Leopold II: Margrave of Austria

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Leopold II was the fifth Margrave of Austria. He ruled for two decades in the late 11th Century.

Leopold II, Margrave of Austria

Leopold was born in 1050. Like many people in early medieval times, he had few details of his early life recorded. His father was the fourth Margrave of Austria, Ernest, and his mother was Adelaide of Ellenburg.

His father fought with Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV at the Battle of Langensaiza, in 1075. Ernest died the day after that battle, and Leopold succeeded him as margrave.

At this time, the emperor became involved in a controversy over who had the power to appoint religious officials within the empire. Henry insisted that he had that power, which had traditionally been in the hands of the pope, who was then Gregory VII. Henry's father, Emperor Henry III, had been powerful enough to make such an assertion and then back it up. Henry IV, making the same assertion, did not have the same result. Henry III was an all-powerful emperor who held most of central Europe in his sway and had personally chosen four popes. His son enjoyed less of a favorable situation and reputation; in addition, Gregory was a stronger personality than had been his predecessors. The pope excommunicated Henry and ordered him to abdicate his throne. At the same time, trouble was brewing in Germany, as a number of nobles were still not convinced that they should be or remain loyal to their youthful monarch.

One who still supported Henry was Leopold. The margrave maintained that support even after Henry groveled in the snow outside Canossa Castle, begging the pope's forgiveness. Leopold changed sides, however, and supported Pope Gregory VII, partly through the influence of his wife, Ida, whom he had married in 1065.

Henry responded to this change of heart by invading Austria, in 1079. Leopold held firm and, when the emperor changed his focus and invaded Italy in 1081, led a drive to throw off the emperor's influence. Henry, still very powerful, declared Leopold deposed and replaced by the Bohemian duke Vratislav II, who invaded in 1082 and soundly defeated Leopold's forces, at the Battle of Mailberg, thereby regaining lands lost earlier. Leopold escaped from the ruin of the battle and somehow kept his title. He is known to have, as late as 1089, given a sum of money to help pay for the construction of Melk Abbey.

Leopold went to live at Gars am castle. It was there that he died, on Oct. 12, 1095. By that time, he and Ida had had seven children, all of whom survived into adulthood: Leopold, Adelaide, Elizabeth, Gerberga, Ida, Euphemia, and Sophia. Leopold, the oldest child and only son, succeeded his father.

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