Franz Joseph I or Francis Joseph I (German: Franz Josef Karl; 18 August 1830 – 21 November 1916) was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Croatia, and Bohemia, and monarch of other states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from 2 December 1848 until his death.
Franz Joseph was crowned King of Hungary and Sisi became queen. Hungarians were given new freedoms, and Franz Joseph was allowed back into the royal bed (the couple’s last child, Marie Valerie, was...
The picture of a smartly uniformed Franz Joseph replete with his characteristic sideburns is just as popular as that of Empress Sisi – the ‘Sissi’ of the much-loved film series. The principal works of popular literature on the history of the Habsburgs also concentrate on ‘Franzl’ and ‘Sisi’ and are unsparing in their use of flowery expressions and superlatives.
Nicknamed Sisi (also Sissi), she enjoyed an informal upbringing before marrying Emperor Franz Joseph I at the age of sixteen. The marriage thrust her into the much more formal Habsburg court life, for which she was unprepared and which she found uncongenial.
On 24 April 1854 Franz Joseph married his first cousin Elisabeth (1837–1898), who was seven years his junior and the daughter of one of his mother’s sisters. The romantic circumstances of their first encounter – it was in fact Elisabeth’s elder sister Helene who had been intended as the emperor’s bride – were popularized by the trilogy of ‘Sissi’ films made in the 1950s.
- Personal Life
- Becoming Emperor
- The Era of Absolutism
- Reforms and Defeats
- The Austro-Hungarian Compromise
- The Upsurge of Nationalism
- Franz Joseph and Archduke Franz Ferdinand
- Conflicts with Bosnia-Herzegovina and The Outbreak of World War I
- Death and Legacy
As a child Franz Joseph worshipped his grandfather, who died when he was almost five years old. He had three younger brothers – Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (born 1832), Archduke Karl Ludwig (born 1833) and Archduke Ludwig Viktor (born 1842). His sister, Maria Anna, passed away when she was only four. Franz Joseph’s childhood was brief – at age 13 he had already taken up the position of colonel in the Austrian army, for which he fought on the Front in Italy during May of 1848. Soon, though, he joined his family in Innsbruck, where they had taken refuge from the demonstrations and rebellions in Vienna. He first met his future wife, his cousin Elisabeth, in Innsbruck, when he was 10 years old, though he was not yet smitten by her.
When Elisabeth was 16, he fell in love with her and married her in Vienna on April 24, 1854. However, the marriage was fraught with tensions that were both personal and political; they were by no means the ideal couple. To make matters worse, their first daughter Sophie died at a young age, and their only son Rudolf killed himself. They had two other daughters, Gisela and Marie Valerie. His wife, nicknamed Sisi, was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in 1898, an event which emotionally crushed Franz Joseph. In 1885, though, Franz Joseph had taken actress Katharina Schratt as his mistress and felt justified in securing Schratt for himself due to his wife’s physical and emotional distance.
The family finally fled to Olomouc in Moravia during the troubled days of 1848. It was in Olomouc on December 2, 1848 that Franz Joseph became Emperor at the early age of 18. His uncle, Ferdinand I, had abdicated to try to put a halt to the revolutions in which people advocated democracy and participation in government and expressed their discontent with political leaders. Another significant factor – one that would affect Franz Joseph throughout his reign – was the emergence of nationalistic tendencies throughout Europe.
During the 1848 to 1860 absolutism era in the Empire, Franz Joseph was well respected and was the glue that held the Empire together during tough times. Not everyone liked him, though. There was an attempt on his life during 1853, when Hungarian nationalist János Libényi stabbed him in the neck from behind. Fortunately, the Emperor was donning a high, sturdy collar that saved his life. This era was also one of disappointments in terms of foreign affairs, which brought absolutism to an end.
A constitution was passed in 1861. Reforms to modernize Austria were instigated, and industrialization arose. With a growth in industry during the 1860s, the bourgeoisie emerged, and they competed with the aristocracy. Problems persisted in foreign affairs. Austria lost the Second Italian War of Independence and then the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, a defeat that help trigger the Empire’s downfall.
This painful loss resulted in the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, in which the Emperor and Hungary formed a state of dualism, making the empire a single state for war and foreign affairs but leaving Hungary’s internal issues to Hungary. After the Dual Monarchy was established, the economy became more capitalist, and many railways were built. At this time Franz Joseph became the most revered member of the Habsburg dynasty because he had shown that he could compromise.
Yet many ethnic groups were not satisfied. Even though there was a majority of Slavs in the Empire, Germans had the upper hand. The German-Czech issue was a great problem during Franz Joseph’s reign. The disagreements concerning language were most fierce in Bohemia, where Czech was made the official language of the bureaucracy, and the Czechs greatly developed their own culture during the 1870s and 1880s. A Czech-speaking section of Prague’s Charles University was established, too. Germans voiced resentment, and demonstrations took place in Austria. But ethnic identity was not only an issue in Bohemia. In Hungary the Slovaks, Croats, Romanians and Serbs asserted themselves. Emperor Franz Joseph not only gave more autonomy to ethnic groups but was fluent in German, Hungarian and Czech. His skills in Polish and Italian were admirable as well.
Franz Joseph’s relationship with his heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, was very tense. The Emperor did not approve when Franz Ferdinand wanted to marry Sophie Chotek, who was considered inferior because her family members were not descendants of any European ruling dynasty. Franz Joseph finally allowed the marriage in 1900. Yet he set down harsh conditions. The couple’s offspring could not be heirs to the throne. Sophie was forbidden to sit in the royal carriage or royal box. The Emperor and many other relatives did not attend the wedding.
When Austria annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, it brought about an unsettling reaction from the West, and many Serbs wanted a pan-Slav state directed by Serbia. There were many clashes between the Serbs and Austro-Hungary. The two Balkan Wars added more friction and greatly contributed to the downfall of the Habsburg Monarchy. This tension led to Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination by Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, where the Archduke was overseeing military maneuvers. Franz Joseph did not attend the funeral for the Archduke and his wife, who was also killed. World War I began less than two months after the assassinations. Following Franz Ferdinand’s tragic demise, Franz Joseph favored war.
Franz Joseph had been anxious to keep his Empire intact and to guard over his subjects. Yet he could not sacrifice any of the power he had inherited. He died in Schönbrunn Palace on November 21, 1916 at age 86. His grand-nephew Karl took the throne for two years before Austro-Hungary perished. Franz Joseph is known to have been a stolid but hard-working, serious ruler. He was awarded numerous medals and honors during his lifetime. Habsburg bureaucracy is generally considered to be strict but honest and very well-organized. For instance, one of the reasons why Lombardy, Veneto and Tuscany are three successful Italian regions is that Austrians ruled there for some time. An archipelago, glacier and university carry Franz Joseph’s name, too. His life and career was highlighted in the 1974 BBC miniseries, Fall of Eagles.
Next year on August 7 and 8, 2004, the 150th anniversary of the wedding of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth “Sisi” will be celebrated with a big festival “The Empress’s Dream (Sisis Traum)” at the Imperial Park in Bad Ischl. Tickets will be on sale from 15 September 2003.
Directed by Ernst Marischka. With Romy Schneider, Karlheinz Böhm, Magda Schneider, Uta Franz. In the first of a trilogy of movies about Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria, the young vibrant princess catches the eye of her sister's fiancé, Emperor Franz Josef.
Sissi Elisabeth Empress of Austria Souvenirs Online Shop. Sissi Souvenirs Online Shop Vienna. Elisabeth of Austria (also known as Sisi) (1837–1898) was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and Queen consort of Croatia and Bohemia.
Karlheinz Böhm as Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria Magda Schneider as Duchess Ludovika in Bavaria , Sissi's mother and Sophie's sister Uta Franz [ de ] as Princess Helene in Bavaria , or "Nené", Sissi's older sister