Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold II (5 May 1747 – 1 March 1792), born Peter Leopold Joseph Anton Joachim Pius Gotthard, was
Leopold was born in
Since 1753, he had been engaged to
On the death of his elder brother, Charles, in 1761, it was decided that he should succeed to his father's
Grand Duke of Tuscany
For five years, he exercised little more than nominal authority, under the supervision of counsellors appointed by his mother. In 1770, he made a journey to Vienna to secure the removal of this vexatious guardianship and returned to Florence with a free hand. During the twenty years which elapsed between his return to Florence and the death of his eldest brother
But his steady, consistent, and intelligent administration, which advanced step by step, brought the grand duchy to a high level of material prosperity. His ecclesiastical policy, which disturbed the deeply rooted convictions of his people and brought him into collision with the pope, was not successful. He was unable to secularize the property of the religious houses or to put the clergy entirely under the control of the lay power. However, his abolition of
Leopold also approved and collaborated on the development of a political constitution, said to have anticipated by many years the promulgation of the French constitution and which presented some similarities with the Virginia Bill of Rights of 1778. Leopold's concept of this was based on respect for the political rights of citizens and on a harmony of power between the executive and the legislative. However, it could not be put into effect because Leopoldo moved to Vienna to become emperor in 1790, and because it was so radically new that it garnered opposition even from those who might have benefitted from it.
However, Leopold developed and supported many social and economic reforms.
During the last few years of his rule in Tuscany, Leopold had begun to be frightened by the increasing disorders in the German and Hungarian dominions of his family, which were the direct result of his brother's headlong methods. He and Joseph II were tenderly attached to one another and met frequently both before and after the death of their mother. The portrait by
He was still in Florence when Joseph II died at Vienna on 20 February 1790, and he did not leave his Italian capital until 3 March 1790.
Holy Roman Emperor
Leopold, during his government in Tuscany, had shown a speculative tendency to grant his subjects a constitution. When he succeeded to the Austrian lands, he began by making large concessions to the interests offended by his brother's innovations. He recognized the Estates of his different dominions as "the pillars of the monarchy", pacified the Hungarians and Bohemians, and divided the insurgents in the
Leopold lived for barely two years after his accession as Holy Roman Emperor, and during that period he was hard pressed by peril from west and east alike. The growing revolutionary disorders in France endangered the life of his sister
From the east he was threatened by the aggressive ambition of
To his sister, he gave good advice and promises of help if she and her husband could escape from Paris. The emigrants who followed him pertinaciously were refused audience, or when they forced themselves on him, were peremptorily denied all help. Leopold was too purely a politician not to be secretly pleased at the destruction of the power of France and of her influence in Europe by her internal disorders. Within six weeks of his accession, he displayed his contempt for her weakness by practically tearing up the treaty of alliance made by Maria Theresa in 1756 and opening negotiations with England to impose a check on Russia and Prussia.
He was able to put pressure on England by threatening to cede his part of the Low Countries to France. Then, when sure of English support, he was in a position to baffle the intrigues of Prussia. A personal appeal to
During 1791, the emperor continued to be increasingly preoccupied with the affairs of France. In January, he had to dismiss the Count of Artois, afterwards
On 25 August 1791, he met the king of Prussia at
He died suddenly in Vienna, in March 1792.
Like his parents before him, Leopold had sixteen children, the eldest of his eight sons being his successor, the Emperor
Leopold II, By the Grace of God, Holy Roman Emperor; King of Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Rama, Serbia, Cumania and Bulgaria; Archduke of Austria; Duke of Burgundy, Lorraine, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Grand Duke of Etruria; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia, Prince of Brabant, Limburg, Luxembourg, Geldern, Württemberg, Upper and Lower Silesia, Milan, Mantua, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, Auschwitz and Zatoria, Calabria, Bar, Ferrete and Teschen; Lord of Svevia and Charleville; Count of Habsburg, Flanders, Hannonia, Kyburg, Gorizia, Gradisca; Margrave of Burgau, Upper and Lower Lusatia, Pont-a-Mousson and Nomenum, Count of Provinces of Namur, Valdemons, Albimons, Count of Zütphen, Sarverda, Salma and Falkenstein, Lord of the Wend Margravate and Mechelen, etc.
Archduchess Maria Theresia of Austria — born 14 January 1767, died 7 November 1827; m: 1787, Anton I of Saxony ; had issue Franz II, Holy Roman Emperor — born 12 February 1768, died 2 March 1835;
Duchess Elisabeth of Württemberg ; had issue
Princess Maria Teresa of Naples and Sicily ; had issue
Archduchess Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este ; no issue
Caroline Augusta of Bavaria ; no issue Ferdinand III, Grand Duke of Tuscany — born 6 May 1769, died 18 June 1824;
Princess Luisa of Naples and Sicily (1773–1802); had issue
Princess Maria Ferdinanda of Saxony (1796–1865) daughter of Maximilian, Crown Prince of Saxony (1759–1838); no issue
- Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria — born 22 April 1770, died 1 October 1809; Abbess in Theresian Convent, Prague, Czech Republic
Archduke Charles of Austria — born 5 September 1771, died 30 April 1847; m: 1815, Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg ; had issue Archduke Alexander Leopold Johann Joseph of Austria — born 14 August 1772, died 12 July 1795 (accidentally burned to death), unmarried
- Archduke Albrecht Johann Joseph of Austria — born 19 September 1773, died 22 July 1774 (died at the age of 8 months)
- Archduke Maximilian of Austria — born 23 December 1774, died 10 March 1778 (died at the age of 3)
Archduke Joseph of Austria — born 9 March 1776, died 13 January 1847;
Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna of Russia ; had issue
Princess Hermine of Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym ; had issue
Duchess Maria Dorothea of Württemberg ; had issue Archduchess Maria Clementina of Austria — born 1777, died 1801; m: 1797 the Duke of Calabria , the later king Francis I of the Two Sicilies ; her only surviving issue daughter Caroline became Duchess of Berry and mother of the pretender Henri, comte de Chambord as well as Louise, mother of Robert, Duke of Parma Archduke Anton of Austria — born 1779, died 1835; unmarried, Grand Master of Teutonic Knights Archduke Johann of Austria — born 1782, died 1859; m: morganatically. The counts of Meran descend from him Archduke Rainer of Austria — born 30 September 1783, died 16 January 1853; m: 1820, Princess Elisabeth of Savoy-Carignan , sister of king Charles Albert of Sardinia ; had issue Archduke Louis of Austria — born 13 December 1784, died 21 December 1864; Archduke Rudolph of Austria — born 8 January 1788, died 24 July 1831; unmarried, Archbishop of Olmütz created Cardinal on 4 June 1819.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- Vovk, Justin C. (2010). In Destiny's Hands: Five Tragic Rulers, Children of Maria Theresa. iUniverse: Bloomington, Ind. ISBN 978-1-45020-081-3
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