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On August 6 I posted about the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire under Franz II in 1806. Two years prior to that he assumed the title “Emperor of Austria” and consolidated Habsburg hereditary lands.

In the face of aggressions by Napoleon I, who had been proclaimed “Emperor of the French” by the French constitution on May 18, 1804, Holy Roman Franz II feared for the future of the Holy Roman Empire and wished to maintain his and his family’s Imperial status in the event that the Holy Roman Empire should be dissolved.

Holy Roman Emperor Franz II, Emperor of Austria.

Therefore, on August 11, 1804 he created the new title of “Emperor of Austria” for himself and his successors as heads of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. For two years, Franz carried two imperial titles: being Holy Roman Emperor Franz II and “by the Grace of God” Emperor Franz I of Austria. This made Franz the only double Emperor in History.

Therefore the title Emperor of Austria (German: Kaiser von Österreich) was the title for ruler of the Austrian Empire which later became the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867 when the emperor, who was also King of Hungary raised that Kingdom to equal political status with Austria. The title was an hereditary imperial title invested in a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, and continually held by him and his heirs until Carl I relinquished power in 1918.

Although Austria was now an Empire the emperors and the imperial family retained the title of Archduke of Austria. The wives of the emperors held the title empress, while other members of the family maintained the title archduke or archduchess of Austria.

Imperial Crown of Austria


Prior to the creation of the Austrian Empire members of the House of Austria, the Habsburg dynasty, (later Habsburg-Lorraine) had for centuries been elected to be Holy Roman Emperors and mostly resided in Vienna. Thus the term “Austrian emperor” may occur in texts dealing with the time before 1804, even though no Austrian Empire existed. In these cases the word Austria means the composite monarchy ruled by the dynasty, not the country. A special case was Maria Theresa; daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Carl VI, she bore the imperial title as the consort of Holy Roman Emperor Franz I (r. 1745–1765), but she herself was the monarch by hereditary right of the Austrian Hereditary Lands including Austria, Bohemia and Hungary.

From 1806 onwards, after the ancient Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, Franz was Emperor of Austria only. He had three successors—Ferdinand I, Franz Joseph I and Carl I before the Empire broke apart in 1918.

A coronation ceremony was never established; the heir to the throne became emperor the moment his predecessor died or abdicated. The symbol of the Austrian Emperor was the dynasty’s private crown dating back to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (r. 1576–1612), (called Rudolfinische Hauskrone by the experts), which should convey the dignity and myth of the Habsburgs.

Titles of the Emperor

The Austrian Emperors had an extensive list of titles and claims that reflected the geographic expanse and diversity of the lands ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs. The grand title of the Emperor of Austria had been changed several times: by a patent of August 11, 1804, by a court office decree from August 22 1836, by an Imperial court ministry decree of January 6, 1867 and finally by a letter of December 12, 1867. Shorter versions were recommended for official documents and international treaties: “Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia etc. and Apostolic King of Hungary”, “Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary”, “His Majesty the Emperor and King” and “His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty”.

The full list (after the loss of the Lombardy in 1859 and Venetia in 1866):

Emperor of Austria,
Apostolic King of Hungary,
King of Bohemia, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, of Slavonia, of Galicia, of Lodomeria, and of Illyria,
King of Jerusalem, and so forth,
Archduke of Austria,
Grand Duke of Tuscany and of Cracow,
Duke of Lorraine, of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina,
Grand Prince of Transylvania,
Margrave in Moravia,
Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara,
Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca,
Prince of Trent and Brixen,
Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria,
Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg, and so forth, Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro and of the Windic March,Grand Voivode of the Voivodship of Serbia, and so forth, Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece.