26.07.

1801: The Youngest Son of Empress Maria Theresa was an Archbishop and Beethoven’s Patron

1801: The Youngest Son of Empress Maria Theresa was an Archbishop and Beethoven’s Patron
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/The Electoral Palace at Bonn

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 26 July 1801
  • Empress's son Maximilian Franz became Archbishop and Elector Spiritual of Cologne, which had enormous political importance, because that made him also the ruler of a large part of the German territory. Archbishop’s capital Bonn later, in the 20th century, served as the capital of West Germany.

On this day Archduke Maximilian Francis, Archbishop and Elector Spiritual of Cologne, died. He was the youngest child of the famous Empress Maria Theresa, meaning that he was also the brother of Emperor Joseph II (known from Mozart’s life story), and also a brother to the French queen Marie Antoinette, who was beheaded on the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Empress Maria Theresa gave birth to as many as sixteen children, of whom Marie Antoinette was second to last and said Archbishop Maximilian Franz was the youngest (he was born when Maria Theresa was 39 years old).

Maximilian Franz was born in the imperial Hofburg Palace in Vienna. Younger sons of rulers and nobles were often destined for ecclesiastical career.

Thus Maximilian Franz became Archbishop and Elector Spiritual of Cologne, which had enormous political importance, because its archbishops were also the rulers of a large part of the German territory.

Namely, the Archbishop of Cologne was automatically landlord of the Duchy of Westphalia (Herzogtum Westfalen) – east of the today’s Ruhr, and the Bishop of Münster (with a large territory on the border between Germany and the Netherlands).

Interestingly, the archbishops of Cologne carried the title of “prince elector” of the Holy Roman Empire (which means that they participated in the election of the emperor), and were also “Arch-chancellors of the Holy Roman Empire for Italy” (Archicancelarii Sancti Romani Imperii per Italiam).

Archbishop Maximilian Franz had the capital in the city of Bonn, where the famous musician Ludwig van Beethoven was born. Indeed, Beethoven’s father was employed as a musician at the Archbishop’s Palace (similar to Mozart being in the service of another Archbishop – the one of Salzburg).

Archbishop Maximilian Franz was a supporter of the young Ludwig van Beethoven (he allegedly even financed Beethoven’s first visit to Vienna), and, much like his father, Ludwig got the job as a musician at the Archbishop’s Palace.

Much later, in the 20th century, Archbishop’s capital of Bonn served as the capital of West Germany. It is interesting that the large company Deutsche Telekom has its world headquarters in Bonn.

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