Joseph I. (HRR)

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Emperor Joseph I as a youthful ruler in armor (around 1700)

Joseph I (born July 26, 1678 in Vienna ; † April 17, 1711 ibid) was a prince from the House of Habsburg and from 1705 to 1711 Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire , King of Bohemia , Croatia and Hungary .


Joseph at the age of six with a dog


Joseph I was the eldest son of Leopold I from his marriage to Eleonore Magdalene von der Pfalz . He followed his father on December 9, 1687 as Hungarian , on January 24, 1690 as Roman-German King and on May 5, 1705 as Emperor and King of Bohemia . With this he shared the great interest in music and, like him, was also active as a composer. Joseph I was an adventurous, daring, and daring person. He tamed his horses himself and often went hunting with his confidante Matthias von Lamberg . A contemporary historiographer called him “a model of beauty in his youth”. Unlike his parents and his brother Charles VI. showed little piety to Joseph. In contrast to his ancestors, Emperor Joseph I's lower lip and chin did not protrude. He had red-blonde hair and blue eyes.

Heir to the throne

Joseph as a young archduke with the imperial insignia

After Joseph was born, his father provided him with Karl Theodor Otto Fürst zu Salm as an educator. Salm was the ruler of two small Rhine principalities and a former Protestant and philosophy student. As such, he advocated the separation of church and state politics, which earned him the opposition of the Jesuits, who accused him of being a secret Jansenist . The Crown Prince had a certain degree of political importance for the father. Joseph was crowned King of Hungary at the age of nine in 1687. Joseph has been described as a docile student, versatile, and very intelligent. Like his father, the Crown Prince spoke several languages ​​and was also musically active. Joseph's religion teacher Franz Ferdinand von Rummel influenced the Crown Prince towards a separation of church and state . Joseph's teacher of politics and history, Wagner von Wagnerfels, also called for a reduction in the spiritual influence at the Viennese court. In addition to the Protestant Prince Salm, Joseph also took other Protestants into his entourage, which was met with decided criticism from the Jesuits, who particularly rejected his religion teacher Rummel. However, Joseph knew how to defend himself against his opponents. For example, he had a Jesuit who had tried to get his teacher to replace him one night, disguised as a ghost, to be thrown out of the window.

For various reasons there were repeated discussions between Joseph I and Leopold I about the understanding of rule. Leopold made no secret of the fact that he would prefer Karl as his successor, which clouded the relationship between the brothers.

When the War of the Spanish Succession broke out, Joseph was appointed a member of the cabinet by his father. There he immediately campaigned for the war. But only after his participation in the conquest of the Landau fortress did the emperor consider him mature enough. The Crown Prince not only attended all meetings, but also presided over the Council of Ministers in the absence of the Emperor. Since he was not allowed to return to the front due to the problems of 1703, the heir to the throne occupied himself with domestic politics. He saw the main culprits in the misery in the President of the Court Chamber, Count Salaburg, and the President of the Court War Council, Count Mansfeld . At the Viennese court, Joseph was the leader of the reform party, the so-called Junge Hof . This was a group of young civil servants and military officials who called for urgent reforms. You also belonged to Prince Eugene and other future greats. In the struggle for the replacement of Salaburg and Mansfeld, the Crown Prince supported not only Eugen and the Vice-President of the Court Chamber, Gundaker Starhemberg , but also German allies such as Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden . It was only finally over with the two when the bankruptcy of the court chamber became public after the death of the banker Oppenheimer . Even the emperor's Jesuit confessor now campaigned for the two to be replaced. They were replaced by Starhemberg and Prinz Eugen. In 1704 the “Junge Hof” was finally the dominant force. The Reform Party managed to achieve some decisive victories, but it also suffered severe defeats.

Joseph has now been appointed head of the "middle deputation" by his father. This was commissioned to raise funds, and so in 1704 the wealthy nobility and the Jews of the hereditary lands were obliged to borrow money from the state. Every court official also had to advance twice his annual salary. However, the attempt to found its own state bank was a setback. Originally, at Leopold's suggestion, it was to receive 40 million guilders over the next 12 years and 5.5 million immediately, but it was only with great difficulty that it managed to pay in 500,000 guilders within one year. However, the young court did not lose its influence and was even expanded by Sinzendorf , an Austrian envoy and the deputy Archduke Charles, the Duke of Moles. Elector Johann Wilhelm von der Pfalz also benefited from the Junge Hof and took part in the military-political meetings chaired by Joseph. The men had designed their own strategy for the campaign of 1704 and set the Electorate of Bavaria as the number one target. The heir to the throne managed to get Prince Eugene to be in command of the imperial family. The position of the crown prince already corresponded to that of a prime minister. But the domestic political situation turned against Joseph and the Reform Party again in the summer of 1704. Mansfeld was still at court and now opposed together with the emperor's Jesuit advisers.

As a determined opponent of France, the Crown Prince also took part in the Second Battle of Höchstädt , in which Austria's troops won a victory; also at the second siege of Landau. It was only when he learned in December that his father was seriously ill that the Crown Prince returned to take over the government. But when the emperor regained his strength, he began a purge. During the negotiations with the Lower Austrian Landtag, the emperor only listened to Mansfeld and appointed his party's candidate as governor of Bavaria. In February 1705, Joseph was excluded from the council meetings at all. Although he still formed the middle deputation section with his supporters, he was politically sidelined. A few days before his father's death, he took over the business of government again, although a departure date for the campaign to Germany had already been set.


Emperor Joseph I in allegory

Joseph I drew his advisers in a collegial manner on government affairs. Prince Eugene later said of the Kaiser that he had served him like a brother. Due to his military successes in the War of the Spanish Succession, court historians gave Joseph I the nickname “the victorious”. The emperor's political attitudes were very focused on Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. So he is said to have said when it came to his marriage: "No French and no Welsche ." But Joseph I was also a baroque ruler. The versatile emperor founded the Kärntnertortheater , had the Viennese sewer system installed and the Pummerin , one of Austria's most famous symbols, watered.

One of his most important goals was to contest Louis XIV for his place as Europe's most brilliant monarch. This is particularly evident in the first draft for Schönbrunn Palace , which he helped to create and with which he wanted to surpass Versailles Palace . But other artists besides Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach were supposed to present Joseph I as the German Sun King . Despite the lack of money, the emperor did not shy away from spending any money in order to guarantee a glamorous court. In Mardi Gras, for example, one party followed another. The sleigh races, in which the emperor himself participated, devoured up to 30,000 guilders. He also paid a lot for the music and employed 300 musicians. Joseph I founded the Joseph Academy of Sciences and had the Josefstadt, which had been destroyed by the Turks, rebuilt. But everywhere there was a lack of money. Work at Schönbrunn Palace was slow, the court musicians were rarely paid and even Fischer von Erlach received hardly any money for his work until 1710. The emperor also showered his friends and servants with gifts. Rummel, for example, his former religion teacher, became Bishop of Vienna. In 1710 Joseph I distributed almost all of the Bavarian state property to his ministers. Prince Eugene and Count Wratislaw also received gifts worth 300,000 and 400,000 guilders. The emperor's mistress alone received jewelry for 74,000 guilders.

Joseph's motto was “ Amore et timore ” (German: “Through love and fear”).


Compared to his father, Joseph I was far more decisive and convinced of the need for reforms. The first innovations dealt with the exchange of the cabinet. Salm became chief steward and thus de facto prime minister. Baron Seilern and Count Sinzendorf had to share the position of Austrian Chancellor, while Count Kinsky became the sole Bohemian Chancellor. The Bohemian Wratislav was the much more influential court chancellor. Another major reform was the reduction of the Privy Council from 150 to 33 members and the split of the Secret Conference into eight smaller conferences. Seven of the conferences were supposed to deal with European affairs, the eighth dealt with financial and military issues. Members of the conferences were mostly experts in the respective field. The coordinator of this new cabinet was Prince Salm. The cabinets dealt with: the Empire, including Scandinavia and Poland; Hungary; France, England and Holland; Spain, including Portugal; Italy; Switzerland; Turkey, including Russia. In 1709 these eight conferences were converted back into a single body ("Great Conference"). After Salm's resignation for health reasons (1709), Joseph I founded a so-called "inner conference" with Wratislaw, Seilern, Johann Leopold Donat Fürst Trautson (1659–1724; successor to Salm as chief steward), Eugen and Sinzendorf, in which all the political Questions were discussed in order to be discussed further later in the “Great Conference”.

The most pressing problem of his rule was the financing of the Spanish War of Succession. Since the ruler in Austria had to come to an agreement with the estates in matters of tax claims and they were hardly ready to settle the immense claims from Vienna, there was an ongoing dispute. The sum required would have been 27 million guilders ; under Leopold I, due to high levels of corruption and negligent tax collection, just 9 million had been collected. In 1705 and 1706, in the critical years, the estates had been willing to make sacrifices, but in 1708 there were again protracted negotiations, but the estates simply did not want to forego their rights in tax collection and administration. Starhemberg's idea to create new land registers in Tyrol, Upper Austria and Inner Austria was rejected by the stalls. The proposal to standardize the Contributio in the “Universalis Accis” was only positively received in Silesia, although the Emperor and the ministers had supported it, as they were of the opinion that higher profits could be made, which could have been carried out outside the class . Shortly before his father's death, Joseph had succeeded in increasing the contribution of the hereditary lands by 3.4 million. Joseph I achieved an improvement in the financial situation by streamlining the administration and making civil servants liable to tax. In Vienna, for example, the staff of civil servants was reduced from 74 to 32. The problem in the provinces was that the money was mainly absorbed from superfluous civil servants' salaries and partly embezzled. It was therefore decided to keep accurate records and to increase existing taxes and introduce new ones. The Catholic clergy were forced to give a “voluntary gift”, while the nobles made a “contribution”. Together with these funds, Joseph succeeded in 1708 in increasing the income of the crown to 16 to 17 million. 1706 reached its peak in terms of the amount of money collected from the Contributio: 9 million. The Kaiser also received funds from occupied Bavaria and the Rhenish regions. Bavaria alone delivered 1.2 to 1.5 million. After the second siege of Landau, 300,000 guilders, which had been collected from the Imperial Knights of the Upper Rhine, flowed to Vienna. After the occupation and conquest of Italy, 4 to 5 million per year flowed to Vienna for military expenditure. With the establishment of a new city bank owned by Vienna, things continued to improve, as the bank paid off 24 million government debts during its existence.

Another reform was the regulation of the robotic service of farmers. It was Schierendorff, the secretary of the court chamber, who had drawn the emperor's attention to the abuse of the robot. Joseph therefore issued a decree in 1709, with which he stimulated discussion about the abolition of the robot. Of course, any plan to abolish the Robot would meet with resistance from the nobility, which is why Joseph I. was content to try Schierendorff's experiment only on the crown estates, which also happened in the Silesian duchies of Liegnitz , Brieg and Wohlau . All the land was divided among the peasants that they had previously cultivated for the feudal lord. Now they just had to pay a fixed rent and could do the work themselves. When the reform was through despite resistance from the Silesian state parliament, it brought higher tax income within a short time. In Moravia, too, people campaigned against the abuse of robots. When peasants rose up in the districts owned by the Liechtenstein family, the emperor personally received several delegations from the rebels who had petitioned him to ban the illegal robot. Joseph I. even hired a commission to monitor whether the Liechtensteiners were also complying with the law.

War of the Spanish Succession

To Emperor Joseph I: Letter from Pope Clemens XI. , 1707

Joseph's entire reign was filled with the War of the Spanish Succession to enforce the claims to the throne of his brother, who later became Emperor Charles VI. The Habsburg armies were using their English and Low German allies, under the leadership of Prince Eugene achieve quite considerable success. The Sendlinger Murder Christmas in the Habsburg-occupied Electorate of Bavaria also fell during his term of office .

While Joseph's father Leopold I still formulated the honorable resistance as a goal at the beginning of the war, Joseph's goal was an actual victory over the declared opponent France. There were therefore various differences with his brother, as Joseph was less interested in Spain and more in rule over Italy. These efforts to extend the power of the Habsburgs to Italy should ultimately be successful, if only in the north it was shown to be permanent. However, the successes in Italy brought Joseph I into conflict with Pope Clement XI. against whom he even went to war . Only over time could the brothers consider themselves allies, as the victory over Louis XIV and his allies loomed in 1709/10 .

In order not to get bogged down, Joseph I was careful to stay out of the other war that was raging in Europe at the time, the Great Northern War . Therefore, in 1707, he gave King Charles XII, who had advanced to Silesia with his army . from Sweden to by fulfilling his obligations to the Protestants there. Even within his own alliance, the emperor had to constantly struggle with difficulties, since he demanded a lot from his allies but seemed less willing to do it himself. The alliances were therefore repeatedly strengthened by mutual concessions and promises regarding territories, payments and troops. The victories that Prinz Eugen achieved together with Marlborough , however, were nullified with the death of the emperor, as the only heir Karl did not want to give up Spain.


During the War of the Spanish Succession, Franz II Rakoczi led an uprising in Transylvania . This rebellion, whose followers called themselves Kuruzen ( kurucok ), had already started under Leopold I and experienced its climax and end under Joseph I. It was about Transylvania’s autonomy and rights, which were defended by Francis II Rakoczi. He even went so far as to have Joseph I deposed in Hungary, to make himself Prince of Transylvania and representative of the new king. Rakoczi also sought an alliance with Louis XIV, but he was denied it. After the final defeat of Rákóczi - who is still considered a national hero in Hungary - against the troops of Joseph and the Peace of Sathmar in 1711, the rebel fled with his followers to France and later lived in exile in the Ottoman Empire . Hungary and Transylvania remained under the rule of the Habsburgs.

Death and succession

Joseph I sarcophagus in the Capuchin Crypt

In the spring of 1711 a smallpox epidemic reached Austria, to which the emperor fell victim. After a four-hour government conference, on April 8th he took part in a hunt in the Vienna Woods , although signs of the disease had already become noticeable. The emperor died on April 17th in the Hofburg. He had previously promised his wife that he would chase his mistresses from the farm if he survived.

Due to his sudden death without a male heir, his younger brother Karl , who in Spain as Karl III. was designated as king when Charles VI. now also Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, which would have brought both the Spanish and the Danube countries under his rule. For a short time it looked as if Joseph's daughter Maria Josepha would inherit the throne, as this would have been possible thanks to a secret agreement between the brothers from 1703, but Karl did not renounce his claim to Austria.

Because of the personal will of Joseph I, there was some quarrel at court, because the emperor had bequeathed his mistress Marianne Palffy jewelry and clothes to the value of 500,000 guilders. Half of this sum went to the descendants of his favorite Lamberg. The emperor bequeathed only 50,000 guilders to his mother. The alliance with Spain gradually disintegrated and eventually led to an agreement between the sea powers and France .

His daughter Maria Josepha married the future Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony . Maria Amalia married Karl Albrecht of Bavaria , later also elector (and emperor).

Joseph I was buried in the Capuchin Crypt on April 20, 1711 . He found his final resting place in sarcophagus No. 35, which was designed by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt . It is adorned with images of various battles from the War of the Spanish Succession. His heart is in the heart of the Habsburgs' crypt in the Loreto Chapel of the Augustinian Church in Vienna , and his entrails were buried in the ducal crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Joseph I is one of those 41 people who received a “ separate burial ” with the body being divided between all three traditional Viennese burial sites of the Habsburgs (imperial crypt, heart crypt, ducal crypt).

In Vienna, Josefstadt (8th district) and Josefsgasse are named after the emperor.

Marriage and offspring

Joseph married on February 24, 1699 in Vienna Wilhelmine Amalie von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1673–1742), daughter of Johann Friedrich and his wife Princess Benedicta Henrica von Pfalz-Simmern. The marriage had three children:

The marriage seemed happy at first. But Joseph's affairs and the death of their son put a strain on the couple's relationship. Before Joseph's accession to the throne, his fun-loving manner was overlooked because he seemed young and could still father many children. He had his first affairs at the age of 15. His lovers were chambermaids and noble ladies like Dorothea Daun. In many sources his "depravity" is emphasized. But afterwards the concern for his life increased, as there was no legacy for the Habsburg Empire. Over time, the attitude also changed that the emperor could later father children, because Amalie apparently suffered from a sexually transmitted disease. Joseph had contracted a sexually transmitted disease , presumably syphilis , in 1704 . The empress suffered from ulcers in the abdomen, which had a negative impact on her fertility. In addition, there was an increasing estrangement between the spouses, which further reduced the chances of having children.

For this reason there were more and more contacts between Vienna and Barcelona, ​​the seat of Archduke Charles, as he or his descendants could also be considered for the succession in the empire.


Throughout his life, Joseph I was in love with various ladies of the court. This started at the age of 15 when he was having an affair with three women at the same time. Initially, his parents hoped to be able to prevent this with the removal of his assistants from the court, later through marriage, but this failed.

That did not change during his reign either. Joseph I's favorite was Marianne Pálffy , a Hungarian noblewoman whose father was the local Ban . His love for her did not prevent the emperor from engaging in further affairs. Marianne was of course the focus of the court gossip. Count Lambert wrote, not reluctantly, that she once drank so much during Carnival that she had to vomit in public.


Pedigree of Emperor Joseph I.

Charles II (Inner Austria) (1540–1590)
⚭ 1571
Maria Anna of Bavaria (1551–1608)

Wilhelm V (Bavaria) (1548–1626)
⚭ 1568
Renata of Lorraine (1544–1602)

Philip II (Spain) (1527–1598)
⚭ 1570
Anna of Austria (1549–1580)

Charles II (Inner Austria) (1540–1590)
⚭ 1571
Maria Anna of Bavaria (1551–1608)

Philipp Ludwig (Pfalz-Neuburg) (1547–1614)
⚭ 1574
Anna von Jülich-Kleve-Berg (1552–1591)

Wilhelm V (Bavaria) (1548–1626)
⚭ 1568
Renata of Lorraine (1544–1602)

Ludwig V (Hesse-Darmstadt) (1577–1626)
⚭ 1598
Magdalena of Brandenburg (1582–1616)

Johann Georg I (Saxony) (1585–1656)
⚭ 1607
Magdalena Sibylle of Prussia (1586–1659)

Great grandparents

Ferdinand II. (1578–1637)
⚭ 1600
Maria Anna of Bavaria (1574–1616)

Philip III (Spain) (1578–1621)
⚭ 1599
Margaret of Austria (1584–1611)

Count Palatine
Wolfgang Wilhelm (Pfalz-Neuburg) (1578–1653)
⚭ 1613
Magdalene of Bavaria (1587–1628)

Georg II (Hesse-Darmstadt) (1605–1661)
⚭ 1627
Sophia Eleonore of Saxony (1609–1671)


Emperor Ferdinand III. (1608–1657)
⚭ 1631
Maria Anna of Spain (1606–1646)

Elector Philipp Wilhelm (Palatinate) (1615–1690)
⚭ 1653
Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt (1635–1709)


Emperor Leopold I (1640–1705)
⚭ 1676
Eleonore Magdalene Therese of the Palatinate (1655–1720)

Joseph I (1678–1711), Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation

As with many other Habsburgs, Joseph I's ancestral decline is clearly visible. Instead of 16, he had only 12 great-great-grandparents, as his great-grandfather Ferdinand II and his great-grandmother Margarethe of Austria were siblings on the father's side and thus his paternal grandparents, Emperor Ferdinand III. and Maria Anna of Spain, cousins. In addition, his paternal and maternal great-grandmothers, Magdalene von Bayern and Maria-Anna von Bayern, were sisters, which makes Joseph's paternal grandmother, Maria Anna of Spain, also the cousin of his maternal grandfather, Elector Philipp Wilhelm.

Individual evidence

  1. see kult.doku


Web links

Commons : Joseph I. (HRR)  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Leopold I. Roman-German Emperor
Charles (VI.)
Leopold I. Archduke of Austria
Charles (VI.)
Leopold I. King of Bohemia
Charles II.
Leopold I. King of Hungary
Charles (III.)