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 explanations to guide you through the complexities of Habsburg history and terminology.
(The Michelerplatz end of the Habsburg winter palace in Vienna)
Vienna and the Habsburgs
For centuries, Vienna effectively formed the administrative centre of an ever-changing collection of lands ruled by the Habsburg family dynasty. Emperors and Empresses made their home here and constructed many of the majestic buildings that fill the city centre.
At times, these Habsburg lands stretched all the way 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 democratic country with no monarchy that covers an area smaller than most US states.
The articles below provide a little background on the rise and fall of the Habsburgs to help you make more of your visit to Vienna.
In particular, the articles explain the confusing Habsburg-related terms bandied around in 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 particular empire is critical for understanding Habsburg history
- The Austrian Empire – how the Habsburg lands became an empire in their own right in 1804
- Austria-Hungary – 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 abbreviations everywhere (even today) in connection with the Habsburg court, but what do they actually stand for?