Useful Notes: The Sound of Martial Music
"That extraordinary empire known as the Austrian-Hungarian Dual Monarchy is less an Empire or a Kingdom or a State than the personal property
of the Habsburgs, whose hereditary talent for the acquisition of land is recorded on the map of Europe today!"
— James W. Gerard, American diplomat
The Habsburg Empire was not a normal empire. Even when Austria
was the premier power, its preeminence was not the same as that of Russia under the Czars. Rather the Habsburgs were the feudal system taken to its logical extreme, with dozens of nations having no connection to one another except their joint allegiance to the Habsburg Family
. (Note that the spelling "Hapsburg," common in older English translations, is not considered the most correct.) Therefore it is proper to refer to their state (and by extension its military) by reference to The Family. (Not that one despite occasional resemblances
The first Habsburg was a warlord named Rudolph who was Feudal Overlord
of an alpine fortress called Habichtsburg
, which translates into English as "the Hawk's Castle", whence the name "Habsburg." He was elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
in 1273, because
of his lack of resources, which it was hoped would make him controllable. As it turned out, Rudolph had considerable military skill and sacked enough rebellious barons' castles to persuade them of the advisability of good order and loyalty to the crown. The Habsburg family became known for its skill in diplomacy and acquired many possessions by marriage, giving rise to the motto "Let others wage wars, but you, merry Austria, marry!" (Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube!)
. At one time, because of a previous merger with the royal family of Spain, it was an empire with holdings in the Western as well as the Eastern hemisphere, becoming the first "Empire on which the sun never sets"; however, the Spanish-based section of the family and the Austrian-based one were split, with Charles V giving Spain and the Netherlands to his son Phillip (Felipe II of Spain) and the Central/Eastern European realms to his brother Ferdinand, and the Spanish branch eventually died out for lack of male issue
The Habsburg imperial forces were always a motley and colorful patchwork of levies from their various possessions as well as mercenaries. They probably reached their greatest height of prestige during the Italian Wars
, in which they took on France- previously the most feared army in Europe- and the wealth of Italy and utterly, brutally crushed both under heel. This ushered in almost a century of continuous Habsburg dominance that only began to slip during the Eighty Years' War
and Thirty Years' War
decades later. The latter saw brilliant but ruthless general Wallenstein fight on against the enemies of the Empire and win a number of battles — only to lose his position due to anti-Imperial Western intervention hammering his army coupled with an overweening personal ambition.
After that the Habsburg forces mostly just scraped by. They could always field a decent army, but rarely a Badass Army
, though exceptional generals like Tilly, Eugene of Savoy, or Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen occasionally won outstanding victories. It was, however, always a colorful force and had as one of its most interesting features a number of Proud Warrior Races
from the Balkans, such as the Hussars from Hungary and the Grenzers from Croatia, Serbia and Romania. Slightly less romantic were the rather stolid ethnic Germans
from Austria and allied states. They won few spectacular battles, but they did keep the Empire together until World War I
which ushered in the end of the Habsburgs as a state and the end of their military. By this time the Austro-Hungarian forces were probably one of the worst
armies in Europe. Before Russia's domestic collapse in 1917, the Russian Army under Brusilov utterly smashed their Austro-Hungarian opponents in the Ukraine, to the point that Imperial Germany
had to bail them out. Furthermore, the Austrian suffered some embarrassing defeats at the hands of the much smaller Serbian army - they managed to conquer Serbia eventually, but once again it was only with substantial German aid. It should be mentioned that, since so many of the Austro-Hungarian soldiers were Slavs, they were understandably rather reluctant to fight under a Germanic/Hungarian banner against other Slavs (Russians and Serbs). The Austro-Hungarian army had considerably more success against the Italians...but they still
lost eventually, further cementing their Red Shirt Army
One rather odd victory they had was Lissa, in which they defeated the Italian fleet in the war with Prussia and Italy in the nineteenth century — probably the only naval battle the Central-European Habsburgs ever won. Also, while their battleships did practically nothing during World War I
, the tiny Austrian submarine force managed to pull off some amazing stunts; captain Von Trapp (made popular in The Sound of Music
) was their greatest submarine ace. Another peculiarity noted by historians was that by the end of WWI, the Austro-Hungarian Army "laid down their arms" (rather than surrendered
); they outlasted the Empire they served.
Rather amazingly the last Austrian Crown Prince, Otto von Habsburg (or Otto Habsburg-Lothringen in Austria) lived until the ripe old age of 98, dying on the 4th of July, 2011
. Had he actually succeeded his father on the throne he would have reigned for 88 years, becoming one of the longest reigning monarchs in European history.
A politician of The European Union
, he allegedly once punched Ian Paisley
after the latter insulted The Pope
as the Antichrist
in the European Parliament.
A useful source for info on the Austro-Hungarian army
Tropes Associated With The Austro-Hungarian Military:
- Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (and in Real Life) was a former Habsburg officer.
- The Illusionist: takes place in turn of the century Vienna involving a dramatized retelling of the Mayerling Incident.
- Sunshine: A 1999 Hungarian film staring Ralph Fiennes follows a Jewish family through three different successive eras with the first set during the final years of the Habsburg Empire. The following ones take place before World War II and during the 1956 Revolution respectively, long after the Monarchy fell.
- The Habsburg Empire exists in Europa Universalis and is a fan favourite. There was a fan write-in campaign to keep Austria's traditional white colour for Victoria II.
- On that note, the first Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun features them as one of the major obstacles for Prussia/an Italian state to unify Germany and Italy, respectively.
- Axis Powers Hetalia also follows the embodiments of Austria and Hungary, as well as Prussia from the Renaissance through the War of the Austrian Succession and beyond. Of course, knowing history, we all know how it all ends down the line.
- And with Himaruya moving their story towards the Seven Years' War and the 19th Century, this could be made all the more bittersweet.
- A Disney production as a two-parter for its TV series, Miracle of the White Stallions was about Patton rescuing the horses of the Vienna Spanish Riding School a showcase of the old Hapsburgs still around today.
- Robert Musil's "unfinished" novel The Man with No Qualities revels in this, depicting the Empire in its final decade. Ironically, the author laments on how Austria-Hungary was so successful and deceptively progressive for the time that it became a victim of that very success.
- Appear as bad guys in 1632.
- Jaroslav Hašek's The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War, better known just as Good Soldier Švejk or just Švejk (with all attendant variations thereof), an utterly hilarious (though also gut-wrenching no less often) satirical novel about titular "good soldier" during the last days of the Empire. Sadly also unfinished — Hašek died of tuberculosis after finishing barely a third of its intended size, with Švejk didn't even getting to the front lines — it's still one of the greatest achievements of the Czech literature in particular and world literature in general.
- Apart from Švejk, there was a Polish novel and later a film, CK Dezerterzy. Its similarity in depiction of WWI-era KundK army brought a number of plagiarism accusations, but was a genuine work. Which is yet another example of KundK forces' image of a Red Shirt Army.
- The post-apocalyptic 1983: Doomsday fics for Axis Powers Hetalia take place in and around Austria, with a number of nods to Franz Joseph and the Habsburg Empire in general. Including the embodiment's brutally cut short "marriage" to Hungary.
- The latest DLC and expansion pack for Civilization V, Gods and Kings features Austria as a playable nation for the first time in the series. Also of note is that it is represented in-game by Maria Theresa and that its unique building is a Coffee House.
- The Hungarian film Colonel Redl (1985) takes place during the Dual Monarchy's waning days, focusing on spy-turned-traitor Alfred Redl. The movie depicts the ethnic and religious tensions within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, showing Archduke Franz Ferdinand using unsavory means (entrapping military officers as spies, provoking conflict with Serbia and Russia) to keep the Empire together at all costs.
- Rachelle McCalla's ebook trilogy The Girl Who Started The War To End All Wars is set in an Alternate History where Sophie Chotek died during her teenage years and never met Archduke Franz Ferdinand, starting a chain of events that led to nuclear war and the threatened extinction of humanity. The heroine, Torin Sinclair, must go back through time to 1885 Bohemia and take the place of Sophie, of whom she's an exact lookalike.
- John Biggins' Otto Prohaska series about an Austrian U-boat commander.