Emperor Francis Joseph: Life, death and the fall of the Habsburg Empire
John Van der Kiste
Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Glos. (UK), 2005
Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria-Hungary, ascended the throne in December 1848 at the age of 18. He was a natural autocrat, but tempered absolutism with reform. During his reign of almost 68 years, the longest in modern European history, he presided over the introduction of general suffrage and an often fractious Reichsrat, the forerunner to a constitutional parliament.
Politically, his reign was a disaster. Austrian defeats in war led to the loss of states in Italy, and to her expulsion from the German Confederation by her smaller but more powerful rival Prussia. The decline of empire was mirrored by the horrific events in his own family. His brother Maximilian, chosen as Emperor of Mexico in 1864, reigned over a country torn apart by civil war and was executed by firing squad three years later. Francis Joseph's wayward wife Elizabeth was assassinated in Geneva in 1898. Two of his heirs met violent deaths - his only son Rudolf killed his mistress Marie Vetsera and then committed suicide at his hunting lodge at Mayerling in 1889, while his nephew Francis Ferdinand was assassinated with his wife at Sarajevo in 1914, a killing which precipitated the Great War.
This biography examines the personal relationships of the Emperor with his family, against the turbulent background of 19th-century Europe. It looks at the life and times of the man who, despite the disasters of his reign, was the last major Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
This report prepared by John Van der Kiste