Austria 1916, a last respectful view of the past, before the world changes

A stamp issue of the better of the monarchs as a near last stamp issue of the empire seems a fitting culmination. So slip om your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The stamp today is a very formal portrait of a leader from over a century before. To be accurate the stamp was issued by the Empire of Austria-Hungary. Yet Joseph II on the stamp was actually from the Holy Roman Empire. What the two empires from different periods share was the Hapsburg Royal Line. Knowing this shows the stamp issue as more personal and less about changing borders or even the people. No wonder the days of monarchy were numbered.

Today’s stamp is issue A22, a 3 heller stamp issued by the Empire of Austria-Hungary from 1908-1916. It shows Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor from 1770-1790. It was part of an eighteen stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents used. The stamp to look out for in this issue is the 10 krone stamp featuring Franz Joseph. It is worth $190 mint.

Joseph II was a Hapsburg emperor from Austria. At the time, the Holy Roman Empire ruled much of central Europe. This did not include France despite fashioning itself as the successor to Charlemagne. It also did not include Rome despite again being fashioned after ancient Rome. He did have an in with France as his sister was Marie Antoinette.

Joseph was unlucky in love. He loved his first wife, Isabella of Parma, but her infatuations were with his sister. She died young after a difficult pregnancy produced a daughter followed by a string of miscarriages. The daughter then herself died at age 9 of small pox. He was distraught and had a loveless 2 year second marriage with no issue. His cruelty to his second wife was shown by not visiting her on her deathbed nor attending her funeral. He admitted later he should have shown her more kindness.

Joseph was very aggressive militarily which made it difficult for him to make alliances as no foreign leader could trust him. He once heard his friend the King of Prussia was sick so prepared an army to try to grab Silesia if he died. The Prussian King recovered and that was the end of that friendship.

In domestic issues, Joseph was considered enlightened, but many of his reforms just did not stick. He tried to advance education and use it to try to standardize the German language. This did not succeed. He tried to end capital punishment, but it was quickly brought back after his death. He tried to free the serfs in the Empire but this was opposed by both serfs and the nobility. The reason the serfs opposed it is that it required their labors to be paid in money while the whole system the serfs knew was based on barter. He announced freedom of religion but was unable to pry the Catholic church away from the Pope in Rome. He did have success in some legal reform and the economics of the empire were sound. Joseph himself was not satisfied with his achievements. He asked that the epitaph on his tomb read, “Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook.” Overall history has treated Joseph II more kindly than he treated himself.

Austria-Hungary itself ended a few years after this stamp. Much land was lost and the various countries contained went their separate ways. The Hapsburg rule ended. To see an Austrian stamp from a decade later could be 50 years later in how much more modern the style became.

Well my drink is empty and so I will open up the discussion in the below comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.