The Archduke Who Went His Own Way

This is the popular Bavarian folk singer Maria Hellwig performing the Erzherzog Johann Jodler (Archduke John Yodeler) at the age of 69. Kudos! She was a trained soubrette and a much greater artist than her somewhat-too-folksy public image conveyed. This video gives a whiff of her talent. Last Friday she died at the age of 90. She brought pleasure to countless people. May she rest in peace.

The Erzherzog Johann Jodler is very probably THE most famous one of its kind, sometimes called the inofficial Styrian national anthem, written to honour the "Styrian Prince", Erzherzog Johann von Österreich -- Archduke John of Austria (1782 – 1859).

Johann was born in Florence as the thirteenth child of Archduke Leopold, later to become Emperor of Austria. In Styria, he is remembered as a great modernizer and an important figure of identification.

In 1829, he married Anna Plochl, the daughter of the Posthalter of Aussee (a Posthalter used to be a well-to-do innkeeper at whose place the horses of the diligence were changed). The marriage was morganatic, its descendants were styled "Counts of Meran" and "Barons of Brandhofen". His one son from this marriage was Franz, Count of Meran. Among his 900 descendants is Johannes Nicolaus Graf de la Fontaine und d'Harnoncourt-Unverzagt, better known as Nicolaus Harnoncourt, conductor.

The Archduke was a passionate mountaineer and attempted to be the first to climb the Großvenediger. The Erzherzog-Johann-Hütte (Adlersruhe) at the Großglockner, and the Archduke John's Vanilla Orchid (Nigritella rubra subsp. archiducis-joannis), an orchid growing on mountain meadows, are named after him.

By acquiring a tin factory in Krems bei Voitsberg and coal mines near Köflach he also became an industrialist. In 1840, he bought the Stainz dominion, where he was freely elected as mayor in 1850. His routing of the Austrian Southern Railway from Vienna to Triest over the Semmering and through the Mura and Mürz valleys to Graz is particularly notable.

Even though Johann did not consider himself, and wasn't, a liberal, he promoted some liberal ideas. He was often in conflict with the Habsburg court, especially but not exclusively, because of his morganatic marriage. In 1848, the Frankfurt National Assembly appointed him Reichverweser, Regent of the Realm. After the failure of the March Revolution of 1848, he resigned from this office in 1849.

Archduke John died 1859 in Graz, where a fountain dominating the central square was erected in his honour.

(Original entry from November 30, 2010)