Hapsburg

Final Decline

In the 19th cent. the Hapsburg position was challenged in Germany by Prussia, in Italy by Sardinia, and in the Balkans by Russia. During the revolutions of 1848, Francis's son Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his nephew Francis Joseph, whose long rule (1848–1916) saw Austria lose (1859) its dominance in Italy and surrender (1866) leadership in Germany to Prussia.

In 1867 the Hapsburg lands were reorganized as the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Buffeted by the twin forces of liberalism and nationalism and torn by the fratricidal hostilities of the polyglot national groups, the Hapsburg monarchy failed to create any ideological basis for its existence, failed to curb the domineering national groups (Hungarians, Germans, and Poles), and failed to satisfy the demands of the rising middle and industrial classes.

The assassination of heir apparent Francis Ferdinand precipitated World War I; the death (1916) of Francis Joseph left his grandnephew, Emperor Charles I, to witness the defeat of Austria-Hungary, which was dissolved immediately after Charles's abdication in 1918. Charles's son, Archduke Otto (see Hapsburg, Otto von), succeeded him as head of the Hapsburgs. The unresolved problems of the Hapsburg monarchy remained to torment the Balkan successor states. After World War I, members of the family who refused to renounce the throne were exiled from Austria; the exile was repealed in 1996.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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