Franz Joseph I

Nation: Austria

Emperor

Birth Date: August 18, 1830
Austria Franz Joseph I Emperor Cover
I. Childhood and Education
II. Rise to the Throne Amidst Revolutionary Degeneracy
III. Coronation at Age 18
[ART] In Military Uniform At Age 43
[Video] Celebration of 80th Birthday
[Video] Two-Minute Biography
I. Childhood and Education
Already as a child the young Prince, in whom all the hopes of his sorely tried House now centered, had of course been looked upon as the future Emperor, his uncle being childless, and his father standing in immediate succession to the throne. In his earliest years, he had been a special favorite with his grandfather, the Emperor Francis, who constantly had the boy about him. Pleasing anecdotes, of which the following is a sample, have been preserved of the intercourse between the old monarch and his pet grandchild. On a very hot summer's day at Laxenburg the little Archduke, then about four years old, noticed a sentry standing in the full rays of the sun - nowhere more scorching than at Vienna - and apparently suffering greatly from its effects. He sought out his grandfather and told him he would like to do something for the poor man, whereupon the Emperor gave the boy a coin or two for him. The little Archduke then ran back to the sentry, who presented arms, as in duty bound, but mutely declined to take the money, it being contrary to all discipline that he should accept anything when on duty. Greatly disappointed, the child returned to his grandfather and told him of his difficulty, when the old Emperor went out himself with him, and, lifting up the little fellow, enabled him to drop the gift into the soldier's cartridge-box.

There is a portrait of him by Daffinger, painted when he was six years old, which shows him to have been a remarkably handsome fair-haired child, with merry gray-blue eyes.

The young Archduke's education took the course planned out and invariably followed in the case of princes in direct succession to the Habsburg throne. His brothers Ferdinand Max and Charles Louis being respectively only two years and three years younger than himself, he had the great advantage of being brought up with them, and of pursuing his studies in common with them. The curriculum through which an Imperial prince is put in Austria seems in all conscience sufficiently exacting, not to say deterring. Besides the more ordinary subjects, including foreign languages, he is expected to grapple with the several idioms current in the polyglot Empire, such as Hungarian, Czech, and Polish. The Archduke Franz Joseph thus early acquired unusual linguistic attainments. Besides his native German, he learned to speak French and Itahan perfectly, but in English he was less profîcient. At the same time, he became quite familiar with the Magyar and Slavonic tongues.

In history, he was thoroughly grounded by the learned Professor Joseph Fick of the Vienna University, and while being carefully instructed in literature and mathematics, he also went through a complete course of study in chemistry, astronomy, and natural history. Much more valuable and interesting - indeed, unique in their way — were the lectures on state-craft and political history given to him somewhat later on, when he was in his eighteenth year, by the old Chancellor, Metternich. Every Sunday during the winter of 1847-48, he visited Metternich at the Staatskanzlei in the Ballplatz. The septuagenarian statesman had taken a great fancy to his Imperial pupil, and the Archduchess Sophie in her letters gives touching expression to the value she attached to the intimacy between her son and the old man who for thirty-five years had held the Empire in his hand. Metternich little foresaw the evolutions which by slow degrees were to transform his earnest, appreciative listener from a believer in the doctrines of divine right and absolutism which he then so intelligently absorbed, into a pattern ruler of the most approved constitutional type.

By all accounts young Franzi - as he was affectionately called in the Imperial circle - proved a most apt and painstaking pupil, gifted with a remarkable memory, somewhat shy and reserved, but full of zeal and goodwill. As to his less serious accomplishments, he does not seem to have inherited the taste for music which distinguished previous Austrian sovereigns, but he had a marked turn for drawing, and a happy knack of rapidly and cleverly sketching what he saw when traveling or on shooting expeditions. A set of such sketches, afterwards lithographed by himself, is said to be still in existence.

Count Coronini, a somewhat stern, but thoroughly conscientious soldier was selected as Franz Joseph's principal tutor, and Abbe Rauscher — afterwards Archbishop of Vienna — was selected for the boy's moral and religious instruction. His arduous studies fully occupied the youthful Archduke until his thirteenth year, when he began his military training at the hands of Colonel Hauslab, an officer of great distinction and a strict disciplinarian. He was put through his drill, like any private, in the three arms of the service; successively wearing the uniform of a linesman, a gunner, and a lancer. At this time, he is described as a slender youth, tall for his age, of a grave and earnest demeanor and very reserved in manner.

The great riding-school of the Josefstadt barracks, where young Franzi was taught to ride, has a curious tale to tell of the strange repugnance he seems to have shown when mounted for the first time on an ordinary Uhlan troop-horse. Those who later saw the ease and perfection of a seat that made the Emperor one of the finest and most accomplished horsemen in his dominions could scarcely credit the story, which was, however, given on the authority of Colonel Hauslab. The young Archduke, nevertheless, soon proved himself so apt and fearless a cavalry leader that in 1844, at the age of fourteen, he was appointed by his uncle, the Emperor, colonel-in-chief of the 5th regiment of dragoons, and himself commanded that regiment with much credit during the autumn maneuvers of that year in Moravia and Silesia.

Rumbold, H. (1909). Francis Joseph - The accession to the throne. In Francis Joseph and his times (pp. 144-148). New York: D. Appleton & Co., Publishers.
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II. Rise to the Throne Amidst Revolutionary Degeneracy
On August 18, 1848, the day which Archduke Franz Joseph completed his eighteenth year - it found the Emperor and his family once more established at Schônbrunn. Yet that date was allowed to pass unnoticed without any formal, and still less any public, recognition of the fact that the prospective heir to the throne had legally come of age. Thus matters stood at the beginning of November, after the suppression of the Vienna insurrection and the advent to power of Prince Felix Schwarzenberg. Nevertheless, the elevation of Franz Joseph to the throne had been fully decided upon, although the secret had been so religiously kept, that up to the very last the young Archduke himself, it has been stated, had been left in ignorance of the destiny that was in store for him.

In October 1847, Franz Joseph was selected to represent the Emperor at Pressburg for the installation of his cousin the Archduke Stephen as Obergespan, or Lord-Lieutenant, of the Komitat of Pressburg. This was the first occasion on which he was called to perform any public function, and, as it happened, it acquired historical significance. The appearance of the tall, slight youth, in the smartest of Hussar jackets, at once predisposed the impressionable Hungarian assembly in his favor, and when he addressed them in the purest of Magyar, his speech was greeted with tumultuous "Eljens," and the enthusiasm it aroused carried one back, said a witness of the scene, to the days of Maria Theresa.

A few brief months later, Louis Kossuth in his philippic of the third of March in the Hungarian Diet — the first trumpet - call to resistance and rebellion — referred to the young Archduke as "the heir of the Habsburgs who was so rich in promise, and had at once known how to win the hearts of the nation by his memorable words." Ten days later, on the 13th of March, when the streets of Vienna were in the hands of the insurgents, a mob orator of the name of Putz, who was reading out Kossuth's speech to the crowd, was interrupted by ringing cheers when he came to the passage concerning the young Archduke, and was not allowed to proceed until he had repeated it amidst the greatest excitement. Franz Joseph's popularity, indeed, became so marked that at the worst revolutionary period, he alone was excepted from the violent attacks made indiscriminately on all other members of the Imperial family and on the Court circle. No doubt this popularity led to his being selected, early in the spring of 1848, for the Vice Royalty of Bohemia, a post he was prevented from taking up by the insurrection which broke out at Prague in June.

About this time the Archduke obtained leave to visit the Tyrol, where he first acquired that love for sport in the Alps to which he was ever since addicted. His intrepidity as a chamois hunter, and his skill as a marksman, brought to life again, among the simple Tyrolese, old-world memories of his renowned ancestor the Emperor Maximilian of mountaineering fame.

But more stirring sounds than the crack of his own rifle soon seemed to the young Archduke to rouse the mountain echoes. From away down below in the Lombard plain the roar of the guns of Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky at bay reached him, so to speak, and left him no peace. He asked for and obtained leave to join the army in Italy, and on April 29th reached the headquarters at Verona. The old Marshal gave him but a sorry welcome. He already had half-a-dozen Imperial princes serving under him, and he, therefore, very plainly gave the young Archduke to understand how great would be the responsibility, in the event of disaster, of having in his ranks so precious a hostage as the future heir to the throne. '"Herr Feldmarschal!", replied the young prince, "it is possible that it was a mistake to allow me to come here, but now that I am here my honor forbids me to leave again forthwith."

He had not long to wait, for on May 6th, on the day of Santa Lucia, when an attack en masse by the Sardinian army was vigorously repulsed, the Archduke showed the greatest coolness under very heavy fire and by his fearless bearing earned unstinted praise from the old Marshal, as well as from the gallant General d'Aspre, who afterwards contributed so largely to the victory of Novara. Early in June, he rejoined the Imperial family at Innsbruck, and resumed his studies, which now comprised every branch of jurisprudence — from Roman to civil, criminal, and canonical law. Subsequently at Schonbrunn, as also later on at Olmutz, he steadily continued to apply himself to his studies, although by this time he had been duly warned, under the seal of secrecy, of his approaching accession to the throne.

When broken to him, the momentous decision that had been come to caused the young Archduke much heart-searching, and he only accepted the situation thus created when a direct appeal was made to that sense of duty which ever guided him throughout his long reign. The Archduke Franz Karl, for his part, was also greatly troubled in his mind as to his right to waive his claim to the crown in favor of his son. According to his own statement, he only finally made up his mind when, while earnestly praying for guidance in his perplexity, he had a vision of the spirit of his father, the late Emperor Francis, laying his hand on the head of his youthful grandson and thus putting ail his own doubts to rest.

Meanwhile the course of events made the early execution of the plan more and more imperative. Prince Windischgratz — who had for some time past been in the confidence of the Empress Marianne and of her sister-in-law the Archduchess Sophie — when passing through Olmutz on his way to reduce rebellions Vienna, strongly deprecated any further delay, while the Emperor Ferdinand, long weary of his load, pressed to be relieved of it, and only desired to transfer the weight and responsibility of empire to younger shoulders that were free from all contact with the past and its entanglements. The great decision was finally taken, and the 2nd of December appointed for its accomplishment.

The choice of that date, it has been said, was partly due to a wish to efface the memories of Austerlitz hitherto so disastrously associated with it. Up until the very last, however, the most complete secrecy was maintained. Even the future Emperor's brothers were kept in ignorance of the impending change, and on December 1st the young Archduke Franzi was still to be found engaged on his daily task, pouring over the intricacies of ecclesiastical law as expounded to him by the Canon of St. Stephen's, Doctor Joseph Columbus.

Rumbold, H. (1909). Francis Joseph - The accession to the throne. In Francis Joseph and his times (pp. 143-152). New York: D. Appleton & Co., Publishers.
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III. Coronation at Age 18
Very early on the morning of December 2, 1848, Olmutz was astir. All the dignitaries of the Court, the heads of the clergy, of the army, and of the administration had each received an Imperial summons to attend at the archiepiscopal palace, where the Emperor resided with his family. No reason was assigned for this command, and by 8 a.m. the outer rooms of the palace were thronged with eagerly expectant courtiers and officials, none of whom, however, were admitted to the throne-room. Precisely at nine o'clock the doors leading from the Emperor's private apartments were thrown open, and their Majesties, preceded by the aide-de-camp general. Prince Joseph Lobkowitz, entered the throne-room, followed by the Archduke Franz Karl with the Archduchess Sophie, and the Archduke Franz Joseph.

Here they found assembled the young Archdukes Charles Louis and Ferdinand Max, the Archduke Ferdinand of Este and his wife, and the Archduchess Marie Dorothea, widow of Joseph, Palatine of Hungary. No one else was present except the Prime Minister, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg and his colleagues of the Cabinet, the two generals. Prince Windischgratz and Baron Jellachich, who had just signally vindicated the Imperial authority, and Count Grunne in attendance on the Archduke Franz Joseph.

As soon as their Majesties were seated, the Prime Minister proceeded to read out three manifestos: the formal abdication of the throne by the Emperor Ferdinand; the act of renunciation by the heir-apparent, Archduke Franz Karl; and the declaration of the Archduke Franz Joseph having attained his legal majority on the 18th of the preceding August.

The proces-verbal, or record, of the proceedings, drawn up by Baron Hubner (afterwards Ambassador at Paris), was then signed by all the persons present except for the two Emperors. The young sovereign, says Hubner, in his graphic account of the memorable function, had maintained throughout this trying ordeal a perfectly simple and dignified attitude, but he now went forward and knelt before his uncle, who embraced him warmly and said, in his habitual homely way: "God bless thee! Be good! (sei nur brav). God will protect thee; I did it willingly (es ist gerne geschehen)!" Then, after embracing his parents, the young monarch left the throne-room, followed by Grunne, and went through the outer rooms of the palace to receive the homage of the bewildered crowd of courtiers still waiting to know what had happened.

A little later, he reviewed the troops of the garrison drawn up for the occasion, and was rapturously acclaimed by them. In his interesting diaries and recollections recently published by his widow, the late general Prince Louis Windischgratz, a son of the Field Marshal, briefly describes the scene: "It was a wonderful sight when this youth of eighteen rode along the lines amidst frantic cheers. There is in his attitude an assurance and decision which appeal to me. It is a grand thing to be able to be enthusiastic about one's Emperor!".

Immediately after the momentous ceremony in the archiepiscopal palace, Prince Schwarzenberg proceeded to Kremsier, where he communicated to the Diet the manifesto issued by a new sovereign on ascending the throne. It fully acknowledged the value and necessity of free institutions, reaffirmed the complete equality of all races and of all citizens of the Empire in the eyes of the law, as well as the right of the people to participate in legislation through its representatives. It also announced additional measures having for their object to remove the last traces of serfdom. But much the most important passage in the manifesto was that in which the Emperor expressed the hope that, with the help of God and of his people, he would be able to form out of ail the different countries and populations subject to his rule, one great state or body politic. This was a clear declaration in favor of the centralizing policy which, although attempted without success by Joseph II, had always been favored by Austrian statesmen.

Rumbold, H. (1909). Francis Joseph - The accession to the throne. In Francis Joseph and his times (pp. 152-155). New York: D. Appleton & Co., Publishers.
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[ART] In Military Uniform At Age 43


Emperor Franz Joseph I wearing the uniform of an Austrian Field Marshal, at the age of 43 years.

Painting [1873] by Franz Seraph von Lenbach (1836–1904)

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[Video] Celebration of 80th Birthday
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[Video] Two-Minute Biography
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