His father and predecessor was Ferdinand I, his uncle the Emperor Charles V. Philip II of Spain, son of Charles V, was ahead of him in the line of succession, but under a 1553 agreement Maximilian displaced Philip as heir to the Imperial throne.
Maximilian's policies of religious neutrality and peace in the Empire afforded its Roman Catholics and Protestants a breathing-space after the first struggles of the Reformation. His sympathies for Lutheranism had caused frictions in the House of Habsburg and his father had threatened him with exclusion from the succession. Officially he remained a Catholic.
He disappointed the German Protestant princes by his refusal to invest Protestant administrators of bishoprics with their imperial fiefs. Yet on a personal basis he granted freedom of worship to the Protestant nobility and worked for reform in the Roman Catholic church, including the right of priests to marry. This failed because of Spanish opposition.
The Turks continued to be a threat to the empire and after an unsuccessful campaign against them he had to continue paying tribute to the sultan as the price of peace in the western and northern areas of the Hungarian kingdom still under Habsburg control. His attempt (1570) to gain control over the army was rejected by the German Protestant princes, who feared that his demand for a veto over foreign forces on German soil was intended to prevent them from seeking Protestant help abroad.
Names in other languages: German: Maximilian II, Hungarian: II. Miksa, Czech and Slovak: Maximilián II
Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor
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Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor