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Emperor Joseph II
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Monarch
    (March 13, 1741-February 20, 1790)
    Born in Vienna, Austria
    Holy Roman Emperor (1765-90)
    Co-ruler of the Hapsburg domains with his mother, Marie Theresa (1765-80)
    Brother of Marie Antoinette
    His full name was the unwieldy Joseph Benedikt August Johannes Anton Michael Adam von Hapsburg-Lothrigen.
    For the first fifteen years of his rule, his decisions were constantly overridden by his mother.
    He allegedly responded to 'The Magic Flute' with 'Too many notes, Mozart.'
    He ticked off the nobles by trying to abolish serfdom, Catholics by limiting the church's influence, and ethnic minorities by making German the official language throughout his empire.
    He issued over 11,000 new laws paternalisticly regulating almost every aspect of daily life, alienating the masses.
    Shortly before his death, the director of the Imperial Police reported, 'All classes, and even those who have the greatest respect for the sovereign, are discontented and indignant.'
    He asked that his epitaph read, 'Here lies Joseph II, who failed in all he undertook.'
    He was a patron of Mozart and Beethoven and was known as 'the Musical King.'
    He granted religious liberty to Jews and Protestants.
    He ended censorship of the press and theater.
    He introduced compulsory elementary education to the empire.
    He established Vienna's first public parks.
    He was considered an 'enlightened despot,' like Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great.

Credit: C. Fishel


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