Family of Franz Joseph I.

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The Emperor's Wedding

Archduchess Žofia was well aware that her son Emperor Franz Josef I needed a wife. The first princess to be considered was Elizabeth, daughter of Archduke Joseph, Viceroy of Hungary, widow of Ferdinand d'Este, Duke of Modena (with whom she had a two-year-old daughter). However, the emperor's mother Žofia changed her mind about this union, and so two years later Alžběta married the second son of Archduke Karel.

Archduchess Žofia was well aware that her son Emperor Franz Josef I needed a wife. The first princess to be considered was Elizabeth, daughter of Archduke Joseph, Viceroy of Hungary, widow of Ferdinand d'Este, Duke of Modena (with whom she had a two-year-old daughter). However, the emperor's mother Žofia changed her mind about this union, and so two years later Alžběta married the second son of Archduke Karel.

On February 18, 1853, the emperor was attacked by János Libényi, a twenty-one-year-old tailor's journeyman. The stab wound to the neck was deep and bleeding profusely. Francis Joseph downplayed the attack, saying he was in no greater danger than his brave soldiers in Italy. The emperor escaped serious consequences only by chance, thanks to a thick gold-embroidered collar, and also because the knife slipped down his skull bone. He lost a lot of blood and went blind for a while. The attacker was executed on 20/02/1853. He belonged to a Hungarian regiment that had fought five years earlier in the uprising. ​

After this serious assassination of the emperor, however, the question of the next line of the Habsburg dynasty came into a different perspective. The assassination attempt convinced Archduchess Žofia to quickly marry off her eldest son. That is why she invited her sister Ludovica Duchess of Bavaria and her two daughters to Ischl for a few days. Nineteen-year-old Helena (Nené) got stage fright when she saw her cousin and husband-to-be, and although she was perfectly prepared for marriage, she couldn't even utter a coherent sentence. Her fifteen-year-old sister Elizabeth (Sissi), who did not perceive any restrictions, behaved very friendly to the emperor. It was no wonder that the emperor fell in love with the young and very lively Bavarian princess.

Dr. Vilém Krejza, The life and reign of Francis Joseph I: the reigning and human destinies of His Majesty in word and image, wrote of the Emperor's engagements:

"... The wedding wasn't supposed to take place until next spring. During the winter, Francis Joseph was a frequent visitor to either Munich or Possenhofen to visit his bride. He was enchanted more and more deeply by the naive charm and magical beauty of the young girl, so he couldn't wait for the day when he would put her on the throne... When Princess Elizabeth left for Vienna in the morning on April 20, 1854, the whole city was awake and saying goodbye. The townspeople and the people called out their most sincere wishes for the departed. Princess Alžběta celebrated her ceremonial entry into her next city of residence on the waves of the Danube. A large flat boat was waiting ready to receive her with all her retinue: her parents and all the chamberlains. Gold and purple draperies brought by the nation to welcome the fair queen. And in this glorious spoil of spring, white and fresh in her heavy silken toilet, with her blush of happiness and with the questioning flames of her wondering eyes, she looked like a symbol of the fairest youth, like a fairy of innocence and spring beauty. Wreaths of white and red roses covered her ceremonial gown of silver brocade and twined with the heavy locks of her beautiful, golden-red, auburn hair... Erect, dreamily disillusioned by all this tribute of hundreds of thousands, the beautiful bride stood on the prow of the ship, gazing passionately at the mighty city, melted into early evening blushes. Here, a crown awaited her, which a warmly beloved and loving hand would place on her head. Behold, not far from here, by the wharf, stands the young Emperor of Austria, surrounded by all his high family, and with all the dignitaries of his court. Excited and trembling with impatience, he cannot wait for all the prescribed ceremonies, and perhaps not even seeing the danger he is risking, he does not wait until they close the connecting bridge to the ship, slowly approaching. He doesn't wait - and with a springy youthful step he throws himself into the arms of his fainting bride...

... Monday, April 24, was dedicated to the famous and significant act itself, when the noble betrothed were to unite in front of the altar in a holy life-long union of souls and bodies. Here is how the chronicler of the time probably recorded his impressions: ​

... The dedication ceremony took place at 7 o'clock in the evening in the church of St. August, it was carried out by the emperor's former teacher, the then prince archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Josef Otmar from Rauscher, with the numerous assistance of the clergy. As early as three o'clock in the afternoon, there was a rush of people around the castle and the church of St. Augusta so powerful that the arrivals had to be closed. Guests and delegations of tribute came not only from all parts of the empire, but also from the most distant cities of Europe and other continents, indeed deputations of settled Austrians came from Thessaloniki, Smyrna and Alexandria to attend the wedding of their emperor.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds continued to receive tributes from distinguished guests for two hours. Among them was Marshal Radecký, Windischgrätz or Count Jelačič. After ten o'clock in the evening, the family sat down to dinner, but the new empress did not even think about food. She was caught off guard by her discomfort with the lack of privacy even on the wedding night, breakfast, or the fact that there was no honeymoon after the wedding. Perhaps this is also why the marriage was fulfilled two days longer, as Archduchess Žofia wrote in her diary, when the young emperor came to breakfast on 4/27 and assured his mother that Empress Sissi had "fulfilled his love".

In a few days Elizabeth's family was returning home to Bavaria from Vienna, all exhausted from the strict observance of court etiquette, and Nené visibly pleased to have escaped that fate. ​

The growing Habsburg family

Archduchess Žofia knew well that her eldest son had not chosen a good wife, but she still tried to help Elizabeth and considered it her duty to teach her her new role. But the rebellious and immature girl, which Elizabeth certainly was, never understood that, nor did she ever try to meet the Archduchess's expectations. Sissi was very lucky to be chosen by such a kind and indulgent husband, whose family happiness was said to have a beneficial effect on him and to make him an even better and more decisive emperor.

In June 1854, the imperial couple visited Bohemia and Moravia. In Prague, former Emperor Ferdinand and Empress Anna Maria treated Elizabeth very lovingly and friendly. Enthusiastic, Elizabeth began to fulfill her duties as empress, visiting all the churches, monasteries and almshouses with great untiring care, where she left generous gifts. After returning from his travels, Franz Joseph I went on maneuvers to Galicia. The empress remained in Laxenburg, where her court physician Johan Seeburger discovered that she was pregnant. The interest surrounding the new mother meant an even greater loss of privacy. On March 5, 1855, a daughter was born to the imperial couple and they named her Žofia at her baptism with great pomp. Archduchess Žofia herself chose all the governesses and nursemaids for her granddaughter, placed the children's room in the Hofburg right next to her own, and when Elizabeth wanted to visit her daughter, she had to go through long stairs and corridors. Soon the empress found herself pregnant again. On July 15, 1856, she gave birth to a second daughter, Gisela. On this occasion, Elizabeth forced the children's rooms to be adjacent to hers. ​

After a fairly successful imperial visit to Italy, the ministers decided to send the ruling couple to Hungary, against the great displeasure of Archduchess Žofia, little Gisela and Žofia also traveled with them. Budapest welcomed them enthusiastically. Gisela and Žofie fell ill on their way through the Kingdom of Hungary. Gisela was a strong child and soon recovered, while her older sister was far more fragile. During her illness, two-year-old Žofie started vomiting blood and bile, she probably had whooping cough, typhoid or measles. Elizabeth, her first-born daughter, was leaving right before her eyes. On May 28, 1857, Žofia died. The emperor sent a telegram announcing to the parents: "our little daughter is an angel in heaven and Sissi has reconciled herself to God's will".

However, the telegram carried only half the truth. Empress Elisabeth fell into complete despair, accusing herself of taking her daughter to Hungary and exposing her to danger. She was also very afraid of returning to Vienna and of her mother-in-law's reaction, but she showed great sympathy and did not want to make things more difficult for the young empress. Princess Žofia was buried in the Capuchin Church in the Habsburg family tomb. ​

At the end of the summer, Franz Joseph I went to Hungary to complete his journey. Elizabeth stayed at home and continued to hold in her grief, refusing to eat and sometimes talking about taking her own life. The emperor was very upset about her mental state, so he asked her mother to invite Elisabeth's mother and sisters to Vienna. Thanks to them, the empress reacted and decided to give the Austrian throne a successor. At the beginning of the year, she became pregnant again for the third time. On August 21, 1858, she gave birth to a son before midnight. The crown prince was christened Rudolph. ​

After a ten-year hiatus, Empress Elizabeth gave birth to her fourth child, Princess Maria Valeria, on April 22, 1868. She became her mother's favorite. Alzběta gave birth to her three children in Laxenburg, but for her last birth she chose Hungary, Budin to be exact. Maria Valeria was often called "my only one" or "Hungarian child" by the empress.

Empress Sissi and preparation for Austria-Hungary

The very difficult political situation stressed the emperor and the empress was overwhelmed by the restlessness of life. From the beginning of 1866, the fear of impending war hovered over Europe. Francis Joseph I tried to stop the unrest and was convinced that war would not break out. On April 8, Prussia and Italy signed an alliance treaty against Austria, which made it clear that the war could not be averted. All peace and demobilization plans failed. ​

In April 1866, Emperor Francis Joseph I issued an order to mobilize his army and thus declared war on Prussia. Austria with its German allies had little chance of victory. On July 4, the battle near Hradec Králové began. The overwhelming defeat claimed thirteen thousand Austrian soldiers, seventeen thousand wounded and thirteen thousand prisoners. While on the Prussian side the number of fallen did not even reach two thousand.

Rakousko - Uhersko v rukou císařovny

Trpká porážka Rakouska Pruskem roztřásla půdu pod Habsburskou monarchií. Bylo nutné udělat krok, ke kterému císaře ještě před Prusko – Rakouskou válkou císařovna Alžběta vyzývala, spojit se s Uherskem. Po válce pro to udělala velmi mnoho.

For this rapprochement, the empress went to Budapest, where she met with important politicians, such as the Hungarian nobleman and lawyer Ferenc Deak or Count Julius Andrássy, and prepared the ground for unification with them. The two camps agreed on the official settlement Ausgleich and on 29 May 1867 it was signed. Hungary longed for internal autonomy, so the territories of St. Stephen came under its direct rule, i.e. Hungary, Transylvania and Croatia - Slovenia was then an autonomous kingdom. Austria and Hungary became a dual monarchy known as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ruled by the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I. On June 8, 1867, he was crowned the Apostolic King of Hungary. The limitations of the Hungarian government were the Emperor's power to appoint or dismiss the Hungarian Prime Minister and to summon, suspend or dissolve the Hungarian Parliament. If they did not agree with something in the parliament - they turned to His Apostolic Majesty the Emperor and King whose decision was fundamental. ​

Family tragedies before the ceremonial coronation of Francis Joseph I as the Hungarian king ​

Even before the coronation ceremony, bad news came from Mexico, where Maximilian, the brother of Francis Joseph, reigned. Former Mexican Emperor Maximilian was captured, imprisoned, and sentenced to death for crimes against the Mexican people. That same week came another shocking news. Matilda, the eighteen-year-old daughter of the emperor's cousin, Archduke Albrecht, burned to death in an unfortunate accident. Her clothes were caught by a lit cigarette and she died of burns.

Crown Prince Rudolph

The forward-thinking Rudolf had an ingrained restlessness and rebelliousness after his mother. Although he was very intelligent and had a good modern education, he did not inherit much calmness and balance from his father.

In 1880, Rudolf met Princess Stephania, daughter of King Leopold II. and Marie Henrietta. The wedding was on May 10, 1881, at first Rudolf was devoted to his wife and she very much liked to accompany him to social events and was willing to do everything to make their life together as pleasant as possible.

After the wedding, they lived in Prague, in the spring of 1883 Stephanie became pregnant and the enthusiastic Rudolf spoke of the unborn child as Václav. But on September 2, a little girl was born, they named her Alžběta (her family called her "Erži"). The young mother was unhappy that she did not give Rudolf the son he wanted, but he was delighted with the three and a half kilo baby. ​

František Josef liked Rudolf very much and supported him in all areas of science, but he saw in him a liberal and immature young man. The emperor liked the traditional role of officers in the army and did not intend to change anything, but Rudolf was looking for new and more effective uses for his soldiers, and Archduke Albrecht didn't like that either. In the spring of 1888, Rudolf assumed that he would be given command of the second army regiment with headquarters in Vienna. Instead, Albrecht saw to it that he was given a subordinate and carefully guarded position, made directly for Rudolf. He became Inspector General of Infantry. Around that time, Rudolf's health began to fail. He suffered from rheumatic pains and bronchitis. In addition, he developed an addiction to alcohol and morphine. He had had blinding headaches since childhood, after falling from a tree, now they were much more frequent. His marriage was not a happy one either. Stephanie had a venereal disease that Rudolph had infected her with, after which she could no longer get pregnant. Rudolf did not hide his frequent infidelities from his wife and indulged in them whenever possible. It was said at court that he had at least thirty illegitimate children.

Rudolph's problematic behavior should have alerted the emperor to his big change. On one of the emperor's hunts, Rudolph rather imprudently fired a shot in close proximity to the emperor and almost injured or even killed him. This was prevented by one of the hounds, who stood in front of the emperor and thus saved him. After this incident, Rudolph was completely banned from participating in imperial hunts. The emperor did not like Rudolph's affection for the newspaper, to which he often contributed. Before noon on January 29, Rudolf announced to his subjects that he was leaving for a hunting lodge in Mayerling. On January 30, 1889, the Emperor learned the terrible news that a few hours earlier, Prince Philip and Count Hoyos had found the body of Prince Rudolph and his lover Maria Vetsera in one of the rooms of the hunting lodge without signs of life. Although the family first announced to the public that the crown prince had died of heart failure, they admitted the prince's suicide two days later.

On February 5, a funeral was held, which was led only by Emperor Francis Joseph I and his daughter Gisela. Rudolph's wife Stephanie, mother and sister Valerie did not attend. The procession led from the chapel in the Hofburg, where the remains were kept, to the Habsburg tomb in the Capuchin church. Marie, shot by Rudolph, would probably be buried somewhere in an unconsecrated and abandoned tomb. The emperor's lover and friend, the actress Kateřina Schrattová, made sure that the family buried Maria with dignity. ​

In Vienna, Rudolf wrote many farewell letters to his sister, his lover Mitzi Caspar, Baron Hirsch and other friends. He only wrote a letter to his mother right after Maria was shot, in which he begged for his father's forgiveness, he did not write any letter to the emperor. Rudolf wrote in the letter that František Josef did not deserve to have such a son and that he killed, therefore he has no right to live. Neither the Emperor nor the Empress ever fully recovered from this trauma. ​

The hunting lodge in Mayerling was demolished a few days after the tragic event. In its place, they built a chapel and a monastery for the Carmelites.​ ​​

Emperor Maximilian of Mexico

Ferdinand Maxmilián Josef Habsburg - Lorraine was born on June 6, 1832, to Archduke František Karl and Žofia Frederica of Bavaria, as the second-born son.

Maximilian was a lover of the navy and, thanks to his abilities, quickly advanced through the ranks of commanders. He was very dedicated to his duties and greatly modernized the Austrian Navy. On his first trip abroad, Max fell deeply in love with the Brazilian princess Amália Marie. Nothing would have prevented the marriage, she had Empress Josefina and the Wittelsbach family among her ancestors, but she was very weak and succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of twenty-two.

On June 27, 1857, Maximilian married Charlotte, the daughter of King Leopold of Belgium. The wedding took place in the Belgian capital - Brussels. Archduchess Žofia fell in love with the young and likeable Charlotte and regretted that Charlotte did not become Empress of Austria. The young couple lived for two years in Milan, where they served as Austrian regents. Maximilian lost the position of governor in northern Italy in 1859, he was said to be too liberal. Maximilian and his wife went to live in Trieste, where they built the castle Miramare. After the Piedmont War, in which Austria lost even with Emperor Francis Joseph I at the helm as commander, Maximilian was discussed as a more suitable emperor. Napoleon proposed to the emperor that Venice should become a free state under the rule of Archduke Maximilian, and at the Zürich peace conference King Leopold of Belgium asked for the same for his son-in-law, but received only a negative response.

The Miramare Palace on the Adriatic Sea was sumptuous, but boring for Charlotte and Maximilian, both of whom craved responsibility and power. Max knew that his jealous brother would not offer him any valuable position again. ​

At the time, there was a civil war in Mexico that led to the occupation by French troops. Large outstanding debts led France to seize Mexican territory. Napoleon intended to establish an empire on Mexican territory that would be under the protection of France and security would be guaranteed by the ever-present French troops. ​

Despite all the opposition of the relatives, Maximilian and Charlotte decided to accept the offered Mexican crown. Maximilian's mother Žofie resolutely disagreed with this plan, she knew it was very uncertain and dangerous. King Leopold had the same opinion and encouraged his son-in-law to accept the Greek Crown, which became vacant in 1862 with the overthrow of the unpopular and childless King Otto. Supported by his wife, Maximilian often negotiated with both Mexican and French delegates. Negotiations lasted two whole years before he accepted the offer in 1864. ​

Both London and Austria have made it clear that they can only wish Maximilian luck, but they cannot do more. Charlotte's grandmother said to Maximilian when saying goodbye that it could not end in any other way than his murder. The last visit to Vienna was the biggest test for Max, the sad faces of all his relatives and the insistence that he change his mind about accepting the Mexican crown. The biggest surprise was the submission of a declaration renouncing all privileges and rights of succession and inheritance in Austria. Emperor Francis Joseph I was adamant about this, and if Max did not sign, the emperor would not give him permission to leave. Later, the two brothers negotiated better terms in case Maximilian was dethroned, and on April 9, 1864, they signed the family agreement at Miramare Palace. Both were quite sad and probably suspected that they would never meet again.

In Mexico, Maximilian chose Ciudad de México as his capital city and Chapultepec Castle became his residence, introducing the same court manners as they had in Vienna at the Hofburg. The imperial couple had no children, so they adopted Augustín de Iturbide y Green and his cousin Salvador de Iturbide y de Marzán, both grandsons of the executed first emperor Augustín de Itubide.

Despite the great commitment of the new Mexican emperor and his wife Carlota, who had given herself a new Mexican name, the European couple did not gain any popularity in Mexico. The Mexican people were most outraged by the Black Law, which was supposed to shoot all Mexicans loyal to the republican leader Benito Juarez. Twenty thousand people were executed during the period of validity of this black law.

The threat of Maximilian's dethronement was also evident abroad in 1866. Empress Carlota traveled to Europe to seek help. She was in Paris, Vienna and Rome with Pope Pius IX, all without success. Napoleon III he withdrew his troops from Mexico and left Maximilian to his fate. The republicans led by Juarez quickly came to power, captured the emperor and it was clear above all that they wanted to execute him. Juarez was not softened even by the pleas of King William of Prussia, General Garibaldi or President of the United States Johansson. Francis Joseph I, hoping that the insurgents would send the captives back to Europe, had all of Maximilian's rights restored and even offered Juarez a ransom.

The death sentence was carried out on June 19, 1867. Max's last wish was to listen to La Paloma's song, and before it died - the executioners shot his most loyal generals Miguel Miramór and Tomás Majia. Maximilian's body was taken back to Vienna on the same ship Novara on which he arrived in Mexico. The Mexican emperor Maximilian was buried in the Habsburg tomb in the Capuchin church. Carlota suffered a mental breakdown and lived in isolation by the Adriatic Sea, later in the Belgian castle of Bouchout, where she also died on July 19, 1927. ​

Franz Ferdinand d'Este

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