“I speak in Latin to God, Italian to Women, French to Men, and German to my Horse.”

Franz Joesph of Austria reigned from 1848 at the age of 18 till his death in 1916. He is a human and political link between the age of Metternich and the First World War. His empire is one that is regarded by several segments of the Historiographical world as an anachronism not meant for the modern world. To Adam Kozuchowski in his book The Afterlife of Austria-Hungary, he characterizes the historiography as such: “Only one thing seemed certain: the monarchy fell because of the dissatisfaction of its nation- alities.” However, there are historiographical voices that have risen from the woodworks to reevaluate and exhume this lost empire. Voices like John Deak of Notre Dame and Christopher Clark have come to say that the Empire was strong and evolving until the defeat of WW1. Coming from Clark’s book The Sleepwalkers, “most inhabitants of the empire associated the Hapsburg state with the benefits of orderly government: public education, welfare, sanitation, the rule of law, and the maintenance of a sophisticated infrastructure. — Finally, most minority activists acknowledged the value of the Hapsburg commonwealth as a system of collective security .” There are many reasons why this was the case, including the Charles Ingrao theory of a “culture of consensus” that pervaded the empire. A theory that I bring forward in this space is the idea that the monarchial form of the Hapsburg Empire was often the glue that held it together. Clark describes the aforementioned Franz Joseph as an “imperturbable, bewhiskered figure” whom “demonstrated considerable skill in managing the complex machinery of his state.” Franz Joesph was beloved throughout the Empire, and the role of the Monarch as defender of the ethnic minorities was essential in this endeavor. This is partially due to the nature of the Hapsburg dynasty and other European dynasties. Due to the marriage traditions, they were often multi-ethnic families of considerable worldliness. This can be seen in the trio of Imperial cousins of Wilhelm II, George V, and Nikolas II of Germany, Britain, and Russia. It is inaccurate to claim that the Hapsburgs were German singularly. Their multi-ethnic nation-hood made it so that any ethnic group of the Empire could see Franz Joesph as their personal defender alongside his literal actions of defense; such as the blocking of anti-semitic mayoral candidate Karl Lueger several times. “It was widely recognized that his popularity was anchored outside of his constitutional role in broadly shared popular emotions.” It is difficult to imagine that these emotions and Imperial glue would had held in the context of a republican framework.

Clark, Christopher M. The Sleepwalkers. New York, NY: Harper-Collins, 2013.

“On Loyalty to the Emperor, seeStephan Fischer-Galati, ‘Nationalism and Kaisertreue’, Slavic Review, 22 (1963), pp. 3I-6; Robert A. Kann, ‘The Dynasty and the Imperial Idea’, Austrian History Yearbook, 3/I (1967), pp. II-31; Lawrence Cole and Daniel Unowsky, ‘Introduction. Imperial Loyalty and Popular Allegiances in the Late Hapsburg Monarchy’, in id. (eds.), chapters: Christiane Wolf, ‘Representing Constitutional Monarchy in Late Nineteenth Century and Early Twentieth Century Britain, Germany and Austria’, pp. 199-222, eps. 214; Alice Freifeld, ‘Empress Elisabeth as Hungarian Queen: The Uses of Celebrity Monarch’, pp. 138-61.”

Kozuchowski, Adam. The Afterlife of Austria-Hungary: The Image of the Hapsburg Monarchy in Interwar Europe. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013.


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