Francis II was the last of the Holy Roman Emperors. As the leader of a large multi-ethnic nation (he was also Francis I of Austria), Francis felt threatened by Napoleon's call for liberty and equality in Europe. He led Austria into the French Revolutionary Wars and was defeated by Napoleon. At the Treaty of Campo Formio, he ceded the left bank of the Rhine to France in exchange for Venice and Dalmatia. He again fought against France during the Second Coalition, and, after meeting crushing defeat at Austerlitz, agreed to the Treaty of Lunéville, which dissolved the Holy Roman Empire, weakening Austria and decentralizing Germany.
In 1809, Francis attacked France again, hoping to take advantage of the conflict embroiling Napoleon in Spain. He was again defeated, and this time forced to ally with Napoleon, ceding territory to the Empire, joining the Continental System, and wedding his daughter Marie Louise to the Emperor. Francis was essentially subjected to being a groveling vassal to the Emperor of France. The Napoleonic wars drastically weakened Austria and reduced its prestige, which would lead to Prussia acquiring the edge in the contest for dominance of Germany.
In 1813, for the fourth and final time, Austria turned against France and joined England, Russia, and Prussia in their war against Napoleon. Austria played a major role in the final defeat of France — in recognition of this, Francis, represented by Clemens von Metternich, presided over the Congress of Vienna, helping to form the Concert of Europe and the Holy Alliance, ushering in an era of conservatism and reactionism in Europe.
He married four times:
- January 6, 1788, to Elisabeth of Württemberg (April 21, 1767) - February 18, 1790, who died bearing a short-lived daughter, Ludovika (1790-1791)
- August 15, 1790, to Maria Theresa of the Two Sicilies (June 6, 1772 - April 13, 1807), with whom he had twelve children, including his successor Ferdinand I and the French Empress Marie-Louise
- January 6, 1808, to Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este (December 14, 1787 - April 7, 1816) with no issue
- October 29, 1816, to Karoline Charlotte Auguste of Bavaria (February 8, 1792 - February 9, 1873) with no issue
Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor
|List of German Kings and Emperors||Succeeded by:
Ferdinand I of Austria