World War I brought about the end of Habsburg rule over Austria and Hungary, but it did not end the line of succession. Today is the 98th birthday of Prince Otto von Habsburg, the eldest son of Karl I (Charles in English), the last Emperor of Austria. How Otto’s father came to be the emperor is a story in and of itself. The 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, widely believed to be the event that set World War I off, also made Karl the next heir to the thrones of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This included present day Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia and parts of Poland, Romania, Italy, the Ukraine, Moldova and Yugoslavia. Upon the death of his grand-uncle, Franz Joseph II, Karl became Emperor and his wife, Zita of Bourbon-Parma became Empress.
See a picture of little Otto at the coronation.
Because of World War I, Emperor Karl I only occupied the throne for 2 years after which he was forced to sign papers ending his rule and was exiled to the Portuguese isle of Madeira with his family. Karl was a devout Roman Catholic who is on the road to sainthood. He was much revered for peacemaking efforts both during and after the war. Pope John Paul II beatified Karl on October 3, 2004 and he is now known as Blessed Karl. Two miracle healings have been attributed to Blessed Karl, including a bedridden nun in Brazil who suffered from debilitating varicose veins. After praying for Karl’s beatification, she was inexplicably cured and was able to get out of bed. In 2006, an investigation began into a second miracle alleging the cure of a Florida woman from breast cancer through intercessory prayer to Blessed Karl. It ended 16 months later in 2008 with the formal recognition of the miracle by the Vatican.
See a youtube about Karl I’s journey toward sainthood.
Karl and Zita had 8 children. Otto, born on November 20, 1912, was the oldest. If not for the war and the exile to Madeira, Emperor Karl may have had a much longer rule. On Madeira, he came down with pneumonia after catching a cold and died in 1922. Nine year old Otto was then considered by loyal royalists (and by himself), the rightful Emperor. He was never to set foot on Austrian soil until, in May of 1961, he signed a declaration renouncing all claims to the Austrian throne and proclaiming himself “a loyal citizen of the republic.” Still it would be 5 more years before Otto was issued an Austrian passport, and permitted to enter his home country again on October 31, 1966. Of the declaration, Otto said in a 2007 interview: “This was such an infamy, I’d rather never have signed it. …” Otto von Habsburg was the head of the House of Habsburg until 2007, a crown prince without a title in the country he was born in. The governments of Austria and Hungary do not recognize noble, royal and imperial titles, which have long been declared illegal. Otto relinquished his status as head of the Habsburgs in January 2007, and that status devolved on his oldest son, Karl von Habsburg.
Otto’s siblings were:
• Archduchess Adelheid (1/3/1917-10/3/1971), who never married;
• Robert, Archduke of Austria-Este, Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia (2/8/1915-2/7/1996). He married Princess Margherita of Savoy-Aosta and had 5 children;
• Archduke Felix (5/31/1916) who married Duchess Anna-Eugénie of Arenberg and has 7 children;
• Archduke Karl Ludwig (3/10/1918-12/11/2007), who married Princess Yolande of Ligne and had 4 children;
• Archduke Rudolf (9/5/1919-5/15/2010) was first married to Countess Xenia Czernichev-Besobrasov, with whom he had 4 children. She died in 1968 in an automobile accident. In 1971, Rudolf married Princess Anna Gabriele of Wrede. They had one child;
• Archduchess Charlotte (3/1/1921-7/23/1989) was a welfare worker in Harlem using the name Charlotte de Bar for a few years before marrying George, Duke of Mecklenburg and becoming the Duchess of Mecklenburg. They had no children; and
• Archduchess Elisabeth (5/31/1922 – 1/6/1993) was the youngest child of Karl I and Zita, born in the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid 2 months after her father died . King Alfonso XIII of Spain invited Zita to live in Spain after Karl’s death. Elisabeth married Prince Heinrich of Liechtenstein in 1949, whereupon her title became Princess Heinrich. They had 5 children.
Sources: Embedded and Wikipedia