From 1526 to 1918, Hungary was ruled by the Habsburgs. Could any of the Habsburg kings speak Hungarian, and if so, to what degree?

I know that Sissi, the consort of Franz Joseph I, was particularly popular among the Hungarian people for having learned Hungarian. This suggests that, at the time, fluency in Hungarian by the royal family was highly unusual. But was it always unusual, or did any of Franz Joseph's predecessors or successors, like Sissi, make an effort to learn and use the language?

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    It's worth noting that in Europe proper, unlike in the U.K. and especially in the U.S. one of the hallmarks of an educated person is the ability to speak multiple languages. At a minimum basic fluency in at least three of German, French, English and Spanish could be expected of most educated Europeans since the Eighteenth or late Seventeenth Century. Apr 29, 2016 at 17:37
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    It is worth to note that up to the 19th most Hungarian nobility didn't speak much Hungarian, neither.
    – Greg
    Mar 7, 2017 at 13:54

1 Answer 1


The emperors have often spoken many languages and Hungarian was an important one so one may find numerous Habsburg rulers who spoke Hungarian, too.

For example, Maximillian II fluently spoke Spanish, French, Latin, Hungarian, and Italian. Maria Theresa spoke German, Italian, French, Spanish, Latin, Czech and she added Hungarian before she became the empress.

The long-time "last" emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria was led to his skills by his mother Sophia and he was proud about them. He could speak, write, and read in French, Italian, Hungarian, and Czech. His successor Charles I of Austria did speak Czech extremely well (and he wanted some autonomy for the Czech lands around the time of the First World War) but I am not able to find out whether he spoke Hungarian.

However, Charles' recently deceased son Otto von Habsburg (1912-2011) surely did. If we count German, he spoke 15 different languages that included Hungarian and Czech. He has also passed the standard Austrian as well as Hungarian high school (gymnasium) requirements. Nevertheless, even with these credentials, he wasn't allowed to restore the Habsburg monarchy.

Almost all the members of the Habsburg House in the 20th century spoke Hungarian.


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