Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor

Annie Lee | May 22, 2023

Table of Content


Joseph I († 17 April 1711 ibid) was a prince of the House of Habsburg and Holy Roman Emperor from 1705 to 1711, King of Bohemia, Croatia and Hungary.


Joseph I was the eldest son of Leopold I from his marriage to Eleonore Magdalene of the Palatinate. He succeeded his father as Hungarian king on December 9, 1687, as Roman-German king on January 24, 1690, and as emperor and king of Bohemia on May 5, 1705. He also shared with the latter a great interest in music and, like him, was also active in composition. Joseph I was an adventurous, daredevil and daring man. He tamed his own horses and often went hunting with his confidant Matthias von Lamberg. A contemporary historiographer called him "in his youth a model of beauty". Unlike his parents and his brother Charles VI, Joseph showed little piety. Unlike his ancestors, Emperor Joseph I's lower lip and chin did not protrude. He had reddish-blond hair and blue eyes.

Heir to the throne

After Joseph's birth, his father Karl Theodor Otto Fürst zu Salm was assigned to him as his educator. Salm was the ruler of two small Rhine principalities and a former Protestant and student of philosophy. As such, he advocated the separation of church and state politics, which earned him the opposition of the Jesuits, who accused him of being a secret Jansenist. The crown prince had a certain degree of political importance for his father. Thus, Joseph was crowned King of Hungary in 1687 at the age of nine. Joseph was described as an erudite student, multi-talented and very intelligent. Like his father, the crown prince mastered several languages and was also musically active. Joseph's religion teacher Franz Ferdinand von Rummel influenced the crown prince toward a separation of church and state. Joseph's teacher of politics and history, Wagner von Wagnerfels, also called for a reduction of clerical influence at the Viennese court. In addition to the Protestant Prince Salm, Joseph also accepted other Protestants into his entourage, which met with determined criticism from the Jesuits, who especially disliked his religion teacher Rummel. Joseph, however, knew how to fend off his opponents. Thus he had a Jesuit, who one night disguised as a ghost at his bedside had tried to get his teacher replaced, thrown out of the window.

For a variety of reasons, there were repeated discussions between Joseph I and Leopold I about their understanding of rule. Leopold made little secret of the fact that he would prefer Charles as his successor, which soured relations between the brothers.

When the War of the Spanish Succession broke out, Joseph was appointed a member of the cabinet by his father. There he immediately campaigned for the war. But it was only after his participation in the capture of the fortress of Landau that the emperor considered him mature enough. The crown prince not only attended all meetings, but also chaired the Council of Ministers in the emperor's absence. Since he was not allowed to return to the front as a result of the problems of 1703, the heir to the throne occupied himself with domestic politics. He now saw the main culprits in the misery in the president of the Court Chamber, Count Salaburg, and the president of the Court War Council, Count Mansfeld. At the Viennese court, Joseph was the leader of the reform party, the so-called Young Court. This was a group of young civil servants and military officers who demanded urgent reforms. Prince Eugene and other future greats also belonged to it. In the struggle to replace Salaburg and Mansfeld, the crown prince was supported not only by Eugene and the vice president of the court chamber, Gundaker Starhemberg, but also by German allies such as Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden. But it was not until the death of the banker Oppenheimer that the insolvency of the Court Chamber became public. Even the emperor's Jesuit confessor now advocated the replacement of the two. They were replaced by Starhemberg and Prince Eugene. In 1704, the "Young Court" was now finally the dominant force. The reform party succeeded in winning some decisive victories, but it also suffered bitter defeats.

Joseph was now appointed head of the "Mittelsdeputation" by his father. This had the task of raising funds, and so in 1704 the wealthy nobility and the Jews of the hereditary lands were obliged to lend money to the state. Likewise, every court official had to advance twice the amount of his annual salary. A setback, however, was the attempt to establish a state bank of its own. Originally, at Leopold's suggestion, it was to receive 40 million florins over the next 12 years and 5.5 million immediately, but it only succeeded with difficulty in paying in 500,000 florins within a year. The Young Court did not lose influence, however, and even gained new members through Sinzendorf, an Austrian envoy, and Archduke Charles' deputy, the Duke of Moles. Elector Johann Wilhelm of the Palatinate also benefited from the Young Court and took part in the military policy meetings chaired by Joseph. The men had even devised their own strategy for the 1704 campaign and set their sights on the Electorate of Bavaria as target number one. The heir to the throne prevailed upon the emperor to give Prince Eugene supreme command of the imperial forces. At this point, the crown prince's position already corresponded to that of a prime minister. But the domestic political situation was to turn against Joseph and the reform party again in the summer of 1704. Mansfeld was still at court and was now opposing it together with the emperor's Jesuit advisors.

A staunch opponent of France, the crown prince also took part in the Second Battle of Höchstädt, in which Austria's troops won a victory; likewise in the second siege of Landau. Only when he learned in December that his father was seriously ill did the Crown Prince return to take over the government. But when the emperor regained his strength, he began a purge. The emperor listened only to Mansfeld in negotiations with the Lower Austrian Diet and appointed his party's candidate as governor of Bavaria. In February 1705 Joseph was excluded from the council meetings at all. He still formed the Mittelsdeputation section with his supporters, but was politically cold. He took over the affairs of state again a few days before his father's death, although a departure date for the campaign to Germany had already been set.

Ruling style

Joseph I consulted his advisors on government business in a collegial manner. Prince Eugene later said of the emperor that he served him like a brother. Because of his military successes in the War of the Spanish Succession, court historians gave Joseph I the nickname "the Victorious." The emperor's political attitudes were very focused on Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. Thus, when it came to his marriage, he is reported to have said, "No Frenchwoman and no Welshwoman." Joseph I was also a baroque ruler, however. For example, the versatile emperor founded the Kärntnertortheater, had the Viennese sewage system built, and cast the Pummerin, one of Austria's most famous symbols.

One of his most important goals was to dispute Louis XIV's place as Europe's most brilliant monarch. This is particularly evident in the first design for Schönbrunn Palace, which he helped to create and with which he wanted to surpass Versailles Palace. But artists other than Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach were also to present Joseph I as the German Sun King. In order to ensure a glamorous court life, the emperor spared no expense despite a lack of money. During the carnival, for example, one festival followed the other. The sleigh races, in which the emperor himself took part, swallowed up as much as 30,000 guilders. He also spent a lot on music, employing 300 musicians. Joseph I founded the Joseph Academy of Sciences and had Josefstadt, which had been destroyed by the Turks, rebuilt. But everywhere there was a lack of money. At Schönbrunn Palace, work progressed only slowly, the court musicians were rarely paid, and even Fischer von Erlach received hardly any money for his work until 1710. The emperor also showered his friends and servants with gifts. Rummel, for example, his former religion teacher, became bishop of Vienna. In 1710, Joseph I distributed almost all of the Bavarian state property to his ministers. Prince Eugene and Count Wratislaw received additional gifts worth 300,000 and 400,000 florins. The emperor's mistress alone received jewelry worth 74,000 florins.

Joseph's motto was "Amore et timore" (German: "Through love and fear").


Compared to his father, Joseph I was much more decisive and also convinced of the need for reforms. The first innovations dealt with the replacement of the cabinet. Salm became Obersthofmeister and thus de facto prime minister. Baron Seilern and Count Sinzendorf had to share the position of Austrian chancellor, while Count Kinsky became the sole Bohemian chancellor. The much more influential court chancellor became Bohemian Wratislaw. Another significant reform was the reduction of the Privy Council from 150 to 33 members and the splitting of the Privy Conference into eight smaller conferences. Seven of the conferences were to deal with European affairs, while the eighth dealt with financial and military matters. Members of the conferences were mostly experts in their respective fields. The coordinator of this new cabinet became Prince Salm. The cabinets dealt respectively with: the Empire, including Scandinavia and Poland; Hungary; France, England and Holland; Spain, including Portugal; Italy; Switzerland; Turkey, including Russia. In 1709, these eight conferences were again transformed into a single body ("Great Conference"). After Salm's resignation for health reasons (1709), Joseph I established a so-called "inner conference" with Wratislaw, Seilern, Johann Leopold Donat Prince Trautson (Salm's successor as Obersthofmeister), Eugene and Sinzendorf, in which all political questions arising were discussed, to be further deliberated later in the "Great Conference".

The most urgent problem of his reign was financing the War of the Spanish Succession. In Austria, the ruler had to come to an agreement with the Estates on tax claims, and the Estates were hardly willing to pay the immense demands from Vienna. The required sum would have amounted to 27 million florins; under Leopold I, however, only 9 million had been collected due to high corruption and negligent tax collection. In 1705 and 1706, the critical years, the estates had been quite willing to sacrifice, but in 1708 there were again protracted negotiations, but the estates simply did not want to let go of their rights in tax collection and administration. Starhemberg's idea of creating new cadastres in Tyrol, Anterior Austria and Inner Austria was rejected by the Estates. The proposal to unify the Contributio in the "Universalis Accis" was positively received only in Silesia, although the emperor and the ministers had supported it, since they believed there could be higher profits, which could have been done apart from the Estates. Even shortly before his father's death, Joseph had managed to increase the contribution of the hereditary lands by 3.4 million. Joseph I achieved an improvement in the financial situation by streamlining the administration and making civil servants liable for taxes. In Vienna, for example, the staff of civil servants was reduced from 74 to 32. The problem in the provinces was that money was being absorbed mainly by superfluous civil servants' salaries and, in some cases, embezzled. It was therefore decided to keep accurate accounts and to increase existing taxes and introduce new ones. The Catholic clergy was forced to make a "voluntary gift", while the nobles paid a "contributio". Together with these funds, Joseph managed to increase the crown's income to 16 to 17 million in 1708. In 1706, the peak was reached in terms of money collected from the Contributio: 9 million. Funds also flowed to the emperor from occupied Bavaria and the Rhenish territories. Bavaria alone provided 1.2 to 1.5 million. After the second siege of Landau, 300,000 florins flowed to Vienna, which had been collected from the imperial knights of the Upper Rhine. After the occupation and conquest of Italy, as much as 4 to 5 million per year flowed to Vienna for military expenses. With the establishment of a new city bank owned by Vienna, things continued to look up, as the bank repaid 24 million government debts during its existence.

Another reform was the regulation of the peasants' robotic service. It had been court chamber secretary Schierendorff who had drawn the emperor's attention to the abuse of the robot. Joseph therefore issued a decree in 1709 encouraging discussion on the abolition of the robot. Of course, any plan to abolish the robot would meet resistance from the nobility, so Joseph I was content to try Schierendorff's experiment only on the crown estates, which was what happened in the Silesian duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg and Wohlau. All land was divided among the peasants, which they had previously cultivated for the feudal lord. Now they only had to pay a fixed rent and could divide the work themselves. When the reform was passed, despite resistance from the Silesian Diet, it brought higher tax revenues within a short time. In Moravia, too, there was a campaign against the abuse of the robot. When peasants in the districts belonging to the Liechtensteins rose up, the emperor personally received several times delegations of the rebels, who had asked him in petitions to prohibit the unlawful robot. Joseph I even appointed a commission to monitor whether the Liechtensteins were also complying with the law.

War of the Spanish Succession

Joseph's entire reign was filled with the War of the Spanish Succession to assert the claims to the throne of his brother, the future Emperor Charles VI. The Habsburg armies, with the help of their English and Low German allies under the leadership of Prince Eugene, were able to achieve quite considerable successes. His term of office also included the Sendlinger Mordweihnacht in the Habsburg-occupied Electorate of Bavaria.

While Joseph's father Leopold I still formulated honorable resistance as the goal at the beginning of the war, Joseph's goal was an actual victory over the declared enemy France. There were therefore various differences with his brother, as Joseph was less interested in Spain and more in ruling Italy. These efforts to extend Habsburg power to Italy were ultimately to succeed, if he proved durable only in the north. However, the successes in Italy brought Joseph I into conflict with Pope Clement XI, against whom he even went to war. Only in time were the brothers able to consider themselves allies, since in 1709

In order not to get bogged down, Joseph I was anxious to stay out of the other war raging in Europe at the time, the Great Northern War. Therefore, in 1707, he yielded to King Charles XII of Sweden, who had advanced with his army as far as Silesia, by fulfilling his obligations to the Protestants there. Even within his own alliance, the emperor constantly had to contend with difficulties, as he demanded much from his allies but seemed willing to do less himself. The alliances were therefore strengthened again and again by mutual concessions and promises concerning territories, payments and troops. The victories that Prince Eugene achieved together with Marlborough, however, were nullified with the death of the emperor, since Charles, the sole heir, did not want to renounce Spain.

Kuruc War

During the War of the Spanish Succession, Francis II Rakoczi led a rebellion in Transylvania. This rebellion, whose followers called themselves Kurucs (kurucok), had already begun under Leopold I and experienced its climax and end under Joseph I. The issue was Transylvania's autonomy and rights, which were defended by Francis II Rakoczi. The latter even went so far as to have Joseph I deposed in Hungary, to make himself Prince of Transylvania and representative of the new king. Rakoczi also sought an alliance with Louis XIV, but this was denied him. After the final defeat of Rákóczi - who is considered a national hero in Hungary to this day - by Joseph's troops and the Peace of Sathmar in 1711, the rebel fled with his faithful first to France and later lived in exile in the Ottoman Empire. Hungary and Transylvania remained under Habsburg rule.

In the spring of 1711, a smallpox epidemic reached Austria, to which the emperor also fell victim. After a four-hour conference of the government, he took part in a hunt in the Vienna Woods on April 8, although signs of the disease had already made themselves felt. The emperor died at the Hofburg on April 17. He had previously promised his wife that he would hunt his mistresses from the court if he survived.

Due to his sudden death without a male heir, his younger brother Charles, who claimed the throne in Spain as Charles III, now also became the designated candidate for succession to the empire, which would have united both the Spanish and Austrian Habsburg possessions in his hands. For a short time it did look as if Joseph's daughter Maria Josepha would inherit the throne, as this would have been possible thanks to a secret treaty between the brothers dating from 1703, but Charles did not renounce his claim, and was elected emperor as Charles VI.

There was some dispute at court over Joseph I's personal will, since the emperor had bequeathed jewelry and clothes worth 500,000 florins to his mistress Marianne Palffy. Half of this sum went to the descendants of his favorite Lamberg. In contrast, the emperor bequeathed only 50,000 florins to his mother. The alliance with Spain gradually disintegrated and eventually led to an agreement between the naval powers and France.

His daughter Maria Josepha married the later Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony. Maria Amalia married Karl Albrecht of Bavaria, later also Elector (and Emperor).

Joseph I was buried in the Capuchin crypt on April 20, 1711. He was laid to rest in sarcophagus No. 35, designed by Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt. It is decorated with images of various battles from the War of the Spanish Succession. His heart is in the Habsburg heart crypt in the Loreto Chapel of the Augustinian Church in Vienna, and his entrails were buried in the ducal crypt of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Joseph I is thus one of those 41 persons who received a "Separate Burial" with the body divided between all three traditional Viennese Habsburg burial sites (Imperial Crypt, Heart Crypt, Duke's Crypt).

In Vienna, Josefstadt (8th district) and Josefsgasse in this district are named after the emperor.

Joseph married Wilhelmine Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1673-1742), daughter of Johann Friedrich and his wife Princess Benedicta Henrica of Palatinate-Simmern, in Vienna on February 24, 1699. Three children were born of the marriage:

Joseph's affairs and the death of their son strained the relationship between the couple. Before Joseph's accession to the throne, his fun-loving nature was overlooked, as he still seemed young and would be able to father many children. He had his first affairs at the age of 15; his mistresses were chambermaids and noble ladies like Dorothea Daun. But after that, concerns about his lifestyle grew as he continued to produce no heirs. As time went by, the attitude that the imperial couple would be able to have children later also changed, as Amalie apparently suffered from a venereal disease. Joseph had contracted a venereal disease, probably syphilis, in 1704. The empress suffered from ulcers in her abdomen, which had a negative effect on her fertility. In addition, there was an increasing estrangement between the couple, which further reduced the chances of offspring. For this reason, there was more and more contact between Vienna and Barcelona, Charles' seat, as this also made him or his descendants eligible for succession in the empire.

Joseph I maintained love affairs with a wide variety of ladies of the court throughout his life. This began at the age of 15, when he had an affair with three women at the same time. Initially, his parents hoped to stop this by removing his assistants from the court, and later through marriage, but this failed.

This did not change during his reign either. Joseph I's favorite was Marianne Pálffy, a Hungarian noblewoman whose father was the local ban. His love for her, however, did not prevent the emperor from pursuing other affairs. Marianne was, of course, at the center of court gossip. Count Lamberg, for example, wrote, not unflatteringly, that she had once drunk so much at carnival that she had to vomit in public.

As with many other Habsburgs, the decline in ancestry is clearly evident in the case of Joseph I. He had only 12 great-great-grandparents instead of 16, since on his father's side his great-grandfather Ferdinand II and his great-grandmother Margarethe of Austria were siblings and thus his paternal grandparents, Emperor Ferdinand III and Maria Anna of Spain, were cousins. In addition, his paternal and maternal great-grandmothers, Magdalene of Bavaria and Maria-Anna of Bavaria, were also sisters, making Joseph's paternal grandfather, Ferdinand III, also a cousin of his maternal grandfather, Elector Philip William.


  1. Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Joseph I. (HRR)
  3. ^ Johann Burkhard Mencke; Leben und Thaten Sr. Majestät des Römischen Käysers Leopold des Ersten pg 914 google books
  4. ^ Johann Burkhard Mencke; Leben und Thaten Sr. Majestät des Römischen Käysers Leopold des Ersten pg 914
  5. 1 2 Joseph I. (Joseph) // Brockhaus Enzyklopädie (нем.) / Hrsg.: Bibliographisches Institut & F. A. Brockhaus, Wissen Media Verlag

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