Maximilian was born in Vienna by Frederick III of the Holy Roman Empire, and Eleonora of Portugal. In 1477 he married the heir of Burgundy, Maria, the only daughter of Duke Charles. Thanks to this union, Maximilian obtained the County of Burgundy and the Netherlands, although France gained control of Burgundy proper.
In 1490, he bought the Tyrol and Austria from his cousin Sigismund of Austria, last representative of the First Tyrolean branch of the House of Habsburg. In 1493, with the death of his father, Massimiliano I inherited the remaining Hapsburg possessions, thus reuniting the territories of the family. In that same year, Massimiliano, who was widowed in 1482, married Bianca Maria Sforza (aged 1510), daughter of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza.
Elected King of the Romans in 1486 on the initiative of his father, at the death of the latter Maximilian became emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1493. In that same year he decided to join the Lega Santa to face the intervention of the king of France Charles VIII in Italy. The long conflict resulting from it would then be terminated (with the victory of the Empire) only after his death.
Massimiliano I is famous above all for having presided the Reichstag in Worms in 1495, thus leading to the Imperial Reformation with which the great part of the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire was remodeled.
On Friday 4 February of the year 1508, at the end of a magnificent and marvelous procession running through the main streets of Trento, Massimiliano, covered with the splendid clothing of the imperial majesty, bearing the traditional and universal signs of the mantle, crown, globe and scepter , he sat on the throne on the high choir of the Cathedral of S. Vigilio. There, with Pontifical approval, was proclaimed IMPERATOR ROMANORUM ELECTUS by the Bishop of Gurk Mattias Lang. This gave him the title of the imperial dignity that in Trento revived under the new form of: the Erwählter Römischer Kaiser "that the emperors of the SRl would have used from then until the dawn of the nineteenth century, thus putting an end to the secular coronation of the emperor by the pope.
In order to reduce the growing pressures on the borders of the Empire, Massimiliano stipulated treaties with the sovereigns of France, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia and Russia; in particular, to assure the Hapsburgs the Bohemia and Hungary, Maximilian I met the kings of the Jagellone dynasty Ladislaus II of Hungary and Bohemia and Sigismund I of Poland in Vienna in 1515. The marriages thus organized allowed the expansion of the Habsburg kingdom on the territories of Hungary and Bohemia in 1526. This marriage policy led to the famous phrase "Beautiful gerant alii, tu felix Austria cloud," that is "While others are waging war, you, Austria lucky, married.
Massimiliano died in Wels (Upper Austria) on 12 January 1519. With his death, the imperial title was granted to his nephew Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, since his son Philip of Castile had died in 1506. In previous years, Massimiliano had named his daughter Margaret of Austria tutor of her grandchildren Carlo and Ferdinando.