John passed his early days at the Bohemian court. As his father had been forced to waive his right to the duchies of Austria and Styria in the Treaty of Rheinfelden of 1283, he felt deprived of his inheritance. When he came of age, therefore, he demanded a portion of the family estates from his uncle, the German King Albert I of Habsburg. His wishes were not gratified, and with three companions he formed a plan to murder the King.
On May 1, 1308 Albert became separated from his attendants when crossing the river Reuss at Windisch, and was at once attacked and killed by the four conspirators. John escaped the vengeance of Albert's sons, and was afterwards found in a monastery at Pisa, where in 1313 he is said to have been visited by the emperor Henry VII, who had placed him under the ban. His fate is unknown from this point. The character of John is used by Schiller in his play Wilhelm Tell.