House of Habsburg


The House of Habsburg (or House of Habsburg, italianization from the German Habsburg, Hapsburg), also called the House of Austria, is one of the most important and oldest royal and imperial families in Europe. Its members were emperors of the Holy Roman Empire for many centuries, ruled in Austria as dukes, archdukes and emperors, and were kings of Spain and kings of Portugal.

The name “Habsburg” derives from the Habichtsburg (contracted into Habsburg), a castle located in the municipality of the same name in the Swiss canton of Aargau, on the banks of the Aare River. The “Goshawk Fortress,” this is the meaning in German, was the original seat and comital fiefdom of the Habsburgs. They were in fact courtiers of Emperor Frederick I of Hohenstaufen known as “Barbarossa,” whom they followed in processions holding the goshawk, hence the name.

From southwest Germany, the family extended its influence and possessions in the territories of the Holy Roman Empire eastward into present-day Austria (1278-1382). In just a few generations, the family succeeded in seizing the imperial throne, which it held in distinct periods (1273-1291 and 1298-1308, 1438-1740, and 1745-1806).In the 14th century, the hereditary line split into the Albertine branch (Albert of the Braid) and the Leopoldine branch (Leopold the Proud), which died out in 1457.

Maximilian I acquired the Netherlands as a result of his marriage to Mary (1477), heiress of the dukes of Burgundy, while his son Philip the Fair acquired Spain as a result of his marriage to Joan the Mad, daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile. Their son, Charles V, inherited from them an empire where “the sun never sets.” After his abdication in 1556, the family split into the two branches of the Habsburgs of Spain, which became extinct in 1700 with Charles II of Spain, and the Habsburgs of Austria. The direct line of the Habsburgs formally became extinct in 1780 with the death of Maria Theresa of Austria, the last reigning member (and only woman) of the hereditary Austrian dominions. The lineage, however, continued with her descendants, born of her marriage to Francis I of Lorraine: the Habsburg-Lorraine were considered a cadet branch of the Habsburgs, and members of the new lineage continued to belong to the house of Austria.

Following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, and to counter Napoleon”s hegemony, Francis II proclaimed the Empire of Austria in 1804, thus avoiding the loss of his status as emperor. Two years later, on August 6, 1806, he finally declared the Holy Roman Empire dissolved, renouncing his crown. Francis was the only “double” emperor in world history, being: Francis II, Emperor of the Romans and Francis I, Emperor of Austria.

Hungary, formally under Habsburg rule since 1526 following the marriage of Ferdinand I, younger brother of Charles V, to Anna Jagellon but actually occupied by the Ottoman Empire, was recaptured in 1683-1699, and the Habsburgs retained possession until 1918. In 1867, with the so-called Ausgleich (“compromise”) between the Hungarian nobility and the Habsburg monarchy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was born, which lasted until 1919.

The motto of the dynasty is A.E.I.O.U. and is generally interpreted as Austriae est imperare orbi universo (“it is up to Austria to rule the world”).

Origins of the lineage

The question of the dynasty”s origins is very controversial, since, given its antiquity, it is lost in the mists of time and a sure reconstruction of it is difficult. Nonetheless, placing the Count of Alsace Guntram the Wealthy as the now certain progenitor, his surest ancestors are considered to be the Eticonids, descended from Eticon of Alsace. In support of this thesis we have the actual possession of various fiefs in Alsace by the family until the 17th century and the now certain identification of the “Guntram dives,” vassal of Otto I and descendant of Ethicon with Guntram the Wealthy of the Acta Murensia.

With Werner II count of Alsace, son of Radbod and grandson of Guntram, the name of the House of Habsburg first appeared, from a castle Werner had built in Aargau, called Habichtsburg, hence Hapsburg or Habsburg. Werner I acquired the title of Count of Habsburg after 1082. In 1273, with Rudolf I, the Habsburgs gained imperial dignity, gaining Austria, Styria and Carniola; however, the appointment was not recognized by Ottokar II of Bohemia, who disputed the cession of the regions claimed by the emperor.Then the clash was inevitable, and Rudolf I prevailed, who succeeded in wresting from his rival the possession of the Marca Orientalis.

Rudolph I”s son Albert I, who became king of the Romans in 1298, consolidated his dominions; thus within a few generations the family succeeded in seizing the imperial throne, which it held almost continuously until 1740 and which, after the brief interregnum of Charles VII of Wittelsbach, passed to the newly formed Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty. Albert I”s son was succeeded by Albert III the Braid and Leopold III the Proud, with whom the family split into two hereditary lines.

Albertine and Leopoldine line

The Albertine line died out with Ladislaus the Posthumous in 1457; while the Leopoldine line persisted through the years. Frederick I of Styria, nephew of Leopold III and emperor under the name Frederick III (1452-1493), reunited the various Habsburg possessions under one banner and elevated Austria to Archduchy, thanks to documents that have gone down in history as Privilegium maius. His son Maximilian I (emperor from 1493 to 1519) began the series of marriages that made the Habsburgs the most powerful dynasty in Europe (his marriage to Mary of Burgundy, heiress of the Burgundian estates, and his son Philip the Fair”s marriage to Joan the Mad, heiress of Castile and Aragon, enabled the eldest son, the future Charles V, to inherit the largest empire on earth, an empire where “the sun never sets.” Charles V”s brother Ferdinand I married Anna Jagellona, heiress of Bohemia and Hungary, in 1521.

Charles V

Charles of Ghent was crowned emperor in 1519 under the name Charles V; he reunited through the marriage policy of his grandfather Maximilian I, a vast empire consisting of: Castile, the Low Countries, Burgundy, Franche-Comté, Alsace, Aragon (with all the Italian possessions), Austria, Styria, Carinthia, and all the territories of the Spanish colonies in the New World.

The empire was also joined by Bohemia and Hungary, thanks to the marriage of his brother Ferdinand I to Anna Jagellona. Charles V fought repeatedly against France, which was his only obstacle in his attempt to dominate Europe. After continuous wars with the French, the German princes, and the English who looted shipments of gold and silver from the colonies, Charles V was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Philip II, to whom would go: Spain (the remainder was given to his brother Ferdinand I, along with the imperial crown.

Dynasties merged into the House of Habsburg

Against the British, Dutch and Turks

Philip II faced two major wars. The first was that of Dutch independence, as a result of which the region of the Netherlands was divided into the Seven United Provinces, the future Netherlands, and the Spanish Netherlands, the future Belgium, which remained under Spanish control until 1700. The second was fought by Spain and England, which ended in 1588, with the defeat of the Spanish Invincible Army; this defeat marked the beginning of the decline of Habsburg Spain, which half a century earlier had been unchallenged hegemony, in Europe and the Americas. The Spanish Habsburgs also participated in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, in which a powerful Christian fleet defeated the Turkish fleet. Philip II”s reign ended with the war that broke out in 1589 and saw Spain defeated against France, England and the United Provinces.

The decline and end of the dynasty

Philip II was succeeded by Philip III (1578-1621), who resumed the old wars against England and the Netherlands, which led to nothing; he also expelled three hundred thousand Moors from the state, thus aggravating the country”s already precarious economic situation. In 1621, after Philip III”s death, his son Philip IV ascended the throne, who, like his father, clashed and fought new wars against France, Savoy, the United Provinces, and the Republic of Venice but emerged defeated, losing important territories in Italy and the colonies.

The last Habsburg of Spain was Charles II, son of Philip IV. Like his father he proved to be inept and incapable, and with constant wars against France he led Spain into the abyss.With his death, without an heir, in 1700, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out between France and Austria, which resulted in the total collapse of Spanish power and the end of Habsburg rule in Spain.

This branch of the Habsburg family is given the appellation of Austria because of their regency in Austria and to distinguish it from the Spanish branch, which until the 1700s was considered the stronger and more prestigious of the two, as its domains extended from Europe to the Americas. The Austrian branch of the family was created in 1521 with the Treaty of Worms, which stipulated the division of the Habsburg dominions between the two heirs; Ferdinand I was granted rule over Austria, while Charles V, his older brother, would rule over the remaining territories.Ferdinand I resumed the bureaucratic reforms of his grandfather Maximilian I and firmly reorganized all the territories under his rule.

Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire

After the death of Charles V in 1558, the imperial title passed to his brother Ferdinand I and thus remained the prerogative of the Austrian branch of the family, which, given its power and influence over the German princes, was always able to achieve imperial election by the College of Elector Princes until the death of Charles VI, the last male of the family, in 1740. After the loss of the imperial title for a few years, Francis Stephen of Lorraine, consort of Charles VI”s daughter and heir, Maria Theresa, succeeded in turn in getting elected in 1745 and restoring the traditional possession of the imperial title, which, moreover, had now become purely honorific, to the male children of the new Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty.

Against Turks and Protestants

The Habsburgs of Austria were forced by circumstances to deal with the invasions of the Turks, who were bringing the Balkans to their knees and had invaded Hungary, of which Ferdinand was the heir;within a decade, the Turks had reached the gates of Vienna (besieged by them for the first time in 1529).

From the 16th century onward, almost all members of the family found themselves fighting the Turks.Ferdinand I was succeeded by Maximilian II and Rudolph II; the latter moved the royal court and the center of power from Vienna to Prague.He was succeeded by Rudolph II, Matthias, who even before his death had defeated him and removed him from power, leaving him formally with only the imperial title. After his appointment as emperor, Matthias attempted to take away those privileges that Rudolph II had granted to the Bohemian nobles a decade earlier; but the reaction was the outbreak of the Thirty Years” War, a consequence of the defenestration of Prague.

On May 23, 1618, some Protestant nobles led by Count Henry Matthew von Thurn-Valsassina, fearing that the religious freedom already enshrined in the edicts of Rudolph II would be abolished, sent their delegation to the castle to demand precise guarantees from the representatives of the imperial government.The meeting immediately degenerated into an exchange of outrages between the two sides, and turned into a riot when two Habsburg lieutenants and the secretary, representatives of the Catholic faction, were thrown from the windows of the palace.

The Thirty Years” War and the Turkish invasion

The defenestration of Prague was the detonator that set off the Thirty Years” War, a religiously motivated clash fought on several fronts and on several occasions by Austria, France, the United Provinces, England, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and the various German principalities.This war was driven for the Habsburgs by the idea of dominating Europe and reuniting it under one faith, restoring a universal imperium and at the same time erasing the Protestant Reformation. However, the final outcome of the war, after numerous reversals of fronts and immense destruction across the continent, was one of substantial stalemate, sanctioned by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

After the bloody Thirty Years” War a new threat came from the Turkish invasion, faced by Leopold I, a great military leader and military man.Since 1663 a great and massive offensive of the Ottoman Empire had begun, which, pushing further and further westward, entered a collision course with the Habsburg area of influence. At first the imperial army found itself favored, but following an uprising of Hungarian nobles and the pressing Turkish offensive it had to retreat toward the capital, until King John III of Poland came to the aid of the Austrians and defeated the sultan”s troops under the gates of Vienna.

The final defeat was inflicted on the Turks at the Tisza River by Prince Eugene of Savoy. The Peace of Carlowitz in 1699 returned all Hungarian and Balkan dominions to the House of Austria.

The wars of succession

In 1700 another conflict broke out between Austria and France over the succession to the Spanish throne after the heirless death of the last Habsburg Charles II.Louis XIV wanted to unite the French and Spanish crowns under one dynasty, designating his nephew Philip of Anjou as heir to the throne. Faced with an attempt to assert French hegemony over Europe, the Habsburgs aimed rather at a dismemberment of Spain”s great economic and military power. Allied with England, they dragged France into a War that, while not formally won, ended Louis XIV”s ambitions and extended Habsburg influence, under the reign of Charles VI, over vast areas of the continent, annexing Lombardy, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Kingdom of Naples to the crown of Austria.

Charles VI also fought the War of Polish Succession on behalf of the Elector of Saxony, alongside Russia and again against France and Spain.

However, he was unable to have any sons, so he had to appoint as heir the young Maria Theresa of Habsburg, who in the meantime had already married Francis Stephen of Lorraine, with whom the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty began.

Charles VI, unable to have heirs and for fear of the dissolution of the Habsburg dynasty, had to issue the Prammatica Sanzione, a document that sanctioned the heredity of Habsburg rule by his daughter Maria Theresa of Habsburg and the indivisibility of the territories subject to the House of Austria. For this law to be considered valid, the recognition of all the other states that were part of the empire was necessary, a consent that no one explicitly refused at first, but which was rejected in fact by, among others, the Duke of Bavaria, the Duke of Saxony and Frederick II of Prussia (supported by France and Spain) at the time of the emperor”s death. This gave rise to the outbreak of a new conflict, the War of Austrian Succession.

This Habsburg dynasty, created by the marriage celebrated in Vienna in 1736 between Maria Theresa of Habsburg and Francis Stephen of Lorraine (who became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1737), opens its history with the War of the Austrian Succession, in which Austria, flanked by England and the Kingdom of Sardinia, fought against France, Spain, and Prussia to maintain its independence.

The initiative was taken by the Prussian King Frederick II, who with his troops invaded Silesia, a region of Bohemia rich in mining and textile industries.The young Archduchess Maria Theresa of Habsburg was not ready to lead a war; moreover, the disorganized army and empty state coffers made the situation worse.

The war, mostly fought in Germany and Italy, finally had a positive outcome for the Austrians: when the Elector of Bavaria died, the great anti-Habsburg coalition was dissolved, and all the victories of France and Prussia were nullified.With the intervention on the side of the Habsburgs of the Czarina of Russia, the war officially ended, and in Aachen in 1748 a peace was signed, which recognized the rights imposed by the Pragmatic Sanction and the cession of Silesia to Prussia. However, not recognizing Prussia”s possession of Silesia, Maria Theresa of Habsburg resumed hostilities with Frederick II of Prussia, and managed to find support in France.Thus began the Seven Years” War (1756-1763), which was not won by anyone and did not result in the restitution of Silesia.

Thereafter, Maria Theresa was mainly concerned with domestic politics; she improved almost all state organs, and brought Austria back among the great European powers.Maria Theresa was succeeded by Joseph II, a ruler raised by the new Enlightenment current, and the new ideals it brought; he implemented many reforms, most of which were at the expense of the ecclesiastical clergy. When Joseph II died in 1790, he was succeeded by his brother Leopold II, who in 1791 called on Europe to come to the aid of the French royal family, and to suppress the ideals of the revolution, without military intervention; he died a few days before France declared war on Austria.

The revolutionary period

In 1792 Leopold II”s son, Francis II, was crowned emperor in Frankfurt.He, after the beheading of the French sovereigns, together with other European sovereigns created an initial coalition against revolutionary France.

The coalition initially reported some successes, but soon began to retreat, especially in Italy, where the Austrians were defeated repeatedly by General Napoleon Bonaparte.With the Treaty of Campoformio in 1797, the Milanese were ceded to France, while the Austrians were left with Venetia, Istria and Dalmatia. This peace treaty was followed by others, which reduced Habsburg rule to Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary; Francis II was also forced to renounce the lofty but now purely honorific title of Emperor of the Romans and to assume instead the more limited but more corresponding to reality title of Emperor of Austria.

The Restoration

In the same year as the French defeat at Waterloo, the Congress of Vienna opened, with which the Restoration began.The congress mandated the restoration of the old regimes, and Austria regained all the Italian, Slavic, and German possessions it had lost during the Napoleonic wars.In addition, the Holy Alliance was established between Austria, Russia, and Prussia, which was tasked with suppressing all revolutionary uprisings that would break out in Europe.

In the years that followed, Franz II implemented a centralizing policy, on the advice of Chancellor Klemens von Metternich; but it was because of him, and the new ideals of independence, that the uprisings of 1848 broke out, which devastated all of Europe and marked the expulsion of the prime minister himself from the imperial chancellery and the rise of Franz Joseph, who replaced Ferdinand I, who was forced to abdicate in favor of the 18-year-old prince.

End of the Habsburg Empire

Franz Joseph was the last great personality of the House of Habsburg.Under his reign, Austria seemed to relive the period of its great splendor, and Vienna became the largest and most beautiful city in Central Europe.The emperor faced the Italian wars of independence, and the Austro-Prussian war; he brought defeats in both cases, which ended Austria”s supremacy in Italy and Germany, and hastened the slow decline of the dynasty.

In 1867, Franz Joseph signed the Ausgleich, which was a compromise that divided the Habsburg Empire into the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary: politically and militarily they were united, but in terms of domestic politics and administration they were two separate entities.With the growing interest of Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans, strong tensions arose within the Habsburg Reich that led Austria to sign an alliance with Germany and Italy (Triple Alliance).

In 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, World War I erupted, due to a complex system of alliances among European states, with the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany and the Ottoman Empire) on one side and the Western Powers (France, the United Kingdom and Italy) and Russia on the other. In 1916 Franz Joseph died: he was succeeded by Blessed Charles I who, losing the war (1918), as a result of multiple events, was condemned to exile on April 3, 1919, and the Habsburg dominions permanently divided into independent republics.

The territory ruled by the Habsburgs of Austria could not be called a real state, but a union of states in the person of the Habsburg rulers; in fact, although they ruled over large regions, they administered each member state separately; naturally there were state entities more or less autonomous from Vienna (seat of power of the Habsburgs of Austria). In fact, under Habsburg rule, a state mostly retained its formal integrity; since it was not united with a larger state, rather the title of ruler in that region was assigned to a member of the family, so that it was incorporated into a kind of confederation under Habsburg rule.

In the various kingdoms, duchies, or territories that the House of Austria annexed, the state order, the administrative subdivision (which was altered only in exceptional cases), and the organization of the state were kept intact.Each state, however, would have to support the family militarily and economically, and would still come to be administered by people loyal to the Habsburgs, or by direct family members.Usually it was the Archduke of Austria who ruled over the states incorporated into the Habsburg power.

The first true Habsburg state appeared in 1804, when Francis II proclaimed the Empire of Austria, on the eve of the demise of the Holy Roman Empire.This first state that had come into being under the Habsburg dynasty still adopted feudal systems, almost totally untouched by innovations that had taken place over the centuries, and consisted of vast territories, comprising numerous ethnic groups. The second Habsburg state took its baptism in 1867, born of a compromise between Austrians and Magyars, took the name Austria-Hungary, a politically united state, but divided and administered by two different state entities. Austria-Hungary was endowed with a good army, and a large economy that held up the entire empire, but continuing tensions between its constituent nations and the advent of World War I led to the ruin of the powerful Central European state and its subsequent fractionation into the new states of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and part of Romania.

States formed under the House of Habsburg

A Danubian state

By 1740, at the end of the reign of Charles VI of Habsburg, the House of Austria was in possession of most of the Danube River, along which ran important trade routes.This marked the political and economic hegemony of the Habsburgs in that area, which brought the family immense wealth, and control of trade to the east, which with an increasingly weakened Ottoman Empire exhausted by revolts had become the most important resource of the House of Austria.Along this river were important river cities such as: Vienna, Presburg, Budapest,which, thanks to river trade, developed greatly into major cities.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Habsburg territories (Austria-Hungary) incorporated a vast mosaic of ethnic groups: Germans (mainly in Austria), Magyars (in Hungary and Transylvania), Bohemians (in Bohemia and Moravia), Poles (in Galicia), Slovenes (in Carniola), Croats (in Croatia, Slavonia and Bosnia), Bosnians (in Bosnia), Italians (in Trentino and Istria), Romanians (the very various peoples that comprised the House of Habsburg were the main cause of the fall of the dynasty, as the new nationalist ideals that 1848 brought unleashed strong national sentiment in these, leading them to fight against the Habsburgs to gain independence.

The epilogue to these continuing uprisings came during World War I, when a mass rebellion made it impossible for Austria-Hungary to continue the war, leading Charles I, to call for peace. On the night of March 23-24, 1919, Charles I was forced to leave Austria and was deposed the following April 3.

The Austrian Empire

The Austrian Empire was established in 1804 as a hereditary monarchy following the formation of the French Empire by Napoleon I. The first emperor of Austria was Francis I, who at the time also held the title Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, which, however, he abandoned in 1806.

To keep the title he proclaimed the Archduchy of Austria Empire.After some attempts at constitutional reform in 1867 there was an equalization of status with the Hungarian part of the kingdom and thus the Empire of Austria took the name Austro-Hungarian Empire.The Empire of Austria, from its founding, had continuous problems due to the centralization of politics on the Austrian part of the Habsburg dominions; the various and numerous ethnic groups that made up the Empire soon found themselves at odds with the imperial ideals of the Habsburgs.

Emperor Francis I led the first anti-French coalition against Napoleon”s France, a coalition that suffered the two serious defeats of Ulm and Austerlitz.On this occasion Austria ceded Venetia to France. Advised by Prince Metternich, already serving since 1801, Francis I declared war on France; Napoleon, together with his army, reached the gates of Vienna, and forced the Austrians to sign the humiliating Peace of Schönbrunn, in which they ceded Tyrol, Trent, Galicia, the Illyrian provinces, and the cities of Trieste and Rijeka.

After the severe defeat he suffered, Prime Minister Metternich decided to change tactics and wanted to look to Napoleon for an ally, waiting for the moment of revenge.To seal the pact, Francis I officially renounced the title of Holy Roman Emperor, and gave Napoleon Marie Louise of Habsburg-Lorraine in marriage. After the disastrous defeats of the French at Leipzig (1813) and Waterloo (1815), the Congress of Vienna was established.In October 1814, the Congress opened in Vienna, bringing together the greatest rulers and governors of Europe.

The congress envisioned the restoration of the old European regimes, and the return of the political-territorial situation to that which existed before the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars.Austria took back all territories in Italy, Poland, and the Balkans, and formed the Holy Alliance with Russia and Prussia, whose task was mutual defense against pro-French uprisings, or independence. Francis I of Austria, deeply influenced by Chancellor Metternich, continued his centralizing and traditionalist policy, reducing the state to a despotism; this set the stage for the revolutionary uprisings of 1848.

After the death of Francis I, came to the imperial throne the epileptic son Ferdinand I of Austria, who at the outbreak of the Viennese insurrection of “48” found himself dismissing Metternich, and making generous concessions to the insurgents; but then he fled from the capital, leaving everything in the hands of the army generals. The situation became critical as heavy revolts broke out in Hungary, and in Italy, where, urged on by the insurgents, the Kingdom of Sardinia declared war on Austria.This opened the first war of Italian independence, which ended with the return of the Austrians throughout Lombardy-Veneto.

Ferdinand I in the same year abdicated in favor of Franz Joseph.The new emperor, who had fought alongside General Radetzky, took the name Franz Joseph I, and in an attempt to create a centralized state created an efficient bureaucracy, and a well-organized army; thanks to this and the help of the Russians, revolts in Italy and Hungary were suppressed. The Austrian empire fought two major wars, against the Piedmontese and French, and against the Piedmontese and Prussians; in both cases it lost, ceding Lombardy and Venetia to the Italians, and this marked the end of Austrian hegemony in Italy.The empire was transformed, with the formation of Austria-Hungary in 1867, based on a compromise between the Austrians and Hungarians.

In 1867, Franz Joseph signed the Ausgleich, or compromise, which divided the Habsburg Empire into the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary. Politically and militarily the latter were united, but in terms of internal politics and administration they were two separate entities.With Austria-Hungary”s and Russia”s growing interest in the Balkans, strong tensions arose within the Habsburg Reich, which led Austria to sign an alliance with Germany and Italy.

In 1914, following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, World War I erupted, due to a complex system of alliances among European states, with the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany) on one side and the Western Powers (France, the United Kingdom and Italy) and Russia on the other. The Austrians, allied with the Germans, immediately scored numerous victories over the Allied powers, but what should have been a blitzkrieg turned into a wearisome trench warfare; despite this, Austria-Hungary defeated the Italians at Caporetto, causing them to retreat as far as the Piave River.

The armies of the two great Central Powers succeeded for four years in defending their borders from France, Russia, Italy and Britain, which had created a huge naval blockade to Austria and Germany; this caused tensions to erupt in both countries, which in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, turned into full-fledged revolts; in fact, the many nationalities included in the empire decided to take their independence by force. With the outbreak in the last year of the war of these uprisings and the defeat at Vittorio Veneto, Austria found itself unable to continue the war, and signed the armistice in 1918, which, however, did nothing to solve the country”s internal problems.In 1916 Franz Joseph died; he was succeeded by Charles I, who lost the war (1918), as a result of multiple events, was condemned to exile, and the Habsburg dominions were permanently divided into independent republics.

Privilegium maius

The Privilegium maius is a document that made the House of Habsburg the descendant of the great Roman emperors such as Nero or Julius Caesar; of course for today”s historians this document is a forgery, since they consider this descent impossible and absurd.

Enacted by Rudolph IV (1339-1365), it consisted of five acts and sanctioned:

From the regulations of Wallenstein”s army

No one is to steal plows or damage or break mills, ovens or what a community needs. One must not spoil grain and flour or deliberately spill wine. Nor must one oppress, beat, plunder the subjects and citizens of our country during expeditions, advance and retreat, nor during the crossing of territories, or when setting up camps. No harm is to be done, and everything necessary is to be paid for. Those who do not observe these provisions will be punished with death.

Maria Theresa, the death of Francis

Emperor Francis, my husband, lived fifty-six years, eight months, ten days; he died on August 18, 1765 at half past nine in the evening; so he lived 680 months, 2958 weeks, 20708 days, 496992 hours. My happy union lasted twenty-nine years, six months, and six days, and as the memorable day on which I granted him my hand was Sunday, so also on a Sunday he was taken from me; that makes twenty-nine years, 354 months, 1540 weeks, 10781 days, and 258744 hours. Pater Noster, Ave, Requiem, Gloria Patri and many alms.

In the battle of Solferino

The bluish mist between the two fronts thinned a little…. Then between the second lieutenant and the ranks of soldiers, the Emperor appeared with two officers from the general staff.He made to bring to his eyes a pair of field binoculars that one of the escorts handed him.Trotta knew what this meant: even if the enemy was falling back, his rear guard still had their faces turned to the Austrians, and whoever raised a pair of binoculars would be recognized as a target worth hitting. And this was the young emperor.Trotta felt his heart in his throat.Fear for the imaginable, immense catastrophe that would nihilate himself, the regiment, the army, the state, the whole world, pierced his body with burning shivers…. With his hands he grasped the Monarch”s shoulders so that he would bend over.The sub-lieutenant”s grip was all too energetic.The Emperor fell to the ground suddenly and the escorts rushed to his aid.At that instant a bullet pierced the sub-lieutenant”s left shoulder, that bullet, precisely, which was intended for the Emperor”s heart.

The city of Vienna, the residence of the Habsburgs since the 13th century, under the rule of the House of Austria became one of the main hubs of Europe, as well as the main gateway to Eastern Europe, which in the 17th century was far behind the Western countries.From the 18th century, the city experienced increasing population growth, which led the Viennese to build even far away from the walls that surrounded the city.Vienna faced its greatest period of crisis during the Turkish invasions from the 16th century.

In those years the Turks besieged Vienna several times: in 1529, 1532, and 1683; in most cases these sieges reduced the population to starvation, causing epidemics to run rampant within the walls.By the 18th century Vienna was the most populous and important German city, and it became a first-rate cultural-artistic center, a hub for artists and musicians.

Palaces built under the House of Habsburg

Churches built under the House of Habsburg

The famous motto A.E.I.O.U. dates back to the time of Frederick III, who used it as an acronym for objects and buildings. He never provided an explanation of the meaning, but shortly after his death the acronym was given the meanings of Austriae Est Imperare Orbi Universo, “It is incumbent upon Austria to reign over the world” in Latin, or the similar phrase in German: Alles Erdreich Ist Österreich Untertan (“The Whole World is Subject to Austria”).

Although this is the most currently accepted meaning, as it accords well with the idea that the rulers of the House of Habsburg aspired to ever-increasing power that could unite all of Europe under their dynasty, other interpretations also exist.

AEIOU also means Adoretur Eucharistia in Orbe Universo.In particular, Austria erit in orbe ultima had a certain diffusion in Europe, as in the negative sense of the term ultimo it represented a parody of the motto. There are also other interpretations however after the end of the Habsburg Empire.

Famous Phrases

The translation of which is – Let others make wars! You, happy Austria, unite in marriage! For to you Venus bestows those kingdoms, which others conquer with the help of Mars.This phrase, apparently enunciated by the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, alludes to the marriage policy of the Habsburgs that will lead Charles V to reign over a vast territory, over which the Sun never sets.

Consorts of foreign rulers


  1. Casa d”Asburgo
  2. House of Habsburg
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