02 June 2022
Jubilees Habsburg Style
This week Britain is marking the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Elizabeth is now – at least according to Wikipedia – the third longest-reigning monarch in recorded history. Her reign is surpassed in length only by those of Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama X) of Thailand, whom she will soon overtake, and Louis XIV of France, who still has a two-year lead, having inherited his throne at the tender age of four.
Portraits of Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary at his coronation and in 1898, from Unser Kaiser. Festschrift für die vaterländische Jugend zum fünfzigjährigen Regierungs-Jubiläum seiner Kaiserlichen und Königlichen Apostolischen Majestät Franz Josef I. Herausgegeben vom Lehrerhaus-Verein in Wien (Vienna, 1898) 1560/2545.
At number six on Wikipedia’s list is Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary, whose reign lasted from 1848 until 1916, beginning in the aftermath of revolution and ending during a war which would eventually put an end to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its monarchy. Although he never made it to a platinum jubilee, the 50th and 60th anniversaries of his reign were marked with great celebration and, of course, many publications.
Cover of Leo Smolle, Fünf Jahrzehnte auf Habsburgs Throne 1848-1898. Festschrift aus Anlass des fünfzigjährigen Regierungsjubiläums Seiner Majestät des Kaisers Franz Josef I (Vienna, 1898) 10703.bbb.63.
Of course there were the usual commemorative books, often lavishly illustrated and bound, looking back at the emperor’s reign and the changes it had seen within the Empire. However, their celebratory tone also carried an edge of sorrow. No writer could overlook the death of Franz Joseph’s only son Rudolf in 1889 (although they skated over the sordid details of Rudolf’s suicide). Although it happened too late to be covered in most of the 1898 commemorative volumes, the murder of Franz Joseph’s consort Elisabeth in September 1898 understandably led to a cutting back of the jubilee celebrations that year, and by 1908 this blow too was described as one of the many heavy burdens borne by the emperor.
Cover of Carl Weide, 60 Jahre auf Habsburgs Kaiserthrone: ein Gedenkbuch zum Jubiläum der sechzigjährigen Regierung des Kaisers Franz Josef I (Vienna, 1908) 10706.m.29.
But alongside the more familiar types of commemorative publications there were all manner of local and subject-specific ones which used the jubilee as an occasion to review the previous 50 or 60 years through the prism of their own interests. In 1898 a group of industrialists produced a six-volume work celebrating Austria’s major industries and the Ministry of Agriculture looked back at 50 years of agriculture and forestry. The Austrian Geographical Society also devoted a volume to the progress of its discipline under Franz Joseph’s reign, and as part of a larger commemorative volume, the director of the Imperial Mint set the pulses of numismatists racing with a review of 50 years of coinage reforms.
On a local level, the people of Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi in south-western Ukraine) linked Franz Joseph’s celebration of 60 years on the throne with the 500th anniversary of the first official record of the city in 1408. In 1898, the canny people of Budweis (now České Budějovice in the Czech Republic) recycled memories of an imperial visit three years previously as a jubilee publication.
Cover of Reinhold Huyer, Regentenbesuch in Budweis. Zum 50-jährigen Regierungsjubiläum Sr. Maj. des Kaisers Franz Josef I. Als Erinnerung an die Kaisertage von 1. bis 4. September 1895 (České Budějovice, 1898) 09315.e.17.
These locations are a reminder of the sheer scope of the empire that Franz Josef ruled over, but his jubilees were not marked by celebrations in all his territories. Both the golden and diamond jubilees coincided with periods of constitutional crisis and diplomatic tension, in Bohemia and the Balkans respectively, and attempts to present the commemorations as a symbol of imperial unity no doubt rang hollow to many there. Hungary officially ignored the jubilees of 1898 and 1908, considering Franz Joseph only to have been their legitimate ruler since he was crowned King of Hungary in 1867; there were however some Hungarian commemorative publications for the 25th anniversary of that coronation in 1892.
Nonetheless, as the selection of publications described above shows, the jubilees were seen by many as a cause – or at least an excuse – for celebration. Like Queen Elizabeth today, Franz Joseph had been a constant presence in the lives of most of his subjects due to the length of his reign, and the efforts of industrialists, geographers, local councils and others to link their own spheres of interest to that reign offer insights into the ways in which people identify with the symbolism of monarchy.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections
Title-page of Joseph Schnitzer, Franz Joseph I. und seine Zeit. Cultur-historischer Rückblick auf die Francisco-Josephinische Epoche (Vienna, 1898) 1899.f.9. (Image from a copy in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek)
Die Gross-Industrie Oesterreichs. Festgabe zum glorreichen fünfzigjährigen Regierungs-Jubiläum seiner Majestät des Kaisers Franz Josef I., dargebracht von den Industriellen Oesterreichs, 1898. (Vienna, 1898) 1809.b.15.
Friedrich Umlauft, Die Pflege der Erdkunde in Oesterreich, 1848-1898. Festschrift der K.K. Geographischen Gesellschaft aus Anlass des fünfzigjährigen Regierung-Jubiläums Sr. Majestät des Kaisers Franz Joseph I. (Vienna, 1898) Ac.6068/3.
Geschichte der österreichischen Land- und Forstwirtschaft und ihrer Industrien 1848-1898. Festschrift zur Feier der ... fünfzigjährigen Wiederkehr der Thronbesteigung ... Franz Joseph I. (Vienna, 1899-1901) 1572/357.
Josef Müller, ‘Die Münz-Reformen in Osterreich während der fünfzigjährigen Regierung des Kaisers Franz Josef I.’, in Anton Mayer (ed.) Festschrift zum fünfzigjährigen Regierungs-Jubiläum, 1848-1898, seiner Kaiserl. und Königl. Apostolischen Majestät Franz Josef I. (Vienna, 1898) 1855.dd.2.
Raimund Friedrich Kaindl, Geschichte von Czernowitz von den altesten Zeiten bis zur Gegenwart. Festschrift zum sechzigjährigen Regierungsjubiläum Sr. Majestät Kaiser Franz Joseph I. und zur Erinnerung an die erste urkundliche Erwähnung von Czernowitz vor 500 Jahren (Chernivtsi, 1908) 10205.h.5.