Childhood & Early Life
Francis was born on December 8, 1708 to Leopold Joseph, Duke of Lorraine, and Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans in Ducal Palace of Nancy. He was the oldest surviving son of the couple.
Francis grandparents were connected to the Habsburg- his grandmother being the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand III. Later on, the family won the favour of Emperor Charles VI as well.
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Accession & Reign
Following the death of his elder brother, Francis was taken up as the future son-in-law for Emperor Charles who had wished to marry his daughter Maria Theresa to late Leopold Clement.
Francis was raised in Vienna along with Maria Theresa. In 1729, he succeeded his father as the Duke of Lorraine. Two years later, he was initiated into the freemasonry. Subsequently, he was made Master Mason.
In 1732, he agreed to serve as the Lord Lieutenant of Hungary for Francis. For the same, he moved to Pressburg. Following year, War of the Polish Succession broke out.
In 1735, the Treaty of the Vienna was signed which finally put an end to the War of the Polish Succession. Under the treaty, Emperor Charles VI agreed to the marriage between Francis and Maria only if Francis gave up Lorraine to Stanislaw Leszczyński. In return, Francis was to succeed as the Grand Duke of Tuscany.
In 1737, following the death of the last Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany, Gian Gastone, Francis succeeded as the Grand Duke of Tuscany. With this succession, peace was finally attained. The Spanish troops were replaced by Austrians in the Tuscany borders.
After being appointed as the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Francis left for Hungary to fight against the Turks in June 1737. In 1738, he along with his wife, Maria Theresa travelled south to Florence.
Following the death of Emperor Charles VI in October 1740, Maria Theresa succeeded her father as the female rule of the Habsburg dominion. Almost immediately, she appointed Francis as her co-regent. The new position gave Francis equal powers as his wife.
As the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominion, Maria Theresa’s rule was challenged by Saxony, Prussia, France and Bavaria. When Prussia invaded the affluent province of Silesia in Habsburg, it led to the War of the Austrian Succession, a conflict which continued for nine-years. Though Francis was eager to defend her inheritance and lead the Austrian army, Maria repudiated.
During the War of Austrian Succession, Francis was appointed as the Holy Roman Emperor, after the death of Charles VII.
Francis, though shared equal power with Maria, played an inconsequential role in the working of the government. He, in fact, was content playing second fiddle to his wife. However, blessed with business acumen and natural instincts, he was of immense help and assisted Maria in the governing of the complicated Austrian dominions.
Though Francis as not active politically, he did manage the economic condition of the dominion and played an active role in the financial affairs. It was under his leadership that despite being heavily indebted and on the verge of bankruptcy, the Austrian Empire was in a better off position than France or England during the 1780s.
Personal Life & Legacy
Emperor Charles intended to get his daughter married to Leopold Clement, Francis’ elder brother. However, due to the untimely death of Clement, Francis was agreed upon as the future son-in-law after much consideration.
Francis marriage to Maria Theresa was more of a formal agreement between the two. They tied the nuptials at the Augustinian Church on February 12, 1736 followed by a grand wedding on February 14, 1736.
Francis and Maria were blessed with sixteen children, including the Queen of France, the Queen of Naples and Sicily, the Duchess of Parma and two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II.
Francis was a womanizer and was popular for his philandering activities. The most notable affair was with Maria Wilhelmina, Princess of Auersperg. She was thirty years younger to him.
Francis died an untimely sudden death on August 18, 1765 while returning from the opera at Innsbruck in his carriage. He was buried in tomb number 55 in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. His wife, Maria Theresa was devastated by his death.
He was succeeded by his eldest son, Joseph as the Holy Roman Emperor.