Ferdinand I (April 19, 1793 – June 29, 1875) was the Emperor of Austria from 1835 until his abdication in 1848. As ruler of Austria, he was also President of the German Confederation, King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia (as Ferdinand V), King of Lombardy–Venetia and holder of many other lesser titles. Had the Holy Roman Empire not been abolished during the reign of his father, Ferdinand would have reigned as Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand IV.
Ferdinand was the eldest son of Franz II-I, Holy Roman Emperor and Emperor of Austria, and Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. Ferdinand’s mother was the eldest of 18 children born to King Ferdinand IV-III of Naples and Sicily (later King Ferdinand I of the Two-Sicilies) and Maria Carolina of Austria, the thirteenth child of Holy Roman Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor Franz I.
Possibly as a result of his parents’ genetic closeness (they were double first cousins), Ferdinand suffered from epilepsy, hydrocephalus, neurological problems, and a speech impediment. He was educated by Baron Josef Kalasanz von Erberg, and his wife Josephine, by birth a Countess von Attems.
Ferdinand has been depicted as feeble-minded and incapable of ruling. Yet, although he had epilepsy, he kept a coherent and legible diary and has even been said to have had a sharp wit. However, suffering as many as twenty seizures per day severely restricted his ability to rule with any effectiveness. Though he was not declared incapacitated, a Regent’s Council (Archduke Ludwig of Austria-Tuscany, Count Kolowrat, and Prince Metternich) steered the government.
Archduke Ludwig, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia and Prince of Tuscany (1784 – 1864), was the 14th child of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, King of Hungary and Bohemia, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain.
When Ferdinand married Princess Maria Anna of Savoy, the court physician considered it unlikely that he would be able to consummate the marriage.
Princess Maria Anna of Savoy
Princess Maria Anna of Savoy was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia and of his wife, Archduchess Maria Teresa of Austria-Este, daughter of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, Maria Beatrice d’Este of Modena. Princess Maria Anna of Savoy had a twin sister Princess Maria Teresa. The two Princesses were baptized by Pope Pius VII. Princess Maria Teresa married Charles Louis, Prince of Lucca.
When Ferdinand and Maria Anna tried to consummate the marriage, he had five seizures. Ferdinand is best remembered for his command to his cook: when told he could not have apricot dumplings (Marillenknödel) because apricots were out of season, he said “I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings!” (German: Ich bin der Kaiser und ich will Knödel!).
In 1848 revolutions swept across Europe. As the revolutionaries were marching on the palace, he is supposed to have asked Metternich for an explanation. When Metternich answered that they were making a revolution, Ferdinand is supposed to have said “But are they allowed to do that?” He was convinced by Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg to abdicate in favour of his nephew, Archduke Franz Joseph (the next in line was Ferdinand’s younger brother Archduke Franz Charles, but he was persuaded to waive his succession rights in favour of his son). The new Emperor, Franz Joseph, would occupy the Austrian throne for the next sixty-eight years.
Ferdinand was the last King of Bohemia to be crowned as such, as King Ferdinand V of Bohemia. Due to his sympathy with Bohemia (where he spent the rest of his life in Prague Castle) he was given the Czech nickname “Ferdinand the Good” In Austria, Ferdinand was similarly nicknamed Ferdinand the Benign.
Ferdinand died on June 29, 1875 and is interred in tomb number 62 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.