Posted on 04-07-2011
Filed Under (History) by Rashtrakut

Otto von Habsburg the last heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne has died at the age of 98.  The son of the unfortunate Karl I (Karoly IV in Hungary), Otto became crown prince in 1916 when his father became the last Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, King of Croatia and King of Galicia and Lodomeria after the long 68 year (tragedy and clamity riven) reign of Franz Josef I came to a close (video of the funeral with a young Otto in the procession below).

 

Otto with Kaiser Franz Josef

Franz Josef witnessed the loss of his dynastic holdings in Italy during Italian unification and the loss of Austrian paramountcy in Germany to Prussia.  His private life was even more calamitous.His brother Maximilian chasing the ephemeral Mexican imperial crown was executed in 1867, his only son Rudolph committed suicide in a bizarre murder-suicide pact in 1889, his beautiful temperamental and estranged wife Elizabeth was assassinated in 1898 by an Italian anarchist who just “wanted to kill a royal” and in 1914 his nephew and heir Franz Ferdinand was assassinated ushering in the First World War.

 

King Charles IV of Hungary, with Zita and Crown Prince Otto. Coronation portrait Budapest, 1916

Emperor Karl was ill-equipped to sustain the creaky Hapsburg state which splintered in 1918.  Failing in two attempts to return to the Hungarian throne, Karl died in exile on the island of Madiera in 1922 leaving the 9 year old Otto at the head of his family.  Prohibited from returning to his native Austria, the young Otto still played a role in the interwar years.  Unlike most of the similarly dispossessed German princelings (Bavaria being an exception), Otto was always an opponent of his fellow Austrian Hitler (the Nazi plan for the invasion of Austria was code named “Otto”).  World War II forced the large Habsburg clan into even remoter exile to avoid closer acquaintance with Gestapo prisons.

It is somewhat fitting that the man once the heir to a creaky pan-European dynastic edifice would morph into a European statesman, serving in the European parliament and working to bring former eastern-bloc countries into the European union.  It is also a reminder how different the political map of Europe looked a century ago.  In 1914 France, Switzerland and Portugal (since 1910) were the only Republics in Europe.  The monarchies of Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey collapsed in World War I.  The monarchies of Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania, Romania & Bulgaria (the last monarchs of the last two are still alive and Symeon II of Bulgaria managed to get elected prime minister a few years ago) were swept away in World War II.  After spending large portions of the previous decades on “vacation” the King of the Hellenes was packed off to his London exile in the 1970s.  Spain is the only oddity to have actually restored its monarchy in the post world-war period.

Royalty survives only on the fringes – Scandinavia, the UK, Spain and the Low Countries – and in memory through the hordes of tourists who flock to Versailles, Neuschwanstein and the Hofburg each year.  So here is a nod to the heir of a bygone Europe who spent his life helping create the new Europe and boldly opposed the Nazis and the Communists.

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Posted on 04-07-2011
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

In honor of Alaska’s half term quitter enjoy the video below:

 

 

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