Thursday, December 22, 2011
Maximilian, Last Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia
However, trouble had been brewing in Lombardy-Venetia for quite some time. All across the Italian peninsula the national sentiment was coming to boil as more and more people became focused on uniting the Italian states and driving out the foreign armies that occupied Italian soil. Some of this was political, some academic but there were also the secret societies who would not hesitate to use violence to see their goal of a single Italian nation achieved. The area had been engulfed in rebellion during the Revolutions of 1848 and the Emperor Francis Joseph was worried about how his little brother would handle that section of the populace who were very much the unwilling subjects of the Hapsburg Crown. Archduke Maximilian had made no secret of the fact that he had long favored granting greater freedom and self-government to the two most significant non-German populations of the Austrian Empire; the Hungarians and the Italians. For the Emperor, who took his example from the very conservative Emperor Francis I, change was to be avoided at almost any cost. For the new Viceroy, change was essential and he thought himself just the man for the job.
The new Viceroy did everything right. He gave to the poor, generously, went personally to help with the seasonal flooding and organized a lottery to benefit the displaced. He did his best to reclaim land, provide more reliable clean water to the cities, improve education and to beautify Milan and Venice. The Viceregal couple attended every local celebration and the people began to respond positively. No one who met them failed to be impressed by them and soon, in their young and idealistic way, Maximilian and Charlotte began to envision a grand future for themselves with their Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia not being an obstacle to Italian unity but the leader of it and that they might one day become King and Queen of an enlightened united Italy. However, that dream would most certainly never be realized. Many of the people, perhaps even most of the people, truly liked their handsome Austrian Viceroy and his beautiful Belgian wife and appreciated their kindness. However, that personal affection did not extend to political approval. They were still foreigners and in the rising nationalism of the time, that made a difference. Lovely as they might be, they were not Italian and Italy would belong to the Italians and none other. The couple could also expect no cooperation from Vienna in obtaining any greater autonomy for themselves or their kingdom.
Maximilian, of course, resisted this, reasserting that patience and goodwill were necessary to truly win over the public. He also had the audacity to ask for what amounted to autonomy for his kingdom with its own military, governmental, educational and taxation systems. This, Maximilian argued, was the only way to keep Lombardy-Venetia united to the Hapsburg Crown. The Emperor refused and instead encouraged his brother to rely more on the army and police and even went so far as appointing the long-time Austrian army commander in the region, General Count Gyulai, something of a co-Viceroy alongside Maximilian and who would have to co-sign all major decisions. Of course, the Archduke was outraged by this and became more and more depressed with his position. He tried to get around the move by asking to have control of the army himself so that military and civil matters would be united in the office of the Viceroy but the Emperor refused. Maximilian and Charlotte even went to Vienna to argue in person on behalf of their unwilling subjects but they gained not a single concession.