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Emperor Franz Josef I

Born in Graz, Austria in 1863, Franz Ferdinand was the archduke of Austria-Este and the Prince of Hungary and Bohemia.
Franz Josef I, the emperor of Austria-Hungary, was born in 1830. He ascended the Austrian throne in 1848 when Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated. Most of his early reign was spent combating nationalistic tendencies and quelling various revolts in Hungary and the Italian territories of Germany. Franz Josef negotiated with Hungary and created the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. While Hungary had internal autonomy, Austria and Hungary had joint policies in international affairs.

Personal Tragedies
Emperor Franz Josef’s personal life was marred and marked by several tragic occurrences. In 1867, his brother Maximilian was executed by a firing squad in Mexico by revolutionaries; in 1889, his only son, Archduke Rudolf, committed suicide in the Mayerling Incident; and less than a decade later, in 1898, his wife Elizabeth (daughter of Duke Maximilian of Bavaria) was killed in Geneva by an anarchist.

Franz Josef and Franz Ferdinand
Carl Ludwig, brother of Franz Josef, became the next in succession upon the death of Prince Rudolf. Carl's son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, succeeded him after his death in 1896. The succession was, however, steeped in uncertainty and controversy because Archduke Franz Ferdinand was set upon marrying Sophie von Chotkova. Sophie hailed from an aristocratic Bohemian family. However, tradition demanded that only a descendant of either the House of Hapsburg or of one of the royal families of Europe could marry into the Austro-Hungarian royal family. Sophie did not fall under either category despite her aristocratic lineage.

In the face of Franz Ferdinand's very committed stance on marrying Sophie, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, and Pope Leo XIII, intervened on behalf of Franz Ferdinand. They pleaded vehemently with the emperor in order to uphold a cohesive monarchy.

The emperor conceded to the wishes of Franz Ferdinand in 1899, subject to several conditions. The emperor allowed Franz Ferdinand to marry Sophie, but forbade Sophie from accompanying her husband in the royal carriage and from sitting beside her husband in the royal box. More importantly, he stipulated that her descendants would not be members of the Archhouse and would not have rights to the throne. Franz Josef and the royal family, including Franz Ferdinand’s brothers, abstained from attending the wedding as a gesture of their displeasure.

Emperor Franz Josef and World War I
Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Franz Josef in consultation with the Foreign Minister, Leopold von Berchtold, issued Serbia the ultimatum leading up to the war. The military took over the country’s administration when World War I broke out.

Franz Josef died on November 21, 1916 and was succeeded by his great-nephew Karl I.

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