Military Wiki
Archduke Joseph Ferdinand
Preceded by Grand Duke Ferdinand IV
Succeeded by Archduke Peter Ferdinand
Personal details
Born (1872-05-24)24 May 1872
Died 28 August 1942(1942-08-28) (aged 70)
Spouse(s) Rosa Kaltenbrunner
Gertrude Tomanek von Beyerfels-Mondsee

Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria ( 24 May 1872 – 28 August 1942) was an Austro-Hungarian Archduke, military commander, and early advocate of air power. He later retired to life as a common citizen of Austria, and was briefly imprisoned in Dachau during the Nazi era.

Early life

Joseph Ferdinand was born in Salzburg to Ferdinand IV, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the last Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his wife, Alice of Bourbon-Parma. As the fourth child and second son, he assumed the mantle of heir after his elder brother gave up the claim following numerous scandals. He succeeded his father as head of the House of Tuscany on 17 January 1908.

Education and career

Joseph Ferdinand attended the military Oberrealschule at Hranice (in that time also known as Mährisch Weissenkirchen) and later the Maria Theresa Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt. Upon graduating from the academy, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Tirol Jäger regiment on 18 August 1892. Following various assignments with Infantrie Regiment (IR) No's. 93, 17, 59 and the Tirol Jäger Regiment No. 4, he was attached to IR No. 27 as an Oberstleutnant in 1903. From 1895 until 1897, he attended the Kriegsschule in Vienna. From 1905 until 1908, the Archduke commanded IR No. 93 as an Oberst, then the Infantry Brigade No. 5.

The Archduke Joseph Ferdinand concerned himself with aviation, which was not taken seriously in military circles at the time. He was fascinated by balloons from an early age; in 1909, he arranged a balloon flight from his manor in Linz to Dieppe in France, which lasted 16 hours. In January 1911, the Archduke received command of the 3rd infantry division in Linz, followed afterwards by his promotion to Feldmarschalleutnant on 1 May 1911.

World War I

In August 1914, he took the command of the XIV Corps, succeeding General der Kavallerie Viktor Dankl von Krasnik, who had taken command of the First Army. His Corps was part of the Third Army of General Brudermann. In early September 1914, the devastating battles at the Zlota and Gnila Lipas practically destroyed the Third Army, and the Fourth Army under General Auffenberg was also decimated following Rawa Russka. The Archduke was chosen to replace Auffenberg on October 1. Meanwhile, the XIV Corps was taken over by Feldmarschalleutnant Josef Roth on 30 September.

Joseph Ferdinand was to remain in command of the Fourth Army until early June 1916. At this time, General Aleksei Brusilov launched the Brusilov Offensive at the juncture of the Fourth and First Armies. The result was that Joseph Ferdinand's trenches were obliterated by the Russian bombardment and his troops surrendered en masse to the advancing Russians. In light of this massive set-back, the German High Command insisted on his removal from command. The Archduke went into retirement and was replaced by General Tersztyanszky.

Following the accession of Kaiser Karl in November 1916, Archduke Joseph Ferdinand was offered the post of Inspector General of the Imperial Air Force. The Archduke brought his interest in ballooning to the post, although the Army HQ immediately objected to the appointment. In spite of their reservations, the Archduke was appointed on 8 July 1917 and he remained there until 3 September 1918.

Theodore von Kármán, then an Oberleutnant in the Austro-Hungarian Luftarsenal, found Joseph Ferdinand to be an "ignorant and pompous fellow." As Inspector General Joseph Ferdinand visited the Austro-Daimler Company were he was shown the company's first six cylinder airplane engine by Ferdinand Porsche. In his autobiography von Kármán relates an exchange between Joseph Ferdinand and Porsche:

 "Is this a four cylinder engine?" the Archduke asked.
 "Yes, Imperial Highness."
 "Well, then why are there six cylinders?" he demanded.
 Porsche with a side wink at me replied: "The last two cylinders are reserves."[1]

End of the Monarchy

After the war, he settled in Vienna as a commoner. He was married on 2 May 1921 to Rosa Kaltenbrunner, who was not a noble; the marriage lasted until her death in 1928. On 27 January 1929, Joseph Ferdinand married again, this time to Gertrude Tomanek von Beyerfels-Mondsee. He had two children from this marriage; a daughter, Claudia, born in 1930, and a son, Maximilian, born in 1932. After his first marriage he resigned as head of the House of Tuscany. [1]

When the Germans occupied Austria in 1938, Joseph Ferdinand was arrested along with more than 70,000 other Viennese. He was interrogated by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was imprisoned for three months. The conditions in the camp ruined his health permanently. Joseph Ferdinand was released and lived an isolated existence thereafter, under continual observation by the Gestapo. He died on 28 August 1942 in Vienna.


Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria
House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Cadet branch of the House of Lorraine
Born: 24 May 1872 Died: 28 February 1942
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Ferdinand IV
Grand Duke of Tuscany
1908 - 1921
Reason for succession failure:
Italian Unification under the House of Savoy
Succeeded by
Archduke Peter Ferdinand
Military offices
Preceded by
Viktor Dankl von Krasnik
Commander of the XIV Corps
August–September 1914
Succeeded by
Josef Roth
Preceded by
Moritz von Auffenberg
Commander of the Fourth Army
October 1914–June 1916
Succeeded by
Karl Tersztyánszky von Nádás
New title
Post created
Inspector General of the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops
July 1917–September 1918
Post disestablished


  1. von Kármán, T.; Edson, L. (1967). The Wind and Beyond — T. von Kármán Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Space. Little Brown. p. 87. ISBN 0316907537. 

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