Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor

Orfeas Katsoulis | Oct 5, 2023

Table of Content


Joseph Benedict Augustus John Anthony Michael Adam of Habsburg-Lorraine (Vienna, March 13, 1741 - Vienna, February 20, 1790) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765, first associated with the throne over the Habsburg family dominions with his mother Maria Theresa until her death in 1780, and then also Archduke of Austria and sole ruler until his death in 1790.

Too enlightened and too un-Catholic, during his reign he was regarded by his contemporaries as a typical representative of "enlightened despotism," not believing in the divine right of kings, and as emperor he continued his mother's work according to the principles of jurisdictionalism.

His ecclesiastical policy was inspired by Febronianism and was called Josephinism in his honor. With it the emperor intended to unify in the hands of the state the powers over the national clergy, taking them away from the pope and his representatives, the apostolic nuncios, in a manner very similar to French Gallicanism. Because of this propensity to take an interest in ecclesiastical affairs he was also nicknamed sacristan king.

The early years

Joseph II was born in Vienna on March 13, 1741, the first male child of Maria Theresa of Habsburg and her husband, Emperor Franz Stephen of Lorraine.

In the Viennese Diarium, the official gazette of the capital of the empire, as soon as the news of the birth of the future heir to the throne became known, the following news was circulated:

On the very evening of his coming into the light, Joseph II was baptized and singular were his godparents: Benedict XIV attended by proxy delegating the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Sigismund von Kollonitz, while King Augustus III of Poland was represented on this occasion by Field Marshal Joseph Frederick of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The baby was given the names Joseph Benedict Augustus John Anthony Michael Adam (of which the second and third were certainly chosen in honor of the godparents).

Joseph was born shortly after the outbreak of the War of Austrian Succession, from which Austria would emerge deeply tested; his mother Maria Theresa therefore arranged for him an education geared to the best of the cultural and military knowledge of the time, with studies of the writings of Voltaire and the French encyclopedists on the one hand and the example of Frederick II of Prussia on the other. Government officials instructed him in the workings and details of the administration of the many components of the imperial state, so that one day he would also become a careful bureaucrat.

Joseph II: from king of the Romans to emperor

On March 27, 1764, Joseph II, now deemed sufficiently adult to share his father's powers and to consecrate him as the future heir to the imperial throne, was chosen in Frankfurt am Main, before the assembled imperial diet, as King of Germany (a subsidiary title to that of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) and was crowned on April 3 of that year, assuming the personal motto Virtute et exemplo.

In 1765, upon the sudden death of his father, Joseph II was able to assume the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. In the same year he was also officially associated with his mother as co-regent over all the archducal collation states, but without having the opportunity to give space for his own governmental initiatives. The position of emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, moreover, by the mid-seventeenth century had become more of a title of honor than a full-fledged state office, which further diminished his influence over government affairs, while granting him almost total control over state finances.

We know from period documents that on many occasions Joseph had manifested ideas completely opposed to those of his mother, especially in domestic politics, but he was nevertheless subject to the predominant figure of Maria Theresa, who moreover helped to instill in him the ideals of the Enlightenment, which would later form the basis of Joseph II's politics. Upon his mother's death in 1780, having also become Archduke of Austria, Joseph II attempted to reconvert his policies, but this would prove excessively unfair to his own personal conduct and to the state, which had long since been accustomed to a Teresian line of approach.

Joseph II is best known for being one of the greatest rulers in history proponents of enlightened absolutism. This can be deduced in the first instance precisely from his writings, from which it is clear that he conceived of his own role as head of the nation as a sacrosanct duty to be fulfilled in order to be the conduit that bound God to his people, increasingly centering the role of government on his person, while maintaining an Enlightenment-style policy and ideals: "Everything for the people, but nothing through the people" is the motto with which the conduct of Joseph II's reign was often identified.

Obviously, in this way, Joseph II recovered not only the influence of the Austrian aristocracy, but also the chivalric and medieval tradition that anointed him as king-priest, a fact that prompted him greatly to actively regard ecclesiastical affairs as government affairs. He also abolished the personal servitudes of peasants in 1782, and in royal estates they became hereditary tenants.

This was also accompanied by a great tendency toward centralism, which led him to plan an ambitious internal policy within the empire: he wanted to make Austria a powerful unitary state with Germany, abolishing all linguistic and cultural differences and privileges that distinguished the nations that were parts of the Holy Roman Empire under his leadership. This triggered nationalist tendencies and popular uprisings almost everywhere in the empire, which made him back down from this project.

Another remarkable aspect of Joseph II's politics was his "ars politica," which was expressed most fully in his attention to the artistic expressions of his time. For the Burgtheater in Vienna he commissioned composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to compose what was to become The Rape from the Seraglio, performed in 1782, helping to spread the German language through song and entertaining music. The cooperation with Mozart was faithfully maintained in the following years with the first performance, in 1786, of The Marriage of Figaro and, in 1790, with Così fan tutte, by which time the emperor himself had realized that the Singspiel in German had not taken root and had preferred to return to the Italian language, while preserving and promoting the talents of his homeland such as Mozart.

One of his concerns was the welfare of his own people, particularly in the aspect of health, which he took special care of by building a hospital in Vienna: the hospital took the name "Josephinum" and was personally designed by the monarch down to the smallest details.

In contrast, his reform of working hours for laborers and farmhands was opposed by the old Austrian ruling class, which saw cheap labor by the less affluent classes as an easy form of gain and exploitation.

Judicial reforms

In the field of regulatory sources he implemented three major interventions, always marked by the tasks of the enlightened despot. In 1781 he gave birth to the Civil Gerichtsordnung (CGO), a truly innovative and advanced Code of Civil Procedure for the times and which, in fact, would remain in force until the threshold of the 1900s. It was an autonomous and self-integrating code and provided, from a jurisdictionalist perspective, for strong state control over the judge and legal action. The judge was, in fact, stripped of many arbitrary powers that he had and was subordinated to the law; with respect to the parties, moreover, he was assigned significant functions affecting the progress of the judgment: he was a real engine of the proceedings, in stark contrast to the common law tradition.

He then attempted to carry on his mother's Codex project with the Josephinisches Gesetzbuch, but soon abandoned it to devote himself to his very important Josephinisches Strafgesetz (1787). This penal law, which was also to be applied in Lombardy under the name "Codex," never came into force because the emperor died before its promulgation. It was, however, a crucial step in Austria's path to codification, because it can be considered the first modern penal code. For this text Joseph II made the tradition of Beccaria his own, but at times eliminated its humanitarian content, preferring the utilitarian conception, which was nonetheless present. The sole function of punishment is to prevent the commission of crimes, so what matters is its effectiveness: it does not matter how harsh or inhumane the punishments are, it only matters that they serve their purpose.

Alongside such authoritarian elements, however, the law also embraces some advanced guarantee principles, such as the principle of legality, proportionality and personality of punishment, the prohibition of analogy and the elimination of judicial discretion. There is also an innovative revision of the figure of crime, which is split into two major categories: criminal offenses and political offenses. The former are those behaviors that violate norms of natural law, that is, interests that always and in every system will be protected; while the latter are behaviors that each individual system can decide whether or not to repress and are punished because they are prohibited, not because they are unjust. Many criminal offenses, which are punished with harsher punishments, are downgraded to political offenses, thus punished with less severe punishments; these include, in particular, religious offenses.

It was extremely innovative insofar as it did not provide for the death penalty, although it did so only from a utilitarian and not a humanitarian perspective: longer-lasting and harsher punishments remain more imprinted in the consociates, so they are more useful than the death penalty, which, all things considered, is quick and quickly forgotten. Alongside some points of backwardness, such as the imprescriptibility of crime and punishment, there was, however, another major innovation in this text: the unification of the subject of law; thus finally coming to subject all subjects to the same law.

Joseph II's third major legal effort came with the Kriminal Gerichtsordnung (KGO) of 1788. This judicial regulation in the criminal field was a Code (the first modern Code of Criminal Procedure) that was both guarantorist and statist because, alongside rules that sought to limit the arbitrariness of the judge, it placed certain institutions in favor of the accused. A number of safeguards were inserted into the criminal process, such as the abolition of torture (inevitably such measures fell positively on the accused. There was also provision for the judge to reach both proof of guilt, which would be followed by a conviction of the accused, and proof of innocence, which would naturally be followed by acquittal. Innovative in this point was the inclusion of acquittal for insufficient evidence, when the judge could reach neither a conviction nor an acquittal; thus eliminating the half-guaranteed figure of the semi-reo. The institution of evidence was also regulated in detail, with particular specificity on full proof, which was only in the case of a confession, two concordant testimonies or at least two circumstances. This third situation, however, carried a lesser penalty.

The technical defense was eliminated, for it was the judge himself who had to seek, in addition to incriminating evidence, proof of the defendant's innocence: he had to behave as both accuser and defender at the same time, with an inevitable abandonment of the offender into the hands of one person. However, as a balancing of this situation, the judge was required to behave fairly; but the needle of the scales was again tipped in favor of the magistrate to the extent that this fair behavior was also required of the accused, who, if he kept silent or feigned illness, would be chastised.

Here, too, the coexistence of norms with a strongly innovative, guarantorist and statist content with norms that, instead, still "condemned" the defendant to be a means of proof returned.

Domestic and economic reforms

Under Joseph II's rule, the ideals of mercantilism and physiocracy made wide inroads, which essentially led to renewals in technology, bringing Austria to a state of great advancement in the industrial field, albeit minimal, as the Habsburg state adhered only minimally to the eighteenth-century English industrial revolution. With the death of Maria Theresa, Joseph began to introduce more than 6,000 edicts and 11,000 new laws designed specifically to regulate and reorganize every aspect of the empire. In domestic politics, the spirit of Josephism was benevolent and paternalistic, with the sole intent of making his people happy, but obviously with the criteria that best matched his thinking.

Joseph set it all up personally, rationalizing, centralizing, and unifying government in the various lands of his dominions, a hierarchy of which he alone stood at the apex as supreme autocrat. From government personnel he expected devotion and a spirit of service to the state, as he had first. Such personnel were chosen without regard to social class or ethnic background, but solely on the basis of their merits. To further emphasize this need for unity, Joseph made German the only official language for conducting business throughout the empire, a fact that in the Kingdom of Hungary in particular was strongly opposed, one of the reasons why the national assembly was stripped of its prerogatives and no longer even convened.

Among the reforms enacted by Joseph II was the introduction of the compulsory use of the surname in all territories of the empire, a custom that had already come into use in the sixteenth century but was not yet as widely felt in many parts of the Habsburg dominions, particularly in those that were more backward or recently acquired and thus came from other types of administrations.

Using a key figure in his reign, Finance Minister Count Karl von Zinzendorf (1739-1813), Joseph II succeeded in introducing a uniform system for the management of state revenues and expenditures, as well as for the calculation of debts of the Austrian crown territories. He continued the land registry work desired by his mother (Teresian Cadastre) with the so-called Josephine Cadastre from 1782 when, in line with the policy of Josephism, he decided to abolish all exemptions from land tax enjoyed by ecclesiastical properties, a fact that proved to be a real boon to replenish the Austrian state coffers.

Austria succeeded in this by establishing a much more solid financial system than many other countries of the same era in Europe (think for example of the case of France, whose economic situation would be one of the causes of the outbreak of the French Revolution shortly thereafter). In any case, the events of the last years of Joseph II's rule suggest that the government was still financially vulnerable, as will be seen after the anti-revolutionary wars that followed 1792.

Foreign policy

Emperor Joseph II's foreign policy was essentially one of expansion, but certainly not favored by fortune. Austria's participation in the first partition of Poland brought the empire the government of Galicia, which, however, soon had to revert to Prussia as it had proposed to participate on Prussia's side in the war against the Turks, at the same time expressing a desire to obtain territory that would enable the Prussian state to connect with the Baltic possessions of East Prussia that were isolated from neighboring Pomerania. Despite Austria's proximity to Catherine II's Russian rule, the empire always played a secondary role in the partitions of Poland that followed. Through his participation in the first partition of Poland in 1772, Joseph II also managed to obtain the rich salt mines of Bochnia and Wieliczka, as well as to annex to the empire the territories of Zator and Auschwitz (Oświęcim), part of Lesser Poland, with the counties of Kraków and Sandomir, which at least allowed for the justification of the war efforts made. By many historians this was reputed to be the only diplomatic-military operation in which Joseph II was successful.

In the War of Bavarian Succession, the initial treaties provided that Bavaria should pass directly into the hands of the hereditary Habsburg dominions and that the Wittelsbachs should obtain the government of the Austrian Netherlands in return, but this plan failed, leaving the European territorial situation unchanged. Indeed, Joseph II realized that Bavaria was in an extremely favorable geographic position for Austria and that its acquisition in the direct dominions would greatly benefit his policy of stability, while the situation in the Austrian Netherlands appeared increasingly problematic due to continuing internal tensions.

In 1787 Joseph II again pressured Catherine II of Russia to engage in a new war against the Turks, in which Austria participated with good victories, but from which it took only minimal advantage.

The policy in the Balkans, inaugurated by Maria Theresa and continued by Joseph II, still clearly reflected the cameralism promoted by Prince Kaunitz, mainly involving the consolidation of border lands with the reorganization and expansion of the military frontier. Transylvania was incorporated into the empire in 1761, with local regimental commanders exercising civil and military powers in the area. "Populationistik" was the prevailing theory of colonization that brought prosperity in terms of labor. Joseph II also carried forward the economic measures adopted in domestic policy in these areas. Habsburg influence was an essential factor in the development of the Balkans in the latter part of the 18th century, especially for Serbs and Croats.

The numerous interferences with the old traditional customs of the empire's component peoples contributed to internal tensions, but even more so did Joseph II's foreign policy, an unprecedented expansionism that, unfortunately, in many cases did not take into account that it could offend some valuable and powerful neighbors. He tried to get rid of the Third Barrier Treaty, which prevented his Flemish subjects from sailing the Scheldt. When this was also opposed by France, Joseph II decided to turn to other schemes of alliance with the Russian Empire to partition the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Venice. Even these plans had to be abandoned because of strong opposition from other neighboring states and, in particular, France once again. When Joseph II then resumed his attempts to obtain Bavaria by exchanging it for the Austrian Netherlands, it only provoked the formation of the Fürstenbund organized by Frederick II of Prussia.

The aristocracy in much of the empire was hostile to Joseph II's taxation policy as well as his egalitarian and despotic attitudes: in the Austrian Netherlands and Hungary in particular his attempt to subordinate everything to the government in Vienna was frowned upon. Some discontent began to spread among ordinary people as well. Only a few weeks before his death, the director of the imperial police reported to him, "All social classes, even those who have the greatest respect for the ruler, are discontented and indignant."

In Lombardy, Maria Theresa's cautious reforms had led to the support of many local reformers for imperial rule. Joseph II's centralizations to Vienna weakened the city of Milan's dominant position in the management of northern Italian rule as well as its traditions of local jurisdiction and administration. Instead of provincial autonomy, the emperor opted for unlimited centralism, which reduced Lombardy politically and economically to a peripheral area of the empire. The reaction on the ground to these radical changes came precisely from the bourgeoisie, which began to move away from the spirit of cooperation it had had throughout the century, turning it into strenuous opposition and laying the foundations for Lombard liberalism, which was to be one of the unifying cornerstones of Risorgimento Italy.

Even in the field of language reforms it did not go any better: in 1784, when Joseph II had attempted to make German the only official language of the empire, renaming from 1776 the Burgtheater in Vienna to the German National Theater, the Hungarian Ferenc Széchényi responded by convening a conference where he said, "We shall see whether your patriotism will also pass through the Crown." Julius Keglević responded with a letter in German to Joseph II in which he wrote, "I am writing to you in German, Your Grace, not because of education, but because I am dealing with a German citizen." The "German citizen" Joseph II, in fact, had recently brought the Holy Crown of Hungary to Vienna, giving the keys to the casket in which it was stored to guards Joseph Keglević and Miklos Nádasdy. Joseph II preferred not to crown himself king of Hungary, and Ferenc Széchényi retired from politics in protest. The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, also called the Josephinisches Gesetzbuch, the predecessor of the Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, Austria's civil code that applied equality to all citizens, was published on November 1, 1786 after 10 years of work. In Article 1 it was stated, "Every subject expects security from the prince of his territory and the necessary protection, and it is therefore the duty of the prince of the territory to clearly determine the rights of the people in order to guide them in their actions and for the sole attainment of universal and individual prosperity." As can be seen there is a clear difference between the rights and duties of citizens, but not so for the monarch. The term then of territorial prince (Landesfürst) does not correspond to that of national prince (Volksfürst). In Hungary the text was not promulgated as part of the empire, and therefore the nation remained without a civil code until 1959. The crown was returned to Hungary in 1790, an occasion that was happily greeted by all the people. One of the reasons why Joseph II refused to be crowned king of Hungary was probably that he read that Alcuin had written in a letter to Charlemagne in 798: "And these peoples must not be heard by those who bear the voice of God, for the riotous among the people are often too close to madness."

In 1790 rebellions of protest against Joseph II's reforms broke out in the Austrian Netherlands (Brabant Revolution) and Hungary, while other dominions continued to be restless under the weight of war with the Ottomans. With the empire in danger of dissolution, Joseph II was repeatedly forced to abandon many of his reform plans, which have nevertheless come down to us even if only on paper.

The education and development of medicine

To increase literacy among the empire's population, Joseph II made elementary education compulsory for boys and girls, while keeping the highest levels of education elitist. He created scholarships for poor but talented students and allowed the establishment of schools for Jews and other religious minorities. In 1784 he ordered that the official language of education be changed from ancient Latin to German, a widely controversial fact in a multicultural empire such as his.

From the 18th century, medicine also developed widely in Austria, with the increasing demand for doctors to treat the population. Indeed, the cities employed large funds in maintaining local hospitals, and the monarchy at the same time wanted to put an end to the costly epidemic quarantines that periodically shut down entire sectors. Joseph II therefore attempted to centralize medical care in Vienna through the construction of a single large hospital, the famous Allgemeines Krankenhaus, which was opened in 1784. This, however, greatly deteriorated the national health care, causing further development of epidemic outbreaks and the death of 20 percent of the patients in the new hospital-sadly famous were the countless deaths due to puerperal fever, fought by Ignác Semmelweis-but the city became one of the leading medical centers of the next century.

The incognito journey

One of the curious foreign policy activities that Joseph II put into action himself was to make a trip to Europe incognito, under the false name of Count of Falkenstein, so that he could better study the lives of his subjects and what best he could find abroad. In fact, he was aware that his presence as emperor on an official trip would not allow him to capture all those aspects of ordinary everyday life that he intended to draw from his trip instead. He originated his own false name from the county of Falkenstein, in today's northern Palatinate (about 125 km², 4 000 inhabitants), which was one of the Habsburg estates and the only territorial estate derived directly from Lorraine.

In his 7,102-day reign, nearly 25 years, Joseph II spent a total of 2,260 days outside his residence. All his trips were always prepared with the utmost precision of calculation by the emperor himself. In a letter dated May 19, 1777 and sent to his brother Peter Leopold as he was leaving Paris, Joseph wrote: "... I have calculated my time and distance...I have a total of 39 days of travel ahead of me...." He always kept a very up-to-date diary of his travels with daily entries and experiences, which is a true insight into the life of the time as well as the thinking of Joseph II.

In 1768 he visited Banat, one of the extreme regions of his empire, stopping at the fortress of Timișoara, named in his honor at the time Josefstadt.

In 1769 Joseph II traveled to Rome and then to Naples to visit his sister Maria Carolina, queen consort of Ferdinand IV. In the same year he undertook another trip that took him to Bohemia and Moravia where, in Slawikowitz, he helped a local peasant, Kartos, plow a field.

In 1773 he made another trip to the Banat, also visiting Transylvania and newly acquired Galicia. In Transylvania he had the opportunity to visit the villages of Großpold where there were strong Lutheran communities. In Sibiu the emperor stayed at the "Blue Star" inn, which was later renamed the "Roman Emperor's."

In 1777 Joseph II traveled to France, again under the false name Count of Falkenstein, with Count Johann Philipp von Cobenzl and Count Joseph Colloredo-Mels and Wallsee as his escorts. This trip of his, in addition to having a chance to see France again, was also intended to visit his sister Marie Antoinette, whose behavior had also caused concern at the court in Vienna because of her interference in French domestic politics, since she had even proposed the annexation of most of Bavaria and Switzerland. The hypothesis that it was Joseph II himself who advised his brother-in-law Louis XVI to undergo phimosis surgery in order to fulfill his dynastic duties is controversial, since documents relating to this operation are not available in French archives. An indication of this hypothesis might be the fact that Joseph brought to the French court the Italian surgeon Giovanni Alessandro Brambilla, a renowned specialist in the field.

On the trip he took the opportunity to visit Munich, Stuttgart, Strasbourg, and Nancy and then on to Brest, Nantes, Orléans, Bordeaux, San Sebastián, Toulouse, Marseille, Geneva, Basel, Freiburg, Constance, Innsbruck, and finally to the Austrian capital. The diary of Joseph II's trip to France has not come down to us, but instead we have the letters he sent to his mother and siblings from France, which were published only in 1866-1869 by Alfred Arneth.

During this French period Joseph II had the opportunity to meet some of the leading Enlightenment geniuses of his time, such as Buffon, Albrecht von Haller, Lavater, Rousseau, and Voltaire. He turned his attention in particular to the analysis of social institutions, industrial plants and military installations. In France Joseph had the opportunity to meet the French minister Vergennes, who described the emperor as "ambitious and despotic."

The Count of Falkenstein traveled again incognito in 1781 to the Austrian Netherlands. At the end of May that year he arrived to inspect the military fortress of Namur, and then moved on to visit Charleroi, Dunkirk, Ostend, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven, and Brussels, where he had the opportunity to visit ports, factories, farms, hospitals, and orphanages. He then went to the Republic of the Seven United Provinces and had the opportunity to personally visit the natural history collection of stadtholder Wilhelm V of Orange in The Hague, the gardens of Unico Wilhelm van Wassenaer, and had the opportunity to meet mayor Joachim Rendorp in Amsterdam, with whom he secretly set the stage for the border on the nearby river with Prince Louis Ernest of Brunswick-Lüneburg. He visited Den Helder, Zaandam and the village of Broek. At the end of July he traveled through Maastricht and then was in Paris. On the return trip he passed through Mömpelgard, Constance and then arrived in Vienna.

In 1783 Joseph II passed through Transylvania again, where he was able to gather numerous petitions and insights, particularly from the Wallachians and the Hungarian aristocracy. In 1781, in fact, Joseph II had abolished serfdom in the local lands, but met resistance in this from the local nobility.

In April 1787 Joseph II, now preparing for a new war against the Turks, thought of continuing to travel incognito to Russia. In early June 1787 he therefore undertook a tour to the Crimea and already by the end of June returned to Vienna. His meeting with Tsarina Catherine confirmed his personal views about the Russian empress and concluded that both were favorably inclined to attack the Ottoman Empire and dominate the Black Sea. By 1780 he had already stayed three weeks in St. Petersburg.

Religious reforms and Josephism

However, one of the certainly most remarkable aspects of Joseph II's governing policy can be considered the so-called Josephinism, which changed with a radical turn the conception of religion not only in the Habsburg dominions but throughout Europe.

During the reign of Joseph of Habsburg a third of the convents were suppressed and contemplative and religious orders were reduced in number. There were at least 700 closed convents and the number of religious fell from 65,000 to 27,000. At the same time the emperor promoted the establishment of state seminaries to educate all clergy and colleges, such as the German-Hungarian College in Pavia.

Between 1781 and 1785, the emperor abolished religious discrimination against Lutherans, Calvinists, Orthodox, Jews and Freemasons (Toleration License).

To sum up, there are four objectives of his church reforms:

This ecclesiastical policy, of course, aroused the opposition of Pope Pius VI, who went all the way to Vienna in 1782 to try in vain to moderate the emperor's reforms, which in any case were adamant.

The last years and death

In November 1788 Joseph II returned to Vienna after one of his trips on which he had fallen seriously ill, to such an extent that as early as 1789 a co-regency of his brother and heir Leopold had been contemplated for him, partly in order to deal with an unfavorable international situation: in fact, the imperial troops had mostly centralized on the Belgian border after the first hints of French revolution in the summer of that same year. In Hungary, then, the local nobles were in open rebellion, and in all the states of the empire small and medium-sized uprisings could be seen breaking out almost daily, bringing feelings of nationalistic vindication to the fore.

Joseph was left to his own devices, however, to such an extent that Kaunitz, his trusted minister, refused to visit him when he was in bed suffering and did not see him for the next two years of the emperor's life. Peter Leopold, the Emperor's younger brother, remained in Florence where he was Grand Duke, heedless of the fate of his brother's empire.

Emperor Joseph II died on February 20, 1790, of tuberculosis. In the absence of descendants, he was succeeded, as was easy to predict, by his younger brother Leopold. His body was buried in tomb 42 of the Kapuzinergruft (Capuchin Crypt) in Vienna along with the remains of his ancestors. On the occasion of his death Ludwig van Beethoven composed the "Cantata for the Death of Joseph II" (WoO87) for orchestra, choir and solo voices.

He himself dictated his epitaph: "Hier ruht Joseph II., der in allem versagte, was er unternahm" ("Here lies Joseph II, he who failed whatever he undertook").

On October 6, 1760 Joseph married Princess Isabella of Bourbon-Parma, by whom he had two daughters, both of whom died in infancy:

After the death of the queen consort Isabella in 1763, just in a desperate attempt to give birth to his second daughter, Joseph remarried on January 23, 1765, to Mary Joseph of Bavaria, daughter of the former emperor Charles VII and his aunt Maria Amalia of Habsburg, by whom in any case he had no children.

H.M.I. and R. Ap. Joseph II

By the grace of God,

Elected Holy Roman Emperor, ever august,

King in Germany and of Jerusalem, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomuria;

Archduke of Austria,

Duke of Burgundy, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia and Carniola,

Grand Duke of Tuscany,

Grand Prince of Transylvania,

Margrave of Moravia,

Duke of Brabant, Limburg, Luxembourg and Gelderland, Württemberg, Upper and Lower Silesia, Milan, Mantua, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, Auschwitz and Zator, Calabria, Bar, Monferrato and Teschen,

Prince of Swabia and Charleville,

Princely count of Habsburg, Flanders, Tyrol, Hennegau, Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca,

Margrave of the Holy Roman Empire of Burgau, Upper and Lower Lusatia, Pont-à-Mousson and Nomeny,

Count of Namur, Provence, Vaudémont, Blâmont, Zutphen, Sarrewerden, Salm and Falkenstein,

Lord of the Brand of Vendi and Mecheln, Lord of Trieste etc., etc.


  1. Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
  2. Giuseppe II d'Asburgo-Lorena
  3. ^ Beales 1987, p. 77.
  4. ^ Hopkins, p. 63[full citation needed]
  5. ^ Padover 1934, p. 300.
  6. ^ Padover 1934, p. 313.
  7. ^ Gutkas Karl: "Joseph II. Eine Biographie", Wien, Darmstadt 1989, S. 15.
  8. ^ Saul K. Padover, The Revolutionary Emperor, Joseph the Second 1741–1790. (1934) pp 384–85.
  9. Jan Baszkiewicz, Francja nowożytna. Szkice z historii wieków XVII-XX. Wydawnictwo Poznańskie Poznań 2002, s.40.
  10. Französisch Joseph II, italienisch Giuseppe II, kroatisch Josip II., lateinisch Josephus II, niederländisch Jozef II, polnisch Józef II, rumänisch Iosif al II-lea, serbisch-kyrillisch Јозеф II, slowakisch Jozef II., slowenisch Jožef II, tschechisch Josef II., ukrainisch Йосиф II, ungarisch II. József.
  11. In Frankreich wurde Joseph als „empereur d’Autriche“, in Deutschland zunehmend als „deutscher Kaiser“ bezeichnet, was nicht der offiziellen Titulatur entsprach und den Niedergang der Reichsidee dokumentiert.
  12. Karl Gutkas: Joseph II. Eine Biographie. Wien/ Darmstadt 1989, S. 16.

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