Archduke Alexander Leopold of Austria
Archduke Alexander Leopold Johann Joseph of Austria (Hungarian: Sándor Lipót; 14 August 1772 – 12 July 1795) was Palatine of Hungary, appointed during the reign of his father, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, and serving into the reign of his elder brother, Holy Roman Emperor Francis II.
Archduke Alexander Leopold was born in Florence, Tuscany, as the sixth child and fourth son of Grand Duke Leopold I of Tuscany and Infanta Maria Louisa of Spain. During his education, Alexander Leopold excelled in mathematics and chemistry. He had a fine physique and his father thus wanted him to pursue a military career, with the intent to eventually appoint him president of the Hofkriegsrat.
In 1790, Grand Duke Leopold succeeded his brother, Joseph II, as Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary and Bohemia. Hungary had been ruled by governors since 1765, but the Emperor-King wished to reinstate the office of palatine and allowed the Diet of Hungary to elect a new officeholder. The Diet elected Archduke Alexander Leopold, who thus became the first member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine to occupy the post. In 1792, his father died; from then on, Alexander Leopold served his elder brother who had succeeded as Holy Roman Emperor Francis II.
As palatine, Archduke Alexander Leopold initially led a moderate government. However, he changed his policy after the Jacobin conspiracy in 1794, which left him deeply disappointed. The object of the plot was to make Hungary independent from the Habsburg Monarchy, with Alexander Leopold as its king. He severely punished the rebels and replaced the moderate dignitaries, adopting a policy of repression. The same year, Tadeusz Kościuszko, wishing to secure the neutrality of Austria during an uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia, offered the crown of Poland to Archduke Alexander Leopold. The offer was turned down.
Archduke Alexander Leopold, suffering from poor health, left Hungary for Vienna in 1795, after dealing with the conspiracy. His memorandum, written during his stay in Vienna, shows a rather conservative worldview. He argued that differences between classes should not be overcome, especially when it comes to education.
Because of his interest in chemistry and especially in pyrotechnics, Archduke Alexander Leopold decided to prepare a firework display at Laxenburg Palace in order to surprise his sister-in-law and cousin, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. He decided to manufacture and light the fireworks himself in the casemates of the palace, attended by a few of his servants. Empress Maria Theresa was on her way to spend summer at the palace and when her arrival was announced by a gunshot, Alexander Leopold lit the first rocket. At that moment, the door opened and a draught of air threw the rocket back on the gunpowder. The gunpowder exploded and, unable to escape, Alexander Leopold was burned all over his body. He died immediately, as did his servants.
His body is buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. His heart was buried separately in Herzgruft, Augustinian Church, Vienna. His younger brother, Archduke Joseph, succeeded him as palatine of Hungary.
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Archduke Alexander Leopold of Austria
Cadet branch of the House of LorraineBorn: 14 August 1772 Died: 12 July 1795
Title last held byLajos Batthyány
|Palatine of Hungary