Fugger (fŏgˈər) [key], German family of merchant princes. The foundation of their wealth was laid by Hans Fugger, allegedly a weaver, who moved to Augsburg in 1367. His descendants built up the family fortune by trade and banking. With Jacob Fugger II, 1459–1525, called Jacob the Rich, the house entered its zenith. It owned extensive real estate, merchant fleets, and palatial establishments throughout Europe. Jacob's fortune was largely built on a virtual monopoly in the mining and trading of silver, copper, and mercury. He lent immense sums to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and helped secure the election (1519) of Charles V as Holy Roman emperor by bribing the electors. Charles ennobled the family and granted them sovereign rights over their lands, including that of coining their own money. Then the richest family in Europe, the Fuggers were generous patrons of the arts and learning and philanthropists, notably at Augsburg, their residence. Under Raimund Fugger, 1489–1535, and Anton Fugger, 1493–1560, the house reached the limits of its power and fortune. Its decline paralleled that of the Hapsburgs, whose wars the Fuggers financed. Several descendants were prominent, but, except for some real estate, little is left of the once fabulous wealth.
See R. Ehrenberg, Capital and Finance in the Age of the Renaissance (tr. 1928); J. Strieder, Jacob Fugger the Rich (tr. 1931, repr. 1966); G. T. Matthews, ed., News and Rumor in Renaissance Europe: The Fugger Newsletters (1959).