Thursday, April 18, 2013
The following year, in 1830, at the insistence of his father, the heir was formally crowned King Ferdinand V of Hungary on September 28 in Pressburg. The Hungarian elite presented him with a gift of 50,000 ducats which he donated to the poor of Hungary. As this marked Ferdinand coming more into his own, it was necessary for him to marry and, as usual for the time, the Imperial Family and government took up the matter with Ferdinand having little say. The choice they agreed on was Princess Maria Anna of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emanuel I. Obviously, the disabled crown prince was not the sort of man a young girl dreams of marrying and the Italian princess reportedly burst into tears when told of her fate. However, with the selfless dedication of so many daughters of her house, she carried on and did her duty. The two were married and, happily, became a touchingly devoted couple. Despite his repeated best efforts, Ferdinand’s seizures made it impossible for him to ever consummate their marriage but he loved his wife and she took great care of her rather infirm husband throughout his life with never a word of complaint. She looked beyond his disabilities to see the sweet natured, good man underneath. Of course, not everyone displayed such a Christian attitude and not long after the crown prince narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 1832, an occupational hazard the House of Hapsburg was all too familiar with. The good nature of Ferdinand was displayed again at his wedding when he donated his wedding gifts to built a new waterworks for the city of Vienna.
It was during the reign of Emperor Ferdinand that industrialization took off with great speed in the Austrian Empire and his time on the throne was particularly known for the boom in railroad construction. He also saw the establishment of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the Emperor took a great interest in all of these areas. It is also untrue that, despite the popular perception, Emperor Ferdinand I never had to deal with any major problems and folded at the first crisis to come along. There was, for example, a rebellion in Poland in 1846 which was put down by Austrian troops and paved the way for the annexation of Cracow to the Austrian Empire. However, undoubtedly, Emperor Ferdinand was a peaceful man who preferred compassion to military confrontation. Some felt he was often too kind such as when, in the aftermath of his coronation as King of Lombardy-Venetia, he granted a general amnesty that released many Italian nationalists and revolutionaries who would continue on with their goal to see the Austrians driven out of Italy. Still, his disabilities, while they should not be exaggerated, certainly cannot be ignored. It is, however, unfortunate that all many people seem to remember about Emperor Ferdinand is the story of his supposedly only coherent command being, “I am the Emperor and I want dumplings!”
When the 18-year old new monarch thanked his former emperor, Ferdinand replied, “Don’t mention it, Franzl, it was a real pleasure”. During his reign (especially in Bohemia) he had been known as “Ferdinand the Good” but after his abdication the wittier members of the rebellious mob dubbed him “Goodinand the Finished”. No doubt they were less glib after a taste of the determination of the new monarch and the fire of marshals Radetzky and Windisch-Graetz. For his part, Emperor Ferdinand, who referred to his change in status as a ‘transfer of government’ rather than an abdication, retired with his beloved wife to Prague Castle. He and his wife devoted much time to the Church, both being devoutly religious people, and (to the surprise of the misinformed) he actually showed himself to be a quite competent businessman, dealing in local Bohemian goods, increasing the trade and profits of the region, in the process amassing a considerable fortune for himself which made up much of the wealth of Emperor Francis Joseph following the death of his uncle. Emperor Ferdinand I died in Prague on June 29, 1875 at the age of 82 and was buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna with his predecessors.
Friday, March 8, 2013
|Infant of Prague|
What is perhaps most ridiculous about this is that it was so clearly recognizable at the time and of course the minority that would prove most problematic would be the German minority, right next door to an increasingly racialist nation-state after the Nazis came to power in Germany. This was obviously going to be a problem as can be seen in the case of Italy for example. When the Allies, rather than taking away from the spoils promised to Serbia, handed Italy the Trentino-Alto Adige many Italian leaders, civil and military, were less than overjoyed, specifically because they feared that a concentrated German-speaking population would mean nothing but trouble in the future (and all the while there were Italian-populated areas that went to the new Yugoslavia). So no one can claim that, in the aftermath of the Great War, no one could foresee such difficulties might arise as certainly did arise for Czechoslovakia regarding the Sudeten Germans. The only hope Czechoslovakia had for her survival was in collective security, trusting to foreign alliances to keep them from being taken apart bit by bit at the expense of their neighbors. Allied leaders may, perhaps, have had a problem explaining why this was superior to the collective security that had previously been provided by the union of Czechs, Slovaks, Germans, Magyars, Slovenes, and Croats etc under the banner of Austria-Hungary. Czechoslovakia was, essentially, simply a smaller and weaker version of Austria-Hungary which lacked the strengthening forces of shared history and the Hapsburg monarchy.
So, in the end, Czechoslovakia fell apart. The Czech half fell under the domination of Hitler as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, Hungary and Poland took a slice and Slovakia only remained independent, essentially as a German protectorate, because Hitler, in so many words, told them that if they did not cooperate with him, he would let the Hungarians have at them. After World War II, Czechoslovakia was reestablished by Allied agreement, though with the Soviet Union taking a slice of territory in the east and they brought decades of oppression, murder and an ever higher rate of poverty to a country that had previously been fairly prosperous. They also, contrary to the very Catholic Hapsburg monarchy, imposed a campaign of atheism on the country that proved horribly effective. Particularly in the Czech Republic, religious belief has declined rapidly to the point that the republic is, today, one of the least religious countries in the world. It is bad. If things continue at the rate they are going, one of these days they will be putting the Infant of Prague up for adoption. And, of course, as mentioned earlier, on the first day of 1993 the Czech and Slovak peoples divorced and have since joined the European Union -another multi-national collection of countries with little to nothing in common. The more things change right?
|Croat troops in World War I|
King Alexander I of Yugoslavia did his best to hold things together, outlawing political parties, regional distinctions (flags and such symbols), renaming things and centralizing power. How that may have worked in the long-run we will never know but in the short term it only embittered the nationalities further, though the King did have the good sense to ban the communist party which is always a smart move. The King was finally assassinated by a Bulgarian terrorist from a group that opposed Macedonia being part of Yugoslavia. He was succeeded by the young King Peter II, acted for by Prince-Regent Paul who was eventually forced into cooperating with the Rome-Berlin Axis. Ironically, the leaders of Yugoslavia, just like the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, finally determined that the only solution would be to federalize their country but they were prevented by the outbreak of World War II. Prince Paul was overthrown in a coup, King Peter II broke with the Axis and embraced the Allies which prompted the German and Italian invasion of Yugoslavia. The country was divided up again and there was horrific violence and cruelty as a civil war was basically fought throughout Yugoslavia in conjunction with World War II. The bitterness and desire for revenge would last for many decades to come.
The break-up of Austria-Hungary was certainly traumatic but it was nothing compared to the horror of the conflict that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia with massacres, reprisals and accusations of ethnic cleansing from both sides. This revealed that the unity of the old Yugoslavia had always been a complete fabrication and as soon as the iron grip of tyranny slipped for an instant the long-smoldering rage between the member ethnicities erupted into a conflagration which finally took outside intervention to restore some semblance of peace and order. The immediate question, of course, is whether the Hapsburg monarchy could have made any difference in preventing this tragedy. No one can ever say definitively what ‘might have been’ but the most probably answer is clearly “yes”. Much of the conflict (certainly not all) was between Croats and Serbs and with Croatia inside Austria-Hungary and Serbia outside of it, these two could have brought their full force to bear against each other. Further, we have the historical record to show that in all the years of Hapsburg rule such a bloodletting never took place. It may not satisfy idealists, but one practical reason for this was that minorities were sufficiently divided between the Austrian and Hungarian halves of the Dual-Monarchy that no one group could come together in sufficient strength to cause much trouble.
|Mary, Queen of Croatia|
|The Imperial Family|
People starved, froze and leading republican traitors in Hungary enabled this by actually disbanding the Hungarian military. In the chaos that followed, the communist dictator Bela Kun seized power and was only overthrown by the humiliation of a Romanian army occupying Budapest. Brutal civil war raged between “red” and “white” factions and while a somewhat better state of affairs eventually prevailed the (entirely nominal) Kingdom of Hungary was left in such a weakened state that it had little choice but to stay on good terms with Nazi Germany, and Hungary did briefly regain some territory in World War II but it all ended with Hungary coming under Soviet occupation and being forced to submit to a communist dictatorship that was a puppet-state for Moscow. The Hungarian people were brutalized, the economy was in near absolute ruin and they had only decades of Soviet slavery to look forward to. Many tens of thousands of people were killed in the rebellions against communist rule before the collapse of the USSR finally brought an end to that era. There likely would have been even more conflicts, as seen in other areas, but Hungary had been left in such a weakened state that there was very little it could do as the people were brutalized by a succession of enemies.
Unfortunately, the other Allied powers did nothing to support Italy during the crisis at a time when Hitler was militarily weak and diplomatically isolated without a single major power supporting him. But no action was taken and what Allied unity there was soon broke up over, of all things, Ethiopia. France and Britain imposed economic sanctions on Italy after Mussolini went to war with Ethiopia and so the Duce finally dropped all pretense of friendship with the Allies and accepted the outstretched hand of Germany. That sealed the fate of Austria and any possibility of stopping Hitler and Nazism when it would have been the least difficult. Schuschnigg, Dollfuss’ successor, secretly agreed to restore the monarchy within a year when Hitler decided to move against him, having obtained the assurance of Mussolini that he would do nothing to stop him. And it was in large part specifically to stop a return of the House of Hapsburg that Hitler moved on Austria because he was afraid that the restored monarchy would be a beacon for unity to neighboring countries and that Hungary and Czechoslovakia might reunite and therefore pose a threat to Nazi Germany (which was still far from her full military potential).
|The Hapsburg heirs|
Sunday, February 24, 2013
|Charles V confronts Martin Luther|
The problem with that was that the Catholic Church, which had been around for a while, had seen or thought they had seen people like Martin Luther before. They would rise up, preaching some novelty but eventually fade away and be forgotten. But Luther could point to very real problems and corruptions in the Church with simony, absentee bishops, the selling of indulgences and so on which were having a real impact. This was particularly true in Germany where nationalism was a useful tool as well. It was often easy to convince people to support a German church founded by a German man rather than to pay tithes to an Italian prince far away in Rome. To head-off this problem, Emperor Charles V wanted the Pope to call a council to sort these problems out. Today it seems obvious, especially in light of what happened later at the Council of Trent, and the Popes seem criminally uncaring or lazy not to heed the advice of the King of Spain and German Emperor. However, to be fair to the Pontiffs, history is always close at hand in Rome and throughout the history of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, when an Emperor started calling for a council of bishops it was usually intended to end in the forced removal of the Pope in favor of a more pliable candidate. After this happened several times, the Popes became rather reluctant to call councils together, especially when a German Emperor was the one pushing for it. It was certainly a mistake for the Catholic Church overall that the Emperor was not listened to but one can see why the Popes would have been inclined to put him off and wait for Lutheranism to fade away.
|The Emperor and King Francis I|
In 1526 Charles married Isabella of Portugal, daughter of King Manuel I, whom he loved and adored and had many children with. He was not a flawless man when it came to women but the illegitimate children he had were born before his marriage or after the death of Isabella who passed away after giving birth to their sixth child. The birth of Don John of Austria notwithstanding, Charles V was greatly saddened by her death and wore black for the rest of his life thereafter. However, all of that would come later. In 1527, only a year after his marriage, Charles V launched the invasion that would result in what must be the one really shameful mark on his reign, a horror almost unsurpassed in history. Gathering a motley force of Spanish and German troops (many of whom were Lutheran Protestants), Charles V launched an invasion of Italy aimed at destroying the alliance arranged by Pope Clement VII and bringing papal Rome firmly under his control. The Pope had counted on the King of France to come to his rescue but that did not happen and soon his other allies abandoned him as well. On the other side, because of the seemingly endless wars and the many rebellions in Germany, the Emperor was cash-strapped and when his troops approached Rome they were tired, hungry, impoverished and angry.
|A beaten Pope crowns Charles Emperor of the Romans|
In the aftermath, things continued to go well for Charles V. He worked to make peace with the Protestants in Germany, ending finally in 1532 with the Peace of Nurnberg that granted freedom of religion to the Protestants. In 1535 the Emperor led an attack on the Muslim forces in North Africa, capturing Tunis and the following year defeating French forces in Italy and repelling a French attack on the Low Countries. And, in the meantime, the Emperor reformed the legal system, financed Ferdinand Magellan in his voyage to circumnavigate the globe and saw the Spanish empire in the Americas continue to expand. However, the religious divide in Germany continued to be a problem with war flaring up again in 1547. The Emperor was again victorious but allowed the Protestants to keep what lands they had gained and to continue their religious practices in the peace that followed. It was a short-lived peace though as rebellion broke out again under the leadership of Maurice of Saxony. After more fighting Charles V decided the best way to restore order would be to enact a new law called the Peace of Augsburg which stated that the land and people would adopt the religion of their local noble lord. If he were Catholic, his people would be Catholic and if Protestant the people would be Protestant.
|The abdication of Emperor Charles V|
Saturday, February 23, 2013
As always, the conflict on the border had a style all its own. On one side was General Mejia with 3,000 imperial troops, including about 300 French and Austrian soldiers. Their army was harassed constantly by the regular and bandit forces of Benito Juarez as well as the bandits of the local border chieftain Juan Cortina who switched allegiances several times. In the summer of 1865 General Mejia embarked on an offensive toward Camargo that cleared out the republican bandits and Juaristas. Consolidation was able to take place and the city of Matamoros was cleaned up and work even got underway by a Belgian company to build an opera house in anticipation of a visit by the Emperor and Empress.
Eventually, Cortina drove the imperialistas out of Camargo but he was in turn dealt severe defeats in an attempted raid on an imperial supply train and an imperialista attack on his own encampment. The situation soon degenerated into a no-holds-barred guerilla war. The French and Mexican imperialists decided to fight fire with fire and turned to the flamboyant and vicious Colonel Charles Dupin, leader of the contra-guerillas who struck the republican forces with such ferocity and cruelty that he was nicknamed the “hyena of Tamaulipas” and his men, the “Red Devils”. However, both sides were equally brutal no doubt about it.
The attack on Matamoros went on for sixteen days until an imperial cavalry patrol discovered that the Juaristas had abandoned their lines and retreated on November 9. Total losses for the Juaristas amounted to five hundred dead or wounded and fifty-eight taken prisoner while General Mejia had lost fewer than twelve. Yet, as long as the republicans remained in the area the fight went on with Juarista raiders attacking French and Imperialista detachments. In December, General Escobedo even managed to take Monterrey though it was quickly taken back by only seven hundred imperial cavalry. The town of Bagdad also came under attack, first by American land pirates and again in January of 1866 by forces allied with the scheming U.S. General Lew Wallace. Lt. Colonel J.D. Davis commanding the 118th Colored Troops (the official designation for African-Americans serving in the U.S. Army at the time) at Clarksville, Texas also allowed the invaders to pass and many of his troops even joined the expedition. The raiders overcame the guards at Bagdad on January 5, surprised and captured the guard commander and murdered the imperialist mayor. The town was seized and plundered by the American forces.
|Imperial Mexican troops|
Thursday, February 7, 2013
This did not end Austrian involvement with the rest of the German states, as some might have expected before the downfall of Napoleon, but it did move Austria in that direction. Previous Holy Roman Emperors had tried to solidify Austrian leadership in the German-speaking world; most recently with Emperor Joseph II (who Francis I greatly admired) but he was blocked by the Prussian King Frederick the Great. With the creation of the new Austrian Empire, while Austria joined in subsequent loose unions of the German states, most of the Hapsburg territories (of which Hungary was the largest part) remained on the outside. It was also during this period that the Hapsburg realm became even more diverse which inevitably weakened the position of the German-speaking Austrians. When making peace with Napoleon, Austria lost a sizeable amount of territory (such as Belgium) but was also ceded territory in Italy such as about half of all that remained of the old Republic of Venice. By the time it was all over, much of northern Italy fell under Austrian control as the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, ironically thanks to the success of Napoleon and revolutionary France (the First Republic).
These ethnic tensions combined with militant liberalism to boil over in 1848 when revolutions broke out all over Europe. Emperor Francis I was gone and Emperor Ferdinand I, though a perfectly wonderful man, was simply not up to the challenge. It was a moment of terrible crisis with riots in Vienna, rebellions in Italy and in Hungary. This could have very easily been the end of the Austrian Empire with northern Italy and Hungary engulfed in rebellion there was really only enough military strength to suppress one or the other but not both. There were also other uprisings in almost every minority group such as the Slovaks, the Serbs, the Poles and the Czechs. In the end, a new monarch came to the throne, Emperor Francis Joseph I, and the rebellions in Austrian territory were suppressed. In Hungary, the new Emperor asked Tsar Nicholas I of Russia for help and in a show of monarchial solidarity he sent a Russian army into Hungary to aid the Austrians in putting down the rebellion. Even then, the Hungarian rebels might have done better had it not been for the rebellion of minority ethnic groups in their own territory. This caused some to draw back and renew their support for the Hapsburgs, reasoning that they were stronger together than they would be apart and that an independent Hungary might lose considerable territories to ethnic rebellions of their own.
In 1859 an ill-advised ultimatum to Piedmont-Sardinia sparked the Second Italian War for Independence between Austria on one side and France and Piedmont-Sardinia on the other. Emperor Francis Joseph I took the field himself and met Emperor Napoleon III in battle but it was a bloody disaster, fairly ruinous for both sides but resulting in Austria losing Lombardy. Frustrated in the south, the Austrian Empire looked north and fought in the coalition against Denmark with Prussia and the rest of the German Confederation but Prussia was soon determined to supplant Austria as the preeminent German-speaking power. In 1866 Prussia (and Italy) went to war against Austria which was totally isolated. Again, due to penny-pinching with the military, Austria was swiftly and decisively defeated, losing her place in the community of German states to Prussia and losing Venice to Italy. However, as long as actual German unification did not take place, there was still hope that Austria might regain her place and it was toward that end that Emperor Francis Joseph finally gave in to the demands for Hungarian autonomy as to be able to focus on the Prussian rival without worrying about another rebellion in Hungary. So it was that the Compromise of 1867 came about, creating the “Dual Monarchy” of Austria-Hungary which saw separate but equal parliaments and prime ministers for both halves of the Hapsburg realm; one in Vienna for the Empire of Austria and one in Budapest for the Kingdom of Hungary.
Although it might not have seemed so at the time, the countdown to the First World War began in 1908 when the Austrian Foreign Minister, Alois Aehrenthal, succeeded in outmaneuvering Russia and annexing Bosnia outright to Austria-Hungary. There was no immediate crisis over it but the action enraged the Serbians, embarrassed the Russians and caused Britain and France to take a more unfriendly view toward Austria-Hungary. Italy too was upset as, according to their treaty with Austria-Hungary, they were promised the return of Italian populated territories if Austria-Hungary ever made territorial gains elsewhere but these provisions were ignored. Germany remained supportive but was less than pleased with the development. However, they had little choice as worsening relations with France, Britain and Russia left Austria-Hungary as the only major continental ally Germany had. The annexation also dramatically increased the Slavic population of Austria-Hungary and this encouraged the view held by Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg throne, that a new compromise, similar to that made with the Hungarians, should be enacted to give the southern Slavs equal status with the German Austrians and Magyar Hungarians.
Austria-Hungary mobilized a massive army for the conflict but was hampered by many difficulties. Logistical support was woefully inefficient, Russia had all the Austro-Hungarian war plans in advance and the Dual-Monarchy was almost surrounded by enemies. The initial advance in Serbia was a humiliating affair while on the Russian front there was more success but Austria-Hungary suffered horrendous losses that could not be made up. German reinforcements were increasingly necessary to maintain so many fronts. In 1915 Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary and in 1916 the Serbian army returned with French and British support to a new front in Greece. In November of that year Emperor Francis Joseph died and was succeeded by his great-nephew Emperor Charles I. With the war situation deteriorating, in 1917 the new Emperor tried to arrange a peaceful end to the war but was rejected out of hand by the French and British. This also greatly enraged the Germans who thereafter viewed Austria-Hungary with suspicion and for the remainder of the conflict many, not without justification, viewed Austria-Hungary as a prisoner of the Germans.
Emperor Charles I tried twice to regain his throne in Hungary, where the monarchy was legally restored but under a regent that proved uncooperative. He died in Portugal in 1922 and in 2004 was beatified by Pope John Paul II. Upon his death, the monarchial legacy of Austria-Hungary passed to his son, Archduke Otto, who also had hope of a restoration. Such a thing was discussed by the Federal State of Austria. Engelbert Dollfuss had repealed the ban on members of the House of Hapsburg entering Austria and he had restored the property of the Imperial Family that the first republic had seized. However, he was assassinated by the Nazis in 1934 in a failed coup attempt. His successor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, reserved for himself the right to restore the monarchy and seemed inclined to do so even sounding out Austria’s most powerful ally at the time, Benito Mussolini, on the idea which the Duce said he would not oppose. Once again though outside events worked to block the move. Adolf Hitler (a stridently anti-Hapsburg republican) moved immediately to annex Austria in an operation named “Otto”, presumably because it prevented him from regaining the throne of his father. Few people seem to realize how close this came to reality. Schuschnigg himself actually met with the Archduke (secretly) and told him the restoration would be carried out as soon as possible. Few people also seem to realize how paranoid the Nazis were about this eventuality.