Franz Joseph I.jpg

Franz Joseph I (18 August 1830-21 November 1916) was Emperor of the Austrian Empire from 2 December 1846 to 30 March 1867 (succeeding Ferdinand I) and Emperor of Austria-Hungary from 30 March 1867 to 21 November 1916 (preceding Charles I). He was the third-longest-reigning monarch in European history, and he presided over Austria's loss of hegemony over Germany, Italian independence, growing tensions in the Balkans, and the first two years of World War I.


A young Franz Joseph

Franz Joseph was born in Vienna, Austrian Empire on 18 August 1830, the son of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria (the younger son of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II). Following his uncle Ferdinand I's abdication as Emperor of Austria amid the Revolutions of 1848, the 18-year-old Franz Joseph succeeded him. Franz Joseph was a reactionary who opposed constitutional change, and he also attempted to maintain Austrian hegemony over Italy and Germany. Following the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, Austria lost Lombardy to Sardinia-Piedmont (which was backed by France), and the 1866 Seven Weeks' War with Prussia and Italy resulted in the loss of Veneto to the Italians and the loss of its hegemony over the German states, which were annexed by Prussia to form the German Empire in 1870.

The decline of Austrian influence in Central Europe led to rising Hungarian nationalism, especially following the defeat of the Hungarian revolutionaries in the Hungarian War of Independence. Franz Joseph was forced to agree to the Compromise of 1867, in which Hungary was granted a devolved parliament; this created the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which was kept together by their shared Austrian Habsburg monarch. For the next 45 years, Austria-Hungary was at peace, although Franz Joseph suffered several personal tragedies, including the overthrow and execution of his brother Maximilian in Mexico, the suicide of his only son and heir Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria in 1889, the assassination of his wife Empress Elisabeth of Austria by the anarchist Luigi Lucheni in 1898, and the assassination of his nephew and heir-presumptive Franz Ferdinand in Bosnia in 1914. His nephew's assassination on 28 June 1914 led to Austria-Hungary declaring war on Serbia, which resulted in Serbia's ally of Russia entering the war; this led to an activation of the two belligerents' alliance systems, resulting in the start of a much larger war, World War I. Franz Joseph died in 1916 at the age of 86 following 68 years of rule.

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