Franz Joseph I.

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Franz Joseph I (* August 18, 1830 in Schönbrunn Palace , since 1892 in Vienna ; † November 21, 1916 there ), also Archduke Franz Joseph Karl of Austria from the House of Habsburg-Lothringen , was from December 2, 1848 until his Death of the Emperor of Austria . With a reign of nearly 68 years, he surpassed every other ruler of his dynasty. At the same time he was Apostolic King of Hungary and King of Bohemia .

After the revolutionary uprisings of 1848 , his uncle Ferdinand I, as emperor, was too weak, in the opinion of the dynasty, to continue the government. Franz Joseph's father, Franz Karl of Austria , renounced the succession. Therefore, on December 2, 1848, at the request of his family, Franz Joseph, who was only 18 years old, succeeded him as Emperor of Austria.

He revoked the constitutional concessions and ruled from 1851, initially absolutist and centralist . The military defeats in the Sardinian War (1859) and in the German War (1866) forced him to come to an understanding with the Magyars (Hungarians) and to transform the unified Austrian Empire into two constitutional monarchies : The settlement of 1867 created the dual monarchy Austria-Hungary as a real union two states.

In terms of foreign policy, the opposition to Russia in the Balkans grew under his government , while he leaned more and more closely to the German Empire ( two alliance ). Since Franz Joseph I in Cisleithanien refused to undergo federal reforms in domestic politics (in Transleithanien the Magyar elites refused), the steadily growing nationality conflict became the central problem of the multiethnic state . The ongoing tensions in the Balkans and the strong overestimation of Austria-Hungary's military capabilities led to Franz Joseph's declaration of war on Serbia in 1914 , which was followed by World War I due to the dynamism of the alliance .

The death of Franz Joseph on November 21, 1916, combined with the military defeat and the diverging national interests of the peoples, initiated the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, which took place in autumn 1918.

Franz Joseph, around 1885
Signature Franz Joseph I..PNG
The personal coat of arms of Emperor Franz Joseph I shortly after taking office; below his motto Viribus Unitis ("With united forces")


The monarch, previously known as Archduke Franz , assumed a double name as emperor. Initially it was planned it after his grandfather, the first emperor of Austria, I. Franz , Franz to call. Finally, it was decided to remember the reform emperor Joseph II (1765–1790), who was still popular among the people , by adding his middle name, Joseph . For this reason, the double name Franz Joseph I was chosen, which is unusual for a monarch from the House of Habsburg .

The double name, written without a hyphen, signaled continuity and progress at the same time. In view of the suggested eternity of the Austrian monarchy, the name was officially always used with the Roman ordinal number I. (read: the first; monogram: FJI).

In the other official languages ​​of the monarchy, the name was I. Ferenc József Hungarian , František Josef I. Czech , Franciszek Józef I Polish , Franjo Josip I. Croatian , Francesco Giuseppe I Italian , František Jozef I. Slovak , Franc Jožef I. Slovenian , Фрањо Јосиф (Franjo Josif) I Serbian , Francisc Iosif I Romanian , Франц Йосиф I Ruthenian .

Due to the common practice of transferring the first names of monarchs into the respective national language, there are also corresponding name forms in other languages. The emperor was therefore also known as Francis Joseph I of Austria (English) and François Joseph I er d'Autriche (French).

First names were often adapted to the spelling reform introduced in Austria in 1902/03. Therefore a tribute book of the Vienna City Administration for 60 years of the reign of the emperor gave his name in 1908 in the case Franz Josef I. again.


Early years

Franzi toy locomotive

Archduke Franz Joseph Karl was the eldest son of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria and his wife Princess Sophie Friederike of Bavaria and was born on August 18, 1830 at Schönbrunn Palace.

Since no descendants were to be expected from the marriage of the heir to the throne, Archduke Ferdinand (emperor from 1835), his next elder brother Franz Karl was to continue the succession of the Habsburgs, which is why the birth of his son Franz Joseph at the Viennese court was given special importance. Franz Karl was physically as well as mentally of weak constitution and was therefore hardly suitable for a reign. For this reason, Franz Joseph was consistently built up as a potential successor to the imperial throne by his politically ambitious mother from an early age.

Up to the age of seven, little "Franzi" was brought up in the care of the nanny ("Aja") Louise von Sturmfeder . Then the "state education" began, the central contents of which were "sense of duty", religiosity and dynastic awareness. The theologian Joseph Othmar von Rauscher conveyed to him the inviolable understanding of rulership of divine origin ( divine grace ), which is why no participation of the population in rulership in the form of parliaments is required.

The educators Heinrich Franz von Bombelles and Colonel Johann Baptist Coronini-Cronberg ordered Archduke Franz to study an enormous amount of time, which initially comprised 18 hours per week and was expanded to 50 hours per week by the age of 16. The main focus of the lessons was on language acquisition: in addition to French , the diplomatic language of the time, Latin and ancient Greek , Hungarian , Czech , Italian and Polish, the most important national languages ​​of the monarchy, were included. In addition, the Archduke received general education (including mathematics , physics , history , geography ) that was customary for the time , which was later supplemented by law and political science . Various forms of physical education completed the extensive program.

On the occasion of his 13th birthday, Franz was appointed Colonel of Dragoon Regiment No. 3 and the focus of the training shifted to imparting basic strategic and tactical knowledge.

Accession to the throne

The coronation depicted on a painting by Josef Klaus

After the suppression of the March Revolution , further revolutionary upheavals shook the Austrian Empire . The events of 1848 also highlighted Emperor Ferdinand's weak leadership and showed that due to illness he was almost unable to govern.

The imperial government around Felix zu Schwarzenberg and the Habsburg family council saw the withdrawal of the weak monarch as an inevitable means of restoring stability to the dynasty. Since the official heir to the throne, Emperor Brother Franz Karl, had neither the personality nor the political and intellectual abilities to lead the empire, Franz Joseph, who was only 18 years old, was to become his successor. On Schwarzenberg's initiative, Ferdinand agreed to resign from the government due to illness (according to the official version; he retained the personal imperial title until his death), and at the energetic insistence of Franz Joseph's mother, Franz Karl also renounced his claims to the throne.

Ferdinand officially resigned from his government on December 2, 1848, and Franz Joseph was proclaimed the new emperor in the throne room of the prince-bishop's residence in Olomouc , where the court had fled due to the October Uprising in Vienna . In addition to the declaration of Ferdinand's resignation from the government, the solemn state ceremony included Franz Joseph's declaration of majority by Prince Schwarzenberg. In his government declaration, the new sovereign outlined his idea of ​​rule with the words: ... Determined to keep the splendor of the crown undimmed, but ready to share our rights with the representatives of our peoples, we count on that with God's help it will all succeed To unite countries and tribes of the monarchy into one large state body ... For his motto he chose “Viribus Unitis” (“with united forces”).

On February 18, 1853, the Hungarian tailor János Libényi carried out an unsuccessful assassination attempt on him . On the initiative of his brother Ferdinand Maximilian , the Votive Church was built, which in turn was the initial spark for the realization of the Ringstrasse project . The Kaiser-Franz-Joseph-I-Rettungs-Jubel-Marsch composed by Johann Strauss was performed for the first time on March 6th. In 1898 the Kaiser-Franz-Joseph-Jubilee-March followed from his hand .

Marriage and offspring

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Empress Elisabeth of Austria , 1865

In 1853 the dynasty-conscious Archduchess Sophie was looking for a suitable bride for her still unmarried son. She envisaged a connection with the House of Wittelsbach and together with her sister, Duchess Ludovika in Bavaria , she wanted to marry either their daughter Helene (called Néné) or Elisabeth (called Sisi) with the emperor. In the summer of 1853, Franz Joseph met his two cousins ​​in Bad Ischl on the occasion of his birthday . Unexpectedly, he pulled 15-year-old Elisabeth over her sister Helene and on August 19 the solemn engagement took place.

On April 24, 1854 took place in Vienna's St. Augustine's Church before 70 bishops and prelates the ceremony by Archbishop Joseph Othmar Rauscher . The marriage had four children:

The longer the marriage lasted and the more self-confident Elisabeth became, the greater the distance and alienation between the married couple. Shocked by the strict court ceremony , the Empress fled from life at the Viennese court and from the 1860s was almost constantly on the move. Elisabeth only asserted political influence once: through her very good personal relationships with members of the Hungarian aristocracy, she helped the emperor in 1866/67 to bring about the settlement with Hungary that was urgently needed to pacify the monarchy . In 1879 the silver wedding anniversary of the imperial couple was celebrated with the pageant designed by the painter Hans Makart across Vienna's Ringstrasse .

In order to provide company for the increasingly lonely Franz Joseph during her long absence, Elisabeth arranged an acquaintance with the actress Katharina Schratt . The friendship between the Kaiser and Frau Schratt lasted with an interruption in 1900/01 until Franz Joseph's death in November 1916.

Between 1875 and 1888 Franz Joseph had a relationship with his lover Anna Nahowski , from whom the later Helene Berg , born in 1885, most likely came.

Emperor Franz Joseph kept Crown Prince Rudolf away from all affairs of state. After Rudolf was allowed to break off his strictly military-oriented private training - after several interventions by his mother Elisabeth with the Kaiser - he devoted himself to scientific studies and worked on Brehm's animal life . He was also active as a journalist in the liberal press, anonymously of course and without his father's knowledge. Under pressure from the emperor, he married Princess Stephanie of Belgium in 1881 , daughter of the Belgian king Leopold II. The marriage had a daughter, Elisabeth , born in 1883. Crown Prince Rudolf died on January 30th, 1889 , of suicide in Mayerling, which he had committed together with his lover Mary Vetsera . Empress Elisabeth was the victim of the anarchist assassin Luigi Lucheni in Geneva on September 10, 1898 . When Franz Joseph was notified of her murder, the famous words: I am spared nothing in this world are said to have fallen.

Court train of the emperor, built in 1891 by Ringhoffer in Prague, on October 13, 1899 in the Pola train station in Istria on the occasion of a very important visit

Late years

60th anniversary fountain in Castelrotto , South Tyrol

The 60th anniversary of Franz Joseph's accession to power was celebrated in Austria in 1908. In Vienna, although the monarch didn't think much of it, an imperial jubilee procession took place on the Ringstrasse. The German Kaiser Wilhelm II and all German monarchs visited Franz Joseph in Vienna. Official Hungary did not take part in the celebrations: for many Hungarians, Franz Joseph had only been a legitimate monarch since his coronation in 1867.

For 1908, 1913 and 1914 Franz Joseph I was unsuccessfully nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Ferenc Kemény , Secretary General of the World Peace Congress in Budapest in 1896 .

After the deaths of Rudolf and the Emperor's brother Archduke Karl Ludwig in 1896, the right of succession to the throne passed to his eldest son and Franz Joseph's nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand . However, the descendants of Franz Ferdinand were not entitled to the throne, since in 1900 he married Countess Sophie Chotek (later named Duchess von Hohenberg by Franz Joseph), who came from the original Czech nobility, but was not equal to the imperial family.

In April 1910, Emperor Franz Joseph met the then American ex-president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Theodore Roosevelt for an audience in the Hofburg. In an interview with Roosevelt, who is considered the epitome of modernity, the emperor described himself as the last monarch of the old school and commented on his understanding of office: The purpose of my office is to protect my peoples from their politicians! .

On June 28, 1914, heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot by Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo ( assassination attempt in Sarajevo ). Franz Joseph is said to have shown little sympathy and, according to an ear witness, commented on the double murder as follows: “The Almighty cannot be challenged. A force majeure restored that order that I was unfortunately unable to maintain. ”He is said to have said to his daughter Marie Valerie:“ It is one less worry for me ”. He is said to have meant that he could not prevent the morganatic marriage of his nephew; that the descendants of Franz Ferdinand might have come to the throne is said to have been of great concern to him.

For some Austrian (one spoke of the Viennese "war party") and Hungarian politicians, the assassination attempt was the occasion to strive for the war against Serbia that had been desired for years . They are said to have suggested to the 84-year-old emperor that the death of his unloved nephew had tarnished the honor of the monarchy and that Austria-Hungary would have to turn against the small but unpredictable neighbor. In any case, at the beginning of July 1914, long before the ultimatum to Serbia , the emperor was already talking about the war, which the monarch was aiming for from 6 July 1914 at the latest. The ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia to extradite the perpetrators of the assassination attempt and the subsequent declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia triggered the First World War on July 28, 1914 .

End of life

Laying out Franz Joseph in the Hofburg Chapel , 1916
Sarcophagi of Franz Joseph and his family in the Capuchin Crypt , 2013

At the beginning of November 1916, a chronic inflammation of Franz Joseph's airways developed into pneumonia . Despite the persistently high fever, the 86-year-old stuck to his usual daily routine with an immense workload and received visits as usual on the morning of November 21. In the afternoon, the health rapidly deteriorated until personal physician Joseph von Kerzl close family members imperial shortly after 21:00 in the presence of aides ( Adalbert Spanyik of Dömeháza ) and Eugen Ketterls , the personal valet of the Emperor, found the death. Two days later his body was by the doctors Kerzl, Kolisko and Ortner preserved .

On the occasion of his funeral on November 30th, the Habsburg monarchy unfolded its full splendor for the last time. The coffin of the deceased emperor was brought from the Hofburg to the Requiem in St. Stephen's Cathedral with the ringing of bells from all Viennese churches and the sympathy of thousands of mourners on the roadside . The funeral procession led from the Schweizerhof over the Heldenplatz , then on the Ringstrasse past the opera and the war ministry over the Franz-Josefs-Kai and the Rotenturmstrasse to St. Stephen's Cathedral. Great-nephew and successor Karl I led the funeral procession, which included representatives of the allied powers, all German princes and the House of Habsburg. Franz Joseph was buried next to his wife and son in the Imperial Crypt in the center of Vienna.

In his will, largely signed on February 6, 1901, which was co-signed by several high-ranking witnesses, Franz Joseph dealt primarily with the finances of his family. Small additions from 1913 and 1914 dealt with payments to the heir to the throne, the Duchess of Hohenberg , and their children (who were not equal to the Habsburgs) as well as to Otto Windisch-Graetz , husband of the imperial granddaughter Elisabeth . The will was updated by the emperor after 1914 neither with regard to the war nor with regard to his successor.

Franz Joseph's death and burial were seen by some contemporaries as harbingers of the coming downfall of the monarchy, which outlived its emperor by only two years and fell apart in October / November 1918 .



Domestic politics

The imperial constitution ( October Constitution ) that was enacted on March 4, 1849 after Emperor Franz Joseph I took over government (in the revolutionary year 1848) was never fully implemented and was abolished on December 31, 1851 with the New Year's Eve patents. From now on the young emperor ruled again absolutist and decidedly centralist . It was not until the defeats against Napoléon III in 1859 . of France and the troops of Sardinia-Piedmont in the bloody battles of Magenta and Solferino , in which Franz Joseph himself had assumed the supreme command despite lack of experience, made constitutional reforms inevitable: the emperor issued the October diploma in 1860 and the February patent in 1861 , which allowed the return introduced to constitutional conditions, although he thought little of it himself.

The defeat by Prussia in the German War in 1866 again reduced the emperor's realizable claim to power and made concessions to the Hungarian aristocracy, which remained in passive resistance to the central state, inevitable. After a tough struggle, the Austro-Hungarian settlement came about, resulting in a real union between the two parts of the empire.

1916 newly created personal coat of arms of Franz Joseph, which should represent the Austro-Hungarian dualism. It was approved four months before his death, but no longer introduced.

On June 8, 1867, Franz Joseph was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary in the Matthias Church in Ofen (from 1873 Budapest ) , whereby the dual state of Austria-Hungary was created. The coronation was carried out by the Archbishop of Gran and Prince Primate of Hungary János Simor . The non-Hungarian ( cisleithan , that is, on this side of the Leitha River ) countries achieved a constitutional constitution ( December constitution) on December 21, 1867 .

Franz Joseph adhered to this constitution until his death , he rejected all reform plans (including those of his designated successor Franz Ferdinand, a concept of the United States of Greater Austria ). Even in the Reichsrat , the Austrian Parliament, and the Hungarian Reichstag , there was no fundamental reform project due to the conflicting interests of the nationalities. This inability of the monarch and parliaments to reform gave new impetus to the aspirations for independence of the Austro-Hungarian peoples and ultimately led to the disintegration of the multi-ethnic state after his death and after the lost war.

The Jews in the monarchy had been emancipated under his long reign and viewed him as their patron. He has even been ascribed a philosemitic inclination. Fanatical anti-Semites even referred to Franz Joseph as a "Jewish Emperor" when he repeatedly refused to confirm Karl Lueger as Mayor of Vienna because of his anti-Semitic polemics .

Foreign policy

In terms of foreign policy, there were a series of small victories and major military defeats during the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. After being driven out of Germany and Italy, the monarchy turned to south-eastern Europe and tried to increase its sphere of influence there. The resulting problems ultimately led to the First World War.

Russia had enabled Austria to win the fight against the Hungarian Revolution in 1848 through its military intervention. Russia was therefore disappointed when Austria declared itself neutral in the Crimean War of 1854. Later the interests of the two great powers collided in the Balkans as well.

In the Italian war against France under Napoléon III. and Sardinia-Piedmont , the Austrian army was expelled from Lombardy in 1859 . After the defeat in the German War in 1866, Austria also lost Veneto and withdrew from all German politics; Bismarck implemented the "small German solution" and the German Confederation was terminated. Military achievements like Tegetthoff's victory in the naval battle of Lissa remained meaningless.

At the Berlin Congress in 1878 Austria-Hungary received the mandate to occupy and administer the two Ottoman provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina . Formally, they remained part of the Ottoman Empire . Since Austria and Hungary could not agree on which part of the empire the provinces should be attached to, the administration was taken over by the Imperial and Royal Ministry of Finance (one of the three common ministries of both halves of the empire).

After 1879, the Habsburg monarchy closely followed the newly founded German Empire in 1871 . As a result, it gained a powerful ally (for example on Balkan issues), but at the same time it was entangled in the future alliance systems . Austria-Hungary formed the two alliance with the German Empire , which was called the Triple Alliance after Italy joined . Later the Entente faced him.

In 1903 the emperor exercised his exclusive right during the conclave and had the Bishop of Krakow, Cardinal Jan Puzyna de Kosielsko , veto the election of Cardinal State Secretary Mariano Rampolla del Tindaro as the new Pope. Franz Joseph I rejected the choice of Rampolla probably because of his supposed French-friendly attitude. Then the Patriarch of Venice, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto was when Pius X. elected. He abolished this right of the Catholic monarchs.

In 1908 Bosnia and Herzegovina were formally annexed by Franz Joseph I; his advisors wanted to represent him on his 60th anniversary as a member of the empire . This resulted in the Bosnian annexation crisis , as Foreign Minister Alois Lexa von Ährenthal had not previously reached an agreement with other European powers. It became clear how few allies the Danube Monarchy would have to reckon with in an emergency.

In December 1911, Franz Joseph provisionally dismissed the chief of staff, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf . The reason for this lay in Conrad's constant demands for preventive warfare, which the Kaiser flatly rejected. At an audience on November 15, 1911, the Kaiser reproached the Chief of Staff, Conrad, who was not impressed by this: “These constant attacks, especially the accusations against Italy and the Balkans, which are repeated over and over again, are directed against me, I do politics, this is my policy! My policy is a policy of peace. Everyone must conform to this policy of mine. "

After the murder of Franz Ferdinand and his wife in 1914, the Emperor failed to invite foreign heads of state to Vienna for farewell ceremonies: With the appropriate preparation, all the important heads of state and government in Europe and some from overseas would probably have gathered. But not even the German Emperor Wilhelm II , closely associated with Franz Ferdinand, was brought to Vienna, although he had been ready to do so.

Without the war - in contrast to prominent consultants as Conrad of Hötzendorf - having previously sought personally, the 84-year-old emperor decided in the July crisis , Serbia to demonstrate against strength. He followed belligerent politicians, the military and publicists and considered the declaration of war inevitable. Before making his final decision, however, he failed to hold a “council of war” and not only communicate with the most important experts in short, substantively undocumented one-to-one conversations. There was also no mention of convening the Reichsrat.

His letter of July 2nd to Wilhelm II made it clear: "In the future, my government's efforts must be directed towards the isolation and downsizing of Serbia." Serbia, the "pivot of Pan-Slavic politics", should be "eliminated as a political power factor in the Balkans" become. Franz Joseph approved the ultimatum to Serbia and decided to go to war. When the Austro-Hungarian Finance Minister Leon Biliński warned him again that the ultimatum would cause a European war, the Emperor replied: “Of course, Russia cannot possibly accept this note.” The political conflicts of interest in the Balkans and the automatisms of the alliance policy brought about the fate of a European one in 1914 War that quickly expanded into World War I.

Wilhelm II and the German Reich were allies, Italy declared itself neutral because Austria-Hungary had not been attacked. Italy then made various territorial claims ( Trentino , Trieste , coastal land ) to the monarchy. In 1915 Italy became a member of the Entente , which promised the country the spoils of war at the expense of Austria-Hungary .

When Franz Joseph died in 1916, the war had not yet been decided, but the internal monarchy was already severely weakened by deficiencies. In the Entente and the USA , which entered the war in 1917 , the dissolution of Austria-Hungary became a war goal in 1918 .

Hans Temple : Congratulations from the Austro-Hungarian Army to Emperor Franz Joseph I on his 85th birthday by Archduke Friedrich . Friedrich was Army Commander ( Army History Museum .)

Culture and economy

Franz Joseph I on guilder, year 1879

The economic upswing of the Danube Monarchy in particular is linked to the era of Franz Joseph I, whose name can still be read as an inscription on many of Vienna's magnificent buildings from this period. After the medieval city fortifications of Vienna had been razed by order of the emperor, there was room for a boulevard that encompasses the entire city center, the Ringstrasse ( Viennese Ringstrasse style of the early days ), which is still a living testimony to its era.

Under his reign the intellectual culture flourished after the founding of Austria-Hungary , although the monarch - in contrast to his son Crown Prince Rudolf - did not actively participate in these intellectual currents, which remained completely alien to him.

The suicide of the architect Eduard van der Nüll , co-builder of the Vienna State Opera , is said to have been caused by a criticism of the emperor. According to a cliché, Franz Joseph is said to have been very cautious about cultural matters. Instead of giving any judgment, on cultural occasions he only used his well-known formula: "It was very nice, I was very happy!" In relation to this code of non-commitment and indifference, Elisabeth Springer refers to the fact that the emperor often surprised artists with his great understanding of art.

The emperor's reluctance allowed the architect Adolf Loos to build his controversial home, today's Looshaus , right across from the baroque inner castle gate of the imperial Hofburg , allegedly the first unadorned and ornamented home in Vienna. Franz Joseph is said to have left the Hofburg through other gates since then.


Franz Joseph's great title since January 29, 1869 read:

“Franz Joseph I, by the grace of God, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmazia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria, King of Jerusalem; Archduke of Austria, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Steyer, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukovina, Grand Duke of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Quastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara; Prince Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, Kyburg, Görz and Gradiska, Prince of Trient and Brixen, Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria, Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg etc., Lord of Triest, of Cattaro and on the Windischen Mark, Großvojwode of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc. "

From 1848 to 1866, Franz Joseph also held the title of King of Lombardy and Venice , which was later deleted after Veneto in the Peace of Vienna and the previously lost Lombardy were finally separated from the Danube Monarchy.



Archduke Franz Karl of Austria , father of Franz Joseph I.
Franz Joseph I, Elisabeth and the three children Rudolf, Marie Valerie and Gisela (from left to right) at Gödöllő Palace

Leopold II (1747–1792), House of Habsburg-Lothringen
Francis I of Austria (1768–1835)
Maria Ludovica of Spain (1745–1792), Bourbon-Anjou house
Franz Karl of Austria (1802–1878)
Ferdinando of Sicily (1751–1825), House of Bourbon-Anjou
Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily (1772–1807)
Maria Karolina of Austria (1752–1814), House of Habsburg-Lothringen
Franz Joseph
Friedrich Michael (1724–1767), Wittelsbach House - Pfalz-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld
Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria (1756-1825)
Maria Franziska (1724–1794), Wittelsbach- Pfalz-Sulzbach house
Sophie Friederike of Bavaria (1805–1872)
Karl Ludwig (1755–1801), House Baden
Karoline Friederike Wilhelmine of Baden (1776–1841)
Amalie Friederike (1754–1832), House of Hesse- Darmstadt

Historical assessment

Bergisel Monument

Emperor Franz Joseph is an extremely ambivalent figure in history to this day. In its early days after the revolution of 1848 unpopular to the point of hate, it was associated (not least in Hungary) with the repressive "Saber Regiment" of the post-March . His attempt, known as neo-absolutism, to govern without any parliament seemed out of date even then. The social and intellectual developments of the second half of the 19th century passed him by (the latter in striking contrast to his ancestors who were interested in art), the liberal reforms after 1859 happened against his inner convictions.

Wedged between the rapid social and economic development of Western Europe, its inherited conception of God-given monarchical rights and duties, conjured constitutional rules, the very different interests of the many nationalities and the two halves of the empire, and loyalty to the ally of the German Empire, in the end he only stood for what was called muddling away . Many observers were of the opinion that "as long as he lives" nothing essential would change in Austria-Hungary out of loyalty to the old monarch, but after that one would have to reckon with everything.

It is noteworthy that Franz Joseph I - in contrast to heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand - defended the universal and equal suffrage for men in Austria against interventions by the aristocracy, which the Imperial and Royal Prime Minister Max Wladimir von Beck had pacted with the Social Democrats in 1906 and supported its coming into effect in 1907. (He only briefly threatened the Hungarian magnates once with a reform of the electoral law in Hungary.) Nevertheless, the economic expert Ernest von Koerber , Prime Minister 1900 to 1904, formulated his assessment as follows: “The emperor did infinite damage to Austria twice - once through his youth and once through his being Age". His role in triggering the First World War, the “ primordial catastrophe of the 20th century ”, was - probably also due to his old age - characterized by fatalistic indulgence towards Austrian and Hungarian warmongers. The saying ascribed to him: "If we have to perish, then at least decently!" Seems entirely plausible in view of his constant behavior. The popular saying: "If the old emperor dies, the people will start killing the people," also fits with this and with regard to the war-mongering party around Conrad von Hötzendorf, which is still withheld.


Wall decoration in the Cafe Merano
(Gut Kerschlach)

On the other hand, the emperor (sometimes already during his lifetime) became a figure partly shrouded in nostalgic flair, not least because of the relationship with his wife Elisabeth (better known by her nickname Sisi , wrongly called "Sissi" in the film) and the correspondence with the actress Katharina Schratt , with whom he had a long relationship during his wife's lifetime, incidentally on Elisabeth's initiative. His strokes of fate - the death of his first child Sophie in 1857, the execution of his brother Maximilian in Mexico in 1867, the suicide of his son Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889, the murder of his wife Elisabeth in 1898, most recently the murder of his nephew and heir to the throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in the assassination attempt in Sarajevo in August 1914 - made him in the eyes of his subjects a man who stoically bore a difficult fate . In the last years of his reign, also because of his external appearance, he was seen more and more as a kind elderly gentleman, as an archetypal "father of the country" who appeared as an instance of preservation and solidarity in the face of the nationality conflicts that had overflowed after 1900. Even today, this image is most often associated with his person.

Joseph Roth wrote in his novel Radetzkymarsch in 1932 : "(...) and part of the earth, namely the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, He (God) had assigned Franz Joseph the First". Already during his lifetime there was a later unrealistic image of a regent who apparently did nothing wrong and with “his love of peace” almost sacrificed himself for the “venerable monarchy” .

Socio-historical perception

Franz Joseph I., bust by Viktor Tilgner

According to Franz Werfel , the social pyramid of the Danube Monarchy culminated in the social role of the emperor as a sacrosanct, almost religiously inflated point:

“The highest official was God. But God was an invisible authority to which only an indirect official path [...] could be followed. God did not wear civil service or military uniform. His k. u. k. Apostolic Majesty , the Emperor in Vienna, was the next in the rank to wear a general's uniform with oak leaves on the collar, which distinguished him from the other generals. From the emperor the ladder went down continuously ... "

The formation of hierarchical structures is partly explained in social psychological terms with the thesis that a child, after having recognized "how limited the father's omnipotence actually is", often cannot help himself

“Always looking for a new father: in the teacher, in the pastor, in the mayor, in kings and emperors. With a certain regularity, the image of the father is divided among several people, with the terrifying properties being transferred to the police, hall guards and other officials in a choice that is well known to the educators and is most desirable. "

In keeping with this archetype , Emperor Franz Joseph acted as a link between the divine father figure, who came from the Christian trinity, and all human fathers:

“God and emperor have the special position in the father line in common that one is attached to them without measuring oneself against them and wanting to reach their height. [...] The child has the desire to depend on a [...] being whose size, power and knowledge grant him absolute security and protection. The desire for such a father drops the real father and remains a condition for the choice of father figures. He creates the intensity of veneration and dependence for the later authorities, as the last earthly image, for the king and emperor. The security gain of the ancient wish fulfillment, which in the deepest soul preserved the paradise of childhood with his incomparable father, was preserved despite the criticism of the mind. "

In society, as Stefan Zweig vividly reports, the older, mature man counted , less the young. The old emperor's old age reinforced the mythical consecration of his patriarchal role. "Depressed by age and conscious of the near end, closed in his loneliness [...] the emperor [...] seems to embody the heroic Mediocritas."

The social institutionalized father role of the emperor was complemented very effectively by individual traits. Franz Joseph presented himself as a static, long-suffering figure who “sat at his desk with the obsessional pedantry of a machine”, studying and signing files, as Erwin Ringel put it : “The man was already destroyed in childhood by his mother and his upbringing then ruled for 68 years, [… and] did not have a single constructive idea in this long time […] ”. This diagnosis results from the emperor's pessimism and his knowledge of his own unsuccessfulness, which, however, was flanked by the thought of fulfilling one's duty to the last breath and the desire to perish with honor, and also by a deeply rooted “fear of decisions, reforms and changes ”. Apparently some of this spirit penetrated the k. u. k. Administration, which administered efficiently, but above all in the late period of the epoch allowed the administrative machinery to work without lively momentum and without real prospects for the future.


Film recordings of Emperor Franz Joseph

Although Emperor Franz Joseph was generally skeptical or even negative about technical innovations, he had a positive opinion of the film - probably in recognition of the great advertising and propaganda potential of this medium, which is particularly popular among the ordinary population. He was often filmed during his activities - initially only by French operators - for example during the imperial maneuvers with his Imperial German counterpart Kaiser Wilhelm in Moravia in 1909, during the chamois hunt in Bad Ischl in the same year , at the wedding of the heir to the throne Karl in 1911 in Schwarzau , or also at the 1913 Adria exhibition in Vienna.

In 1911 the Kinematographische Rundschau reported on an occurrence during a speech by the emperor on his 81st birthday, at which an operator from the Austro-Hungarian cinema industry , as the Viennese art film industry was still called at that time, was present. He placed his recording apparatus close to the emperor, but was asked by a member of the entourage because of the creaking of the apparatus not to film during the emperor's speech. "Emperor Franz Joseph heard it, took the gentleman of the entourage by the arm and said, so that the surgeon could hear it: 'Just let the man do his work, I don't mind!' The surgeon kept turning, and when the Kaiser closed, he gave the cinematographer a friendly wave. "

The last major court report from the monarchy was written in the year the emperor died . Sascha Kolowrat-Krakowsky filmed the funeral for the Viennese cinemas.

In 1993 the Austrian Film Archive put together a 3-hour series of all of the recordings of Kaiser Franz Joseph under the title kuk: Kaiser und Kinematographie . Including recordings from his trip through Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1910, where, among other things, Christian and Muslim children can be seen walking peacefully at a location together.


Showcase with items belonging to the emperor in the Army History Museum

Run since 1891 as Austro-Hungarian army museum called Today's Military History Museum in Vienna was supported by Franz Joseph I particularly. At the age of twenty, he himself commissioned the architect Theophil von Hansen to build the “Arms Museum” (1850–1857) and donated 30 of the 60 marble statues of monarchs and generals in the “Feldherrenhalle”, the vestibule of the house, which has been open to the public since 1869. It was the first state museum building planned as such and therefore the oldest in the history of Vienna.

The house was originally dedicated to the commemoration and glorification of the imperial army. It was supposed to form a kind of hall of fame for the military, who were always loyal to the emperor - as it were thanks and recognition of the monarch for his army, which had secured the rule of the House of Habsburg during the revolution of 1848/49 , especially over renegade Hungary.

The emperor in hunting clothes. Admission of Hans Makart jun. (1910)

The permanent exhibition of the Army History Museum prominently commemorates its founder, including the uniform of the Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment Hoch- und Deutschmeister , which he wore as a child in 1843 for his military training. Furthermore, a separate room is dedicated to Franz Joseph, this contains a showcase that shows very personal belongings of the emperor. These are the only personal objects of the emperor that are publicly accessible. Below is his uniform with a campaign and gala tunic with the insignia of an Austro-Hungarian field marshal . Franz Joseph wore these uniforms in his capacity as holder of the Supreme Command of the Austro-Hungarian Army . When he was not hunting, he was seen practically exclusively in uniform at home in order to emphasize his solidarity with the army.

Postage stamp, Michel no. 35 A from 1915

The shown original uniforms of the emperor are the only ones preserved; the remnants of the uniforms that had previously been in abundance and that the emperor possessed as the owner of foreign regiments or as field marshal of foreign armies were almost completely destroyed during the air raids of the Second World War . The emperor's foreign orders, including the British Order of the Garter and the French Order of the Legion of Honor, are a reminder of the “collegiality” among monarchs . The emperor's pince-nez and cigar tips are also on display .

In the illustrated book Vienna for 60 Years , which was dedicated by the City of Vienna to “the youth of Vienna” in 1908 on the occasion of its 60th anniversary in government, Franz Joseph I was described as one of “the greatest builders” that “our city has ever had. “In the Singspiel by Ralph Benatzky , which premiered in Berlin in 1930 ,“ In the white Rößl am Wolfgangsee ”, it was said in a song about the emperor,“ outside in Schönbrunn Park / sits an old man / worried ”. In Joseph Roth's novel “Radetzkymarsch” , published in 1932, he describes the last hours of Franz Joseph's life in November 1916. In contrast, in the film trilogy “Sissi” , “ Sissi - The Young Empress ” and “ Sissi - Fateful Years of an Empress ”, the very young Franz became Joseph shown. Joseph Roth's novel was made into a film in 1965 and 1995 ; the 1965 film was criticized by conservatives because it shows Franz Joseph briefly in his nightgown.

Countless traffic areas, buildings, ships and institutions such as schools were named after Franz Joseph .


Lexicon entries

Web links

Commons : Franz Joseph I.  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Franz Joseph I.  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. a b Highest Patent of December 2, 1848
  2. Vienna for 60 years. Dedicated to the youth of Vienna by the municipal council of their hometown in memory of the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the reign of His Majesty the Emperor Franz Josef I. Gerlach & Wiedling, Vienna 1908.
  3. evening supplement to the Wiener Zeitung , No. 221, December 4, 1848, p. 1 ; here the resigning emperor was referred to as Ferdinand the Kind in a military farewell address from Major General Freiherr von Cordon .
  4. ^ Friedrich Weissensteiner: The Austrian emperors. ISBN 3-8000-3913-3 , p. 100.
  5. ^ Unterreiner: Emperor Franz Joseph. 1830–1916 Myth and Truth. ISBN 3-902510-43-9 , pp.?.
  6. Alma Hannig: Franz Joseph, the Prince of Peace in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit , Hamburg, No. 24, June 5, 2014, p. 11 f.
  7. cf. u. a. Günther Haller: Emperor Franz Joseph: reactionary or master of balance? in the daily newspaper Die Presse , Vienna, on March 5, 2016; Isabella Ackerl: History of Austria - dates from 1806 to today (2012); Georg Markus : You will laugh, it's serious. A humorous balance sheet of the 20th century , Amalthea, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-85002-429-6 .
  8. Albert Baron Margutti : From the old emperor. Leipzig & Vienna 1921, p. 147f. Quoted from Erika Bestereiter: Franz Ferdinand and Sophie von Hohenberg. Piper, Munich 2004, p. 247.
  9. Hellmut Andics : The Austrian Century. The Danube Monarchy 1804–1918. Molden, Vienna 1974, ISBN 3-217-00291-1 , p. 221; and Christian Dickinger: Franz Joseph I. The demythization. Ueberreuter, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-8000-3858-7 , p. 133.
  10. Manfried Rauchsteiner : The First World War and the end of the Habsburg monarchy. Böhlau, Vienna 2013, ISBN 978-3-205-78283-4 , p. 123.
  11. Reinhold Lorenz: Emperor Karl and the fall of the Danube monarchy. Styria, Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1959, p.?.
  12. If the dead should live longer ( memento from February 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Report on , March 28, 2007 (accessed on September 7, 2012)
  13. Edmund Glaise-Horstenau in Peter Broucek (ed.), A General in Twilight. The memories of Edmund Glaise von Horstenau. Vol. 1: K. u. k. General staff officer and historian. Wien, Böhlau 1980, pp. 383–384 ( limited preview in Google book search)
  14. There are contradicting statements in the press as to whether a heart burial was carried out after the death of Emperor Franz Joseph : on the one hand it is reported that the heart was removed and buried in the ducal crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna (not in the heart crypt of the Habsburgs ) (see Karl Vocelka , Michaela Vocelka: Franz Joseph I. Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary 1830-1916. A biography. CH Beck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-68286-5 , page 365), on the other hand it is said that Before his death, Emperor Franz Joseph had strictly opposed a separate burial of entrails and bodies and was therefore buried together with organs (see Fabian Schmid: The separate burial of hearts and viscera ,, July 15, 2011, online ). In most of the cases in which corpses were preserved using formaldehyde, organs were not removed from the House of Habsburg at that time either.
  15. ^ Rauchsteiner: The First World War and the end of the Habsburg monarchy. P. 660
  16. For more information on this coat of arms see Arno Kerschbaumer, Nobilitierungen under the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. / I. Ferenc József király (1914-1916) , Graz 2017 ( ISBN 978-3-9504153-2-2 ), p. 79 .
  17. Sarah Panter: Jewish experiences and conflicts of loyalty in the First World War. (= Publications of the Institute for European History Mainz, Volume 235) Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2014, ISBN 978-3-525-10134-6 , p. 56.
  18. ^ Robert S. Wistrich, Anton Gindely: The Jews of Vienna in the age of Emperor Franz Joseph. Böhlau, Vienna 1999, ISBN 3-205-98342-4 , p. 149.
  19. ^ Günther Kronenbitter: War in Peace. The leadership of the Austro-Hungarian army and the great power politics of Austria-Hungary 1906–1914. Verlag Oldenbourg, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-486-56700-4 , p. 336.
  20. ^ Rauchsteiner: The First World War and the end of the Habsburg Monarchy. P. 93.
  21. Imanuel Geiss (ed.): July crisis and outbreak of war. A collection of documents . Hanover 1963, Volume 1: p. 63f. (No. 9); and Ludwig Bittner , Hans Uebersberger (ed.): Austria-Hungary's foreign policy from the Bosnian crisis in 1908 to the outbreak of war in 1914. Diplomatic files from the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs . Vienna / Leipzig 1930, Volume 8: p. 250 ff. (No. 9984).
  22. ^ Alan Sked: The Fall of the House of Habsburg. The untimely death of an empire. Verlag Siedler, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-88680-409-7 , p. 299.
  23. Robert Waissenberger (ed.): Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria or the decay of a principle. Special exhibition of the Historical Museum of the City of Vienna Hermesvilla, Lainzer Tiergarten, March 28, 1980 to March 15, 1981, Historical Museum of the City of Vienna, Vienna 1980, p. 273.
  24. ^ Christian Dickinger: Franz Joseph I. The demythization. Ueberreuter, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-8000-3858-7 , p. 182.
  25. ^ Elisabeth Springer: History and Culture of the Vienna Ringstrasse. Wiesbaden 1979, p. 378.
  26. June 3, 1815, source unknown, stated in: Franz Gall: Österreichische Wappenkunde. Böhlau, Vienna 1992; cited in Austria-Hungary: Apostolic King (Hungary), Habsburg Titles. In: Royal Styles., January 18, 2007, accessed June 23, 2015 .
  27. Quotation from a sentence by Otto Friedländer , quoted in: Fred Hennings, As long as he lives. Five volumes, Herold-Verlag, Vienna 1968–1971, volume 1, p. 11 f.
  28. Fred Hennings: As long as he lives. Volume 5, p. 132.
  29. ^ Ernst Hanisch: Austrian History (1890–1990). The long shadow of the state. 1994, p. 220 ff.
  30. Peter Prantner: Franz Joseph and the "good old days". “Nothing to do with reality”. of November 21, 2016.
  31. ^ Franz Werfel: The high school graduate day. 1928, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1953, p. 58 f.
  32. ^ A b Paul Federn: On the psychology of the revolution. The fatherless society. Suschitzky, Leipzig 1919. Newly published in: Luzifer-Amor , Volume 1, Edition Diskord, 1988, p. 18.
  33. Claudio Magris : The Habsburg myth in Austrian literature. Müller, Salzburg 1966, p. 17.
  34. Erwin Ringel: The Austrian soul. Ten speeches on medicine, politics, art and religion. Böhlau, Vienna 1984, ISBN 3-205-07095-X , p. 34.
  35. Cf. the seventh chapter on the "Francisco-Josephine Epoch" in: Karl Megner: Official metropolis Vienna 1500–1938. Building blocks for a social history of civil servants mainly in modern Vienna. Verlag Österreich, Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-7046-5525-7 , p.
  36. For example, the Maxim Gun was shocked , he called it "the most terrible instrument that I have ever seen or imagined" - and immediately ordered large numbers for the Austro-Hungarian army, cf. Marc von Lüpke: "The father of carnage". In: one day of September 23, 2013.
  37. Johann Christoph Allmayer-Beck : The Army History Museum Vienna. The museum and its representative rooms , Salzburg 1981, p. 24.
  38. ^ Felix Czeike: Historisches Lexikon Wien , Volume 4, Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1995, ISBN 3-218-00546-9 , p. 328.
  39. ^ Army History Museum / Military History Institute (ed.): The Army History Museum in the Vienna Arsenal . Verlag Militaria , Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-902551-69-6 , p. 71.
  40. ^ Manfried Rauchsteiner , Manfred Litscher (Ed.): The Army History Museum in Vienna. Graz, Vienna 2000, p. 59.
  41. Vienna for 60 years. An album for the young , Gerlach & Wiedling, Vienna 1908, p. 36.
predecessor Office successor
Ferdinand I. Emperor of Austria
Charles I.
Ferdinand I.
( as Ferdinand V.)
Apostolic King of Hungary
(crowned 1867)
Charles I
( as Charles IV)
Ferdinand I.
( as Ferdinand V.)
King of Bohemia
Karl I.
( as Karl III.)
Ferdinand I.
( as Ferdinand V.)
King of Croatia-Slavonia and Dalmatia
Charles I
( as Charles IV)
Ferdinand I.
( as Ferdinand V.)
Archduke of Austria
Karl I.
( as Karl III.)
Ferdinand I
of Austria
President of the German Confederation