Saturday, August 23, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Prince Franz I of Liechtenstein

When Prince Johann II died in 1929 after having reigned over the Principality of Liechtenstein for 70 years, the throne was inherited by his younger brother Prince Franz. However, the headship of the House of Liechtenstein went to the future Prince Franz Josef II. This was the first and only time in history that the House and Principality of Liechtenstein were headed by two different people.

Born on August 28, 1853, at Schloss Liechtenstein in Maria Enzersdorf close to the ancestral home of the princely family south of Vienna, Prince Franz de Paula Maria Karl August was the second son and youngest of eleven children of Prince Alois II and his wife née Countess Franziska Kinsky of Wchinitz and Tettau. His father's death when he was only five years old marked the infant prince. His mother went into mourning for many years and the relationship with his older brother remained distant.

The young prince was privately educated together with his older sister, Princess Therese, and later attended the Schottengymnasium in Vienna. After graduating from high school, he studied law at the universities of Prague and Vienna. After the end of his studies, he entered the civil services and served as an attaché in the Austro-Hungarian embassy in Brussels for three years between 1879 and 1882.

Upon his brothers request he returned to Vienna and began to work in the management of the Liechtenstein family's own properties. In addition, he started to represent the family on various occassions, something the unsociable Prince Johann II did not enjoy doing. Prince Franz, however, had a very different character and always needed to have lots of people around him. Working for the family left him a lot of free time and so he extensively travelled in both Austria and abroad to learn about art and history.

In the summer of 1888, he entered the Austro-Hungarian military out of of sense of duty. Wilhelm II had just become the German Emperor and his change in policy intensified tensions between the German and the Russian Empires and a fear of war, during which Austria would have fought alongside the Germans, ensured. Prince Franz enlisted in a shooting battalion but quit again when chances of a war were over.

Prince Franz in Liechtenstein
However, he did come close to the Russians in another way. On December 5th, 1894, Prince Franz became the new ambassador of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Russia. After the resignation of the preceding ambassador, the Austrian Emperor wished for someone to take over the post who had already made a name for himself at the tsar's court. The Mürzsteg Agreement signed between the Austro-Hungarian and the Russian Empires was largely drawn up by Prince Franz. After five years he resigned from his post in St Petersburg after disagreements with the Austrian leadership over an alliance with Russia on December 9th, 1899. He subsequently moved to Schloss Wartenstein in Lower Austria and spent his winters in Florence.

Having always had a great interest in both history and Eastern Europe, Prince Franz played an instrumental role in the establishment of the chair of East European studies at the university of Vienna in 1907. The former ambassador to Russia gifted the chair with 10,000 books he had previously bought from Russian historian Vasili Bilbasov. In addition, Prince Franz  was also a supporter of the Archive of Modern History of Austria, the New Austrian Biography, as well as cultural heritage preservation. Being a member of the building commission of Schloss Vaduz between 1904 and 1914, ideally prepared him for his future role as president of the "Imperial and Royal Central Committee for the Study and Preservation of Cultural and Historical Landmarks".

For his efforts he was appointed as a honorary member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He was also made a hereditary peer of House of Lords of the Austrian Imperial Council by Emperor Franz Joseph. Rumours in Vienna had it that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose murder sparked the First World War, wanted to make Prince Franz chancellor once he took the throne. In 1917, he became the 1204th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Prince Franz I and Princess Elsa
When Prince Johann II died on February 11th, 1929, his younger brother ascended to the throne as Prince Franz I. He was the first Fürst to take a greater interest in the country and regularly spent time in the Principality, which he had already started to get to know during regular visits while Schloss Vaduz was renovated. The same year he came to the throne, he married Elisabeth "Elsa" von Gutmann.

While their marriage was seen as a bit of a mésalliance by parts of the Princely Family and not welcomed by nationalistic forces in Liechtenstein, the general population liked their Fürst and Fürstin who regularly spent time in the Principality probably also due to the fact that they were very generous in donating to various causes. (More about their courtship, marriage and why Princess Elsa wasn't welcomed by everyone in an upcoming edition of Luxarazzi 101.)

On March 30th, 1938, Prince Franz I appointed his great-nephew, the future Prince Franz Josef II, as his regent. Even though already 84 years old, Prince Franz died unexpectedly quickly on July 25th that same year while staying at Schloss Feldsberg today known as Valtice. His body was laid in repose at the castle chapel of Lednice and four days later buried at the princely crypt in Vranov near Brno. He was the last Liechtenstein ruler to be buried in what is now the Czech Republic.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Luxarazzi and Hat Queen for an interesting interview. I would love to have a dinner party with Queen Elizabeth, Princess Beatrix, Queen Mathilde, Queen Máxima, the
    Countess of Wessex and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, Sheikha
    of Dubai too! I would ask them to bring along their favorite and least favorite hats and let me try them on.