Erzherzog Stephan Victor
Erzherzog Stephan Franz Victor was born as the eldest son of the Hungarian Palatine Erzherzog Joseph Anton to his second wife Hermine von Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym on the 14th of September 1817 at Ofen, later a part of Budapest. During the birth of the young archduke and his twin sister Hermine* their mother died and both were brought up by their step-mother Maria Dorothea at their estate at Alscut. As the son of the Hungarian Palatine he was made Oberstinhaber of infantry regiment number 58 followed by his admission to the Order of the Golden Fleece at the early age of only 13, in 1830. Erzherzog Stephan Victor was intelligent and talented, his main interests were geography and politics. At the university of Vienna he studied political science and lived at the Viennese court from 1839 until 1841 followed by extensive travels through Bohemia, Lombardy and Venetia, the Tyrol, Piedmont, the Vatican, Modena, Tuscany and several smaller states of Germany. In 1843 he was promoted to Feldmarschall-Leutnant and was made the civil governor (Landeschef) of Bohemia. For his performance in this position he was honored with the grand cross of the Order of Leopold. He held this important post until it was suggested, that after the death of his father, he become the new Hungarian Palatine in January 1847. He took over the governorship of Hungary and started to travel around the country becoming very popular through his excellent patriotic speeches to the populace. Erzherzog Stephan Victor became hereditary district chief of the comitate of Pest and was elected Palatine and royal governor by the Hungarian parliament at Preßburg and honored with the award of the grand cross of the (Hungarian) Order of St. Stephan later that year.
During his short reign he continued the liberal policies of his father but when the revolution started in early 1848 he was caught on the horns of a dilemma - to whom should he be loyal, to his people or to his family! On the one hand he tried to calm down the revolutionaries by giving them what they demanded as far as he could and on the other hand he tried to hold the Hungarian crown for the Kaiser or at least for the dynasty - a mission impossible which brought discredit upon him from both sides. He was the leader of the revolutionary deputation which handed over the demands of the revolutionaries to the Kaiser in March 1848. He appointed Lajos Graf Batthany to be prime-minister of the first independent national government on the 7th of March 1848 and inaugurated the first Hungarian parliament at Pest on the 2nd of July 1848. When the loyal troops of General Jelačić entered Hungary he tried to stop them. At the end the moderate wing of the revolution offered him the Hungarian crown to forestall the coming civil war and keep the crown for the Habsburg dynasty but Erzherzog Stephan Victor refused and fled from the Hungarian capital on the 22nd of September 1848. On the 25th of September, having meanwhile arrived in Vienna, he abdicated from all his duties. The tragedy of his role was that he had tried to understand the justified arguments of both positions and to avoid any hostility until the time when both side only wanted to speak - with weapons.
His conduct during the critical year 1848 let him fall into disgrace and he was banned from the court and Vienna. Erzherzog Stephan Victor settled down at his mother's estates at Schaumburg and started to live a retired life mainly occupied with scientific works in mineralogy and geology. Only in 1858, on the occasion of the christening ceremony of Erzherzog Rudolf, the new heir to the throne was he allowed to travel to Vienna. He led a lonely life, he never married and led his retired life at Schaumburg, suffering during his later years from a lung disease. Finally this brought about his death on the 19th of February 1867 while he was on one of his rare trips through France at Menton near Nice. As this was the year of the so-called "Ausgleich" or compromise between Austria and Hungary his human remains were transported to Budapest and buried there with great sympathy from the common people - a belated honour for his fruitless efforts to avoid the civil war in 1848.
*The twin sister of Erzherzog Stephan Victor, Hermine Amelie Marie, dedicated here short life to charity. She became abbess of the k.k. Theresianische adelige Damenstift at the Prague Hradschin but died on the 13th of February 1842 at the age of only 25. Erzherzogin Hermine was buried at Budapest and the so called Herminen chapel was built in the small city-woods to honour her remembrance.
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