Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Kaiser von Österreich

BORN 18 Aug 1830, Wien: Schloss Schönbrunn - DIED 21 Nov 1916, Wien: Schloss Schönbrunn
GRAVE LOCATION Wien: Kapuzinergruft, Tegetthoffstraße 2

Oldest son of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, the son of Emperor Franz II. His mother was Princess Sophia of Bavaria. Because his uncle Ferdinand was a weak emperor and remained childless and his father seemed unfit as well, his mother regarded him as the future emperor.

He entered the army as a colonel when he was thirteen and this resulted in his wearing of uniforms for the rest of his life. In 1848 revolution broke out and he joined Radetzky at the front in Italy. When he joined his family in Innsbruck he met his Bavarian cousin Elisabeth for the first time. She was only ten at the time.

On 2 Dec 1848 his uncle abdicated and it was decided that Franz Joseph would succeed as emperor. He was further educated by Prince Schwarzenberg, the new prime minister. A new constitution and campaigns against Hungary and Italy were among his first challenges. The revolution was crushed and in 1849 he suspended the new constitution and his rule became absolute.

In 1852 Schwarzenberg died and from then on he effectively reigned the empire himself. In 1853 the Hungarian János Libényi tried to kill him. He was wounded but his collar saved his life and Libényi was was struck down by Count O'Donnell. The butcher Joseph Ettenreich then overwhelmed him. Libényi was tried and executed on the Simmeringer Haide. The Vitovkirche in Vienna was built to thank God for saving the life of the emperor and consecrated in 1879.

It was planned that Franz Joseph would marry the Bavarian Princess Helene ('Nene'), a daughter of his mother's sister Ludovica. When his eye fell on her younger sister Elisabeth ('Sisi'), who was now sixteen, he made his decision quickly and decided to marry her. The wedding took place in the St. Augustine's Church in Vienna on 24 Apr 1854. But Sisi was unhappy at the court and their first child Sophia died after a year. She bore him another daughter, Gisela, and a son, Rudolph, but she didn't love him and was away from Vienna as often as possible.

In 1850 and 1860s things didn't go well for Austria. The Crimean War and a defeat in Italy during the 1850s were followed by a defeat against the Prussians in 1866 and a Compromise with Hungary in 1867. Sisi, who loved Hungary, seems to have played a part in the negotiations and when he granted Hungary a large amount of independence she rewarded him by taking him back into her bed and giving him another daughter, Maria Valeria. However, she soon left him again to travel. She had even taken care of a mistress for him. Anna Nahowski slept with the emperor between 1875 and 1888 and there is little doubt that Helena Nahowski, the future wife of composer Alban Berg, was their daughter.

In 1885 he met the actress Katharina Schratt and she replaced Anna as his mistress. Sisi knew about it and seems not to have objected against the secret relationship that lasted until his death.

In 1889 tragedy struck when his unhappy son Rudolph killed himself at Mayerling, probably after killing his young lover Mary Vetsera first. His nephew Franz Ferdinand was now heir to the throne but after the emperor refused him to marry Sophie Chotek, who was only a countess, the two men were on bad terms. In 1898 Sisi was stabbed to death by the anarchist Lucheni. She had still been very important to him and he never recovered from her death.

In 1914 Franz Ferdinand was murdered in Sarajavo. Franz Joseph reacted that a superior power had restored order. He was talking about his succession, because the First World War and chaos reigned over the empire from then on. In 1916 he died in Schönbrunn, after a reign of 68 years. His grandnephew Karl succeeded him, but only two years later the empire eased to exist.

• Mother: Sophie von Bayern
• Son: Rudolf von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria and Hungary
• Daughter: Gisela, archduchess of Austria, princess of Bavaria
• Daughter: Nahowski, Helene
• Wife: Elisabeth von Bayern, Kaiserin von Österreich (1854-1898, Wien: Augustinerkirche)
• Brother: Maximilian of Austria, emperor of Mexico
• Brother: Ludwig Viktor, Erzherzog von Österreich

Related persons
• was painted by Angeli, Heinrich, Ritter von
• was painted by Lenbach, Franz von
• quarreled with Leopold Ferdinand of Habsburg-Toscane, Archduke of Austria
• was the lover of Nahowski, Anna
• was a friend of Schratt, Katharina

16/8/1853First meeting between emperor Franz Joseph and Elisabeth [Elisabeth von Bayern, Kaiserin von Österreich][Sophie von Bayern]
18/1/1868Maximilian of Austria is buried in Vienna. On 17 January his body had arrived at the Südbahnhof (Southern Railway Station) in Vienna. Apart from the empress Elisabeth the entire imperial family was there. The next day he was buried in the Kapuzinergruft, where he was laid to rest next to the Duke of Reichstadt, Napoleon's son. Because it was cold in Vienna and it was carnival, the service at the Hofburg on the 17th had received little visitors. Maximilian's mother Sophia insisted on accompanying the body to the Kapuzinergruft through the cold. [Maximilian of Austria, emperor of Mexico][Sophie von Bayern]
11/7/1906Former empress Eugénie meets emperor Francis Joseph in Bad Ischl. Francis Joseph received Eugénie and het companion Isabel de Vesey heartily. None of them seemed to realise that it was exactly 47 years after Napoleon III and Francis Joseph had met each other in Villafranca. 
5/7/1914Conrad von Hötzendorf considers war against Serbia inevitable. He said this to emperor Francis Joseph who shared his opinion. The emperor asked him if he was sure that Germany would support Austria. A little later the Germans assured the Austrians that they would support them, war or not. [Conrad von Hötzendorff, Franz]


The villa Hermes in Vienna was a gift of emperor Francis Joseph to the empress Elisabeth.
Picture by Androom (24 Jan 1999)


The tomb of emperor Francis Joseph in the Kapuzinergruft, Vienna.
Picture by Androom (31 Aug 2002)


Bust of emperor Franz Joseph at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien.
Picture by Androom (22 Aug 2009)


• Vincent, Benjamin, Haydn's Dictionary of Dates, and Universal Information, Ward, Lock & Co, London, 1906
Point de Vue (Images du Monde), Point de Vue, Créteil
• Ridley, Jasper, Napoleon III and Eugénie, Constable, London, 1979
• Zeman, Z.A.B., Schaduwen over de Habsburgers, De ineenstorting van de dubbelmonarchie, Sijthoff, Leiden, 1971
Franz Joseph I of Austria - Wikipedia

Franz, Helene, Freifrau von Heldburg

Published: 15 May 2010
Last update: 06 Sep 2021