©Guy Stair Sainty
The survival of the Grand Ducal House of Tuscany, a branch of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen, whose members also enjoys the titles, rank and privileges of Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, was of little interest to the citizens of Florence and the surrounding region until relatively recently. The history of Tuscany has been viewed through the distorted perspective imposed by four generations of historians wedded to the view that Italian unification was of benefit to all, and that the pre-unitarian states were merely the puppets of the great powers. While this is not the place to displace these myths, the continuing fascination with the Medici and their successors has encouraged a revival of the institutions associated with the dynasty and increased interest in the representatives of the family which ruled the Grand Duchy. Foremost among these institutions are the Orders of Santo Stefano and of San Giuseppe. The Grand Magistery of these two Orders of Knighthood is the dynastic prerogative of the Head of the Grand Ducal House, presently His Imperial and Royal Highness the Grand Duke Sigismondo, Archduke of Austria and Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia.
The rise of the Medici to hereditary power in Florence was consolidated thanks to the support of the Emperor Karl V, who, following the surrender of the city on 12 August 1530, forced the Florentines to accept that the Emperor could dictate the form of the new government. In 1531 Alessandro de’ Medici was nominated by the Emperor “Republicae Florentinae Dux,” for himself and his agnatic heirs, an appointment comparable to the position of Doge of Venice or Genoa, but was assassinated by his own cousin Lorenzo, in 1535, without leaving an immediate heir. The Florentine senate acknowledged the legality of the Imperial grant by electing a distant cousin, Cosimo I de’ Medici, and the Emperor confirmed the election in 1537._ Cosimo had enjoyed a successful military career and his conquest of Siena and absorption into the territories of Florence firmly established him as the dominant military figure of the Republic.
Despite the Imperial claim of the right of confirmation of the title of Republicae Florentinae Dux, the Florentines refused to accept that their city was an Imperial fief; nonetheless, their recognition of the Imperial title and its concession to the Medici marked a diminution of their claims to complete independence. Siena and the Florentine territories in the Lunigiana, were indisputably Imperial fiefs, even though the right of immediate investiture of Siena had been ceded by the Emperor to Spain. The Pope, determined to maintain his own claims to supremacy, at least in Italy, now intervened and conferred upon Cosimo the title of Grand Duke, a wholly novel invention, in the Bull Romanus Pontifex in excelso militantis Ecclesiae Throno disponente, of 27 August 1569. This Bull recited the authority by which previous Popes had conferred the title of King and Prince on Europe’s sovereigns, and created Cosimo de Medici and his successors as Dukes of Florence (following the same succession as the Imperial designation of this title), “Magnos Duces, & Principes Provinciae Etruriae.”_
This further elevation of the Medici was greeted with anger by the Emperor, who had not been consulted and he made an official protest to the Pope. The important role played by the galleys of the Order of Santo Stefano at Lepanto, however, earned the new Grand Duke, Francesco I, the Imperial gratitude, and the Emperor himself confirmed the Grand Ducal title in 1575. Thus were the Republics of Florence and Siena converted into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, a state whose precise ranking, nonetheless, remained contested. The Grand Duke, who assumed the title of Royal Highness (a style that remained in contention with some other sovereigns), claimed for his Ambassadors precedence immediately after the Ambassadors of Kings, but when the Envoy of the Grand Master of the Order of Saint John disputed this in 1653, claiming precedence at the Court of Madrid before the Envoy of the Grand Duke, the Grand Master’s claim was accepted. France, for example, continued to receive a permanent Ambassador Extraordinary from the Religion de Malta and the Republic of Venice, while accepting only an Envoy Extraordinary from the Grand Duke._
Cosimo’s most long-lasting achievement was his foundation, with Papal support, of the “Sacred_ Military Order of Santo Stefano” on 15 March 1561, to commemorate his victory over the French, led by Marshal Strozzi, at the battle of Marciano, on Santo Stefano's day, 2 August 1554. Duke Cosimo was authorized to proceed with the organization of the Order by a Brief of Pope Pius IV (Eximiae devotionis) of 1 October 1561,_ and hold the Grand Magistery for him and "postreorum tuorum decus, et honorem"; this was confirmed in the Bull His, quae pro Religionis propagatione of 1 February 1562, putting it under the Rule of Saint Benedict._ The privileges of the knights and prerogatives of the Grand Master were further detailed in the Bull Altitudo divinae providentiae of 5 June 1562. Limited to Catholics of legitimate birth, the knights were obliged to defend the shipping of Christian nations against pirates, liberate Christians from the slavery of the Turks and, above all, defend the Church and the Catholic Faith. Its statutes were confirmed by Pope Pius V in a further Bull of the following year, in which Cosimo and his successors were declared Grand Masters of the Order in perpetuity, and the seat of the Order established at Pisa, where Cosimo established two Conventual Houses for the knights. Thus the Order was a Religious foundation of the Holy Roman Church, independent of secular jurisdiction and incapable of abolition by a secular authority without the consent and authorization of the Holy See. The Order of Santo Stefano provided an important focus for the nobility of the Grand Duchy and helped insure the loyalty of families who had hitherto been pillars of the Republic towards their new Monarchy.
The decline of the Medici dynasty began with the death of the first Grand Duke. While the Medici continued to distinguish themselves as collectors and patrons of the arts (although Florence was replaced by Rome, Bologna and Naples as centers of Italian art in the 17th century), their physical and moral decline was matched by the diminishing influence of Tuscany in Italian affairs. The penultimate Grand Duke Cosimo III’s younger brother was the Cardinal Francesco Maria de’ Medici,_ an important figure who held the difficult but profitable position of “Protector of Austria and Spain”, presenting him with an irreconcilable conflict on the death of Carlos II of Spain in 1700. Cosimo decided to recognize the succession of Felipe V, thus placing him in the French, and therefore anti-Austrian camp, but although Cosimo obtained the investiture of Siena and Portoferraio as fiefs of the Spanish Crown, he nonetheless failed to persuade Felipe V to recognize the title of “Royal Highness” for his eldest son and heir, Prince Ferdinando. The Hereditary Grand Prince, described as “a martyr to Venus and disciple of the Graces” was distinguished for having excelled even his immediate antecedents in decadence and incompetence. The latter’s death in 1713 without leaving an heir by his unfortunate wife, Princess Violante of Bavaria, left in his stead only Cosimo’s younger son, Gian Gastone, as eventual male heir to Tuscany.
Gian Gastone was a debauchee of considerable experience, generally uninterested in statecraft until its responsibilities were forced upon him, but pretending to some expertise in antiquarian studies and botany. He had been married off to Princess Anna Maria Francesca of Saxe-Lauenburg, already a widow (of another Bavarian Prince, Count Palatine Felipe of Neuberg) by whom she had had a daughter. Cosimo had been reassured by her evident fertility, but had ignored her lack of physical charms – she was the same age as Gian Gastone, and like him a colossus of bosom and belly. She also proved unwilling to leave her Bohemian estates and made it clear that she hated cities, courts and society and much preferred the solid charms of her horses and farm animals. One can but sympathize with the unfortunate Gian Gastone, who described his wife “apart from her ill-humour … a German woman, which signifies more than a woman. I have used such finesses and blandishments to propitiate her as nobody else in my position would tolerate. I demand nothing from her, though my claims are ratified by the pacts that were signed at my marriage. I suffer her to call me a thief in public with inimitable patience…”_ The marriage, unsurprisingly, was a disaster and childless.
Without a male heir the Medici dynasty was doomed to extinction. As both his sons were childless Cosimo III had been faced with the threat of the Emperor seizing the Grand Duchy, on the pretext that it was an Imperial fief without an heir. Cosimo’s council had persuaded him that as it had been the people of Florence who had first chosen the Medici to lead them, he should bequeath sovereignty back to his subjects, the citizens of Florence. Unfortunately this solution, while certainly to the advantage of the Grand Duke’s councillors whose powers would have been enlarged thereby, would have lost Siena and the other imperial fiefs that had been gradually aggregated to the original Florentine territories. Cosimo was persuaded that to restore the Republic and lose the Imperial fiefs, would weaken the much reduced state to the disadvantage of the Florentines. The Grand Duke then modified this quasi-democratic impulse and decided that on the death of the survivor of himself or his sons, his daughter Anna Maria, Electress Palatine, would succeed and that only upon her death Tuscany would revert to the citizens of Florence. It was hoped that some accommodation could have been made with the Emperor, which would have permitted the Imperial fiefs to remain attached to Florence. There were also proposals to allow the succession of the most junior line but it was considered inappropriate for this branch, which while noble was of insufficient estate and prominence to be considered as possible sovereigns of the Grand Duchy. This branch of the family had settled in the Kingdom of Naples and its closest connection to the reigning line went back to the 13th century, long before the Medici had been established as a reigning house.
The Archduke Karl, the Habsburg rival of Felipe V for the Spanish Crown, had succeeded his brother as Emperor Karl VI in 1711. Imperial troops had already established Austrian rule in the former Spanish possessions in Italy and the Netherlands and Karl hoped to include Tuscany with his other Italian territories, giving him control of much of the peninsular. Since Anna Maria was childless the Emperor agreed to her eventual succession, but only provided he or his heirs should inherit the entire Grand Duchy on her death. Cosimo decided to ignore the Emperor and on 26th November 1713 issued a decree that his daughter would succeed if he and his son predeceased her; the next day the decree was presented to the Florentine Senate which greeted the proposal with “joyous acclamations.”_ The Emperor was outraged, writing to Anna Maria’s husband on 25th May 1714 that the Grand Duke had no right to make such a provision, and claiming the entire Grand Duchy, aside from the small parts that remained fiefs of the Pope, as an Imperial fief.
Cosimo’s decision to admit the right of his daughter to the succession opened up the claims of other female line heiresses. If Maria Anna could inherit the Grand Duchy, as a Medici princess, surely others could do so should she die without heirs? The betrothal, and then marriage, of Felipe V of Spain to Elisabetta Farnese, eventual heiress of Parma, angered the Emperor even more. Spain and the Empire were still at war, although peace had been signed between Karl and France at Rastadt (Baden). France had consented to the Imperial demands that Felipe V should lose all his Italian possessions, but Spain had not. This marriage not only promised to give the Spanish King a foothold in the Farnese duchies of Parma and Piacenza, but as Elisabetta was the great-granddaughter of Margherita de’ Medici, sister of Ferdinando II, and the Farnese male line would become extinct in 1731, it would allow Felipe V to claim Tuscany as well as Parma for the first born son of this marriage.
The alliances that had combined to defeat France in the War of the Spanish Succession had begun to fracture; Great Britain was troubled by the increasing power of the Emperor and with her substantial trading interests in Italy, notably Livorno, did not want Tuscany to lose its independence. The Emperor himself was confronted with the problem of his own succession; he was the father only of two daughters and the last twenty-five years of his reign were to be dedicated to insuring the succession of the elder, Maria Teresa, to the Habsburg hereditary estates. Brandenburg-Prussia and Bavaria, on the other hand, saw the Imperial succession problem as an opportunity to enlarge their own power. The Emperor, understanding Cosimo’s venality now offered to enlarge the Grand Duchy if he would take steps to exclude the Infante don Carlos and instead name as successor someone independent of Spain and Austria. Cosimo demanded Piombino and the Presidii_ but this demand seemed excessive to the Emperor. After some delay, Cosimo agreed to nominate the Duke of Modena as heir, but the Emperor still refused to grant him Piombino and the Presidii and then announced that neither would he agree to Tuscany’s union with Modena.
Events now passed from the Emperor’s control; his old allies, Britain and the Netherlands had joined up with France in the Triple Alliance, to which Austria was forced to accede in the Treaty of London to buy French support in his struggle to assure the succession of his daughter. The Powers now agreed that Elisabetta Farnese’s eldest son, the Infante don Carlos, should succeed to Parma, without however consulting the Pope, who claimed to be its feudal superior and enjoy the right of investiture (a right also claimed by the Emperor), while determining that the Emperor could dispose of Tuscany as he wished. Neither Cosimo nor Felipe V was consulted, although the former tried to play off Austria and Spain against each other through devious manoeuvrings by his Ambassadors in Madrid and Vienna. The Spanish King ignored the dispositions by the other Powers and decided to attempt to recover his possessions in southern Italy, landing troops in Palermo. Although the Sicilians welcomed them, Austrian rule being extremely unpopular (even when nominally administered through the proxy King, the Duke of Savoy),_ the Spanish suffered an ignominious defeat at the hands of Admiral Byng on 11th August 1718.
The Quadruple Alliance immediately imposed a new settlement; Sicily would be given to the Emperor, reuniting it with Naples, and Spain would lose Sardinia to the Duke of Savoy in return for the Infante don Carlos de Borbón y Farnese being confirmed as heir to Tuscany and Parma. The Emperor in turn would renounce his claim to Spain and the Indies while Felipe would confirm the renunciation of his French rights included in the Treaties of Utrecht. Although he delayed consenting, Felipe V eventually acceded to the Quadruple Alliance at the Treaty of London 26th January 1720, which, nonetheless, referred the various issues remaining in dispute to the Congress of Cambrai. Much relieved at a settlement which would at least insure that his beloved Tuscany would retain its independence, even without the additions of Piombino and the Presidii, Cosimo III now added San Giuseppe to San Giovanni Battista and San Zenobio as the heavenly protectors of the Grand Duchy, a decision ratified by the Senate in December 1719._
Although the succession seemed settled, the Emperor continued to claim the Grand Duchy as an imperial fief, while the Florentines asserted their independence; rival academic treatises were issued fiercely arguing each case. The Powers paid little attention, realpolitik being a stronger motive for settlement than the arguments of scholars, except when these arguments could be used to support one or other opposing political view. Meanwhile the eventual claim of the dowager Electress Maria Anna was being ignored by all and, when Cosimo III died on 31st October 1723, the security of the succession first of Maria Anna and then the Infante was still not assured. The new Grand Duke Gian Gastone, to the surprise of many, exhibited occasional astuteness as ruler, even though he spent most of his time in bed, too lazy to make the most elementary decisions. The Grand Duke attempted some modest social reforms, abolishing some of the more onerous taxes and founded a workhouse for the homeless and many beggars who plagued the city. As a statesman the new Grand Duke was less successful, trying to play Austria against Spain, wishing to resist the imposition of a Spanish garrison (whose cost would inevitably be born by the Tuscan exchequer) but not submit to Austrian suzerainship. Gian Gastone did not anticipate the short-lived rapprochement between the two rival powers which led to the Treaty of Vienna of 1725, allowing for Imperial Investiture of the Grand Duchy in the person of Infante Don Carlos and thus seemingly deciding the status of Tuscany as an Imperial fief.
The Emperor, meanwhile, doubting the merits of the Spanish rapprochement, continued to insist on his right to control the succession and arranged a marriage for Elisabetta Farnese’s uncle, Antonio, last reigning Duke of Parma of the Farnese dynasty; any issue of that marriage would have had a superior claim to both Parma and Tuscany to that of the Spanish Queen. Like the marriage of the unfortunate Cardinal Francesco Maria de’ Medici, this attempt to produce an heir failed and Antonio expired in January 1731, leaving his widow feigning a pregnancy that, finally, in September was announced as having been founded in her imagination.
Upon Antonio’s death Karl VI promptly sent Imperial troops into the duchy, to supposedly secure it for the Infante Don Carlos; the Spanish were naturally sceptical of Austria’s intentions and with the arrival of Spanish forces in October the Austrians withdrew. Gian Gastone and the Spanish Ambassador agreed secretly that the Infante would be proclaimed Hereditary Grand Prince with no mention of Imperial suzerainty (nor of the rights of his sister the Electress_), while the Grand Duke and the widowed Duchess of Parma would remain his guardians. Don Carlos arrived at Livorno on 27th December but, to everyone’s horror, caught smallpox soon afterwards – the scourge of his French cousins –thankfully he recovered fully with minimal scarring. On 9th March 1732 Don Carlos made his formal entry into Florence to the acclaim of the citizenry and nobility, much relieved at the solution that guaranteed the support of both Spain and France and the eventual succession of a young and healthy prince.
Gian Gastone, meanwhile, continued to ignore the Emperor and, on 24th June 1732, the new Hereditary Grand Prince received the homage of the Tuscan provinces over repeated protests by the Emperor. The difficulty of the Parmese investiture also remained an issue, however, as the Spanish demanded that the Emperor agree to invest D. Carlos immediately as Duke, rather than wait until he reached his majority. The Emperor required that if Don Carlos was to receive immediate Imperial investiture he must forego the use of the title of Hereditary Grand Prince of Tuscany. The Pope had to be persuaded to agree to a solution that recognized the Imperial right of investiture of Parma._
None of these problems were settled when, on 1st February 1733, Augustus II of Poland died, leaving open the important question of the Polish succession. Louis XV wanted his father-in-law, the exiled Stanislas Leczinski restored and as this proposal would directly oppose Austria’s wishes was sufficient to gain the support of Savoy-Sardinia and Spain. The treaties of Turin (September 1733) and the Escorial (7th November following) between France and Sardinia and France and Spain planned a new division of Italy: Spain would recover Naples and Sicily in the person of Infante don Carlos, while his younger brother Felipe (Filippo) would succeed in Parma_ and Tuscany; the King of Sardinia would keep his island state but enlarge his power with the addition of the Duchy of Milan; in exchange for which France would gain the old Duchy of Savoy._
The alliance was fragile, however, and once the Spanish had defeated Austria in Naples and proclaimed Don Carlos King, the King of Sardinia, seeing Austria undefeated in Milan, wavered; the war ended in a new treaty whose preliminaries were signed on 3rd October 1735. These were concluded in the Treaty of Vienna of 19th November 1735_ in which the Emperor recognized Don Carlos as King of Naples and Sicily, in exchange for possession of Parma and Piacenza under an imperial governor; Don Carlos was permitted to retain possession of the Farnese allodial fiefs and enjoy his uninhibited governance of the Constantinian Order. This treaty also instituted the Neapolitan “secondogeniture” which required that if the Crowns of Spain and Naples be united in one person, the Italian sovereignties should be transferred to the second prince in line. Austria gained a considerable advantage in making these concessions, which had already been established de facto by force of arms; Don Carlos was required to surrender his rights to Tuscany, which were transferred to Francis, Duke of Lorraine – the entire possessions of the House of Lorraine in exchange being given to Stanislas Leczinski, with the reversion to France upon his death (which occurred in 1766).
The dispositions by the great powers were not particularly welcome to those whom they most affected. The Duke of Lorraine, although promised the hand of Archduchess Maria Teresa and the eventual election as Emperor, was reluctant to abandon the ancient capital that had been his family’s seat for some seven hundred years. Gian Gastone, who had come to see the Infante as a surrogate son, was despondent at the prospect of the hated Germans, whom recalling his dreadful wife he considered uncouth and boorish, occupying his beloved Florence. Gian Gastone was unsuccessful in continuing to dispute the Imperial claim to investiture of the entire Grand Duchy, but managed to secure a small but significant victory; insisting that if Francis became Emperor the Grand Duchy should be settled on a second son and never afterward united with the Imperial Crown. Thus was established the principle of “secondogeniture” for Austria and Tuscany that would also regulate the successions to Austria and Modena and to Spain and the Two Sicilies.
The last days of Gian Gastone led to a reconciliation with his unfortunate sister and, more important, with the Church; having been notably negligent in his religious obligations to the point of being accused of abandoning his faith altogether, the Grand Duke with great humility confessed and received the sacraments for the first time for many years on 10th July 1737. His sincerity moved all who witnessed it and was followed by his investiture with the insignia of a knight, and regalia of Grand Master of the Order of Santo Stefano, thus insuring he would benefit from the various indulgences and privileges granted to members of the Order by the Pope. The next day he was anointed with Holy Oil and received the Papal Nuncio (he gave him benediction and Papal absolution), the Archbishop of Florence (who recommended the salvation of his soul), and the Bishop of Fiesole. On 11th July he died with his sister at his side,_ surrounded by his councillors and courtiers. Immediately the Prince de Beauvau-Craon_ took possession of the Grand Duchy in his master’s name; the next day, 12th July, the Senate and the Council of Two Hundred swore solemn fealty to their new sovereign. The citizenry had to wait another eighteen months before greeting the new Grand Duke Francesco, who was commanding Imperial forces in the Balkans; he finally entered the Grand Duchy on 20th January 1739.
The succession of the new Grand Duke had already been assured by his investiture, in anticipation, on 24th January 1737. The original appointment of the Medici as Dukes of the Florentine Republic had been limited to the agnatic succession; the grant of the title of Grand Duke had to been to Cosimo I as Duke and his heirs and successors as such._ The recognition of the rights of succession of women had never been formally accepted by the Emperor in the form of investiture, even though it had been acknowledged by the provisions of the Treaty of Vienna of 1735. The Grand Duke had claimed the right to name his daughter as heiress on the grounds that as ruler of Florence, which he had insisted was not an Imperial fief, he could dispose of the non-feudal territories as he wished, with the necessary consent of the Florentine Senate. The new investiture was in compensation for the loss of the nominal Imperial fief of Lorraine, and thus required that all those who would have enjoyed a right of succession to that Duchy would also be in line of succession to Tuscany. The Emperor took the opportunity to substitute the system of “semi-salic” law for that of ordinary mixed succession, which, while it had governed Lorraine for centuries, had nonetheless in practice assured the succession to the agnatic line by arranging marriages between the daughters of reigning Dukes lacking sons to their Lorraine cousins.
The Italian text of the investiture reads in its essential elements: “Dipoi vicendevolmente, che per indennizzare la prefata Serenissima casa di Lorena dei Ducati per l'addietro posseduti, appartenga alla medesima dopo la morte del presente Possessore, il Gran Ducato di Toscano. In oltre che tutte le Potenze, che avessero avuto parte alla Pace, prendano sopra di se il mantenimento, e la garanzia di quest’eventuale Successione in favore della soprammentovata Casa: che le Truppe Spagnole siano ritirate dalle Piazze, e Fortezze del Gran Ducato di Toscana …
“Dipoi per singolare favore del Cielo, che sempre più andava beneficando i pacifici sentimenti di Noi, e del Re Cristianissimo, segui, che gli stati del sacro Romano Imperio legittimamente adunati nella Dieta di Ratisbona non solamente acconsentirono ai predetti Articoli Preliminari, ed a tutto ciò che in loro si contiene, ma trasferirono altresì in Noi la piena, e totale facoltà di trattare, di conchiudere, e di fare norma degli medesimi, non solo in proprio nome, ma ancore in nome dell'Imperio tutte quelle cose, che restavano da trattarsi, e da compirsi per por fine alla salutare opera della Pace; e quantunque pel tenero affetto, che portava e che di presente ancora porta ai Popoli suoi sudditi il Serenissimo Duca di Lorena e di Bar Francesco III. Nostro carissimo Genero esitasse da principio a mandarne in proprio nome, e degli suoi successori, …che negli poco fa citati Articoli Preliminari, e nella convenzione dell'esecuzione sottoscritta, e firmata il di 11 del passato Aprile poste si ritrovano, ma altresì a quelle, che dipoi furono stabilite concernenti un'altra Epoca della Cessione del Ducato di Lorena diversa da quella, che da principio piacque, sotto clausure, e condizioni, de quali fu insieme convenuto.
“Le quali cose cosi essendo, non solamente la giustizia, e l'equità, ma altresì la stessa buona fede evidentissimamente richiedono, che ne sia indennizzato non solo il sopramemorato Serenissimo Duca di Lorena, e di Bar, e li suoi Discendenti, ma ancora tutti quanti gli altri Eredi, e successori, ai quale senza la sopradetta Cessione sarebbe toccato il diritto di succedere nei Ducati fin qui posseduti dalla casa di Lorena.
Per la qual cosa Noi di certa nostra scienza con maturo consiglio, e colla nostra Imperiale Potestà, ed in vigore ancora del consenso datoci dal Sacro Imperio Romano Germanico in Nome Nostro, e dei Nostri legittimi Successori nella Corona Imperiale Imperatori, e Re dei Romani, al sopradetto Serenissimo Duca di Lorena, e di Bar Francesco III, Nostro Carissima Genero, ed ai suoi Discendenti Maschi, in infinito, e questi (che Iddio non permetta) mancando, al Principe Carlo Fratello del sopraddetto Duca, ed ai suoi Discendenti Maschi parimente, in infinito, osservando sempre l'ordine di Primogenitura, che è sempre stato osservato in riguardo alla successione nel Gran Ducato di Toscana, e se ancora questi Discendenti Maschi, dei quali abbiamo in ultimo luogo parlato, verrebbero del tutto a mancare, agli altri Principi maschi procedenti per stirpe mascolina della Serenissima Casa di Lorena parimente secondo l'ordine di Primogenitura, e finalmente estinta affatto la stirpe mascolina della Casa di Lorena, e non rimanendo più alcun Principe maschio, o della linea presentemente Regnante, o delle linee collaterali, ancora Principesse femmine nate della Serenissima Casa di Lorena altresì secondo l'ordine di Primogenitura, che come s'è detto, si dee in perpetuo osservare, l'eventuale diritto si succedere nel Gran Ducato di Toscana…”_
The Imperial investiture of 1737 replaced the designation of the Medici and their agnatic successors as Republicae Florentinae Duces, and the effects of the Papal Bull of 1569 creating the title of Grand Duke of Tuscany for the Medici Dukes and the subsequent Imperial Bull of 1575. While Karl VI’s investiture of the Grand Duchy did not execute Gian Gastone’s wish for the establishment of the “secondogeniture” when Francis became Emperor, this was later laid out in an Imperial decree, made with the consent of the Emperor’s eldest son, Archduke Joseph, future Emperor Joseph II, on 14 July 1763. This act named the Emperor’s second son Archduke (Peter) Leopold of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia,_ as Grand Duke of Tuscany, on the occasion of the Archduke’s marriage to the Infanta Doña Maria Luisa of Spain, daughter of the former Hereditary Grand Prince of Tuscany, Carlos III._ It read “We wish that as Head of the Family and Grand Duke of Tuscany, for Us, Our Heirs and Successors … we constitute in the said Grand Duchy of Tuscany a ‘secondogeniture’ in favor of Our forenamed Son Archduke Leopold…”. The act continued by providing that should the Archduke die without legitimate issue or descendants that the succession to the Grand Duchy would return to the line of the eldest son, but that if the eldest son, Archduke Joseph, died without male heirs, the Grand Duchy would pass to the second in line, and failing this to the other heirs of Lorraine as provided in the investiture of 24th January 1737. _ This act emphasized once again the status of the Grand Duchy as an Imperial fief and was followed by an act of confirmation and abdication of rights by the Archduke Joseph, on the same day, 14th July 1763.
Leopoldo proved to be one of the more successful rulers in the history of Tuscany, introducing important social reforms, simplifying taxation and encouraging the expansion of trade. At the same time he was less than supportive of the Order of Santo Stefano and its costly galleys, leading to the eventual resignation of the Order’s admiral, Sir John Acton (who left to join the Neapolitan service) and the sale of the remaining fleet. Florence, however, became one of the principal attractions for noblemen on the Grand Tour and the marvels of the Grand Ducal collections in the Uffizi and the Palazzo Pitti one of the wonders of the age. With Emperor Joseph II’s death without surviving issue, in 1790, the Grand Duke Leopoldo succeeded as Emperor Leopold II and his family sorrowfully transferred their residence from the delights of Florence to the dour charms of Vienna. In accordance with the requirement of the “secondogeniture”, Leopold abdicated the succession to the Grand Duchy to his second son, Ferdinando, with the consent of his eldest son, the future Emperor Francis I of Austria, on 21st July 1790._
The new Grand Duke inherited the throne at a difficult moment. The throne of his aunt, the unfortunate Queen Marie-Antoinette was in grave danger and Europe was shortly to be plunged into a devastating war, which would transform its systems of governments and laws forever. French troops had occupied the Grand Duchy in 1799 and, although Ferdinando remained in power, his position was tenuous. By the Treaty of Lunéville of 9th February 1801, between the Emperor and First Consul of the French Republic, Grand Duke Ferdinando was dispossessed of the Grand Duchy in favour of the Duke of Parma, whose wife was the daughter of Charles IV of Spain, a temporary ally of the French, while the Duke of Parma in turn renounced his duchies to the French Republic (article 1 of the Treaty of Aranjuez of 21st February 1801). Tuscany was now converted into the Kingdom of Etruria for the Duke of Parma, under the terms of the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1st October 1800 between Spain and France. France was untroubled by the niceties of Imperial investiture and the Emperor himself, not wishing to accord his blessing to this illegal usurpation of his brother’s rights, merely acknowledged “HRH the Infant of Spain who is in possession of the grand-duchy of Tuscany" as "King of Etruria” (Article 1 of the Convention of Paris, 26 December 1802)._ The Grand Duke was offered compensation with the territories of the Archbishop of Salzburg, which were erected into a new Electorate of the Empire on 27th February 1803; these were exchanged with his brother the Emperor for the territories of the former Archbishop of Wurzburg, to which the Electoral dignity was attached, by the Treaty of Pressburg of 26th December 1805. With the dissolution of the Empire, Archduke Ferdinando joined the Confederation of the Rhine taking the title of Grand Duke, on 25th September 1806.
No longer in control of the Order of Santo Stefano, whose Grand Magistery had been usurped by the King of Etruria (the French administration purported to suppress the Order on 9th April 1809), on 9th March 1807 the Grand Duke founded a new Order, the Civil and Military Order of Merit under the title of San Giuseppe, dedicated to the last of the Patrons of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Modelled closely on the Two Sicilies Order of San Ferdinando e del Merito and the French Legion d’Honneur, this Order was divided initially into three ranks, Grand Cross, Commander, and Knight. Its badge closely resembled that of the Legion of Honor, with six instead of five arms of two points emanating from a central medallion, surmounted by a Crown.
The collapse of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and the withdrawal of French troops once again changed the course of Tuscan history. The Grand Duke’s assumption of the Tuscan throne was effected on 30 May 1814 (he had been proclaimed Grand Duke at Bologna on 25 April 1814), and the first Treaty of Vienna following the Congress, of 9th June 1815 provided that, in respect of the:
« Possessions du Grand duc de Toscane
100. S.A.I. l'archiduc Ferdinand d'Autriche est rétabli, tant pour lui que pour ses héritiers et successeurs, dans tous les droits de souveraineté et propriété sur le grand-duché de Toscane et ses dépendances, ainsi que S.A.I. les a possédés antérieurement au traité de Lunéville. Les stipulations de l'article 2 du traité de Vienne du 3 octobre 1735, entre l'Empereur Charles VI et le Roi de France, auxquelles accédèrent les autres puissances, sont pleinement rétablies en faveur de S.A.I. et R. le grand-duc Ferdinand et ses héritiers et descendants, 1. L'État des Présides; 2. La partie de l'île d'Elbe et de ses appartenances qui était sous la suzeraineté de S.M. le roi des Deux-Siciles avant l'année 1801; 3. La suzeraineté et souveraineté de la principauté de Piombino_ et ses dépendances ; 4. Les ci-devant fiefs impériaux de Vernio, Ontanto et Monte-Santa-Maria, enclavés dans les États Toscane.
Duché de Lucques_
101. La principauté de Lucques sera possédée en toute souveraineté par S.M. l'infante Marie-Louise et ses descendants en ligne directe et masculine. Cette principauté est érigé en duché, et conservera une forme de gouvernement basée sur les principes de celle qu'elle avait reçue en 1805. Il sera ajouté aux revenus de la principauté de Lucques, une rente de cinq cent mille francs que S.M. l'empereur d'Autriche et S.A.I. le grand-duc de Toscane s'engagent à payer régulièrement, aussi longtemps que les circonstances ne permettront pas de procurer à S.M. l'Infante Marie-Louise, et à son fils et ses descendants, un autre établissement. Cette rente sera spécialement hypothéqué sur les seigneuries de bohême, connues sous le nom de bavaro-palatines, qui, dans le cas de réversion du duché de Lucques au grand-duché de Toscane, seront affranchies de cette charge, et rentreront dans le domaine particulier de S.M.I. et R.A.
Réversibilité du duché de Lucques
102. Le duché de Lucques sera réversible au grand-duc de Toscane, soit dans le cas qu'il devint vacant par la mort de S.M. l'Infante Marie-Louise, ou de son fils don Carlos et de leurs descendants mâles et directs, soit dans celui que l'infante Marie-Louise ou ses héritiers directs obtinssent un autre établissement ou succédassent à une autre branche de leur dynastie. Toutefois le cas de réversion échéant, le grand-duc de Toscane s'engage à céder, dès qu'il entrera en possession de la principauté de Lucques, au duc de Modène, les territoires suivants: 1. Les districts toscans de Fivizano, Pietra-Santa et Barga; 2. Les districts lucquois de Castiglione et Gallicano, enclavés dans les États de Modène, ainsi que ceux de Minucciano et Monte-Ignose, contigus au pays de Massa. »
The Grand Duke Ferdinando was now an absolute sovereign of an independent state, free of any external control. Austria could no longer lay claim to any over-lordship and the authority of the Austrian Emperor over the family of the Grand Duke was limited to the right of succession to the Austrian hereditary estates and titles. The Grand Dukes, of course, were sensible to the traditions of the House of Habsburg and, as eventual heirs to Austria in the event of the extinction of the male line of Franz I, conformed to the laws of the House in respect of marriage. The succession to Tuscany, however, could no longer be dictated by Austria, even though the senior line of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen remained next in line should the Grand Ducal line become extinct in the male line.
The Grand Duchy retained many of the reforms introduced in the Napoleonic period, including the Civil Code, but also restored the old nobility and some of the ancien régime institutions. By a decree dated 15 August 1815 the Ripristinazione dell'Ordine dei Cavalieri di S. Stefano was proclaimed, announcing that a new Constitution and Statutes of the Order were being prepared, authorizing all the members of the Order before its suppression to reassume their previous rank and appointing five deputies, at Florence, Pisa, Siena, Arezzo and Pistoia, as a temporary government. The new Constitution and Statutes were proclaimed on 22 December 1817, restoring the Order to the position it had enjoyed before 24 March 1799 and re-enforcing all the earlier statutes and the amendments thereto. Article III stated that the Grand Duke "assuming, and retaining for Us, and for Our Successors to the Throne the Dignity, and Grade of Grand Master",_ restored the Council of the Order whose members would be nominated by him. On 18th March 1817 the Grand Duke announced the transfer to Tuscany of the Civil and Military Order of San Giuseppe, confirmed with the publication of new statutes on 1st August 1817.
In 1824 Grand Duke Ferdinando III was succeeded in 1824 by his only son, Leopoldo II. The new ruler was a popular and enlightened monarch, well-known to his subjects, being accustomed to walk freely among them and, like King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, was a supporter of scientific advances and new industrial technology. Although he reluctantly granted his state a Constitution in 1848,_ and had argued against sending troops to join Sardinian in her conflict with Austria (nonetheless earning him the condemnation of his Viennese cousins), his liberal tendencies were unappreciated by those who wished for even greater reforms. Like his fellow sovereigns elsewhere in Italy, he was unable to contain the political chaos which followed these concessions, and he was forced to flee for safety in Gaeta (courtesy of his brother-in-law King Ferdinando II, where he shared his exile with Pius IX). Austria’s intervention succeeded in restoring the Grand Duke to his throne, but was managed in a heavy-handed fashion that placed the Grand Duke in the unfortunate position of being obliged to the Imperial forces. The Austrian commander, Acting Field Marshal Baron von d’Aspre demanded that the Grand Duke appear in an Austrian uniform,_ but Leopoldo refused and wore the uniform of the Tuscan National Guard. His restoration was followed by a referendum in late 1849, in favour the restoration of the Grand Ducal government, and Leopoldo willingly accepted the Constitution he had promulgated earlier. Continuing unrest fomented by the machinations of Garibaldi and other radical leaders, required the continued occupation of the Grand Duchy by Austria, who demanded the suppression of the Constitution in 1852, to which the Grand Duke was forced to agree.
The 1849 Constitution is a useful guide to the prerogatives of the Grand Duke, even though, after its suppression, as an absolute monarch he was constrained only by precedence and tradition. “Title II, the Fundamental Principles of the Tuscan Government,” conferred upon him all executive power, as supreme head of the State (art. 13). He sanctioned and promulgated all laws (art. 15); but these did not have effect unless signed by the responsible minister (art. 16); the legislative power was collectively exercised by the Grand Duke and the Assembly and the Grand Duke could dismiss the general Council but must summon a new one in three months (art. 18); justice derives from the Grand Duke (art 19), who nominates the judges (art. 20). The surviving prerogatives of the Grand Duke were regulated by “Title IV, General Dispositions:” the creation of new nobles pertained to the Grand Duke (art. 70); the Order of Santo Stefano conserved its prerogatives, properties and statutes (art. 71); the Order of Merit under the Title of San Giuseppe conserved its statutes (art. 72); and the Grand Duke had the right to institute new Orders and in the decree the Statutes thereof (art.73)._
The Concordat with the Holy See signed on 25th April 1851 was an important milestone because it marked the recognition by the Holy See that the title of Grand Duke continued to pertain to Tuscany’s rulers, even though the original Papal Bull had limited its succession to the agnates of Cosimo III. The Pope thus recognized the investiture of 1737 and its consequent replacement of the original Bull._ Using the pretext that Tuscany had refused to join Sardinia in the latter's second war against Austria, the Sardinian forces invaded the Grand Duchy where they found conspirators ready to assist them overthrow the ruling dynasty. The speed with which Sardinia and her assorted republican, radicals and romantic supporters had managed to take over the north-Italian duchies was surprising to many; over-reliance by Tuscany, Parma and Modena on Austrian troops, noted for their less than competent generals and unpopular with the local populations, was partially responsible. The Grand Ducal family was forced to leave the Grand Duchy, amid the Addios of the populace, on 27th April 1859 and removed to Germany. The family was already doomed to exile, even though the Treaty of Villafranca of 11th July 1859 between France and Austria had provided for the re-establishment of the Grand Duke._ Leopoldo’s abdication as Grand Duke and Grand Master of the Orders of Santo Stefano was forced in favour of his eldest son, who succeeded as Ferdinando IV, on 21 July 1859, but he never returned to Florence.
The provisional government of Baron Bettino Ricasoli, of a family that had profited singularly from Grand Ducal favours, rejected the possible return of the Grand Duke outright, knowing that its own grab for power would be immediately frustrated. The new government, ignoring the Treaty of Villafranca, declared the dynasty deposed on 16th August 1859, without bothering to seek the views of the Tuscan population. The Peace of Zurich, which brought a temporary peace, also reserved the rights of the Grand Duke and the Duke of Modena, since they had not been engaged in the war and the powers continued to recognize their rights. This too was ignored by the provisional government, and with a gesture towards democracy a referendum on the future of the Grand Duchy was announced for 11th March 1860. The open ballot, and the overt determination with which the new government advertised its hostility to continued Tuscan independence did not deter all the supporters of the Grand Duke. The voters supposedly gave a 95% majority for union with Sardinia, and this event, like the referendum that in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s Donnafugata took place a year later, marked the birth pains of the new Italy._ The 5% which did not vote in favor was in reality multiplied several times by the many Don Ciccio Tumeos, whose votes were ignored, but the time of the Sovereign Grand Dukes had passed forever. On the 22nd March the unification with Sardinia was proclaimed in Florence; the Grand Duke’s formal protest to Sardinia on 26th March was ignored by the Powers, the new Italian government and all but a handful of Tuscan loyalists. Despite the purported abolition of the Order of Santo Stefano by the Provisional Government on 15 November 1859, this act had no effect on the validity of the Papal Bull which had granted it to the Medici Dukes of Florence and their heirs. The last reigning Grand Duke could not stomach exile in Austria, and removed to Rome, where he died on 29th January 1870, just a few months before the Eternal City also fell to Sardinian troops. There his funeral in the Basilica of the Santi Apostoli followed the protocol of a reigning sovereign, and was attended by his cousin and fellow-exile, King Francesco II of the Two Sicilies, Pope Pius IX and all the Cardinals assembled in Rome.
The government of the newly founded Kingdom of Italy, despite the confidence that such purportedly widespread public support should have inspired (if it had been genuine), remained nervous and uncertain. Austria still controlled part of the North and had declined to recognize the newly proclaimed Kingdom. The Duke of Modena had been put to flight and the Duke of Parma, still a child, also. The last King of the Two Sicilies had made a brave stand at the fortress island of Gaeta, but had to withdraw in February 1861 for the comforts of the Palazzo Farnese and the protection of the Pope. Although Sardinian troops had encroached well into the Papal States, the Pope showed no sign of surrendering his temporal claims. It was Austria’s defeat by Prussia rather than Italian generalship which brought Franz Josef to the bargaining table at the Treaty of Vienna of 1866. Indeed Vittorio-Emanuele’s conduct of the war with Austria was so incompetent that, but for Bismarck, Italy would not even have recovered Venice, which the Austrian Emperor now regarded as an expensive luxury, and which was ultimately granted to Italy thanks to the intervention of Napoleon III._ Austria promised Italy that she would recognize Italian unity and withdraw all recognition from the Archdukes who had ruled there. Franz Josef at first demanded that the Grand Duke abandon his title, to which the Grand Duke Ferdinando IV, initially a guest of the King of Bavaria, refused. Franz Josef duly modified his request and, while allowing the Grand Duke to retain his title ad personam, provided he abandoned his claim to the former Grand Duchy, decided that his successors must forego it. Austria, however, could not legally dispose of the sovereignty of Tuscany as if it was some Austrian province; neither could the Emperor declare the dynasty deprived of their dynastic rights and claims, whatever the dictates of political self-interest.
Italy’s capital was first proclaimed in the Sardinian capital of Torino, before being established in Florence, with the crude and vulgar Vittorio Emanuele II installed in the splendours of the Palazzo Pitti. The successful invasion of Rome enabled the new capital to be established there in 1870 and the Italian King moved to the large and sprawling Palazzo Quirinale. Italy was unable to bully the Pope into submission, however, and the Lateran Treaty of 1929 guaranteed forever Papal sovereignty and independence. Today Papal sovereignty over the Vatican City State remains the sole vestige of pre-unitarian Italy.
Even if there was support for the Grand Duke in Tuscany, there was little prospect of him exploiting it since those upon whom he should have been able to rely most, the leaders of the Florentine nobility, had rushed to seek favours from the new regime (and often recognition of their titles). His status in Austria depended on the favour of the Emperor, who soon granted him a substantial residence in Salzburg, which, while preferable to the constraints of residing in stuffy and formal Vienna, was but a poor substitute for Florence. The editors of the Almanach de Gotha, which had retained a separate entry for Tuscany until 1865, reflected the changing political landscape; in the following year the family was included at the end of the entry under Austria, as “Branches non-régnante de la Maison d’Habsbourg-Lorraine. 1) Toscane.”_ After the fall of the Austrian Empire, the senior line appeared as “I. Ligne: d’Autriche-Hongrie” and the House of Tuscany as “II. Ligne: de Toscane,” thus acknowledging their equivalency as once sovereign families now deprived of its exercise.
The Grand Duke Ferdinando IV married twice; by his first marriage to Princess Anne of Saxony he had an on only daughter; his wife died shortly before the family was forced into exile, on 10th February 1859, the last member of the reigning dynasty to die in Florence. He remarried, in 1868, to Princes Alicia of Bourbon-Parma and by her had a large and sometimes unruly family. The eldest son, Leopoldo (1838-1935), who should have enjoyed the title of Hereditary Grand Prince, was born in 1868 but abandoned his titles, rank and name in 1902 to assume the humble identity of Leopold Wölfling (and was eliminated from the Gotha from 1905 onwards)._ He married unequally, leaving issue. The next child was a daughter, Luise, whose marriage to the last reigning King of Saxony proved an unmitigated disaster. Luise, in personality, bore a distinct resemblance to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, anxious to assert her own popularity with the citizens of Dresden, she made much of trivial issues such as the king’s refusal to allow her to ride her bicycle around the city, which he considered undignified. After she abandoned her husband and children, and was later briefly married to an Italian musician, her name, like that of her elder brother, was removed from the Tuscany entry in the Gotha in 1914._
Ferdinand IV continued to award the Tuscan Orders in exile, but sparingly, although the last “professed” knight, accorded membership at the end of the century, did not die until 1928._ The Grand Duke made approximately one hundred awards of San Giuseppe, to leading figures in Tuscan society._ At his death in 1908 he was succeeded by his second son, the Archduke Giuseppe (Joseph Ferdinand), who was not accorded the Grand Ducal title in the Gotha, but when awarding the Tuscan Orders_ and in granting certain titles of nobility, did so as Grand Duke of Tuscany._ He was also addressed as such in communications with the Pope, as when he wrote to offer his condolences on the death of Pope Pius X. Giuseppe married relatively late in life, at the age of forty-nine, to a widow just a few years his junior. This marriage ended in divorce, and he remarried civilly (again unequally) before the death of his first wife, to a young noblewoman, Gertraud Tomanek Edler v. Beyerfels. The son and daughter of this second marriage were born subsequent to the death of his first wife, but were nonetheless canonically illegitimate._ These marriages did not conform to the traditions of the House, and the Grand Duke Giuseppe himself considered them unequal, conferring upon his children new titles of Prince and Princess of Florence.
In 1913 Giuseppe proposed to Count Guelfo Guelfi that the Order of Santo Stefano be restructured on the lines of the Constantinian Order, which had recently been the object of several manifestations of papal support - unfortunately the onset of the First World War made further progress impossible. The idea of reviving it was again put forward in 1937 by some Tuscan nobles, but the occupation of Austria by Hitler (who hated the Habsburgs) put the Archduke in a difficult position and the idea was abandoned. In the same year a group of Italians led by Barone (later Count) Pompeo Aloisi proposed re-establishing the Order as an Italian State Order of Merit to be awarded for distinguished service in the Italian navy, but this came to nothing._
The end of World War I had seen the end of the Habsburg Empire, and the humiliation of becoming citizens of a petty and truncated republic, which promptly confiscated the property of all those members of the Imperial House who refused to swear loyalty. The Grand Duke and his brother, always loyal to the Head of the dynasty, refused and suffered the loss of their personal property in an act of vengeance which remains to the shame of Austria._ while the Tuscan junior line descended from Ferdinand IV’s younger brother, Archduke Carl Salvator, accepted the republic and retained their property (although they later proved unwilling to come to the aid of the unfortunate Emperor, who died in impoverished exile in the Canary Islands, leaving his large family to the care of the redoubtable Empress Zita).
Grand Duke Giuseppe (Joseph Ferdinand) died in 1942 and was succeeded as Grand Duke by his next brother,_ Archduke Pietro (Peter Ferdinand), who had married equally in 1900 to his cousin, Princess Maria Cristina of the Two Sicilies, a daughter of the Count of Caserta, by whom he had two sons. Pietro Ferdinando acted as Regent for his brother in certain dealings with the Italian government in the late 1930s over the Order of Santo Stefano. The proposal to revive the Order as an Italian state award would have been illegal and the Grand Dukes Giuseppe and then Pietro remained de jure Grand Masters. The elder of Pietro’s two sons, Goffredo, born in 1902, succeeded him in 1948 as Grand Duke Goffredo I and Grand Master of the Order of Santo Stefano; Goffredo had married in 1938 Princess Dorothea of Bavaria. Goffredo took a closer interest in his Tuscan inheritance than his father and made a handful of awards of the Orders of Santo Stefano and San Giuseppe. When he died in 1984 he was succeeded by his only son, Archduke Leopoldo, born in 1942, who had married in 1965 Mlle Laetitia de Belzunce d’Arenberg, the daughter of Henri de Belzunce_ and Marie-Thérèse de la Poëze d’Harambure, and adopted daughter of Eric-Engelbert, Duke of Arenberg._ The new Grand Duke Leopoldo III presided over the reorganization of both the Orders of Santo Stefano (23 January 1993)_ and San Giuseppe (1st January 1990 and 15 January 1992), and became the first Head of the Dynasty for one hundred and thirty years to visit Florence regularly. Grand Duke Leopoldo abdicated as Grand Duke and Grand Master of the Orders of Santo Stefano and San Giuseppe on 18 June 1993,_ in favour of his eldest son, the Archduke Sigismondo.
The Grand Duke Sigismondo has further extended the membership of both dynastic Orders since his succession. The statutes of Order of Santo Stefano have been revised again, as have those of San Giuseppe (introducing the grades of Grand Officer between Grand Cross and Commander, and that of Officer between Commander and Knight, although no more conferrals of these ranks are to be made). He has visited Florence regularly and has taken a considerable interest in the cultural life of Tuscany. On 11th September 1999 he was married at the London Oratory to Miss Elyssa Edmonstone,_ in a ceremony witnessed by many members of Europe’s royal families and the Tuscan nobility._
The Tuscan secondogeniture is one of two such dynastic arrangements in the House of Habsburg-Lothringen; the other being the secondogeniture established in respect of the succession to the Duchy of Modena._ Modena, like Tuscany, had achieved sovereign independence by the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 and when it became clear by the early 1860s that the would be no male heirs in the direct line, Austria claimed the considerable Este inheritance for the nearest Archduke to the Emperor, who would succeed under the Austrian interpretation of the terms of the original secondogeniture. The next heirs were firstly the Archduke Maximilian, short-lived Emperor of Mexico (executed 1867), then the Archduke Karl-Ludwig (died 1896) and then the latter’s son, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Francis V the last reigning Duke of Modena, however, by then in exile, considered that as the investiture of 1771 did not restrict the succession to males (females being admitted under the ancient succession laws both to Modena, and the Cibo Malaspina inheritance of Massa and Carrara), that his niece was eligible to succeed. As Modena had been entirely independent since 1815 the Duke considered he could dispose of the throne as he wished, in accordance with the historic laws of succession. Francis V’s decision to name his niece as eventual heiress was most unwelcome in Vienna, however, where the Imperial family was keen to acquire the Duke’s considerable fortune as well as his claims to Modena. Eventually the Duke was persuaded to name the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, provided the Archduke assumed the name Austria-Este; the Duke agreed, but also required that, if he declined, the inheritance would pass first to the latter’s brothers Otto and Ferdinand, and failing them, out of the House of Habsburg altogether to the Bourbon Dukes of Madrid and of San Jaime (both of them later Carlist claimants to the throne of Spain)._
Franz Ferdinand, unsurprisingly, did not decline this enormous legacy, and on the Duke’s death duly inherited. But with the death (by suicide) of Crown Prince Rudolf, Franz Ferdinand became Austrian Heir Presumptive and the Este name and inheritance was passed to his nephew, Archduke Karl, son of his dissolute brother Otto. When Franz Ferdinand_ was assassinated at Sarajevo and Karl became Heir Presumptive in turn, this succession was designated to pass to his second son, and in 1917, by which time he had succeeded as Emperor, Karl duly named his second son, the Archduke Robert, as Este heir. As such Robert became by right Head of a new ex-regnant branch, of Modena, and successor as titular Duke, with jurisdiction over his descendants, all of whom would be entitled to the title of Prince of Modena, although he did not in fact assume this title or the associated prerogatives._ He has since been succeeded as Archduke of Austria-Este (and de jure Duke of Modena) by his eldest son, Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este, Prince of Belgium.
The Modenese succession cannot be compared precisely. Even though the requirements of the secondogeniture were followed in practice (but for the omission of Archduke Karl Ludwig, Franz Ferdinand’s father, and Archduke Otto, Emperor Karl’s father), the procedure by which this happened, the testament of the last Duke, allowed for the possibility of an alternative (the succession of the Bourbon Dukes of Madrid and San Jaime as co-heirs to the Este estates) not envisaged in the original Imperial investiture. The succession, excluding the immediate heir, was accepted by all, however, as the eventual successors were in each case the ultimate legitimate representatives and the present Este representative, Archduke Lorenz, is the proper heir under 1815 treaty. The situation of Modena as an independent state following the dissolution of the Empire in 1806 was comparable to that of Tuscany but, unlike Tuscany, the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 had specifically re-enforced the 1753 convention on Modena and the 1771 investiture with the secondogeniture arrangement. Thus this effectively became enforced even after Modena achieved absolute sovereignty and independence.
There are several other dynasties of which there are multiple reigning branches; but over which the head of the particular House has only limited rights over the other reigning, or formerly reigning branches. The House of Bourbon-Spain, for example, is divided into the branches of Spain, the Two Sicilies and Parma; the latter two both enjoy rights to the Spanish throne under the Constitution of 1876, whose provisions in respect of the members of the dynasty appear to have been revalidated by the recognition of Juan Carlos as “legitimate heir of the ancient dynasty” in the Spanish Constitution of 1978._
The designation of the system of succession to Spain and the Two Sicilies was first made in the Pragmatic Decree of Carlos III (that same Infante Don Carlos who had been heir to Tuscany) as King of both, in 1759 – this required that the two Crowns never be united and that if the King of the Two Sicilies succeeded to the Spanish Crown, he must abdicate the Italian Sovereignty to the next son who was not heir to Spain. The decree of 1759 was reinforced in the Two Sicilies Constitutions of 1820, 1848 and 1860 (in force when the dynasty was deposed). When there was a dispute over the succession in the dynasty of the Two Sicilies, over the precise interpretation of the 1759 decree, the King of Spain as successor of Carlos III, in 1983 ordered a detailed investigation by the highest organs of the Spanish state, which concluded in favor of the senior male heir of the Two Sicilies branch._ Carlos III of Spain had not acted in 1759 simply as investor of the Two Sicilies Crown, but as actual inheritor of both the Two Sicilies and Spanish thrones when he laid down the system of succession, and King Juan Carlos was his undoubted representative. In 1759, as in 1983, the King had consulted with the highest organs and officials of the state in determining the succession; this could not be an arbitrary act. This contrasts with the position of the heads of the Imperial House of Austria, whose Monarchy was founded in 1804, and who, because of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, lost any claim to invest the Grand Duchy of Tuscany or Duchy of Modena. The Imperial investiture of Tuscany in 1763, was made by the Emperor and Grand Duke Franz (Francesco), in his capacity as Emperor but not as ruler of Austria or Grand Duke._ When the Empire ceased to exist, so did all the prerogatives associated with the exercise of the Imperial title.
The limitation of the rights of the heads of dynasties with multiple reigning or formerly reigning branches, however, is demonstrated in 1923, when the Count of Caserta authorized the marriage of his son Ranieri to Countess Carolina Zamoyska._ This authorization was in accordance with the Two Sicilies law of 1829, which imposed upon the head of the House the duty to maintain the “splendor and purity” of the House, but did not conform to the requirements of the Spanish Pragmatic Decree of 1776 requiring equal marriage. Alfonso XIII of Spain’s jurisdiction was limited to the rights of Prince Ranieri to Spain, and his determination that the issue of this marriage would not be considered Spanish dynasts could not affect the right to the royal styles and titles or the succession rights of the issue of this marriage to the Two Sicilies succession. The successive Dukes of Parma, the third line of the House of Bourbon, had continued to accept from the Kings of Spain the title of Infant of Spain; the last reigning Duke, also an Infante, died in 1907. As a result of the marriage of the King of Etruria to a sister of Ferdinand VII, this line also enjoyed Spanish rights under the 1876 Constitution. Thus the Parmesan princes were similarly subject to Spanish rules in respect of their Spanish rights, but not their Parmesan – and indeed the present Duke of Parma was the issue of a marriage that was unrecognized by Alfonso XIII and the Count of Barcelona for Spanish succession purposes.
The House of Saxe-Coburg at the time of the promulgation of its House Laws in 1855, had provided the Consorts of the Queens of Great Britain and Ireland and of Portugal, and the King of the Belgians; it was later to provide the Monarchs of Great Britain and of Portugal, and the Kings of Bulgaria. The effects of these House laws were limited to the succession to the Duchy, and could not affect the succession rights of members of the royal houses of Great Britain (one of whose princes ultimately succeeded as Coburg Duke), Portugal, Belgium or Bulgaria, whose marriages and individual succession rights were regulated solely by the Heads of those individual royal houses. Similarly the House of Schleswig-Holstein has provided the reigning dynasties of Denmark and Norway and the former reigning Houses of Greece, Russia and Oldenburg; the senior male of the House, however, does not enjoy any jurisdiction over the marriages of these lines.
The members of the Royal House of Hannover use the title of Prince of Great Britain and Ireland even though King George V of Great Britain in 1917 limited the succession of this title to the grandchildren in the male line of the sovereign._ This designation may be regarded as a legal title of the Duchy of Brunswick (the last state over which this line ruled, until 1918) and Hannover, even if it is irrelevant in the context of the British succession. Nonetheless it is accorded to them by every major genealogical work of reference and is still used by members of the family. Similarly, all Princes of Greece are also styled Princes of Denmark, even though Denmark has instituted female line succession and the members of the Greek branch do not have any rights to the Danish throne._
The Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria instituted new laws of the House of Habsburg, the “Familienstatut,” on 3 February 1839._ This recognized the autonomy of the sovereign branches of the House in Title III, article 22,_ which read as follows (Translation): “In the branches of the "Erzhaus" (the House of Habsburg) which possess sovereignty of their own, the heads of such branches shall exercise the rights of the supreme head of the joint family in the matter of the marriages of their own members. It can be expected with confidence that, taking due consideration to the joint rights of all family members and the ties uniting all branches of the family as a whole, the uniform principles and the joint family interests which have always existed in the "Erzhaus" (the House of Habsburg) will not be disregarded in any of those branches.”
The Familienstatut has since been revised recently by the Archduke Otto, allowing any marriage to a member of the nobility_ to be considered dynastic, but the revision could not extend to revising the rights of the other sovereign branches of the Imperial House over the members of their own dynasty and dynastic rights, in respect of succession to the Headships of these sovereign branches._ Nor could such revision revoke the principles of autonomy of the other reigning branches, now non-reigning, laid out in article 22 of the Familienstatut. One may observe, therefore, that the Grand Duke of Tuscany enjoys the same authority over members of the Tuscan branch of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen, in respect of their Tuscan rights and titles as the Head of the senior line, the Archduke Otto, over the members of the different branches of the House of Austria not descended from the Grand Duke Ferdinand III._ The Grand Duke also continues to enjoy all the prerogatives of his predecessors as Grand Master of the Orders of Santo Stefano and of Merit under the Title of San Giuseppe. Naturally the head of the Grand Ducal line is required under article 22 of the Familienstatut to respect the traditions of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen in regard to marriages of members of the dynasty, and he will not impose any regulations of marriages arbitrarily or inequitably.
The editors of the various genealogical publications, which have followed the pre-1944 Almanachs de Gotha in denying the title of Grand Duke to the heads of this House (limiting his titles to those of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia), perhaps because of the pre-First World War political interests of the House of Austria, have erred, since the House of Tuscany is no less independent from Austria than the Grand Ducal House of Oldenburg from the dictates of the senior primogeniture heir, the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksberg, or the Royal Houses of Bulgaria, Brunswick-Hannover, and Belgium, from regulation by the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Heads of Europe’s non-reigning royal houses each use titles associated with their dynasty; what is significant about the title of Grand Duke is that it was invested in Francis of Lorraine and his successors, then Archduke Ferdinand and his, and this investiture has never been revoked._ It is hoped that this error will be corrected by the editors of the Genealogisches Hansbuch des Adels: Furstliche Hauser, published by Starke Verlag, in future editions.
Fortunately, the Archduke Otto as Head of the Imperial House of Austria has respected the autonomy of the Tuscan line, and it is worth noting that the latter’s successor as Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece has done likewise. Hence the complete roll of members of the Order published in 2002 under authority of Archduke Karl, among the nominations made by Archduke Otto as Sovereign of the Order in the promotion of 30th November 1932, number 1211, names “Godefroi Archiduc d’Autriche” as “ensuite Grand-Duc de Toscane”. Any suggestion, therefore, that the Head of the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen does not acknowledge the titles of the Head of the Tuscan branch is clearly mistaken. Good relations between the different branches of the family must be based on mutual respect, and one may hope that the House of Habsburg-Lothringen will not be divided by the kind of disputes which have bedevilled so many royal houses.