1879: Charles Peace, Victorian cat burglar 1902: Harry “Breaker” Morant and Peter Handcock, “scapegoats for Empire”

1853: János Libényi, who stabbed an emperor and built a church

February 26th, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1853, eight days after attempting to assassinate Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I, Hungarian nationalist János Libényi was hanged on Vienna’s Simmeringer Haide (the link is in German).

Libenyi was hardly the only one who designed on the life of one of the world’s longest-serving rulers of one of the world’s least cohesive polities. On February 18, Libenyi stabbed the emperor in the neck — a part of the anatomy fortuitously protected by a very sturdy military collar the (at this time) 23-year-old monarch wore habitually.

The would-be assassin was immediately subdued by an Irish count and a nearby butcher, both of whom received Austrian ennoblement for their trouble.

An emotive outpouring of official thanksgiving commensurate with an age of political reaction greeted Franz’s survival. His brother — yet many years and many miles from his own rendezvous with the executioner — took up donations for Vienna’s spectacular Votivkirche, a literal votive offering to God for Franz Joseph’s deliverance:

Image via flickr, (cc) lionscavern.com.

The future Elvis of the Austrian waltz scene, Johann Strauss, then a 27-year-old cranking out career-enhancing patriotic fare, said symphonically what the Votivkirche said architecturally with this “Rescue Jubilation March” (op. 126):


This short entry on the German wikipedia — in German, of course — further outlines the affair.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 19th Century,Assassins,Austria,Habsburg Realm,Hanged,Notable for their Victims,Treason

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7 thoughts on “1853: János Libényi, who stabbed an emperor and built a church”

  1. Headsman says:

    That’s a cool twist on what-if history — someone should make a documentary linking that chain together. “Franz Joseph’s Collar: History’s Greatest Monster.”

    I’d personally think that’s assigning those events way too much individual agency as against structural development, but others may have different takes.

  2. Boe says:

    If the Emperor Franz Joseph died in the stabbing, then there would have been no World War I.!
    40 million would not have died.

    This way, World War 2 would not have happened!
    And 70 million people would not have died.

    Nor would the Cold War have happened.

    What do you think

    1. James Bogle says:

      On that logic Eisenhower should have been assassinated because he launched D-Day which resulted in the deaths of millions.


      Boe, had you forgotten that the Serbs murdered the heir to the throne of Austria. Do you think they might just be blamed?

      And Austria cannot be blamed that Russia, Germany, France and Italy were all itching for war.

      Maybe engage your brain, next time you write a comment, eh?

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