Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria

Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria (24 May 1872 – 28 August 1942) was an Austro-Hungarian Archduke and the titular Grand Duke of Tuscany from 17 January 1908 to 2 May 1921, military commander, from 1916 Generaloberst, and early advocate of air power. He later retired to life as a common citizen of Austria, and was briefly imprisoned in Dachau during the Nazi era.

Archduke Joseph Ferdinand
Head of the House of Habsburg-Tuscany
Reign17 January 1908 – 1921
PredecessorGrand Duke Ferdinand IV
SuccessorArchduke Peter Ferdinand
Born(1872-05-24)24 May 1872
Salzburg, Austria-Hungary
Died28 August 1942(1942-08-28) (aged 70)
Vienna, Nazi Germany
SpouseRosa Kaltenbrunner
Gertrude Tomanek von Beyerfels-Mondsee
IssueClaudia von Habsburg-Lothringen, Princess of Florence
Maximilian von Habsburg-Lothringen, Prince of Florence
Full name
German: Joseph Ferdinand Salvator Maria Franz Leopold Anton Albert Johann Baptist Karl Ludwig Rupert Maria Auxilatrix
Italian: Giuseppe Ferdinando Salvatore Maria Francesco Leopoldo Antonio Alberto Giovanni Battista Carlo Lodovico Roberto Maria Ausiliatrice
FatherFerdinand IV, Grand Duke of Tuscany
MotherAlice of Bourbon-Parma

Early life

Joseph Ferdinand was born in Salzburg to Ferdinand IV, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the last Grand Duke of Tuscany, and his wife, Alice of Bourbon-Parma. As the fourth child and second son, he assumed the mantle of heir after his elder brother gave up the claim following numerous scandals. He succeeded his father as head of the House of Tuscany on 17 January 1908.

Education and career

Joseph Ferdinand attended the military Oberrealschule at Hranice (in that time also known as Mährisch Weissenkirchen) and later the Maria Theresa Military Academy at Wiener Neustadt. Upon graduating from the academy, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Tirol Jäger regiment on 18 August 1892. Following various assignments with Infantrie Regiment (IR) No's. 93, 17, 59 and the Tirol Jäger Regiment No. 4, he was attached to IR No. 27 as an Oberstleutnant in 1903. From 1895 until 1897, he attended the Kriegsschule in Vienna. From 1905 until 1908, the Archduke commanded IR No. 93 as an Oberst, then the Infantry Brigade No. 5.

The Archduke Joseph Ferdinand concerned himself with aviation, which was not taken seriously in military circles at the time. He was fascinated by balloons from an early age; in 1909, he arranged a balloon flight from his manor in Linz to Dieppe in France, which lasted 16 hours. In January 1911, the Archduke received command of the 3rd infantry division in Linz, followed afterwards by his promotion to Feldmarschalleutnant on 1 May 1911.

World War I

In August 1914, he took the command of the XIV Corps, succeeding General der Kavallerie Viktor Dankl von Krasnik, who had taken command of the First Army. His Corps was part of the Third Army of General Brudermann. In early September 1914, the devastating battles at the Zlota and Gnila Lipas practically destroyed the Third Army, and the Fourth Army under General Auffenberg was also decimated following Rawa Russka. The Archduke was chosen to replace Auffenberg on October 1. Meanwhile, the XIV Corps was taken over by Feldmarschalleutnant Josef Roth on 30 September.

Joseph Ferdinand was to remain in command of the Fourth Army until early June 1916. At this time, General Aleksei Brusilov launched the Brusilov Offensive at the juncture of the Fourth and First Armies. The result was that Joseph Ferdinand's trenches were obliterated by the Russian bombardment and his troops surrendered en masse to the advancing Russians. In light of this massive set-back, the German High Command insisted on his removal from command. The Archduke went into retirement and was replaced by General Tersztyanszky.

Following the accession of Kaiser Karl in November 1916, Archduke Joseph Ferdinand was offered the post of Inspector General of the Imperial Air Force. The Archduke brought his interest in ballooning to the post, although the Army HQ immediately objected to the appointment. In spite of their reservations, the Archduke was appointed on 8 July 1917 and he remained there until 3 September 1918.

Theodore von Kármán, then an Oberleutnant in the Austro-Hungarian Luftarsenal, found Joseph Ferdinand to be an "ignorant and pompous fellow." As Inspector General Joseph Ferdinand visited the Austro-Daimler Company where he was shown the company's first six-cylinder airplane engine by Ferdinand Porsche. In his autobiography von Kármán relates an exchange between Joseph Ferdinand and Porsche:

"Is this a four cylinder engine?" the Archduke asked.
"Yes, Imperial Highness."
"Well, then why are there six cylinders?" he demanded.
Porsche with a side wink at me replied: "The last two cylinders are reserves."[1]

Marriages and issue

He was married at Maria Plain on 2 May 1921 to Rosa Kaltenbrunner (Linz, 27 February 1878 – Salzburg, 9 December 1929), who was not a noble; the marriage lasted until their divorce in 1928, without issue. After this first marriage he resigned as head of the House of Tuscany.

In Vienna on 27 January 1929, Joseph Ferdinand married again, this time to Gertrude Tomanek, Edle von Beyerfels-Mondsee (Brünn, 13 April 1902 – Salzburg, 15 February 1997). He had two children from this marriage;

  • Claudia Maria Theresia von Habsburg-Lothringen, Princess of Florence, born in Vienna on 6 April 1930, unmarried and without issue,
  • Maximilian Franz Joseph Karl Otto Heinrich von Habsburg-Lothringen, Prince of Florence, born in Vienna on 17 March 1932 and married in London on 3 September 1961 to Doris Williams, born in Blundell Sands, Lancashire, on 24 December 1929, by whom he had an only daughter, Maria Camilla von Habsburg-Lothringen, Princess of Florence, born in Wimbledon on 29 May 1962, unmarried and without issue.

End of the Monarchy

When the Germans occupied Austria in 1938, Joseph Ferdinand was arrested along with more than 70,000 other Viennese. He was interrogated by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was imprisoned for three months. The conditions in the camp ruined his health permanently. Joseph Ferdinand was released and lived an isolated existence thereafter, under continual observation by the Gestapo. After his release, he settled in Vienna as a commoner. He died on 28 August 1942 in Vienna.



  1. von Kármán, T.; Edson, L. (1967). The Wind and Beyond — T. von Kármán Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Space. Little Brown. p. 87. ISBN 0316907537.
Archduke Joseph Ferdinand of Austria
Cadet branch of the House of Lorraine
Born: 24 May 1872 Died: 28 February 1942
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Ferdinand IV
Grand Duke of Tuscany
17 January 1908 – 2 May 1921
Reason for succession failure:
Italian Unification under the House of Savoy
Succeeded by
Archduke Peter Ferdinand
Military offices
Preceded by
Viktor Dankl von Krasnik
Commander of the XIV Corps
August–September 1914
Succeeded by
Josef Roth
Preceded by
Moritz von Auffenberg
Commander of the Fourth Army
October 1914 – June 1916
Succeeded by
Karl Tersztyánszky von Nádás
New title
Post created
Inspector General of the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops
July 1917 – September 1918
Post disestablished
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