History of Germany and Austria

The Hungarian nobles, too chivalrous to resist such an appeal from such lips, drew their glittering swords, and exclaimed with one accord, we will die for our Queen,' and levied an army which brought her enemies to reason. At length, after an English army had won the battle of Dettingen, and Charles VII had been removed by death, peace was restored, and the husband of the popular Queen was raised, in 1745, to the Imperial throne, with the title of Francis I. But, in 1756, the Seven Years' War breaking out between France and England, Maria Theresa, regretting the cession of Selesia to the Prussian King, flattered the vanity of Madame Pompadour, and secured the aid of France. The skill and intrepid courage of Frederick prevailed, and after seven bloody campaigns, he signed a peace with the Empress-Queen.

On the death of his father, Joseph, the son of Maria Theresa, ascended the Imperial throne, and issued some oppressive edicts against the Netherlands, which his grandfather had acquired at the close of the Spanish war. The inhabitants had been contented under the rule of Maria Theresa, but revolted at Joseph's tyranny; and terrible was the punishment. Their houses were ruthlessly entered at midnight; women and their infants were slain with one bayonet, and their husbands were, without trial, carried off prisoners to Vienna on the banks of the Danube. These cruelties prompted the Netherlands to declare themselves forever released from Austrian sway, and to treat every offer of indemnity with contempt.

This Emperor's conduct was otherwise praiseworthy; he abolished the system of torture, with servitude and villeinage, granted a liberal toleration in religion, and was easy and affable in communicating with his subjects. He was succeeded in 1790 by his brother Leopold, who, during his brief reign, restored tranquillity in the Netherlands, and was hesitating about the course he should pursue toward revolutionary France, when he died in 1792.

Francis II then succeeded his father, and took a conspicuous part in the struggle, as has already been related. But in 1806, when fourteen princes of Germany formed the Confederation of the Rhine, and acknowledged the victorious Napoleon as their protector, Francis, finding himself deprived of all his honors as head of the Germanic body, abandoned the ancient title, and styled himself Emperor of Austria.

When Napoleon, after making the kings of the earth bow down before his mighty energies, fell in 1814, Vienna, the capital of the new empire, was the scene of one of the most important assemblies of modern days. There the Emperors of Austria and Russia, the King of Prussia, and many ,of the Germanic princes, met the representatives of England and France, to establish the territorial limits of the Continental States upon recognized principles of international policy. That was the celebrated Congress of Vienna; and while withholding the Netherlands from Austria, it restored Lombardy, and added thereto all the ancient possessions of the far-famed Venetian republic. The Germanic Confederation was likewise dealt with, and something done toward harmonizing the interests of the independent states into a nationality.

The Emperor Francis died in 1835, after an eventful reign of forty three years, leaving his dominions to his son Ferdinand, under the auspices of the profound Metternich. But during the revolutionary epoch of 1848, while the Hungarians were in arms to assert their independence, he abdicated; and his brother declining to accept the Imperial crown, it came to the son of the latter, Francis Joseph, who thereupon assumed the titles of Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.