The Habsburgs (or Hapsburg, Hasbro, Hashtag - no one had spell checkers then) were once the greatest of the European ruling dynasties. Dukes of Burgundy, Archdukes of Austria, Kings of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor and rulers of vast expanses of territory in the Americas, the Habsburgs got everywhere. Though some of the lands were conquered with fire and sword, a lot of the Habsburg power came via judicious shagging. They were the original 'make love not war' types who were adept in collecting territories via the marital bedroom. This continuous bed hopping eventually led to the creation of Austro-Hungarian Empire which was to crash and burn in the First World War.
In common with many of Europe's future aristocracy, the Habsburgs started out as bandits and brigands. They picked a mountain in Switzerland and set traps to collect 'tolls' and protection money from all those passing by. Overtime, the successfully applied to be called 'Counts'. Their original name (Habsknick) meant 'Hawk' in Germany, a reference more to the family's fencing stolen goods rather than any skill at falconry.
The 'Habsburgs' would have remained obscure and of no interest to anyone unless you were unlucky to live under their rule. The family expanded their holdings into South West Germany with some smash and grab against rivals but were still small beer politically. Yet this was precisely why their leader, Rudolf of Habsburg got the job of Holy Roman Emperor in 1273. Or so it seemed.
Ottokar, the King of Bohemia had wanted to be emperor. He had recently grabbed hold of the lands of the 'Ostmarck' - or 'Austria'. Rudolf asked Ottokar to produce his receipt of ownership. When Ottokar refused, the two fought a battle and, to everyone's surprise, it was Ottokar's body that ended up feeding the crows when the final whistle blew. Rudolf took hold of Austria and under the ancient rule - 'finders keepers', claimed Austria for his family.
Rudolf's victory against the Bohemians improved the Habsburg's standing but meant that when Rudolf died in 1291, the Holy Roman Empire's electorate (all seven of them), rejected his son Albrecht as emperor and selected another minor boil of a count called Adolf of Nassau as emperor. The latter soon got into his own troubles with other bolshy German nobles and so the call went out to elect Albrect as emperor. He accepted and then completed the deal by killing Adolf in battle.
One of the perks of being emperor meant that when other dynasties disappeared for want of begatting, Albrecht could feudally re-claim the territories. So when Ottokar of Bohemia's family died out grabbed hold of the territory and added it to Austria. However in 1308, Albert was assassinated by one of his nephews who complained of 'neglect' and that he hadn't got an invite to a recent garden party.
Breeding like rabbitsEdit
Albert's death was a set back. The next Holy Roman Emperor, Henry of Luxemburg, rewarded his own family with Bohemia but left Austria to the Habsburgs. More of a problem was the family's adoption of splitting up their territories equally amongst all male heirs. One of Albrecht's sons Frederick the Fair claimed the Holy Roman empire in 1314 and appeared to have got the votes. The next day a different set of 'electors' voted in the Bavarian prince Louis IV as emperor. Now there were two imperial rulers. This carried on for the next 10 years until Frederick was captured by Louis in battle. Offered the choice of resignation or a ball and chain in a dank dungeon, Frederick agreed he had been 'naughty' and returned to Austria.
It seemed that was the end of the Habsburgs greater ambitions. The rival Luxemburg dynasty flourished. The Habsburgs carried on splitting their territories until Austria looked like a mosaic. It was during this time they lost their Swiss holdings after abusing William Tell. The castle that carried their family name was eventually lost to the Swiss Cantons who celebrated by destroying everything except a watch tower to look out for stray cows.
By the 1420s the Habsburgs were split into two rival dynasties. The 'Chlorine' and 'Listerine' Habsburgs. The former had married into the Luxemburgs and when the latter fell off the sperm count register, Albert, Archduke of Austria took over their territories. He was also King of Bohemia and elected emperor in 1438 but died very suddenly when picking up a dirty hanky. His wife was as they said at the time 'carrying a child' but this being an elective Roman title, the Electors preferred to go with a congenital gargling Habsburg than an unborn one and chose Archduke Frederick as 'Emperor Fred III'.
Frederick III - also known as 'Fred the Passable' and 'Fred the Pissable' laid the foundations of his family's fortunes. Using the title of Emperor as a handy business card name, he cleverly married his son Maximilian to the heiress of the Duchy of Burgundy, a stringy collection of territories that reached from the coast of Holland to the cheese of Switzerland.
By the time Maximilian got hold of his father's lands, he was already the Duke of Burgundy and an enemy of France. This was the cause of the long struggle between the Valois-Bourbon dynasty and the Habsburgs to wear the most outrageous fancy dress in Europe. The French won when Louis XIV won out as the 'Eternal Sunshine King' but it took them two centuries to do it.
Maximilian's son 'Philip the Handsome' became King of Castille in 1504 with wife Juana. He died but Juana had the body stuffed and took it around with her. She became mad shortly after and eventually got looked up with the local loonies in Spain.
Charles V is considered to be the greatest of the Habsburgs. He was an emperor in Germany, a King in Spain and total prat in bed. He got on well with Henry VIII and came over to visit the English king in London. They were not soul mates and Henry's offer to wrestle naked with the Emperor was treated like an insult. Henry had already done that 'bonding' with his rival King Francis of France but Charles wasn't into the physical stuff.
In 1526 Charles's younger brother Ferdinand became King of Bohemia and (contested) King of Hungary after the Turks smashed the Magyars at Mohacs. Flushed with success and a large wine allowance, the Turkish sultan Suliaman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna in 1529 but got kicked back by Ferdinand with help from Charles. Considering he couldn't be everywhere at the same time, Charles assigned his ancestral Austrian lands to Ferdinand and had him made heir of the Holy Roman Empire in 1531 ('King of the Romanies'). This would in effect split the family into a Spanish branch and an Austrian one. There was a small print reminder that if either line 'failed', the other half of the dynasty would get priority in the succession.
Charles V did a slow farewell tour in the 1550s, dropping off his territories like a royal stripper as he divested himself of all responsibility for his lands and subjects. He had a change of mind and tried to get his own son Philip to also get a shot at the Imperial title after Ferdinand's death but that didn't happen.
Philip managed to get through four marriages. His first wife died Maria Manuela of Portugal died a few days after delivering her husband an opera, Don Carlos. The latter turned out to be a copy of mad granny Juana. His second wife was the rigid spinster Queen 'Bloody' Mary of England and when she died, Philip helped himself to his own son's intended spouse, Elizabeth of Valois. This drove Carlos (or Charles if we were being consistent with name usage) over the edge and he ended plotting to kill off his father. Philip got to him first but that left no male heir. Third wife Elizabeth had died and Philip now had no immediate heir to the vast Spanish empire.
After a long gap, Philip married back into the Austrian branch, his fourth wife Anna being his niece. This increased the number of 'lower jaw extension genes' in the already highly inbred family. All but one of her children died before they started school, only one boy survived and he would become King Philip III.
The new king inherited an empire that included all of the Iberian peninsula (Portugal's dynasty had pegged out in 1580), the southern half of the Netherlands,Luxemburg, eastern Burgundy, Milan, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and south and central America. King Philip had no redeeming qualities unless you count bigotry as a positive. He ordered the removal of Spain's Morisco population. He didn't like 'Morisco Dancing.'
He was followed as King by his son Philip IV. This king had the unusual wit to employ Diego Velasquez as a court painter. So thanks to him, we can see in great detail what Hapsburg inbreeding produced. A family where your wife was three times your Hapsburg cousin on the left side. The result was a royal freak circus. Philip managed to lose Portugal and was toppled in the international arrogant king league by French monarch Louis XIV.
The last Spanish Hapsburg was Charles II. King from the age of four, his lower jaw now stuck out so low that it was the first thing you saw when he came round the corner. Possibly mad or insane or completely stupid, Charles II died without an heir and gave his empire to France after he was disappointed with his Austrian Habsburg cousins for laughing at him.
If the Spanish Habsburgs got all the gold and Americas, their jut jawed cousins in Austria were on the back end of Protestant obstructionism and Turkish expansionism. Charles V's brother Fiddily Ferdy (Emperor Ferdinand I) had to mop up after his brother. King of Bohemia (a few old loon pants) and Hungary (the inedible bit), he and his successors were Holy Roman Emperors but masters of sod all else.
Ferdinand's son Maximilian II followed the family tradition of farming out his daughters to various ugly European royalty. His son Rudolf II really wanted to be an astronomer so quit Vienna and lived most of his life staring through telescopes in Prague. Sometimes they were not always looking at the stars but into the bedrooms of the imperial (male) servants across the square. Rudolf also had a 'Cabinet of Curiosities', a huge piece of furniture which, when opened up would reveal its secrets. The collection had bottles labelled 'The Sweat of Sweet Jesus' and 'Dried Mermaids' amongst its doubtful objects of unproven origin. Rudolf also had a 'Cabinet of Perversities' but that hasn't survived. Unsurprisingly (and perhaps thankfully), Rudolf stayed a bachelor and ended up imprisoned in his own bedroom by his successor and brother Archduke Matthias 'Matty' who had Rudolf certified as 'barking mad'. He in turn was succeeded by his cousin Ferdinand II. Something of a bigot's bigot, Ferdinand had the ambition to reverse the work of Martin Luther and return all of Germany to the cult of smelly candles. This sparked off the Thirty Years War, a brutal conflict that halved the population of Germany and established France as the leading European power ranger. Ferdinand's son - Ferdinand III - dropped the counter reformation and gave up Germany to be run as a mini United Nations with each former statelet able to make treaties and alliances against the Emperor if they chose so (and most did).
Next Habsburg in line was Leopold I. As facially deformed as his relatives, Leopold hoped to re-unite the Habsburg lands within his own family after it was clear his cousin Charles of Spain was as sterile as a mule. A more pressing issue was the Ottoman Empire (in a dirty under the table alliance with Louis XIV), launched a new attack on Leopold's lands and reached Vienna. This time the Turks meant to take it and therefore stop any chance of a waltz down the Danube in future. Leopold tried promising, bribing, hoping..er bribing (again) that their supposed Holy Roman allies would help but most prefered to stay home and powder their wigs. Instead it was the Poles who intervened and help wallop the Ottomans away from Vienna, and eventually Budapest and the bulk of Hungary.
Male sperm countEdit
In 1700 Leopold's cousin Charles dies and leaves everything to King Louis XIV. Leopold can have 'sloppy seconds' if the Sun King declines to parcel off Spain to his grandson Philip. Of course, Louie grabs the lot and says Spain and France will unite if there is a shortage of Bourbons.
Leopold asks for help and is supported eventually by the British and the Dutch. They agree that Leopold's youngest son Charles will be King of Spain. Meantime not a lot happens but the English cleverly sneak away with Gibraltar when no one is looking. Leopold then finally dies. His successor is Emperor Joseph I. One for wigs and very much one with the ladies, Joseph celebrated victories over the French with the help of his top general Prince Eugene of Saveloy. Das Wurst ist der bravo!" exclaimed Joseph but then he died small pox. That one from a discarded mistress. He left two daughters but they were excluded from everything for being too ugly even for Habsburg princesses.
His brother Charles was still fighting for Spain against King Philip there. Now the British and Dutch queried if they were keen to see one Habsburg rule most of Europe all over again and withdrew and took their soldiers home. Charles (now Emperor Charles VI) was eventually forced to negotiate when 'the Saveloy' was unable to beat the French on his own. Charles lost Spain but got the 'Spanish Netherlands' and just crossed out the name and added 'Austrian' instead. He also got Milan, Naples and Sardinia (?) as compensation from Spain.
More immediately, Charles was now the only male Habsburg left. All the rest had interbred so much that they had turned into filing cabinets and therefore incapable of further dynastic continuation. He had daughters but no sons and being a Catholic, couldn't find an excuse to divorce his wife and try elsewhere in dangling the imperial jewels. Disappointed, Charles found a husband for his eldest daughter Maria Theresa, the noseless Francis Duke of Lorriane and Lord Vaudemont. Henceforth, the dynasty would officially called the 'Habsburg-Lorriane' or 'The Quiches'.
A lack of Y chromosome heirs left Maria Theresa to inherit her family's maritally-bedded, cobbled together empire. This, however saw an immediate ass grab by her neighbours, led by chief Hyena, King Frederick the Great of Prussia. The Prussic Prince bit off Silesia whilst the Elector of Bavaria (with French help) claimed both the Imperial title and, in the name of his wife, the rest of the Habsburg empire.
A lack of allies (except the United Kingdom-Hanover) was a drawback for Maria. Her husband Francis was hardly much of a catch. Having lost Lorriane in a territorial merry-go-round earlier, he was just the Grand Duke of Florence - a place he had never seen nor wanted to visit. So Maria-Theresa had to appeal to the Magyars, the moustache twillers of Europe. They agreed to support her and eventually the Habsburgs got most of their lands back...except Silesia.
All this time, Maria had bee turn into an imperial egg laying machine. She popped out 18 live ones whilst her figure moved from slim to hips wider than the largest bell in St.Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. Her youngest sprogette - and by some distance - the best looking was Marie Antoinette. That birth out of the way, Maria-Theresa had another go at 'Filthy Fred' and embarked on the Seven Years War. Final result - Silesia was staying with Prussia. She outlived her door step of a husband and let her eldest son Emperor Joseph II take the worthless imperial title (worthless in that it had no separate income worth speaking of).
Mozart's best friendEdit
Joseph had to wait till 1780 to become the actual ruler of the Austrian territories after the death of his mother. Not much is remembered fondly of Joseph. He was for a Habsburg, quite bright and a raging liberal by the standards of the day. But Joseph had an opinion on everything, including music. He liked Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, thought his socially inferior had a talent for the 'tinkly stuff' but always thought the composer used too many notes in his compositions. Joseph volunteered more marching bands or loud trumpet playing but his ideas were rejected by Mozart. This was brave of the latter as Joseph liked to call himself an 'enlightened despot' but to his subjects the emperor ended up as the 'interfering crackpot'.
Joseph eventually trod on too many toes and there was a rebellion in the normally dozy Austrian Netherlands (Belgium). Disappointed Joseph then died and asked that the line Look Around You to See How I Fucked Things Up before dying in 1790. Joey was briefly followed by his brother Leopold II who had acquired a deep suntan and the love of fine Tuscan wine from looking after his father's old (unwanted) duchy in Italy. Leopold died after dinner but before the desert was served in 1792. He in turn died and handed it all over to Francis II . Dim, dull and a dunce, Francis ruled through the end of the Holy Roman Empire and enduring the French Emperor Napoleon as his bullying son-in-law.
The Habsburgs were never a dynasty that had used war to get their aims when a handy marriage could get the same result (unless it was against the Turks). If the disruptive French Revolution hadn't been bad enough, the loss of the Austrian Netherlands, Italy and all of Germany west of the Rhine forced the family to concentrate on their own patch. Napoleon changed the French Republic into the French Empire and got himself crowned by a Pope in Paris - something Francis or any of his predecessors since Charles V had bothered with. 'Bony' then laid claim to Germany which even Francis saw would be curtains for the crumbling Holy Roman Empire and so - in a move that proceeded Napoleon's imperial crown creation - Francis self-enthroned himself as 'Emperor of Austria' to cover what is now Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia etc etc. In 1806 Francis resigned the crown of Charlemagne but kept those baubles for his treasury. They're still there.
A further war with Napoleon followed which saw Francis lose even more territory to Napoleon so he came to an arrangement with the coarse Corsican. In exchange for keeping what was left of the family lands, Francis supplied his daughter - the pink faced Marie Louise - as Napoleon's bed mate. Since Napoleon had no heir of his own and Empress Josephine was no longer interested in her 'short lover', Napoleon put wife one aside and married wife two. A year later, Francis had an Austro-French grandson called Napoleon 'King of Rome'. A new Franco-Austrian marriage alliance was in place. What could go wrong?
By now Francis let his chief Minister-fixer Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich sort all the details out and it was he who encouraged Napoleon to have a pop at the 'Ruskies' for disrepect. Napoleon obliged and returned more or less alone, half a million of his army lying dead all the way from Warsaw to Moscow and back again.
Fingers in all the piesEdit
Boney got beaten in 1814 so Metternich suggested everyone visit Vienna for a big Ball competition. In between the parties and dress chasing, Europe would get a sorting out after 20 years of near constant war. Napoleon party pooped in 1815 with an attempted gate crash but that was beaten at the Battle of Waterloo but Metternich more or less got what he wanted for his coffin lid faced emperor. Austria became 'President' of the German Confederation and got to run Northern and central Italy with the exception of Piedmont, Naples and Sicily and the Papal States. Belgium was lost for good from the Habsburgs after three hundred years of Spanish and Austrian control.
This was the high time for the Habsburgs. The French were threatened with a kick in the pants if they crossed their borders whilst the Prussians were more bothered about Russia than Austria and so kept quiet. It was a time for waltzes and break dancing, cake and crinoline. Francis died and was succeeded by his son Ferdinand as Austrian Emperor. If Francis was a dull bore, Ferdinand was deficient in all departments including what was hanging between his legs. No heirs, no graces and a love of dumplings. Francis knew his son was a liability and so, in fact did Ferdinand as he let his brother Francis Charles and Metternich run everything.
The pudding emperor could have stayed on the throne and no one be bothered but in 1848 a rash of revolutions broke out in Europe. Crowns were lost and monogrammed laundry burnt in the street. Ferdinand was enticed to abdicate (loss of all dumplings otherwise) and retreated to Prague which was where all the mad emperors ended up (see Rudolf II). Metternich lost his breeches too and so it was his muscle bound successor, Felix Schwarzenberg who suggested the Habsburgs could only survive with a new boss. So Francis Charles's eldest boy, a thin legged specimen called Francis Joseph (Franz-Josef) was brought out and became the new emperor.
Franzie Joe started his reign on the run from the Viennese mob. Everyone was in a revolting mood, especially the Hungarians. The 'Schwarzenberger' eventually restored order in Vienna but then invited the Russians to help mangle the Magyars on the grounds that the Hungarians were revolutionaries who would set fire to Tsar Nicholas I's pants if given the chance. The Russians destroyed the Hungarians and got a big cake from Franz-Josef as their reward. To his surprise, they asked for nothing else. The Schwarzenberger thought this great joke to play on the Russians but his laughter was cut short when he fell into a vat of molten metal.
With revolutions and rebels out of the way, Franz-Josef looked for a bride. Preferably Catholic, he married the Bavarian princess Elisabeth Wittelsbach. Dark haired and with a tiny waist, Elisabeth was also well educated. She hated (in reverse order), her mother-in-law, her father-in-law, everyone called Habsburg and hated Vienna's cityscape. She was in fact an 'outdoor girl'. Lusted after every other prince in Europe, Franz-Josef bored the whalebone corsets of the flighty queen. She did the imperial business (a son, Rudolf after three girls) and then travelled around Europe having an extended ball. She would return sometimes to see how Franz was doing and for standing by 'hairy knees' for obligatory state occasions. Otherwise, she was off - growing her long like Rapunzel until she walked into a blade held by an Italian anarchist and died.
By then Franz had already lost his brother Maximilian. He had gone to Mexico to play at being an Emperor of the Banditos until they decided it was more fun to stick the Austrian in front of a firing squad. Franz-Joseg's son Rudolf refused to do his imperial duty and shot himself with his mistress in a tabloid scandal. By then Franz had already lost Italy to the Italians (thanks to the tricksy French) and Germany to the Prussians and Otto von Bismarck. Keeping up a losing streak, Franz lost his nephew Franz Ferdinand to an assassin in Sarajevo. This kick started the First World War. Franz lasted halfway through that epic before finally leaving the theatre and dying at the age of 86 in 1916. Peacetime it would have been an excuse for Europe's royals to have gone to Vienna for big party but in 1916, only Austria's ally Kaiser Wilhelm was there to watch.
In December 1916 Austria's last emperor was enthroned. Charles (nephew of Ferdy, Great Nephew of Franzie) got the full fancy dress coronation but without the crowds or guests. By then the Austro-Hungarian armies were propped up - and essentially run - by the Germans. Charles wrote letters to anyone who would take the post that he wanted peace and a return to 1914. No was listening and so in November 1918, the Habsburg dynasty were fleeing from their former country. Afraid to share the same fate of the Romanovs, the Habsburgs scattered everywhere. Charles ended up on Madeira for the wine and drank through six casks of consolation wine before dying in 1922. The Habsburgs hung about a bit longer, hoping to the return back to Austria if they forgot their ancient rights and just act as tourist attractions.
Charle's son Otto (the former Imperial Crown Prince) ended his political days as an MEP in the European Union. Banned from Austria, he was elected for a seat in the European Parliament in Germany. Otto's only memorable parliamentary intervention occurred when got into an impromptu wrestling match with Northern Ireland Hellfire preacher-politician Ian Paisley when the latter called Pope John Paul the Scarlet Whore of Babylon. The outcome of the fight was that the tiny Otto swatted Ian. One last victory for the Habsburgs.