A History of Modern Hungary, 1867-1994

By Jörg K. Hoensch; Kim Traynor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Hungary under the Habsburgs up to the Compromise of 1867

THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND UP TO THE REVOLUTION OF 1848-49

Dressed in the uniform of a Hungarian general, the Habsburg Emperor, Francis Joseph I, was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary in Buda on 8 June 1867. In the course of a solemn religious ceremony, conducted according to traditional mediaeval rites, the Hungarian Primate placed the holy crown of St Stephen on the Emperor's head to the rapturous acclaim of the crowd. This splendid act of reconciliation between a political nation and its ruler had come about not least through the mediating efforts of the Empress Elizabeth who enjoyed great popularity in Hungary. Based on a compromise agreement negotiated in the previous weeks, it brought to an end a crisis which had been smouldering in Hungary ever since the revolution of 1848.

To this day the Emperor has remained a controversial figure. But, given his bitter personal experiences from the time the Hungarian diet deposed the House of Habsburg-Lorraine on 14 April 1849, the many domestic and foreign policy failures following subsequent attempts to re-establish absolutist rule, unsuccessful experiments at constitutional centralism and Old Conservative federalism and especially Austria's shock defeat at Königgrätz, it says a great deal for his political vision that far from being blind to political realities, he deliberately instigated the Austrian Empire's transformation into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Although the advocates of a unitary Empire thought that the dualism created by the so-called 'Compromise' of 1867 set the wrong course for the future and that obstructing moves towards a

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