Francis Joseph or Franz Joseph, 1830–1916, emperor of Austria (1848–1916), king of Hungary (1867–1916), nephew of Ferdinand, who abdicated in his favor. His long reign began in the stormy days of the revolutions of 1848 and ended in the midst of World War I. In that troubled period of growing nationalism, he held the many peoples of his empire together. He subdued Hungary (1849) and in the same year defeated Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. In the Italian War of 1859, in which he faced Napoleon III and Victor Emmanuel, he lost Lombardy to Sardinia by the Treaty of Villafranca di Verona. In the Austro-Prussian War (1866) his only territorial loss was that of Venetia to Italy, but his crushing defeat resulted in the loss of Austrian influence over German affairs and in the ascendancy of Prussia. Constant pressure from Hungary led to the reorganization (1867) of the empire as a dual monarchy—the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. In 1879, Francis Joseph joined Germany in an alliance that later also included Italy (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente). His reign, although it brought material prosperity, was disturbed by the discontent of the national minorities, notably the Slavs. When Russian Pan-Slavism backed Serbia, particularly after the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (1908), a situation was created that helped bring on World War I. Francis Joseph's private life was beset by the tragedies falling on his wife, Empress Elizabeth, his brother, Maximilian of Mexico, and his son, Archduke Rudolf. In 1914 his nephew, the heir apparent, Francis Ferdinand, was assassinated, and his death was the spark that set off World War I. Francis Joseph died before the empire actually fell apart under the impact of military defeat, as it did under his successor, Charles I.
See biographies by J. Redlich (1928; tr. 1929, repr. 1965), K. Tschuppik (1928, tr. 1930), A. Murad (1968), and A. Palmer (1995); C. W. Clark, Franz Joseph and Bismarck (1934, repr. 1968); E. Crankshaw, Fall of the House of Habsburg (1963, repr. 1971); G. B. Marek, The Eagles Die (1974).