Was ist Österreich? -an Austrian Empire timeline

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Neptune, Aug 6, 2015.


    May 29, 2014

    What is Austria?

    Austria is an Empire. It is, was, and remains a mad conglomeration of lands, a collection of hereditary territories united only by the one tenuous connection of one family, one monarch. And it is weaker than ever. There is one thing that I shall admit, and it is this: that when Napoleon Bonaparte marched his armies from one end of Europe to the other, he ignited a force that will not be so easily extinguished. And that force is nationalism.

    Even now in secret clubs across the Empire there gather forces of instability and revolution. Even now in Lombardy-Venetia there are men who call themselves Italian; in Galicia-Lodomeria those who proclaim themselves Polish; in Bohemia those who would be Czech. And what do I say? I say that we are under siege; under siege from those who would refuse our control and our strength, under siege from the masses itself.

    The solution to this is simple. It is not going to be easy; we will have to make the identity of being Austrian, of residing within the borders of the Empire, more attractive, than staying among their own kind, their own race. The nations are but made of people; and people can be broken. We must destroy the nations, crush them with force, and lather them thinly across the Empire. And at the same time we must make clear that safety lies with Austria.

    If they do not want safety, then let them have danger! We will hunt their families from Vienna to Weissenberg, and we will butcher them like pigs. And we will do more than that, too, if they do not comply.

    -Ferdinand I “the Great” von Hapsburg, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Croatia, King of Bohemia, King of Lombardy-Venetia, in Schönbrunn Palace, April 1835
    19 April 1793: Ferdinand Charles Leopold Joseph Francis Marcelin is born to Francis II of Austria and Maria Teresa of Naples in Vienna. Their first male child, he is given a clean bill of health by physicians. Francis II hands him off to be educated by tutors, not recognizing just how lucky he is not to have a deformed, idiot heir.

    Growing up: Ferdinand led a largely Spartan existence. His teachers were cold, much like Joseph II was with Francis II. Instead of crumbling under their silence or succumbing to the need to obey, Ferdinand’s willpower swerved in an entirely different direction. Finding numerous ways to sneak out of his lessons, Ferdinand often barged into the lessons of his siblings or into the offices of his uncles, finding excuses to remain and fleeing from his furious educators. Francis II was largely indifferent to their treatment of him.

    Despite this, Ferdinand had a natural inclination to learning and comprehension. He cultivated a sharp memory and was often able to complete tasks that were set for him in a relatively short period of time. However, his body was spindly and weak, not suited for hard physical labour, and Ferdinand was often exhausted after the daily military exercises which he was put through as perpetual punishment.

    Napoleon: During negotiations for the Treaty of Schönbrunn, Napoleon I decides to explore the cavernous summer palace. Venturing into a musty old library, he hears the sound of dry pages turning, and moves to investigate. He finds a young man hunched over a pile of papers, who turns as he approaches. The library is dark; the only source of moderately bright light comes from the many lamps arranged around the desk.

    Napoleon asks what the young man is doing, alone in the library. The young man replies, “I am searching for a method to undo my family’s humiliation in the annals of the past,” and, with nary an indication, suddenly sweeps a pile of papers off the table in one forceful motion, where they scatter in the slight breeze. Napoleon notices writings from the time of Maria Theresa, and possibly some from even further back.

    After a brief conversation with the young man, Napoleon walks away, thoughtful, and subsequently begins to include the young Archduke Ferdinand in the marriage arrangements regarding Marie Louise, the Duchess of Parma; the Archduke will receive an education under Napoleon’s own men, and will serve as company for his sister. Francis II argues ineffectually against this taking of hostages, but is in the end forced to agree. Archduke Ferdinand remains impassive on the day of departure itself, the 16-year-old clutching the hand of his slightly older sister Marie Louise.

    Archduke Ferdinand will refer to this day in his personal diary as “a day that opened my eyes; today I realized that my father and my mother are useless, base creatures. Napoleon is a charming man, but he is not an Austria; he is not a German, or an Italian; he is a mongrel French. He says that he looks forward to teaching an Austrian aristocrat about the Empire of France. I think that I have nothing to learn from him.”

    Yet, against his own wishes, Ferdinand finds himself understanding and acknowledging the power of many concepts and ideas that Napoleon circulates and emphasizes in the daily running of France; nationalism, for example, and the forces of the intellectual, the bureaucrat, the noble, and the masses. In Paris, he is treated as nothing more than a curiosity, a strange aristocratic distraction. A combination of natural charisma and base cunning allows him to establish a rudimentary communications network all the way to the outskirts of Paris.

    He also maintains a private study in the Tuileries Palace. This study contains a dizzying array of records and maps, tracking Napoleon’s movement across Europe and back. Every night, without fail, Ferdinand will sit at his desk and scribble on about one topic or another, reflecting or speculating about esoteric, abstract topics. When the Coalition marches into Paris, Ferdinand will remain stiff and cold, even when his father hugs him perfunctorily. His records will be taken into the Imperial archives.


    Hello! This is a rehash of a previous thread. Basically, I released quite a few concepts rather prematurely in the old thread, and was generally inexperienced. Plus, that thread is dead. And I've tried to change the concept a bit. Ferdinand is still born; his physique is still pretty bad; but he's not completely retarded, so I reckon that counts for something. I welcome any and all graphics, since I'm personally quite shit at this sort of photo-editing. Hope you enjoy.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2016
  2. Emperor-of-New-Zealand It's a figure of speech

    Aug 2, 2009
    Christchurch, NZ
    I don't really know where you're going with this, as I have no background knowledge in the subject matter at all outside a basic understanding of Napoleonic France, but I'm interested. I get the feeling we're looking at an Austrian-Napoleon in a sense, with Ferdinand taking the helm and steering Austria into new directions.

    As a completely unrelated aside, I glanced at the map and saw that France and southern Italy were the same colour, and got excited for a moment, thinking somehow the two were conjoined. Then I realised Denmark was also purple and it's just the map style, but still...intriguing. :p

    May 29, 2014
    December 1815: The young Archduke Ferdinand returns to Vienna as part of the diplomatic entourage. He spent much of the trip discussing various topics with his uncles and Prince Metternich, who are heartened to know that the future of the Empire is in capable hands. However, they do not take any special note of his precociousness. As the trip progresses, Ferdinand seems to regain his previous verve in small measures, and eventually bursts into tears as the outskirts of Vienna come into sight. He will treat the other members of his family with increased warmth from now on, and make a special effort to break into the higher political circles of the Empire.

    Taking power: Upon returning to Schönbrunn Palace, Ferdinand slips back into the easy routine of dodging classes and undergoing strict military drills. His physique has not developed much, and a poor appetite and sickliness do not help this. Despite this, he is quickly thrown into the army, first serving under his uncle Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen, and then the Chief of Staff, Joseph Radetzky. By introducing the two to one another, Ferdinand will be responsible for the eventual resurgence of the Imperial Army into a capable force in its own right.

    Ferdinand will treat his father with greater courtesy, though with a slight coolness; something that Francis II will never recognize. Obedient and efficient, he quickly slips himself into important family gatherings and by extension into the various political workings of Austria. By a combination of flattery and prodding, he will push his father into action regarding the governance of Austria. It is thought that at least half of the degrees that were published during the last decade of Francis II’s reign were largely influenced by Ferdinand.

    In 1821, the Council of State was established under Francis II’s orders. The various ministers and high-ranking bureaucrats entered the chamber in Hofburg Palace, expecting to see the familiar figure of their Emperor, but instead found the skinny, upright figure of Ferdinand awaiting them, and arranged around him a fairly large number of senior Hapsburgs, almost all of them Francis II’s siblings. Few nobles were present. When one of the bureaucrats asked, timidly, why Francis II was absent, Ferdinand I answered smoothly: The Emperor is indisposed. I am serving as his representative. All complaints at being presided over by a 28-year-old are quickly shot down by the senior Hapsburgs.

    What these ministers and bureaucrats do not know is that Francis II is completely unaware of the goings-on in Hofburg. A short distance away, he is just taking his morning walk in the gardens of the Hofburg, unaware that the document that he signed off just five months ago has revived an institution where he is required to be present. Nevertheless, most of the senior Hapsburgs, especially the liberal Archduke John, thrill at the prospect of slipping out, even briefly, from under the shadow of their dull-minded older brother, and promise to be present with their nephew.

    This Council, the one of the last of Francis II’s decrees, will be Ferdinand’s main instrument in imposing his will upon the provinces of Austria. When Francis next convenes the ministers and bureaucrats, he will find them more attentive, somewhat colder. It will tickle a sentiment in his mind. They seem to be treating him almost like how his own son treats him. Yet he dismisses it in due course; satisfied that the administration is functioning, he will nod and thank the assembled. When he is taken by fits of fancy and demands some strange new turn in policy, he will obtain general nods of obedience and agreement… but no one will actually do anything. For they have found a new Emperor, and he is not Francis.

    In actual fact Ferdinand is establishing an unofficial web of influence, on a far larger scale than the informal network he constructed in Paris under Napoleon. By placing himself firmly on the side of the Imperial bureaucracy and backing it up with the credibility and authority of his uncles, he will have chosen where he stands in the old conflict between the administration and the nobility.

    As he wrote in his journal, “Austria is an administration without direction. The men are motivated, and work tirelessly, but there are too many of them. They disagree as to their common purpose, and they are spread across the Crownlands. And the nobility seek to retain their old privileges, and the peasants are not yet freed as they are in Britain and in France. Hence the nobility must be crushed, and the peasants set free to move where they should please.”

    This is a key pillar that will define Ferdinand’s policy. When defining his intellectual stand, it is important to note that Ferdinand saw political organization as largely defined by four major forces: the bureaucracy, which was efficient and hardworking but divided; the greater nobility, who sought to preserve their rights and thus were often in favour of greater regional autonomy; the masses, who had first stirred and whose influence Ferdinand had seen first-hand in France; and the established urban classes, who lived in towns and cities and had a cosmopolitan character (this included Jews).

    Basically, the POD is a healthier and better-formed Ferdinand I (who OTL was completely incapable of ruling and thus presided over a period of stagnation and deadlock). The embryonic form can be found in the bottom bit of the first post. I would really appreciate any graphics, maps or portraits, that I could use.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  4. Richter von Manthofen Gnome Fighter Ace

    Mar 30, 2012
    Without wanting to Torpedo your post, but from 1921 on Franz II did not do much in regards to ruling Austria. That he left to Metternich. Ferdinand taking lead must get rid of Metetrnich before he can do anything useful (as Metternich was - with the knowledge and approvement of Franz - the force behind Austrias Stagnation - at the time more seen as preservation of an established and sucessful System ;) )

    May 29, 2014
    The Uncrowned Emperor: From 1821 to 1835, the Archduke Ferdinand met with the bureaucrats and ministers monthly in a large hall in Hofburg Palace, far, far away from his father’s quarters, where the current Emperor engaged in his daily routine. Regular attendees and staples of the meeting were the Archdukes Anton Victor and Louis, both of them devoted to their brother- and even more devoted to their nephew. Barely 30, Ferdinand had already begun to develop the self-assured charisma that would remain a constant until his death.

    Metternich, however, began to contemplate his prospects under the new “administration”, and the arrangement he had developed previously with the young heir to the Austrian Empire. His philosophy was that Austria had to be a diplomatic creature, a diplomatic construct; Ferdinand allowed Metternich to present a strong front to the world, approving a majority of his proposed reforms, and in response Metternich made no large objection to Ferdinand’s attempts to navigate the murky political waters and acted as a sort of mentor. Like in all other areas, Ferdinand attempted to fulfil his commitments to many fronts at the same time, no small task in view of his physical limitations. Under Ferdinand, Metternich had been forced to work alongside, if often physically separate, from the military organizer Archduke Charles and the liberal Archduke John; the two senior Hapsburgs disliked Metternich, and the affection was mutual.

    Major diplomatic manoeuvres of the so-called “Regency Period” of Austria:

    • The Italian Question- here, Hapsburg rulers established control over many minor North Italian duchies and kingdoms, seeking to preserve Italy from “the masses”, as defined by Ferdinand. The Italian nationalist Kingdom of Sardinia, run by “the aristocracy”, sought to destroy direct Austrian control over Lombardy-Venetia and create a Sardinian-run Italian state from Piedmont to the tip of Naples. The Italian nationalists desired not recognition or autonomy, but complete freedom from Austria. Here was a minor sore that had the potential to burst into major conflict; of all the nationalities that constituted the Empire, only Italians wished to break free with complete resolve. Metternich instituted a policy of the stick; Ferdinand reckoned that more could be done, but said no more.
    • The German Confederation: Francis II had assumed leadership of the German Confederation and thus the leadership of the “treacherous” minor German states. However, as with most affairs, he allowed this position to fall into disrepair, allowing Prussia to conduct the day-to-day affairs while enjoying the prestige and benefits that his position afforded him. Metternich, too, followed his liege’s path. However, Ferdinand noticed the failings of this continued state of events. Metternich protested- but the Archduke insisted on, if not greater involvement in German affairs, at least devolving some of the day-to-day responsibilities to the “more loyal” German states in the South, such as Bavaria and Wurttemberg. “In this way,” Ferdinand stated, “we will ensure a balance of power in the German states. I myself do not trust Prussia; they took our Silesia. Better to raise new allies to challenge them, should they grow to imagine themselves the rightful leaders of Germany.”
    • Russia: The dying Ottoman Empire rested on its last legs, and the Russian bear advanced to feast on its entrails. Metternich alone stood between Alexander I, then Nicholas I, and control of the river Danube. Ferdinand, who understood strategic interests on the basis that “it looks good on a map”, was at least able to comprehend the basic value of the mouth of the Danube, and understood that for Russia to advance on the Balkans was to court a loss of Austrian political independence. Hence when Metternich sought to entangle Russia in European affairs and into the so-called “League of the Three Emperors”, Ferdinand did not intervene.
    And major reforms proposed by Metternich and passed by Ferdinand, unofficially at least:

    • A so-called Reichsrat, or Imperial Council, or Council of State as referred to Francis II’s hearing (the Emperor was still not quite aware of Ferdinand’s “little project”) was an enterprise begun in 1822. In truth it was little more than a formalized Council of State. To this end, information began to be collected on previous, likewise prominent, bureaucrats and politicians, who would be invited in “as soon as the Council of State was ready to be convened”- a reality that would only come into being when Francis II was dead. It would also accept representatives from so-called provincial Diets- see below.
    • Provincial Diets- Metternich supported the development of numerous and varied provincial administration units, most of which had already been in existence. However, in Hungary the county meetings were not under Hapsburg control, and in non-Hungarian lands the administration was rather too centralized, leading to inefficiency and waste. Metternich raised many possibilities for the non-Hungarian lands: Austria, Italy, Illyria and Bohemia-Moravia-Galicia, for example- but all were shot down by Ferdinand for “further consideration”. In truth, Ferdinand very much had his own idea on what was to be done, which would be another defining character of his reign.
    • The Hungarians: The Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary had remained a definite political unit under Hapsburg rule. Now, under the great Hungarian magnates, who had continued to put down roots and develop huge estates across the Hungarian plain, a nationalist movement was growing, one which would eventually turn Hungary into a clear national as well as political unit; and within Austria’s own borders, nonetheless! Ferdinand was deathly afraid of nationalism, linking it to dissolution, and rightly so: Metternich, however, pushed for the convening of the Hungarian Diet, and got his wish. But he could not control the Hungarian nobility. They retained their ancient privileges, separate from the rest of the Empire, and additionally now they were pushing for a “national language”. This sealed the fate of the magnates.
    However, in 1826 a rival by the name of Kolowrat made his way into Ferdinand’s good graces. Around this time Metternich was beginning to stir and desire more control; the presence of Kolowrat was a welcome factor that Ferdinand used to play the two against one another for the Archduke’s own gain. Kolowrat was responsible for financial amelioration, most specifically to the army. To this end, Ferdinand was able to place the two best military minds in the Empire- Joseph Radetzky and Charles von Hapsburg- into key positions in military administration.

    Francis II maintained a complex and large system of internal security and censorship. However, by a string of lucky coincidences as well as deliberate intervention on the part of Ferdinand’s sympathetic uncles, the Council of State escaped Francis’ ponderous, all-seeing eye. However, Ferdinand saw the importance and felt a certain sort of affinity with the unrecognized, unseen censors and secret police. Under him, in 1825 Francis II’s internal apparatus began to slowly take shape into one of the most deadly and feared security forces in all Europe, catching up to and then surpassing Nicholas I’s repressive Okhrana. As yet unnamed, it was known to the Council of State as the “Interior Ministry”, a term that would be formalized upon Ferdinand’s ascension. A large portion of the Ministry’s records would be devoted to the Hungarian region.


    I see your criticisms, and I've addressed them. However, I vaguely remember that Francis II was himself quite averse to action; Metternich's attempts at reform, a part of which involved setting up an Imperial Council that would include representatives from provincial Diets, remained locked away in his desk, unread. Nevertheless, welcome to the thread, I look forward to any more contributions! (especially maps. gotta love maps.)

    Also, does anyone have any idea who Ferdinand would marry, and at what age? Being non-retarded as well as the future Emperor of Austria should make a world of difference as to his marriage prospects.
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  6. JErosion Well-Known Member

    Jul 1, 2014
    it will be interesting to see were you take this. Let Austria spread its wings

    May 29, 2014

    Archduke Ferdinand von Hapsburg

    VIENNA: Klemens von Metternich stood at the window and gazed over the capital city of Austria. The Archduke Ferdinand, around whom his life had revolved for the past two years, had left for Milan; this he had insisted, in response to his own father’s insistence that he marry as soon as possible. “I trust that you will keep the administration running,” he had told him, clapping a hand on his shoulder.

    Metternich twisted his neck to look at his shoulder. The Archduke had a peculiar air about him; certainly different from his father Francis, which had allowed Metternich to first notice the heir to the Empire and to eventually transfer much of his loyalty to him. Now it seemed as though, with his departure, the spell was broken. He sat down heavily on his chair and stared at the papers on his desk.

    PEST: Ralf Hoffman sauntered away, the false smile slipping off his face. “Lajos Kossuth,” he muttered, under his breath. “Of a Protestant noble family. Uncle involved in the Slovak national movement. Identifies as Hungarian- hah!” His metal nib scratched over the paper with what he fancied was a sense of finality.

    His bag was packed; the letters from his family in Trumau safely stowed, thanks to the kind postmaster. Kossuth was the last of the minor nobility located in Pest; from now on Hoffman was to travel in the vicinity and note down all land estates and their owners with over ten serf families. He had the Emperor’s seal; and, if he was refused entry, which was very often, he could call on the hundred veterans of Leipzig stationed in the Pest barracks. He had considered just calling them out anyway; but no. He was a servant of the Emperor, and that meant not overstepping his bounds.

    But privately Hoffman was pleased. In his view, the Hungarians deserved every bit of what was coming. He had detested the lax stance which Emperor Francis had taken; he’d never voiced them, of course; but now the orders from the top were changing, and Ralf fancied that the wind was blowing according to his personal sentiment.

    MILAN: Uncle Rudolf, Ferdinand had asked, do you think the Pope would like to rule Lombardy-Venetia? Uncle Rudolf had stared at him for quite a while, and then answered, haltingly, I wouldn’t dare to hazard a guess at what goes on in His Holiness’ mind. But if you speak of the nationalist struggles in the Kingdom, then I would say that it would not make one whit of distance. The Italians want to be united, not independent. He shook his head ruefully. To unite Italy is to destroy the power of the Papacy. But if you wish for the Pope to rule Lombardy-Venetia- it might change something in the long run. I know not; politics is not my forte. Nevertheless, it had triggered some sort of idea in his head. But, for now, the heir to Austria wiped his sweaty hair from his forehead.

    Ferdinand stood in the shadow of the roof, watching the horse-drawn carriages wheel around into the square, his uncle Rainer Joseph waiting beside him. He lifted out the small portrait that had been sent; truly, Maria Anna of Savoy seemed quite a beauty. More than he deserved, in fact. As to his looks Ferdinand was not under any illusion; as to his physical health even less.

    He took a deep breath and drew out the flowers that he had picked that afternoon. With powerful men Ferdinand felt in his element; with women he was at a loss. “Well, good luck, nephew,” the Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia said, speaking close to his ear, and straightened to his full height, adjusting his coat. Ferdinand looked up at his uncle, forcing out a smile. “Thank you, uncle. Please think about what we talked about earlier?”

    The horses stopped at last, Ferdinand recoiling from the stench of their breath. Men jumped down, carrying luggage. He was aware that not many Hapsburgs had made much effort to speak to or meet their betrothed; but it was worth a try, all the same.

    He looked at his feet and shuffled them quietly. The marble statues glinted in the afternoon sun. The door was opened by a nearby man. Ferdinand drew in a breath and exhaled quickly. His rehearsed speech fell to pieces in his mind, and in broken German-Italian he reeled out, “Welcome to Austria, my lady, I am Ferdinand.”

    Thank you for your kind interest and attention. Could someone help to create a map of internal divisions of Austria?
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  8. Samuel Von Straßburg Well-Known Member

    Sep 8, 2014
    Like the TL.:D