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Archduchy of Austria

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The Archduchy of Austria (German: Erzherzogtum Österreich) was one of the most important states within the Holy Roman Empire and the nucleus of the Habsburg dynastic lands. With its capital at Vienna, the archduchy was centered in the Danube basin, roughly corresponding to the current Austrian states of Lower Austria and Upper Austria.

Located in the southeastern periphery of the Holy Roman Empire, it bordered on the Kingdom of Hungary beyond the Leitha river. In the south it was confined by the Duchy of Styria, with the border at the historic Semmering Pass, while in the north the Bohemian Forest and the Thaya river marked the border with Bohemia and Moravia. In the west, the Upper Austrian part bordered on the Duchy of Bavaria, whereby the historic Innviertel belonged to the Bavarian dukes until the 1779 Treaty of Teschen, as well as on the Archbishopric of Salzburg in the Salzkammergut region.

Archduke Frederick V had already promoted the rise of the Habsburg dynasty into European dimensions with the arrangement of the marriage between his son Maximilian I and Mary the Rich, heiress of Burgundy in 1477. After Maximilian's son Philip the Handsome in 1496 had married Joanna the Mad, Queen of Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon, his son Charles V could come into an inheritance "on which the sun never sets". Nevertheless his younger brother Ferdinand I claimed his rights and became Archduke of Austria in 1521, whereafter he, by marrying Princess Anna of Bohemia and Hungary, inherited both kingdoms in 1526. Ferdinand, King of the Romans from 1531, is the progenitor of the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg (Habsburg-Lorraine from 1745 on), which as Archdukes of Austria and Kings of Bohemia ruled the Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806.

In 1804, Emperor Francis II of Habsburg promoted his territories within the Holy Roman Empire together with his Kingdom of Hungary to the Austrian Empire in reaction to Napoleon I's proclamation of the French Empire; two years later Francis formally dissolved the defunct Holy Roman Empire. The Archduchy of Austria continued to exist as a constituent crown land (Kronland) within the empire, although it was divided into Upper and Lower Austria for some purposes. The title of archduke continued to be used by members of the imperial family and the archduchy was only formally dissolved in 1918 with collapse of Austria-Hungary and the creation of the separate federal states of Lower and Upper Austria in the new Republic of German Austria.

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