Franz Joseph I#
b. Vienna-Schoenbrunn, Aug. 18, 1830, d. Vienna-Schoenbrunn, Nov. 21, 1916, eldest son of Archduke Franz Karl and Princess Sophie of Bavaria; from Dec. 2, 1848 Emperor of Austria. On his accession to the throne he adopted the double name F. J. (his original name was Franz). In his youth under the strong influence of his mother and other advisers. He showed a pronounced sense of duty and was very much aware of his mission. On April 24, 1854 he married Princess Elisabeth in Bavaria. The couple had four children, but had very difficult times during their marriage. Influenced by his wife, F. J. agreed to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (Ausgleich) of 1867. Although he started his reign as an absolutist monarch, he later respected all duties laid down in the constitution and reigned as a constitutional monarch. Rendered cautious by a series of wrong political decisions and under the impression of personal tragedies within his family (execution of his brother Maximilian in Mexiko in 1867, suicide of his son Rudolf in 1889, assassination of his wife in 1898), he concentrated more on his duties as a monarch rather than on his personal life. He became the symbol par excellence of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. After his marriage had failed, he had a close relationship with the actress K. Schratt.
During the last 20 years of his life he advocated political integration and was the unifying figure within a multinational state, and many of his contemporaries considered him to be the only guarantor of the country's cohesion. In old age, he displayed a certain stubbornness and opposed all reforms, but finally signed the ultimatum issued to Serbia and the declaration of war against Serbia in 1914. He regarded himself first and foremost as a civil servant and a soldier and was a devout, but tolerant Catholic. Although cultural achievements reached a zenith during his era ( Ringstrasse), F. J. showed little interest in the arts.
Literature#E. C. Conte Corti, Ks. F. J., 3 vols., 1950-1955; F. Herre, Ks. F. J. von Oe., 1978; Ks. F. J. und seine Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Grafenegg 1984; Ks. F. J. in seiner Zeit, exhibition catalogue, Grafenegg 1987; E. C. Conte Corti and H. Sokoll, F. J., 61990; B. Hamann, Die Habsburger, 41993; A. Palmer, F. J., 1995.