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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gently Revisionist
Twilight of the Habsburgs is a nice biography of the Emperor Francis Joseph and his times. Francis Joseph ruled the Hapsburg lands from 1848 to 1916. He is usually seen as an obtuse, stubborn old autocrat who refused to change with the times and thus doomed his empire to collapse. Alan Palmer takes a somewhat revisionist view of the Emperor, pointing out that he had a...
Published on June 4, 2004 by John D. Cofield

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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book with a major distraction
The book is full of information about a very interesting time in history. I didn't mind the jumping around that another reviewer mentioned, but I am COMPLETELY distracted by the author's need to change the names. If you can't handle "Franz Joseph," you should try a little harder. Who is Archduke John? We are lucky he didn't change "Maria Anna" to...
Published on April 24, 2002 by Christiane Staniger


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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gently Revisionist, June 4, 2004
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
Twilight of the Habsburgs is a nice biography of the Emperor Francis Joseph and his times. Francis Joseph ruled the Hapsburg lands from 1848 to 1916. He is usually seen as an obtuse, stubborn old autocrat who refused to change with the times and thus doomed his empire to collapse. Alan Palmer takes a somewhat revisionist view of the Emperor, pointing out that he had a far better mind than he is normally credited with (although handicapped by a very poor education) and was willing to make reforms when necessary (of course he rarely saw the necessity on his own). Even when he did see the need to change, he often waited until it was too late. For example, in mid 1916 he talked of pulling his country out of World War I in the spring of 1917. What if he had gone ahead and made peace in the summer of 1916? Maybe a shorter war, no Russian Revolution, no American intervention, the mind reels with the implications! But unfortunately he put that decision off and died before he could implement it.
The strongest portions of this book deal with Francis Joseph's personal life. I felt sorry for the poor man, dealing in turn with a bossy mother, a flighty wife he loved dearly, a son who wasted his great abilities and committed suicide, and a host of nephews and cousins who couldn't behave themselves and certainly didn't give him the support he needed. His life was full of losses, a brother executed in Mexico, his wife assassinated, his son a suicide, and finally his nephew and heir's murder bringing on a World War. At least he had one friend, an actress he visited for years in a platonic relationship. Its nice to think of him laughing with her over coffee, it must have been the only chance he had to relax!
Francis Joseph was not a brilliant or especially bright, but he did his duty as he saw it and stuck to it right to the end. It is this that makes him admirable today.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of a tragic but benevolent ruler., November 21, 2006
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
Prior to reading this book, my knowledge of Emperor Franz Josef was mostly limited to his involvement in World War I: a staunch leader committed to preserving the Old Order whose government ultimately turned the Sarejevo crisis into an international one.

Palmer's book "The Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Franz Josef" changed my perspective on the Austrian monarch not by painting him as a exceptional or clever leader, which he wasn't; but simply by portraying Franz Josef as a dutiful leader whose reign and personal life was frequently marred by tragedy. Indeed, Franz Josef was keen on his empire's defeat at war at the hands of the French, Italians, and Prussians. As a result, it seems likely he never would have dragged Austria-Hungary into the Great War if it were not for the influence wielded by various ministers on the then-84 year-old emperor. Throughout his life, he was abandoned by a vacationing wife whose life was cut short by an Italian anarchists, his son committed suicide in a mysterious pact, his brother was executed after a failed bid to rule Mexico, and his nephew's assassination in Sarejevo was the saprk that ignited World War I. Indeed, the reader will find out that Franz Josef's personal life was far from a royal fairytale.

Besides the enormous tragedies experienced by Emperor Franz Josef, the changing times surrounding the Emperor's long reign (1848-1916) are nothing short of an exciting setting that may be difficult for us to fathom in the 21st century. At the dawn of Franz Josef's reign, the cavalryman was still prominent on the battlefield, Germany and Italy were mostly collections of squabbling states on his northern and southern border, and the flight of man was limited to a pipe dream. However, by the end of his career, Franz Josef lived in a world where war took to the air and a unified Germany was one of the premeir powers in the world.

The book's only flaw is perhaps more of an annoyance than a serious misgiving: Palmer translates the names of his German subjects to English, hence the reader will constantly see "Francis Joseph" instead of "Franz Josef." Perhaps he did this to appeal to wider audience, but I do beleive that anyone willing to pick up a book on an Austrian emperor is knowledgeable enough to contemplate German names.

Overall, this is an excellent book for those interested in European monarchs, the 1850-1918 time period, or a good biography.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Once again, Alan Palmer provides a focused biography, September 15, 2000
By 
mokarl (Ballwin, Missouri) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
This is a very good book. The only reason that I did not give it 5 stars is due to the fact that I am waiting to read several other Palmer titles and then rank against them. My interest in Franz Joesph originated in the start of WWI and how Franz Joseph played into Austia being the main country to instigate the Great War. I was also interested to find out more about the Austrain-Hungary royalty that was famous to intermarry with other nation's royalty. Palmer answer my questions and succeeded in providing a different viewpoint of Franz Joeseph. History books portrayed him as an aged man who was interested in nothing but war and out of touch with the modernizing world. I learned this to be unfounded rhetoric. This book gave an excellent overview of Franz Joesph and his Empire and the inevitable decline and fall of his empire. If you were curious about Franz Joesph or Austrian history, this book is an excellent read.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good book with a major distraction, April 24, 2002
By 
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
The book is full of information about a very interesting time in history. I didn't mind the jumping around that another reviewer mentioned, but I am COMPLETELY distracted by the author's need to change the names. If you can't handle "Franz Joseph," you should try a little harder. Who is Archduke John? We are lucky he didn't change "Maria Anna" to Maryanne. Dear Author, please give your readers some credit.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Did Franz Joseph Bring on the Twilight?, April 6, 2009
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
There is an implication in the title that Franz Josef was the principal reason the Hapsburg monarchy declined in the latter half of the 19th century, finally collapsing in the wreckage of WW I. But this book is a primarily a biography. The author does not spend any appreciable time trying to causally link the Empire's decline with the personality or actions of his subject. To be sure, one can point to Franz Josef's sins of omission as gauges of his ineptitude. He drifted into war with Napoleon III's France, but despite taking personal command of his army in Italy, he was unable to grasp control of either the military or political situation. He did not stop his brother, Max, from accepting the role as bogus emperor of Mexico, even though he had grave misgivings. But shrewdly, he did insist that Max sign away his rights to succession. His handling of diplomacy prior to the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 was inept; he was more concerned abut keeping the French out of an improbable alliance with Prussia than keeping Bismarck from overturning the German Confederation. His selection of Benedek as commander of the forces in the north turned out to be a major disaster. And by 1914, he was perhaps too old to take an active hand in restraining Berchtold and Von Hotzendorf, and making direct approaches to Wilhelm II and Nicholas.

But whatever his shortcomings, the Hapsburg empire was already in decline when he assumed the crown. It was simply too ethnically diverse to govern effectively or fairly. Union with Hungary exacerbated, rather than mitigated this situation. Although his long reign might be considered as stabilizing the realm, it also served to fossilize practices and policies which became irrelevant with the changing times.

No bibliography, but extensive notes and their sources in the form of a bibliographic essay.
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18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Twilight of the Habsburgs, August 9, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
I currently am reading this book, and find it very difficult. The author skips around from one idea to another and its all on the same page. I do not understand his thinking in transforming all the Austrian names into an English version. This loses the historic context of the story and country. Had I know this I probably would not have bought the book. At this point I do not know if I am reading about an Austrian Emperor or an English king since Franz has become Francis. The author did a great harm to the history in doing this. I do regret buying this book and will advise others against it. When you write about history you need to present all the facts, and he did not do this. The names are the first example, skipping around and glossing over events without exploring them deeper is another.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!, January 18, 2004
By 
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
This book is a splendid description of Franz Josefs life. Every ascpect is covered good, and you realy feel that you get a picture of the man and the emperor. I strongly recommend it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not recommended, October 23, 2012
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This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
This is the most disappointing biography I've read recently. Palmer's style is dry and boring, but worse than that he's horribly biased in how he presents information, and also blatantly omits information in order to twist events into casting a positive light on Franz Joseph. He apologizes at every turn for Franz Joseph while painting other figures, such as the Emperor's son Crown Prince Rudolf, in unfairly negative colors. The only one he's somewhat fair towards is Franz Joseph's wife, the Empress Elisabeth; the sections that deal with her are by far the most fascinating and have some semblance of an attempt at fairness.

The only real upsides to this book are the sections that quote Franz Joseph's letters, the bits about Elisabeth (none of which are actually all that unique to this book, however, and if one wanted to read about her I'd recommend Haslip's The Lonely Empress and NOT this), and there are a few nice pictures (most of them are not rare, however, and I'd seen nearly all of them before). But other than that, it's dreadfully boring writing, riddled with blatant bias, and it would be very difficult for someone unfamiliar with the times and people to follow since Palmer's narrative jumps about in ways that don't always make much sense.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good book, September 27, 2013
This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
If you have the interest in the subject, it is a good read. If not, then it will be of little interest as the writing style can be boring at times. As a biography, it does a fine job of showing that Francis Joseph was shaped by his times. For a student of history, it is a five star book as it is in depth.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, bad decision not to use correct names., October 2, 2013
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This review is from: Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph (Paperback)
Similar to previous reviews I have read, it is very distracting to see names Anglicanized by the author. It is FRANZ Joseph, not Francis. Otherwise a great pre-World War I history of Central Europe.
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Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph
Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and Times of Emperor Francis Joseph by Alan Warwick Palmer (Paperback - February 12, 1997)
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