February 16, 2010

Family Tree: Meet Marie's Brother Joseph

On January 12, 1740, the Empress Maria Theresa gave birth to her third daughter, Maria Carolina, but sadly the child only survived a year and thirteen days.  Three months after the death of the little archduchess the empress delivered a baby boy, Joseph. As the oldest son he was destined to rule, an idea he grew up to love, not dissimilar to his mother.  Like his mother also, he seemed to inherit her gumption.

The education Maria Theresa provided for her children was based on learning by repetition.  While this method is tolorable for some children, for Joseph it was insufferable. He had a rather short attention span which did not help. His mother often tried to please him, praise him and develop his talents.  Personality wise, the boy grew up very confident in his own thoughts and ideas, and has been described as an egotist.  Maria Theresa found it very difficult to get along with her son who shared her own self-willed and stubbornness.

Pride and haughtiness were descriptions given to the little archduke at the tender age of six! By nine Maria Theresa had the soldier, Count Charles Batthyany, working with her son with the hopes of setting him straight.  He back-talked, would ignore those under him and liked to argue.

At nineteen he fell in love, and a marriage was quickly arranged.  Maria Theresa had wished for her son to marry a Bourbon to help tie France and Austria together (sound familiar?).  The Bourbon in question was Isabella of Parma. Her mother was Louise Elisabeth of France, the beloved daughter of Louis XV.  The plan started to deteriorate when Louise Elisabeth passed away at just 32.  It could have fallen through completely but Joseph already saw a portrait of the young lady in question and had to have her.

His mother spent plenty of money on the wedding festivities in Vienna, even if the means were not readily available.  He adored her and they celebrated the birth of a daughter.  While the young wife was pregnant with their second child she fell victim to the smallpox.  Sadly neither wife nor child survived.  Her father received a tender letter from the devastated Joseph, which read, "I have lost everything.  My adored wife, the object of all my tenderness, my only friend is gone...Agonised and beaten down, I hardly know if I am still alive."

He would marry Princess Maria Josepha of Bavaria six years only later to become a widower again in two.  His brief marriage to her was his last. In 1780 when his mother passed away he was left in charge as emperor.  He had always focused on making reforms which he believed were entirely correct and always 'new'. He was not always praised for his personality or his reforms, and many did not prove as monumental as he had hoped.  Anyway we could go on about Joseph but that will be for later!

10 comments

  1. I find the history of the 18th century fascinating although sad at times. We so take for granted out health and the expectation that we will live a long and fruitful life. Joseph was, I think, also Marie Antoinette's favourite. So sad that his first wife, Isabella, had her life cut short. Smallpox is a virus and is an infectious disease unique to humans. In the late 18th century 400 000 Europeans per year died from smallpox apparantly including five monarchs, one of which was, I assume, Isabella of Parma.
    I feel we are so lucky - I look at my smallpox vaccination and think there for the grace of god go we.
    According to the World Health Organization smallpox is officially eradicated. Too late though for Isabella and her unborn child.

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  2. Joseph is a man I definitely would have liked to meet! Very interesting and uncommon. He is the favourite of many female members of the german Marie Antoinette Forum, of which I am admin...; )

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  3. Just fascinating! You are my wonderful escape to the 18th century, thank you so much for my guilty pleasure :)

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  4. @MAthe2nd - Smallpox, ugh! I believe the strain which Isabel of Parma died from had also infected Marie Antoinette around age 12, and one of her sisters in the same sweep. We are quite fortunate for our vaccinations!

    @Tinka - oh I think I would like your forum! :o)

    @MeghannLittleStudio - believe me, I am right there with you! Thank goodness for the blog, it is my own little escape!!

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  5. He was a great emperor, son of a great woman.

    regards

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  6. @Lauren: If you want to visit, I linked the forum (just klick on my name above this post). But it's in german...

    We had a discussion about who would be our (dream)man, if we would live back then. And most of the women chose Joseph ;)

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  7. Your Majesty,

    I have found myself visiting your blog now daily just to keep reading as I am a die hard history fan!! I honestly could live in the library just reading history!! Or just camp out at Versailles' Library:)) eating bon bons:) your blog just feeds my addiction:))) Great info for us:)) I put your avatar on my sidebar so that others can enjoy your articles too!

    Royal wishes,
    Daisy

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  8. Your Majesty,

    I have found myself visiting your blog now daily just to keep reading as I am a die hard history fan!! I honestly could live in the library just reading history!! Or just camp out at Versailles' Library:)) eating bon bons:) your blog just feeds my addiction:))) Great info for us:)) I put your avatar on my sidebar so that others can enjoy your articles too!

    Royal wishes,
    Daisy

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  9. @Tinka thanks for the link! I think Heather and I have discussed this very topic before. We should revisit our answers!

    @LaPetitePlume I am so glad to hear this blog is an 18th century 'fix' :o) I have to say your blog is lovely and I am loving your fabulous Etsy site! This has caught my eye:

    Beautiful 18th Century inspired Bookmark

    love it!!

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  10. I never knew that Marie Antoinette had smallpox. Imagine if she had not survived I wonder how different history would have been. Lauren do you think the French Revolution would still have occured to the degree it did if Louis 16th hadn't married Marie Antoinette?
    As we all know a big part of the French Revolution was the excesses and extravagances of the aristocracy and in particular Marie Antoinette, although I believe she was to a certain extent part of a propaganda campaign to blame someone for the class divide. Also, money that was sent to America for the War of Independence to help oust the English should have gone to the lower classes but that decision was made by Louis and his advisors not Marie.
    I am not an historian(I wish I was!) but I do love to wonder at what might have been. Thank goodness she recovered and without scars to give us a beautiful piece of history to admire, wonder at, and dream about. Her legacy remains today with all of us still marvelling at her life.

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