If you think Imperial Germany produced ornate manuscripts (especially promotion patents), wait until you see the Austrian Empire’s documents! This week we are presenting THE most ornate and elaborate document we have ever offered. It is a promotion patent for Austria’s Erzherzog Franz Carl (1802-1878), one of Franz I’s sons. Franz I (1768-1835) served as Austria’s emperor from 1804 until his death in 1835, when he was succeeded by his eldest son, Ferdinand (1793-1875). Franz Carl was Emperor Ferdinand’s younger brother. Ferdinand abdicated during Austria’s 1848 revolts. In the normal course of events, he would have been replaced by Franz Carl. Ferdinand suffered from poor health (epileptic seizures), and often has been portrayed as feeble-minded (which is debatable). Franz Carl was convinced to lay aside his claim to the throne in favor of his eldest son, Franz Joseph I (1830-1916). Franz Joseph served as Emperor of Austria from 1848 until his 1916 death.
[Erzherzog Franz Carl had yet another famous son who became an emperor, none other than Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico (1832-1867)! Franz Carl was also the grandfather of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914), Emperor Franz Joseph’s intended heir, whose 1914 assassination in Sarajevo led to WWI].
Franz Carl was not a major player in the Austrian government, although he did serve on the Council that actually ruled Austria from 1835 through 1848. Franz Carl’s military career was not particularly distinguished, either. He served as a Hungarian Infanterie-Regiment Nr 52 Generalmajor and Inhaber (honorary commander). He was promoted to the rank of Feldmarschallieutenant in 1844, via this document. [Please remember that the document was issued in September 1844, making it 170-years-old]!!!
Prussian promotion patents are decorative, but not nearly as ornate or impressive as our Austrian example. It is prepared on vellum, an ultra-high-quality material used for VERY important documents. [Made for centuries, parchment is a general term for an animal skin (usually calf, goat, or sheep) that has been carefully prepared for writing or printing. The term vellum (from the French: veau) refers to a parchment made from calfskin. Modern imitation (“paper”) vellum (made from plasticized cotton), first came into use in the late 1800’s]. The vellum’s feel is amazing. It is crisp and exquisite.
The document has been folded into six sections. When it is fully extended, it measures 22″ x 30½.” Its calligraphy is absolutely gorgeous. The document begins with a lengthy description of Kaiser Ferdinand’s titles and rights, followed by the date and Archduke Franz Carl’s name. His association with Infanterie-Regiment Nr 52 and his previous Generalmajor’s rank are also mentioned. It is boldly signed by Kaiser Ferdinand. Attached to the document by a gold bullion cord is a circular cased canister made of very high-quality brass with a high-gloss finish. The canister measures 3 3/4″ in diameter and is 3/4″ thick. One side displays a beautiful, double-headed Austrian Eagle topped by a Hapsburg Crown. The canister’s other side features a fine military motif of flags, cannon, rifles, swords, and a küraß. The canister’s interior cradles an intact mint-condition red wax seal with Kaiser Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary’s Coat-of-Arms. [Similar canisters were attached to Prussian documents granting royalty or nobility].
The document and canister set is housed in a deluxe fitted case. It has a cutout space for the document and another space for the canister. The presentation case’s upper lid (measuring 11 ½” x 16 3/4″ x 2 ½”) is lined with sumptuous black silk. The case’s lower fitted half is lined in black velvet. The case’s exterior is made of hand-tooled red Moroccan leather. The upper lid displays an ornate gold-embossed design. The exterior shows some signs of wear, with some scuffing and limited areas where the leather is patchy. Twin latches secure the case. Some evidence remains of a lock but, alas, no key. The case’s side features a 1 3/4″ x 4″ paper tag that appears to be from a museum. It displays what I believe is an old control number, along with a typed description. This is a fantastic set. It is a magnificent document from and to members of royalty one hundred seventy years-ago.