When Judith of Habsburg was born in 1271, her father was just a mere Count, and no one could guess that the Habsburg family would one day become the most powerful dynasty in Europe. Judith was the youngest of six daughters of her parents, and at her birth, they probably could not have guessed that she would one day be a Queen.
From Count’s daughter to Imperial Princess
Judith was born on 13 March 1271 to Rudolf, Count of Habsburg and Gertrude of Hohenberg. On 1 October 1273, Rudolf was elected as King of the Romans. Soon afterwards he married his two older daughters to two of the most powerful German princes to secure the Holy Roman Empire’s support. In 1279, he married two more of his daughters to powerful imperial Princes. The most impressive marriages would come for his two youngest daughters, Clementia and Judith. In 1274, a marriage between Judith and Charles Martel, the grandson of the King of Naples was considered. Judith and Charles Martel were the same age. However, plans for this marriage soon fell apart. In 1281, Clementia married Charles instead.
In 1378, a new match was being considered for Judith, this time to Wenceslaus, son of the King of Bohemia, and one of her father’s greatest rivals. That year, Rudolf and the Bohemian King, Ottokar II, fought against each other in the Battle of the Marchfeld. Ottokar was killed in the battle, and soon afterwards, his widow, Kunigunda of Slavonia turned to Rudolf for help. Rudolf and Kunigunda came to an agreement that would be sealed with the marriage of their children. The new King of Bohemia, Wenceslaus II, and Judith, both seven years old, were betrothed. There was also a betrothal between Rudolf’s youngest son, another Rudolf, and Wenceslaus’ sister, Agnes. In January 1279, a symbolic marriage ceremony took place for Judith and Wenceslaus. Soon afterwards, Judith returned to Vienna for the next six years.
Queen of Bohemia
Judith and Wenceslaus were officially married in January 1285 in the town of Cheb. Judith was given some large parts of Austria for her dowry. The marriage was consummated, but Rudolf took Judith back home soon after the ceremony. This was because he considered the environment of the Bohemian court to be sinful. Here, the Queen mother, Kunigunda, was living in an out-of-wedlock relationship with her lover, Zavis of Falkenstein. Kunigunda and Zavis eventually married, but she died later that year.
Judith returned to Bohemia to live with Wenceslaus in 1287. A coronation was announced for the young royal couple, but it did not occur for another ten years. Like Rudolf, Judith hated Zavis of Falkenstein. He had fallen out of favour at the Bohemian court after Kunigunda’s death. Judith was said to have a great influence on Wenceslaus, and possibly because of her, the King’s relationship with Zavis deteriorated. Zavis was eventually arrested and brought to trial, and in 1290, he was executed. Judith was present at his execution.
Judith was described as beautiful and virtuous. She was also described as very dominant, often setting the tone for the royal court. Judith and Wenceslaus appear to have had a harmonious relationship. They were often together, and Wenceslaus seemed to rely on her. She also acted as a mediator between Wenceslaus and her brother, Albert, after her father’s death in 1291. Judith is also believed to have brought some German influences to the Bohemian court, such as German art and music. She also proved to be fertile, and during the next ten years, she was constantly pregnant. Judith gave birth to a total of ten children, including a pair of twins:
- Premysl Ottokar (1288-1288)
- Wenceslaus III, King of Bohemia (1289-1306) succeeded his father
- Agnes (1289-c.1296) twin of Wenceslaus, betrothed to Ruprecht of Nassau
- Anne (1290-1313) Married Henry, Duke of Carinthia and King of Bohemia
- Elizabeth (1292-1330) Married John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia
- Judith (1293-1294)
- John (1294-1294)
- John (1295-1296)
- Margaret (1296-1322) Married Boleslaw III, Duke of Wroclaw
- Judith (1297-1297)
These constant pregnancies seemed to have taken a toll on Judith, and of the ten children, only four survived childhood. On 2 June 1297, Wenceslaus and Judith were finally crowned. Judith, having given birth to her tenth child less than two weeks before, was not in good health at the time of the coronation. Within the past decade, she had been pregnant nine times. Having the coronation soon after the birth of her last child in a long string of pregnancies weakened her even more. Judith died sixteen days later, on 18 June 1297, aged 26. Her last child, a namesake daughter, died around the same time.
Judith was buried at St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. It seems that Judith’s main duty as Queen was to birth children. However, there is evidence of other activities of hers, such as her influence on her husband and the Bohemian court. She could have become a very successful queen, had she lived longer. Six years after her death, Wenceslaus married Elizabeth-Richeza of Poland. He outlived Judith by eight years, dying in 1305. 1