Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria

Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria (Maximilian Franz Xaver Joseph Johann Anton de Paula Wenzel; 8 December 1756 – 26 July 1801) was Elector of Cologne and Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. He was the youngest child of the Habsburg ruler of Austria, Maria Theresa, and her husband, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, for whom he was named. His siblings included emperors Joseph II and Leopold II, the Parmese duchess Maria Amalia , the Sicilian queen Maria Carolina, and the French queen Marie Antoinette. He was the last fully functioning Elector of Cologne and the second employer and patron of the young Ludwig van Beethoven.

Archduke Maximilian Francis
Archbishop-Elector of Cologne
Erzherzog Maximilian Franz of Austria.jpg
Born(1756-12-08)8 December 1756
Hofburg Imperial Palace, Vienna, Archduchy of Austria, Holy Roman Empire[1]
Died26 July 1801(1801-07-26) (aged 44)
Hetzendorf Palace, Vienna, Archduchy of Austria, Holy Roman Empire[1]
English: Maximilian Francis Xavier Joseph John Anthony
German: Maximilian Franz Xaver Josef Johann Anton
FatherFrancis I, Holy Roman Emperor
MotherMaria Theresa of Austria


Maximilian Franz at the age of 6 in 1762 by Liotard

Maximilian Francis was born in the Hofburg Palace, Vienna. In 1780, he succeeded his uncle Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine as Hochmeister (Grand Master) of the Deutscher Orden (Teutonic Knights).

In 1784, he became Archbishop and Elector of Cologne, living in the Electoral residence at Bonn. He remained in that office until his death in exile. In his capacity as chancellor of the Holy Roman Empire for Italy and as the Pope's deputy he crowned as Emperor in Frankfurt first his brother Leopold II in 1790, and in 1792 his nephew Francis II.

At the same time as he became Elector of Cologne, Maximilian Francis was elected to the related Bishopric of Münster and held court in Bonn, as the Archbishop-Electors of Cologne had been forced to do since the late Middle Ages. A keen patron of music, Maximilian Francis maintained a court musical establishment in which Beethoven's father was a tenor, thus playing an important role in the son's early career as a member of the same musical body of which his grandfather, also named Ludwig van Beethoven, had been Kapellmeister.

The court organist, Christian Gottlob Neefe, was Beethoven's early mentor and teacher. Recognising his young pupil's gift both as a performer and as a composer, Neefe brought Beethoven to the court, advising Maximilian Francis to appoint him as assistant organist. Maximilian Francis, too, recognised the extraordinary abilities of the young Beethoven. In 1787, he gave Beethoven leave to visit Vienna to become a pupil of Mozart, but the visit was cut short by news of the last illness of Beethoven's mother, and evidence is lacking for any contact with Mozart.

In 1792, the Redoute was opened, making Godesberg a spa town. Beethoven played in the orchestra. After a concert given there in the presence of Joseph Haydn, another visit for studies in Vienna was planned. Beethoven went on full salary to Vienna to study with Haydn, Antonio Salieri and others. The Elector maintained an interest in the young Beethoven's progress, and several reports from Haydn to Maximilian detailing it are extant. The prince anticipated that Beethoven would return to Bonn and continue working for him, but due to the subsequent political and military situation his subject never returned, choosing to pursue a career in Vienna.

Maximilian Francis visits with his sister Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI of France. Painting by Josef Hauzinger

Maximilian Francis's rule over most of the Electorate ended in 1794, when his domains were overrun by the troops of Revolutionary France. During the French Revolutionary Wars, Cologne and Bonn were both occupied by the French army in the second half of 1794. As the French approached, Maximilian Francis left Bonn, as it turned out never to return, and his territories on the left bank of the Rhine eventually passed to France under the terms of the Treaty of Lunéville (1801). The Archbishop's court ceased to exist. Although Maximilian Francis still retained his territories on the right bank of the Rhine, including Münster and the Duchy of Westphalia, the Elector, grossly corpulent and plagued by ill health, took up residence in Vienna after the loss of his capital and remained there until his death at the age of 44, at Hetzendorf Palace in 1801. The dismantling of the court made Beethoven's relocation to Vienna permanent, and his stipend was terminated.

Beethoven planned to dedicate his First Symphony to his former patron, but the latter died before it was completed.

The Electorate of Cologne was secularised in the course of the German mediatisation of 1802–1803.



  1. ^ a b Hamann, Brigitte (1996). Habsburkové: životopisná encyklopedie (in Czech) (1st ed.). Prague: Brána. p. 408. ISBN 80-85946-19-X.
  2. ^ Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 1.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Archduke Maximilian Franz of Austria at Wikimedia Commons

Archduke Maximilian Francis of Austria
Born: 8 December 1756 in Vienna Died: 26 July 1801 in Hetzendorf
Catholic Church titles
Regnal titles
Preceded by Archbishop-Elector of Cologne
Duke of Westphalia
Prince-Bishop of Münster

Succeeded by
Preceded by Grand Master of the Teutonic Order
Succeeded by