By Darin Hayton
Published Online – Draft chapter for the forthcoming book Nature, Knowledge, and Politics in the Holy Roman Empire (2009)
Introduction: From the earliest years of his life Emperor Maximilian I was surrounded by astrologers and their interpretations of the natural world. Shortly after Maximilian’s birth on 22 March 1459, Emperor Frederick III and Empress Eleonor summoned Regiomontanus to the imperial residence in Wiener Neustadt to cast and interpret the future emperor’s geniture. At the time, Regiomontanus was one of the most skilled astrologers in Europe. He was a master of arts at the University of Vienna, where he collaborated with his teacher and friend Georg Peuerbach. For nearly a decade Peuerbach had provided astrological advice to Frederick III’s court in Wiener Neustadt as well as to Frederick’s relatives, King Ladislaus Posthumus and Sigismund of Tyrol. In 1452 Frederick had asked Peuerbach to cast a geniture for his future wife, Eleonor of Portugal. Peuerbach rushed to complete the geniture before Frederick departed for Rome where he would be crowned emperor and would marry Eleonor. Throughout the decade Frederick continued to cultivate his relationship with the astrologers and turned to them for advice on political, social, and economic matters. He reportedly relied on astrologers to cast the horoscopes of contemporaries to learn their character, their fates, and even when they would die.