Friday, October 28, 2011

Monarch Profile: Duke Francis V of Modena

The last reigning Duke of Modena was born Francesco Geminiano von Habsburg-Lothringen on June 1, 1819 to Duke Francis IV of Modena and his wife Princess Maria Beatrice of Savoy (daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Piedmont-Sardinia), the second of four children. At his baptism five days later his godfather was HIM Emperor Francis I of Austria with Archduke Ferdinand Charles Joseph of Austria-Este standing proxy. He grew up in an atmosphere of tension and tumult as agitation grew among those advocating for a more limited government, and end to Austrian interference in the duchy and greater democracy. All of these efforts Duke Francis IV worked hard to suppress. Fortifications were destroyed (for fear they would be used by rebel forces) and Austrian troops became a common sight. Austrian rule was not particularly unjust but it was not what the public wanted, having been fond of the methods of the previous Este rulers who had made infrastructure improvements, passed political reforms, spoke the local dialect and who had led them against the French. Austrian rule, on the other hand, was (as in other areas) mostly unpopular with the educated upper-classes who opposed the principle rather than the effect.

Duke Francis grew up amidst all of this and was known for his kindness and sensitivity as well as being at times indecisive. He also had quite an illustrious pedigree, not only on the Hapsburg side of his father but also on the Savoy side of his mother. In 1840, when his mother died, intractable British Jacobites recognized the future Duke of Modena as “King Francis I of England, Scotland, Ireland and France”. An interesting historical twist but, needless to say, Francis never used or claimed such lofty titles himself. He knew he would have his hands full simply becoming and remaining Duke of Modena. He was given a good education with a number of eminent aristocrats and clerics serving as his tutors. By 1842 he had been honored with the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece, the Dutch Order of the Netherlands Lion and the Savoy Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation. He was fond enough of chivalric orders that in 1855 he started one of his own, the Order of the Eagle of Este.

Inheritance to the duchy came with the death of his father on January 21, 1846 at which time the young man became Duke Francis V of Modena, Duke of Reggio and Mirandola, Duke of Massa, Prince of Carrara and Lunigiana and, of course, Archduke of Austria. He inherited a domain in a great deal of turmoil with many divided loyalties, much genuine, honest discontent but also a great deal of unrest spread by the revolutionary Carbonari who were very active in the area. Ironically, the Carbornari had for a time supported Francis IV when he had ideas of encouraging Italian nationalism and becoming King of Italy but, alarmed by the 1830 Revolution in France, he had them arrested at which point they became even more devoted to the overthrow of the monarchy. Austrian troops had been needed to suppress the uprising then and they would be needed again. In the Revolutions of 1848 rebellion broke out again and again the Duke was forced to flee only to be restored later by Austrian forces. This worked for the time being but did nothing to improve his image with the nationalists who rather resented an Italian duke being sustained by Austrian troops and in an Italian duchy where the national anthem was ‘God Save the Emperor of Austria’.

By this time Francis also had a family to worry about having been married in 1842 to Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria (daughter of King Ludwig I) and if the trauma of the 1848 revolt was not bad enough it was followed by the death of the couple’s only child, Princess Anna Beatrice in 1849. However, none of this should be seen as the result of a personal dislike for Francis V. Even though many people were unhappy with the state of affairs in Modena, their Duke remained quite popular with the ordinary people. He was fair in matters of justice and impressed many people during the war when he helped care for the sick and injured himself. Even those suffering from a cholera outbreak were not shunned by the hands-on Hapsburg Duke. When he was restored by the Austrian forces after the unpleasantness of 1848 many people turned out to cheer his return. Even those who wanted some political reform and to join in some union or coalition with their Italian brothers often still liked the Duke personally and hoped that he would lead them in that direction.

Alas, it was not to be and in the settlement of the Second Italian War for Independence in 1859, following the battle of Magenta the Duchy of Modena was handed over by the Austrians to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia. On June 14 Francis V fled to Austria amidst another rebellion and on August 20, 1859 Piedmontese troops marched in to occupy Modena. On November 7 chosen leaders from Tuscany, Parma, Modena and the Papal Legations formed the United Provinces of Central Italy and elected a president, who King Victor Emmanuel II refused to recognize, sending a royal governor to oversee the area instead. In December the area was declared the “Royal Provinces of Emilia” and after plebiscites were held Modena was formally annexed by the Kingdom of Italy on March 18, 1860. Duke Francis V, in Vienna, formally protested the annexation four days later but, of course, the tide of events had long passed him by and no country, not even Austria, could reverse the course of history.

Duke Francis V spent the rest of his life in exile, mostly in Austria but occasionally visiting other countries, including a pilgrimage to the Middle East. He died, still loved by some and despised by others, on November 20, 1875 and was buried in the Capuchin Church in Vienna, leaving his large estate to his cousin the ill-fated Archduke Francis Ferdinand, who also inherited his title of Archduke of Austria-Este.


  1. Hey MadMonarchist,

    What books do you recommend for reading about the American Civil War? I read a past post of The Catholic Knight on his blog, and he believes that the US invaded the southern states illegally. Just wondering if you agreed and whether you had any material recommended? I liked you post about Abraham Lincoln.

    Also, any recommended books in support of monarchy in general? I know of 'Nicholas & Alexandra' by Massie, Liberty & Equality, but nothing else. Thanks

  2. Gamer,
    Anything by Joseph de Maistre is recommended, some of his work is free on the internet.
    There are also numerous articles on the internet.

  3. The Civil War -big, big subject. I can't think of anything off-hand I could recommend that is better than anything else. Most of what you read will be heavily biased one way or the other. As for the legality of it, I think since the states joined voluntarily they should be able to leave voluntarily but all law is based on force when you come down to it. What the law said didn't really matter. The north had superior military force and that settled the matter -"legal" or not.

    As for books, the aforementioned de Maistre is a good one, provided you're Catholic. If you're Protestant there would be better choices. One thing you can do is go over to the sidebar and click on the label "Monarchists" and you will find a number of authors among them, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.

  4. I'm sorry, click on "Monarchist Thinkers" -a shorter list and everyone on it has written books.


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