On 21 November 1916, Emperor Franz Joseph I died. Karl Franz Joseph, the grandson of his brother Ludwig, became his successor. The new young monarch, who had little political and military experience, faced difficult times. Although Karl I had already shown more presence than Franz Joseph I by frequently visiting the front as well as the rest of the country, he was still not well-prepared for his new role.
In this proclamation of 21 November 1916, Emperor Karl I states that he has taken over the government and confirms ‘the members of the Austrian Ministry in their positions’. ‘Deeply moved and shaken’ he, his house and the ‘faithful people’ stand before the ‘grave of the noble ruler’, who died after a reign of 68 years. Karl I would like to continue and complete Franz Joseph’s work, because the goal has not yet been reached. Karl’s goal is peace and to ‘fight until peace is achieved’. He says, ‘Imbued with the belief in the indestructible life force of Austria-Hungary, motivated by deep love for My people, I want to devote My life and My strength to this high purpose’.
TranscriptBrought to the attention of Imperial and Royal Governor Bleyleben in the Archdukedom of Austria below the Emms on 22 November 1916 in Vienna:
His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty has deigned to issue the following royal proclamation:
Dear Dr von Koerber!
I have today assumed control of the government and can confirm the positions of you and the other members of the Austrian Ministry. At the same time I charge you with issuing this proclamation to my people.
Vienna, 21 November 1916.
"“To my people!
Deeply moved and shattered, I, my House and my loyal people stand before the grave of the noble ruler into whose hands the destiny of the monarchy was entrusted for almost seven centuries.
The grace of the Almighty, which had called him to the throne in the early days of his youth, also gave him the strength, unwavering and undaunted through the gravest human suffering until extreme old age, to live only according to the duties which his honourable position as ruler and the deep love of his people required of him.
His wisdom, insight and fatherly care created the constant principles of peaceful coexistence and free development and lead Austria-Hungary out of deep turmoil and danger, through good days and bad, to a long and blessed time of peace to the height of power, where she is today as she fights together with loyal allies against the enemies surrounding her.
His work must be continued and completed.
In these difficult times I ascend the honourable throne of my predecessor, which my illustrious uncle bequeaths to me in undiminished splendour.
The goal has not yet been achieved, the delusion of the enemies, who think that they can bring down and even destroy my monarchy and its allies with continued onslaughts, has not yet been broken.
I know that I am at one with my people in the unrelenting decision to carry on through the war, until the peace that ensures the discretion of my monarchy and the firm principles of its uninterrupted development is gained.
I am proudly confident in trusting that my heroic army, supported by the devoted love of the Fatherland of my people and loyal brothers-in-arms with the allied armies, will, with God's grace, continue to repel all enemy attacks and bring about the victorious conclusion of the war.
Just as indestructible is my trust that my monarchy, whose authority is rooted in the age-old, newly confirmed common destiny of both its countries through times of hardship and danger, will emerge from the war inwardly and outwardly steeled and strengthened; that my people, who, driven by thoughts of shared identity and a deep love of the Fatherland, today unit in self-sacrificing determination to repel outside enemies, will also work together in acts of peaceful renewal and rejuvenation, in order to secure for both countries of the monarchy with the affiliated countries Bosnia and Herzegovina a period of internal growth, recovery and strengthening.
I beg for Heaven's grace and blessing upon me and my House and upon my beloved people, and vow before the Almighty to faithfully look after all that my ancestors have bequeathed to me.
It is my wish to do everything to avert the horrors and sacrifices of war as soon as possible, to win back for my people the deeply missed blessing of peace, as soon as the honour of our weapons, the living conditions of my countries and their loyal allies and the defiance of our enemies allow it.
It is my wish to be a fair and loving ruler of my people. I want to uphold their constitutional freedoms and other privileges and closely guard legal equality for all. I will be relentless in my efforts to promote the moral and spiritual wellbeing of my people, defend freedom and order in my countries and ensure that all economic branches of society benefit from the fruits of honest labour.
As a precious legacy of my ancestors, I assume the allegiance and deep trust that encompass the people and the crown. This legacy will give me the strength to fulfil the duties of the high and difficult office of ruler.
Steeped in belief in the indestructible vitality of Austria-Hungary, inspired by a deep love of my people, it is my wish to give my life and all my strength to the service of this high office.