Austrian Emperors - Humane Power
I'm not a politician. So don't fear, I won't bore your with a lot of talk about wars and glory. I'm more interested in the odd stories and the human aspect. The Austrian emperors were quite a special breed of people. I say people, not men, because some women made big impressions throughout the centuries. And they even occasionally won the hearts of their enemies.
Karl, the last Austrian emperor, died in 1922. He reigned for only two years, so I'll skip him. I'll talk about Karl's great-uncle Franz Joseph I (1830 - 1916), and Empress Maria Theresia (1717 - 1780), who let a little boy named W. A. Mozart jump on her lap and shower her with kisses. She also instigated the beautiful medal on the left for award to her noble Hungarian subjects for civil merit. The award shows off nicely the colors of the Austrian-Hungarian empire (medal is dated: 1764).
Born in Vienna, she took over the imperial duties in 1740, when her father, emperor Karl VI, died. Maria Theresia was only 23 at the time. She was married to Franz von Lothringen, who was elected Roman Emperor Franz I in 1745. Maria Theresia was the mother of 16 (in words: sixteen) children: 11 girls, five boys! Six of her children died either as toddlers or early in their youth. In 1765 Maria Theresia's son became Emperor Joseph II. One of her daughters was Marie-Antoinette, the unfortunate queen of Louis XVI of France. Maria Theresia was a wonderful mother and remained an important influence on her children all of her life.
In her youth, Maria Theresia was in love with life. She spoke five Roman languages (German, Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian) and loved music and gambling. Her children were allowed to learn to play different instruments. In 1762, the six-year-old Mozart performed for Maria Theresia: click on the empress to hear me sing Mozart's "Papageno (The Magic Flute)."
Maria Theresia was Catholic and as a widow (from 1765) she wore only black mourning clothes. In her middle years she developed weight problems and in her old age she had trouble walking; therefore she had an elevator built in her home! Maria Theresia is buried together with her husband in an artistically highly valued sarcophagus and she remains an Austrian icon yet today.
Emperor Franz Joseph I
Franz Joseph was a proud and peaceful man with thrifty personal needs. He was only 18 years of age when he took the throne. The emperor began work at 5 in the morning. During the course of his long working day simple meals were served to him at his desk. The emperor, who used to call himself the first public servant of his state, once said: "One must work until one drops from exhaustion!" On Mondays and Thursdays any of the subjects in his empire could request an audience with him. From these audiences Franz Joseph developed an astounding memory for names and faces, a faculty he retained well into old age.
Franz Joseph married Elisabeth ("Sissi"), daughter of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, in 1854. They had one son, Rudolf, and three daughters.
Franz Joseph's later years were marked by a series of tragedies in his family. In 1889 his only son and heir to the throne, Archduke Rudolf, committed suicide; Franz Joseph's second younger brother, Karl Ludwig, died in 1896 from illness due to bad water he drank while on a holy lands pilgrimage; in 1898 wife Elizabeth was assassinated by an Italian anarchist.
Emperor Franz Joseph I died in 1916, 86 years old, after reigning for 68 years, in the middle of the raging battles of World War I. I want to leave you with one interesting thought:
You can take a virtual tour through the 500-year-old imperial palace of Schloß Schönbrunn in Vienna (with pictures of every room and lots of insider info).
Special Invitation: should Austria have an emperor again? The castle Schönbrunn is vacant. Please come and smell the Vienna coffee in our Konzerthaus Café where we editors of Vienna Online hang out every day! On this message board you can voice your opinions and concerns. Don't hold back. Let us know everything. After all, you, the reader, are the boss. What would we do without you? Join in, or just come for the pastry!
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