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Archduke John
Personal details
Born (1782-01-20)20 January 1782
Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Died 11 May 1859(1859-05-11) (aged 77)
Graz, Austrian Empire
Spouse(s) Anna Maria Josephine Plochl

Anna Plochl, 1860

Archduke John of Austria (German language: Johann von Österreich; 20 January 1782 – 11 May 1859) was a member of the Habsburg dynasty, an Austrian field marshal and German Imperial regent (Reichsverweser).


Johann was born in Florence as the thirteenth child of Leopold, who ruled as Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Mother Maria Louisa of Spain. In 1790, Leopold became Holy Roman Emperor and moved his family to Vienna. He was baptized with the name of John Baptist Joseph Fabian Sebastian.[1]

Military service

John was given command of the army in Germany in September 1800, despite his personal reluctance to assume the position. He showed personal bravery, but his army was crushed at the Battle of Hohenlinden on 3 December 1800. Demoralized by defeat, the army nearly disintegrated in the subsequent retreat, which was only stopped by an armistice arranged on 22 December. After the peace in 1801, Archduke John was made General Director of the Engineering and Fortification Service, and later commander of two military academies.

In 1805, he directed an able defence of several Tyrolean passes against the French and was awarded the Commander Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresa. In 1808, he pressed for the creation of the Landwehr based on the success of the Prussian Landwehr.

At the commencement of the War of the Fifth Coalition in 1809 he became commander of the Army of Inner Austria, fighting against Eugène de Beauharnais in Italy. Under his command were the VIII Armeekorps led by Albert Gyulai and the IX Armeekorps headed by Albert's brother Ignaz Gyulai. After winning a significant victory at the Battle of Sacile on 16 April 1809, his army advanced almost to Verona. Having detached forces to besiege Venice and other fortresses, John's army was soon outnumbered by Eugène's heavily reinforced host. Worse, news of the Austrian defeat at the Battle of Eckmühl reached him and compelled him to order a retreat. Before withdrawing, he fought off Franco-Italian attacks at the Battle of Caldiero between 27 and 30 April. Attempting to blunt the Franco-Italian pursuit, he stood to fight on 8 May and was beaten at the Battle of Piave River. Trying to defend the entire border, he sent Ignaz Gyulai to defend Ljubljana (Laibach) in Carniola, while holding Villach in Carinthia with his own forces. Eugène's pursuit overran the frontier defenses at the Battle of Tarvis and wrecked a column of hoped-for reinforcements at the Battle of Sankt Michael. Forced to flee northeast into Hungary, John offered battle again but was defeated at Raab on 14 June 1809. Ordered to join his brother Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen at the Battle of Wagram on 5 and 6 July, John's small army arrived too late to avert an Austrian defeat. His brother criticized him for tardiness.

Post military

After the conclusion of the campaign he turned away from the military and developed a great interest for nature, technology and agriculture. He collected minerals and was active as an alpinist and hunter in Styria. In his early days Archduke Johann and his brother Louis had the habit of travelling to France, where the latter married Madame de Gueroust. In 1815, on his visit to the UK, he received a Doctor honoris causa degree from the University of Edinburgh [2]

The Brandhof, 1820, S. Kölbl, Lith. J.F. Kaiser, Graz

In the history of Styria, he is remembered as a great modernizer and became an important figure of identification for Styrians. His proximity to the people is given evidence to by his many contacts with the common man, by wearing the local Tracht, the Steireranzug, and by collecting and promoting the material and spiritual culture of the country. In 1829, he married Anna Maria Josephine Plochl, the daughter of Jakob Plochl (Gorlinzendorf-bei-Pettau, 27 May 1774 - Bad Aussee, 25 April 1822), the postmaster of Aussee, and wife Maria Anna Pilz (Bad Aussee, 15 May 1782 - Bad Aussee, 21 January 1821), whose descendants were styled the "Counts of Meran" and "Barons of Brandhofen", Proprietors of Stainz and Brandhofen. His son from this morganatic marriage was Franz, Count of Meran.

He was a passionate mountaineer and attempted to be the first to climb the Großvenediger. For that reason, the Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte (Adlersruhe) at the Großglockner, and the Archduke John's Vanilla Orchid (Nigritella rubra subsp. archiducis-joannis), an orchid growing on mountain meadows, are named after him.

Proclamation to the German people of July 15, 1848 after provisionally taking central control.

In 1811, he founded the Joanneum Museum in Graz and the predecessor of Graz University of Technology. Some other foundations were initiated by him, such as the Styrian State Archive 1817, the Berg- und Hüttenmännische Lehranstalt, which was founded in 1840 in Vordernberg and became the University of Leoben in 1849, the Styrian Society for Agriculture 1819, the Mutual Fire Insurance, the Styrian Building Society, the Landesoberrealschule in 1845 and the Society for Styrian History in 1850. In 1843, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

By acquiring a tin factory in Krems bei Voitsberg and coal mines near Köflach he also became an industrialist.

In 1840, he bought the Stainz dominion, where he was also freely elected as mayor in 1850. He was already the lord of the Brandhofen dominion.

Johann Brunnen erected in Graz, 1878: bronze sculptures by Franz Xaver Pönninger

His routing of the Austrian Southern Railway from Vienna to Triest over the Semmering and through the Mura and Mürz valleys to Graz is particularly notable. Even though Johann did not consider himself a liberal, he promoted some liberal ideas. He was often in conflict with the Habsburg court, especially because of his morganatic marriage.

In 1848, the Frankfurt National Assembly appointed him regent of the realm. After the failure of the March Revolution of 1848, he resigned from this office in 1849.

Archduke Johann died in 1859 in Graz, where the fountain erected in his honour (illustration) dominates the central square. He is buried in Schenna near Meran. He was the great-grandfather of noted conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt.


  1. Anton Schlossar: Erzherzog Johann von Österreich und sein Einfluß auf das Culturleben der Steiermark; Wilhelm Braumüller, Wien 1878, p.319.
  2. Anton Schlossar: Erzherzog Johann von Österreich und sein Einfluß auf das Culturleben der Steiermark; Wilhelm Braumüller, Wien 1878, p.319.

External links

  • Wikisource-logo.svg "John (Johann Baptist Joseph), archduke of Austria". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "John Baptist Joseph Fabian Sebastian, Archduke of Austria". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  • Anton Schlossar (1881). "Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB)" (in de). Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot. pp. 281–305. 


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