The Sound of Martial Music

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    "That extraordinary empire known as the Austrian-Hungarian Dual Monarchy is less an Empire or a Kingdom or a State than the personal property of the Habsburgs, whose hereditary talent for the acquisition of land is recorded on the map of Europe today!"
    James W. Gerard, American diplomat
    "We are chained to a corpse!"
    Unnamed German general, World War I

    The Habsburg Empire was not a normal empire. Even when Austria was the premier power, its preeminence was not the same as that of Russia under the Czars. Rather the Habsburgs were the feudal system taken to its logical extreme, with dozens of nations having no connection to one another except their joint allegiance to the Habsburg Family. (Note that the spelling "Hapsburg," common in older English translations, is not considered the most correct.) Therefore it is proper to refer to their state (and by extension its military) by reference to The Family. (Not that one.)

    The first Habsburg was a warlord named Rudolph who was Feudal Overlord of an alpine fortress called Habichtsburg, which translates into English as "the Hawk's Castle", whence the name "Habsburg." He was elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1273, because of his lack of resources, which it was hoped would make him controllable. As it turned out, Rudolph had considerable military skill and sacked enough rebellious barons' castles to persuade them of the advisability of good order and loyalty to the crown. The Habsburg family became known for its skill in diplomacy and acquired many possessions by marriage, giving rise to the motto "Let others wage wars, but you, merry Austria, marry!" (Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube!). At one time, because of a previous merger with the royal family of Spain, it was an empire with holdings in the Western as well as the Eastern hemisphere, becoming the first "Empire on which the sun never sets"; however, the Spanish-based section of the family and the Austrian-based one were split, with Charles V giving Spain and the Netherlands to his son Phillip (Felipe I of Spain) and the Central/Eastern European realms to his brother Ferdinand, and the Spanish branch eventually died out for lack of legal issue (and sanity).

    The Habsburg imperial forces were always a motley and colorful patchwork of levies from their various possessions as well as mercenaries. They probably reached their greatest height of prestige during the Thirty Years' War, in which the brilliant but ruthless general Wallenstein won a number of battles -- only to lose his position due to his overweening ambition.

    After that the Habsburg forces mostly just scraped by. They could always field a decent army, but rarely a Badass Army, though exceptional generals like Tilly, Eugene of Savoy, or Archduke Charles of Austria-Teschen occasionally won outstanding victories. It was, however, always a colorful force and had as one of its most interesting features a number of Proud Warrior Races from the Balkans, such as the Hussars from Hungary and the Croats. Slightly less romantic were the rather stolid ethnic Germans from Austria and allied states. They won few spectacular battles, but they did keep the Empire together until World War I which ushered in the end of the Habsburgs as a state and the end of their military. By this time the Austro-Hungarian forces were probably one of the worst armies in Europe. Their Russian opponents suffered from poor training, bad equipment and dismal leadership, but they repeatedly thrashed the Austro-Hungarians to the point that Imperial Germany had to bail them out. It should be mentioned that, since so many of the Austro-Hungarian soldiers were Slavs, they were understandably rather reluctant to fight under a Germanic/Hungarian banner against other Slavs. Note that the Austro-Hungarian army had considerably more success against the Italians...but they still lost, further cementing their Redshirt Army status.

    One rather odd victory they had was Lissa, in which they defeated the Italian fleet in the war with Prussia and Italy in the nineteenth century -- probably the only naval victory the Central-European Habsburgs ever won. Another peculiarity noted by historians was that by the end of WWI, the Austro-Hungarian Army "laid down their arms" (rather than surrendered); they outlasted the Empire they served.

    Rather amazingly the last Austrian Crown Prince, Otto von Habsburg (or Otto Habsburg-Lothringen in Austria) lived until the ripe old age of 98, dying on the 4th of July, 2011 . Had he actually succeeded his father on the throne he would have reigned for 88 years, becoming one of the longest reigning monarchs in European history. A European Union politician, he allegedly once punched Ian Paisley after the latter insulted the Pope as the Antichrist in the European Parliament.

    Tropes Associated With The Austro-Hungarian Military:
    • Arch Enemy: The Ottoman Empire and Prussia.
      • Both were allied to Austria-Hungary during World War I. Starting in 1908, the only nations that could legitimately be called Austria-Hungary's "arch-enemies" would be Serbia and Russia.
      • Historically, the Habsburg/Valois enmity (see Foe Yay below) defined European politics for three centuries. The two houses found their greatest achievements (respectively, becoming the Holy Roman Emperor and driving out the English) within years of each other, and immediately took a profound dislike for each other. When Maria Theresa left unreliable Britain for Russia and France, then went further and married her youngest daughter to the future King of France, it turned Europe on its head.
      • The Italians also took up this mantle at some point after the Neapolitan War at least, though for quite a bit they bordered on downright Unknown Rival. Until the end of WWI, that is.
    • Awesome Moment of Crowning : Seriously, practically every Habsburg coronation had this vibe to it.
    • Berserk Button: The Rev. Ian Paisley, like others before him, found outwhat happens when one ticks off a Habsburg. It's not pretty.
    • Broken Bird: Franz Josef, towards his final years. But even then, most people at the time wouldn't have even noticed it. See Iron Woobie.
    • Cassandra Truth: Emperor Karl I/IV during World War I warned his German allies against allowing an exiled revolutionary safe passage back into the collapsing Russian Empire to put it out of the War. Only for the Germans to utterly ignore said warnings, and went through with it anyway. The revolutionary in question was Vladimir Lenin, who went on to lead what became the Soviet Union.
    • Color Coded for Your Convenience: The generic Habsburg uniform was white.
      • And during World War I, a greyish light-blue (at least for the common footsoldiers).
    • Cool Gun: During the Napoleonic Wars, Austrian skirmishers used the "Repetierwindbuechse" (Repeating Air Rifle), an airgun which could fire twenty shots without reloading--at a time when no conventional gun could fire more than one. It didn't see much use, though, as pumping up the thing once you'd fired those twenty shots took a long time.
    • Cool Horse: Hussars, recruited from Hungarian cowboys were some of the best cavalry in Europe.
    • Determinator: Until World War I, Austria/Austria-Hungary had gone through centuries of threats that would have torn up other countries. This could also apply to the Austro-Hungarian military, which for all its weaknesses effectively still managed to stubbornly fight on. In the process, it even outlasted their own Empire.
    • Cry for the Devil: For all Franz Josef's personal tragedy, it's worth remember than he was not a good guy from start to end. At all. Though ironically, he is still remembered somewhat fondly in the former Empire.
    • Death Seeker: What Franz Josef was hinted in records to have become this towards the end of his life. This may have also affected how he perceived what is now World War I.
    • Didn't See That Coming: Who would have thought that after the Sarajevo incident, the internal arrangements of the Balkan Kingdoms and of the Dual Monarchy wouldn't last very long?
    • Elite Army: The Grenzer regiments, recruited from farmers along the Military Frontier with the Ottoman Empire who spent half their year farming and the other half acting as elite soldiers. They were considered some of the best skirmishers in Europe.
    • Family Business: Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, the Holy Roman Empire, and so on were the Habsburgs Family Business.
    • Impoverished Patrician: The Habsburgs were this for a time following the fall of the monarchy and their subsequent exile. Through the 1920s, would-be-heir Otto and his family were forced to make ends meet and rely on the goodwill of sympathisers. Eventually, they were able to rebuild their wealth, albeit to a more modest, or at least discreet degree.
    • Informed Ability: The supposedly "badass" Proud Warrior Race Guys proved to be just as ineffective as the rest of Austria-Hungary's pathetic armies during the second half of the 19th century and in World War I.
    • Iron Woobie: For some reason they always seem to lose. Yet the Empire survived. One wonders why.
      • Perhaps they followed the Habsburg tradition of "muddling through."
      • Also, the last Emperor, Karl "the Blessed," though his entire life. Losing the Empire in World War I, being sent into exile, failing twice (deliberately and humanely) in reclaiming Hungary, then being Put on a Bus to Madeira. Yet he persevered to the end. A few Catholics affectionately refer to him as the "patron saint of losers."
        • Speaking of which, his coronation feast was a model of royal style. He had his chefs bring a grand variety of expensive meals and displayed them to his courtiers. After they had been displayed, he had them taken away and shipped to a nearby hospital for wounded soldiers.
        • Unfortunately, the "patron saint of losers" line is also used by critics who stress his failure to save the Empire.
      • Karl's predecessor, Franz Josef also took in a lot of suffering. Losing his son, Rudolf. Then his beloved wife. Then Franz Ferdinand and the clusterfuck of World War I tearing apart his Empire. It's surprising that he outlived Queen Victoria.
        • He also lost his brother, Maximilian, to a Mexican firing squad following his failure to forge a Habsburg Empire in the New World.
    • Jerkass Woobie: While many of their post-Imperial members in the 20's to the 50's were fairly typical of an autocratic Blue Blood family, they were unstained by the atrocities their predecessors committed, and by all accounts did nothing to deserve things like being locked up and being murdered in Dachau.
    • Knight Templar: Emperor Franz I was seen as this. Staunchly reactionary and ruthless, his involvement with the wars against Napoleon was largely one of the few positive points in his rule.
    • Knight Templar Parent : Many of the Habsburg rulers, Maria Theresia, Franz I. and Franz Joseph being shining examples of this trope.
    • Magnificent Bastard: Wallenstein
    • Manipulative Bastard: How Austria and the Habsburgs were viewed by some of their enemies.
      • More specifically, Prince Metternich, who not only helped author the European order after the Napoleonic Wars but was also in part responsible for the mess leading up to the 1848 revolts.
    • Modest Royalty: The later Habsburgs tend to be portrayed as this, especially in contrast to most other royal houses in Europe, with Maria Theresa and Franz Joseph being among the most notable.
    • Lady of War: Empress Maria Theresa during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War.
    • Land of One City: The Habsburgs in their various titles also claimed some of these over the generations.
    • Long Runner: Franz Joseph ruled the Empire for 68 years, bearing direct witness to the 1848 Revolutions while also living long enough to see World War I unfold.
    • The Millstone: Austria-Hungary was this for Imperial Germany during World War I.
    • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero : But overlaps a little with Misblamed. They unwillingly gave their ally, Imperial Germany, a Pretext for War by trying to avenge the assasination of Franz Ferdinand via a short war with Serbia (which had funded some of the assasins, including Gavrillo Princip). Ironically, if Franz Ferdinand was alive, he'd never approve of vengeance like this. Needless to say, everybody was crossing their fingers and hoping "the Serbian episode" would be over quickly. Tough luck. In a few days, the rest of the European powers and alliances had already hopped on the bandwagon, hoping that the long-feared Great War will be over by Christmas.
    • Old Soldier: Many, from Austrian Captain von Trapp to Hungarian Regent-Admiral Horthy, became this after the Great War.
    • [[Real Men Love Jesus] : The Habsburgs have their share of saints in their rather large family tree. But this Catholic royal family in general runs the gamut from the very pious to the staunchly regular/nominal, which is more often than not difficult to pin down. For instance, contrast Maria Theresa or Karl "the Blessed" to, say, Leopold II, Charles V or even Franz Ferdinand.
    • Reasonable Authority Figure: At least some of the Habsburgs (eg. Maria Theresa, Karl I/IV), though all stove to be this.
    • Redshirt Army: There was a reason historian Basil Liddel Hart pointed out that the Austro-Hungarian army had a tradition of defeat by the time World War I rolled around.
    • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Part of the Habsburg code involved taking up a craft, which historically had ranged from gardening to combat roles to even acting. Franz Joseph in particular, for all his flaws was so obsessed with running his Empire that his work day stretched from 5 AM to 11 PM. Even having time to have his people come to him directly to address their concerns.
    • Ruritania: Often thought to have inspired this trope. Justified a bit, but more often than not, even it's contemporaries didn't do the research and thought of the country as far more backwards, ignorant and undeveloped than it was in reality.
      • For example: it is not surprising that London should have the world's first electric underground. But the second? Budapest, capital of Hungary.
      • In the eighteenth century, the Hapsburg dominions were widely recognised as having Europe's most comprehensive education system.
      • Though it still paid lip service to the Catholic Church, the Empire also made moves, albeit initially slow and awkward, towards religious tolerance especially by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Jews in particular more or less favored their position in Habsburg society.
    • Proud Warrior Race: Several Balkan nations (and the Hungarians) contributed these, most famously Croatia's cavalrymen.
      • Hell, virtually every nationality in the empire often proved to be a bunch of Badass Normals once something had Gone Horribly Wrong.
        • Of course, this trope turned into an Informed Ability during World War I, as despite their supposedly badass reputations the Austro-Hungarians eventually got their asses kicked by Italy (traditionally the military Butt Monkey of Europe) and Russia (whose army was in as almost as sorry a state as Austria-Hungary's).
    • Redshirt Army: As military historian Basil Liddell Hart wrote in his account of World War I, while the German army had a tradition of victory, the Austro-Hungarian army had a tradition of defeat. Even its supposedly Proud Warrior Races fell into this trope by the time the Great War rolled around.
    • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Following Franz Joseph's death in 1916, Karl attempted doing this for Austria-Hungary as a whole. But by that point, WorldWar I was in full gear, virtually no one took his pleas for peace seriously and the strains of conflict were already tearing the Empire at the seams.
    • Return of the King: Averted and Deconstructed after World War I. Karl attempted to pull this twice off in Hungary in the early '20s in the hopes of reuniting the Empire. They failed on both counts, in part due to the "Little Entente" (comprising countries such as Romania and Yugoslavia) and victorious Entente powers not wanting to see the restoration of the monarchy. But also because Regent-Admiral Horthy, whatever loyalties he may have harbored, wanted nothing to do with any unwanted attention on Hungary.
    • Rivals Team Up: First with France, then Prussia. Eventually culminating in the Central Powers of World War I.
      • Neither France nor Prussia hold a candle to the Habsburg-Ottoman relationship.
    • Secret Police / The Men in Black : Subverted, since the Habsburgs possessed what was apparently the most incompetent and amiable secret police in Europe. Apparently, this doesn't mention how efficient it was (at what they did anyway) despite the incompetence. Or consistent. Or oddly humane in contrast to the ones that came after. In fact, they tended to simply "ignore" their opponents out of relevance rather than make them "disappear."
      • It even outlasted the Empire well into the 1920s thanks to its pro-Habsburg remnants.
        • Of course, this was largely during the period it was run by [[M
    • Take Over the World: The Hapsburg Emperors had a Fun with Acronyms motto, A.E.I.O.U., which is popularly supposed to stand for Austriae est imperare orbi universo or "Austria Shall Rule the World".
      • Later on, especially during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there was Viribus Unitis.
      • Sometimes AEIOU is also read as Alles Erdreich Ist Oesterreich Untertan: All Earth Is Subject to Austria
    • The Teutonic Knights: After the mastership of the Knights became a Habsburg preserve, a famous regiment, the Hoch-und-Deutschmeister, (famous particularly for its band) was established, and exists to this day as part of the Austrian army. Moreover, the very last secular Hochmeister of the Deutscher Orden, Archduke Eugen von Österreich-Teschen, was a field marshal of the Imperial-And-Royal army.
    • What Could Have Been: The myriad possibilities on the Habsburg/Austro-Hungarian Empire's survival are a fertile source for Alternate History material.
    • What the Hell, Hero?: The usual treatment of the Austrian Habsburgs during the Napoleonic Wars is basically that of the Coalition's Token Evil Teammate when compared the British and Prussians. Apparently, they weren't the nicest people on the block at the time.
    • Wrong Genre Savvy: By the later part of the Habsburg Empire's existence, it still more or less functioned like a real-life Westeros than a modern nation-state.
    • Vestigial Empire: It almost seems as if The Family were vestigial from the start.
    • Your Mileage May Vary: For all its faults and accomplishments, the way the Habsburg Empire was and is remembered (in sensible/reasonable circles) seems to depend on what ideology/political leaning/school of thought/belief system one subscribes to. Whether it be a beacon of security and order in Central Europe or, as American papers in WW 1 propagated, a Ruritanian "prison of nations."
      • Or both.
      • This extends to those who are generally supportive of the Empire, which are a varied lot ranging from both the right and left. Though it's generally agreed that the more extreme ends of both sides tend to be ignored.
    Appearances of the Austro-Hungarian Military in fiction include:
    • Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (and in Real Life) was a former Habsburg officer.
    • The Illusionist: takes place in turn of the century Vienna involving a dramatized retelling of the Mayerling Incident.
    • Sunshine: A 1999 Hungarian film staring Ralph Fiennes follows a Jewish family through three different successive eras with the first set during the final years of the Habsburg Empire.
    • The Habsburg Empire exists in Europa Universalis and is a fan favourite. There was a fan write-in campaign to keep Austria's traditional white colour for Victoria II.
    • On that note, the first Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun features them as one of the major obstacles for Prussia/an Italian state to unify Germany and Italy, respectively.
    • The Gods and Kings DLC expansion for Civilization V introduces Austria as a playable nation, with Maria Theresa as its leader.
    • Axis Powers Hetalia also follows the embodiments of Austria and Hungary from the Renaissance through the War of the Austrian Succession and beyond. Of course, knowing history, we all know how it all ends down the line.
      • And with Himaruya moving their story towards the Seven Years' War and the 19th Century, this could be made all the more bittersweet.
    • A Disney production as a two-parter for its TV series, Miracle of the White Stallions was about Patton rescuing the horses of the Vienna Spanish Riding School a showcase of the old Hapsburgs still around today.
    • Robert Musil's "unfinished" novel The Man with No Qualities revels in this, depicting the Empire in its final decade. Ironically, the author laments on how Austria-Hungary was so successful and deceptively progressive for the time that it became a victim of that very success.
    • Appear as bad guys in 1632. This is changing, though, in some of the later books; by the end of 1636: The Viennese Waltz, while Austria isn't allied with the USE, it's certainly not actively hostile, and Mike Stearns has a quite cordial meeting with Emperor Ferdinand III. Bearing in mind the Ottoman Empire's plans to invade, an Austria-USE alliance may develop after all; Enemy Mine, at least.
    • Jaroslav Hašek's The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Švejk During the World War, better known just as Good Soldier Švejk or just Švejk (with all attendant variations thereof), an utterly hilarious (though also gut-wrenching no less often) satirical novel about titular "good soldier" during the last days of the Empire. Sadly also unfinished -- Hašek died of tuberculosis after finishing barely a third of its intended size, with Švejk didn't even getting to the front lines -- it's still one of the greatest achievements of the Czech literature in particular and world literature in general.
    • Apart from Švejk, there was a Polish novel and later a film, C.K. Dezerterzy. Its similarity in depiction of WWI-era KundK army brought a number of plagiarism accusations, but was a genuine work. Which is yet another example of KundK forces' image of a Redshirt Army.
    • The post-apocalyptic 1983: Doomsday fics for Axis Powers Hetalia take place in and around Austria, with a number of nods to Franz Joseph and the Habsburg Empire in general. Including the embodiment's brutally cut short "marriage" to Hungary.