Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor

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Joseph II (Joseph Benedikt Anton Michael Adam; 13 March 1741 – 20 February 1790) was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I. He was thus the first ruler in the Austrian dominions of the House of Lorraine, styled Habsburg-Lorraine (von Habsburg-Lothringen in German). Joseph was a proponent of enlightened absolutism; however, his commitment to modernizing reforms subsequently engendered significant opposition, which eventually culminated in an ultimate failure to fully implement his programmes. He has been ranked, with Catherine II of Russia and Frederick II of Prussia, as one of the three great Enlightenment monarchs.[1] His policies are now known as Josephinism.

He married Princess Isabella of Parma in October 1760—a union fashioned to bolster the 1756 defensive pact between France and Austria (the bride's mother was the eldest daughter of the incumbent King of France)—with whom he had his only child, Maria Theresa.[2] Isabella died in 1763, and Maria Theresa in 1767. He was reluctant to re-marry; however, for political reasons, he married Maria Josepha of Bavaria in 1765.[3] She died two years later from smallpox, and Joseph never re-married. He died childless and was succeeded by his younger brother, Leopold.


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