As you read books or visit museums and palaces in Vienna, you’ll see many references to Habsburg monarchs and Habsburg rule. But all those Archdukes and empires can get a little confusing.
For example, was there ever such a thing as a Habsburg Empire? What was the Austrian Empire? Is Austria-Hungary the same thing? Who were the Spanish Habsburgs? And what is, actually, an Archduke or Archduchess?
Most importantly, did court painters exaggerate the size of Emperor Franz Joseph’s massive moustache?
(No, they didn’t).
So let me offer you some quick, understandable explanations…
(The Michelerplatz end of the Habsburg winter palace in Vienna)
For centuries, Vienna was the administrative centre of an ever-changing collection of lands ruled by the Habsburg family dynasty.
At times, these Vienna-centred lands stretched from today’s Italy to Poland and as far east as Romania. (Not to mention periods of Habsburg power and influence in such places as Mexico and the Netherlands.)
Today, however, Vienna is “only” the capital of Austria, a country with no monarchy that covers an area smaller than most US states.
So what do you need to know about the rise and fall of the Habsburgs? The straightforward articles below help you understand the history of the family and Austria. And they explain the various terms bandied around in those guidebooks and at tourist sites.
(The Habsburg summer palace at Schönbrunn)
- The Habsburg Monarchy – where did the Habsburgs rule and why is Vienna so important?
- The Holy Roman Empire – discover why this “other empire” is critical for understanding Habsburg history
- The Austrian Empire – how the Habsburg lands became an empire in their own right under Franz II/I in 1804
- Austria-Hungary – learn how and why the Austrian Empire morphed into Austria-Hungary in 1867
- Austria – it may sound a strange question, but what does the word “Austria” actually refer to? It’s not always as simple as it seems
- Other Habsburg terms – so far so good, but where do the Spanish Habsburgs come into this? What about the Hapsburgs (with a P)? These and other side questions answered
- Empresses and Archdukes – what do these Habsburg titles mean and who got them? (And discover why lucky Emperor Franz had two numerals after his name)
- k. u. k. and k. k. – finally, you see these monarchical abbreviations everywhere (even today), but what do they actually stand for?