Josip Jelačić was born on October 16, 1801 in Petrovaradin, where his father Franjo was sub-marshal of the Slavonian Military Frontier. He was born into a noble family whose members were distinguished warriors, high military commanders, statesmen, priests, educators, benefactors and writers. His mother Ana Portner was also from a noble family, and in addition to Josip, she gave birth to two more sons, Jura and Antun, and a daughter, Cecilia. He started his education when he was eight years old at the elite noble school Therezianum in Vienna. The sons of nobles and nobles were educated in that place so that one day they could perform military service as part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In 1819 he left Therezianum as an excellent diplomat and began his rise as a baron with numerous honors and exploits, not only for the benefit of the Austrian emperor but also for the Croatian people.
After completing his education in Vienna, Jelačić began his military career as a second lieutenant in the Third Cavalry Regiment, and served in Vienna, Galicia and in Croatia, in Ogulin, Glina and Zadar. He was repeatedly praised by his superiors. He wrote and spoke Hungarian, German, Croatian, French, Latin and Italian, and was an excellent rider, archer, organizer, strategist and military leader. During his military service, he had several breaks that he used to write songs. Thus, in Zagreb in 1825, he published a collection of poems “A Moment of Memory” or “Eine Stunde der Erinnerung”.
On March 23, 1848, in Vienna, Emperor Ferdinand V named him Croatian ban (the emperor’s representative in Croatia) and secret royal adviser, and promoted him to the rank of major general and commander of ban regiments. On April 8, 1848, Jelačić took the oath of office in Vienna and was appointed field marshal lieutenant and military commander in the whole of Croatia, and was ceremonially enthroned on June 5, 1848 in Zagreb. One of his first moves was the confirmation of the abolition of serfdom in Croatia on April 25, 1848.
The year 1848 was a year of great revolutions in Europe. It was the same in the Habsburg Monarchy. Turmoil in Hungary and the desire to separate the Hungarian part of the monarchy from the Austrian one, as well as the clearly expressed hostility towards the Croats, but also other peoples under the crown of St. Stephen leads the Croats to mobilize. On September 11, 52,000 soldiers under the imperial flag, led by Ban Jelačić, crossed the Drava River near Varaždin and invaded Hungary. In Pest on September 28, 1848, there was an open rebellion and revolution against the imperial court and the murder of Count Lamberg, the imperial commissioner and supreme commander of the entire army in Hungary. After this, the Croatian army, on the orders of the Minister of Defense Latour, moved to the northwest in the direction of the Austrian border, where it was to be joined by the imperial troops in the western parts of Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. On October 3, 1848, Emperor Ferdinand V appointed Jelačić as governor and commander-in-chief of all the imperial army in Hungary.
On October 6, 1848, a revolution broke out in Vienna, the goal of which was the creation of a great unified Germany under the influence of the All-German Parliament in Frankfurt, and it was connected with the political activity of the Hungarians in Hungary and initiated at their instigation to separate the imperial troops from Jelačić. On the evening of October 7, 1848, Ban Jelačić received news about the outbreak of the revolution in Vienna and the murder of the Minister of War Latour and the escape of Emperor Ferdinand V. He immediately changed his decision to go to Pest and marched on Vienna, which he besieged with 60,000 men (until October 20, 1848. with imperial troops from Bohemia and other parts of Austria, that number rises to 80,000 people). On October 28, the Hungarians with 33,000 soldiers come to the aid of the revolutionaries in Vienna, but after three days of conflict, they were repulsed. On October 31, the clashes in Vienna end.
On November 2, 1848, Ban Jelačić was given a festive reception in Vienna. On November 10, 1848, Russian Emperor Nicholas I awarded him the Order of St. Andrew and appointed a knight of the Order of St. Vladimir of the first degree, and on November 24, 1848, Emperor Ferdinand V awarded him the Cross of the Order of Leopold, first degree. He also received the Memorial of the Court of Vienna and a commemorative medal in bronze.
Under the command of Prince Windischgraetz, on December 16, 1848, the army was launched in Hungary. The army was divided into three corps, and the first one was commanded by Jelačić, with whom he entered Buda and Pest on January 5, 1849. The new ruler, Emperor and King Francis Joseph I, appointed Jelačić on December 2, 1848, governor of Rijeka with the associated land, and civil and the military governor of Dalmatia, which unites most of the Croatian historical and ethnic areas under the administration of one person, ban Jelačić.
On March 4, 1848, the Viennese court adopted an octroi (imposed) constitution, which was declared the basic state law in Croatia on September 6, 1849. Everything achieved in 1848 was abolished. The freedom of the press was abolished, all political life were banned, the constabulary and the police were organized. Due to the efforts of Ban Jelačić to preserve Croatian autonomy, at the end of 1849, Međimurje joined Croatia, the Croatian language became the official language, and in correspondence with the central authorities, the official language became German. With the octroverted constitution, Emperor Franjo Josip in one way turned his back on Jelačić despite his enormous merit in saving the monarchy.
As a Croatian ban, considering the conditions in which he operated, he did quite a lot. Considering peasant cooperatives to be a great boon to the peasants, he insisted on registering in the land registers the urban land of the cooperatives as joint property, introducing peace courts to resolve disputes between cooperative members, and in 1851 he sent a memorandum to Vienna regarding the division of peasant cooperatives. On December 13, 1851, he issued an invitation for the construction of the Croatian Theatre. The government bought Stanković’s theater at the intersection of Ćirilometodska and Freudenreichova streets with the collected contributions, and the first performance was staged on January 29, 1852, in what is, in the true sense, a national theater in Croatia. Jelačić wholeheartedly supports the publication of school textbooks in the Croatian language and stimulates the work of authors, and when the use of the Croatian tricolor was prohibited by the imperial-royal decree, the use of the red-white flag for the Kingdom of Croatia and the blue-white flag for the Kingdom of Slavonia was permitted. Jelačić strongly opposed it. Through his efforts, on December 11, 1852, the Zagreb Diocese was raised to the rank of archdiocese, and with this act, the Church of the Croats became independent from the Hungarian episcopate. He supported the establishment and association of trade and crafts chambers in the area of northern Croatia, and in 1854 he founded the Croatian-Slavonic Company. He opposed the introduction of the gendarmerie, advocated the construction of roads and railways and the improvement of economic activities.
Josip Jelačić was married to the Austrian Countess Sofija Jelačić Stockau. They met in 1850 and got engaged in April of the same year. Josip married Sofia when she was only 16 years old, on July 22, 1850 in Napjedl. In 1851, he bought the estate Novi dvori in Zaprešić, where he would live for the rest of his life. In 1854, Josip received the title of count, and Sofia was appointed lady-in-waiting to Empress Elizabeth. In the same year, she gave birth to a little girl, Ana, who died of cholera in 1855. Ban Josip Jelačić died in Zagreb, on the night of 19/20. on May 1859 after a long and serious illness, and was buried on May 26, 1859 in the family tomb in Novi Dvori.