Ferdinand II, a member of the House of Habsburg, was Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, and King of Hungary and Croatia. He was the son of Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria, and Maria of Bavaria. His parents were devout Catholics, and, in 1590, they sent him to study at the Jesuits' college in Ingolstadt, because they wanted to isolate him from the Lutheran nobles. In July that same year, when Ferdinand was 12 years old, his father died, and he inherited Inner Austria—Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and smaller provinces. His cousin, the childless Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, who was the head of the Habsburg family, appointed regents to administer these lands.
Ferdinand was installed as the actual ruler of the Inner Austrian provinces in 1596 and 1597. His cousin Rudolph II also charged him with the command of the defense of Croatia, Slavonia, and southeastern Hungary against the Ottoman Empire. Ferdinand regarded the regulation of religious issues as a royal prerogative and introduced strict Counter-Reformation measures from 1598. First, he ordered the expulsion of all Protestant pastors and teachers; next, he established special commissions to restore the Catholic parishes.