Erzherzog Friedrich

Archduke Friedrich was born on the 4th of June 1856 at Groß-Seelowitz in Moravia. He was the eldest son of Erzherzog Karl Ferdinand and Erzherzogin Elisabeth, his grandfather was the famous Austrian Field Marshal Archduke Carl who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Aspern in May 1809. After the early death of his father, his godfather, the famous Field Marshal Archduke Albrecht, adopted him and his younger brothers Karl Stephan and Eugen in 1874 and became a great influence in their education. Under the auspices of the great Field Marshal, Friedrich soon reached the rank of general. At the age of 14 on the 19th of March 1871 Friedrich entered service in the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger Regiment as a Leutnant. For an Archduke it was common to receive the Order of the Golden Fleece but it was due to the benefaction of his godfather that Friedrich received it before his 18th birthday on the 17th of April 1873. He was promoted to Oberleutnant on the 23rd of April 1873 and to Hauptmann in November 1875. Following his transfer to Infantry Regiment number 42 in May 1876 he was promoted to Major a year later and further transferred to the Prague based 25th Infantry Regiment. Promoted to Oberstleutnant on the 15th September 1878 he was transferred to the 13th Infantry Regiment. On the 23rd of October 1879 he was honored with the title of Oberstinhaber of Infantry Regiment number 52  and assumed command of Infantry Regiment number 18 on the 20th of September 1880 as an Oberst. His career continued with his appointment as the commander of the 27th Infantry Brigade in which he received his promotion to Generalmajor on the 1st of November 1882. He assumed command of the 14th Infantry Division on the 31st of July 1886 being promoted to Feldmarschalleutnant in November of the same year and finally he took over the command of the 5th corps at Pressburg on the 31st of July 1886. On the 30th of November 1892 he received the military merit cross and a year later (9th November 1893) he was honored with the award of the grand cross of the Hungarian Order of Saint Stephen followed by his promotion to Feldzeugmeister on the 1st of May 1894.

In 1878 he married the Princess Isabella von Croy-Dühmen. Until 1892 they "only" had 8 daughters before the desired boy was born in 1897 . Beside his military career he studied in agriculture, mining and fermenting techniques because he was to inherit the firms and estates of Archduke Albrecht. When Albrecht died in 1895 Friedrich became the richest Habsburg. Besides the Duchy of Teschen, the territories of Ungarisch-Altenburg and Belleje, the estates of Saybusch, Seelowitz and Friedek, many houses and estates in Vienna and Pressburg he also inherited the large and world famous art collection on display at the Albertina (until this day) in Vienna. In the following years Friedrich was able to increase his huge holdings by purchasing ing the estates of Veghles, Topolovac and Klachau-Wörschach. In some products like milk and milk products, brandy and sugar, the firms of Archduke Friedrich nearly constituted a monopoly!

On the occasion of the 50 year anniversary of Kaiser Franz Joseph's assumption to the throne,  Feldzeugmeister Erzherzog Friedrich was honored with the award of the military merit cross with brilliants on the 30th of November 1898. In September 1899 he received the bronze military merit medal (Signum Laudis). On the 11th of April 1905 the Kaiser appointed him to Generaltruppeninspektor (general inspector of the troops) and honored him simultaneously with the expression of his "Neuerliche Allerhöchste Zufriedenheit" (a further expression of the Kaiser's appreciation) which allowed Friedrich to wear the Silver Signum Laudis when this medal was introduced in 1911. Friedrich moved with his family from Pressburg to Vienna where they lived in the Albrechts-Palais near the Augustinerbastei in Vienna's 1st district. On the 25th of June 1907 he became the Oberkommandant of the k.k. Landwehr and on the 14th of June 1910 he received his promotion to General der Infanterie whilst in this post. As one of the most important Generals from the Habsburg family it was without question that foreign countries often honored him by awarding him their decorations. The following list reads like a "European Orders Collection" in itself: Grand cross of the Order of the Crown of Württemberg (21st July 1873); Grand crosses of the Russian Order of St.Andreas (4th January 1877), Alexander-Nevski Order and Order of the With Eagle; the first class of the Russian St.Anna Order; the Grand cross of the French Legion of Honor (30th December 1878); the Marianerkreuz of the Deutschen Ritterorden (1879); Grand cross of the Belgian Order of Leopold (3rd July 1881); Grand cross of the Saxon-Ernestin House Order (7th January 1882); the Bavarian St.Hubertus Order (24th May 1889); Grand cross of the Nederlands Lions Order (12th December 1890); Grand cross of the Saxon House Order of the Rautenkrone (26th February 1891); Grand cross of the House Order of Holy Joseph of Tuscany (26th February 1891); the Danish Elephant Order (9th June 1892); the House Order of the Golden Lion of Nassau (9th June 1892); the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle (22nd October 1892); the first class of the Prussian Order of the Red Eagle (1895?); Collar to the Grand cross of the Spanish Order of Carl III. (7th April 1896); Commemorative Medal of the German Kaiser Wilhelm I. (1897); Neck badge of the Marianerkreuz of the Deutschen Ritterorden (1898); Portrait decoration with Brilliants of the Shah of Persia (22nd October 1900); Grand cross with distinction for Jerusalem of the sovereign Malteser Ritterorden (19th May 1901); Grand cross of the Constantin Order of Parma (26th January 1903); Golden Chain to the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle (3rd October 1903); Grand cross of the British Bath Order Military class (21st June 1904); Grand cross of the Spanish Order for Military Merit (5th November 1905); Honour decoration and silver Medal of the Russian Red Cross and Commemorative Medal for the Russian-Japanese War 1905 (3rd January 1908); the Swedish Seraphim Order (3rd January 1908); the House Order of Faith and the Grand cross of the Order of Berthold von Zähringen both from the Grand Duchy of Baden (10th May 1908); Grand cross of the Saxon-Weimar House Order of the White Falcon (10th May 1908); Commemorative Medal of Queen Maria Christian of Spain (1909); Bavarian bronze Prince Regent Luitpold Medal (1911); the first class of the Mecklenburg House Order of the Wendische Krone (10th November 1911) and finally before the war the Grand cross of the Bulgarian Order of Cyrill- and Methodius (12th June 1912)! In additional to this enormous list of orders and decorations he was honored with the title of Oberstinhaber (or the title Colonel a la suite) of the following foreign regiments: the Prussian Infantry Regiment number 5 "von Stülpnagel"; the Bavarian Chevauxlegers-Regiment "Erzherzog Albrecht"; the Spanish rifle battalion "Figueras" number 6 and the 4th Württemberg Füsilier Regiment "Kaiser Franz Josef" number 122!

It seems obvious that the foreign monarchs held him in high esteem but also Kaiser Franz Joseph thought highly of him. In his eyes he was, in the case of a war, the natural commander of the whole army and he preferred him much more than the younger heir to the throne Erherzog Franz Ferdinand and this was the basis of a growing conflict between the "modern" Franz Ferdinand and the "old  fashioned" Friedrich. This conflict was exacerbated as is so often the case in the history of mankind, when women were mixed up in it. The wife of Archduke Friedrich, Erzherzogin Isabella, noticed that the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand very often visited her house often and for long periods so that she had the hope to find an excellent bridegroom for one of her 8 daughters. When it transpired that the interest of Franz Ferdinand was only with one of her ladies in waiting, Gräfin Sophie Chotek, she felt personally insulted and when finally Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand renounced on nearly everything only to enter into this morganatic marriage, her hatred for the couple knew no bounds. Her influence on her husband was so strong that he actually planned to retire in the spring of 1914. Only the murders at Sarajevo stopped this plan. 

Archduke Friedrich pictured with General Boroevic and General Archduke JosephOn the 11th of July 1914 Erzherzog Friedrich was appointed as Oberkommandant or supreme commander of the whole army. In addition to the reason that the old Kaiser loved and trusted him, the main reason for his appointment that it was expected that he would not interfere with Conrad von Hötzendorfs operational and tactical talents. Erzherzog Friedrich knew what he was expected to do and he did his job well. He was informed about all details of the plans and actions of his chief of general staff Conrad but he never handicapped him, just the opposite! He helped and protected him and his decisions when ever it was necessary. When the conflict between Conrad and Falkenhayn grew, he diplomatically used his friendship with Kaiser Wilhelm II., who honored Friedrich with the rank of a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall, And when after the disaster of Luck and the entrance of Rumania into the war "everyone called for Conrad's head" he kept him at his post with the full power of his authority. On the 8th of December 1914 Friedrich was promoted to the rank of Feldmarschall, the first promotion to this rank since his uncle and stepfather Erzherzog Albrecht's death. Friedrich realized that the Kaiser's relationship to the allied Kaiser Wilhelm II. was not the best one, the differences, mainly caused by the large difference in age and character, began to influence the whole leadership in both armies and so he did what he could to calm down the problems with the much needed allies using his personal relationships with some of the German leaders. On the other hand he ascertained that it was important to give the soldiers in the field the feeling that their superior commanders were with them but the Kaiser was not of an age to do this and so Feldmarschall Friedrich started to visit the troops in the field as often as possible and encouraged the new heir to the throne, Erzherzog Karl to do the same. While Archduke Friedrich traveled along the frontlines and honored his men with several awards, his achievements were honored by the Kaiser and the monarchs of the allied countries with many decorations himself. During the first years of the war he received the three highest awards a commanding general could receive: the Military Merit Cross 1st class with war decoration with Brilliants (9th May 1915); the golden military merit medal (Großes Signum Laudis) (17th October 1916) and finally the Grand cross of the Military Maria Theresia Order with a personal handwritten letter from the Kaiser dated the 25th of November 1916. For the first two awards he later received the swords when they were introduced. Besides all this he was one of the first persons who received the Merit Star of the Red Cross on the 21st of August 1914 and the war decoration to this award on the 15th of February 1915. During the war he received the following foreign decorations: Prussian Iron Cross 2nd and 1st class (31st August 1914); the Military Merit Cross 2nd and 1st class of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (14th March 1915); Grand cross of the Bavarian Military Max-Josef Order (1st May 1915); the Prussian "Pour le Mérite" (14th May 1915); Knight's Cross and Commanders cross of the Saxon Military St. Heinrichs Order (22nd May 1915); Grand cross of the Military Merit Order of Würtemberg (30th May 1915); the Ottoman Golden and Silver Imtiaz medals (19th August 1915); the 1st class of the Bulgarian Order of Bravery (19th February 1916); the Friedrich-August-Cross 1st and 2nd class of Oldenburg (17th March 1916); the War Merit Cross of Brunswick (11th September 1916); the Golden Medal of the Ottoman Red Half moon (1st October 1916); the Cross 1st class with swords of the House Order of Hohenzollern (12th October 1916); the Oak leaves to the Prussian "Pour le Mérite" (5th January 1917); the War cross of Lippe (5th July 1918) and finally the Prussian Long Service Cross (26th September 1918).

After the death of Kaiser Franz Joseph I. the young Kaiser Karl came to the throne and personally assumed  the command of the army himself on the 2nd of December 1916. It was perfectly normal that Feldmarschall Erzherzog Friedrich should now revert to be the deputy commander of his former appointment and he himself seemed to have no problems with this. His wife  Isabella however again felt personally injured. An additional problem was, that the Kaiserin Zita did  not have a particularly  good relationship with her half brother, Elias von Bourbon-Parma, who was married to one of Friedrich's daughters and this situation lead to a conflict between the Kaiserin Zita and the Erzherzogin Isabella. This permanent growing conflict between the families began to influence the daily work and finally forced Kaiser Karl to relieve Feldmarschall Erzherzog Friedrich from his post. In a long, handwritten letter, dated 11th February 1917 and published on the 17th, the Kaiser thanked him for all his efforts and expressed his sorrow at his departure and permitted him a General adjutant, a Flügeladjutant, a Personal adjutant and an Ordonanzofficer (orderly officer) at his further disposal. For the remainder of the war Friedrich lived at the Weilburg near Baden and visited the Headquarters only on very few official occasions. On the 5th of November 1918 he asked to be accorded the position of "außer Dienst" or permanently retired and settled down on his estates in Hungary. His family lost many of their firms and estates during the following collapse but he still remained personally rich and not without influence in Hungary. There were plans, mainly fomented by his wife Isabella to elevate their son Albrecht to the Hungarian throne but these were more ideas of an over ambitious mother than political reality. Feldmarschall Erzherzog Friedrich died at Magyaróvár on the 30th of December 1936.

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