French Count Bombelles – educator of Francis Joseph

French Count Bombelles – educator of Francis Joseph

On June 26, 1789, Henri-François Bombelles, better known by the German version of the name, Heinrich Franz von Bombelles, a French count who became the educator of the future Austrian Emperor and Croatian-Hungarian King Francis Joseph I, was born. Count Bombelles was born in Versailles, and that is exactly the year that the French Revolution began.

As a teenager, he left France and entered the Austrian military service as a junior officer. He took part in several battles of the Napoleonic Wars, including the Great Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in 1813, where Napoleon was dealt a decisive defeat. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, he was the Austrian ambassador to several European courts (St. Petersburg, Lisbon, Turin). In 1836 he was appointed educator of the young Francis Joseph, who was six years old at the time, and educator of his younger brothers.

The famous Chancellor Clemens Metternich considered Bombelles a very good teacher for the future ruler. Bombelles raised the emperor and his brothers in a strict Catholic spirit. That is why he was the target of sharp criticism from more liberal currents. When the revolution broke out in Vienna in 1848, Bombelles took Francis Joseph and some other members of the imperial family to Innsbruck for their safety. In Vienna, revolutionaries hung a straw doll with his image, calling him “the creator of all evil.” Soon after, he retired.

Count Henri-François Bombelles died in 1850 in Boštanj (German: Savenstein) in present-day Slovenia. The Count’s son Marko Bombelles acquired considerable estates in Croatia (Opeka, Zelendvor and Vinica), and this branch of the Bombelles family remained especially famous for arranging the park near the Opeka castle, not far from Varaždin.

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