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Joseph I (Joseph Jacob Ignaz Johann Anton Eustachius; July 26, 1678 – April 17, 1711) was Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy (Hereditary lands outside the empire) from 1705 until his death in 1711. He was the eldest son of Emperor Leopold I from his third wife, Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg, the oldest of 17 children born from Philipp Wilhelm, Count Palatine of Neuburg and Duke of Jülich-Berg and his second wife, Landgravine Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. On Eleonor Magdalene father’s side her grandparents were Wolfgang Wilhelm, Count Palatine of Neuburg and his first wife, Magdalene of Bavaria. On her mother’s side, her grandparents were Georg II, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Sophia Eleonore of Saxony.

Although he was the first son and child born of his parents’ marriage, he was his father’s third son and seventh child. Previously, Leopold had been married to Infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain, the first child of King Felipe IV of Spain born from his second marriage with his niece Mariana of Austria. Leopold was Margaret Theresa of Spain’s maternal uncle and paternal cousin and gave Emperor Leopold four children, one of whom survived infancy. Leopold then married Claudia Felicitas of Austria, eldest daughter of Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Further Austria and Count of Tyrol, by his wife and first-cousin Anna de’ Medici. Leopold and Claudia Felicitas were second cousins (both being great-grandchildren of Charles II, Archduke of Inner Austria).Claudia Felicitas gave Leopold two short-lived daughters. Thus, Joseph had six half-siblings.

Prior to his ascension, Joseph had surrounded himself with reform-hungry advisors and the young court of Vienna was ambitious in the elaboration of innovative plans. He was described as a “forward-looking ruler”. The large number of privy councillors was reduced and attempts were made to make the bureaucracy more efficient. Measures were taken to modernize the central bodies and a certain success was achieved in stabilizing the chronic Habsburg finances.

On February 24, 1699, Joseph married Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg, the youngest daughter of Johann Friedrich, Duke of Brunswick-Calenberg, and Princess Benedicta Henrietta of the Palatinate. At their wedding in Vienna, the opera Hercule and Hebe by Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739) was performed.

Early on, the Joseph’s mother, Holy Roman Empress Eleonore Magdalene of Neuburg, decided that Wilhelmine Amalie would be her daughter-in-law. Prince Salm was instrumental in speaking for her candidacy. The adviser of Eleonore, Marco d’Aviano, had convinced her that Wilhelmine Amalie, being pious and older than Joseph, could act as a tempering influence and discontinue his sex life outside of marriage, and to Leopold, he claimed that he had a vision that the pair would be happy. She was subjected to medical examination, which establish that she was fertile.

Joseph and Wilhelmine Amalie had three children and their only son, Archduke Leopold Joseph of Austria (October 29, 1700 – August 4, 1701); died of hydrocephalus before his first birthday. His eldest daughter Archduchess Maria Josepha (December 8, 1699 – November 17, 1757); married August III, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. His youngest daughter, Archduchess Maria Amalia (October 22, 1701 – December 11, 1756); married her Wittelsbach cousin, Prince-Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria who became Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII in 1742.

Joseph had a passion for love affairs (none of which resulted in illegitimate children) and he caught a sexually transmittable disease, probably syphilis, which he passed on to his wife while they were trying to produce a new heir. This incident rendered her sterile. Joseph’s father, Emperor Leopold, who was still alive during these events, made Joseph and his brother Charles sign the Mutual Pact of Succession, ensuring that Joseph’s daughters would have absolute precedence over Charles’s daughters, neither of whom was born at the time, and that Maria Josepha would inherit both the Austrian and Spanish realms.

Joseph was crowned King of Hungary at the age of nine in 1687 and was elected King of the Romans (as heir to the Holy Roman Empire) at the age of eleven in 1690. He succeeded to the thrones of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire when his father died.

At this point in the history of the Holy Roman Empire the Emperor’s power were minimal as most states within the empire had become automenous after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Therefore, Joseph endeavoured to strengthen his position within the Holy Roman Empire – as a means of strengthening Austria’s standing as a great power.

When Joseph sought to lay claim to imperial rights in Italy and gain territories for the Habsburgs, he even risked a military conflict with the Pope over the duchy of Mantua. Joseph I was threatened with excommunication by Pope Clement XI on June 16, 1708.

After becoming Emperor, Joseph continued the War of the Spanish Succession, begun by his father against Louis XIV of France, in a fruitless attempt to make his younger brother Charles (later Emperor Charles VI) King of Spain. In the process, however, owing to the victories won by his military commander, Prince Eugene of Savoy, he did succeed in establishing Austrian hegemony over Italy.

When Emperor Joseph I died in 1711, Archduke Charles succeeded his brother as emperor, and the new British government initiated peace talks to end the War of the Spanish Succession. The majority of nations participating in the war did not desire to see the Imperial Crown and the Spanish Crown reuniting under Charles VI recreating the vast Habsburg Empire as it was under Emperor Charles V who was also Carlos I of Spain. This resulted in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, followed by the 1714 Treaties of Rastatt and Baden, confirming Philippe of Anjou, grandson of King Louis XIV of France and Navarre, as King Felipe V of Spain. This began the House of Bourbon’s tenure on the Spanish throne.

Joseph also had to contend with a protracted revolt in Hungary, fomented by Louis XIV. Neither conflict was resolved until the Treaty of Utrecht, after his death. He also sanctioned the extermination of Romani people within the Holy Roman Empire.

In Hungary, Joseph had inherited the kuruc rebellion from his father Leopold I: once again, nobles in Transylvania (Siebenbürgen) had risen against Habsburg rule, even advancing for a time as far as Vienna. Although Joseph was compelled to take military action, he refrained – unlike his predecessors – from seeking to teach his subjects a lesson by executing the leaders. Instead, he agreed to a compromise peace, which in the long term facilitated the integration of Hungary into the Habsburg domains.

Hungary was disturbed by the conflict with Francis Rákóczi II, who eventually took refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The emperor reversed many of the authoritarian measures of his father, thus helping to placate opponents. He began the attempts to settle the question of the Austrian inheritance by a pragmatic sanction, which was continued by his brother Charles VI.

In 1710, Joseph extended his father’s edict of outlawry against the Romani (Gypsies) in the Habsburg lands. Per Leopold, any Romani who entered the kingdom was to be declared an outlaw by letters patent and if the same person returned to Bohemia a second time “treated with all possible severity”.

Joseph ordered that in the Kingdom of Bohemia they were to have their right ears cut off; in the March of Moravia, the left ear was to be cut off; in Austria, they would be branded on the back with a branding iron, representing the gallows.

These mutilations were to enable the authorities to identify Romani who had been outlawed and returned. Joseph’s edict specified “that all adult males were to be hanged without trial, whereas women and young males were to be flogged and banished forever.” Officials who failed to enforce the edict could be fined 100 Reichsthaler. Helping Romani was punishable by a half-year’s forced labor. “Mass killings” of Romani were reported as a result.


During the smallpox epidemic of 1711, which killed Louis, le Grand Dauphin and three siblings of the future Holy Roman Emperor Franz I, Joseph became infected. He died on April 17, in the Hofburg Palace. He had previously promised his wife to stop having affairs, should he survive.

The Emperor was buried in the Imperial Crypt, resting place of the majority of the Habsburgs. His funeral took place on April 20, in tomb no. 35 in Karl’s Vault. His tomb was designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, decorated with pictures of various battles from the War of Spanish Succession. Josefstadt (the eighth district of Vienna) is named for Joseph.