Monday, July 4, 2011

Archduke Otto von Habsburg (1912-2011)

The phrase "end of an era" is used so often that it can become virtually meaningless, but sometimes it truly does apply. That is certainly the case with the death this morning in Germany of HI&RH Crown Prince Otto of Austria-Hungary, otherwise known as Dr Otto (von) Habsburg, at 98. Consider: when Archduke Otto was born on November 20, 1912 (about a year and a half before the assassination of his great-uncle in Sarajevo that would precipitate the war that would destroy his family's empire), he was third in line (after his great-uncle and his father) to the throne of the second-largest country in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, on which his venerable great-great-uncle Emperor Franz Joseph (1830-1916) still sat. All of the Eastern Hemisphere except for France and its colonies, Switzerland, Portugal, and China (the last two nations' monarchies having fallen only recently) was still ruled by monarchies. Otto was one of the last, and certainly the most prominent, surviving members of European royalty born before World War I (of living royalty only the relatively obscure Infanta Maria Adelaide of Portugal, 99, is older), and the senior head of any European royal family. His titular reign (from the death of his father Bl Emperor Karl on April 1, 1922) lasted for more than 89 years, which would have made him by far the longest-reigning sovereign in European history, substantially surpassing the 72-year reign of France's Louis XIV.

Archduke Otto, who agreed to accept the Austrian Republic in 1961 and subsequently represented republican Bavaria in the European Parliament, ironically was perhaps not as fervent a monarchist as his more enthusiastic loyal supporters, though his article Monarchy or Republic and this interview are always worth re-reading. However his political career can be seen as an attempt to preserve for the great Habsburg dynasty a role in European affairs when the world had denied it its traditional royal one. A respected figure in European politics and the only Member of the European Parliament to speak all its languages, he would have made a splendid Emperor. As long as Archduke Otto lived, into the 21st century, the remarkable theoretical possibility remained (however remote) that the Habsburg monarchy could be restored without skipping a single generation. Now this last remaining link to the Old Order is gone. While I am sorry that the de jure Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary has died, I am even sorrier that the idiotic modern world never accorded him the rank to which he was entitled. Recquiescat in Pace, Your Imperial & Apostolic Majesty.


Tancred said...

How sad that things and men do pass away, how much sadder when they've reminded us of our better selves while they were alive.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post---thank you.