Kunigunde of Austria
Portrait by Barthel Beham
Duchess consort of Bavaria
Tenure3 January 1487 – 18 March 1508
Born16 March 1465
Wiener Neustadt, Styria
Died6 August 1520(1520-08-06) (aged 55)
Püttrich Convent, Munich, Bavaria
SpouseAlbert IV, Duke of Bavaria
IssueSidonie of Bavaria
Sibylle, Electress Palatine
Sabina, Duchess of Württemberg
William IV, Duke of Bavaria
Louis X, Duke of Bavaria
Ernest, Archbishop in Salzburg
Susanna, Margravine of Bayreuth and Countess Palatine of Neuburg
FatherFrederick III, Holy Roman Emperor
MotherEleanor of Portugal
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Kunigunde of Austria (16 March 1465 – 6 August 1520), a member of the House of Habsburg, was Duchess of Bavaria from 1487 to 1508, by her marriage to the Wittelsbach duke Albert IV.


Early life

Portrait of young Kunigunde by unknown painter, around 1485.
Portrait of young Kunigunde by unknown painter, around 1485.

Kunigunde was born in Wiener Neustadt, the fourth of five children to Emperor Frederick III and his wife Eleanor, daughter of King Edward of Portugal. However, only she and her elder brother Maximilian survived to adulthood.[1][better source needed][2] Frederick blamed her mother for the deaths of her older siblings, saying that she had fed them too much Portuguese sweet food. When Kunigunde fell ill, Frederick rushed into the women's quarter, took the baby from the cradle and moved her to his own bedchamber, removing her from the mother's supposed harmful care. Eleanor quickly fell ill herself. It is unknown whether mother and child ever saw each other again before her death.[3]

She was raised in Wiener Neustadt and at the Inner Austrian court in Graz, Styria, where she grew up in an informal and open atmosphere, without rigid court etiquette. Contrary to former practice, she learned not only to read, write, and embroider, but also received instruction in riding and hunting, astronomy and mathematics.[4]

Kunigunde's family had left the Imperial residence at the Hofburg in Vienna after lengthy quarrels with Frederick's younger brother Archduke Albert VI of Austria. Though Albert had unexpectedly died in 1463 and the emperor proclaimed a general Landfrieden peace, armed hostilities in the Austrian lands continued.

Like most daughters of royal families, since her early years Kunigunde was involved in the political intrigues of her time. In 1470 the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus requested her hand; however, Emperor Frederick, a rival for the Crown of Saint Stephen and also for the Lands of the Bohemian Crown, refused him. As her mother had died in 1467, Kunigunde made her formal presentation at the side of her father at the age of fifteen, in 1480, during the visit of Duke George of Bavaria, called "the Rich", to Frederick's court in Vienna. George was solemnly enfeoffed with the Imperial estate of Bavaria-Landshut and after the celebrations Kunigunde was sent to Burggraf Ulrich III von Graben to Graz for her safety; however, after a plot against the emperor was discovered, he moved to Linz and sent Kunigunde to the Tyrolean court in Innsbruck with Archduke Sigismund of Austria, Frederick's first cousin and former ward.

Duchess of Bavaria-Munich

Statue in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck.
Statue in the Hofkirche, Innsbruck.

In Innsbruck Kunigunde met Duke George's cousin, Albert IV, then ruler of Bavaria-Munich and about 18 years her senior, who she married on 2 January 1487. Her father had initially given his consent, however, when Albert's forces occupied the Imperial City of Regensburg, he changed his mind. The couple wed at the Innsbruck Hofburg residence, against the will of Kunigunde's father. Her brother Maximilian mediated between her and Emperor Frederick; he was able to prevent an imperial ban.

Kunigunde followed her husband to Bavaria and served as joint regent for their eldest son William IV, born in 1493. In spite of her resignation from the Imperial court, she tried to influence the politics of the state as she acted in favour of the rights of her younger sons. She stayed in close contact with her brother, Emperor Maximilian I, and with other rulers and relatives in Europe.

After the death of Albert in 1508 she later joined the Convent of Püttrich which she favoured and lived there until her death in 1520.

She was very pious and able to exert influence in her brother on religious matters. In 1509, relying on the influence of Kunigunde, and the Cologne Dominicans, the anti-Jewish agitator Johannes Pfefferkorn was authorized by Maximilian to confiscate all offending Jewish books (including prayer books), except the Bible. The confiscations happened in Frankfurt, Bingen, Mainz and other German cities. Responding to the order, the archbishop of Mainz, the city council of Frankfurt and various German princes tried to intervene in defense the Jews. Maximilian consequently ordered the confiscated books to be returned. On May 23, 1510 though, influenced by a supposed "host desecration" and blood libel in Brandenburg, as well as pressure from Kunigunde, he ordered the creation of an investigating commission and asked for expert opinions from German universities and scholars. The prominent humanist Johann Reuchlin argued strongly in defense of the Jewish books, especially the Talmud.[5]

In 1512, Kunigunde exposed the fraud of the self-appointed saint Anna Laminit (1480-1518) of Augsburg, who had duped the population and enriched herself using her fame as a "hunger saint" for decades. Laminit had managed to approach even Maximilian himself, who paid personal visits to her and provided her and her maid with clothing. In 1503, Laminit attained her greatest success in persuading Bianca Maria Sforza, her brother's Queen (later Empress), to lead a penitent procession with the city's leading officials – probably the largest one the city had ever seen. Rumours arose though, that some people had seen the "saint" eat. Kunigunde decided to carry out an investigation herself. She invited Laminit to her monastery. When Laminit arrived on 16 October 1512, she was quartered in a guest room, which had been prepared beforehand with peepholes. As soon as the door was locked, Laminit unpacked bags of fruit that she had hidden under the bed. Despite Laminit tried to cover the scandal, on 13 October 1513, Kunigunde demanded a just punishment from the Imperial City Council Of Augsburg. On 30 January 1514, Maximilian personally decreed that Laminit would not be allow to approach him or the city within a day's travel distance. Laminit then arrogantly left Augsburg and moved to Freiburg, where she married a widowed crossbow-maker and established herself as a herbalist. After a new fraud was exposed and one of her herbal drinks caused the death of a person in Freiburg though, she was condemned as a witch and executed by drowning.[6][7]

Among her four daughters, Sidonie died young, so her sister Sibylle married Ludwig von der Pfalz who had been betrothed to Sidonie. Susanne married twice – the first husband was a Margrave of Brandenburg, the second a Count Palatine. Sabine was married to Duke Ulrich of Württemberg, as a reward for having supported Albert in the war against George. The marriage turned out to be a disaster. Ulrich was a lazy ruler and a dissolute man who got into debt and physically abused Sabine. When he murdered the husband of his lover in broad daylight in 1515, it was too much for Kunigunde. She called Sabine back to her and told Maximilian to impose an imperial ban on Ulrich, which her brother did in 1516.[8]

She lived her last years in "quiet meditations and pious prayers", also for her brother who died in 1519 (she outlived him for a year).[8]


With Duke Albert IV of Bavaria, Kunigunde had seven children:

  1. Sidonie (1 May 1488 – 27 March 1505). Betrothed to Louis V, Elector Palatine, she died before the wedding took place.
  2. Sibylle (16 June 1489 – 18 April 1519), married in 1511 to Louis V, Elector Palatine.
  3. Sabina (24 April 1492 – 30 April 1564), married in 1511 to Duke Ulrich I of Württemberg.
  4. William IV, Duke of Bavaria (13 November 1493 – 7 March 1550).
  5. Louis X, Duke of Bavaria (18 September 1495 – 22 April 1545).
  6. Ernest (13 June 1500 – 7 December 1560), an ecclesiastical official in Passau (1517–40), Archbishop in Salzburg (1540–54) and Eichstädt.
  7. Susanna (2 April 1502 – 23 April 1543), married firstly in 1518 to Margrave Casimir of Brandenburg and secondly in 1529 to Otto Henry, Count Palatine of Neuburg, since 1556 Elector Palatine.



  1. ^ Marek, Miroslav. "Complete Genealogy of the House of Habsburg". Genealogy.EU.[self-published source]
  2. ^ Cawley, Charles, AUSTRIA, Medieval Lands database, Foundation for Medieval Genealogy,[self-published source][better source needed]
  3. ^ Leitner, Thea (1994). Schicksale im Hause Habsburg: Habsburgs verkaufte Töchter : Habsburgs vergessene Kinder (in German). Ueberreuter. p. 17. ISBN 978-3-8000-3541-0. Retrieved 4 February 2022.
  4. ^ Sigrid-Maria Größing: Um Krone und Liebe. Amalthea Verlag.
  5. ^ Jewish Virtual Library. "Johannes Pfefferkorn". Jewish Virtual Library. Archived from the original on 23 September 2021. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  6. ^ "Stadt Augsburg". www.augsburg.de (in German). Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  7. ^ Bendix, Regina F.; Fenske, Michaela (2014). Politische Mahlzeiten. Political Meals. LIT Verlag Münster. pp. 128–129. ISBN 978-3-643-12688-7. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  8. ^ a b Leitner 1994, p. 55.
  9. ^ a b Voigt, Georg (1877), "Friedrich III.", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), vol. 7, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 448–452
  10. ^ a b c d Stephens, Henry Morse (1903). The Story of Portugal. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 139. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
  11. ^ a b Wurzbach, Constantin, von, ed. (1860). "Habsburg, Ernst der Eiserne" . Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich [Biographical Encyclopedia of the Austrian Empire] (in German). Vol. 6. p. 178 – via Wikisource.
  12. ^ a b Wurzbach, Constantin, von, ed. (1860). "Habsburg, Cimburgis von Masovien" . Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich [Biographical Encyclopedia of the Austrian Empire] (in German). Vol. 6. p. 158 – via Wikisource.
  13. ^ a b de Sousa, Antonio Caetano (1735). Historia genealogica da casa real portugueza [Genealogical History of the Royal House of Portugal] (in Portuguese). Vol. 2. Lisboa Occidental. p. 497.