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The Habsburg man behind so many Hungarian sights

The Habsburg man behind so many Hungarian sights

Walking around Budapest or, technically, any Hungarian city, you may find yourself faced with place names including the word ‘nádor’. There is a ‘József nádor Square’ and a ‘Nádor Street’ in Budapest. In the past, there used to be a Nádor Island and a Nádor Garden, too. ‘Nádor’ is the Hungarian word for Palatine, the highest dignitary after the king in the Kingdom of Hungary. gathered all the facts about Archduke Joseph, the Palatine of Hungary, who is the Habsburg man all these place names refer to. He did so much for the improvement of Budapest that he is now seen an honorary Hungarian.

Archduke Joseph was born in Florence in 1776 but moved to Vienna when his father became the Emperor. In 1796, he was chosen to be the Palatine of Hungary, the most important official after the king. He moved to the Buda Castle and quickly learned the Hungarian language, so he became rather popular among Hungarians.

He was dedicated to the cause of improving and beautifying the city, in fact, much of what the inner city looks like nowadays is thanks to his efforts.

On the other hand, as an important figure of the reform era, credit is due for him for freeing Ferenc Kazinczy, a famous Hungarian author and linguist of the era, from prison.

Founding the Beautifying Committee

He played a big part in the urban planning of Budapest by founding the Beautifying Committee that was responsible for sewerage and the general improvement of public hygiene conditions. Besides,

he financed the founding of the Centre of the Blind, the construction of the first railway line, between Budapest and Vác, and he also supported the construction of a National Museum,

just like István Széchenyi, another significant figure of the Reform Era.

józsef nádor, budapest, palatinus házak

The housing complex named after the Palatine of Hungary

He also created a beautiful Baroque park at the bridgehead of the Lágymányosi Bridge, on the Buda side. This used to be the Nádor Garden which, unfortunately, is replaced by a housing complex now. However, with several fun gatherings organised in the Garden, it must have been a site truly worth a visit back in its heyday.

Margaret Island

The so-called Rabbit Island was also thanks to Archduke Joseph, explaining why it is also called Palatinus Island. This place, by the way, is still a popular destination, both by locals and tourists, although we now call it Margaret Island. There was a lot of work put into creating the beautiful and organised park we know today. A gardener from Vienna was invited to beautify the place, while the Archduke had a mansion built right next to the ruins of the Franciscan cloister. He spent a lot of time here with his family and first wife, Russian duchess Alexandra Pavlova. Several soirées and receptions were held to welcome the Duchess who came to love Hungarians, and the legend is that we have her to thank for our national tricolour flag.

Sadly, the Duchess died shortly after the birth of their first child together, and the daughter herself only lived for a few hours. The Archduke was in mourning for years.

margit sziget, józsef nádor, budapest

Japanese Garden on Margaret Island, a legacy of the beautifying efforts of Archduke Joseph

He married his second wife 10 years later, who also helped beautify the island.

In fact, opening the park to the public is linked to her, even if getting there was quite some trouble, seeing as there was no bridge at the time connecting the island to the mainland.

Despite having to wait for the boatman to take people over to the island, the place soon became very popular.

The Archduke had very high-up guests from time to time who also visited the island. One time, the guests were Francis I, Emperor of Austria and brother of the Archduke; Frederick William III of Prussia, as well as Alexander I of Russia, father-in-law of the Archduke. A grand harvest celebration was organised to welcome the guests, with young men and women helping the harvest while Turkish music was played in the background. Alexander I of Russia was known to be somewhat of a ladies’ man and he did not hold back during his Budapest visit, either. Some interesting headlines were seen when he took fancy in one of the harvest girls, obviously well below his rank. So, Archduke Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, not only helped beautify the city but also contributed to some first class gossip and entertainment.

For more news, check out this article about how Hungarian Elisabeth the Second is.

Featured image: Fortepan / Budapest City Archives


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