Count Joseph Alexander Hübner

Count Joseph Alexander Hübner
Alexander Graf Hübner, 1859

Joseph Alexander, count Hübner (November 26, 1811 – July 30, 1892), was an Austrian diplomat, born in Vienna. His real name was Josef Hafenbredl, which he changed to Hübner.



He began his public career in 1833 under Metternich, whose confidence he soon gained, and who sent him in 1837 as attaché to Paris. In 1841 he became secretary of embassy at Lisbon, and in 1844 Austrian consul-general at Leipzig. In 1848 he was sent to Milan to conduct the diplomatic correspondence of Archduke Rainer, viceroy of Lombardy. On the outbreak of the revolution he was seized as a hostage, and remained a prisoner for some months. Returning to Austria, he was entrusted with the compilation of the documents and proclamations relating to the abdication of the Emperor Ferdinand and the accession of Francis Joseph.

His journal, an invaluable clue to the complicated intrigues of this period, was published in 1891 in French and German, under the title of Une Année de ma vie, 1848–1849. In March 1849 he was sent on a special mission to Paris, and later in the same year was appointed ambassador to France. His influence was in large measure due the friendly attitude of Austria to the Allies in the Crimean War, at the close of which he represented Austria at the congress of Paris in 1856. He allowed himself, however, to be taken by surprise by Napoleon's intervention on behalf of Italian unity, of which the first public intimation was given by the French emperor's cold reception of Hübner on New Year's Day, 1859, with the famous words, "I regret that our relations with your Government are not so good as they have hitherto been."

Hübner did not return to Paris after the war, and after holding the ministry of police in the Gołuchowski cabinet from August to October 1859, lived in retirement till 1865, when he became ambassador at Rome. Quitting this post in 1867, he undertook extensive travels, his descriptions of which appeared as Promenade au tour du monde, 1871 (1873; English translation by Lady Herbert, 1874) and Through the British Empire (1886). Written in a bright and entertaining style, and characterized by shrewd observation, they achieved considerable popularity in their time. A more serious effort was his Sixte-Quint (1870, translated into English by HEH Jerningham under the title of The Life and Times of Sixtus the Fifth, 1872), an original contribution to the history of the period, based on unpublished documents at the Vatican, Simancas and Venice. In 1879 he was made a life-member of the Austrian Upper House, where he sat as a Clerical and Conservative. He had received the rank of Freiherr (Baron) in 1854, and in 1888 was raised to the higher rank of Graf (Count). He died at Vienna on July 30, 1892.

Political ideals

Though himself of middle-class origin, Hübner was a profound admirer of the old aristocratic regime, and found his political ideals in his former chiefs, Metternich and Schwarzenberg. As the last survivor of the Metternich school, he became towards the close of his life more and more out of touch with the trend of modern politics, but remained a conspicuous figure in the Upper House and at the annual delegations. That he possessed the breadth of mind to appreciate the working of a system at total variance with his own school of thought was shown by his grasp of British colonial questions. It is interesting, in view of subsequent events, to note his emphatic belief in the loyalty of the British colonies—a belief not shared at that time by many statesmen with far greater experience of democratic institutions.

Other information

Ernest Mason Satow met Hübner in Japan when he visited from July to October 1871 during his world tour. Later he made Hübner's career the subject of his Rede Lecture at Cambridge University in 1908, being a topic unconnected with his own career so as to avoid censure by the British Foreign Office. See Sir Ernest Satow, An Austrian Diplomatist in the Fifties (Cambridge, 1908).

His grandson, Patrick Count O'Byrne KM (son of daughter Eleanor), was a Sinn Féin Teachta Dala in the Second Republican Dáil Éireann. Patrick was the third Count O'Byrne, his father John O'Byrne of Corville, Co. Tipperary being the original grantee of the title from the Pope. During the Treaty debates Count O'Byrne supported the Irish Republic against the British recognised Irish Free State. [1]


  1. ^ Byrne-Rothwell, Daniel, The Byrnes and the O'Byrnes, Volume 2, (2010, Argyll), Chapters 7-8

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