It is to be clearly understood that the visit of his Imperial Majesty, the Emperor Francis Josef, to Pesth, the capital of disloyal Hungary, on the 6th of June, 1865, was wholly unconnected with politics, and was in no wise prompted by the fact that war between Austria and Prussia appeared inevitable. His Majesty went to Pesth for the purpose of seeing the races. So the journals of Vienna officially announced, and so the Austrian Governor of Hungary informed the Hungarians. “His Majesty,” ran the semi-official announcement, issued at the end of May, “journeys to Pesth to see the races, and his visit is to be regarded as semi-private.” At the same time, however, it was thought well, in order to cut the claws of seditious and noisy persons, to insert paragraphs in the newspapers recalling to the recollection of the Hungarians the kind words His Majesty had on more than one occasion used about Hungary, and the chief journal in Vienna even went so far as to say that His Majesty was so fond of the Hungarians that, but for certain ministers, he would long since have abolished military law and settled the Hungarian question satisfactorily. “The monarch,” remarked this Vienna journal profoundly, “is equally the monarch of Hungarians and Austrians, and loyalty to the sovereign is as incumbent on the Hungarian as on the Austrian. Hungary can have no grievances against the sovereign, whatever faults she may find with his ministers.” “The Emperor,” said the London “Times” of June 10th, 1865, “is inclined to make great concessions.” It was an observant man who first wrote that history repeats itself.
His Majesty arrived in the capital of his disloyal kingdom at nine o’clock in the morning of Tuesday, June 6th, 1865. He was accompanied by several persons of rank and by his Governor of Hungary, Palffy. He drove through the streets in an open carriage, being cheered here and there by small knots of people, but the bulk of the inhabitants neither stood in the streets to watch him pass nor heeded his presence. The business of Pesth, except amongst the garrison and the royal warrant-holders, went on as if His Majesty had not come to see the races. His Majesty pulled up at the Palace of Buda, where the chiefs of the garrison and a number of titled sycophants received him. The Cardinal Primate, Szilowsky, read an address of welcome. We give an exact translation, since it may serve as a model for some of our fellow-countrymen:
Your Imperial Royal Apostolic Majesty Most Gracious Lord! It is with feelings of infinite affection and joy that we now humbly do homage to your sacred person. The appearance of your Majesty in our dear country is now as always beneficial to us. At present it inspires us with hope, and we are, therefore, the more bound to be eternally grateful to your Majesty whose love for and graciousness towards us has been invariable. We entreat you to believe that the Hungarian people are truly faithful to the Throne and cheerfully prepared to lay down their lives for your Majesty. We daily beseech God to protect you and crown your exertions in our behalf with success, and while humbly rendering our homage, we fervently pray your Majesty may live long and be ever happy.
His Majesty in reply read from a sheet of paper a few sentences – in Hungarian – in which he hinted that he meditated convening the Hungarian Diet – at a future date – if his Hungarian subjects backed up the Empire. The language and the graciousness so pleased the addressers that we read “the walls trembled” to their “hurrahs.” After which his Majesty visited the Agricultural Exhibition, and expressed his deep interest in Hungarian agriculture and his heartfelt wishes for abundant Hungarian harvests. Governor Palffy was meanwhile busy in stirring up the latent loyalty of the people of Pesth. In the morning, when his Majesty arrived, there had been very few flags exhibited on the houses, whereupon Palffy set about persuading the people to hang flags out, and succeeded admirably. When his Majesty left the Agricultural Exhibition his eyes lighted up with pleasure, for he beheld the bare city of the morning beflagged all over. A little later, however, his Majesty discovered that the newly-erected flags were green-white-and-red tricolours the official ensign of Independent Hungary. Palffy was indignant and bent upon making an example of some of the people who had thus tricked him, but his Majesty ordered Palffy to forbear lest he might make matters worse. His Majesty, however, avenged himself when he got back to Vienna by firing Palffy out.
In the evening his Majesty presided at a banquet, and drank the toast of “Prosperity to Hungary,” amidst much enthusiasm from the Austrian placemen and the Royal warrant-holders. Next day he presented a gift of a few hundred pounds to the Hungarian Academy of Science, and conversed affably with Deak, who was one of the heads of the Academy. His Majesty also drove constantly through the streets, and saluted every man who saluted him – among whom, as the “Times” correspondent remarked, there were no young men, and he talked on no less than three occasions in forty-eight hours of the “gallant and chivalrous Hungarian people” whom he was quite sure would support the Throne were it assailed. Palffy organised a torchlight procession and ran a regatta in his honour, but the enthusiasm failed to flow. At the races his Majesty condescended to leave his royal box and mingle familiarly with the people, smoking a cigar, but the people were not impressed. So after a command night at the National Theatre, where “God Save the Emperor” was played and loudly applauded by his Majesty’s faithful garrison, his Majesty quitted Pesth on the 9th of June, leaving behind him the following proclamation: –
To My Hungarian Subjects – During my stay in the heart of my kingdom of Hungary I have continually received from the different ranks and classes of society, as well in the cities as in the country at large, unmistakable proofs of loyalty and attachment. Being moved by their hearty confidence in my paternal intentions, I desire to give all the expression of my thanks and the assurance of my full favour. In quitting my beloved Hungary, in which I should much like to remain longer, I take with me the agreeable hope of being able – in some time – to return, in order, as I declared on the day of my arrival, to complete the work which all of us have so much at heart. In the meantime, I depend on the protection of God, and confidently count on the energetic support of every true Hungarian.
His Majesty returned from his trip to the Pesth Races with the conviction that it would be decidedly dangerous to go to war with Prussia just then, and to buy peace he handed over one-half of the spoil he took in the Danish war – the Duchy of Lauenberg – to Prussia for the nominal sum of £500,000, or less than £5 18s. per head of the inhabitants, throwing in the soil and the cities for nothing. This eased the strain, for Prussia affected to be contented, and the danger of war seemed to have passed. Whereupon Austria turned to resume the coercing of the Hungarians.