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11-08-2015, 17:12


The monarchy provided a potent rallying point for the diverse peoples of the empire. Franz Joseph had been the ruler since 1848, and he stood as the most senior monarch in Europe. He had presided over his country's affairs as it lost most of its Italian possessions in the war of 1859 with Piedmont- Savoy and France. He also had seen the Habsburg Empire lose its influence in German affairs following its defeat in the Seven Weeks' War against Prussia in 1866. The empire, which had been reconstituted repeatedly over the centuries, now took its final shape in 1867 as the German leaders in Vienna compromised with the Hungarians, who had been such dangerous rebels, to create the new Dual Empire. The monarchy, with Franz Joseph as emperor of Austria and king of Hungary, was one of the institutions, along with the national army, that held the system together. Rising at dawn and laboring on state business throughout the day even as he grew aged, Franz Joseph was a model of crowned industriousness. One scholar describes him in these decades as a monarch whose "very being somewhat attenuated the asperities and animosities of peoples in the multinational realm ... he embodied the common concern for law and order." '2 Unlike in Russia, during the war there were no suggestions that the monarch or members of his family were dangerously sympathetic toward the enemy; nor were there charlatans with crucially important influence on the order of Russia's Rasputin. Convinced that victory was unlikely, the old monarch nonetheless played the same role—symbol of imperial unity—that he had played since 1848. He claimed little influence in making policy, but as Edward Crankshaw has put it, he was "the living symbol of the reality of the Dual State." i- The death of Franz Joseph in 1916 brought his attractive young great-nephew to the throne as Emperor Charles. The new monarch's efforts to remove his country from the war soon became public knowledge. They probably added to his popularity.