1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ferdinand I. of Austria

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FERDINAND I. (1793-1875), emperor of Austria, eldest son of Francis I. and of Maria Theresa of Naples, was born at Vienna on the 19th of April 1793. In his boyhood he suffered from epileptic fits, and could therefore not receive a regular education. As his health improved with his growth and with travel, he was not set aside from the succession. In 1830 his father caused him to be crowned king of Hungary, a pure formality, which gave him no power, and was designed to avoid possible trouble in the future. In 1831 he was married to Anna, daughter of Victor Emmanuel I. of Sardinia. The marriage was barren. When Francis I. died on the 2nd of March 1835, Ferdinand was recognized as his successor. But his incapacity was so notorious that the conduct of affairs was entrusted to a council of state, consisting of Prince Metternich (q.v.) with other ministers, and two archdukes, Louis and Francis Charles. They composed the Staatsconferenz, the ill-constructed and informal regency which led the Austrian dominions to the revolutionary outbreaks of 1846-1849. (See Austria-Hungary.) The emperor, who was subject to fits of actual insanity, and in his lucid intervals was weak and confused in mind, was a political nullity. His personal amiability earned him the affectionate pity of his subjects, and he became the hero of popular stories which did not tend to maintain the dignity of the crown. It was commonly said that having taken refuge on a rainy day in a farmhouse he was so tempted by the smell of the dumplings which the farmer and his family were eating for dinner, that he insisted on having one. His doctor, who knew them to be indigestible, objected, and thereupon Ferdinand, in an imperial rage, made the answer:—“Kaiser bin i’, und Knüdel müss i’ haben” (I am emperor, and will have the dumpling)—which has become a Viennese proverb. His popular name of Der Gütige (the good sort of man) expressed as much derision as affection. Ferdinand had good taste for art and music. Some modification of the tight-handed rule of his father was made by the Staatsconferenz during his reign. In the presence of the revolutionary troubles, which began with agrarian riots in Galicia in 1846, and then spread over the whole empire, he was personally helpless. He was compelled to escape from the disorders of Vienna to Innsbruck on the 17th of May 1848. He came back on the invitation of the diet on the 12th of August, but soon had to escape once more from the mob of students and workmen who were in possession of the city. On the 2nd of December he abdicated at Olmütz in favour of his nephew, Francis Joseph. He lived under supervision by doctors and guardians at Prague till his death on the 29th of June 1855.

See Krones von Marchland, Grundriss der österreichischen Geschichte (Vienna, 1882), which gives an ample bibliography; Count F. Hartig, Genesis der Revolution in Österreich (Leipzig, 1850),—an enlarged English translation will be found in the 4th volume of W. Coxe’s House of Austria (London, 1862).