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Empire of Austria

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Empire of Austria


Template:Infobox former country/autocat
Austrian Empire
Template:Native name





Flag 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, Romanian, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Italian, Polish, Ruthenian
Religion Roman Catholic
Government Absolute monarchy
 -  1804–1835 Francis I
 -  1835–1848 Ferdinand I
 -  1848–1867 Francis Joseph I
 -  1821–1848 Klemens von Metternich (first)
 -  1867 Friedrich Ferdinand (last)
Legislature Imperial Council
 -  Upper house Herrenhaus
 -  Lower house Abgeordnetenhaus
Historical era Modern era
 -  Proclamation 11 August 1804
 -  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 698,700 km² (269,770 sq mi)
 -  1804 est. 21,200,000 
     Density 30.3 /km²  (78.6 /sq mi)
Currency Gulden
Today part of Template:Plainlist


Part of a series on the
History of Austria
Early history
Habsburg era
World War I
Interwar years
World War II
Post-war Austria
Austria portal

The Austrian Empire (Template:Lang-de-AT, modern spelling Kaisertum Österreich) was a modern era successor empire centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. Austrian Empire was a multinational realm and one of the world's great powers at the time. The Austrian Empire was geographically the second largest country in Europe after the Russian Empire (621,538 square kilometres (239,977 sq mi)), the second most populous after the Russian Empire, and the largest and strongest country in the German Confederation.

It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire as a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867 to 1918) was itself dissolved by the victors at the end of World War I and broken into separate new states.

The term "Austrian Empire" is also used for the Habsburg possessions before 1804, which had no official collective name, although Austria is more frequent.


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.

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 dissolution of the long-lived Holy Roman Empire with a reorganization of the lost German territories under a Napoleonic imprint 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.

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.

Since 1815 Austria had been the leading member of the German Confederation and in this capacity participated in a war against Denmark (1850 to 1852).[1]

Sardinia allied itself with France for the conquest of Lombardy-Venetia. Austria was defeated in the 1859 armed conflict.The Treaties of Villafranca and Zurich removed Lombardy, except for the part east of the Mincio river, the so-called Mantovano.[2]

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.[3] 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 was transformed into the Austro-Hungarian Empire 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.[4] 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).

Creation period

Changes shaping the nature of the Austrian 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. 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, and to Tyrol.

Status of the Kingdom of Hungary

The Kingdom of Hungary was only formally part of Empire of Austria.[5] It was regnum independens, a separate Monarchy as Article X of 1790 stipulated.[5] According to the Constitutional law and public law, the Empire of Austria has never lawfully included the Kingdom of Hungary.[6] After the cessation of the Holy Roman Empire (Kingdom of Hungary was not part of it) the new title of the Habsburg rulers (Emperor of Austria) did not in any sense affect the laws and the constitution of Hungary according to the Hungarian Diet and the proclamation of Francis I in a rescript,[7] thus the country was part of the other Lands of the empire largely through the common monarch.[5]

The administration and government of the Kingdom of Hungary were not united with the common administrational and governmental structure of the Austrian Empire. The central governmental structures remained well separated from the imperial government, and they were linked largerly by the person of the common monarch. The country was governed by the Council of Liutenancy of Hungary (the Gubernium) - located in Pressburg and later in Pest - and by the Hungarian Royal Court Chancellery in Vienna.[8]

The Empire of Austria and Kingdom of Hungary have always maintained separate parliaments. (See: Imperial Council (Austria) and Diet of Hungary.) Legally, except for the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713, common laws have never existed in the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary.

The division was so marked between Austria and Hungary that there was no common citizenship: a person was either an Austrian or a Hungarian citizen, and no one was allowed to hold dual citizenship.[9][10] The difference in citizenship also meant that there were always separate Austrian and Hungarian passports, never a common one.[11][12]

From 1527 (the creation of the monarchic personal union) to 1851 the Kingdom of Hungary maintained its own customs borders which separated her from the other parts of the Habsburg-ruled territories.[13]

Foreign policy

The Napoleonic Wars dominated Austrian foreign policy from 1804 to 1815. 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.

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 high magnitude losses like those at 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.

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.

Constituent lands

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


Further reading

  • Evans, R. J. W. Austria, Hungary, and the Habsburgs: Essays on Central Europe, c. 1683-1867 (2006) online
  • Kann, Robert A. A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526-1918 (2nd ed. 1980)
  • Kissinger, Henry. The World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh, and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22 (1955)
  • Okey, Robin. The Habsburg Monarchy, C.1765-1918: From Enlightenment to Eclipse (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Rothenberg, E. Gunther. "Nobility and Military Careers: The Habsburg Officer Corps, 1740-1914," Military Affairs (1976) 40#4 pp. 182–186 in JSTOR
  • Rothenberg, E. Gunther. "The Austrian Army in the Age of Metternich," Journal of Modern History (1968) 40#2 pp. 155–165 in JSTOR
  • Sked, Alan. Metternich and Austria: An Evaluation (2008)
  • Sked, Alan. The Decline and Fall of the Habsburg Empire, 1815-1918 (2nd ed. 2001)
  • Taylor, A.J.P. The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918: A History of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary (1941) excerpt and text search

External links

  • Austrian Army during the Napoleonic Wars
  • The empire of Austria ; its rise and present power (Third millennium library)
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