A Clarification on the Imperial Austrian Order of Franz Joseph (1849 – 1919)
On 2 December 1849, the first anniversary of his accession to the throne, the young Emperor Franz Joseph I founded a fifth “Order of the House”, which was conceived as a classical order of merit and was to be accessible to every citizen of the Austrian Empire “regardless of birth, religion or status”. It was to honour “outstanding merits without distinction of rank by public recognition…with the intention of encouraging and strengthening all classes of citizens to charitable beneficial work for the great fatherland” and carried the name of the Emperor.
In this respect, the new “Order of Franz Joseph”, which was to be established, had the effect of turning towards the bourgeoisie, especially since it was to be awarded without regard to class. The “bourgeois” orientation was also manifested in the criteria for the award, namely “useful inventions, discoveries or improvements… fervent and momentous promotion and uplifting of agriculture, domestic industry or trade…outstanding achievements in the arts and sciences, through self-sacrificing work for suffering humanity…”.
Similar to the other Austrian House Orders, the Order was linked to the Crown of Austria in perpetuity, whereby the Grand Mastership was exercised by the respective Emperor of Austria, corresponding to today’s chief or head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine
The Order formally expired with the constitutional law of 3 April 1919, so it was not awarded again after 1918, neither by Emperor Karl nor by his successors as heads of the family.
As could be gathered from various media reports (e.g. https://www.mannheim24.de/promi-show/harald-gloeoeckler-ritterschlag-wien-schoenbrunn-habsburg-lothringen-designer-franz-joseph-orden-ritter-91960554.html, https://tvthek.orf.at/profile/Seitenblicke/4790197/Seitenblicke/14159537/Habsburger-verleihen-Orden-an-Harald-Gloeoeckler/15287936), this order was recently awarded in a bizarre way. In this context, it is not so much a question of the recipients, but rather of making it unmistakably clear that the awarding persons have not done or are not doing this in accordance with either historical or family tradition, and that they have no legitimation to do so.
Weblog from HIRH Karl von Habsburg, December 2022