Costume portrait of Luise, Archduchess of Austria-Tuscany

(Im)Morality and (Dis)Order in the Imperial House


The ideal of the family is widely held to be that of a well-ordered and harmonious association of related individuals. Amongst the Habsburgs as in many other families, however, the good order was sometimes given something of a shaking. Not all the members of this huge clan adhered to a lifestyle ‘in keeping with their station’. Although as head of the family the Emperor had the official say, he did not always know exactly how to handle his more disagreeable relatives. The nineteenth century saw numerous scandals concerned with Habsburg black sheep becoming public knowledge. For a number of members of the dynasty in this period, the arenas of bourgeois life clearly offered attractive alternatives to the ways traditionally considered by the dynasty as proper to its standing. As a result, good breeding and order did not always hold the upper hand in the extended family – ‘the Habsburgs’ were not a unified group with uniform family characteristics, but a large constellation of individuals with various and quite different inclinations and attitudes to life.

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