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Celebrate Emperor Franz Joseph 1830-1916

April 7, 2016 9:00 am by

21st November 2016 will mark the centenary of Emperor Franz Joseph’s I. death. As the ruler of the Danube Monarchy for almost 68 years, he was also the longest reigning Emperor in Habsburg history, passing away in the iconic Schönbrunn Palace at the impressive age of 86.

Looking back, Franz Joseph I was just eighteen years old when he ascended the Austrian throne in 1848, the year of the revolution, after his uncle Emperor Ferdinand abdicated in his favour. During his reign he saw unfold many important historic events, such as the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867,  leading to the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy. Later, 1914 saw the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie which lead to the declaration of war against the kingdom of Serbia and triggered World War I.

Vienna’s architecture and aesthetic benefited hugely under the reign of Franz Joseph I’s, when he razed the city walls of Vienna and built the Ringstraße (central circular grand boulevard of Vienna) which is now home to some of the most magnificent buildings in the city, such as the State Opera House, the Museums of Art History and Natural History, the City Hall, Burgtheater and the Parliament.

During the 1900s, Vienna was flourishing as a social and cultural hub, which was contrast to the ethos and political convictions of the Emperor, who strongly believed in his empire by grace of god, accepting and inviting no other parliamentary participation – a hard pill to swallow by some!

Nevertheless, Emperor Franz Joseph I. was popular with his people. You might recognise his surly appearance and judge him to be a miserable sovereign, however, it was due to many unfortunate life events in his personal which shaped his character. His first-born daughter Sophie died at the tender age of two and later in 1867 his brother Maximilian was executed in Mexico. Two years later his only son Rudolf committed suicide in Mayerling, and finally in 1898 he lost his beloved wife Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) in one of the country’s most infamous assasinations. It was learning of her death that he is said to have claimed “I am spared nothing on this world”.

There are many different views on how this historic character, Franz Joseph I. reigned as Emperor. On one hand many agree that it was thanks to him that Vienna flourished and sustained power in both monarchic power and economical terms; yet others, both past and present, viewed his absolute politics as controlled and outdated. However, you can’t discount the sufferings he had to bear from his personal losses, to his far-from-ideal upbringing by his mother.

To celebrate and mark the centenary of Emperor Franz Joseph I there are many special exhibitions being held in the most notable museums and landmarks in Vienna, bringing to light the many facets of his personality and his political legacy.

Schönbrunn Palace: “Man & Monarch”

The exhibition in the White and Gold Rooms, the Bergl Rooms and the Crown Prince Apartment is dedicated to Franz Joseph as an individual and his politics.

Imperial Carriage Museum Vienna: “Majesty & Modesty”

This exhibition shows vehicles and mementos from major events in the emperor’s life.

Imperial Furniture Collection Vienna: “Festivities & Everyday Life”

This exhibition presents the contrast between the personal modesty of the emperor and the pompous lifestyle imposed on him by societal expectations.

Niederweiden Palace: “Hunting & Recreation”

The exhibition at the imperial hunting lodge is dedicated to Franz Joseph’s passion for hunting.

In addition to that, the Austrian National Library shows from March 11th to November 27th the exhibition The Eternal Emperor. Franz Joseph I. 1830-1916. Over 10,000 photographs, graphics, books, magazines and documents which belonged to Franz Joseph are now in the possession of the Austrian National Library. The exhibition shows the highlights of this vast collection. Centrepiece of the show is a 10-meter-long picture wall with 86 portraits of the 86 years of the emperor’s life.

Apart from the special exhibitions on occasion of the centenary of his death, it is also possible to gain insight into Franz Joseph’s life at the Museum of Military History, which shows the most important objects, paintings, and uniforms from Franz Joseph’s time and illustrates the multi-ethnic state Austria-Hungary in the Franz Joseph Hall.

You can visit the tombs of Habsburg monarchs passed by in the Imperial Burial Vault.

All exhibitions and sights above can be visited with your Vienna PASS free of charge.