See the Habsburg family come alive before your eyes in the Imperial Theatre.
On a stage which is based on the Imperial Theatre at Schönbrunn Palace, Sisi (Elisabeth of Austria), Franz Josef, Maria Theresa and Emperor Maximilian will talk with lots of wit and humour about everyday imperial life and the history of the House of Habsburg. What was the recipe for success of the individual rulers and who founded the Habsburg marriage policy? Learn more about the 640-year history of the Habsburg monarchy in Austria and get to know the Habsburg family tree in an entertaining way. The imperial family awaits you for a personal audience.
The name Habsburg dates back to the Habichtsburg, the ancestral seat of the Habsburgs, in the Swiss town of Aargau. Count Rudolf of Habsburg was the first Habsburg on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1273, the imperial princes elected him Roman-German king. The pedigree of the Habsburgs begins with Rudolf I von Habsburg. With him, the Habsburgs came from his home region in Switzerland into the Danube region. Rudolf I founded the 640-year rule in Austria in 1278 after the successful battle of Dürnkrut over the King of Bohemia Ottokar II. The end of the Habsburg monarchy was numbered 1918 when World War I was lost and Austria became the first republic.
Frederic III. managed to establish the dynasty in the circle of European powers. His son Maximilian I was the founder of the successful Habsburg marriage policy. The famous motto of Maximilian I was: “May other countries wage wars, you happy Austria marry.” Maximilian was married to the rich and only heir – Maria of Burgundy – and so these lands, including the rich Netherlands, came to Austria. The Habsburgs ruled also in Spain, as well as in Bohemia and Hungary. Maximilian’s grandson – Charles V – ruled over an empire in which the sun never set. Charles V was exposed to a power struggle with France and a religious war with Martin Luther. After the abdication of Charles V, the dynasty was divided into two lines, a Spanish and an Austrian line. His brother Ferdinand received the Austrian ancestral lands, Bohemia and Hungary. He was constantly busy repelling the Ottomans. Charles’ son – Philipp, the Fair – founded the Spanish line. This created the basis for the rise of Austria to become a European great power. Between both lines there were close ties in the form of mutual marriages resulting in ancestral loss and degeneration. The Spanish line died out in 1700. Due to the defeat in the War of Spanish Succession (1701-14), the Habsburgs could only dispose of the southern Netherlands, Naples and Milan, Spain was lost.
Important rulers of the Baroque period to Biedermeier (1700 – mid 19th century)
Emperor Charles VI, who had no male heirs, issued the “Pragmatic Sanction” in 1713. She declared the Habsburg hereditary lands indivisible and secured the throne of his eldest daughter Maria Theresia. The marriage of Maria Theresa with Francis Stephen of Lorraine founded the family Habsburg-Lorraine and a secure continuation of the dynasty thanks to their 16 children. he gave birth to 11 daughters and 5 sons, with only 10 of them reaching adulthood. These were married to leading aristocratic homes across Europe. One of her most famous daughters was Marie Antoinette, who was executed during the French Revolution. Maria Theresia reigned from 1740-1780, renovated the state budget and introduced many innovations, for example the compulsory education. As a summer residence, the Habsburgs used the Schönbrunn Palace. In 1804, her grandson Franz proclamed the Austrian Empire. Two years later, under pressure from Napoleon, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was dissolved after almost a thousand years. He was followed by his first-born son, Ferdinand I, the benevolent, who, however, suffered from epilepsy and was not really able to govern. At the time, State Chancellor Metternich and his system set the tone. It was the time of the Vormärz from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 until the March Revolution of 1848.
The Regency of Emperor Franz Joseph I until the End of the Monarchy (1848 – 1918)
In 1848, Emperor Franz Joseph I – the great-great-grandson of Maria Theresa – ascended the throne. His time was marked by many political defeats. The Battle of Königgrätz in 1866 bore witness to this, when the Habsburgs disappeared from the all-German map. In 1867 there was a settlement with Hungary and the Habsburg Empire was renamed the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. Until their deposition at the end of World War I in 1918, the Habsburgs remained kings of Hungary. Emperor Franz Joseph I, the penultimate emperor, reigned for 68 years, longer than any other member of the house before him. He died at the age of 86 in the middle of the First World War in November 1916. His beloved wife Elisabeth, better known as Sisi, was only at his side in the beginning. She preferred warmer climates and tried to avoid the strict ceremonial of the Viennese court. Together they had four children, three daughters and a son. Her only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, committed suicide at a young age together with his mistress Mary Vetsera. This went down in haistory as the tragedy of Mayerling.
Until the beginning of the 20th century the Habsburgs held together the multiethnic state with a population of about 51 million in 13 countries. The assassination of the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 was one of the triggers of the First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918. The last Habsburg emperor was Charles I, the great-nephew of Franz Joseph I. Charles reigned for only two years from 1916 – 1918, i.e. until the end of the monarchy. He was exiled to Madeira together with his wife Zita, as he never officially abdicated as emperor. In 1918, the rule of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine ended after 640 years with the defeat in World War 1. In Austria, the First Republic was proclaimed in November 1918.