07 July 2011

Archduke Otto von Hapsburg: Requiescat in Pace


That is father Karl, left and mother Zita, right and the Crown Prince Otto between them
 at about 4 years of age in 1916

"This week marked the passing of Archduke Otto von Hapsburg, the eldest son of Blessed Karl of Austria—he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2004,—head of the House of Hapsburg and last crowned prince of the venerable Hapsburg family. He passed away in his sleep on July 4th at the age of 98."—from Unam Sanctam Catholicam July 6, 2011

I read most of the Wikipedia entry on the Archduke (1912-2011), see recent photo to the left, as well as his father Charles I (or Karl) of Austria (1887-1922)—see the photo below right. I love these old photos in Wikipedia.

The only biography in English that I saw at Amazon.com was Gordon Brook-Shepherd's Uncrowned Emperor—the Life and Times of Otto von Hapsburg which was published posthumously in 2003 and apparently not very academic according to some reviewers.

I knew a little about the Hapsburgs in various parts of Europe because I suffered through a survey course in medieval and modern European history while in pre-medical studies, but that name and my interest both petered out about WWI. In any event, though his father Karl had the misfortune of dying young and not really debilitated from "the friend of the aged," according to Sir William Osler, the Archduke lived long enough to just die in his sleep with little or no fuss.

I must confess that I didn't really keep up with the doings of the Hapsburgs in the 19th century, and even less in the 20th century, so I was pleasantly surprised to read that Otto von Hapsburg, though unseated from his throne at an early age, did in fact have a long public life: in addition to seeking to be re-installed to his seat in Austria because he thought it would be good for the people of his former realms, he also was a leader throughout much of the latter part of the 20th century of the struggle for some form of unity in Europe from a conservative Roman Catholic point of view. Perhaps not surprisingly he was also an opponent of both Communism and Nazism, those fraternal political twins of the Left in Europe. We all know about the Romanovs' ghastly and untimely end in 1918. It was good to hear that not all the royal heads of Europe were put down that way. He seems to me to have been a man both ahead of his time and behind the times. Sic transit gloria. History doesn't repeat itself but it does sometime rhyme.

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