Albrecht made overtures for peace with Spain’s enemies, but only the French King Henri IV was disposed to enter official negotiations. Under the mediation of the papal legate Cardinal Alessandro de’Medici — the future Pope Leo XI — Spain and France concluded the Peace of Vervins on May 2, 1598.
Spain gave up its conquests, thereby restoring the situation of Cateau Cambrésis. France tacitly accepted the Spanish occupation of the prince-archbishopric of Cambray and pulled out of the war, but maintained the financial support for the Dutch Republic.
Only a few days after the treaty, on May 6, 1598, Felipe II announced his decision to marry his eldest daughter, Infanta Isabella to Archduke Albrecht and to cede them the sovereignty over the Habsburg Netherlands. The Act of Cession did however stipulate that if the couple would not have children, the Netherlands would return to Spain
Here is some background on Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain (August 12, 1566 – December 1, 1633)
Infanta Isabella was the eldest surviving daughter of King Felipe II of Spain and his third wife, Elisabeth of Valois, who was the eldest daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de’ Medici.
At the age of two, Isabella was promised to marry her cousin Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor (1552 — 1612), son of her aunt Maria. However, Isabella had to wait for more than 20 years before the eccentric Rudolph declared that he had no intention of marrying anybody. Meanwhile, she served as her father’s primary caretaker during the last three years of his life, when he was plagued by gout and frequent illness.
As mentioned King Felipe II decided to cede the Spanish Netherlands to Isabella on condition that she marry her first cousin, Albrecht VII, Archduke of Austria. He was her former fiancé’s younger brother the former Viceroy.
They were to reign over the Netherlands jointly and be succeeded by their descendants according to the male-preference cognatic primogeniture but should a female succeed, she was required to marry the King of Spain or the person chosen by the King of Spain.
It was stipulated that, should they have no children, the Netherlands would revert to the King of Spain upon the death of either spouse.
As Albrecht was the Archbishop of Toledo, he had to be released from his religious commitments by Pope Clement VIII before the wedding could take place.
Shortly before King Felipe II died on September 13, 1598, he resigned the thrones of the Netherlands in favor of Isabella and her fiancé. The Pope celebrated the union by procuration on November 15, at Ferrera. On April 18, 1599, 33-year-old Isabella married the 40 year old Albrecht in Valencia.