Sachsen-Hildburghausen, Prince Joseph Friedrich von

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Sachsen-Hildburghausen, Prince Joseph Friedrich von

Austrian General-Feldwachtmeister (1734-35), Feldmarschall-Lieutenant (1735-36), Feldzeugmeister (1736-44), Imperial Feldzeugmeister (1739-44), Austrian Field-Marshall (1744-58), Imperial Field-Marshall (1785-87) Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1739-1787).

born October 5, 1702, Hildburghausen, Thuringia, Germany

died January 14 1787, Hildburghausen, Thuringia, Germany


Portrait of Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen before 1768 by Tischbein

Joseph Friedrich was the son of Duke Ernst von Sachsen-Hildburghausen and of Sophia Henriette von Waldeck. He was the youngest of their five children.

Three of his brothers and sisters died young. In 1715, Joseph Friedrich's older brother, Ernst Friedrich, succeeded to his father as Duke of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

Joseph Friedrich joined the Austrian army in 1719 at the age of 16 as protege of Field-Marshall Friedrich Heinrich von Seckendorff. The same year, he was appointed staff captain in Seckendorf Infantry, distinguishing himself with this regiment in Sicily during the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1717–20).

In 1728, Joseph Friedrich converted to Catholicism. His courage, his military talent and his common sense earned him the favour and esteem of Emperor Charles VI and of Prince Eugène de Savoie. Joseph Friedrich had a brilliant career and was rapidly promoted.

In 1729, Joseph Friedrich was promoted to lieutenant-colonel.

On July 18 1730, Joseph Friedrich was promoted to colonel in Pálffy Infantry.

On January 17 1732, Joseph Friedrich was appointed owner of the former Sachsen Hildburghausen Infantry.

In 1734, during the War of the Polish Succession (1733–35), Joseph Friedrich was promoted to General-Feldwachtmeister upon recommendation of Count Mercy who commanded the Austrian army in Lombardy. In the campaign of 1735, Joseph Friedrich served in Northern Italy. On April 30 of the same year, he was promoted to Feldmarschall-Lieutenant. He distinguished himself once more in the victorious Battle of Parma, his face being permanently blackened by powder residues, a colouration which it would retain throughout his life.

On September 25 1736, Joseph Friedrich was promoted to Feldzeugmeister.

In 1737, during the Russo-Austro-Turkish War (1735–1739), Joseph Friedrich already commanded a small corps. He failed to capture Banja Luka against a far superior Turkish army. In 1738, he was instrumental in the Austrian victory in the Combat of Kornya. On June 11 1739, Joseph Friedrich was named Imperial Feldzeugmeister. On July 22 1739, he covered the retreat of the Imperial army after the Battle of Grocka.

On April 17 1738 in Paris, Joseph Friedrich married Princess Anna Viktoria of Savoie, daughter of Louis Thomas of Savoie-Soissons and sole heiress of the huge fortune of the late Prince Eugène de Savoie. She was 20 years older than Joseph Friedrich but was one of the richest people in Europe at that time.

In 1739, after the war, Joseph Friedrich was appointed Governor of Komorn and accepted as Knight in the Order of the Golden Fleece.

In 1740, at the outbreak of the War of the Austrian Succession, Joseph Friedrich, as governor of Komorn, organised the assembly of the newly raised Hungarian regiments. In this function, he played an important role in the Austrian military administration. In 1743, Joseph Friedrich was appointed Chief Military Officer and Commander General of Inner Austria, Karlstadt and Warasdin. In these functions, he was responsible for the organization of the Grenzer military units and for military supply. On April 18 1744, he was promoted to Field-Marshall.

In May 1749, at his request, Joseph Friedrich was relieved of these charges and established himself in Austria.

In 1752, Joseph Friedrich and Princess Anna Viktoria of Savoie divorced.

In 1757, during the Seven Years' War (1756-63), Emperor Franz I appointed Joseph Friedrich as commander of the Reichsarmee in consideration of his military experience, his capacity and organisational skills. He led the Reichsarmee during the invasion of Saxony. After the defeat of the Franco-Imperial army in the Battle of Rossbach, in spite of the shock caused by this failure, he immediately started to work on a detailed proposals for the improvement of the Reichsarmee, and presented it in Vienna in December.

At the beginning of 1758, the emperor accepted Joseph Friedrich's request to be relieved from the command of the Reichsarmee. He retired from all military affairs and returned to private life.

In 1769, because of the huge debts left by his relatives, the ruling dukes of Sachsen-Hildburghausen, Joseph Friedrich was appointed as steward of the duchy by Emperor Joseph II to avoid its bankruptcy. In 1780, Duke Ernst Friedrich III, his great-nephew, was incapacitated and Joseph Friedrich assumed the function of a prince regent.

In 1785, Joseph Friedrich was promoted to Imperial Field-Marshall.

On January 14 1787, Joseph Friedrich died in his estates of Hildburghausen.


Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 5 Hastenbeck und Roßbach, Berlin, 1903, Anhang 6 (p. 239)

German Wikipedia Joseph Friedrich von Sachsen-Hildburghausen