Emperor of Austria

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The Rudolf crown, house crown of the House of Austria or Habsburg, 1804–1918 the Austrian imperial crown
The small coat of arms (1806–1915), at the same time the house coat of arms of the dynasty with the three parts Habsburg, Austria and Lorraine (optically from left to right) in the coat of arms

Emperor of Austria was the title of ruler of the Habsburg monarchs from 1804 to 1867 in the unified Austrian Empire and from 1867 to 1918 in the Austrian half of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy . The wives of the monarchs carried the title of empress.

Emperor and Empress were to be addressed as your or your majesty ; when they were spoken or written about, His Majesty the Kaiser or Her Majesty the Empress (abbreviated SM or IM ) was mentioned. In particularly ceremonial cases, the emperor was not only announced as emperor, but with all of his ruler's titles , the great title of the emperor of Austria .

Before 1804: Austria as a dynasty name

For the period before 1804, in the easily misunderstood designations of Austrian emperors and emperors [name] of Austria, the indication of Austria cannot refer to the country name of an empire, but only to the monarch's membership in the House of Austria . For centuries, this represented dukes or (after arbitrarily increasing the rank ) archdukes of Austria , most of whom were elected Roman-German king and many of them were crowned Roman emperor (see: Habsburgs in the list of Roman-German rulers ). Her wives bore the title of empress. Even after 1804, the phrase [name], Emperor of Austria, rarely appears in the literature for these rulers .

Maria Theresa , Archduchess of Austria, is a special case . She carried her traditional titles from her own rulership. In the Roman-German Empire , however, she could not achieve the dignity of a woman as a woman. After her husband Franz Stephan von Lothringen was crowned Roman-German Emperor Franz I in 1745, she used phrases such as “We Maria Theresa by God's grace Roman Empress, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Arch-Duchess of Austria,…”, and in literature she was easily referred to as "Kayserin Maria Theresia" or as "Maria Theresia of Austria" (at that time Maria Teresa of Spain (1638–1683) from the Spanish branch of the House of Austria was also named in literature) . Her husband was emperor, but only co-regent in Austria at her invitation. After his death she referred to herself as the Empress-Widow. After 1804 she was referred to in the literature as "Maria Theresa, Empress of Austria", "Empress Maria Theresia of Austria" or "Austrian Empress Maria Theresia".

1804–1806: Franz II./I., Double emperor

After Napoleon I was made hereditary Emperor of France on May 18, 1804 by constitutional amendment, the Roman-German Emperor Franz II rose from the House of Habsburg-Lothringen on August 11, 1804 to become Emperor of Austria and thus his countries in present-day Austria ("all German provinces and imperial states") together with the other crown lands of the Habsburgs (especially Bohemia and Hungary ) to a hereditary empire ( Austrian Empire ) in order to maintain equality of rank.

The Roman-German Empire, on the other hand, was an electoral empire; Napoleon had also split it through his wars, and in 1804 it was questionable whether the Roman-German imperial title would still make a state in the future. Franz is often referred to in literature as "Franz II./I." And less often as "Franz I. (II.)", Which refers to both imperial titles that he wore simultaneously for two years (here the small title as an example ): Franz the Second, by the grace of God chosen Roman emperor, at all times a member of the empire, hereditary emperor of Austria, king in Germania, Hungary and Böheim etc .; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Lorraine, Venice and Salzburg, etc. etc.

With this act, Franz established a new, overarching title. It does not correspond to an increase in the rank of the monarch as Archduke of Austria . This title, which refers to today's Upper and Lower Austria , existed alongside the imperial title until the end of the monarchy and was mentioned in the large and medium titles.

In July 1806 the Rheinbund was founded . On August 6, under pressure from Napoleon, Franz II announced that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation had expired with the establishment of the Confederation of the Rhine and that he was laying down the crown of the empire.

As Emperor of Austria he called himself Franz I; he was the only "Emperor Franz I of Austria", since his grandfather Franz I (in Austria usually referred to as Franz Stephan of Lothringen to avoid confusion) was Roman-German Emperor, but not sovereign of Austria.

House and yard

The office of the emperor saw itself as a secular high priesthood. The aim was to demonstrate the majesty and dignity of the emperor to subjects and abroad. The life and work of the functionary and his environment were therefore subject to precise rules.

The imperial house

The extended imperial family was called the House of Habsburg or House of Austria. Whoever wanted to marry into this family had to come from an equal , i.e. a ruling or formerly ruling house , as the family statute of the Supreme Ruling House stipulated . Otherwise it was a left-hand wedding , a mesalliance , an improper process that - as the wedding of heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand showed - was associated with major political and protocol problems. Since 1867, the kuk minister of the imperial and royal house and foreign affairs, who coordinated directly with the monarch, was appointed to take care of family affairs in the political sense . Previously there had been the function of house, court and state chancellor at times.

The princes and princesses of the imperial family carried the honorary title of archduke and archduchess and had been addressed as "imperial highness" since 1804. This rule was due to the historical German inheritance law, which provided for the equal rights of all male heirs, but did not prove itself in maintaining power of a dynasty, as it led to many inheritance divisions (also in the House of Habsburg). From the late 17th century onwards, the actual monarchical office of the Archduke of Austria or the entire Habsburg Monarchy was therefore reserved for the first-born son; all others only carried the title of archduke for honorary reasons. The members of the imperial family had to coordinate their permanent residence and foreign travel with the emperor.

The House of Habsburg was dying out at the beginning of the 18th century. The impending loss of power was prevented by a state and constitutional treaty called Pragmatic Sanction and by the fact that Maria Theresa founded the new House of Habsburg-Lorraine with her marriage, from which all emperors of Austria came. In the 19th century there were so many titular archdukes that heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand asked his advisors to consider how the use of this title could be restricted. (The English system, in which only the firstborn takes on the title of Lord, was used as an example.)

The imperial court

The household of the emperor and his immediate family was called the court and was administered on behalf of the monarch by the chief steward , a nobleman who was assisted by numerous other court officers (sometimes only ceremonial). (Empresses had their own court .) B. wanted to speak to the emperor, had to request an audience with the chief steward's office. While Franz I was mostly to be seen in Biedermeier civilian clothes, Franz Joseph I and Karl I appeared almost exclusively in field marshal's uniform. With Franz Joseph the rule was that soldiers in uniform and civilians in tailcoats had to appear and that the emperor never shook hands with anyone.

The following institutions, among others, show the court's high need for representation:

  • Hofburg , the historic seat of the Habsburg monarchs in the city center; here each of the four emperors of Austria chose different work and living spaces. Franz I worked in a room above the Swiss Gate, Franz Joseph I in the so-called Reichskanzleitrakt, where he could watch the changing of the guard of the castle gendarmes with music in the inner courtyard from the balcony.
  • Treasury (Vienna) , where the crown insignia and other ceremonial objects are kept in the Hofburg
  • Imperial Court Library, today the State Hall of the Austrian National Library
  • Imperial residences outside Vienna, especially Schönbrunn Palace (incorporated in 1892), summer residence and inhabited all year round by Franz Joseph I in the last years of his life, and Laxenburg Palace near Vienna
  • Wagenburg (Vienna) , the collection of the imperial family's floats, originally housed in today's Vienna Museum Quarter , today in an outbuilding of Schönbrunn Palace
  • kk Hofburgtheater and kk Hofoperntheater (the directors were appointed by the Obersthofmeisteramt in agreement with the emperor)
  • Imperial Crypt in Vienna, the grave lay the Emperor and Empress of Austria, except Charles I, who on his exile island Madeira is buried


The following sources were available to finance the expenses for the house and yard:

  • kk Hofärar , state resources and state property of Cisleithania, administered not by a ministry but by the imperial court (examples: Schönbrunn Palace, court opera); In the state budget, provisions had to be made annually for this, in 1919 the Hofärar was taken over into state administration in the successor states of Old Austria; analogous rules existed for the royal court in the Kingdom of Hungary . The expenses for the common monarch in the narrower sense were paid equally by Cis and Transleithanien after 1867.
  • The Very Highest Family Fund , a foundation of the Habsburg-Lothringen family for the joint preservation of their family property (e.g. Eckartsau Castle ) and their less well-off members (expropriated in the Habsburg Law in 1919, insofar as they were in the Republic of Austria);
  • personal assets of the monarch and other family members (examples: Franz Joseph's imperial villa in Bad Ischl, Konopischt Castle owned by Franz Ferdinand, Miramare Castle near Trieste owned by Emperor Maximilian's brother Maximilian ).
  • Regular payments made by the state to the closest members of the imperial family for their current living conditions (so-called civil list ) and the costs of the court (especially civil servants' salaries) were included in the budget and funded by Austria and Hungary at 50% each.

1867: Reduced, constitutional empire

After losing wars with Prussia and Italy , Franz Joseph I had to ensure calm in domestic politics. The Magyar aristocracy had faced the crown in passive resistance since its suppressed aspirations for independence in 1848/49. In 1867 she was granted autonomy in Hungarian domestic politics. The so-called settlement with the Kingdom of Hungary no longer perceived Hungary as part of the empire, but as an independent kingdom. Since the creation of a real union , which operated abroad as the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy , the monarch ruled in the Austrian half of the Empire as Emperor of Austria and in the Hungarian half as King of Hungary.

The two halves of the empire (Hungary tried gradually to avoid the term "empire" to emphasize its independence), often for simplicity of lawyers and politicians Cisleithania and Transleithania called, remained at the request of the monarch foreign policy and military as matters of common interest , the under the leadership of the monarch were administered by three kuk joint ministries . Franz Joseph I attached great importance to the common army . Parliamentary delegations from Vienna and Budapest had to work out and agree on the relevant laws, which were published in Cisleithanien in German and in the other official languages ​​of Old Austria and in Transleithanien in Hungarian with the same content. Unless the two countries voluntarily agreed on common regulations (as with the currency and customs system), all other state tasks were carried out separately in Austria and Hungary. In Austria, the Reichsrat and k. k. Ministries active, in Hungary the Reichstag and royal Hungarian ministries.

The functions of the emperor were defined for Cisleithanien within the framework of the so-called December constitution in the state constitution on the exercise of government and executive power of December 21, 1867. In Article 1, the ruler was described as sanctified, inviolable and irresponsible (irresponsible in the sense of not responsible). The emperor exercised legislative power together with the Imperial Council. In other articles it was stated that he leads the government through ministers and their officials who are responsible to the Kaiser and the Reichsrat, that he has supreme command over the military, declares war and makes peace, and concludes treaties .

As in the Pillersdorf constitution of April 25, 1848 and in the February patent , the constitution issued in 1861, a law required the consent of the emperor: every law requires the agreement of both houses and the emperor's sanction. According to Art. 10 StGG (RGBl. 1867/145) “the promulgation of the laws [...] took place in the name of the emperor with reference to the approval of the constitutional representative body and with the co-production of a responsible minister.“ had to be signed only by the emperor, but also by at least one minister appointed by him or, depending on the departments involved, by several ministers in order to achieve legal force through the announcement . For this reason, every law in the cisleithan Reichsgesetzblatt began until 1918 with the promulgation clause "With the consent of both houses of the Reichsrat I find to be ordered as follows:" and ended with "Franz Joseph mp " and the name of the minister involved. This was a constant reminder that the emperor had the right not to sanction legislative resolutions submitted by parliament and thus prevent their entry into force. Judicial judgments were pronounced on behalf of the emperor .

That in Austria, from grammar school to state railway, the names of all state institutions with the abbreviation k. k. began, Austria later brought in the nickname "Kakanien", which was coined by Robert Musil in his novel The Man Without Qualities .

Crown prince and heir to the throne

The firstborn sons of monarchs were designated as crown princes, while other designated successors were designated heirs to the throne. Franz I was followed in 1835 by his son and Crown Prince Ferdinand. However, since he was terminally ill, Franz I decided that his son should be supported by a three-person secret state conference, which usually made the decisions instead of Ferdinand I.

In the revolutionary year of 1848, the empire got into an existential crisis in which the family wanted to stay in power with a new monarch. Ferdinand I was persuaded to relinquish the government in December 1848 and retired to Prague Castle without giving up the title of emperor , where he lived as a privateer for 27 years. According to the house laws, since Ferdinand had no son, his brother, Archduke Franz Karl of Austria , would have become emperor, but he was persuaded by his wife Sophie to leave the office to his son Franz Joseph, who therefore had the imperial title of Austria accepted without having previously been crown prince or heir to the throne. Sophie then had a great influence on him in the first years of Franz Joseph's reign.

Karl, as Karl I. Emperor of Austria and as Karl IV. King of Hungary

Franz Joseph I had a son, the liberal Crown Prince Rudolf , who committed suicide in 1889. Now the Emperor's brother Karl Ludwig was heir to the throne, but died in 1896. The next heir to the throne was Karl Ludwig's son Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este . He was murdered in Sarajevo in 1914 and had no proper children. At this point his younger brother Otto was no longer alive , so that his son Karl became heir to the throne in 1914 and emperor in 1916.

When Karl came to the throne in 1916, his eldest son, Otto , born in 1912 , was crown prince; however, the throne ended in 1918, which Otto definitely took note of in 1961.

1918: Emperor without a monarchy

The last emperor, Karl I, renounced any share in state affairs for Austria on November 11, 1918 , but did not abdicate and carried on the title of Emperor of Austria until his death in April 1922. Austria declared itself a republic on November 12, 1918 and in 1919 advised the former bearer of the crown , as stated in the Habsburg Law , to leave when he continued to refuse to abdicate. A few days after his departure, he was expelled from the country for life.

Karl's eldest son, Otto (1912–2011), who became Crown Prince in 1916 when his father took office , was particularly fond of being called Archduke of Austria during his youth . In 1961 he waived his right to rule. The Administrative Court ruled on May 24, 1963 that Otto Habsburg-Lothringen's expulsion from the country should be lifted. However, he did not receive a passport until June 1966.

The bearers of the title

Insignia and symbols

The heraldic state symbols of the Holy Roman Empire - the black and yellow flag and the double-headed eagle  - were adopted by the Austrian Empire. In 1806, the Habsburg-Lorraine house coat of arms was added to the center of the Roman-German double-headed eagle (now "Austrian double-headed eagle"). Black and yellow remained the state flag of Cisleithania until 1918.

See also


Web links

Commons : Kaiser von Österreich  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Coat of arms of the Emperors of Austria  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The New European Fama, which discovers the current state of the most elegant courts , Part 141, 1747, p. 743 ( online in the Google book search)
  2. ^ Hungary, Ungern, Hungarn, a powerful kingdom in Europe. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 49, Leipzig 1746, column 1346-1381 (here column 1370). "After that, all sorts of foreign princes came to the Hungarian crown, and this has granted, except for the current queen and kayser Maria Theresa."
  3. ^ Friedrich Schiller In: Schiller's complete works , Volume 21, Georg Müller Verlag, 1804–1805, p. 425.
  4. Philipp Ludwig Hermann Röder: Geographical statistical-topographical lexicon of Italy according to its latest condition and constitution , Stettinische Buchhandlung, Ulm 1812, Sp. 545 ( online in the Google book search)
  5. Hochadeliche and godly assembly of the star cross called, which of Ihro kaiserl. Majesty Eleonora, widowed Roman empress, was erected in 1668 , Chelensche Schriften, Vienna 1805, p. 164 ( online in the Google book search)
  6. ^ Proclamation of August 11, 1804
  7. a b Supreme Pragmatic Ordinance of August 11, 1804 . In: Otto Posse : The seals of the German emperors and kings . Volume 5, Appendix 2, p. 249 f. (on Wikisource , Franz 'Proclamation of the Austrian Empire).
  8. This is also the argument of the ruler himself in his Most Highest Pragmatical Ordinance of August 11, 1804 (patent of August 11, 1804, PGS Vol. 22 No. 20).
  9. ^ Declaration by Emperor Franz II on the resignation of the German imperial crown , in: Collection of sources for the history of the German Imperial Constitution in the Middle Ages and Modern Times , edited by Karl Zeumer, pp. 538–539, here p. 538 (full text at Wikisource).
  10. Dissolution of the union between the imperial German-Erbländischen provinces and the Roman-German empire , in: Sr. kk Majestät Franz the First political laws and ordinances for the Austrian, Bohemian and Galician hereditary countries , volume 27 (= 2nd part 1806) , kk Hof- und Staats-Druckerey, Vienna 1808 on alex.onb.ac.at.
  11. Ludwig von Flotow : November 1918 on Ballhausplatz , edited by Erwin Matsch, Böhlau Verlag, Graz 1982, ISBN 3-205-07190-5 , p. 384, note 72.
  12. RGBl. No. 145/1867 (= p. 400)
  13. ^ Bertrand Michael Buchmann: Court - Government - City Administration: Vienna as the seat of the Austrian central administration from the beginnings to the fall of the monarchy (Austria Archive), Vienna / Munich 2002, p. 134 .
  14. Sections 15 and 45 of the Pillersdorf constitution of April 25, 1848
  15. § 12 Basic Law on Reich Representation , RGBl. No. 20/1861 (= p. 69 ff.)
  16. Section 13, Paragraph 2 of the Law of December 21, 1867, which changes the Basic Law on Representation of the Reich of February 26, 1861 , RGBl. No. 141/1867 (= p. 389 f.)
  17. Se. Majesty Emperor Ferdinand ... fell asleep , in: Wiener Abendpost , supplement to the official daily Wiener Zeitung , No. 146/30. June 1875, p. 1 .
  18. Wilhelm Brauneder : “An emperor doesn't abdicate just for the sake of it!” - Emperor Karl's resignation on November 11, 1918 , in: Susan Richter, Dirk Dirbach (ed.): Renunciation of the throne. The abdication in monarchies from the Middle Ages to modern times , Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2010, ISBN 978-3-412-20535-5 , pp. 123-140, here pp. 128 ff.
  19. Austria Press Agency -Dossier: /dossier.html?dossierID=ahd_19580221_ahd0001 The Habsburg dispute (1958–1966)