Vol 1 No 1 (2021)
Research Article

Educating the Christian Prince for Learning and Peace: The Cases of Archdukes Rudolf and Ernst in Spain (1564–1571)

Gábor Almási
Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, Langer Weg 11, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Published March 31, 2021
  • humanism,
  • education,
  • Habsburg,
  • Erasmus,
  • discipline
How to Cite
Almási, Gábor. 2021. “Educating the Christian Prince for Learning and Peace”. Central European Cultures 1 (1), 2–43. https://doi.org/10.47075/CEC.2021-1.01.


This paper reconstructs the education of Emperor Rudolf II and his brother Ernst in Spain. It emphasizes the essentially political character of humanist educational literature, which was intended to cultivate a learned political elite whose decisions would be guided by good morals and unbiased reason. In order to achieve their educational goals, humanists promoted a scientific approach to the rearing and schooling of children, from observation of their essentially non-adult nature to adaptation to their potentials, their character, and their age. The recognition that children could not be forced to be virtuous and needed to be given incentives to pursue study was coupled, however, with a certain degree of anthropological pessimism about their corruptibility and the habitual nature of virtues. This explains why the stress on free will and mild methods was always coupled with an emphasis on discipline and indoctrination. The education of Rudolf and Ernst, which was intended to foster moderation, self-control, diligence, and a love of learning, is a rare example of humanist ideals put into practice. It confirms both the special importance of the ideas of Erasmus for Northern humanism and the strong relationship between Latin learning, moral education, and governing.