House of Habsburg

Habsburg / Hapsburg Dynasty

[Excerpts from the classic 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica and Wikipedia, with minor edits]

HABSBURG, or HAPSBURG, the name of the famous family from which have sprung dukes (1282-1453)  and archdukes (1453-1804) of Austria, kings of Hungary and Bohemia from 1526, and emperors of Austria (1804-1918). They were also Holy Roman Emperors for several centuries to 1806, German kings (1438-1806), and kings of Spain (1516-1700), while the minor dignities held by them at different times are too numerous to mention.

The name Hapsburg has many variations: Hapsburgh, Habsburg, Habisburch etc. Since the family has been in existence for half a millenium such variations in spelling are expected (as language evolves and changes through time and geography). Today, the Austrian descendants, and most of the academic community, use the 'Habsburg' spelling. Origination from a castle named 'Habichtsburg' built by Bishop Wener of Strasbourg (which is located on the Aar river not far from its junction with the Rhine, in present-day Switzerland) in 1020 A.D., the name translated from medieval German literally means 'Hawk's Castle.' 

The castle was built about 1020 by Werner, bishop of Strassburg, and his brother, Radbot, the founder of the abbey of Muri. These men were grandsons of a certain Guntram, who, according to some authorities, is identical with a Count Guntram who flourished during the reign of the emperor Otto the Great, and whose ancestry can be traced back to the time of the Merovingian kings. This conjecture, however, is extremely problematical. Among Radbot’s sons was one Werner, and Werner and his son Otto were called counts of Habsburg, Otto being probably made landgrave of upper Alsace late in the 11th or early in the 12th century. At all events Otto’s son Werner (d. 1167), and the latter’s son Albert (d. 1199), held this dignity, and both landgraves increased the area of the Habsburg lands. Albert became count of Zurich and protector of the monastery of Säckingen, and obtained lands in the cantons of Unterwalden and Lucerne; his son Rudolph, having assisted Frederick of Hohenstaufen, afterwards the emperor Frederick II, against the emperor Otto IV, received the county of Aargau. Both counts largely increased their possessions in the districts now known as Switzerland and Alsace, and Rudolph held an influential place among the Swabian nobility. After his death in 1232 his two sons, Albert and Rudolph, divided his lands and founded the lines of Habsburg-Habsburg and Habsburg-Laufenburg. Rudolph’s descendants, counts of Habsburg-Laufenburg, were soon divided into two branches, one of which became extinct in 1408 and the other seven years later. Before this date, however, Laufenburg and some other districts had been sold to the senior branch of the family, who thus managed to retain the greater part of the Habsburg lands.

Rudolph’s brother Albert (d. 1239), landgrave of Alsace, married Hedwig of Kyburg (d. 1260), and from this union there was born in 1218 Rudolph, the founder of the greatness of the house of Habsburg, and the first of the family to ascend the German throne. Through his mother he inherited a large part of the lands of the extinct family of Zahringen; he added in other ways to his possessions, and was chosen German king in September 1273. Acting vigorously in his new office, he defeated and killed his most formidable adversary, Ottakar II, king of Bohemia, in 1278, and in December 1282 he invested his sons, Albert and Rudolph, with the duchies of Austria and Styria, which with other lands had been ta.ken. from Ottakar. This was an event of supreme moment in the history of the Habsburgs, and was the first and most important stage in the process of transferring the centre of their authority from western to eastern Europe, from the Rhine to the Danube. On Rudolph’s death in July 1291 the German crown passed for’a time away from the Habsburgs, but in July 1298 it was secured by his son, Albert, whose reign, however, was short and uneventful. But before 1308, the year of Albert’s death, the long’ and troubled connexioii of the Habsburgs with Bohemia had aLready begun. In I3of Wenceslas III, the last Bohemian king of the Pfemyslide dynasty, was murdered. Seizing the opportunity and declarini that the vacant kingdom was an imperial fief, King Albert bestowed it upon his eldest son, Rudolph, and married this prince to Elizabeth, widow of Wenceslas II and stepmother of Wenceslas III. But Rudolph died in 1307, and his father’s attempt to keep the country in his own hands was ended by his murder in 1308.

Albert’s successor as German king was Henry of Luxemburg (the emperor Henry VII), and this election may be said to initiate the long rivalry between the houses of Habsburg and Luxemburg. But the immediate enemy of the Habsburgs was not a Luxemburg but a Wittelsbach. Without making any definite partition, Albert’s five remaining sons spent their time in governing their lands until 1314, when one of them, Frederick called the Fair, forsook this comparatively uneventful occupation and was chosen by a minority of the electors German king in succession to Henry VII. At the same time the Wittelsbach duke of Bavaria, Louis, known to history as the emperor Louis the Bavarian, was also chosen. War was inevitable, and the battle of Muhldorf, fought in September 1322, sealed the fate of Frederick. Louis was victorious: his rival went into an honourable captivity, and the rising Habsburg sun underwent a temporary eclipse.

For more than a century after Frederick’s death in 1330 the Habsburgs were exiles from the German throne. But they were not inactive. In 1335 his two surviving brothers, Albert and Otto, inherited Carinthia and part of Carniola by right of their mother, Elizabeth; in 1363 Albert’s son Rudolph received Tirol; and during the same century part of Istria, Trieste and other districts were acquired. All King Albert’s six sons had died without leaving male issue save Otto, whose family became extinct in 1344, and Albert, the ancestor of all the later Habsburgs. Of Albert’s four sons two also left no male heirs, but the remaining two, Albert III and Leopold III, were responsible for a division of the family which is of some importance. By virtue of a partition made upon their brother Rudolph’s death in 1365 Albert and his descendants ruled over Austria, while Leopold and his sons took Styria, Carinthia and Tirol, Alsace remaining undivided as heretofore.

Towards the middle of the 15th century the German throne had been occupied for nearly a hundred years by members of the Luxemburg family. The reigning emperor Sigismund, who was also king of Hungary and Bohemia, was without sons, and his daughter Elizabeth was the wife of Albert of Habsburg, the grandson and heir of Duke Albert III, who had died in 1395. Sigismund died in December 1437, leaving his two kingdoms to his son-in-law, who was crowned king of Hungary in January 1438 and king of Bohemia in the following June. Albert was also chosen and crowned German king in succession to Sigismund, thus beginning the long and uninterrupted connexion of his family with the imperial throne, a connexion which lasted until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. He did not, however, enjoy his new dignities for long, as he died in October 1439 while engaged in a struggle with the Turks. Albert left no sons, but soon after his death one was born to him, called Ladislaus, who became duke of Austria and king of Hungary and Bohemia. Tinder the guardianship of his kinsman, the emperor Frederick III, the young prince’s reign was a troubled one, and when he died unmarried in 1457 his branch of the family became extinct, and Hungary and Bohemia passed away from the Habsburgs, who managed, however, to retain Austria.

Leopold III, duke of Carinthia and Styria, who was killed in 1386 at the battle of Sempach, had four sons, of whom two only, Frederick and Ernest, left male issue. Frederick and his only son, Sigismund, confined their attention mainly to Tirol and Alsace, leaving the larger destinies of the family in the hands of Ernest of Carinthia and Styria (d. 1424) and his sons, Frederi& and Albert and after the death of King Ladislaus in 1457 these two princes and their cousin Sigismund were the only representatives of the Habsburgs. In February 1440 Frederick of Styria was chosen German king in succession to his kinsman Albert. He was a weak and incompetent ruler, but a stronger and abler’ man might have shrunk from the task of administering his heterogeneous and unruly realm. Although very important in the history of the house of Habsburg, Frederick’s long reign was a period of misfortune, and the motto which he assumed, A.E.I.O.U. (Austriae est imperare orbi universo), seemed at the time a particularly foolish boast. He acted as guardian both to Ladislaus of Hungary, Bohemia and Austria, and to Sigismund of Tirol, and in all these countries his difficulties were increased by the hostility of his brother Albert. Having disgusted the Tirolese he gave up the guardianship of their prince in 1446, while in Hungary and Bohemia he did absolutely nothing to establish the authority of his ward; in 1452 the Austrians besieged him in Vienna Neustadt and compelled him to surrender the person of Ladislaus, thus ending even his nominal authority. When the young king died in 1457 the Habsburgs lost Hungary and Bohemia, but they retained Austria, which, after some disputing, Frederick and Albert divided between themselves, the former taking lower and the latter upper Austria. This arrangement was of short duration. In 1461 Albert made war upon his brother and forced him to resign lower Austria, which, however, he recovered after Albert’s death in December 1463. Still more unfortunate was the German king in Switzerland. For many years the Swiss had chafed under the rule of the Habsburgs; during the reign of Rudolph I they had shown signs of resentment as the kingly power increased; and the struggle which had been carried on for nearly two centuries had been almost uniformly in. their favour. It was marked by the victory of Morgarten over Duke Leopold I ~fl 1315, and by that of Sempach over Leopold III. In 1386, by the conquest of Aargau at the instigation of the emperor Sigismund early in the 15th century, and by the final struggle for freedom against Frederick III and Sigismund of Tirol. Taking advantage of some dissensions among the Swiss, the king saw an opportunity to recover his lost lands, and in 1443 war broke out. But his allies, the men of Zurich, were defeated, and when in August 1444 some French mercenaries, who had advanced to his aid, suffered the same fate at St Jakob, he was compelled to give up the struggle. A few years later Sigismund became involved in a war with the same formidable foemen; he too was worsted, and the “ Perpetual Peace” of 1474. ended the rule of the Habsburgs in Switzerland. This humiliation was the second great step in the process of removing the Habsburgs from western to eastern Europe. In 1453, just after his coronation as emperor at Rome, Frederick legalized the use of the title archduke, which had been claimed spasmodically by the Habsburgs since 1361. This title is now peculiar to the house of Habsburg.

The reverses suffered by the Habsburgs during the reign of Frederick III were many and serious, but an improvement was at hand. The emperor died in August 1493, and was followed on the imperial throne by his son Maximilian I, perhaps the most versatile and interesting member of the family. Before his father’s death Maximilian had been chosen German king, or king of the Romans, and had begun to repair the fortunes of his house. He had married Mary, daughter and heiress of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy [the Low Countries]; he had driven the Hungarians from Vienna and the Austrian archduchies, which Frederick had, perforce, allowed them to occupy; and he had received Tirol on the abdication of Sigismund in 1490. True it is that upon Mary’s death in 1482 part of her inheritance, the rich and prosperous Netherlands, held that her husband’s authority was at an end, while another part, the two Burgundies and Artois, had been seized by the king of France; nevertheless, after a protracted struggle the German king secured almost the whole of Charles the Bold’s lands for his son, the archduke Philip, the duchy of Burgundy alone remaining in the power of France after the conclusion of the peace of Senlis in 1493. Maximilian completed his work by adding a piece of Bavaria, Görz and then Gradiska to the Habsburg lands.

[Hungary, nominally under Habsburg kingship from 1526 but mostly under Ottoman Turkish occupation for 150 years, was reconquered in 1683-1699, the Habsburgs remaining kings of Hungary under an 1867 autonomy arrangement (see Austria-Hungary) until their deposition in both Austria and Hungary in 1918 following defeat in World War I.]

After Sigismund’s death in 1496 Maximilian and Philip were the only living male members of the family. Philip [a.k.a. Philipp the Fair] married Joanna / Juana, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain [and she was heiress of the newly-found Spanish empire], and died in 1506 leaving two sons, Charles and Ferdinand. Charles succeeded his father in the Netherlands; he followed one grandfather, Ferdinand, as king of Spain in 1516, and when the other, Maximilian, died in 1519 he became the emperor Charles V, and succeeded to all the hereditary lands of the Habsburgs [an empire where "the sun does not set"]. But provision had to be made for Ferdinand, and in 1521 this prince was given the Austrian archduchies, Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola; in the same year he married Anne, daughter of Wladislaus, king of Hungary and Bohemia, and when his childless brother-in-law, King Louis, was killed at the battle of Mohacs in August 1526 he claimed the two kingdoms, both by right of his wife and by treaty. After a little trouble Bohemia passed under his rule, but Hungary was more recalcitrant. A long war took place between Ferdinand and John Zapolya, who was also crowned king of Hungary, but in 1538 a treaty was made and the country was divided, the Habsburg prince receiving the western and smaller portion. However, he was soon confronted with a more formidable foe, and he spent a large part of his subsequent life in defending his lands from the attacks of the Turks.

The Habsburgs had now reached the summit of their power. The prestige which belonged to Charles as head of the Holy Roman Empire was backed by the wealth and commerce of the Netherlands and of Spain, and by the riches of the Spanish colonies in America. In Italy he ruled over Sardinia, Naples and Sicily, which had passed to him with Spain, and the duchy of Milan, which he had annexed in 1535; to the Netherlands he had added Friesland, the bishopric of Utrecht, Groningen and Gelderland, and he still possessed Franche-Comté and the fragments of the Habsburg lands in Alsace and the neighbourhood. Add to this Ferdinand’s inheritance, the Austrian archduchies and Tirol, Bohemia with her dependent provinces, and a strip of Hungary, and the two brothers had under their sway a part of Europe the extent of which was great, but the wealth and importance of which were immeasurably greater. Able to scorn the rivalry of the other princely houses of Germany, the Habsburgs saw in the kings of the house of Valois the only foemen worthy of their regard.

Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy; also used as the flag of the Austrian Empire until the Ausgleich of 1867.

 [Upon the abdication of the Emperor Charles V, also King Charles I of Spain (1516 -1556), the family split into the Austrian Habsburgs and the Spanish Habsburgs.]

Charles V was succeeded as emperor, not by his son Philip, but by his brother Ferdinand. Philip became king of Spain, ruling also the Netherlands, Franche-Comté, Naples, Sicily, Milan and Sardinia, and the family was definitely divided into the Spanish and Austrian branches. For Spain and the Spanish Habsburgs the I7th century was a period of loss and decay, the seeds of which were sown during the reign of Philip II. The northern provinces of the Netherlands were lost practically in 1609 and definitely by the treaty of Westphalia in 1648; Roussillon and Artois were annexed to France by the treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, while Franche-Comté and a number of towns in the Spanish Netherlands suffered a similar fate by the treaty of Nijmwegen in 1678. Finally Charles II, the last Habsburg king of Spain, died childless in November 1700, and his lands were the prize of the War of the Spanish Succession. The Austriab Habsburgs fought long and valiantly for the kingdom of their kinsman, but Louis XIV was too strong for them, and by the peace of Rastatt Spain passed from the Habsburgs to the Bourbons. However, the Austrian branch of the family received in 1714 the Italian possessions of Charles II, except Sicily, which was given to the duke of Savoy, and also the southern Netherlands, which are thus often referred to as the Austrian Netherlands; and retained the duchy of Mantua, which it had seized in 1708.

Ferdinand I, the founder of the line of the Austrian Habsburgs, arranged a division of his lands among his three sons before his death in 1564. The eldest, Maximilian II, received Austria, Bohemia and Hungary, and succeeded his father as emperor; he married Maria, a daughter of Charles V, and though he had a large family his male line became extinct in 1619. The younger sons were Ferdinand, ruler of Tirol, and Charles, archduke of Styria. The emperor Maximilian II left five sons, two of whom, Rudolph and Matthias, succeeded in turn to the imperial throne, but, as all the brothers were without male issue, the family was early in the i7th century threatened with a serious crisis. Rudolph died in 1612, the reigning emperor Matthias was old and ill, and the question of the succession to the Empire, to the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia, and to the hereditary lands of the Habsburgs became acute. Turning to the collateral branches of the family, the sons of the archduke Ferdinand were debarred from the succession owing to their father’s morganatic marriage with Philippine Welser, and the only hope of the house was in the sons of  Charles of Styria. To prevent the Habsburg monarchy from falling to pieces the emperor’s two surviving brothers renounced their rights, and it was decided that Ferdinand, a son of Charles of Styria, should succeed his cousin Matthias. The difficulties which impeded the completion of this scheme were gradually overcome, and the result was that when Matthias died in 1619 the whole of the lands of the Austrian Habsburgs was united under the rule of the emperor Ferdinand II [pictured]. Tirol, indeed, a few years later was separated from the rest of the monarchy and given to the emperor’s brother, the archduke Leopold, but this separation was ended when Leopold’s son died in 1665.

Ferdinand IIThe arbitrary measures which followed Ferdinand’s acquisition of the Bohemian crown contributed to the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, but in a short time the Bohemians were subdued, and in 1627, following a precedent set in 1547, the emperor declared the throne hereditary in the house of Habsburg. The treaty of Westphalia which ended this war took comparatively little from the Habsburgs, though they ceded Alsace to France; but the Empire was greatly weakened, and its ruler was more than ever compelled to make his hereditary lands in the east of Europe the base of his authority, finding that he derived more strength from his position as archduke of Austria than from that of emperor. Ferdinand III succeeded his father Ferdinand II, and during the long reign of the former’s son, Leopold I, the Austrian, like the Spanish, Habsburgs were on the defensive against the aggressive policy of Louis XIV, and in addition they had to withstand the assaults of the Turks. In two ways they sought to strengthen their position. The unity of the Austrian lands was strictly maintained, and several marriages kept up a close and friendly connexion with Spain. A series of victories over the sultan during the later part of the 17th century rolled back the tide of the Turkish advance, and the peace of Karlowitz made in 1699 gave nearly the whole of Hungary to the Habsburgs. Against France Austria was less successful, and a number of humiliations culminated in 1714 in the failure to secure Spain, to which reference has already been made.

The Spanish Habsburgs died out in 1700 (prompting the War of the Spanish Succession), as did the Austrian Habsburgs in 1740 (prompting the War of the Austrian Succession). However, the heiress of the last Austrian Habsburg, Maria Theresa, had married Francis Stephen Duke of Lorraine, and their descendants carried on the Habsburg tradition from Vienna under the dynastic name Habsburg-Lorraine. It is speculated that extensive intra-family marriages within both lines contributed to their extinctions.

The hostility of Austria and France, or rather of Habsburg and Bourbon, outlived the War of the Spanish Succession. In 1717 Spain conquered Sardinia, which was soon exchanged by Austria for Sicily; other struggles and other groupings of the European powers followed, and in 1735, by the treaty of Vienna, Austria gave up Naples and Sicily and received the duchies of Parma and Piacenza. These surrenders were doubtless inevitable, but they shook the position of the house of Habsburg in Italy. However, a domestic crisis was approaching which threw Italian affairs into the shade. Charles VI, who had succeeded his brother, Joseph I, as emperor in 1711, was without sons, and his prime object in life was to secure the succession of his elder daughter, Maria Theresa, to the whole of his lands and dignities. But in 1713, four years before the birth of Maria Theresa, he had first issued the famous Pragmatic Sanction, which declared that the Habsburg monarchy was indivisible and that in default of male heirs a female could succeed to it. Then after the death of his only son and the birth of Maria Theresa the emperor bent all his energies to securing the acceptance of the Pragmatic Sanction. Promulgated anew in 1724, it was formally accepted by the estates of the different Habsburg lands;, in 1731 it was guaranteed by the imperial diet. By subordinating every other interest to this, Charles at length procured the assent of the various powers of Europe to the proposed arrangement; he married the young princess to Francis Stephen, duke of Lorraine, afterwards grand-duke of Tuscany, and when he died on the 20th of October 1740 he appeared to have realized his great ambition. With the emperor’s death the house of Habsburg, strictly speaking, became extinct, its place being taken by the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, which sprang from the union of Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen; and it is interesting to note that the present Habsburgs are only descended in the female line from Rudolph I and Maximilian I.

Immediately after the death of Charles the Pragmatic Sanction was forgotten. A crowd of claimants called for various parts of the Habsburg lands; Frederick the Great, talking less but acting more, invaded and conquered Silesia, and it seemed likely that the dissolution of the Habsburg monarchy would at no long interval follow the extinction of the Habsburg race. A Wittelsbach prince, Charles Albert, elector of Bavaria, the emperor Charles VII, and not Francis Stephen, was chosen emperor in January 1742, and by the treaty of Breslau, made later in the same year, nearly all Silesia was formally surrendered to Prussia. But the worst was now over, and when in 1748 the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which practically confirmed the treaty of Breslau, had cleared away the dust of war, Maria Theresa and her consort were found to occupy a strong position in Europe. In the first place, in September 1745, Francis had been chosen emperor; then the imperial pair ruled Hungary and Bohemia, although the latter kingdom was shorn of Silesia; in spite of French conquests the Austrian Netherlands remained in their hands; and in Italy Francis had added Tuscany to his wife’s heritage, although Parma and Piacenza had been surrendered to Spain and part of Milan to the king of Sardinia. The diplomatic voile-face and the futile attempts of Maria Theresa to recover Silesia which followed this treaty belong to the general history of Europe.

The emperor Francis I died in 1765 and was succeeded by his son Joseph II [pictured left], an ambitious and able prince, whose aim was to restore the Habsburgs and the Empire to their former great positions in Europe, and whose pride did not prevent him from learning from Frederick the Great, the despoiler of his house. His projects, however, including one of uniting Bavaria with Austria, which was especially cherished, failed completely, and when he died in February 1790 he left his lands in a state of turbulence which reflected the general condition of Europe. The Netherlands had risen against the Austrians, and in January 1790 had declared themselves independent; Hungary, angered by Joseph’s despotic measures, was in revolt, and the other parts of the monarchy were hardly more contented. But the 18th century saw a few successes for the Habsburgs. In 1718 a successful war with Turkey was ended by the peace of Passarowitz, which advanced the Austrian boundary very considerably to the east, and although by the treaty of Belgrade, signed twenty-one years later, a large part of this territory was surrendered, yet a residuum, the banate of Temesvar, was permanently incorporated with Hungary. The struggle over the succession to Bavaria, which was concluded in 1779 by the treaty of Teschen, was responsible for adding Innviertel, or the quarter of the Inn, to Austria; the first partition of Poland brought eastern Galicia and Lodomeria, and in 1777 the sultan ceded Bukovina. Joseph II was followed by his brother, Leopold II, who restored the Austrian authority in the Netherlands, and the latter by his son Francis II, who resigned the crown of the Holy Roman Empire in August 1806, having two years before taken the title of emperor of Austria as Francis I.

By the turn of the 19th century, Habsburg power had waned significantly. The Spanish line died out in 1700, and in 1806 the Holy Roman Empire was wound up under the French Emperor Napoleon I's reorganisation of Germany. In Austria, however, the Habsburgs maintained their hold, declaring themselves Emperors of Austria two years after Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France in 1804.

Before the abdication of the emperor Francis in 1806 Austria had met and suffered from the fury of revolutionary France, but the cessiona of territory made by her at the treaties of Campo Formio (1797), of Lunéville (1801) and of Pressburg (1805) were of no enduring importance. This, however, cannot be said for the treaties of Paris and of Vienna, which in 1814 and 1815 arranged the map of Europe upon the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars. These were highly favourable to the Habsburgs. In eastern and central Europe Austria regained her former position, the lands ceded to Bavaria and also eastern Galicia, which had been in the hands of Russia since 1809, being restored; she gave up the Austrian Netherlands, soon to be known as Belgium, to the new kingdom of the Netherlands, and acquiesced in the arrangement which had taken. from her the Breisgau and the remnant of the Habsburg lands upon the Rhine. In return for these losses Austria became the dominant power in Italy. A mass of northern Italy, including her former possessions in Milan and the neighbourhood, and also the lands recently forming the republic of Venice, was made into the kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, and this owned the emperor of Austria as king. Across the Adriatic Dalmatia was added to the Habsburg monarchy, the population of which, it has been estimated, was increased at this time by over four millions.

The illiberal and oppressive character of the Austrian rule in Italy made it very unpopular; it was hardly less so in Hungary and Bohemia, and the advent of the year 1848 found the subject kingdoms eager to throw off the Habsburg yoke. The whole monarchy was quickly in a state of revolution, in the midst of which the emperor Ferdinand, who had succeeded his father Francis in 1835, abdicated, and his place was taken by his young nephew Francis Joseph. The position of the Habsburg monarchy now seemed desperate. But it was strong in its immemorial tradition, which was enough to make the efforts of the Frankfort parliament to establish German unity under Prussian hegemony abortive; it was strong also in the general loyalty to the throne of the imperial army; and its counsels were directed by statesmen who knew well how to exploit in the interests of the central power the national rivalries within the monarchy. With the crushing of the Hungarian revolt by the emperor Nicholas I of Russia in 1849 the monarchy was freed from the most formidable of its internal troubles; in 1850 the convention of OlmUtz restored its influence in Germany.

Though the status quo was thus outwardly re-established, the revolutions of 1848 had really unchained forces which made its maintenance impossible. In Germany Prussia was steadily preparing for the inevitable struggle with Austria for the mastery; in France Napoleon III was preparing to pose as the champion of the oppressed nationalities which had once more settled down sullenly under the Habsburg yoke. The alliance of the French emperor and the king of Sardinia, and the Italian war of 1859 ended in the loss of Lombardy to the Habsburgs. Seven years later the crushing defeat of Koniggratz not only ended their long rule in Italy, based on the tradition of the medieval empire, by leading to the cession of Venetia to the new Italian kingdom, but led to their final exclusion from the German confederation, soon to become, under the headship of Prussia, the German empire.

By the loss of the predominance in Germany conceded to it by the treaties of Vienna, and by the shifting of its “ centre of gravity” eastward, the Habsburg monarchy, however, perhaps gained more than it lost. One necessary result, indeed, was the composition (Ausgleich) with Hungary in 1867, by which the latter became an independent state (Francis Joseph being crowned king at Pest in June 1867) bound to the rest of the monarchy only by the machinery necessary for the carrying out of a common policy in matters of common interest. This at least restored the loyalty of the Hungarians to the Habsburg dynasty; it is too soon. yet to say that it secured permanently the essential unity of the Habsburg monarchy. By the system of the Dual Monarchy the rest of the Austrian emperor’s dominions (Cis-Leithan) were consolidated under a single central government, the history of which has been mainly that of the rival races within the empire struggling for political predominance. Since the development of the constitution has been consistently in a democratic direction and the Slays are in a great majority, the tendency has been for the German element—strong in its social status and tradition of predominance—to be swamped by what it regards as an inferior race; and a considerable number of Austrian “ Germans “ have learned to look not to their Habsburg rulers, but to the power of the German empire for political salvation. The tendency eastwards of the monarchy was increased when in 1878 the congress of Berlin placed Bosnia and Herzegovina under Austrian rule. Old ambitions were now revived at the expense of the Ottoman empire, the goal of which was the port of Salonica; and not the least menacing aspect of the question of the near East has been that the rivalry of Italy and the Habsburg monarchy has been transferred to the Balkan peninsula. Yet, in spite of internal dissensions arising out of questions fundamentally insoluble, and in spite of the constant threat of external complications that may lead to war, the Habsburg monarchy as the result of the changes in the f9th and 20th centuries is seemingly stronger than ever. The shadow of universal claims to empire and sonorous but empty titles have vanished, but so have the manifold rivalries and entanglements which accompanied the Habsburg rule in Italy and the Netherlands and Habsburg preponderance in Germany. The monarchy is stronger because its sphere is more defined; because as preserving the pax Romana among the jostling races of eastern Europe, it is more than ever recognized as an essential element in the maintenance of European peace, and is recognized as necessary and beneficial even by the ambitious and restless nationalities that chafe under its rule.

A few words must be said about the cadet branches of the Habsburg family. When, in 1765, Francis I died and Joseph II became emperor, the grand-duchy of Tuscany passed by special arrangement not to Joseph, but to his younger brother Leopold. Then in 1791, after Leopold had succeeded Joseph as emperor, he handed over the grand-duchy to his second son, Ferdinand (1769—1824). In 1801 this prince was deposed by Napoleon and Tuscany was seized by France. Restored to the Habsburgs in the person of Ferdinand in 1814, it remained under his rule, and then under that of his son Leopold (1797—1870), until the rising of 1859, when the Austrians were driven out and the grand-duchy was added to the kingdom of Sardinia. A similar fate attended the duchy of Modena, which had passed to the Habsburgs through the marriage of its heiress Mary Beatrice of Este (d. 1829) with the archduke Ferdinand (1754—1806), brother of the emperor Leopold II. From 1814 to 1846 this duchy was governed by Ferdinand’s son, Duke Francis IV, and from 1846 to 1859 by his grandson, Francis V. This family became extinct on the death of Francis V in 1875.

In addition to his successor Francis II, and to Ferdinand, grand-duke of Tuscany, the emperor Leopold II had eight sons, five of whom, including the archduke John (1782—1859), who saw a good deal of service during the Napoleonic Wars and was chosen regent (Reichsverweser) of Germany in 1848, have now no living male descendants. Thus the existing branches of the family are descended from Leopold’s five other sons. The descendants of Leopold, the dispossessed grand-duke of Tuscany, were in 1909 represented by his son, Ferdinand (b. 1835), who still claimed the title of grand-duke of Tuscany, and his son and grandsons; by the numerous descendants of the archduke Charles Salvator (1839—1892); and by the archduke Louis Salvator (b. 1847), a great traveller and a voluminous writer. The grand-duke’s fourth son was the archduke John Nepomuck Salvator, who, after serving in the Austrian army, resigned all his rights and titles and under the name of Johann Orth took command of a sailing vessel. He is supposed to have been drowned off the coast of South America in 1891, but reports of his continued existence were circulated from time to time after that date. Of the emperor Leopold’s other sons the archduke Charles, perhaps the most distinguished soldier of the family, left four sons, including Albert, duke of Teschen (I 817—1895), who inherited some of his father’s military ability. Charles’s family was in 1909 represented by his grandsons, the sons of the archduke Charles Ferdinand (1818—1874). The archduke Joseph (1776—I 847), palatine of Hungary, was represented by a grandson, Joseph Augustus (b. 1872), and the archduke Rainer (1783— 1853), viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia, by a son Rainer (b. 1827), and by several grandsons.

The eldest and reigning branch of the family was in 1909 represented by the emperor Francis Joseph [pictured], whose father was the archduke Francis Charles (1802—1878), and whose grandfather was the emperor Francis II. Francis Joseph’s only son Rudolph died in 1889; consequently the heir to the Habsburg monarchy was the emperor’s nephew Francis Ferdinand (1863-1914), the eldest of the three sons of his brother Karl Ludwig / Charles Louis (1833—1896). In 1875 Francis (Franz) Ferdinand inherited the wealth of the Este family and took the title of archduke of Austria-Este; in 1900 be contracted a morganatic marriage with Sophia, countess of Chotek, renouncing for his sons the succession to the monarchy. Franz Ferdinand and his wife were murdered on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, thereby triggering World War I. Thus, after Francis Ferdinand, the throne this would pass to the sons of his brother, the archduke Otto (1865—1906). Another of the emperor’s three brothers was Maximilian [July 6, 1832 - June 19, 1867], emperor of Mexico from 1863 to 1867 who was executed on June 19, 1867 in Queretaro, Mexico, by the forces of Benito Juarez.

With the exception of Charles V, the Habsburgs have produced no statesmen of great ability, while several members of the family have displayed marked traces of insanity. Nevertheless they secured, and for over 350 years they kept, the first place among the potentates of Europe; a dignity in origin and theory elective becoming in practice hereditary in their house. This position they owe to some extent to the tenacity with which they have clung to the various lands and dignities which have passed into their possession, but they owe it much more to a series of fortunate marriages and opportune deaths. The union of Maximilian and Mary of Burgundy, of Philip the Handsome and Joanna of Spain, of Ferdinand and Anna of Hungary and Bohemia; the death of Ottakar of Bohemia, of John, the only son of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, of Louis of Hungary and Bohemia—these are the cornerstones upon which the Habsburg monarchy has been built.

Members of the Family Born in or Associated with Istria

Born in Pola:

  • Leo Karl
    Second son of Archduke Karl Stefan and Archduchess Maria Theresia
    Born 5/6/1893
    Died 28/4/1939 in Bestwina, Poland
  • Eleonore
    Oldest daughter of Archduke Karl Stephan and the Archduchess Maria Theresia
    Born 28/11/1886
    Died 26/5/1974 in Baden near Vienna
  • Karl Albrecht
    Oldest son of Archduke Karl Stefan and Archduchess Maria Theresia
    Born 18/12/1888
    Died 17/3/1951 in Ostervik, Stockholm
  • Renata Maria 
    Second daughter of Archduke Karl Stefan and Archduchess Maria Theresia
    Born 2/1/1888
    Died 16/5/1935 in Balice Castle, Poland
  • Mechtildis
    Third daughter of Archduke Karl Stefan and Archduchess Maria Theresia
    Born 11/10/1891 in Pola
    Died 6/2/1966 in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
  • Wilhelm
    Third son of Archduke Karl Stefan and Archduchess Maria Theresia
    Born 10/2/1895
    Died 1955 in prison camp in Vladimir-Volynsky, USSR

Born in Volosca:

  • Sophie Augusta
    Daughter of Archduke Josef August and Princess Auguste of Bavaria
    Born 11/3/1899
    Died 19/4/1978 in Innsbruck

Ferdinand Maximilian 
(known as Max and Maximilian of Trieste's Miramar Castle)
Emperor of Mexico, second son of Archduke Franz Karl and Princess Sophie of Bavaria 
Born 6/7/1832 in Vienna
Executed 19/6/1867 in Queretaro, Mexico
His foolish acceptance of the throne of Mexico led to his abandonment by the French, defeat and execution by the forces of Benito Juarez

Holy Roman Emperors of the House of Habsburg

Emperor Francis I of Austria used the official great title: "We, Francis the First, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria; King of Jerusalem, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, and Lodomiria; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Würzburg, Franconia, Styria, Carinthia, and Carniola; Grand Duke of Cracow; Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Sandomir, Masovia, Lublin, Upper and Lower Silesia, Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, and Friule; Prince of Berchtesgaden and Mergentheim; Princely Count of Habsburg, Gorizia, and Gradisca and of the Tyrol; and Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria".

See: Heraldry of Austria-Hungary


  • Rudolph I, emperor 1273 - 1291
  • Albert I, emperor 1298 - 1308
  • Albert II, emperor 1438 - 1439
  • Frederick III, emperor 1440 - 1493
  • Maximilian I, emperor 1493 - 1519
  • Charles V, emperor 1519 - 1556
  • Ferdinand I, emperor 1556 - 1564
  • Maximilian II, emperor 1564 - 1576
  • Rudolph II, emperor 1576 - 1612
  • Matthias, emperor 1612 - 1619
  • Ferdinand II, emperor 1619 - 1637
  • Ferdinand III, emperor 1637 - 1657
  • Leopold I, emperor 1658 - 1705
  • Josef I, emperor 1705 - 1711
  • Charles VI, emperor 1711 - 1740

NB: Maria Theresa of Austria, Hapsburg heiress and wife of emperor Francis I Stephen, reigned as Archduchess and Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia 1740 - 1780

Habsburg-Lorraine (Lothringen) Emperors

  • Francis I Stephen, emperor 1745 - 1765
  • Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor, emperor 1765 - 1790
  • Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, emperor 1790 - 1792
  • Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor 1792 - 1806, Emperor of Austria as Francis I 1804 - 1835
  • Ferdinand I of Austria, emperor of Austria 1835 - 1848
  • Franz Josef of Austria, emperor of Austria 1848 - 1916; King Francis Joseph of Hungary from 1867 - sometimes referred to in English as "Francis Joseph"
  • Karl of Austria, emperor of Austria 1916 - 1918; King Charles IV of Hungary - sometimes referred to in English as "Charles". He died in exile in 1922.

Kings of Spain of the House of Habsburg

  • Philip I 1506 (only King of Castile)
  • Charles I 1516-1556
  • Philip II 1556-1598
  • Philip III 1598-1621
  • Philip IV 1621-1665
  • Charles II 1665-1700

Kings of Portugal of the House of Habsburg

  • Filipe I 1580-1598
  • Filipe II 1598-1621
  • Filipe III 1621-1640

Grand Dukes of Tuscany of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine

  • Francis Stephen 1737-1765
  • Leopold I 1765-1790
  • Ferdinand III 1790-1800, 1814-1824
  • Leopold II 1824-1849, 1849-1859
  • Ferdinand IV 1859

Dukes of Modena of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine

  • Francis IV 1814-1831, 1831-1846
  • Francis V 1846-1848, 1849-1859

Duchess of Parma of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine

  • Maria Luisa 1814-1847 [widow of Napoleon Bonaparte]

The current head of the Habsburg family is Otto von Habsburg, Emperor Karl's eldest son.

Habsburg biographies -

  • For the origin and early history of the Habsburgs see: 
  • C. de Roo, Annales rerum ab Austriacis Habsburgicae gentis principibus a Rudoipho I. usque ad Carolum V. gestarum (Innsbruck, 1592, fol.); 
  • M. Herrgott, Genealogia diplomatica augustae gentis Habsburgicae (Vienna, 1737—1738); E. M. Ftirst von Lichnowsky, Geschichte des Ilauses Habthurg (Vienna, 1836—1844); 
  • A. Schulte, Geschichte der Habsburger iii den ersten drei Jahrhunderten (Innsbruck, 1887); 
  • T. von Liebenau, Die Anfange des Ilauses Habsburg (Vienna, 1883); 
  • W. Merz, Die Habsburg (Aarau, 1896); 
  • W. Gisi, Der Ursprung der Häuser Zahringen und Habsburg (1888); 
  • F. Weihrich, Stammtafel zur Geschichte des Hauses Habsburg (Vienna, 1893). 

For the history of the Habsburg monarchy see: 

  • Langl, Die Habsburg und die denkwszrdigen Statten -ihrer Umgebung (Vienna, 1895); 
  • E. A. Freeman, Historical Geography of Europe (18Sf). 

Two English books on the subject are: 

  • J. Gilbart-Smith, The Cradle of the Hapsburgs (1907)
  • A. R. and E. Colquhoun, The Whirlpool of Europe, AustriaHungary and the Hapsburgs (1906).

(A. W. H.*)


  • The Imperial House of Hapsburg -
  • Wikipedia - Habsburg -
  • Habsburg Dynasty -

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Created: Friday, November 07, 2003; Last updated: Sunday March 23, 2014
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