Austrian Empire

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Austrian Empire
Kaisertum Österreich  (German)
State of the German Confederation
(partly, 1815–1866)
Imperial Coat of arms
Imperial Coat of arms
Alles Erdreich ist Österreich untertan
"All the world is subject to Austria"
Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser
"God Save Emperor Francis"
The Austrian Empire in 1815.
Capital Vienna
Languages German, Hungarian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Ruthenian, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Romanian, Italian
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Absolute monarchy
 •  1804–1835 Francis I
 •  1835–1848 Ferdinand I
 •  1848–1867 Franz Joseph I
 •  1821–1848 Klemens Wenzel (first)
 •  1867 Friedrich Ferdinand (last)
Legislature Imperial Council
 •  Upper house Herrenhaus
 •  Lower house Abgeordnetenhaus
Historical era Modern era
 •  Proclamation 11 August 1804
 •  Dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire 6 August 1806
 •  Congress of Vienna 8 June 1815
 •  Constitution adopted 20 October 1860
 •  Austro-Prussian War 14 June 1866
 •  Peace of Prague 23 August 1866
 •  Compromise of 1867 30 March 1867
 •  1804 Lua error in Module:Convert at line 1851: attempt to index local 'en_value' (a nil value).
 •  1918 Lua error in Module:Convert at line 1851: attempt to index local 'en_value' (a nil value).
 •  1804 est. 21,200,000 
     Density Lua error in Module:Convert at line 1851: attempt to index local 'en_value' (a nil value).
 •  1918 est. 52,000,000 
     Density Lua error in Module:Convert at line 1851: attempt to index local 'en_value' (a nil value).
Currency Thaler,
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Archduchy of Austria
Kingdom of Bohemia
Kingdom of Croatia (Habsburg)
Kingdom of Hungary (1526–1867)
Today part of <templatestyles src="Plainlist/styles.css"/>

Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The Austrian Empire (Austrian German: Kaiserthum Oesterreich, modern spelling Kaisertum Österreich) was an empire in Central Europe created out of the realms of the Habsburgs by proclamation in 1804. It was a multinational empire and one of the world's great powers. Geographically it was the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire (621,538 square kilometres [239,977 sq mi]). It was also the third most populous after Russia and France, as well as the largest and strongest country in the German Confederation. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806. The Ausgleich of 1867 elevated Hungary's status. It became a separate entity from the Empire entirely, joining with it in the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary.



The Austrian Empire was founded by the Habsburg monarch Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (who became Emperor Francis I of Austria), as a state comprising his personal lands within and outside of the Holy Roman Empire, including Hungary. [1] This was a reaction to Napoleon Bonaparte's proclamation of the First French Empire in 1804. Austria and some parts of the Holy Roman Empire then took the field against France and its German allies during the Third Coalition which led to the crushing defeat at Austerlitz in early December 1805. By the fourth of that same month, a cease fire was in place and peace talks were being conducted nearby.

Subsequently, Francis II agreed to the humiliating Treaty of Pressburg (December 1805), which in practice meant the dissolution of the long-lived Holy Roman Empire with a reorganization under a Napoleonic imprint of the German territories lost in the process, into a precursor state of what became modern Germany, those possessions nominally having been part of the Holy Roman Empire within the present boundaries of Germany, as well as other measures weakening Austria and the Habsburgs in other ways. Certain Austrian holdings in Germany were passed to French allies—the King of Bavaria, the King of Württemberg and the Elector of Baden. Austrian claims on those German states were renounced without exception.

One consequence of that was eight months later on 6 August 1806, Francis II dissolved the Holy Roman Empire, due to the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine by France, as he did not want Napoleon to succeed him. This action was unrecognized by George III of the United Kingdom who was also the Elector of Hanover who had also lost his German territories around Hanover to Napoleon. The British claims were settled by the creation of the Kingdom of Hanover which was held by George's British heirs until Queen Victoria's ascension, after which point it split into the British and Hanoverian royal families.

Creation period

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Changes shaping the nature of the Holy Roman Empire took place during conferences in Rastatt (1797–1799) and Regensburg (1801–1803). On 24 March 1803, the Imperial Recess (German: Reichsdeputationshauptschluss) was declared, which greatly reduced the number of clerical territories from 81 to only 3 and imperial cities from 51 to 6. This measure was aimed at replacing the old constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, but the actual consequence of the Imperial Recess was the end of the empire itself. Taking this significant change into consideration, the German Emperor Francis II created the title Emperor of Austria, for himself and his successors, abandoning the title of German-Roman Emperor later in 1806.

The fall and dissolution of the Empire was accelerated by French intervention in the Empire in September 1805. On 20 October 1805, an Austrian army led by general Karl Mack von Leiberich was defeated by French armies near the town of Ulm. The French victory resulted in the capture of 20,000 Austrian soldiers and many cannons. Napoleon's army won another victory in the Battle of Austerlitz on 2 December 1805. In light of those events, Francis was forced to negotiate with the French from 4 December to 6 December 1805. These negotiations were concluded by an armistice on 6 December 1805.

The French victories encouraged rulers of certain imperial territories to assert their formal independence from the Empire. On 10 December 1805, the prince-elector Duke of Bavaria proclaimed himself King, followed by the elector Duke of Württemberg on 11 December. Finally, on 12 December, the Margrave of Baden was given the title of Grand Duke. In addition, each of these new countries signed a treaty with France and became French allies. The Treaty of Pressburg between France and Austria, signed in Pressburg (today Bratislava, Slovakia) on 26 December, enlarged the territory of Napoleon's German allies at the expense of defeated Austria.

On 12 July 1806, the Confederation of the Rhine was established comprising 16 sovereigns and countries. This confederation, under French influence, put an end to the Holy Roman Empire. On 6 August 1806, even Francis recognized the new state of things and proclaimed the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.

When, on 11 August 1804, Francis II assumed the title of first Emperor of Austria, the empire spanned from present-day Italy to present-day Poland and to the Balkans and to Tyrol. The multi-national makeup of the empire is illustrated by the fact that its population included Germans, Czechs, Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, Italians, Ukrainians, Croats, Slovaks, Serbs, Slovenes and numerous smaller ethnic groups. The emperor ruled Austria as the namesake, but also held the title of King of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia. The Empire had a centralist structure, although Hungary enjoyed considerable autonomy which was ruled by its own Diet. After the failed revolution of 1848 / 1849, the Kingdom of Hungary lost much of its separate institutions, that it had kept after the proclamation of the Austrian Empire in 1804.[2] Much controversy ensued, including Hungarian efforts to obtain constitutional reform by declining to crown the new Emperor Francis Joseph as King of Hungary. After Austria was defeated in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, and left the German Confederation, the Austrian Empire joined with Hungary, now formally separated from it, to form Austria-Hungary by the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, which granted Hungary and the Hungarian lands equal status to the Austrian Empire.

Metternich Era

Metternich in later years

Although the office of Holy Roman Emperor was elective, the House of Habsburg had held the title since 1440 (with one brief interruption) and Austria was the core of their territories.

Klemens von Metternich became Foreign Minister in 1809. He also held the post of Chancellor of State from 1821 until 1848, under both Francis I and his son Ferdinand I. The period of 1815-1848 is also referred to as “the Age of Metternich”.[3] During this period, Metternich controlled the Habsburg Monarchy’s foreign policy. He also had major influence in European politics. He was known for his strong conservative views and approach in politics. Metternich’s policies were strongly against revolution and liberalism.[4] His opinion of liberalism was that it is a form of legalized revolution.[5] Metternich believed that absolute monarchy is the only proper system of government.[3] This notion influenced his anti-revolutionary policy to ensure the persistence of the Habsburg monarchy in Europe. Metternich was a practitioner of balance-of-power diplomacy.[6] His foreign policy aimed to maintain international political equilibrium to preserve the Habsburg’s power and influence in international affairs. Following the Napoleonic Wars, Metternich was the chief architect of the Congress of Vienna in 1815.[6] The Austrian Empire was the main beneficiary from the Congress of Vienna and they established an alliance with Britain, Prussia, and Russia forming the Quadruple Alliance.[4] The Austria Empire also gained new territories from the Congress of Vienna and its influence expanded to the north through the German Confederation and into Italy.[4] Due to the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Austria was the leading member of the German Confederation.[7] Following the Congress of Vienna, the major European powers agreed to meet and discuss resolutions if future disputes or revolutions occur. Because of Metternich’s main role in the architectures of the Congress of Vienna, these meetings are also referred to as the “Metternich congress’’ or “Metternich system”. During Metternich’s reign as the Austrian foreign minister, other congresses would meet to resolve European foreign affairs. Some These meetings include the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818), the Congress of Carlsbad (1819), the Congress of Troppau (1820), the Congress of Laibach (1821), and the Congress of Verona (1822).[3] The Metternich congresses aimed to maintain the political equilibrium among the European powers and prevent revolutionary efforts. These meetings also aimed to resolve foreign issues and disputes without resorting to violence. By utilizing these meetings and allying the Austrian Empire with other European powers whose monarchs had a similar interest of preserving conservative political direction, Metternich was able to establish The Austrian Empire’s influence on European’s politic. Also, because Metternich used the fear of revolutions among European powers, which he also shared, he was able to establish security and predominance of the Habsburg in Europe.[4]

Under Metternich, nationalist revolts in Austrian north Italy and the German states were forcibly crushed. At home, he pursued a similar policy to suppress revolutionary and liberal ideals. He employed the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, which utilized strict censorship of education, press and speech to repress revolutionary and liberal concepts.[3] Metternich also used a wide-ranging spy network to dampen down unrest.

Metternich operated very freely with regard to foreign policy under Emperor Francis I’s reign. Emperor Francis I died in 1835. This marks the decline of Metternich’s influence in the Austrian Empire. Francis I’s heir was his son Ferdinand. Ferdinand I suffered from intellectual disability.[4] Ferdinand I’s accession preserved the Habsburg’s dynastic succession; however, he was not capable to rule.[4] The leadership of the Austrian Empire was then transferred to a state council composed of Metternich, Francis I’s brother Archduke Louis, and Count Anton Kolowrat. The liberal Revolutions of 1848 in the Austrian Empire forced Metternich's resignation. Metternich is remembered for his success in maintaining the status quo and the Habsburg’s influence in international affairs.[3] No Habsburg foreign minister following Metternich held a similar position within the empire for such a long time or was able to gain such a vast influence on European foreign affairs.[4]

Historians often remember the Metternich era as a period of stagnation. This is because The Austrian Empire fought no wars nor underwent any radical internal reforms.[8] However, it was also thought of as period of economic growth and prosperity in the Austrian Empire.[8] The population of Austria rose to 37.5 million by 1843. Urban expansion also occurred and the population of Vienna reached 400,000 people. During the Metternich era, the Austrian Empire also maintained a stable economy and reached an almost balanced budget, despite having a major deficit following the Napoleonic Wars.[9]

Revolutions of 1848

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From March 1848 through November 1849, the Empire was threatened by revolutionary movements, most of which were of a nationalist character. Besides that, liberal and even socialist currents resisted the empire's longstanding conservatism. Ultimately, the revolutions failed, in part because the various revolutionaries had conflicting goals.

The Bach years

After the death of Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg in 1852, the Minister of the Interior Baron Alexander von Bach largely dictated policy in Austria and Hungary. Bach centralized administrative authority for the Austrian Empire, but he also endorsed reactionary policies that reduced freedom of the press and abandoned public trials. He represented later the Absolutist (or Klerikalabsolutist) direction, which culminated in the concordat of August 1855 that gave the Roman Catholic Church control over education and family life. This period in the history of the Austrian Empire would become known as the era of neo-absolutism, or Bach's absolutism.

The pillars of the so-called Bach system (Bachsches System) were, in the words of Adolf Fischhof, four "armies": a standing army of soldiers, a sitting army of office holders, a kneeling army of priests and a fawning army of sneaks. Prisons were full of political prisoners; for example during his administration, Czech nationalist journalist and writer Karel Havlíček Borovský was forcibly expatriated (1851–1855) to Brixen. This exile undermined Borovský's health and he died soon afterwards. This affair earned Bach a very bad reputation amongst Czechs and subsequently led to the strengthening of the Czech national movement.

However his relaxed ideological views (past that of preserving the monarchy) led to a great rise in the 1850s of economic freedom. Under him the internal customs duties were abolished, and peasants were emancipated from their feudal obligations.[10]

In her capacity of the leader of the German Confederation, Austria participated in a war against Denmark (1850 to 1852).[7]

Sardinia allied itself with France for the conquest of Lombardy–Venetia. Austria was defeated in the 1859 armed conflict. The Treaties of Villafranca and Zürich removed Lombardy, except for the part east of the Mincio river, the so-called Mantovano.[11]

After 1859

The Constitution of 1861 created a House of Lords (Herrenhaus) and a House of Deputies (Abgeordnetenhaus). But most nationalities of the monarchy remained dissatisfied.

After the second war with Denmark in 1864, Holstein came under Austrian, Schleswig and Lauenburg under Prussian administration. But the internal difficulties continued.[12] Diets replaced the parliament in 17 provinces, the Hungarians pressed for autonomy, and Venetia was attracted by the now unified Italy.

Austria was defeated by the Prussian army in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 in the north, but resisted on land and sea against the Italians in the south. Venetia and Mantovano joined Italy. Austria renounced its membership of the German Confederation.

After this military and political disaster, the nationalities made new demands, and eventually a compromise was reached with the Hungarians in 1867. The Austrian Empire joined the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy by the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, which granted Hungary and the Hungarian lands equal status to the rest of Austria as a whole. In June 1867, Franz Joseph I was crowned King of Hungary.[13] It should be noted that the K.u.K. (German for Imperial and Royal) is not related to this fact (the name "Imperial and Royal" was born in 1745 where the "royal" part meant the Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary).

Foreign policy

The Napoleonic Wars dominated Austrian foreign policy from 1804 to 1815. The Austrian army was one of the most formidable forces the French had to face. After Prussia signed a peace treaty with France on 5 April 1795, Austria was forced to carry the main burden of war with Napoleonic France for almost ten years. This severely overburdened the Austrian economy, making the war greatly unpopular. Emperor Francis II therefore refused to join any further war against Napoleon for a long time. On the other hand, Francis II continued to intrigue for the possibility of revenge against France, entering into a secret military agreement with the Russian Empire in November 1804. This convention was to assure mutual cooperation in the case of a new war against France.

Austrian unwillingness to join the Third Coalition was overcome by British subsidies, but the Austrians withdrew from the war yet again after a decisive defeat at the Battle of Austerlitz. Although the Austrian budget suffered from wartime expenditures and its international position was significantly undermined, the humiliating Treaty of Pressburg provided plenty of time to strengthen the army and economy. Moreover, the ambitious Archduke Charles and Johann Philipp von Stadion never abandoned the goal of further war with France.

The Austrian Empire in 1812.

Archduke Charles of Austria served as the Head of the Council of War and Commander in Chief of the Austrian army. Endowed with the enlarged powers, he reformed the Austrian Army to preparedness for another war. Johann Philipp von Stadion, the foreign minister, personally hated Napoleon due to an experience of confiscation of his possessions in France by Napoleon. In addition, the third wife of Francis II, Marie Ludovika of Austria-Este, agreed with Stadion's efforts to begin a new war. Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, located in Paris, called for careful advance in the case of the war against France. The defeat of French army at the Battle of Bailén in Spain on 27 July 1808 triggered the war. On 9 April 1809, an Austrian force of 170,000 men attacked Bavaria.

Despite military defeats—especially the Battles of Marengo, Ulm, Austerlitz and Wagram—and consequently lost territory throughout the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (the Treaties of Campo Formio in 1797, Luneville in 1801, Pressburg in 1806, and Schönbrunn in 1809), Austria played a decisive part in the overthrow of Napoleon in the campaigns of 1813–14. It participated (though modestly) in a second invasion of France in 1815, and put an end to Murat's regime in south Italy.

The latter period of Napoleonic Wars featured Metternich exerting a large degree of influence over foreign policy in the Austrian Empire, a matter nominally decided by the Emperor. Metternich initially supported an alliance with France, arranging the marriage between Napoleon and the Francis II's daughter, Marie-Louise; however, by the 1812 campaign, he had realised the inevitability of Napoleon's downfall and took Austria to war against France. Metternich's influence at the Congress of Vienna was remarkable, and he became not only the premier statesman in Europe but virtual ruler of the Empire until 1848—the Year of Revolutions—and the rise of liberalism equated to his political downfall. The result was that the Austrian Empire was seen as one of the great powers after 1815, but also as a reactionary force and an obstacle to national aspirations in Italy and Germany.

Constituent lands

The Austrian Empire, between 1816 and 1867.
Ethnographic composition of the Austrian Empire.

Crown lands of the Austrian Empire after the 1815 Congress of Vienna, including the local government re-organizations from the Revolutions of 1848 to the 1860 October Diploma:

The old Habsburg possessions of Further Austria (in today's France, Germany and Switzerland) were already lost in the 1805 Peace of Pressburg.


See also


  1. ". In 1804 Emperor Franz assumed the title of Emperor of Austria for all the Erblande of the dynasty and for the other Lands, including Hungary. Thus Hungary formally became part of of the Empire of Austria. The Court reassured the diet , however, that the assumption of the monarch’s new title did not in any sense affect the laws and the constitution of Hungary Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  2. ". In 1804 Emperor Franz assumed the title of Emperor of Austria for all the Erblande of the dynasty and for the other Lands, including Hungary. Thus Hungary formally became part of the Empire of Austria. The Court reassured the diet , however, that the assumption of the monarch’s new title did not in any sense affect the laws and the constitution of Hungary Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Sked, Alan. The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 1815-1918. London: Longman, 1989. Print.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Jelavich, Barbara. The Habsburg Empire in European Affairs: 1814-1918. Chicago: Rand Mcnally, 1969. Print.
  5. Tuncer, Huner. "Metternich and the Modern Era." ARTS-CULTURE -. Daily News, 6 Sept. 1996. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sofka, James R. "Metternich's Theory of European Order: A Political Agenda for “Perpetual Peace”." The Review of Politics 60.01 (1998): 115. Web.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Handbook of Austria and Lombardy-Venetia Cancellations on the Postage Stamp Issues 1850–1864, by Edwin MUELLER, 1961.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Crankshaw, Edward. The Fall of the House of Habsburg. New York: Viking, 1963. Print.
  9. "History of Austria, Austria in the Age of Metternich." History of Austria, Austria in the Age of Metternich. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.
  10. Wikisource-logo.svg Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  11. Mueller 1961, Historical Data, p.H5.
  12. Mueller 1961, p.H6.
  13. Mueller 1961, p.H7.

Further reading

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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. JSTOR 1986702
  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. JSTOR 1876727
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  • Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. excerpt and text search

External links