Francis of Habsburg-Lorraine was born in Florence, February 12, 1768, by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II and Maria Ludovica of the Bourbons of Spain. At the age of sixteen he moved to Vienna, at the court of his uncle the emperor Joseph II, to receive an education more appropriate to his rank. Two years later he received the baptism of fire by participating, following the emperor himself, in the war against the Ottoman Empire. Before leaving, however, she marries Elisabetta Guglielmina of Württemberg, who will give him a daughter, Ludovica Elisabetta, but the childbirth will be fatal. Sixteen months later Ludovica Elisabetta died too.
On 15 August 1790 Francesco contracted a second marriage with his cousin Maria Teresa dei Borbone di Napoli who, in addition to giving him twelve children, will also have a significant role in some political decisions, such as that of fighting Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1792 he inherited the crown of the Holy Roman Empire, continuing in the anti-French war effort initiated by his father even when Prussia collapsed, following the peace of Basel in 1795. From 1792 to 1796 he was the last Duke of Milan.
Defeated repeatedly by Napoleon, in 1797 he was forced to accept the inglorious peace of Campoformio, which was followed in 1801 by the Treaty of Luneville: the two events deprived him of the Netherlands, Milanese and Tuscany, although he received them in exchange Venice, Istria, Dalmatia and the islands.
On 11 August 1804 he also assumed the title of hereditary emperor of Austria, with the name of Francis I, having understood that the Holy Roman Empire was short-lived and in fact, after Bonaparte declared that he no longer intended to recognize it, in 1806 will depose the crown decreeing its end. With the subsequent treaties of Pressburg (today Bratislavia), in 1805, which follows the defeat of Austerlitz, and that of Schonbrunn (also called Vienna), of 1809, after the defeat of Wagram, returns to lose Venice, in addition to Galicia and to the Illyrian provinces.
Meanwhile the second wife died in April 1807, the following year convoluted to new marriage with the twenty-year-old Maria Ludovica d'Asburgo-Este, another cousin. But for an arcane game of destiny the third wife will die prematurely, April 7, 1816, and he, more stubborn of the same fate, for the fourth time and only seven months later, will return to the altar to take Carolina Augusta of Bavaria as wife , daughter of King Maximilian I.
Now in the hands of the French emperor, in 1810 Francesco gave him his daughter Maria Luisa in marriage and made an alliance with him against Russia, but the fate of the war allowed him to free himself from his ally. He joined the anti-French coalition formed by England, Russia and Prussia contributing to the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte, in Leipzig, in 1813, and thus recovering all the lost States, but rejects the idea of a restoration of the Holy Roman Empire.
The Napoleonic experience, which ended for the moment with the exile of the former emperor, led the Russian, Prussian and Austrian powers to make a pact of mutual assistance based on Christian principles, and for this reason called "Holy Alliance", born in September of 1814 on the occasion of the Vienna Congress with which, in fact, the process of restoration of the "Ancien régime" is ratified.
In reality, the Austrian Chancellor Metternich, the true director of the maneuver, intended to create an alliance for the assertion of absolutism against European liberal movements and, at the same time, represents a brake on possible expansionist ambitions of the single signatory powers. Strictly faithful to the principles of the "Holy Alliance", chased by Metternich - who played a key role in the most delicate decisions of the emperor - he operates a systematic and brutal repression of the constitutional movements in the empire in the years 1820-1821: the Piedmontese uprisings, for which it comes to the rescue of the Savoy and the Neapolitan, in aid of the Bourbons, they are suffocated with the use of the army.
At the age of 67, Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire died in Vienna on March 2, 1835.