Franz Joseph I (August 18, 1830 – November 21, 1916) was Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, and monarch of many other states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from December 2, 1848 to his death. From May 1, 1850 to August 24, 1866 he was also President of the German Confederation, the successor state to the Holy Roman Empire. He was the longest-reigning Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, as well as the third-longest-reigning monarch of any country in European history, after Louis XIV of France and Johann II of Liechtenstein.
Franz Joseph was born in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna (on the 65th anniversary of the death his great-great grandfather Holy Roman Emperor Franz I of Lorraine) as the eldest son of Archduke Franz Karl (the younger son of Holy Roman Emperor Franz II), and his wife Princess Sophie of Bavaria. Because his uncle, reigning from 1835 as the Emperor Ferdinand, was weak-minded, and his father unambitious and retiring, his mother of the young Archduke Franz Joseph brought him up as a future Emperor, with emphasis on devotion, responsibility and diligence.
During the Revolutions of 1848 the Austrian Chancellor Prince Metternich resigned (March-April 1848). The young Archduke, who (it was widely expected) would soon succeed his uncle on the throne, was appointed Governor of Bohemia on April 6, 1848, but never took up the post. As the revolutionaries of 1848 were marching on the palace, Emperor Ferdinand 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?”
Emperor Ferdinand was convinced by Felix zu Schwarzenberg to abdicate in favour of his nephew, Franz Joseph (the next in line was Ferdinand’s younger brother Franz Karl, but he was persuaded to waive his succession rights in favour of his son). Therefore, with the abdication of his uncle Ferdinand and the renunciation of his father (the mild-mannered Franz Karl) Franz Joseph succeeded as Emperor of Austria at Olomouc on December 2. At first Franz Joseph wanted to reign as Franz II but given that his grandfather Franz I was also known as Franz II as the last Holy Roman Emperor he decided to avoid any confusion and became known by his second as well as his first Christian name.
Franz Joseph was troubled by nationalism during his entire reign. He concluded the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, which granted greater autonomy to Hungary and transformed the Austrian Empire into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. He ruled peacefully for the next 45 years, but personally suffered the tragedies of the execution of his brother, the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico in 1867, the suicide of his only son and heir-apparent, Crown Prince Rudolf, in 1889, the assassination of his wife, Empress Elisabeth, in 1898, and the assassination of his nephew and heir-presumptive, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in 1914.
After the Austro-Prussian War, Austria-Hungary turned its attention to the Balkans, which was a hotspot of international tension because of conflicting interests with the Russian Empire. The Bosnian Crisis was a result of Franz Joseph’s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908, which had been occupied by his troops since the Congress of Berlin (1878).
On June 28, 1914, the assassination of his nephew and heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo resulted in Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against the Kingdom of Serbia, which was an ally of the Russian Empire. That activated a system of alliances which resulted in World War I.
Franz Joseph died in the Schönbrunn Palace on the evening of November 21, 1916, at the age of 86. His death was a result of developing pneumonia of the right lung several days after catching a coldwhile walking in Schönbrunn Park with King Ludwig III of Bavaria. He was succeeded by his grandnephew Karl I, who reigned until the collapse of the Empire following its defeat in 1918.
He is buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna, where flowers are still left by monarchists.
The full list of title held by Franz Joseph (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.