Blog category: Austrian History

  • Foot Washing by a Habsburg Empress

    Foot Washing by a Habsburg Empress

    March 30, 2018

    Foot washing, or the Washing of the Feet, is a religious ceremony performed by many Christians on the Thursday before Easter. The ceremony, also known as Maundy, commemorates Jesus’s washing of the feet of the 12 disciples at the Last Supper. As recounted in the Gospel of John (13:1-15), Jesus instructed his disciples to follow his example and wash one another’s feet. During the medieval period, European monarchs participated in Maundy services. To show their humility before God, they washed the feet of a select group of paupers. They also distributed alms as an act of charity. The Habsburg rulers of Austria kept up the practice until the collapse of their monarchy at the end of World War I.

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  • Of Sealing Wax and Emperor Francis

    Of Sealing Wax and Emperor Francis

    March 2, 2018

    Emperor Francis I of Austria – the father of Napoleon’s second wife Marie Louise – was known for his skill in making sealing wax. Like door knockers, sealing wax used to be a feature of everyday life. Sealing wax was used to securely close letters and other documents before the introduction of gummed envelopes in the late 19th century. When stamped with an engraved stone or piece of metal, such as a signet ring, sealing wax was also used to confirm the identity of a document’s signatory.

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  • Morganatic Marriage: Left-Handed Royal Love

    Morganatic Marriage: Left-Handed Royal Love

    January 12, 2018

    A morganatic marriage is a marriage contracted between a member of a royal or noble family and someone (typically, but not necessarily) of lower status, in which the spouse and any resulting children have no claim to royal or noble rank, title, or hereditary property. Another term for a morganatic marriage is a left-handed marriage, stemming from the custom of the groom extending his left hand, rather than his right hand, to the bride. Morganatic marriages primarily took place in the Germanic areas of the Holy Roman Empire and its successors between the 15th and 19th centuries.

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  • Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s

    Dangers of Walking in Vienna in the 1820s

    February 17, 2017

    Pity the poor pedestrian in Vienna during the time in which Napoleon in America is set. Here’s what an English visitor had to say about the dangers of walking in Austria’s capital in the early 1820s. “The Art of walking the streets in London is an easy problem compared with the art of walking them in Vienna. In the former, there is some order and distinction, even in the crowd; two-legged and four-legged animals have their allotted places, and are compelled to keep them; in the latter, all this is otherwise.”

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  • The Marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise

    The Marriage of Napoleon and Marie Louise

    April 1, 2016

    Fancy a royal wedding? Napoleon Bonaparte and his second wife Marie Louise – the “good Louise” to whom he writes about their son in Napoleon in America – had three of them. They were married in a religious ceremony on March 11, 1810, though Napoleon was not present for the occasion. They then had a civil wedding on April 1 and another religious wedding on April 2. Here’s a look at the festivities.

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  • Adam Albert von Neipperg, Lover of Napoleon’s wife

    Adam Albert von Neipperg, Lover of Napoleon’s wife

    January 23, 2015

    Adam Albert von Neipperg was an Austrian nobleman, soldier and diplomat who seduced Napoleon’s second wife, Marie Louise, while Napoleon was in exile on Elba. Charged with this task by Marie Louise’s father, Emperor Francis I of Austria, Neipperg discouraged Marie Louise from joining her husband and eventually erased any feelings of loyalty Marie Louise had towards Napoleon. Count von Neipperg had three children with Marie Louise. He then quietly married her after Napoleon’s death. Together they proved to be relatively popular governors of the Duchy of Parma.

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  • Archduke Franz Karl of Austria

    Archduke Franz Karl of Austria

    December 12, 2014

    Though he merits only a sentence in Napoleon in America, Archduke Franz Karl of Austria loomed large in the brief life of Napoleon’s son, the Duke of Reichstadt. Born on December 17, 1802, in Vienna, Franz Karl was the 10th child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis II (Francis 1 of Austria). His mother was Francis’s second wife, Prince Maria Theresa, a member of the Naples branch of the House of Bourbon. She died when Franz Karl was four. As his parents were first cousins on both sides, Franz Karl was not particularly favoured in the intellectual department. Neither was he physically strong. He was generally regarded as rather odd and dull.

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  • Caroline Augusta, Empress of Austria

    Caroline Augusta, Empress of Austria

    December 5, 2014

    Caroline Augusta was a Bavarian princess who, in 1816, became Empress of Austria thanks to an arranged marriage with Emperor Francis I. Much younger than her husband, she became a “second mother” to Francis’s grandson, Franz, who happened to be Napoleon’s son, Napoleon II. She tried to bring warmth and enlightenment to the boy’s life in the Viennese court.

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  • Maurice Dietrichstein, governor of Napoleon’s son

    Maurice Dietrichstein, governor of Napoleon’s son

    November 21, 2014

    Little did Napoleon realize, when releasing Major Maurice Dietrichstein from a French prison in 1800, that the Austrian nobleman would one day be responsible for the education of his son, Napoleon II. More a musical connoisseur than a military man, Dietrichstein became the child’s governor after Napoleon’s 1815 defeat and remained in that capacity until the boy’s death in 1832. Though Dietrichstein was a strict taskmaster with impossibly high expectations, Franz (as Napoleon II was called in Austria) was grateful for the pains his governor took with his education.

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  • Clemens von Metternich: The man who outwitted Napoleon?

    Clemens von Metternich: The man who outwitted Napoleon?

    February 28, 2014

    As Austrian foreign minister from 1809 to 1848, Clemens von Metternich was a major player in European affairs for twice as long as Napoleon Bonaparte. A closet admirer of the French Emperor, he was concerned to show himself as the man who had outwitted him. Metternich was born in Coblenz on May 15, 1773 to an old aristocratic family whose members had held many high offices in the Holy Roman Empire. After studying philosophy, law and diplomacy, he followed his father into a diplomatic career.

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  • Napoleon II: Napoleon’s Son, the King of Rome

    Napoleon II: Napoleon’s Son, the King of Rome

    February 21, 2014

    Napoleon had at least two illegitimate children and two stepchildren, but only one legitimate child: Napoleon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte, also known as the King of Rome, Napoleon II, the Prince of Parma and the Duke of Reichstadt. He did not hold all those titles at the same time, and you can tell whether someone was a supporter of Napoleon based on how they referred to the boy after 1815.

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  • Francis I of Austria: Napoleon’s father-in-law

    Francis I of Austria: Napoleon’s father-in-law

    February 14, 2014

    When you marry into the Austrian royal family, you might expect some benefits from the situation – say, perhaps, that Austria will not attack you. But no such luck, as Napoleon discovered in 1813, when Francis I of Austria joined the leaders of Great Britain, Russia, Prussia and Sweden in their coalition against France. But then Napoleon had a history of fighting Austria, and had already divested his father-in-law of a good portion of his kingdom.

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We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.

Napoleon Bonaparte