Franz Josef

Emperor Franz Joseph

Emperor of Austria - King of Hungary

Franz Josef
Franz Josef was crowned Emperor of Austria in 1848 at the age of 18 after the Hungarian revolution, as his predecessor was simply deposed. He was also crowned King of Hungary in 1867 in an attempt to calm the situation with the problematic Magyars (Hungarians).

This only worked due to the personality of his very popular wife Elisabeth (Sisi), who was accepted by the Hungarians as their "real" sovereign.

Sisi In the summer of 1853 at the scenic Salzkammergut town Bad Ischl he met Princess Elisabeth of Bavaria. But he was actually supposed to marry her sister, Helene. However, the Emperor defied his mother's marriage plans and fell in love with Elisabeth, then only 15 years old, who had accompanied the party rather accidentally. Already one day after their first encounter Francis Joseph and Elisabeth celebrated their engagement.
(Foto: Empress "Sisi")

Although Sisi usually stayed out of politics, she made a great exception as far as Hungary was concerned. Elisabeth's interest in politics developed as she grew matured. She was liberal and forward-minded. The empress placed herself decisively on the Hungarian side in the nationality conflict thereby making an important contribution to the historic compromise of 1867. Hungary's gaining an equal footing with Austria also strengthened the liberal element in the monarchy as a whole. Elisabeth attained an unparalleled position of respect and affection in Hungary, one which has lasted until the present day.

Emperor and King, still Francis Joseph`s life was not without its trials and sorrows. Early on as Emperor he lost major wars to France (1848) and Prussia (1866). His brother, Maximilian, was executed in Mexico. His son, Crown Prince Rudolph, committed suicide in 1889 followed by his wife's assassination by an anarchist in Geneva (1897). He had numerous difficulties with his nephew and heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated by Serbian nationalists on 28-Jun-1914 in Sarajevo (Bosnia-Herzegowina), which resulted in world war I.

The aging monarch had seen The Holy Roman Empire lose its holdings in both Italy and Germany until it had become mainly an eastern European power. Franz Josef was sensitive to these losses and was determined not to allow further decay of the empire by losing Austro-Hungarian holdings in the Balkans to Serbia. It has been said that he was "the last monarch of the old school". The Dual Monarchy lasted until his death in 1916.

Katharina Schratt
Despite these political beliefs he was immensely popular among all the various national groups that comprised his empire. This can be attributed to the above average standard of living that his subjects enjoyed. By 1914 he rarely left his palaces but it was not out of fear of assassination.
(Foto: Actress Katharina Schratt, with her the Emperor was in a satisfying relationship)

In Vienna, history comes alive - more than six centuries of Habsburg rule have left an indelible mark on the city, its music, art, literature and architecture. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy is a thing of the past, the vast empire "where the sun never set" is reduced to a small Alpine country, and the surviving members of the Habsburg dynasty are people like you and me (well, almost), but the word "imperial" has lost none of its glamour in Vienna. On a beautiful crisp summer's day, people nod to each other: "Kaiserwetter" - weather good enough for the emperor. Stores still pride themselves on having been purveyors to the "k.u.k." court, the imperial-royal court; "Kaisermelange" (imperial coffee) is sipped at a former imperial court bakery; V.I.P.'s naturally stay at the Hotel Imperial and are treated to performances of the white stallions at the imperial Spanish Riding School; Sundays and holidays, the (formerly imperial) Vienna boys' Choir sings mass at the Chapel of the Imperial Palace (Burgkapelle); and one of Vienna's most festive balls is the "Kaiserball" at the Imperial Palace (Hofburg). As nostalgic as the Viennese may be about the past glories of their city, they understand that life goes on - and simply incorporate some of the good features of the monarchy.


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