Franz Joseph of Habsburg-Lorraine was born in Vienna in the palace of Schönbrunn. Emperor of Austria from 1848 to 1916 and King of Hungary from 1867 to 1916. His ultimatum to Serbia in 1914 brought Austria and Germany to war. The eldest son of Archduke Francis Charles, the second son of Emperor Francis I, and of Princess Sofia of Bavaria, was educated by his mother as heir to the throne. At the age of 13, he embarked on a military career. On December 2, 1848 he became emperor, following the abdication of Uncle Ferdinando I and the renunciation of his father's throne. He was only 18 years old and it was a very difficult time for the Habsburgs: the 1848 crisis was still ongoing, Vienna was in turmoil (the court had moved to Olomouc, in Moravia).
Led by the energetic prince Felix Schwarzenberg, new president of the Council and Foreign Minister, in less than two years he saw the reestablishment of imperial authority in Bohemia and Hungary and reaffirmed the pre-eminence of Austria in Germany and Italy (in the battle of Novara , of 1849, the imperial troops defeated the Piedmontese ones of King Carlo Alberto, who had to renounce the prospect of annexing Lombardy and abdicating). With the order reconstituted throughout the empire, he withdrew the constitutional concessions made in 1849 under the pressure of revolutionary uprisings and inaugurated an absolutist policy. He was later unable to retain the political position that Schwarzenberg had assured him (who died in 1852) due to his employees who were no longer able to cope with the situation. In 1853 he was the victim of an attack in Vienna from which he emerged almost unscathed: the twenty-two who had tried to stab him was hanged a few days later.
Contravening on the mother's plan, that he wanted to make him marry his cousin Elena, eldest daughter of his sister and of the duke Maximilian of Bavaria, on April 24th 1854 he married the other cousin, Elena's younger sister: the sixteen-year-old Elizabeth (1837-1898) , known as Sisi (she would become Sissi only in the fifties of the twentieth century, at the cinema), of which he was very much in love. The great love that represented the opposite of his character, the south of his north, the negative pole of his linear positivity, the fatal attraction from which he will never fully succeed in re-emerging, will forever be incarnated by a "fugitive", eager to put as much distance as possible between herself and her husband ".
Isolated in Europe for failure to intervene in the Crimea, in 1859 he found himself fighting without allies against Piedmont and France. After the war (Second Italian War of Independence) ended with the loss of Lombardy, it adopted a foreign policy aimed at reaffirming the role of Austria in Germany and Italy, even with a possible conflict in arms, as it was was established by Metternich in 1814-15. A perspective that was disappointed when, at the congress of the German princes of 1863, the absence of the king of Prussia marked the final distrust of the latter in the dominant role of Austria in Germany. Francesco Giuseppe therefore decided to ally himself with Prussia in the war against Denmark, to face the problem later. He did not derive concrete fruits from it. Indeed the differences on Schleswig-Holstein, cleverly exploited by Bismarck, led in 1866 to the Austro-Prussian war, which on the southern front resulted in the Third Italian War of Independence and ended with the defeat of Austria and with the forced renunciation at every influence in Germany, as well as with the loss of Venice.
In 1867 he resolved the confrontation, always tended from 1849 onwards, with Hungary through the so-called dual monarchy, ie dividing the empire into two territories, which held the monarch in common (for himself he assumed the titles of emperor of Austria and king of Hungary) and the ministers of Foreign Affairs and War.
The author, both inside and abroad, of a conservative policy, accepted the decisions of the Berlin congress (July 1878) that entrusted him with the administration of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He allied with Germany (1879), joined the alliance of the three emperors (1881, with William I of Germany and Alexander III of Russia) and the year after the Triple Alliance, which included Germany and Italy.
For 14 years, starting in 1879, he entrusted the government to conservative Eduard von Taaffe. Meanwhile, the political struggles within the empire were made more acute, caused by the numerous national demands: none of the Croatians, Slovaks and Slavs of the South had obtained something that resembled the concessions made to the Hungarians. Faithful to the principle of not jeopardizing the internal stability of the monarchy with a reckless foreign policy, he faced the international situation with realism, also restraining the pressures of the military, especially the Chief of Staff Conrad von Hötzendorf, who repeatedly supported the need of a preventive war against Serbia or Italy. He resisted until 1914, when the assassination in Sarajevo of his nephew and heir Francesco Ferdinando led him, albeit reluctantly, to declare war on Serbia, starting the first world war.
From Elisabetta she had four sons: Rodolfo, second son, the only male (died, apparently suicide, in 1889, at 31, together with the lover); Gisella (1856-1932) and Maria Valeria (1868-1924). The great-grandson Charles I.