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Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph

At Schonbrunn, in July, 1832, a second son was born to the Archduke Francis Charles, brother of Ferdinand I of Austria, and Sophia Frederica Dorothea, princess of Bavaria. In royal fashion this child of imperialism was christened Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, honored names in the annals of the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine. He was educated for the navy, entered the service at the age of fourteen and, apart from the preferment and promotion which would inevitably mark the career of the emperor's brother, he won, by his ability and merit, the rank of rear-admiral.

The mentally incompetent Emperor Ferdinand formally abdicated on December 2, 1848, and his eighteen-year-old nephew was crowned Emperor Franz Joseph I (r. 1848-1916). Prince Francis Charles renounced the throne in favor of his eldest son, the Emperor Francis Joseph, born in 1830.

In 1854, at the age of twenty-two, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the imperial navy, an office not very oppressive in its duties, as the navy consisted of very few vessels. In this high office he accomplished many notable reforms. He modified the system and discipline of the service, adopted the later designs in construction and armament, increased the naval force, planned improvements of the coast defenses, visited Candia, Egypt, and Palestine, for the study of natural history and archaeology, and began the construction of the great naval station and arsenal at ancient Pola.

He visited with his squadron Syria and Palestino, and the Red Sea. The summer of 1855 found Maximilian ready for a pleasure-tour. He boarded the Admiral-ship, Swartzenberg, and accompanied by a fleet of seventeen sail, steamed for Candia, the Archipelago, and coasted along Syria; traversed Lebanon, the Holy Land, to Jerusalem. Thence he sailed for Alexandria, in Egypt. After a short visit there, he proceeded to Cairo and the Pyramids; thence to Memphis and the Red Sea, not failing to closely observe the preparatory works of the then contemplated canal across the Isthmus of Suez. In 1856, being in French waters, he spent a fortnight at St. Cloud with the Emperor of the French.

At a period of intense political excitement in 1857, he was chosen governor-general of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom. Its peoples, tossed upon the tides of revolution, in all their history hated everything that bore the name or sign of royalty ; and Austria then knew no rule of her diverse nationalities, save that of force. The popularity of Maximilian with the Italiens displeased his brother, the Emperor Francis Joseph, and he removed him from the viceroyalty in the autumn of 1859.

He was a man of limitless ambition, but lacking in that strength of will and clearness of judgment which are at once its sole justification, and the only means of ensuring its success. So long as he was chief of the Austrian navy, or viceroy of Lombardy-Venice, he felt that in some degree he filled his proper place ; but when he was recalled in 1859, and retired to private life, he became deeply discontented.

Reverting to ha former position, as Admiral of the Austrian Navy, Maximilian and his archduchess spent most of their time at his castle of Miramar, on the Adriatic, occupying many hours in study, and introducing many beneficial reforms into the navy. He paid much attention to the improvement of the navy, and made the fleet of Austria, in proportion to its size, not inferior to any in Europe. The city of Pola was greatly indebted to Maximilian for its resuscitation. He caused several edifices to be constructed there, planted gardens, built a large dike, an aqueduct, an arsenal, and three docks.

In 1863 Maximilian became emperor of Mexico, both to suit Louis Napoleon's purpose and his own. He had ample warning of the probable consequences of his enterprise, and from first to last acted with full knowledge of the problems and risks his acceptance would involve. The heir of the house of Braganza, who had renounced his claims to that little kingdom, was at the time reigning in peace over the vast realm of Brazil. Maximilian was executed by order of the Liberal Government of Mexico, at Queretaro, June 19, 1867.

War with Italy was declared on June 20, 1866. Though Maximilian was no longer there to direct the work, or to push it forward, when the necessity occurred, the navy still enjoyed the benefit of his rule. He had insisted that He had insisted that the navy should be a national force, that the ships and their engines, as well as their men, should be Austrian. The arsenal at Pola was a reality ; and the ships, though unfinished, were in their own hands, to be got ready as soon as possible. The one point in which they had trusted to foreign resources was the only one that utterly failed them. But it was an important one. A number of heavy guns which had been ordered from Krnpp's works were stopped by the Prussians, and the want could not now be adequately supplied. The spirit of the service was, however, excellent.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:51:22 ZULU