Babenberg, Austrian dynasty 976-1246. Otto von Freising, himself a member of the B. family, traced it back to Adalbert of Bamberg, who was executed in 906; the name "Babenberg" was used from the 15th century. The connection with the "older" Babenbergs is unclear; they probably descend from the family of Margrave Liutpold, who died in battle in 907. It is certain that the family belonged to Bavarian higher nobility, and until the middle of the 11th century the B. were counts of various Bavarian administrative districts. Later, however, they ruled in Austria only. All Babenbergs have epithets, invented and assigned by Ladislaus Sunthaym towards the end of the 15th century.
In the course of their 270 year reign, Austria changed from a march into a duchy and was given the status of a country. This change of status greatly enhanced the reputation of the Babenbergs, who also pursued a clever marriage policy. While the first generations looked for marriage partners in families of equal status, Leopold III married Agnes, daughter of a Franconian king Agnes and thus achieved a rise in status which was further developed through a relation with the Hohenstaufers (half brothers in the following generation). The next generations not only established relations with neighbouring dynasties, but also with Byzantium ( Heinrich II, Leopold VI) and with Hungary ( Leopold V). Owing to the family relations of his father and grandfather, the genealogical table of Duke Leopold I shows a strong orientation towards Eastern and South Eastern Europe. The genealogical table of Duke Friedrich II can be only partly established, as the family of his Byzantine mother is unknown.
An examination of their skeletons showed that the Babenbergs were unusually tall for their time (1,80 m). Trouble afflicted the last generations of the B.: Friedrich II was married twice and divorced both his wives on the grounds of childlessness, his brother Heinrich of Moedling carried the epithet "The Cruel".
The family did not die out after Friedrich II. His sister Margarete had 2 sons (Heinrich and Friedrich) by the Staufer King Heinrich (VII). Both her sons died, however, in 1250/51; the King's niece Gertrud (daughter of his brother Heinrich) had a son (Friedrich) by her marriage with Margrave Hermann of Baden. Friedrich was executed in Naples in 1268, together with the Staufer Konradin. Gertrud also had a daughter Agnes (d. 1295), who was first married to Duke Ulrich III. of Carinthia and then to Count Ulrich III von Heunburg.
Literature#J. Jungwirth, Die B.-Skelette in Stift Melk, Annalen d. Naturhist. Museums Wien 75, 1971; 1000 Jahre B. in Oe., exhibition catalogue, Lilienfeld 1976; K. Brunner, Herzogtuemer und Marken, 1994 (= vol. 2 of Oe. Geschichte in 10 Bden., ed. by H. Wolfram); B. Vacha and W. Pohl, Die Welt der B., 1995; K. Lechner, Die B., Markgrafen und Herzoge von Oe. 976-1246, 61996.