Studio of Court Painter Martin van Meytens: The Coronation of Joseph II as Roman King in the Church of St Bartholomew in Frankfurt am Main on 3 April 1764, oil painting, 18th century

Something to Celebrate? Habsburg festivities


Rituals lend order to life. Since time immemorial, when organizing key events, people have liked to draw on traditional formalities, for customs and traditions provide the right framework for a festive occasion.

This need expresses itself even more strongly when it comes to the festivities of a ruling dynasty such as the Habsburgs, where the transition between the individual/family domain and the function of state representation is a fluid one. Habsburgs did not just serve as official representatives, but as the ruling house of Austria; they embodied what one would nowadays refer to as the body politic, over which they ruled.

Political events of state such as coronations were given the same extravagant treatment as family festivities. The Habsburgs’ weddings, christenings and funerals were magnificent events, the ramifications of which are evident from the history books.

Following the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, adherence to rituals and to the traditional formal structure of Habsburg ceremonies served to legitimize their claim to power; the Habsburgs considered the traditions of their dynasty as reinforcing the source of their authority, yet they also experienced them as a burden.

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