Although he was never crowned by the Pope, Maximilian became king of Germany in 1486 and emperor-elect in 1493, and he won papal approval as emperor in 1508. His talent, however, lay less in his success as emperor than in his securing the imperial title for the Hapsburg house and ensuring Hapsburg predominance in European diplomacy for the next 4 centuries. The empire had become by the end of the 15th century rather an aid to dynastic ambition than an effective form of government for Germany. Maximilian I's career was more an example of manipulating the advantages afforded by the imperial title than an actual rule of the fragmented empire. He was a better knight than he was a general, and he appears to have been far more a storybook king than a hardworking 15th-century monarch. He spent a great deal of time and money perpetuating his own memory, both in works and pictures about himself and in several romantic versions of his own life which he wrote.
Weisskunig, garden scene with Maximilian and Mary in Hortus conclusius. Maximilian wrote, "Had we but peace, we would sit here as in a rose garden."
Besides external political threats, Maximilian faced the perennial administrative chaos of Germany and accomplished a number of governmental and judicial reforms, including the establishment of the Imperial Court in 1495, in which Roman law was to be used. Maximilian also urged reform of the Church, particularly in Germany. At his death in 1519 the crises which would trouble the 16th century were already evident: the rivalry between Spain and France, the use of Italy and the papacy as a battleground for the conflict, and the stirrings of anticlericalism and the questioning of ecclesiastical dogma which would usher in the Reformation. Maximilian's reputation as the "last knight" was a fitting one. More on Maximilian I
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