Archduke Otto von Habsburg

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Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the Death of Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on this day in 2011! The eldest son and Emperor Charles I of Austria and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Archduke Otto was born in 1912 as the third-in-line to the Austro-Hungarian Throne, and became the heir in 1916, after the death of Emperor Franz Joseph during the First World War. At the end of the War, the Emperor was forced to abdicate and the family went into exile in Switzerland, eventually going to Madeira, after two failed attempts to regain the Hungarian Throne, where the Emperor died in 1922, and Archduke Otto became the Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine and Sovereign of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Raised by Empress Zita to be a catholic sovereign, he was politically active in the 1930s, promoting the cause of Habsburg restoration and as an early proponent of European integration and a fierce opponent of Nazism and communism. After the 1938 Anschluss, Archduke Otto was sentenced to death by the Nazis and fled Europe to the United States, being hailed as one of the leaders of the Austrian Resistance for his work to liberate the Austrians. Returning to Europe after the war, he lived in France and Spain, getting a passport form the Principality of Monaco, as well as a diplomatic passport of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and a Spanish diplomatic passport. In 1951, he married Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen. The couple had seven children, including Archduke Karl von Habsburg, and resided at the Villa Austria in Pöcking, Germany as they were prohibited from entering Austria until 1966, when he renounced all royal claims and accepted the status of a private citizen. Archduke Otto had a prominent political career in the European Parliament. As the Vice President and later President of the International Paneuropean Union, and a Member of the European Parliament for the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, Archduke Otto took a strong interest in the countries behind the Iron Curtain and played a notable role in the revolutions of 1989, as a co-initiator of the Pan-European Picnic, later supporting the EU membership of central and eastern European countries. One of the “architects of the European idea and of European integration”, he was a noted intellectual, and published several books on historical and political affairs, becoming a respected public figure. Archduke Otto resigned as Sovereign of the Golden Fleece in 2000 and as head of the Imperial House in 2007. Archduke Otto passed away in 2011, at the age of 98, and his funeral at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna brought together many prominent figures.

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