Otto von Habsburg

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Otto von Habsburg
Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia
Otto von Habsburg (1998)
Head of House of Habsburg
Tenure 1 April 1922–1 January 2007
(&000000000000008400000084 years, &0000000000000275000000275 days)
Predecessor Charles I of Austria
Successor Karl von Habsburg
Spouse Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen (1951–2010)
Andrea von Habsburg
Monika von Habsburg
Michaela von Habsburg
Gabriela von Habsburg
Walburga von Habsburg
Karl von Habsburg
Georg von Habsburg
Full name
Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius von Habsburg[1]
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Charles I of Austria
Mother Zita of Bourbon-Parma
Born 20 November 1912(1912-11-20)
Reichenau an der Rax, Austria-Hungary
Died 4 July 2011(2011-07-04) (aged 98)
Pöcking, Germany
Burial 16 July 2011 (scheduled)
Imperial Crypt, Pannonhalma Archabbey (heart)
Religion Roman Catholic

Otto von Habsburg[2] (see the infobox for all names) (20 November 1912 – 4 July 2011)[3][4], also known by his royal name as Archduke Otto of Austria, was the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary from 1916 until the dissolution of the empire in 1918, a realm which comprised modern-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. He remained the Crown Prince of Hungary until 1921. He was the head of the House of Habsburg and the Souvereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece between 1922 and 2007,[5] and at the same time, the Habsburg pretender to the former thrones.

The eldest son of Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, and his wife, Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Otto was born as third in line to the thrones, as His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke and Prince Imperial Otto of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia. With his father's ascent to the thrones in 1916, he was himself likely to become the Emperor. As his father never abdicated, Otto was considered by himself, his family and Austro-Hungarian legitimists to be the rightful Emperor-King from 1922.[6] Had the dual monarchy still existed, he could have reigned for 89 years, the longest precisely recorded reign in human history. Had the Holy Roman Empire not been abolished in 1806, he would have been the most likely person to be elected Holy Roman Emperor.[7]

Otto was active on the Austrian and European political stage from the 1930s, both by promoting the cause of Habsburg restoration as well as an early proponent of European integration, being thoroughly disgusted with nationalism, and a fierce opponent of Nazism and communism.[3][8] He continued to enjoy considerable public support in Austria; from 1931 to 1938, 1,603 Austrian municipalities named Otto an honorary citizen. He was Vice President (1957–1973) and President (1973–2004) of the International Paneuropean Union, and served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) 1979–1999. In 1961, Francisco Franco offered him the crown of Spain, but he declined on account of the Habsburg dynasty's long absence from the Spanish throne, and recommended Juan Carlos.[9] As a newly elected Member of the European Parliament in 1979, Otto had an empty chair set up for the countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain in the European Parliament, and took a strong interest in the countries behind the Iron Curtain during his tenure. Otto von Habsburg played a central role in the revolutions of 1989, as a co-initiator of the Pan-European Picnic. Later he would be a strong supporter of the EU membership of central and eastern European countries.[10] Otto has been described as one of the "architects of the European idea and of European integration" together with Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer, and Alcide De Gasperi.[11]

Otto was exiled in 1918 and grew up mostly in Spain. His devout Catholic mother raised him according to the old curriculum of Austria-Hungary, preparing him to become a Catholic monarch. During his life in exile, he lived in Switzerland, Madeira, Spain, BelgiumFrance, the United States, and from 1954 until his death, finally in Bavaria (Germany), in the residence Villa Austria. At the time of his death, he was a citizen of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, having earlier been stateless de jure and de facto and possessed passports of Monaco, the Order of Malta, and Spain.

His funeral is scheduled to take place in Vienna on 16 July 2011; he will be entombed in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna and his heart buried in Pannonhalma Archabbey in Hungary.



Early life

Crown Prince Otto in Budapest in 1916

Otto was born at Villa Wartholz in Reichenau an der Rax, Austria-Hungary. He was baptised Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius on 25 November 1912 at Villa Wartholz by the Prince-Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz Xaver Nagl. His godfather was the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (represented by Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria); his godmother was his grandmother Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal.[12]

In November 1916, Otto became Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary and Bohemia when his father, Archduke Charles, ascended to the throne. However, in 1918, at the end of the First World War, the monarchies were abolished, the Republics of Austria and Hungary founded instead, and the family was forced into exile. Hungary did become a kingdom again, but Charles was never to reascend the throne. Instead, Miklós Horthy ruled as regent until 1944, in a kingdom without a king.

He spoke German, Hungarian, Croatian, English, Spanish, French and Latin fluently. In later life, he would write books in German, Hungarian, French and Spanish.[13] His mother made him learn many languages because she believed he one day might rule over many lands.[14]

Years in exile

Otto's family spent the subsequent years in Switzerland, and on the Portuguese island of Madeira, where Charles died prematurely in 1922, leaving the 9-year-old Otto pretender to the throne. On his father's deathbed, his mother, then-Empress Dowager Zita, told the 9-year old, "your father is now sleeping the eternal sleep—you are now Emperor and King".[15] The family eventually relocated to the Basque town of Lekeitio, where 40 Spanish grandees bought them a villa. Meanwhile, the Austrian parliament had officially expelled the Habsburg dynasty and confiscated all the official property (Habsburg Law of 3 April 1919).

Otto von Habsburg (left) and Count von Degenfeld in 1933.

In 1935, he graduated with a PhD degree in Political and Social Sciences from the University of Louvain in Belgium.[16] From his father's death throughout the remainder of his time in exile, Otto considered himself the rightful emperor of Austria and stated this on many occasions. In 1937 he wrote,[17]

“I know very well that the overwhelming majority of the Austrian population would like me to assume the heritage of the peace emperor, my beloved father, rather earlier than later. (...) The [Austrian] people have never cast a vote in favor of the republic. They have remained silent as long as they were exhausted from the long fight, and taken by surprise by the audacity of the revolutionaries of 1918 and 1919. They shook off their resignation when they realized that the revolution had raped their right to life and freedom. (...) Such trust places a heavy burden on me. I accept it readily. God willing, the hour of reunion between the Duke and the people will arrive soon.”

World War II

Otto strongly opposed the Anschluss of Austria to Nazi Germany. In 1938 he requested Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg to resist the Nazis and supported an international intervention,[8] and offered to return from exile to take over the reins of government in order to repel Hitler.[18] According to Gerald Warner, "Austrian Jews were among the strongest supporters of a Habsburg restoration, since they believed the dynasty would give the nation sufficient resolve to stand up to the Third Reich".[19]

Following the German annexation of Austria, Otto was sentenced to death by the Nazis.[1] As ordered by Adolf Hitler, his personal property and that of the House of Habsburg were confiscated and not given back after the war.[20][21] The leaders of the Austrian legitimist movement, i.e. supporters of Otto, were arrested by the Nazis and largely executed.[20] Between 1938 and 1942, around 4,000–4,500 Austrian monarchists were arrested and around 1,000 murdered by the Nazis.[20] Otto's cousins Max, Duke of Hohenberg, and Prince Ernst of Hohenberg were arrested in Vienna by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau concentration camp where they remained throughout the Nazi rule. Otto was involved in helping around 15,000 Austrians,[22] including thousands of Austrian Jews, flee the country at the beginning of the Second World War.[16]

Rudolf Hess ordered that Otto was to be executed immediately if caught.[20] After the German invasion of France the family left the French capital and fled to Portugal with a visa issued by Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux. For his own safety, he left the European continent and lived from 1940 to 1944 in Washington, D.C. In his war-time exile in the United States, he worked to stop or limit the bombing campaign against Austria.[22] In the United States, he initiated the Austrian Day and was able to get Austria included in a postage stamp series on "Occupied Nations". He obtained the support of Winston Churchill for a conservative "Danube Federation", in effect a restoration of Austria-Hungary, but Stalin put an end to these plans.[18] He lobbied for the recognition of an Austrian government-in-exile, for the rights of the German-speaking population of South Tyrol, against the deportation of the German-speaking inhabitants of Bohemia and eastern Europe, and against letting Stalin rule Eastern Europe.[23]

In 1941, Adolf Hitler personally revoked the citizenship of Otto, his mother, and his siblings, and the imperial-royal family found themselves stateless.[24]

After World War II

At the end of the war, Otto returned to Europe and lived for some years in France and Spain.

In 1949, he ennobled several people, granting them Austrian noble titles, although not recognized by the Austrian republic. As he did not possess a passport and was effectively stateless, he was given a passport of the Principality of Monaco, thanks to the intervention of Charles de Gaulle in 1946. As a Knight of Malta, the Order also issued him a passport. Later, he was given a Spanish diplomatic passport, which he used for travels.

Only in 1965, Otto was recognized as an Austrian citizen by the Lower Austrian state government—and Adolf Hitler's revocation of his citizenship was finally revoked. Otto was given an Austrian passport that was "valid in all countries except Austria".[20]

On multiple occasions, and as late as the 1960s, the Austrian police would be looking for Otto, suspecting that the "enemy of the republic" had entered the country.

Political career

Otto von Habsburg giving a speech

In a declaration dated 31 May 1961, Otto renounced all claims to the Austrian throne and proclaimed himself "a loyal citizen of the republic", a move that he made only after much hesitation and certainly "for purely practical reasons".[25] In a 2007 interview on the occasion of his approaching 95th birthday, Otto stated:

"This was such an infamy, I'd rather never have signed it. They demanded that I abstain from politics. I would not have dreamed of complying. Once you have tasted the opium of politics, you never get rid of it."[26]

The Habsburg Law of 1918 stated that Charles' descendants could only return to Austria if they renounced their royal claims and accepted the status of private citizens. The Austrian administrative court found on 24 May 1963 that Otto's statement was sufficient to meet this requirement. However, several elements in the country, particularly the Socialists, were ill-disposed to welcoming back the heir of the deposed dynasty. This touched off political infighting and civil unrest that almost precipitated a crisis of state, and later became known as the "Habsburg Crisis." It was only on 1 June 1966—after the People's Party won an outright majority in the national election—that Otto was issued an Austrian passport, and was finally able to visit his home country again on 31 October 1966 for the first time in 48 years.[27]

An early advocate of a unified Europe, Otto was president of the International Paneuropean Union from 1973 to 2004.[28] He served from 1979 till 1999 as a Member of the European Parliament for the conservative Bavarian CSU party, becoming the senior member of the supranational body. He was also a member of the Mont Pelerin Society.[29] He was a major supporter of the expansion of the European Union from the beginning and especially of the acceptance of Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia. During his time in parliament, he was involved in a fracas initiated by fellow MEP Ian Paisley.[30] Pope John Paul II had given a speech to the European Parliament in 1988, and Protestant Paisley shouted at the Pope, "I denounce you as the Antichrist!", holding a poster reading "Pope John Paul II Antichrist". Otto snatched Paisley’s banner and, along with other MEPs, helped eject Paisley from the chamber.[31][32]

Otto was one of the men instrumental in organising the so called Pan-European Picnic, at the Hungary-Austria border on 19 August 1989.[3] This event is considered a milestone in the collapse of communist dictatorships in Europe.[33]

He was reportedly a patron of the Three Faiths Forum, a group which aims to encourage friendship, goodwill and understanding amongst people of the three monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.[citation needed]

Otto with Helmut Kohl

In December 2006, he observed that, "The catastrophe of 11 September 2001 struck the United States more profoundly than any of us, whence a certain mutual incomprehension. Until then, the United States felt itself secure, persuaded of its power to bombard any enemy, without anyone being able to strike back. That sentiment vanished in an instant... Americans understand 'viscerally' for the first time the risks they face."[34]

On 5 July 2007, Otto von Habsburg received the Freedom of the City of London from the hands of Sir Gavyn Arthur, a former Lord Mayor of London.[35]

Otto was known as a supporter of the rights of refugees and displaced people in Europe, notably of the ethnic Germans displaced from Bohemia where he was once the Crown Prince.[36] He was a jury member of the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award.[37]

Otto also held Francisco Franco in a high regard and praised him for helping refugees, stating that he was "a dictator of the south American type ... not totalitarian like Hitler or Stalin".[9]

In 2002, Otto was named the first ever honorary member of the European People's Party group.[38]


Procession in Pöcking, with Otto's coffin draped with the Habsburg flag

After the death of his wife, Regina in 2010, Otto stopped appearing in public. He died at the age of 98 on Monday, 4 July 2011, at his home in Pöcking, Germany. His spokeswoman reported that he died "peacefully and without pain in his sleep". He was survived by his younger brother, Felix, as well as 7 children, 22 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.[3][6]

On 5 July, his body was laid in repose in the Church of St. Ulrich near his home in Pöcking, Bavaria, and a massive 13-day period of mourning started in several countries formerly part of Austria-Hungary.[39] Otto's coffin has been draped with the Habsburg flag decorated with the imperial–royal coats of arms of Austria and Hungary in addition to the Habsburg family coat of arms.

In line with the Habsburg family tradition, Otto von Habsburg is scheduled to be buried in the family's crypt in Vienna, while his heart will be buried in a monastery in Pannonhalma, Hungary.[6]


4-year old Crown Prince Otto of Hungary in Budapest in 1916, attending his parents' coronation as King and Queen of Hungary, painted by Gyula Éder.

He was married to Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen from 1951 until her death in 2010. They had seven children, 23 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren (as of 2011):

Otto lived in retirement at the Villa Austria in Pöcking bei Starnberg, Starnberg, near the lake Starnberger See, Upper Bavaria, Bavaria, Germany.

Titles and styles

Titles of pretence from 1 April 1922

Official in Austria

Official in Germany


Honours and awards

Habsburg/Austrian orders

Other dynastic orders

Governmental orders and awards

Non-governmental clerical orders

Academic awards


  1. ^ a b Dan van der Vat. "Otto von Habsburg obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  2. ^ Otto was born as His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke and Prince Imperial Otto of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, and became the Crown Prince of these countries in 1916. After 1918, he used, interchangeably, the names Otto of Austria and Otto of Habsburg (Otto von Habsburg in German). He would also use the full styles and titles of the Austrian-Hungarian Emperor-King after 1922. By courtesy, he would also be referred to by European courts by his former style and title, i.e. as His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Otto of Austria. In the Austrian republic, the authorities referred to him, from 1919, as Otto Habsburg-Lothringen, a name he never used himself. However, Otto did not live in Austria after 1918 and his citizenship there was revoked by Adolf Hitler in 1941, making him stateless. His Austrian citizenship was only restored in 1965. Otto since became a citizen of or was issued passports of multiple other countries, where his official name was Otto von Habsburg. As a Member of the European Parliament for Germany, his official name in the European Union was Otto von Habsburg. On his website, he used the style and name His Imperial and Royal Highness Dr. Otto von Habsburg.
  3. ^ a b c d Nicholas Kulish (4 July 2011). "Otto von Hapsburg, a Would-Be Monarch, Dies at 98". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ "Habsburg: Last heir to Austro-Hungarian empire dies". BBC News. 4 July 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  5. ^ "Die vielen Pflichten des Adels" (in German). Wiener Zeitung. 5 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-11. 
  6. ^ a b c "Death of former 'kaiser in exile' and last heir to Austro-Hungarian throne". The Irish Times. 4 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  7. ^ Lipsky, Seth. "Lunch With the Holy Roman Emperor". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-07-09. 
  8. ^ a b Kaiser-Sohn Otto von Habsburg gestorben Deutsche Welle, 04 July 2011 (German)
  9. ^ a b "Otto von Habsburg who saw end of empire dead at 98". Forbes. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Budapest Times - Hungary‘s leading English Language source for daily news". 2007-11-26. Retrieved 2011-07-09. 
  11. ^ "Trauer um Otto von Habsburg". Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  12. ^ Wiener Zeitung, 26 November 1912.
  13. ^ "Otto von Habsburg, heir to Austria's last emperor, dies at 98". The Local. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  14. ^ Monday, 11 March 1940 (1940-03-11). "Habsburg Empire: Clown Prince". TIME.,9171,789670,00.html. Retrieved 2011-07-05. 
  15. ^ "Habsburgs Erbe zerfiel und erlebte dennoch eine Renaissance". 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  16. ^ a b "Otto Hapsburg, eldest son of Austria's last emperor, dies at 98". Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  17. ^ Gedächtnisjahrbuch 1937, 9. Jg.: Dem Andenken an Karls von Österreich Kaiser und König. Arbeitsgemeinschaft österreichischer Vereine – Wien, W. Hamburger 1937)
  18. ^ a b "Archduke Otto von Habsburg". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  19. ^ Warner, Gerald (2008-11-20). "Otto von Habsburg's 96th birthday telescopes European history". Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  20. ^ a b c d e Oliver Meidl: Monarch. Ein Leben für Europa – Republikanische Würdigung in Schwarz-Gelb.[Full citation needed]
  21. ^ Zoch, Irene (2004-02-22). "Habsburgs demand return of estates seized by Nazis in 1938". Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  22. ^ a b "Otto von Habsburg, oldest son of Austria-Hungary's last emperor, dies at age 98". Newser. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  23. ^ "Sie nannten ihn 'Otto von Europa'".;art456,125800. Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  24. ^ Stephan Baier, Eva Demmerle: Otto von Habsburg. Die Biografie. Amalthea, Wien 2002, ISBN 3-85002-486-5, p. 122.
  25. ^ Brook-Shepherd, pg. 181
  26. ^ Die Presse, Unabhängige Tageszeitung für Österreich. 10–11 November 2007. pg. 3 (German online version dated 9 November 2007: [1]. WebCite archive
  27. ^ "PK-Nr. 743/2006". Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  28. ^ Thomas Wilhelm Schwarzer. "Erzherzog Dr. Otto von Habsburg". Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  29. ^ Peterson, David (1999). Revoking the moral order: the ideology of positivism and the Vienna circle. Lexington Books. p. 122. 
  30. ^ "Death of former 'kaiser in exile' and last heir to Austro-Hungarian throne", Irish Times, 5 July 2011
  31. ^ "HEADLINERS; Papal Audience". New York Times. 16 October 1988. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  32. ^ David W. Cloud, "Dr. Ian Paisley's Stand for the Old Bible", Free Press, 11 June 2011, with excerpts from excFor Love of the Bible: The Battle for the King James Bible and the Received Text from 1800 to Present, by David W. Cloud, 1995, published by Way of Life Literature
  33. ^ Barta, Györgyi (2005). Hunagrian spaces and places:patterns of transition. Hungarian Academy of Sciences. p. 2. ISBN 963-9052-46-9. 
  34. ^ Lalanne, Dorothée (6 December 2006). "Otto de Habsbourg: Européen Avant Tout". Point de Vue (3046): page 46. 
  35. ^ "Last Crown Prince of Austria receives the Freedom of the City of London". 11 July 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  36. ^ "Zemřel syn posledního rakouského císaře Otto von Habsburg - České". 2011-07-04. Retrieved 2011-07-09. 
  37. ^ "Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen". Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  38. ^ "Otto von Habsburg – first honorary member of the EPP-ED Group". Retrieved 2011-07-08. 
  39. ^ "Thirteen days of commemoration for Otto von Habsburg begins". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  40. ^ Francois R. Velde. "Royal Styles". Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  41. ^ "Décès d'Otto de Habsbourg" (in French). Retrieved 2011-07-07. 
  42. ^ "Otto Habsbourg s'est éteint à 98 ans" (in French). France 3. Retrieved 2011-07-07. 


External links

Otto von Habsburg
Born: 20 November 1912 Died: 4 July 2011
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Emperor Charles I
Emperor of Austria
1 April 1922 – 31 May 1961
Reason for succession failure:
Austro-Hungarian Empire abolished in 1918
Succeeded by
Karl von Habsburg
King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia
1 April 1922 – 4 July 2011
Reason for succession failure:
Austro-Hungarian Empire abolished in 1918, the Habsburgs deposed in Hungary in 1921
Austro-Hungarian royalty
Preceded by
Emperor Charles I
Heir to the Austrian throne
21 November 1916 – 12 November 1918
Monarchy abolished
Preceded by
King Charles IV
Heir to the Hungarian throne
21 November 1916–1921
The Habsburgs deposed
Loss of title
Heir to the Austrian throne
12 November 1918 – 1 April 1922
Succeeded by
Loss of title
Heir to the Hungarian throne
1921 – 1 April 1922
Succeeded by

Personal tools