The potentially most profitable marriage in European history was concluded #onthisday, 19th of August 1477, between the 18-year old Maximilian, heir to the dukes of Austria and Maria, daughter and heir of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy. The marriage made Maximilian’s heirs the dukes of Burgundy, the richest lands in Europe at the time. Burgundy comprised the wealthy cities of Flanders like Gent and Bruges as well as the fertile lands of Burgundy with its splendid court in Dijon.

The marriage catapulted the Habsburgs from important magnates in the Empire to the European stage. Maximilian’s son Phillip married Johanna of Spain, which brought this kingdom and the riches of the New World into the family possession.

Though the legend is that “tu felix Austria nube” , i.e., the Habsburg empire was solely acquired in the horizontal. In reality Maximilian did not gain Burgundy unopposed. He had to fight hard for it and in the lengthy war regularly came to the point of losing it all. In the end he received most of Maria’s inheritance (see dark yellow area on the map). He had to give up the actual duchy of Burgundy itself and the Artois, which went back to France.

If you like these sort of stories, check out the History of the Germans Podcast available of Apple Podcasts, Spotify, most other podcast platforms and on this website

#onthisday, 13th of August 1961, a hot Sunday in summer, the German Democratic Republic began building the Berlin Wall, or as they called it, the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart. The wall split one of Europe’s great cities, Berlin right through the middle. This is almost impossible to imagine today, in the same way as it was almost impossible to imagine it could ever be removed when I grew up in the 70s and 80s.

A 2000-character post could never do justice to the significance of the Berlin Wall and its victims. Therefore, I recommend you listen to Neil MacGregor’s Memories of a Nation that starts at the Brandenburg Gate where the wall once stood. Or if you want to get more detail, The Rest is History made a great Episode most recently talking in some detail about what drove the construction of the wall, its impact on daily life and its fall in 1989.  And Katja Hoyer talks about the “wall in the head” that still divides the country here.

If you want me to talk about it on the History of the Germans Podcast, I am afraid that will be a still a long time before I get there, but I will – I promise