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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 from 1705 until his death in 1711.

He was the eldest son of Emperor Leopold I from his third wife, Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg, she was the oldest of 17 children born from Philipp Wilhelm, Count Palatine of Neuburg and Duke of Jülich-Berg of the House of Wittelsbach and his second wife, Landgravine Elisabeth Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt.

On Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg’s 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.

Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia, Hungary, Croatia and Archduke of Austria

Born in Vienna, Joseph was educated strictly by Charles Theodore, Prince of Salm and became a good linguist. 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 Archduchess Mariana of Austria, second child of Infanta Maria Anna of Spain and her husband Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand. Infanta Margaret Theresa gave him four children, one of whom survived infancy.

Leopold then married his Habsburg cousin Archduchess Claudia Felicitas of Austria. She was the eldest daughter of Ferdinand Charles, Archduke of Further Austria and Count of Tyrol, by his wife and first-cousin Anna de’ Medici.

On her father’s side, her grandparents were Leopold V, Archduke of Further Austria and his wife Claudia de’ Medici (after which she received her first name); on her mother’s side, her grandparents were Cosimo II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and his wife Archduchess Maria Magdalena of Austria.

Archduchess Claudia Felicitas gave him two short-lived daughters. Thus, Joseph had six half-siblings.

At the age of nine, on December 9, 1687, he was crowned King of Hungary; and at the age of eleven, on January 23, 1690, King of the Romans. Although he never formally ceased to be a Roman Catholic, Joseph (unlike his parents and most of his other relatives) was not particularly devout by nature. He had two great enthusiasms: music and hunting.

Early on, Joseph’s mother, the 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.

Princess Wilhelmine Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg (April 21, 1673 – April 10, 1742) was the youngest daughter of Johann Friedrich, Duke of Brunswick-Calenberg, and Princess Benedicta Henrietta of the Palatinate.

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 Emperor 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.


As a result, on February 24, 1699, she married Archduke Joseph, the heir of Emperor Leopold I. At their wedding, the opera Hercule and Hebe by Reinhard Keiser (1674–1739) was performed.

Princess Wilhelmine Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg

As Archduke Joseph and Archduchess Wilhelmine Amalie had three children and their only son died of hydrocephalus before his first birthday.

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.

Emperor Leopold I was still alive during these events, made Joseph and his brother Archduke Charles sign the Mutual Pact of Succession, ensuring that Joseph’s daughters would have absolute precedence over Charles’s daughters, neither of whom were born at the time, and that Joseph’s eldest daughter, Archduchess Maria Josepha, would inherit both the Austrian and Spanish realms. From 1711 to 1717, she was heir presumptive to the Habsburg Empire.

Joseph succeeded to the thrones of Bohemia, Croatia the Holy Roman Empire when his father Emperor Leopold I died on May 5, 1705.

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.

Joseph also endeavoured to strengthen his position in the Holy Roman Empire – as a means of strengthening Austria’s standing as a great power. When he 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.

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 Archduke 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. 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.

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.

Emperor Joseph was succeeded as Emperor by his brother Archduke Charles. As Emperor Charles VI he was the last male Habsburg heir in the direct line.

Since Habsburg possessions were subject to the Salic law, barring women from inheriting in their own right, his own lack of a male heir meant the hereditary Habsburg lands would be divided on his death.

The Pragmatic Sanction of April 19, 1713 abolished male-only succession in all Habsburg realms and declared their lands indivisible, and allowed female succession, although only Hungary approved it in 1723.

The Holy Roman Empire was technically elective and still subject to the Salic Law and not subject to the Pragmatic Sanction.

Emperor Joseph’s eldest daughter Archduchess Maria Josepha was the Queen of Poland and Electress of Saxony by marriage to Elector Augustus III of Saxony and King of Poland.

Her sister Archduchess Maria Amalia became the wife of Charles Albert of Bavaria was born in Brussels and the son of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria, and Theresa Kunegunda Sobieska, daughter of King John III Sobieski of Poland.

Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria was a member of the House of Wittelsbach. After the death of Emperor Charles VI in 1740, he claimed the Archduchy of Austria by his marriage to Archduchess Maria Amalia.

Charles Albert was briefly, from 1741 to 1743, as Charles III King of Bohemia and Croatia. In 1742, he was elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire as Charles VII and ruled until his death three years later.

His election as Holy Roman Emperor thus marked the end of three centuries of uninterrupted Habsburg imperial rule although he was related to the Habsburgs by both blood and, as we have seen, by marriage to Archduchess Maria Amalia, the youngest daughter of Emperor Joseph I.