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Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Jerusalem, King of Bohemia, King of Dalmatia, King of Transylvania, King of Croatia and Slovenia, King of Galicia and Illyria, Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Margrave of Moravia, Duke of Salzburg, Duke of Bukovina, Duke of Modena, Parma, and Piacenza and so on, another thirty or so titles could be added. Was ever a monarch so festooned as Emperor Francis Joseph? He ruled from the Year of the Revolutions, 1848 until his death in 1916. His empire was the most multi-national state ever. An ethnic map of 1910 shows there to be Germans, Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Ruthenes, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Italians, Jews, Muslims, Ladins (in the Tyrol) and Roumanians. What is more, even together the Germans and the Magyars constituted a minority. And yet, as Alan Palmer observes no other European monarch ‘exercised full sovereignty for so long.’ Unlike Queen Victoria he ruled rather than merely reigned. That alone suggests he was something more than the humourless bureaucrat he is commonly thought to have been, and Alan Palmer is successful in providing a more rounded and sympathetic portrait of him both as head of an empire and head of a family.
His personal life was punctuated with tragedy: his brother, Maximilian was executed y Mexican republicans; his only son, Rudolf shot himself and his mistress at Mayerling; his wife, Empress Elizabeth, was stabbed to death in Geneva, and his nephew and heir, Francis-Ferdinand was assassinated at Sarajevo.
This was the first biography of Francis Joseph by an English writer and was acclaimed when originally published in 1994.
‘With great skill Mr Palmer blends in the Emperor’s private life with the story of the Empire. . . This is an important book; also an entrancing one.’ Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
‘A compelling read’ Lawrence James, Evening Standard
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