This day in history: 2 December 1848

Exactly 166 years ago, Francis Joseph, at the time only eighteen years old, was proclaimed Emperor of Austria. He stayed in power for 68 years and became one of the most eminent figures of the late Danube Monarchy.

But the circumstances of his ascension to the throne were everything but simple, because in the course of the so-called March Revolution of 1848 the court had to leave Vienna and settled over to Olomouc in Moravia. In a manifest, published in the ‘Wiener Abendzeitung’, Emperor Ferdinand I. sees the reason in “the bloody events that convert … our capital Vienna into a site of anarchistic disturbances.” Only a few weeks later, on December 2nd, Ferdinand I announced “to renounce the Austrian throne” and since his brother Archduke Francis Carl did the same “our ascension to the throne taking the name Francis Joseph the first” was announced “to all peoples of the monarchy.” At least this is what we can read in the official documents that were published in the evening edition of the ‘Wiener Zeitung’. In the following days other newspapers of the Habsburg Monarchy re-printed them, for example the ‘Presse’ or the ‘Klagenfurter Zeitung’.

Klagenfurter Zeitung, 5 December 1848, p. 1. ANNO/Austrian National Library

These developments were of course widely discussed and commented. The above mentioned daily ‘die Presse’ – founded in the revolutionary year 1848 and at the time only six months in business – shows how little Ferdinand’s abdication was anticipated: “Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria has abdicated. His nephew Archduke Francis Joseph ascends the throne. The news of this change has taken the inhabitants of Vienna completely by surprise. The ‘Kais. Kön. Priv. Bothe für Tirol und Vorarlberg’ reports similarly: “It is impossible to describe which feelings the news produced here [in Vienna]. One is not really able to grasp the impressions oneself.”

Detail of Die Presse, 05. December 1848, p. 2. ANNO/Austrian National Library
Detail of Die Presse, 05. December 1848, p. 2. ANNO/Austrian National Library

The hope tied to the new ruler are expressed in an article in ‘Der Humorist’ in which a line from Francis Joseph to Joseph II is drawn: “What great Joseph, full of philanthropic ideas, intended, can now be fulfilled by Francis Joseph.”

Such an event was of course also covered in other parts of Europe. By using the Europeana Newspaper Browser it is easy to find different contemporary voices from all over Europe, like articles in the ‘Nederlandsche Staats-Courant’ or ‘Le Siècle’.

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