Portrait of Joseph I (1678-1711), Holy Roman Emperor, King of Bohemia and Hungary, Archduke of Austria (1705-1711)
Joseph I (26 July 1678 – 17 April 1711) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1705 until his death in 1711. He was the eldest son of Emperor Leopold I from his third wife, Eleonor Magdalene of Neuburg. Joseph was crowned King of Hungary at the age of nine in 1687 and King in Germany at the age of eleven in 1690. He succeeded to the thrones of Bohemia and the Holy Roman Empire when his father died. Joseph continued the War of the Spanish Succession, begun by his father against Louis XIV of France, in a fruitless attempt to make his younger brother Charles (later Emperor Charles VI) King of Spain. In the process, however, owing to the victories won by his military commander, Prince Eugene of Savoy, he did succeed in establishing Austrian hegemony over Italy. Joseph also had to contend with a protracted revolt in Hungary, fomented by Louis XIV. Neither conflict was resolved until after his death. Born in Vienna, Joseph was educated strictly by Prince Dietrich Otto von Salm and became a good linguist. Although he was the first son and child born of his parents' marriage, he was his father's third son and seventh child. Previously, Leopold had been married to Infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain, who had given him four children, one of whom survived infancy. He then married Claudia Felicitas of Austria, who gave him two short-lived daughters. Thus, Joseph had six half-siblings. In 1684, the six-year-old Archduke had his first portrait painted by Benjamin Block. At the age of nine, on 9 December 1687, he was crowned King of Hungary; and at the age of eleven, on 23 January 1690, King of the Romans. Although he never formally ceased to be a Roman Catholic, Joseph (unlike his parents and most of his other relatives) was not particularly devout by nature. He had two great enthusiasms: music and hunting. In 1702, at the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession, Joseph saw his only military service. He joined the Imperial General, Louis William, Margrave of Baden-Baden, in the Siege of Landau. Prior to his ascension, Joseph had surrounded himself with reform-hungry advisors and the ‘young court’ of Vienna was ambitious in the elaboration of innovative plans. He was described as a "forward-looking ruler". The large number of privy councillors was reduced and attempts were made to make the bureaucracy more efficient. Measures were taken to modernize the central bodies and a certain success was achieved in stabilizing the chronic Habsburg finances. Joseph also endeavoured to strengthen his position in the Holy Roman Empire – as a means of strengthening Austria’s standing as a great power. When he sought to lay claim to imperial rights in Italy and gain territories for the Habsburgs, he even risked a military conflict with the Pope over the duchy of Mantua. It was his good fortune to govern the Austrian dominions and to be head of the Empire, during the years in which his trusted general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, either acting alone in Italy or with the Duke of Marlborough in Germany and Flanders, was beating the armies of Louis XIV of France. During the whole of his reign, Hungary was disturbed by the conflict with Francis Rákóczi II, who eventually took refuge in the Ottoman Empire. The emperor reversed many of the authoritarian measures of his father, thus helping to placate opponents. He began the attempts to settle the question of the Austrian inheritance by a pragmatic sanction, which was continued by his brother Charles VI. During the smallpox epidemic of 1711, which killed Louis, le Grand Dauphin and three siblings of the future Holy Roman Emperor Francis I, Joseph became infected. He died on 17 April in the Hofburg Palace.
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