Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria

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Ferdinand I was Emperor of Austria for more than a dozen years in the 19th Century, giving way in the wake of the revolutionary fervor that swept many European countries in the middle of the century.

He was born on April 19, 1793, in Vienna. His father was the reigning Austrian emperor, Francis II, and his mother was Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily.

Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria

Young Ferdinand struggled with a number of health problems, most prominently epilepsy, with some sources saying that he suffered from up to 20 seizures a day. Born with a head that was too large, he also suffered from hydrocephalus, a condition marked by swelling on the brain. He struggled with a speech impediment and was slow to talk and also slow to walk.

He was his parents' oldest son and so was the heir apparent to the imperial throne. Thus, he was educated, albeit in private, learning to read and write and ride a horse and play the piano; he also embraced the arts, learning to dance and showing aptitude in drawing.

Thus, also, he was dutifully married, to Princess Maria Anna of Savoy, in 1831. Four years later, his father died, and Ferdinand became emperor. He relied heavily on a regent's council in order to run the government.

Taking charge of the government at this time was Klemens von Mitternich, the foreign minister and eventual chancellor who had steered Austria through a minefield of diplomatic intrigues for many years already. Even Metternich was no match for the wave of revolutions that swept across Europe in 1848.

A large number of university students organized a street demonstration in Vienna on March 13, 1848, calling for a representative government and universal suffrage. The response from the government was for troops to make the protesters disperse, using force if necessary. Soldiers did fire their guns, killing some of the student protesters; in response, a large group of workers joined the street protest, swelling the numbers considerably. The Austrian parliament, the Diet, demanded that Metternich resign; he did so, fleeing to the U.K. That left the emperor without his key adviser. The regency had more than one member, however, and his uncle, Revolution of 1848 AustriaArchduke Louis, helped Ferdinand appoint a series of pseudo-chancellors. The Diet drafted a constitution in April, but the protesters would have none of it because they weren't also guaranteed the right to vote and again took to the streets in large numbers. The emperor continued to grant concessions, including making the Imperial Diet an elected Constituent Assembly. By August, however, high unemployment and a shortage of supplies were the twin culprits that continued to drive civil unrest. At the same time, other cities within the Austrian Empire were the scenes for uprisings, among them the Italian metropolises of Milan and Venice and the Hungarian city of Pest. Ferdinand sent a large contingent of his troops to Hungary to quell the rebellion there; the result was a victory for the revolutionaries. The demonstrations in Vienna in October were very large indeed. Ferdinand fled Vienna and later abdicated, leaving the throne in the hands of nephew Franz Josef. (Technically, the next in line was Ferdinand's younger brother, Franz Karl, but both brothers agreed that the throne should pass to Franz Karl's son, Franz Joseph.) Ferdinand's reign officially ended on Dec. 2, 1848.

Ferdinand had worn other crowns as well. He became King of Hunary in 1830, King of Bohemia in 1836, and King of Lombardy in 1838.

The onetime emperor retired from public life and lived quietly for another nearly three decades. He died on June 29, 1875, in Prague Castle. His wife outlived him; they had had no children.

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