Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary


In the year 1900 Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin invented the great flying wonder that was the Zeppelin. The Seeberger-Otis wooden escalator won first prize at the Paris Exposition Universelle. Europe was a new and exciting place. Except for the medieval fantasy that was the Empire of Austria and Hungary.

There were several monarchies in Europe such as; the Romanovs in Russia; the Hohenzollerns in Germany; the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Britain; the Hernadottes in Sweden and the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg in Norway. But none reached the legendary fairy tale heights of the Habsburgs of the Empire of Austria and Hungary. The House of Habsburg had arisen in the 10th century from the ruling family of the castle of Habsburg in Switzerland. From there the family had spread across Europe acquiring lands by a mixture of marriage, conquest and treaty. By the 16th century the family ruled vast lands across Europe and separated into the senior Habsburg branch in Spain and the junior Habsburg branches. One of these was the Austrian branch that became the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Despite being one of the most junior branches of the original Habsburgs the House of Habsburg-Lorraine continued the family tradition of marriage, conquest and treaty and by 1900 ruled over a vast empire that covered most of central and south-eastern Europe.


In 1867, the ‘Compromise’ had created a constitutional union of the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. This union consisted of the two monarchies, Austria and Hungary, and the autonomous region of Croatia–Slavonia under the Hungarian crown. The  two regions of the Empire were Cisleithanian, the lands and provinces of the Imperial Council, which included Austrian, and Transleithanian, Hungary. The newly created empire was geographically the second largest country in Europe and the third most populous. The peoples of the Habsburg Empire included, Germans, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), Hungarians (Magyars), Rumanians, Serbs, Croats, Poles, Silesians and Italians.

And over it all reigned His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty, Franz Joseph I, by the Grace of God Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatio, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria; King of Jerusalem; Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and of Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, Oswiecin, Zator, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara; Princely Count of Habsburg, Tyrol, Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and the Wendish March; Grand Voivode of the Voivodship of Serbia.

The Empire Franz Josef ruled over was a mixture of lands and peoples and had been acquired over many years in a variety of ways. As a result, by the time the Empire of Austria and Hungary had come into existence the rule of the land had developed into a three-headed dog.

The Imperial Council, and the fifteen individual crown lands of Cisleithania with their own diets; the Cisleithanian government and the Hungarian government.
The parliament of the kingdom of Hungary convened in Budapest. Vienna had both the Imperial Council and the Cisleithanian government. The Hungarian parliament dealt with the governance of Hungarian. The Cisleithanian government dealt with governance of the lands and provinces in Cisleithania. The Imperial Council dealt with the Austro-Hungarian Army, the Austro-Hungarian Navy and the Foreign Ministry, the maintenance of the Imperial Court in Austria and Royal Court in Hungary and any governance matters that impinged on Imperial matters.

Both Cisleithania and Hungary had Prime Ministers and full cabinets. However, there was only one Foreign Minister who was a direct link between Franz Josef and the two cabinets. The Foreign Minister was also responsible for ‘family celebrations of his Majesty’. The two Prime Ministers shared one Minister of Finance and one Minister of War. These men rules in Austria as ‘Imperial Excellencies’ and in Hungary as ‘Royal Excellencies’.
The government in Budapest was responsible to the King (His Royal Apostolic Majesty Franz Josef) although controlled by the  Hungarian nobility. The Hungarian parliament was elected on a limited franchise. The government in Vienna was responsible to the Emperor (His Imperial Majesty Franz Josef) while the parliament was elected on a limited franchise. The Council in Vienna was responsible to the Emperor. Its members were elected from the two governments.

These elected members discussed matters with the Ministers of the Imperial Council which acted as the legislature of Cisleithania and the Empire, except where matters was purely Hungarian; although His  Royal Apostolic Majesty, Franz Josef, could, as King of Hungary pass legislation for the Hungarians. Even if the matter in hand concerned both Cisleithania and Hungary the respective delegates conducted their initial discussions separately from each other as a matter of protocol. His  Royal Apostolic Majesty, Franz Josef, in the guise of his Ministers, could not be privy to the discussions of his Imperial Majesty, Franz Josef, in the guise of his Ministers, and vice versa. After initial discussions, the matters were then presented to the Imperial Council where the Ministers of his Royal Apostolic Majesty, Franz Josef, could notify the Ministers of his Imperial Majesty, Franz Josef, or vice versa, about the pertinent matter.

In addition to the royal and parliamentary protocols that were in place each parliament had its own civil service. These produced materials in either German and Hungarian for internal matters or in German for matters that needed to be discussed with the other parliament or the Council. The Imperial Council also had its civil service which produced material in German. The official language in the Cisleithanian parliament was German. However, the vast majority of the population of Cisleithania and a large minority of deputies in the parliament did not use German as their first language. Nationalist politics used the question of language as a means by which to voice political discontent. In 1897, the minister-president Count Kasimir Felix Badeni failed to introduce a language ordinance, requiring the use of German in speeches. Many of the Czech delegates used this lapse to demand greater freedoms for the use of the Czech language. They were supported by other Slavic groups calling for greater freedoms in language and political autonomy. These calls were opposed by the German Radicals and the Pan-Germanists. Other delegates joined the debate deliberately speaking in their own languages. These debates descended into shouting and occasionally fighting. While this appalled most members of the nobility and the Imperial Council it made the public gallery of the parliament house hugely popular as an afternoon’s entertainment for many ordinary Viennese.

And above it all reigned the ever benevolent Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty, Franz Joseph I, by the Grace of God Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary.


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