In December 1848, Emperor Ferdinand abdicated the throne as part of Ministerpräsident Felix zu Schwarzenberg's plan to end the Revolutions of 1848 in Austria, which allowed Ferdinand's nephew Franz Joseph to ascend to the throne. Largely considered to be a reactionary, Franz Joseph spent his early reign resisting constitutionalism in his domains. The Austrian Empire was forced to cede most of its claim to Lombardy–Venetia to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia following the conclusion of the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859, and the Third Italian War of Independence in 1866. Although Franz Joseph ceded no territory to the Kingdom of Prussia after the Austrian defeat in the Austro-Prussian War, the Peace of Prague settled the German question in favour of Prussia, which prevented the unification of Germany under the House of Habsburg.
Franz Joseph was troubled by nationalism during his entire reign. He concluded the Ausgleich of 1867, which granted greater autonomy to Hungary, hence transforming the Austrian Empire into the Austro-Hungarian Empire under his dual monarchy. His domains were then ruled peacefully for the next 45 years, although Franz Joseph personally suffered the tragedies of the suicide of his son, Crown Prince Rudolf in 1889, and the assassination of his wife, Empress Elisabeth in 1898.
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