Joseph I

Joseph I

Joseph I, 1678-1711, Holy Roman emperor (1705-11), king of Hungary (1687-1711) and of Bohemia (1705-11), son and successor of Leopold I. Joseph became Holy Roman emperor in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession and died before it ended. He vigorously supported the claim of his brother (who succeeded him as Charles VI) to the Spanish throne. During his reign Hungary was in revolt under Francis II Rákóczy, but by 1711 the rebellion had been quelled. Joseph made some attempts at internal reform. A musician and an admirer of art, he encouraged cultural life in Vienna.

Franz Joseph I Karl (-German, in English Francis Joseph I Charles, see the name in other languages) (18 August, 1830 – 21 November, 1916) of the Habsburg Dynasty was Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary and King of Bohemia from 1848 until 1916.

Early life

Franz Joseph was born in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, the oldest son of Archduke Franz Karl (the younger son of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II), and his wife Princess Sophie of Bavaria. Because his uncle, from 1835 the Emperor Ferdinand, was weak-minded, and his father unambitious and retiring, the young Archduke "Franzl" was brought up by his mother as a future Emperor with emphasis on devotion, responsibility and diligence. Franzl came to idolize his grandfather, der Gute Kaiser Franz, who had died shortly before his fifth birthday, as the ideal monarch. At the age of 13 young Archduke Franz started a career as a colonel in the Austrian army. From that point onward, his fashion was dictated by army style and for the rest of his life he normally wore the uniform of a junior officer.

Franz Joseph was soon joined by three younger brothers - Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (born 1832, the future Emperor Maximilian of Mexico); Archduke Karl Ludwig (born 1833), and Archduke Ludwig Viktor (born 1842), but a sister, Maria Anna (born 1835), died at the age of four.

Following the resignation of the Chancellor Prince Metternich during the Revolutions of 1848, the young Archduke, who it was widely expected would soon succeed his uncle on the throne, was appointed Governor of Bohemia on 6 April, but never took up the post. Instead, Franz was sent to the front in Italy, joining Field Marshal Radetzky on campaign on 29 April, receiving his baptism of fire on 5 May at Santa Lucia. By all accounts he handled his first military experience calmly and with dignity. Around the same time, the Imperial Family was fleeing revolutionary Vienna for the calmer setting of Innsbruck, in the Tyrol. Soon, the Archduke was called back from Italy, joining the rest of his family at Innsbruck by mid-June. It was at Innsbruck at this time that Franz Joseph first met his cousin Elisabeth, Duchess in Bavaria, his future bride, then a girl of ten, but apparently the meeting made little impact.

Following victory over the Italians at Custoza in late July, the court felt safe to return to Vienna, and Franz Joseph travelled with them. But within a few months Vienna again appeared unsafe, and in September the court left again, this time for Olmütz in Moravia. By now, Prince Windischgrätz, the influential military commander in Bohemia, was determined to see the young Archduke soon put onto the throne. It was thought that a new ruler would not be bound by the oaths to respect constitutional government to which Ferdinand had been forced to agree, and that it was necessary to find a young, energetic emperor to replace the kindly, but mentally unfit Emperor.

It was thus at Olmütz on 2 December that, by the abdication of his uncle Ferdinand and the renunciation of his father, the mild-mannered Franz Karl, Franz Joseph succeeded as Emperor of Austria. It was at this time that he first became known by his second as well as his first given name. The name "Franz Joseph" was chosen deliberately to bring back memories of the new Emperor's great-grand-uncle, Emperor Joseph II, remembered as a modernizing reformer.

Imperial absolutism, 1848–1860

Under the guidance of the new prime minister Prince Schwarzenberg, the new emperor at first pursued a cautious course, granting a constitution in early 1849. At the same time, military campaigns were necessary against the Hungarians, who had rebelled against Habsburg central authority under the name of their ancient liberties. Franz Joseph was also almost immediately faced with a renewal of the fighting in Italy, with King Charles Albert of Sardinia taking advantage of setbacks in Hungary to resume the war in March 1849. Soon, though, the military tide began to turn in favor of Franz Joseph and the Austrian whitecoats. Almost immediately, Charles Albert was decisively beaten by Radetzky at Novara, and forced both to sue for peace and to abdicate his throne. In Hungary, the situation was more grave and Austrian defeat was quite possible. Franz Joseph, sensing a need to secure his right to rule sought help from a reactionary Russia. With this Russian aid the Hungarian revolution was crushed by late summer of 1849. With order now restored throughout the Empire, Franz Joseph felt free to go back on the constitutional concessions he had made, especially as the Austrian parliament, meeting at Kremsier, had behaved, in the young Emperor's view, abominably. The 1849 constitution was suspended, and a policy of absolutist centralism was established, guided by the Minister of the Interior, Alexander Bach.

The next few years saw the seeming recovery of Austria's position on the international scene following the near disasters of 1848–1849. Under Schwarzenberg's guidance, Austria was able to stymie Prussian scheming to create a new German Federation under Prussian leadership, excluding Austria. After Schwarzenberg's premature death in 1852, he could not be replaced by statesmen of equal stature, and the Emperor effectively took over himself as prime minister.

Assassination attempt in 1853

On 18 February, 1853, the Emperor survived an assassination attempt by Hungarian nationalist János Libényi. The emperor was taking a stroll with one of his officers, Maximilian Karl Lamoral Graf O'Donnell von Tyrconnell, on a city-bastion, when Libényi approached him. He immediately struck the emperor from behind with a knife straight at the neck. Franz Joseph almost always wore a uniform, which had a high collar that almost completely enclosed the neck. It so happened that the collar of his uniform was made out of very sturdy material. Even though the Emperor was wounded and bleeding, the collar saved his life. Count O'Donnell (descendant of the Irish noble dynasty O'Donnell of Tyrconnell) struck Libényi down with his sabre. O'Donnell, hitherto only a Count by virtue of his Irish nobility, was thereafter made a Count of the Habsburg Empire, conferred with the Commander's Cross of the Royal Order of Leopold, and his customary O'Donnell arms were augmented by the initials and shield of the ducal House of Austria, with additionally the double-headed eagle of the Empire. These arms are emblazoned on the portico of no. 2 Mirabel Platz in Salzburg, where O'Donnell built his residence thereafter. Another witness who happened to be nearby, the butcher Joseph Ettenreich, quickly overwhelmed Libényi. For his deed he was later elevated to nobility by the Emperor and became Joseph von Ettenreich. Libényi was subsequently put on trial and condemned to death for attempted regicide. He was executed on the Simmeringer Haide. After the unsuccessful attack the Emperor's brother Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, the later Emperor of Mexico, called upon Europe's Royal families for donations to a new church on the site of the attack. The church was to be a votive offering for the rescue of the Emperor. It is located on Ringstraße in the district of Alsergrund close to the University of Vienna, and is known as the Votivkirche.

Later years

Believing it necessary that the Emperor should soon marry and produce heirs, various potential brides were speculated including Princess Elisabeth of Modena, Princess Anna of Prussia and Princess Sidonia of Saxony. Although in public life the Emperor was the unquestioned director of affairs, in his private life his formidable mother still had a crucial influence and she desired to strengthen the relationships between the Houses of Habsburg and Wittelsbach and hoped to match Franz Joseph with her sister Ludovika's eldest daughter, Helene ("Nené"), four years the Emperor's junior. However, the Emperor became besotted with Nené's younger sister, Elisabeth ("Sissi"), a girl of sixteen, and insisted on marrying her instead. Sophie, despite some misgivings about her niece's appropriateness as an imperial consort, acquiesced, and the young couple were married on 24 April, 1854 in St. Augustine's Church, Vienna. Their married life was not happy: not only could Sissi never really adapt herself to the court and always had disagreements with the Royal Family, but their first daughter Sophie died as an infant, while the only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, died, allegedly by suicide in 1889, in the infamous Mayerling episode with his young mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera. The Empress herself was stabbed to death by an Italian anarchist in 1898; Franz Joseph never fully recovered from the loss. According to the future Empress-Consort Zita of Bourbon-Parma, he usually told his relatives "You'll never know how important she was for me" or, according to some sources, "She will never know how much I loved her" (although there is no definite proof he actually said this).

The 1850s witnessed several failures of Austrian external policy - the Crimean War and break-up with Russia, Austro-Sardinian War of 1859 against armies of the House of Savoy, and Napoleon III. The setbacks continued in the 1860s with Austro-Prussian War of 1866. It resulted in the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867.

Franz Joseph built a villa named Villa Schratt in Bad Ischl for his mistress, Katharina Schratt, an actress with whom he had a long-standing relationship which was, to a certain degree, tolerated by Sissi.

In 1914 the heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo, leading to World War I. After he heard the news of the assassination of the Archduke he said that "in this manner a superior power has restored that order which I unfortunately was unable to maintain".

Emperor Franz Joseph died in the Schönbrunn Palace in 1916, aged 86, in the middle of the war. After the defeat in World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy dissolved. He is said to have died singing "God Save the Emperor".

His 68-year reign is the third-longest in the recorded history of Europe (after those of Louis XIV of France and Johannes II, Prince of Liechtenstein).



Name Birth Death Notes
By Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria (24 December 1837-10 September 1898; married on 24 April 1854 in St. Augustine's Church, Vienna)
Sophie Friederike Dorothea Maria Josepha 5 March 1855 29 May 1857 died in childhood
Gisela Louise Marie 15 July 1856 27 July 1932 married, 1873 her second cousin, Prince Leopold of Bavaria; had issue
Rudolf Francis Charles Joseph 21 August 1858 30 January 1889 died in the Mayerling Incident
married, 1881, Princess Stephanie of Belgium; had issue
Marie Valerie Mathilde Amalie 22 April 1868 6 September 1924 married, 1890 her secound cousin, Archduke Franz Salvator of Austria-Tuscany; had issue


Orders, decorations, and honors

Emperor Franz Joseph held the following chivalric orders:

He founded the following orders:

He held the following honorary appointments:

  • Colonel-in-chief, 1st (The King's) Dragoon Guards, British Army, 25 March 1896 - 1914
  • Colonel-in-chief, Kexholm Life Guards Grenadier Regiment, Russian Army, Until 26 June 1914
  • Colonel-in-chief, 12th Belgorod Lancer Regiment, Russian Army, Until 26 June 1914
  • Colonel-in-chief, Schleswig-Holstein Hussars No. 16, German Army
  • Field Marshal, British Army, 1 September 1903 - 1914


The archipelago Franz Josef Land in the Russian high Arctic was named in his honor in 1873. Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand's South Island also bears his name.

Franz Joseph founded in 1872 the Franz Joseph University (Hungarian: Ferenc József Tudományegyetem, Romanian: Universitatea Francisc Iosif) in the city of Cluj-Napoca (at that time a part of Austria-Hungary under the name of Kolozsvár). The university was moved to Szeged after Cluj became a part of Romania, becoming the University of Szeged.

Official Grand Title

His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty,

Franz Joseph I,

By the Grace of God, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia,

King of Lombardy-Venetia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; King of Jerusalem etc., Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Duke of Lorraine, of Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and of the Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz, Zator and Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa (Dubrovnik) and Zara (Zadar); Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent (Trento) and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, etc.; Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro (Kotor), and in the Windic march; Grand Voivode of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc.

Personal motto

  • mit vereinten Kräften = Viribus Unitis = "With united forces" (as the Emperor of Austria). A homonymous war ship existed.
  • Bizalmam az Ősi Erényben = Virtutis Confido = "My trust in [the ancient] virtue" (as the Apostolic King of Hungary)

Names in other languages

Franz Joseph; František Josef; Ferenc József; Franciszek Józef; Franjo Josip; Franc Jožef; František Jozef; Friulian: Francesc Josef; Francesco Giuseppe; Francisc Iosif; Фрањо Јосиф / Franjo Josif; Франц Йосиф; Latin: Franciscus Iosephus


Italian: Ceccobeppe, Cecco Beppe or Cecco Peppe (various dialectal forms) from shortened forms of Francesco Giuseppe, used mockingly, especially by Italian troops who fought during the Great War (World War I). There is also a pacifist poem written by Italian poet Trilussa, "Ninna nanna de la guerra" ("War's lullaby"), where Franz Joseph is called Cecco Peppe.

Czech: Starej Procházka (Old Prochazka or "Walker") or František Procházka (Francis Procházka/"Walker"). Procházka is a common Czech surname which approximates to the English "Walker". It was applied to Franz Joseph after his visit to Prague in 1901 when a picture of him crossing a bridge on foot was published in Czech newspapers with the caption: "Strolling on a bridge" (Czech: "Procházka na mostě")). This, however, may be an urban legend. According to some historians, Franz Joseph was called Starej Procházka much earlier than 1901, the reason being that his arrival was being announced by a cavalryman named Procházka.

Hungarian: Ferenc Jóska, in which Jóska means Joey, mocking his young age when he became the ruler and later his old aged image of an old uncle of the people.

References in popular culture

  • Radetzkymarsch (The Radetzky March), a 1932 novel by the Austrian writer Joseph Roth, where he is portrayed as a lonely, forgetful, ageing autocrat, awaiting death.
  • Sissi, a 1955 film depicting the fictionalized and romanticized idyll between a young Franz Joseph and Elisabeth of Bavaria. Franz Joseph was played by Karlheinz Böhm.
  • Kenneth MacMillan's 1978 ballet, Mayerling
  • The Illusionist, a 2005 film where a fictional son of Franz Joseph plans to overthrow him. Franz Joseph was not played in the film by an actor, however the illusionist magically creates a painting of the emperor to impress the fictional prince's court.
  • Frequent references are made to a stamp of Franz Josef I in Bruno Schulz's story "The Age of Genius."

See also

  • Emperor Franz Joseph was recently selected as the main motif of an Austrian collectors' coin, the 100 Years of Universal Male Suffrage commemorative coin, minted in January 10, 2007. The coin design is based on a historic photo of the opening session of Parliament in 1907, right after the elections. The two oval portraits in the foreground are of the Emperor Franz Joseph and Max Wladimir von Beck, who were responsible for putting the reform through.
  • Rulers of Germany family tree. He was related to every other ruler of Germany.


Further reading

  • Beller, Steven. Francis Joseph. Profiles in power. London: Longman, 1996.
  • Bled, Jean-Paul. Franz Joseph. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.
  • Cunliffe-Owen, Marguerite. Keystone of Empire: Francis Joseph of Austria. New York: Harper, 1903.
  • Gerö, András. Emperor Francis Joseph: King of the Hungarians. Boulder, Colo.: Social Science Monographs, 2001.
  • Palmer, Alan. Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995.
  • Redlich, Joseph. Emperor Francis Joseph Of Austria. New York: Macmillan, 1929.
  • Van der Kiste, John. Emperor Francis Joseph: Life, Death and the Fall of the Habsburg Empire. Stroud, England: Sutton, 2005.

External links

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