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Holy Roman emperor Joseph II tried to strengthen the Habsburg empire with his enlightened reforms, but the changes he made were met with fierce opposition.
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By 1790, Joseph faced numerous problems in his empire, including a loss of control in the Austrian Netherlands. In a weakened state after being ill for years, Joseph made the painful decision to undo his reforms in Hungary in order to maintain the empire's power there.
On February 20, 1790, when he was 48 years old, Joseph passed away in Vienna. It was a lonely death. Joseph had been married twice, but had lost both wives to smallpox, and had no living children. His brother, Leopold, who was to be Joseph's successor, did not visit his bedside.
Joseph died believing that his reforms had weakened his empire instead of strengthening it. However, his support for ideals like religious tolerance led to lasting changes in Europe, and he paved the way for the complete abolition of feudalism in 1848. Although Joseph felt he had been a failure, history would show he did make a difference.
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