The figure of Emperor Franz Joseph I is inextricably linked with Vienna and the history of Austria in general, as he stood at the head of the monarchy for 68 years (from 1848 to 1916)! His titles would take up at least five lines in this article, and I still wouldn’t be sure if I had listed them all.
It is interesting, however, that despite the fact that he is looking at us today from many souvenirs, he has only one statue in the Austrian capital.
Life had not handled this emperor with kid gloves, since childhood he had been strictly brought up as the future ruler and later, he had to deal with several painful losses. His sentence is well known: Mir bleibt nichts erspart (I have been spared nothing in my life):
– 1867 – his brother Maximilian was executed in Mexico
– 1889 – his only son, heir to the throne, Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide
– 1896 – new heir to the throne, Franz’s younger brother Karl Ludwig died of typhus after drinking water from the sacred Jordan River
– 1898 – his beloved Sisi was murdered
and finally the assassination of the next successor, his nephew Franz Ferdinand d‘Este in Sarajevo, and the declaration of war in 1914.
It wasn’t easy with his statue either. After the emperor’s death, the construction of a monument was considered, but the monarchy fell apart, the atmosphere was not favorable. It was not until 1937 that two sculptors received an official order, but the annexation of Austria by the Nazis thwarted these plans. It was only after World War II, in 1957, on August 18 – the Emperor’s birthday – over 40 years after his death – that the statue was unveiled in Vienna thanks to a private initiative, which until then had rusted in a warehouse. It is a bronze casting made by Josef Tuch according to the stone original of his teacher, the important Austrian sculptor Johannes Benko, from 1904. The statue is located in the former private garden of the emperor – Burggarten, which was opened to the public three years after the emperor’s death.
Like original, like statue: the emperor looks sad and lonely, which he often was, because his Sisi traveled more and more, fleeing from her husband, children, court etiquette and the duties of the first lady of the monarchy. The emperor has his back to the street, which is also characteristic in my opinion because even though he got up at half past three every morning so that he could start dealing with monarchy affairs at his desk as soon as possible after breakfast, he did not know anything about the lives of ordinary people…
7 interesting facts you may not know about Franz Joseph I.:
1. his mother was convinced that she was raising a future monarch, so she had him portrayed every year since his birth
2. he was a real workaholic, working about 16 hours a day
3. he almost always wore a uniform, rarely wearing civilian clothes. He knew exactly which cap or helmet belonged to which uniform. He is immortalized in the uniform on the mentioned statue as well.
4. his favorite food was Tafelspitz – a fine piece of beef, boiled until so soft that you (and the emperor) could eat it with a spoon
5. when the heir to the throne was finally born (on the third attempt), the Emperor gave his wife a three-tiered pearl necklace and placed the Order of the Golden Fleece in his son’s cradle and made him head of the army on the first day of his life
6. he slept on a simple iron bed and was sceptical to all technical innovations – he did not like cars, telephones, electricity or flush toilets
7. he never commanded his servants, but always asked respectfully, even if he only needed a glass of water. And he always thanked.
Where you may find the only statue of Emperor Franz Joseph I in Vienna: Burggarten 1, Ringstrasse
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri