Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor

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Joseph I
Joseph I in 1705. Portrait by Franz Stampart
Holy Roman Emperor;
King of Bohemia;
Archduke of Austria;
King of Croatia
Reign5 May 1705 – 17 April 1711
PredecessorLeopold I
SuccessorCharles VI
King of the Romans
Reign23 January 1690 – 17 April 1711
Coronation26 January 1690, Augsburg
PredecessorLeopold I
SuccessorCharles VI
King of Hungary
Reign9 December 1687 – 17 April 1711
Coronation9 December 1687, Pressburg
PredecessorLeopold I
SuccessorCharles VI
Born(1678-07-26)26 July 1678
Vienna, Austria
Died17 April 1711(1711-04-17) (aged 32)
Vienna, Austria
SpouseWilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg
IssueMaria Josepha, Queen of Poland
Archduke Leopold Joseph
Maria Amalia, Holy Roman Empress
German: Joseph Jacob Ignaz Johann Anton Eustachius[1]
HouseHouse of Habsburg
FatherLeopold I, Holy Roman Emperor
MotherEleonore-Magdalena of Neuburg
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Joseph I (Joseph Jacob Ignaz Johann Anton Eustachius; 26 July 1678 – 17 April 1711) was Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy from 1705 until his death in 1711. He was the eldest son of Emperor Leopold I from his third wife, Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg. Joseph was crowned King of Hungary at the age of nine in 1687 and King in Germany at the age of eleven in 1690. He succeeded to the thrones of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire when his father died.

Joseph continued the War of the Spanish Succession, begun by his father against Louis XIV of France, in a fruitless attempt to make his younger brother Charles (later Emperor Charles VI) King of Spain. In the process, however, owing to the victories won by his military commander, Prince Eugene of Savoy, he did succeed in establishing Austrian hegemony over Italy. Joseph also had to contend with a protracted revolt in Hungary, fomented by Louis XIV. Neither conflict was resolved until the Treaty of Utrecht, after his death.[2] He also sanctioned the extermination of Romani people within the Holy Roman Empire.[3]

His motto was Amore et Timore (Latin for "Through Love and Fear").[4]

Early life[edit]

Archduke Joseph at the age of six (by Benjamin Block, 1684)

Born in Vienna, Joseph was educated strictly by Charles Theodore, Prince of Salm and became a good linguist. Although he was the first son and child born of his parents' marriage, he was his father's third son and seventh child. Previously, Leopold had been married to Infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain, who had given him four children, one of whom survived infancy. He then married Claudia Felicitas of Austria, who gave him two short-lived daughters. Thus, Joseph had six half-siblings. In 1684, the six-year-old Archduke had his first portrait painted by Benjamin Block. At the age of nine, on 9 December 1687, he was crowned King of Hungary; and at the age of eleven, on 23 January 1690, King of the Romans. Although he never formally ceased to be a Roman Catholic, Joseph (unlike his parents and most of his other relatives) was not particularly devout by nature.[5] He had two great enthusiasms: music and hunting.[5]

Military service[edit]

In 1702, at the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, Joseph saw his only military service. He joined the Imperial General, Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden, in the Siege of Landau.

Holy Roman Emperor[edit]

Joseph I as a young ruler in armor

Prior to his ascension, Joseph had surrounded himself with reform-hungry advisors and the young court of Vienna was ambitious in the elaboration of innovative plans. He was described as a "forward-looking ruler".[5] The large number of privy councillors was reduced and attempts were made to make the bureaucracy more efficient. Measures were taken to modernize the central bodies and a certain success was achieved in stabilizing the chronic Habsburg finances. Joseph also endeavoured to strengthen his position in the Holy Roman Empire – as a means of strengthening Austria’s standing as a great power. When he sought to lay claim to imperial rights in Italy and gain territories for the Habsburgs, he even risked a military conflict with the Pope over the duchy of Mantua.[5] Joseph I was threatened with excommunication by Pope Clement XI on 16 June 1708.[6]

In Hungary, Joseph had inherited the kuruc rebellion from his father Leopold I: once again, nobles in Transylvania (Siebenbürgen) had risen against Habsburg rule, even advancing for a time as far as Vienna. Although Joseph was compelled to take military action, he refrained – unlike his predecessors – from seeking to teach his subjects a lesson by executing the leaders. Instead, he agreed to a compromise peace, which in the long term facilitated the integration of Hungary into the Habsburg domains.[5] It was his good fortune to govern the Austrian dominions and to be head of the Empire, during the years in which his trusted general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, either acting alone in Italy or with the Duke of Marlborough in Germany and Flanders, was beating the armies of Louis XIV of France. During the whole of his reign, Hungary was disturbed by the conflict with Francis Rákóczi II, who eventually took refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The emperor reversed many of the authoritarian measures of his father, thus helping to placate opponents. He began the attempts to settle the question of the Austrian inheritance by a pragmatic sanction, which was continued by his brother Charles VI. In 1710, Joseph extended his father's edict of outlawry against the Romani (Gypsies) in the Habsburg lands. Per Leopold, any Romani who entered the kingdom was to be declared an outlaw by letters patent and if the same person returned to Bohemia a second time "treated with all possible severity". Joseph ordered that in the Kingdom of Bohemia they were to have their right ears cut off; in the March of Moravia, the left ear was to be cut off; in Austria, they would be branded on the back with a branding iron, representing the gallows. These mutilations were to enable the authorities to identify Romani who had been outlawed and returned. Joseph's edict specified "that all adult males were to be hanged without trial, whereas women and young males were to be flogged and banished forever." Officials who failed to enforce the edict could be fined 100 Reichsthaler. Helping Romani was punishable by a half-year's forced labor. "Mass killings" of Romani were reported as a result.[3]


Tomb of the emperor in the Imperial Crypt, Vienna

During the smallpox epidemic of 1711, which killed Louis, le Grand Dauphin and three siblings of the future Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, Joseph became infected. He died on 17 April in the Hofburg Palace. He had previously promised his wife to stop having affairs, should he survive.

The Emperor was buried in the Imperial Crypt, resting place of the majority of the Habsburgs. His funeral took place on 20 April, in tomb no. 35 in Karl's Vault. His tomb was designed by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, decorated with pictures of various battles from the War of Spanish Succession. Josefstadt (the eighth district of Vienna) is named for Joseph.

Marriage and lack of heir(s)[edit]

On 24 February 1699, he married Wilhelmine Amalia of Brunswick-Lüneburg in Vienna. They had three children and their only son died of hydrocephalus before his first birthday. Joseph had a passion for love affairs (none of which resulted in illegitimate children) and he caught a sexually transmittable disease, probably syphilis, which he passed on to his wife while they were trying to produce a new heir. This incident rendered her sterile.[5] Their father, who was still alive during these events, made Joseph and his brother Charles sign the Mutual Pact of Succession, ensuring that Joseph's daughters would have absolute precedence over Charles's daughters, neither of whom was born at the time, and that Maria Josepha would inherit both the Austrian and Spanish realms.


Name Portrait Lifespan Notes
Maria Josepha
Queen of Poland
Maria Josepha of Austria as a child in Hungarian costume.jpg 8 December 1699 –
17 November 1757
Archduchess of Austria, married Augustus III, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony.
Leopold Joseph
29 October 1700 –
4 August 1701
Archduke of Austria, died in infancy.
Maria Amalia
Holy Roman Empress
Richter - Maria Amalia of Austria - Kunsthistorisches Museum.jpg 22 October 1701 –
11 December 1756
Archduchess of Austria, married Charles VII, Holy Roman Emperor



  1. ^ Johann Burkhard Mencke; Leben und Thaten Sr. Majestät des Römischen Käysers Leopold des Ersten pg 914
  2. ^ "MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2006-05-09.
  3. ^ a b David Crowe (2004): A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia (Palgrave Macmillan) ISBN 0-312-08691-1 p.XI p.36-37
  4. ^ "Joseph I as Roman-German Emperor, oval portrait with motto". The World of the Habsburgs. Archived from the original on July 10, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Reforming zeal in the Baroque: Joseph I". The World of the Habsburgs. Archived from the original on December 14, 2011. Retrieved February 18, 2012.
  6. ^ Joaquín Lorenzo Villanueva, Misapprehension of Patrick Curties and James Doyle concerning the oath which the bishops of Ireland take to the Roman Pontiff, (1825) page 64
  7. ^ a b c d Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 100.
  8. ^ a b Eder, Karl (1961), "Ferdinand III.", Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German), 5, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 85–86; (full text online)
  9. ^ a b Wurzbach, Constantin, von, ed. (1861). "Habsburg, Maria Anna von Spanien" . Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich [Biographical Encyclopedia of the Austrian Empire] (in German). 7. p. 23 – via Wikisource.
  10. ^ a b Fuchs, Peter (2001), "Philipp Wilhelm", Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German), 20, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, p. 384; (full text online)
  11. ^ a b Louda, Jirí; MacLagan, Michael (1999). Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe (2nd ed.). London: Little, Brown and Company. table 84.


  • C. W. Ingrao, In Quest and Crisis: Emperor Joseph I and the Habsburg Monarchy (1979)
  • F. Krones von Marchiand, Grundriss der Oesterreichischen Geschichte (1882)
  • F. Wagner, Historia Josephi Caesaris (1746)
  • J. C. Herchenhahn, Geschichte der Regierung Kaiser Josephs I (1786–1789)
  • C. van Noorden, Europäische Geschichte im achtzehnten Jahrhundert (1870–1882).

External links[edit]

Media related to Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor at Wikimedia Commons

Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor
Born: 26 July 1678 Died: 17 April 1711
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Leopold I
Holy Roman Emperor
King of Bohemia
Archduke of Austria
Duke of Teschen
King of Croatia

Succeeded by
Emperor Charles VI
King in Germany
with Leopold I (1690–1705)
King of Hungary
with Leopold I (1687–1705)