Archduke Leopold Ludwig of Austria

Archduke Leopold Ludwig of Austria

Archduke Leopold Ludwig of Austria (German: Leopold Ludwig Maria Franz Julius Estorgius Gerhard Erzherzog von Ósterreich) (b. Milan6 June 1823 - d. Hórnstein, 24 May 1898) was an Austrian general and admiral who served as "Oberkommandant der Marine" ('High Commander of the Navy') from 1864 to 1868.

He was the eldest son of Archduke Rainer of Austria (1783-1853) and Archduchess Elisabeth (1800-1856) and a grandson of Emperor Leopold II. Rainer was born in 1823 in Milan, where his father served as Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia from 1818 to 1848. A younger brother, Archduke Rainer Ferdinand (1827-1913), served as Austrian Minister President from 1859 to 1861. Leopold followed his father in a military career, attaining the rank of "Feldmarschall-leutnant" (lieutenant general) in the Austrian Army.

When Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian was preparing to accept the throne of Mexico in March 1864, Emperor Franz Josef I sent Leopold to Miramar to induce Maximilian to sign the Act of Renunciation. The two cousins had never been on friendly terms, and Maximilian viewed Leopold as one of the archdukes who would benefit from the renunciation of his hereditary rights in Austria. Maximilian delayed signing the 'Family Compact', as it was called, until the visit of Franz Josef to Miramar on 9 April 1864. [Joan Haslip, "The Crown of Mexico", pp. 218, 221, 223-226. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.]

Undoubtedly to Maximilian's chagrin and irritation, Leopold was named his successor as "Oberkommandant der Marine" with the rank of "Vizeadmiral" (vice admiral) in April 1864.

During Leopold's tenure as administrative head of the Navy, two notable sea battles were fought by Austrian forces under Wilhelm von Tegetthoff. On 9 May 1864 Austrian and Prussian warships clashed with a Danish squadron off Helgoland in the North Sea; although tactically indecisive, the battle achieved Tegetthoff's objective of causing the Danish squadron to lift its blockade of the Weser and Elbe ports.

In the second action, on 20 July 1866 a weaker Austrian squadron under Tegetthoff fell upon and decisively defeated a powerful Italian squadron off Lissa (now Vis) in the Adriatic. [Robert Gardiner (ed. dir.), "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", pp. 266-267. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1979.]

Owing to rapid developments in technology and the need to study the lessons of the Battle of Lissa, ships already under construction when Leopold took office in 1864 were completed but only two major vessels were begun during his tenure: the central battery ironclad "Lissa" and the screw sloop "Helgoland", both laid down in 1867. [Gardiner, pp. 269, 276.]

With the organization of the Dual Monarchy in 1867, the naval service was reconstituted as the Austro-Hungarian Navy. Leopold was succeeded as head of the Navy in March 1868 by Tegetthoff, who received the new title of "Kommandant der Marine" ('Commander of the Navy').Tegetthoff was also named to the new post of "Chef der Marinesektion" (Chief of the Naval Section) of the Imperial War Ministry.

Leopold never married, and after stepping down as head of the Navy he faded into obscurity. He died at Hörnstein on 24 May 1898.


ee also

*Austro-Hungarian Navy

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