Francis II., emperor of Germany (I. of Austria), born in Florence, Feb. 12, 1768, died in Vienna, March 2, 1835. He was the son of the emperor Leopold II. and of Maria Louisa, daughter of Charles III., king of Spain. He was educated first at the polished and popular court of Florence, then at that of Vienna. He accompanied his uncle Joseph II. in his campaign against the Turks in 1788, and in 17S9 received the title of commander-in-chief of the army, though still a youth of 21 years, the old and experienced general Laudon being his assistant and adviser. After the death of Joseph (1790), Francis held the reins of the empire for a few days, till the arrival of his father from Florence, whom he followed in the next year to the convention of Pilnitz, where the emperor and the king of Prussia formed the first coalition against revolutionary France. Leopold died in 1792, and Francis was successively crowned king of Hungary, emperor of Germany, and king of Bohemia. He was soon surrounded with difficulties and dangers. Hungary was in a state of national excitement, and the Belgian provinces were ripe for revolt.
The legislative assembly of France obliged Louis XVI. to declare war against him in April, 1792. The victories of Dumouriez and the revolt of Belgium, the victories of Custine on the Rhine, the execution of Louis XVI., and that of Marie Antoinette, the aunt of Francis, rapidly followed. It was in vain that Clerfayt obtained some advantages over the French, and that Francis took the command of the army in person. The armies of the republic soon drove back the allies; Francis's confederates deserted him, and in 1795 Tuscany, Sweden, Spain, and Prussia concluded at Basel a treaty of peace with the republic, whose Italian army, now commanded by Bonaparte, conquered in the next two years the whole north of Italy. Francis himself, notwithstanding some slight advantages gained by his brother the archduke Charles over Moreau, in southern Germany, was finally forced to conclude the treaty of Campo Formio (Oct. 17, 1797), in which he sacrificed Belgium, Milan, and a Rhenish province of the empire, in exchange for Venice. Changes in France and new French aggressions tempted Austria, Russia, and England to another war in 1799. The allied armies were successful for a while under the archduke Charles in Germany, under Hotze in Switzerland, and under Kray and Suvaroff in Italy. But reverses came; Suva-roff was recalled by his emperor, and Bonaparte became master of France by a coup d'etat, and of Italy by the passage of the Alps and the battle of Marengo (June 14, 1800), while Moreau fought his way through southern Germany toward Vienna. These disasters compelled Francis to the peace of Luneville in 1801, by which he lost a portion of Germany and acquired a portion of Italy. England made peace with France at Amiens, but broke it again, and framed a new coalition, in which the emperors Francis and Alexander and the king of Sweden took part, while Prussia remained neutral, and Bavaria, Wurtemberg, and Baden were ready to side with the French. Francis expected the first attack from Italy, and sent thither his brother Charles, who gained a battle over Massena; but Napoleon broke through Germany, and his sudden marches, the surrender of Ulm with its 24,000 men under Mack, the retreat of the archduke Ferdinand, and the great battle of Austerlitz (Dec. 2, 1805), in which the two allied emperors were present, made him the dictator of the treaty concluded at Presburg, Dec. 26, in which Francis lost the Tyrol, Venice, and 8,000,000 subjects, and received only Salzburg. The electors of Bavaria and Wurtemberg now took the title of kings as a reward for their support of the victor.
Francis was compelled to remain neutral in the fourth coalition, and to acknowledge the confederation of the Rhine founded under Napoleon's protectorate. The French ambassadors declared that they no longer recognized a German empire or a German constitution; and Francis, who had in 1804 assumed the title of hereditary emperor of Austria, solemnly laid down that of emperor of Germany in August, 1806. The peace of Tilsit and the alliance of Napoleon and Alexander threatened Austria with destruction and drove Francis to the most energetic measures. He armed the ancient German militia, and summoned the Hungarian nobles to a general rising in their old fashion. Three brothers of the emperor were sent with armies across the German, Italian, and Polish frontiers; but Austria stood this time alone, while Napoleon was assisted by Poles, Russians, and Germans. With the exception of the battle of Aspern and Essling, May 21 and 22, 1809, in which Napoleon suffered his first check, the whole campaign in Germany was a series of French victories. The Austrians were forced to evacuate Vienna, driven from Poland, and signally defeated at Wagram; the Hungarian nobles were dispersed, and a rising of the Tyrolese in favor of Austria proved abortive.
The peace of Schonbrunn (Oct. 14) cost Francis some rich provinces and more than 3,500,000 subjects. The resources of his empire were exhausted, and his treasury had long been bankrupt. In this situation he consented to give his daughter Maria Louisa in marriage to Napoleon, and soon saw the title of king of Rome, once his own, bestowed upon her child. In the disastrous Russian campaign of 1812 an auxiliary Austrian force occupied Poland in the French interest, but effected little. In 1813 Francis declared his neutrality, negotiated secretly with Great Britain and Russia, took part in the congress of Prague, and on Napoleon's refusal to accept his mediation with Russia joined the allies, and contributed largely to their victory at Leipsic. In the following year he entered France with his army, and remained two months in Paris after its occupation by the allies, March 31. In June the European congress assembled at Vienna, but the brilliant festivals with which Francis entertained his guests were interrupted in March, 1815, by the news of Napoleon's return from Elba. An Austrian army now crossed the Simplon and occupied Lyons, while another marched into Italy, overthrew Murat, and restored to the old king Ferdinand the crown of Naples. On the restoration of peace after the battle of Waterloo, Francis, having ceded Belgium to the Netherlands, and acquired Lombardy and Venice, saw his empire greater than it had ever been before.
He became a party to the Holy Alliance" in 1816, and his policy, developed by Metternich, became the policy of Europe. Based on a horror of revolution and a reverence for hereditary right, it took the form of a thorough conservatism and centralization, supported by a large standing army, a secret police, strict subordination, a literary censorship, and other measures of repression. Austria was the centre of all the reactionary movements of the period following the French restoration. Monarchical congresses for the suppression of the revolutionary spirit of Germany, Spain, and Italy were held on its territory at Carlsbad in 1819, at Troppau in 1820, at Laybach in 1821, and at Verona in 1822; Austrian armies arrested a revolutionary movement in Piedmont and annulled the constitution of Naples, and Austrian influence prevailed in Spain, Portugal, and the German confederacy at Frankfort. Francis sanctioned even the despotic rule of Turkey over Greece, and imprisoned the Greek refugee Ypsilanti. He was the first to counteract in Italy the influence of the French revolution of July, 1830, crushing the feeble revolutionary attempts of 1831, and was of aid to Czar Nicholas in repressing the Polish struggle for independence.
It was neverthless a constant though secret part of his policy to check the growing and threatening power of Russia. At home his chief embarrassments sprang from an exhausted treasury, enormous debts, and the uneasi-ness of the Italians, Hungarians, and Slavs. New loans and taxes relieved his finances; state prisons and rigorous punishments were used to crush the spirit of independence in Italy; while the diet of Presburg was appeased by reluctant concessions, and German officials kept order in Galicia and Bohemia. In the promotion of industry, commerce, and the arts in the German provinces, and the advancement of German influence, he showed a wiser policy. The courts of law were reorganized, and the ancient codes were revised and modified. Francis was economical, industrious, and correct in his personal habits, popular with the Germans, but little known and less liked by his other subjects. The antipathies inspired by the reactionary measures of his government, and the attacks of the liberal press in foreign countries (for there was none in Austria), and of the Hungarian patriots in their diets and county assemblies, were directed less against the emperor than against his minister Metternich. His private treasury was in an incomparably better condition than that of the state, and his family was large and prosperous.
The latter part of his reign was undisturbed. Of his four wives, princesses of Wurtemberg, Sicily, Modena, and Bavaria, the second, Maria Theresa, was the mother of 13 children, among whom were Maria Louisa, wife of Napoleon L, Ferdinand, who succeeded to the throne, and Francis Charles, father of Francis Joseph.