Birthday: April 19, 1793
Nationality: Austrian, Hungarian
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 82
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Ferdinand Charles Leopold Joseph Francis Marcelin
Born Country: Austria
Born in: Vienna, Austria
Famous as: Emperor
Spouse/Ex-: Maria Anna of Savoy
father: Francis I of Austria
mother: Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily
siblings: Archduchess Caroline Josepha Leopoldine, Archduchess Clementina of Austria, Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria, Archduchess Maria Karolina, Archduchess Maria Klementina, Archduchess Maria Ludovika, Archduchess Marie Anne, Archduchess Marie Caroline of Austria, Archduke Franz Karl, Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, Archduke Johann Nepomuk of Austria, Archduke Joseph Franz Leopold, Archduke Joseph Franz of Austria, Duchess of Parma, Maria Leopoldina of Austria, Marie Louise
Died on: June 29, 1875
place of death: Prague
City: Vienna, Austria
awards: Knights of the Order of the Holy Spirit
Knight in the order of Saint-Michel
Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa
Order of St. Alexander Nevsky
Order of St. Andrew
Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria was a sovereign of Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty who reigned from 1835 until his abdication in 1848. Because he was the monarch of Austria, he was granted titles like president of the German Confederation, king of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia (as Ferdinand V), and king of Lombardy–Venetia. As he had a coarse, unassertive but well-intentioned personality, he garnered the sobriquet The Benign or The Good. The eldest son of his parents, Ferdinand was born with multiple disorders, including epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and a speech impediment, likely due to the genetic proximities of his parents. He was tutored by Baron Josef Kalasanz von Erberg and his wife, Josephine. Following the death of his father, Francis II, in March 1835, Ferdinand ascended the throne. He could not perform his imperial duties due to his mental deficiencies. However, his father, prior to his death, had created a will in which he instructed Ferdinand to listen to the counsel of Archduke Louis and Prince Metternich. During his reign, the Regent’s Council also included Count Kolowrat. After the Revolution of 1848 took place, Ferdinand I abdicated in favour of his nephew Franz Joseph. He subsequently left Vienna and spent the remainder of his life in Hradčany Palace, Prague.
Childhood & Early Life
Ferdinand was born on April 19, 1793, in Vienna, Austria, Holy Roman Empire, to Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, and his second wife, Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. He was his parents’ second child and first son.
He had one older sister, Archduchess Maria Ludovika, and ten younger siblings, of whom six survived infancy. They were Archduchess Caroline Josepha Leopoldine, Archduchess Maria Klementina, Archduke Joseph Franz Leopold, Archduchess Maria Karolina, Archduke Franz Karl, and Archduchess Marie Anne.
Francis II also had a daughter with his first wife, Elisabeth of Württemberg, but she died a few months after her birth.
His parents were double first cousins. After his birth, his exuberant father sent letters to his relatives, informing them that “a healthy prince” was born, but this turned out to be incorrect.
Ferdinand was a sickly infant, who had a head too large, and doctors and nurses had trouble keeping him alive. He displayed developmental defects and was diagnosed with epilepsy, hydrocephalus, several neurological issues, and a speech impediment.
After the death of Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily in 1807, Francis II married twice more, but these unions did not produce any children. Ferdinand had amicable relationships with both his stepmothers, Maria Ludovika Beatrix of Modena and Caroline Augusta of Bavaria.
He began walking and talking late. Due to his feeble constitution, he was not given the education fit for the crown prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Ultimately, in 1802, when he was nine years old, significant efforts were initiated to educate him.
Franz Maria, Freiherr von Carnea-Steffaneo, head of the Imperial Court Library, became responsible for his education. He was considerably kind to the crown prince and helped him make remarkable improvements. However, Ferdinand’s mother later removed him from Carnea-Steffaneo’s tutelage.
His first stepmother, Maria Ludovika Beatrix, fired all of Ferdinand’s teachers whom she believed to be unsuitable. She then hired Josef Kalasanz Freiherr von Erberg, and placed Ferdinand under his care. Tutored by him and his wife Josephine, by birth a Countess von Attems, Ferdinand began to thrive. Before this, he was kept away from the public due to his mood swings and sudden outbursts.
The new teachers allowed him more independence. Ferdinand learned how to read and write, ride a horse, dance, fence, garden, and play the piano. He showed that he had talent for drawing, and his efforts to pursue it were supported.
However, in 1814, von Erberg became sick and was subsequently sacked. Maria Ludovika Beatrix felt Ferdinand’s education was complete. In the ensuing years, he still was given additional lessons on military affairs and scientific and technical subjects.
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Accession & Reign
Francis II passed away on March 2, 1835. Prior to his death, he created a will in which it was declared that Ferdinand must heed the counsel of Archduke Louis, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia and Prince of Tuscany, on all matters involving internal policy. Francis II also advised Ferdinand to listen to Prince Metternich, Austria's Foreign Minister.
The general perception of Ferdinand is that he was feeble-minded and incapable of ruling. However, while he did suffer from epilepsy, he maintained a comprehensible and lucid diary. Some sources even say that he had a sharp wit.
He experienced at least 20 seizures every day. This prevented him from performing most tasks associated with a ruler. Although no formal, public announcement was made of him being incapacitated, a Regent Council comprised of Archduke Louis, Count Kolowrat, and Prince Metternich, actually ran the government.
One of the popular anecdotes about Ferdinand involves him saying to his cook, after he was informed that the cook was unable to serve him apricot dumplings (Marillenknödel) as apricots were out of season, that “I am the emperor, and I want dumplings!"
Formally, Ferdinand was His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty Ferdinand the First, By the Grace of God, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Bohemia, fifth by this name, King of Lombardy and Venice, King of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, and Illyria.
He also had several other titles, including King of Jerusalem, Grand prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia, and Lord of Trieste, Cattaro and over the Windic March.
The Revolution of 1848 & Abdication
The main goal of the 1848 Revolution was to discard the old monarchical structures and establish independent nation-states throughout Europe. In essence, it was a bourgeois uprising and founded on democratic and liberal principles. It still is the most widespread revolutionary wave in the history of Europe.
When it eventually found its way into the Holy Roman Empire, the imperial institution stood on the verge of collapse, especially with a differently-abled emperor.
As the revolutionaries were rushing towards the palace, he supposedly enquired of Metternich about what was happening. After Metternich replied that a revolution had begun, Ferdinand apparently asked, “But are they allowed to do that?"
Felix zu Schwarzenberg persuaded him to step down as emperor and crown his nephew Franz Joseph I. Although Ferdinand’s brother Franz Karl was the heir at the time, he was convinced to step aside for his son. The ceremony took place on December 2, 1848.
In February 1831, Ferdinand I of Austria exchanged wedding vows with Maria Anna of Savoy, the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia and Archduchess Maria Teresa of Austria-Este. The court physician believed that Ferdinand would not be able to consummate the marriage. He was proven right, as the crown prince had five seizures when he attempted to consummate the marriage.
The marriage was never likely consummated, and the couple remained childless. Despite this, by all accounts, Ferdinand and Maria Anna of Savoy developed a deep bond between them and were faithful to each other for the rest of their lives.
After his abdication, Ferdinand I moved to the Hradčany Palace, Prague. He loved Bohemia, and the people there, in turn, loved him. He was the final crowned king of Bohemia.
Ferdinand acquired several nicknames, including Ferdinand V, the Good (in Czechoslovakia) and Ferdinand the Benign (in Austria). However, he was also subjected to derogatory nicknames like Goodinand the Finished.
Ferdinand passed away on June 29, 1875, in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austria-Hungary. He was 82 years old at the time. He was laid to rest in tomb number 62 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. His wife passed away nine years later in May 1884 and is interred beside him.