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Archduke Joseph August of Austria

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Archduke Joseph August of Austria
Joseph August of Austria (1872-1962) in 1917.jpg
Regent of Hungary
In office
7 August 1919 – 23 August 1919
Preceded byGyula Peidl
Succeeded byIstván Friedrich
Personal details
Born(1872-08-09)9 August 1872
Alcsút, Kingdom of Hungary
Died6 July 1962(1962-07-06) (aged 89)
Rain, Bavaria, West Germany
Spouse(s)Princess Auguste of Bavaria
ChildrenArchduke Joseph Francis
Archduchess Gisela Auguste
Archduchess Sophie Klementine
Archduke Ladislaus Luitpold
Archduke Matthias Joseph
Archduchess Magdalena Maria

Archduke Joseph August Viktor Klemens Maria of Austria, Prince of Hungary and Bohemia (9 August 1872 – 6 July 1962) was a Feldmarschall (Field Marshal) of the Austro-Hungarian Army and for a short period head of state of Hungary. He was a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, the eldest son of Archduke Joseph Karl of Austria (1833–1905) and his wife Princess Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1846–1927). Joseph August's grandfather had been Palatine Joseph of Hungary (1776–1847), Palatine and Viceroy of Hungary, a younger son of Emperor Leopold II.

The Archduke Joseph Diamond, a 76.02 carat colourless diamond with internal flawless clarity, is named after the Archduke and officially recorded as his property.[1]

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He was one of the longest reigning monarchs in history, sitting on the Imperial throne for nearly 68 years. He ascended to the throne during a time of revolution and his reign ended during a time of global war. And on this day 100 years ago, he died in a time of crisis for his empire. I’m speaking of none other than the Emperor of Austria-Hungary, Franz Josef. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War bio special episode about Emperor Franz Josef. Erzherzog Franz Josef Karl von Österreich, Archduke Franz Josef Karl of Austria, was born August 18th, 1830. He came to power in a time of great political turmoil. The February revolution in France in 1848 that would see Napoleon III become first President, then Emperor there, was just the beginning of the civilian unrest that turned to open revolution throughout Europe. In Austria-Hungary, Emperor Ferdinand would stand on his balcony and watch the masses marching toward his palace. Ferdinand was a weak monarch, and his Minister-President Felix zu Schwarzenberg, the 6th of the year, persuaded him to abdicate in favor of his nephew, Franz Josef. I’m not going to go in to detail on the 1848 actions here and the fall of Metternich, but your homework is to look it up, because it’s good to know. On December 2, 1848, the 18-year-old Franz Josef became Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, and King of Croatia. The violent revolt at his doorstep had convinced the young Emperor that the military would be the key to his empire’s continued existence. And that empire was consolidated into a centralized state with the March 1849 constitution and the help of the Russian army to quell rebellion in Hungary. Over the first part of his reign, Franz Josef hoped to invigorate his monarchy with a reactionary approach, centralizing power in Vienna, though this antagonized the elite in Poland and Hungary. After his defeat at the hands of the French at the Battle of Solferino in 1859, he gradually realized that his neo-absolutism, though strong theoretically, would not secure the political and financial support of the elite in a multi-national empire. He opened negotiations with Hungary, the most powerful and most disgruntled ally about a new constitution that would see fruition in 1867, giving Hungary special status in the now Austro-Hungarian Empire. In return the Hungarian parliament offered Franz Joseph the crown of Hungary, which they had denied him before in 1848. From this point on he opened his arms to his people in the east with the motto “viribus unitis”, with united forces, and perhaps nowhere displayed this more then during his famous Kaiserreise in 1880 through Poland and Galicia. By allowing political power to flow from Vienna to the provinces and freeing Polish culture he transformed the dissatisfied Polish into ardent patriots. He also gave the large Jewish population full citizens’ rights and acknowledged them publicly. I do have to point out though, that when ethnic Romanians in Transylvania petitioned for political power alongside that of the minority Hungarian population there, he turned a deaf ear to them. But he was generally quite well-loved. “Knightly and at the same time impressive as a courteous personage, the adored monarch has awakened in the hearts of all his subjects true patriotic inspiration, from which arises true love of throne and monarchy, promising to bring forth at each moment the most beautiful fruit of unshaken submissive loyalty.” In terms of his personal life, in 1852 he had traveled to Berlin partly to find a wife, partly to built stronger ties with the northern German states. Both failed due to Prussian influence. He would marry Elisabeth from Bavaria, known as “Sissi”, and though the marriage was not unhappy, it was distant. Elisabeth hated the stiff nature of the Austrian court, while Franz Josef was devoted to his duties. He believed it to be his God given duty to run the empire. He awoke each day at 4 AM to attend to affairs of state. Though he did meddle in all those affairs, he was never really a despot. He would never be ironhanded like the Russian Tsars, but he would also never identify himself with the Germanic people of his empire like, say, Kaiser Wilhelm. It wasn’t other monarchs, though, that were most dangerous to the Austrian state back then, though, but rather future German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck - at the time Prussian Minister President and Foreign Minister. Bismarck saw that in a coming German Empire, the multi-cultural Austria-Hungary had no place and Prussian dominance had to be established, if need be on the battlefield. Even after losing to the French, Franz Josef felt his army could go toe to toe with Prussia, but its lack of modernization in terms of weapons and tactics showed on the battlefield at Königgrätz in 1866. This ended the seven-week war between Austria and Prussia and resulted in Austria losing Venetia, but also its voice in the Deutsche Bund, the German Confederation created in 1815. Franz Josef was now cut off from German politics. Many of his generals urged revenge, perhaps through an alliance with France, and timing certainly suggested that as France and Prussia headed for war in 1870, but he did not want another “brotherly” war, and Franz Josef detested Napoleon III. You can decide for yourself if this was a missed opportunity or not, but you can see how one person sets the course for an empire. But this was the thing; Franz Josef’s empire didn’t have many friends. France or Britain might have been a viable partner, since Austria had no intercontinental colonial aspirations, but Franz Josef was looking to the Balkans, which was growing to be quite the tinderbox. The Austrian occupation of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1878 provoked a lot of anti-Austrian sentiment down there, which Russia was happy to exploit, and over the last couple of decades of the 19th century, Austria ended up growing more and more dependent on what was now the German Empire as its ally. And Franz Josef grew more fatalistic in outlook. Much of this stemmed from disasters in his personal life. Over the years his daughter died, his mother died, his two brothers died. A huge tragedy was the suicide of his son and heir to the throne Rudolf in 1889, and then Elizabeth was murdered by an Italian anarchist. Franz Josef, though he loved his son, had hated his son’s liberal policies, and Rudolf’s successor as heir to the throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, declared himself the strongest opposition to the emperor, and Franz Josef became increasingly isolated. By the time of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the July Crisis in 1914, the old emperor had no one to rely on but the voices of his military high command, particularly his Chief of Staff Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, who had repeatedly urged him to wage war in the Balkans. By repeatedly, I mean dozens of times. He still wasn’t goaded into war with Serbia, though, and only issued his ultimatum to Serbia after he was personally convinced that other nations would not intervene. He was way wrong about that. He felt that he was going to war not in anger, but what he saw was Austria’s rightful place in the world. During the war, he left military decisions to his general staff. What he did was endorse war funds and work to help war widows, orphans, the hungry, and the homeless. As long as he lived, he was the public symbol of the unity of the Empire, and his soldiers had a common beloved father figure. In fact, many soldiers from various ethnicities of the empire, Polish, Hungarian, Ruthenian, and so forth, still felt that they owed their rights to him, and many identified loyally to the Empire with loyalty to Franz Josef. It was an enormous blow to the nation and the war effort when he died November 21st, 1916, aged 86, of pneumonia of the right lung. He was very much a man of the 19th century, and it’s not a stretch to say that his policies and visions did not really have a place in the world of the 20th century. He saw his power as Divine Right, and hated political innovations and more modern liberal ideas. He was no politician, but he did love his people and wished only to preserve his empire, which had been deeply scarred by the events of his youth. However, he couldn’t compete with Bismarck’s genius and he was unwilling to drag his country out of its political isolation, which led to its eventual dependence on Germany as its major ally, his personal dependence on his military leaders, and the events that culminated in the First World War.


Early life

August was born at Alcsút, Kingdom of Hungary. On 15 November 1893, in Munich, he married Princess Augusta Maria Louise of Bavaria (1875–1964), daughter of Prince Leopold of Bavaria (1846–1930) and his wife Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856–1932).

Archduke Joseph August became thus from 1893 "grandson-in-law" to Emperor Francis Joseph. His wife's mother, Archduchess Gisela, was the eldest surviving daughter of Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph and Empress Elisabeth ("Sisi"). The young couple's children were born in their great-grandfather's lifetime.

They had six children:

  • Archduke Joseph Francis of Austria, born on 28 March 1895; died on 25 September 1957(1957-09-25) (aged 62)
  • Archduchess Gisela Auguste Anna Maria, born on 5 July 1897; died on 30 March 1901(1901-03-30) (aged 3)
  • Archduchess Sophie Klementine Elisabeth Klothilde Maria, born on 11 March 1899; died on 19 April 1978(1978-04-19) (aged 79)
  • Archduke Ladislaus Luitpold, born on 3 January 1901; died on 29 August 1946(1946-08-29) (aged 45)
  • Archduke Matthias Joseph Albrecht Anton Ignatius, born on 26 June 1904; died on 7 October 1905(1905-10-07) (aged 1)
  • Archduchess Magdalena Maria Raineria, born on 6 September 1909; died on 11 May 2000(2000-05-11) (aged 90)

Joseph August began his military career in 1890 when he was commissioned into the 1st Infantry Regiment as a Leutnant. He was soon promoted to Oberleutnant and was transferred to 72nd Infantry Regiment in 1893. He was transferred to Dragoon Regiment #6 in 1894 and then transferred to the 1st Honvéd Hussars by the Kaiser and promoted to the rank of Major. He took command of this regiment in 1904 and then went on to command 79th Honvéd infantry brigade in 1908 then finally the 31st infantry division at Budapest in 1911.

World War I

In the front, the Boroevic Throne, named after Svetozar Boroević.[2] In the back, a fingerpost and a monument built by the 43rd Infantry Regiment in honour of Archduke Joseph.[3]
In the front, the Boroevic Throne, named after Svetozar Boroević.[2] In the back, a fingerpost and a monument built by the 43rd Infantry Regiment in honour of Archduke Joseph.[3]

August was highly decorated before World War I broke out. Some of his awards include The Bronze Military Merit Medal, Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Joseph, The Marianer Cross of the Deutscher Ritterorden, The Order of the Black Eagle, The 1st Class of the Order of the Red Eagle, The Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, the Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III, and the Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Cyril and Methodius.

In 1914 he was involved in combat in the Galician theatre and took command of the VII Corps and was involved in fighting in the Carpathian Mountains. After Italy became involved in the war he was transferred to the Carinthian border and involved in fighting the Isonzo army. August remained on this front until the 9th battle of the Isonzo in 1916 a period in which once again he was highly decorated. August was highly liked by his troops, especially those of Hungarian nationality.

In November 1916, August was put in command of the Heeresfront fighting against Russian and Romanian forces. In January 1918 he was put in command of the 6th Army in the Southern theatre and that July took over the South Tyrolean Army Group, which was the 10th and 11th Armies. Finally, on 26 October 1918, he was sent to the Balkan theatre to take command of the Heeresgruppe Kövess, which had lost Serbia, Albania and Montenegro by then. He was the last person to be appointed a Feldmarschall (Field Marshal) of the Austro-Hungarian Army on 24 October 1918, as an attempt by his cousin, Emperor Karl, to calm Hungarian nationalists.

Post war

On 27 October 1918 Emperor Karl made August the "Homo Regius" of Hungary, but August asked to be released from his oath of allegiance from the Kaiser. He then began negotiations and appointed Graf János Hadik to build a new national government. However the Aster Revolution broke out on 31 October 1918, deterring his plans. In November, the socialist Hungarian Democratic Republic was proclaimed, only to be replaced a few months later by the communist Hungarian Soviet Republic. This revolution was to fail: the popular August survived unharmed, and on 7 August became head of state of Hungary once again, officially as regent (Reichsverweser) for Karl. He appointed István Friedrich as Prime Minister. When it became apparent that the Allies would not recognize a Habsburg as Hungary's head of state, the archduke was forced to resign on 23 August 1919.[4] In 1920 the Archduke became the first knight of the Hungarian Order of Vitéz, in 1927 he became a member of the newly established House of Lords. He later became an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and was its president from 1936-1944. He fled Hungary for the United States in 1944 but later returned to Germany. He died in 1962 at Rain near Straubing.

His eldest son Archduke Joseph Francis of Austria had predeceased him, dying in 1957.

Thus Joseph August's main heir was his eldest grandson Archduke Joseph Árpád of Austria (1933-2017), the eldest son of Joseph Francis and his wife Princess Anna of Saxony. Joseph Árpád married Princess Maria of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, and had children in Joseph August's lifetime. His surviving eldest son is Archduke Joseph Karl (born 1960).

Joseph August's granddaughter Archduchess Ilona of Austria (b. 1927) married George Alexander, Duke of Mecklenburg. Her son George Borwin, Duke of Mecklenburg is the current head of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.



  1. ^ "'Perfect' Archduke Joseph diamond sells for $21m". BBC News. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2012.
  2. ^ "A0002 - Kostanjevica - The Boroevic's throne". Pro Hereditate. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  3. ^ "A0003 - Kostanjevica - The monument-signpost near Lokvica". Pro Hereditate. Retrieved 7 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Die amtliche Meldung über den Rücktritt" (in German). Neue Freie Presse, Morgenblatt. 1919-08-24. p. 2.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Gyula Peidl
Acting Head of State of Hungary
Succeeded by
István Friedrich
Cultural offices
Preceded by
Albert Berzeviczy
President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Succeeded by
Gyula Kornis
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Miklós Horthy
Captain General of the Order of Vitéz
Succeeded by
Ferenc Farkas
This page was last edited on 7 October 2019, at 23:31
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