Archduke Otto at 100

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Previously by Jrn K. Baltzersen: The Last Knight of the Habsburg Empire

It is a wonderful November Wednesday. The 64th year of the reign of the Emperor Franz Joseph is coming to an end. Most people can remember no other reign. The old Emperor has outlived many heirs, and he is soon to outlive his erstwhile Finance Minister Eugen Böhm Ritter von Bawerk, a pioneer of the Austrian School of Economics, who was born in his reign. On this November day, or rather night, a boy is born early in the morning to Archduke Charles and Archduchess Zita in Villa Wartholz in Reichenau in Lower Austria; a new heir is born. He is a strong boy. He is to go on to live about 19 months short of a century. His name is to be Archduke Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius.

About a year and a half passes, and we arrive at June 28, 1914. The immediate heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is on an official visit to Sarajevo with his consort, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. And that visit ends at the hands of Gavrilo Princip. The long, golden, relatively peaceful period of Western civilization comes to a horrific halt through a tense July and outbreak of a full European war by the early days of August.

The old Emperor lives for two more years and some months. The Archduke Otto celebrates his fourth birthday. The next morning the old Emperor passes. Archduke Charles ascends the throne as Emperor-King of Austria-Hungary, and Archduke Otto becomes Crown Prince. High on the agenda of the new, young Emperor is to end the war, but other actors have other plans.

Crown Prince Otto is at the center stage of the funeral of Emperor Franz Joseph, walking just behind the sarcophagus with his father and mother; the Emperor and Empress. The Archduke retains the memory of this event well into old age but even more so with the coronation in Budapest just over a month later.

The first of the old Empires to fall is Russia — with a provisional government being set up. Time is not wasted on the banks of the Potomac, and the federal government of those United States goes from an dishonest faux neutrality to formal involvement in the war and a declaration of war. The war is officially turned into an ideological war to “make the world safe for democracy,” with Woodrow Wilson with his alter ego, Colonel House, at the helm. The political leaders in the French revolutionary republic and the British Empire are not innocent in this ideological quest either. The war is likely prolonged by American entry — in addition to giving horror at home.

The war comes to a ceasefire on November 11, 1918. The Archduke Otto is just a few days short of six years old. The Austro-Hungarian Imperial-Royal Family is forced into internal exile at Eckartsau. A few months pass, and the family is expelled from the homeland. A couple of restoration attempts in Hungary take place, whereafter the family is sent to exile on the Portuguese island of Madeira. The Emperor Charles falls seriously sick and demises on April 1, 1922 at the age of only 34. Archduke Otto is addressed as His Majesty only nine years old.

The demise on April 1 would be a joke if it were not so serious. The Emperor’s passing is the last casuality thus far in the interventionist quest to “make the world safe for democracy.” More is yet to come, not least in World War II but also in later wars. George D. Herron tells us that noone has ever ruled someone for his own good. Yet, this new dawning age of democratic absolutism in the ashes of the Great War and the mist of Madeira is to give us more rule over others than what has been seen before.

When the Archduke Otto later in life is asked about the harsh treatment given by the British, the Archduke recalls his fond memories of Lt.-Col. Strutt.

The Archduke Otto embarks upon a long life as head of the House of Habsburg. He writes around 30 books. He envisions a monarchy with a judge-like role. He states that it was the Enlightenment with its concept of man’s law void of any higher power that opened the gates for tyranny by both individual men and the masses. The French Revolution is just a follow-up of this, says the Archduke.

Otto von Habsburg joins the Mont Pelerin Society. He becomes friends with Ludwig von Mises and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn. Ludwig von Mises advises him on a Habsburg restoration.

In 1961 the Archduke signs a renunciation of his claim to the throne of Austria, an action done under pressure, and he later states that he was not happy about it.

He serves as a Member of the European Parliament for twenty years, beginning at an age when most people retire. He once gives a speech before the European Parliament in fluent Latin, being fluent in many more.

He becomes the first Schlarbaum Laureate in 1999 and he speaks at the Mises Institute about his friend Ludwig von Mises.

Many of those who would have liked to see the late Archduke on the throne have expressed disappointment with his involvement in European politics, embracing of the European Union, and lack of enthusiasm and priority for a restoration. One should remember that one of the main reasons for monarchy is the lack of power seekers. Archduke Otto saw his life mission to serve the interests of the Central European peoples, not to reestablish an institution as a goal in itself. When he could not fight on horseback, he jumped down and continued on foot.

Reportedly, the Archduke once said he preferred not to be monarch, as he was “too much of a political animal.” Indeed, arguably, it would have been a waste for the Archduke Otto to be one of those rubber-stamping marionettes or showcase dolls that unfortunately most European monarchs of nowadays are known as — although it must be added that the monarchies of today often are not as completely emasculated as they seem. One could argue that the Habsburg monarchy is better a memory than surviving as an emasculated modern monarchy, though the price for that has been extremely high — and probably not worth paying.

We honor the man who should have been Emperor and King of Austria-Hungary.

Dr. Otto von Habsburg outlived a lot of his enemies, in itself a victory. But it was not only enemies he outlived. When his friend Gordon Brook-Shepherd embarked on a biography project, it was uttered that it had to be done before it was too late. It was probably not anticipated that it would be the biographer that would pass on first.

When Archduchess Regina and Archduke Otto celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, it was said that this might be the last chance for a major milestone celebration. Little did anyone know that it would be the consort, twelve years a junior of the Archduke, who would not live to see the day that would have been the diamond anniversary.

Celebrations were held for the Archduke Otto in the Imperial Palace in Vienna, Hofburg, at both his 90th and 95th birthdays. Perhaps the interregnal government figured he no longer as an old man posed a threat?

In an interview done with one of Archduke Otto’s daughters in connection with the 95th birthday, she was asked if he could live to a hundred. She answered, without any noticable doubt, yes. Having attended a talk in Sweden with the Archduke just over a year before that, I could believe it. During the entire event, the Archduke was the only one never to sit. He stood through his own talk of roughly an hour, and when remaining for a while after the talk, he never sat down. Had it not been for the passing of his supporting consort, the Archduchess Regina, after which he withdrew from public life, he might also have lived to this day. He did, however, outlive every single known combat veteran of the war that destroyed the order to which he was an heir.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to meet him and talk with him are lucky to have done so, although some of us also would have liked to have much more time with him.

In the year following the demise of his wife and the summer following what would have been his diamond wedding anniversary, he comes to share the fate of Thomas Jefferson, to pass away on the Fourth of July.

Many church services are held for the late Archduke, some of them in the republic that gave him shelter during World War II. He is brought from Munich to Vienna, where he first lies — together with Archduchess Regina — in state in the Capuchin Church. Long lines of people form to pay respects.

July 16, 2011 is a wonderful day in Vienna. The city has what till this day is called Kaiserwetter — Imperial weather. The city is restored to its former Imperial glory. Only a few details reveal that it is not a state funeral; a man they call President is in attendance, an almost childish avoidance of the word von, the reservations made before singing the Imperial Hymn, and a few other elements. At large, it is an Imperial funeral. The Archduke was denied status as Emperor in life but brought to his grave as an Emperor, even with Kaiserwetter.

According to Habsburg tradition, the heart is often burried separately. Archduke Otto’s heart is brought to Hungary, the kingdom that never expelled him like Austria did.

His only surviving sibling, Archduke Felix, does not have health to come to the funeral. His demise comes two months and two days after that of Archduke Otto. Archduke Felix did not go as far as Archduke Otto as to renunciation and allegiance to the interregnal government. With the demise of Archduke Felix, the last surviving issue of Blessed Charles and Zita passes.

Later that same September, with the main earthly remains of its first Schlarbaum Laureate in the Capuchin Crypt, just blocks away, the Mises Institute holds its Supporters Summit in the architectural magnificent building of the Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Many talks are given. Mr. Jeffrey Tucker gives a magnificent speech, drawing parallels with the long, generation-spanning project, full of setbacks, of building St. Stephen’s Cathedral, one of the major landmarks of Western Civilization, with the fight for liberty.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, where the main funeral service for Archduke Otto was held, and from where, together with the crowd in St. Stephen’s Square, the Imperial Anthem was sung, so much represents high time preference, contrasted with the tendency of our time to consider ten years extremely long term and a lack of ability or will to see beyond one’s own generation.

No bygone age can be restored. But concepts abandoned can indeed be restored to usage. Let us hope that more long-term thinking is brought back, together with real constraints on the reach and stretch of government power. Let us hope that one day, when democratic absolutism, with its omnipotent government, is defeated, that Habsburg rule can be restored.

We pay tribute to His late Imperial and Royal Highness the Archduke Otto and his long life on this his centennial.

Requiescat in pace!

Black and white photos are courtesy of ottovonhabsburg.org. Tomb photo is courtesy of Susan Flantzer.

Jørn K. Baltzersen [send him mail] writes from Oslo, the capital of the Oil Kingdom of Norway. You are cordially invited to his blog Wilson Revolution Unplugged and his writer’s profile at The Spoof. He is an associate editor of Farmann.

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