by Susan Flantzer
The Habsburgs had been elected Holy Roman Emperors since 1438, with the exception of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII, who was from the German House of Wittelsbach. Holy Roman Emperor Francis II feared that Napoleon could take over his personal lands within the Holy Roman Empire, so in 1804 he proclaimed himself Emperor Francis I of Austria. Two years later, after Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and lands that had been held by the Holy Roman Emperor were given to Napoleon’s allies creating the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, and the Grand Duchy of Baden. The Austrian Empire lasted from 1804 until 1867 when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was proclaimed. In 1918, following World War I, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and broken into separate countries. The Austro-Hungarian Empire constituted present-day Austria, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, large parts of Serbia and Romania and small parts of Italy, Montenegro, Poland, and Ukraine.
The Capuchin Church (German: Kapuzinerkirche)
The Capuchin Church (German: Kapuzinerkirche) in Vienna, Austria was founded by Anna of Tyrol and her husband Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor in 1617. Anna of Tyrol had come up with the idea of a Capuchin abbey and burial place for her and her husband and wanted to build it near Hofburg Castle in Vienna. In her will, Anna left funds to provide for the building. Anna died in December of 1618, a year after she had made her will, and her husband Matthias died three months later. The foundation stone was laid in 1622, but the church was not completed and dedicated until 1632 because of the Thirty Years’ War. On Easter of 1633, the sarcophagi containing the remains of Matthias and Anna were transferred to what is now called the Founder’s Vault.
The church itself is not as spectacular as other churches in Vienna, but underneath it lies the Imperial Crypt (German: Kaisergruft) which contains nearly 150 tombs of the Habsburg family. Through the years, other vaults have been added and Capuchin friars still look after the tombs. By tradition, the bodies of the Habsburgs were buried at three locations. The hearts were interred in the Heart Crypt (German: Herzgruft) in the Church of the Augustinian Friars (Augustinerkirche) in Vienna. The intestines were placed in copper urns in the Ducal Crypt (German: Herzogsgruft) of the Catacombs in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Their bodies were entombed in the Imperial Crypt.
When the casket of a deceased Habsburg is brought to the Capuchin Church, a ceremony takes place before the remains are allowed in. Accompanying the casket, the master of ceremonies knocks three times on the door. The Capuchin monk who is the custodian of the Imperial Crypt calls out, “Wer begehrt Einlass?” (“Who requests entry?”) The master of ceremonies responds with all the imperial and royal titles of the deceased person. The custodian then says, “Wir kennen ihn nicht” (“We know him not.”) Again, the master of ceremonies knocks three times on the door and again the custodian asks, “Wer begehrt Einlass?” (“Who requests entry?”) This time the master of ceremonies replies, “[First Name], ein sterblicher, sündiger Mensch.” (“[First Name], a mortal, sinful human being.”). The custodian’s final response is, “So komme sie herein.” (“Come in.”) and the door is opened.
This ceremony was last performed in July of 2011 for Otto von Habsburg, the eldest son of the last emperor, Karl I, and can be seen in the YouTube video below. However, after the first knocking the master of ceremonies responded with all of Otto von Habsburg’s imperial and royal titles, the second time he responded with all the civilian titles, and finally on the third knocking the master of ceremonies said, “Otto, ein sterblicher, sündiger Mensch” (“Otto, a mortal, sinful human being”). A text of what was said can be found at (scroll down) http://catholicforum.fisheaters.com/index.php?topic=3441641.0
YouTube: Otto von Habsburg – Anklopfzeremonie – Kapuzinerkirche
Plan of the Imperial Crypt
A. Founders’ Vault
B. Children’s Columbarium
C. Leopold’s Vault
D. Karl’s Vault
E. Maria Theresa’s Vault
F. Franz’s Vault
G. Ferdinand’s Vault
H. New Vault
I. Franz Joseph’s Vault
J. Crypt Chapel
K. The Tuscan Vault
Emperors of Austria
- Franz I, reigned 1804 – 1835, son of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II
- Ferdinand I, reigned 1835 – 1848 (abdicated), son of Franz I of Austria
- Franz Joseph I, reigned 1848 -1916, grandson of Franz I of Austria
- Karl I, 1916 – 1918 (resigned), great-grandson of Franz I of Austria, great nephew of Franz Joseph I
Heads of the Habsburg Family
- Karl I, former Emperor – Head of Family from November 11, 1918 until his death on April 1, 1922, great-nephew of Emperor Francis Joseph I
- Otto von Habsburg – Head of Family from April 1, 1922 until his resignation on January 1, 2007 when his son Karl took over, died on July 4, 2011, son of Emperor Karl I
- Karl von Habsburg – Current Head of Family, son of Otto von Habsburg
Franz II, Holy Roman Emperor (1792-1806), Franz I, Emperor of Austria (1804-1835)
Emperor Franz I was born on February 12, 1768 in Florence, the capital of Tuscany (Italy), where his father reigned as Grand Duke from 1765–90. His father Leopold was the second surviving son of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor (born Francis of Lorraine) and Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria who was the only female Habsburg ruler and the last of the House of Habsburg. Following the death of Maria Theresa, the ruling house was known as the House of Habsburg-Lorraine (German: Habsburg-Lothringen). Leopold became Holy Roman Emperor upon the death of his childless elder brother Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor in 1790. Franz’s mother was Infanta Maria Luisa of Spain, the daughter of King Carlo III of Spain. Franz’s father’s reign was only two years and at age 24, he became Franz II, Holy Roman Emperor.
As mentioned above, Holy Roman Emperor Franz II feared that Napoleon could take over his personal lands within the Holy Roman Empire, so in 1804 he proclaimed himself Emperor Franz I of Austria. Two years later, after Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved and lands that had been held by the Holy Roman Emperor were given to Napoleon’s allies creating the Kingdom of Bavaria, the Kingdom of Württemberg, and the Grand Duchy of Baden.
Franz had four wives, the first two died due to childbirth complications and third also died young. On January 6, 1788, Franz married Elisabeth of Württemberg. Elisabeth died two years later and the couple had no surviving children.
Seven months after Elisabeth’s death on September 15, 1790, Franz was married a second time to Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily, who was his double first cousin. Franz and Maria Theresa had 12 children including Marie Louise who was the second wife of Napoleon, Ferdinand I who succeeded his father, and Maria Leopoldina who married Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. Franz’s second marriage lasted for 17 years until Maria Theresa died in childbirth at age 34.
Nine months later on January 6, 1808, Franz married another first cousin, Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este. Maria Ludovika died childless, of tuberculosis, nearly nine years later.
Franz’s last marriage was to Caroline Augusta of Bavaria. Caroline Augusta survived Franz, but their marriage was childless.
Emperor Franz I of Austria died in Vienna on March 2, 1835 at age 67 of a sudden fever. He was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft (Franz’s Vault) surrounded by the tombs of his four wives.
Elisabeth of Württemberg, Archduchess of Austria, first wife of Franz I, Emperor of Austria
Elisabeth of Württemberg (Elisabeth Wilhelmine Luise) was born on April 21, 1767 in Treptow, Brandenburg (Germany). She was one of the 12 children of Frederick II Eugene, Duke of Württemberg and Sophia Dorothea of Brandenburg-Schwedt. At the age of 15, Elisabeth went to Vienna to prepare to become the bride of Archduke Franz, the nephew of the current Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. Here the Protestant princess was educated by nuns at the Church and Monastery of the Visitation and she converted to Roman Catholicism. Elisabeth married Archduke Franz (the future emperor) on January 6, 1788 when she was 20 years old.
She was very close to Emperor Jospeh and his final illness in February of 1790 greatly upset the then pregnant Elisabeth. She fainted upon seeing the dying emperor and on February 18, 1790 gave premature birth to a daughter, Archduchess Ludovika Elisabeth. The labor had lasted more than 24 hours and Elisabeth, age 22, died because of complications. Holy Roman Emperor Joseph died two days later. Archduchess Elisabeth was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft (Franz’s Vault) where her husband and his three other wives are also buried. Elisabeth’s baby, Ludovika Elisabeth, lived only until June 24, 1791 and is buried in the Imperial Crypt in the southwest pier of Ferdinandsgruft (Ferdinand’s Vault) along with a number of other Habsburgs who died young.
Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily, Empress Consort of Austria, second wife of Franz I, Emperor of Austria
Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily was born in Naples (Italy) on June 6, 1772, the daughter of Ferdinand IV & III of Naples and Sicily (later Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies) and Marie Caroline of Austria. She was named after her maternal grandmother Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. On September 15, 1790, at the age of 18, she married her double first cousin Archduke Franz of Austria. This was the only one of Franz’s four marriages that resulted in surviving children. Seven of their 12 children survived to adulthood. Maria Theresa gave birth to her twelfth child, Archduchess Amalia Theresa, on April 6, 1807. The baby died the following day and Maria Theresa died at Hofburg Palace in Vienna on April 13, 1807 at age 34 due to childbirth complications. She was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft (Franz’s Vault) where her husband and his three other wives are also buried. The infant Archduchess Amalia Theresa was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the northeast pier of the Ferdinandsgruft (Ferdinand’s Vault).
Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este, Empress Consort of Austria, third wife of Franz I, Emperor of Austria
Maria Ludovika of Austria-Este was born on December 4, 1787 in Monza (Italy). She was the daughter of Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d’Este and Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este, who was a son of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor (born Francis of Lorraine) and Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria. On January 6, 1808, Maria Ludovika married her first cousin Franz I, Emperor of Austria. Their marriage was childless. Maria Ludovika was very strong in her opinions against Napoleon and opposed the marriage of her step-daughter Marie Louise to Napoleon in 1809. Empress Maria Ludovika died of tuberculosis on April 7, 1816 at the age of 28 and was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft (Franz’s Vault) where her husband and his three other wives are also buried.
Caroline Augusta of Bavaria, Empress Consort of Austria, fourth wife of Franz I, Emperor of Austria
Caroline Augusta of Bavaria was born in Mannheim, Baden (Germany) on February 8, 1792. Her parents were Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria and Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt. Caroline Augusta was married twice. First, she married Crown Prince William of Württemberg (the future King William I of Württemberg) on June 8, 1808, at Munich, Bavaria (Germany). This marriage was childless and was dissolved in 1814. On October 29, 1816, Caroline Augusta married Franz I, Emperor of Austria, and again the marriage was childless. Empress Caroline Augusta survived her husband by 38 years. Caroline Augusta’s sister Sophie married Archduke Franz Karl, the son of her husband by his second marriage to Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. Two of her nephews from this marriage were Franz Joseph II, Emperor of Austria and Maximilian I, Emperor of Mexico. Caroline Augusta’s and Sophie’s niece was Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sissi) who married Franz Joseph II, Emperor of Austria.
Empress Caroline Augusta died at age 81 on February 9, 1873 was buried in the Imperial Crypt in the Franzensgruft (Franz’s Vault) where her husband and his three other wives are also buried.
Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria (1835 – 1848, abdicated)
Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria was born on April 19, 1793 in Vienna, the eldest son of Emperor Franz I of Austria and his second wife Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily. Ferdinand suffered from a number of ailments including epilepsy and hydrocephalus. He was considered incapable of ruling although he kept a coherent diary. His father’s will stipulated that Ferdinand’s uncle Archduke Ludwig be consulted on government matters and during Ferdinand’s reign a council called the Secret State Conference consisting of Archduke Ludwig, Archduke Franz Karl, Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky and Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich controlled the government. Ferdinand is famous for telling his cook, “I am the Emperor and I want dumplings” when the cook told him that the apricots needed for the traditional apricot dumplings (German: Marillenknödel) were not in season.
In February of 1831, Ferdinand married Maria Anna of Savoy. The marriage was childless and it is doubtful that it was ever consummated. Ferdinand abdicated the throne in favor of his nephew Franz Joseph during the Revolutions of 1848 and lived out the rest of his life at Hradčany Palace in Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). He died on June 29, 1875 at the age of 82 and was buried in the Ferdinandsgruft (Ferdinand’s Vault) in the Imperial Crypt.
Maria Anna of Savoy, Empress Consort of Austria
Maria Anna of Savoy was born on September 19, 1803 at the Palazzo Colonna in Rome (Italy), the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel I of Sardinia and Archduchess Maria Teresa of Austria-Este. Maria Anna’s marriage to Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria was childless and probably never consummated, but the couple remained devoted to each other. Upon Ferdinand’s abdication, he retained his imperial style, and his wife was known as Empress Maria Anna. She survived her husband by nine years and died at the age of 80 on May 4, 1884 in Prague (now the Czech Republic) which was then part of the Kingdom of Bohemia. Empress Maria Anna was buried next to her husband in the Ferdinandsgruft (Ferdinand’s Vault) in the Imperial Crypt.
Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria (1848-1916)
Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria was born on August 18, 1830 at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. He was the oldest son of Archduke Franz Karl (the youngest surviving son of Franz I, Emperor of Austria), and Princess Sophie of Bavaria (the sister of Caroline Augusta of Bavaria, fourth wife of Franz I, Emperor of Austria). Franz Joseph’s brother was Archduke Maximilian, who in 1864 became Emperor of Mexico and was executed by a firing squad three years later. In 1848, Franz Joseph became Emperor of Austria upon the abdication of his uncle Ferdinand I. Archduke Franz Karl, Franz Joseph’s father, was still living, but gave up his claim to the throne in favor of his son.
On April 24, 1854 at the Augustinian Church in Vienna, Franz Joseph married his first cousin Elisabeth of Bavaria. The couple had one son and three daughters. Their son Crown Prince Rudolf married Princess Stephanie of Belgium and in 1889 apparently shot and killed his mistress and then shot and killed himself at Mayerling, a hunting lodge. Franz Joseph and Elisabeth’s eldest child, Archduchess Sophie, died at age 2. Their surviving daughters were Archduchess Gisela who married her second cousin Prince Leopold of Bavaria and Archduchess Marie Valerie who married her second cousin Archduke Franz Salvator of Austria. Empress Elisabeth was stabbed to death by an Italian anarchist in 1898. On June 28, 1914, Franz Joseph’s nephew and heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated along with his wife. This assassination was one of the many issues that caused World War I.
After living through the violent deaths of so many relatives, Emperor Franz Joseph died on November 21, 1916, in the middle of World War I, at the age of 86 in Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna. His reign was nearly 68 years, the third longest reign in Europe after King Louis XIV of France and Prince Johannes II of Liechtenstein. His great nephew succeeded him as Emperor Karl I of Austria. Emperor Franz Joseph was buried in Franz Josephs Gruft (Franz Joseph’s Crypt) in the Imperial Crypt between the tombs of his wife and his son.
Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress Consort of Austria
Elisabeth of Bavaria was born on December 24, 1837 in Munich, Bavaria (Germany). Known as Sissi, she was the fourth of ten children of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Her mother’s sister Sophie was the mother of the young Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and preferred to have a niece as her daughter-in-law instead of a stranger. Originally a marriage was arranged between Franz Joseph and Elisabeth’s older sister Helene, but Franz Joseph became infatuated with the 15-year-old Elisabeth who had accompanied her sister on a visit to meet him. The young emperor insisted to his mother that if he could not marry Elisabeth, he would not marry at all. The couple married eight months later on April 24, 1854 in the Augustinian Church, Vienna.
Their marriage was not a happy one for Elisabeth. Although her husband loved her, Elisabeth had difficulties adjusting to the Austrian court and did not get along with Imperial family members, especially her mother-in-law. In 1885, Franz Josef began an affair with an actress, Katharina Schratt, which would last the rest of his life. His wife tolerated the affair and even seemed to encourage it. Elisabeth never recovered from the suicide of her son Rudolf. After Rudolf’s death, Elisabeth spent little time with her husband, preferring to travel. However, a warm and friendly correspondence between the couple existed. In 1898, despite being warned about possible assassination attempts, Elisabeth traveled incognito to Geneva, Switzerland. On September 10, 1898 while walking to the shore of Lake Geneva to catch a steamship, Elisabeth was stabbed by a 25-year-old Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. The 60-year-old empress died shortly afterward. Franz Joseph never fully recovered from his wife’s death. Empress Elisabeth was buried in Franz Josephs Gruft (Franz Joseph’s Crypt) in the Imperial Crypt where her son had been buried. When Franz Joseph died, his tomb was placed between the tombs of his wife and son.
Karl I, Emperor of Austria (1916-1918)
Karl I, the last Emperor of Austria, was born on August 17, 1887 in Persenbeug Castle in the current Austrian state of Lower Austria. His parents were Archduke Otto Franz of Austria and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony. Archduke Otto Franz was the second son of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria (younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria). In 1889, after the death of Crown Prince Rudolf, only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I, the next heir was the Archduke Karl Ludwig, but within a few days, he renounced his claim in favor of his son Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the heir until his assassination on June 28, 1914, an event which was one of the causes of World War I. Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been allowed to make a morganatic marriage with the conditions that children of the marriage would not have succession rights. Upon Franz Ferdinand’s death, Karl became the heir. He succeeded to the throne upon the death of Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1916.
On October 21, 1911, Karl married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma at Schwarzau Castle, an Austrian home of Zita’s family. The couple had eight children. Their oldest child Otto, who was Crown Prince during his father’s short reign, was the longest surviving of their children and died on July 4, 1911 at the age of 98.
At the end of World War I, the armistice required that the Austrian-Hungarian Empire allow for autonomy and self-determination of government of its various ethnic populations. The various areas proclaimed independence and by October 1918 there was not much left of the empire. On November 11, 1918, the same day as the armistice ending World War I, Karl issued a proclamation in which he recognized the rights of the people of the empire to determine their form of government and released his government officials from their loyalty to him. Karl did not use the term “abdicate” in his proclamation and would never admit that he abdicated.
On March 23, 1919, Karl and his family left for Switzerland. On April 3, 1919, the Austrian Parliament passed the Habsburg Law which forbade Karl or his wife Zita from returning to Austria. The law also prevented other Habsburgs from returning to Austria unless they renounced all intentions of claiming the throne and accepted the condition of living as ordinary citizens. On the same day, all noble titles were abolished. In 1921, Karl returned to Hungary twice in attempts to regain the throne of Hungary. After the second attempt, the Council of Allied Powers decided to exile Karl and his family to the Portuguese island of Madeira.
In March of 1922, Karl caught a cold which developed into bronchitis and further developed into pneumonia. After suffering two heart attacks and respiratory failure, Karl died on April 1, 1922 at the age of 34. Due to the Habsburg Law, Karl could not be buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna. He was buried at Church of Our Lady of Monte on the island of Madeira in Portugal. His heart was buried at the Muri Abbey, a Benedictine monastery dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, near Basel, Switzerland. When Karl’s wife Zita died in 1989, she requested that her heart be buried with her husband’s. Two of their sons, Rudolf and Felix, are also buried at Muri Abbey.
On October 2, 2003, Pope John Paul II beatified Karl and he is known as Blessed Karl of Austria. Beatification is the third of four steps toward sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
BBC: Emperor and mystic nun beatified
MSNBC: Vatican beatification of World War I emperor triggers spirited debate
Blessed Karl of Austria Beatification and Canonization Site
Zita of Bourbon-Parma, Empress Consort of Austria
Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma was born on May 9, 1892 at the Villa Pianore in Lucca, Tuscany (Italy). She was the daughter of the deposed Duke Robert I of Parma and his second wife, Maria Antonia of Portugal, daughter of the deposed King Miguel I of Portugal. Duke Robert I of Parma had a total of 24 children, 12 children with his first wife Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and 12 children with his second wife, Zita’s mother. Zita was the 17th of her father’s 24 children. Six of the children from Duke Robert’s first marriage were mentally disabled. Zita’s half-sister Marie Louise married King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria. Zita’s full brother Felix married Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg and the present Grand Ducal family descends from them. Another full brother René married Princess Margrethe of Denmark, daughter of Prince Valdemar of Denmark, youngest son of King Christian IX of Denmark. René and Margrethe’s daughter Anne married King Michael I of Romania. Four of Zita’s full sisters became Benedictine nuns.
Zita’s maternal aunt Maria Teresa of Portugal had married a younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and because of this Zita and her future husband, then Archduke Karl, met as children. Karl was under pressure to marry and produce an heir because his uncle and the current heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, had married morganatically and children from that marriage were excluded from the succession. Zita and Karl married on October 21, 1911. Both Zita and Karl were devout Catholics and on the day after their wedding, Karl told Zita, “Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven.” Zita gave birth to eight children in less than 10 years. When Karl died in 1922, Zita was only 29 and pregnant with her eighth child. She never married again and wore black for the 67 years of her widowhood.
The years following Karl’s death were difficult financially and Zita and her family moved often. They lived in Spain, Belgium, the United States (two of Zita’s sons served in the US Army during World War II), and Canada. In 1952, Zita moved back to Europe, living in Luxembourg and Switzerland. One of her daughters died in Austria in 1971 and Zita could not attend the funeral. The restrictions on the Habsburgs entering Austria had been rescinded, but only for those Habsburgs born after April 10, 1919. In 1982, the restrictions were eased and after 63 years Zita could return to Austria for visits. Zita had large family birthday celebrations for her 90th and 95th birthdays. Her health had been failing since her 90th birthday and the former Empress Zita died on March 14, 1989 at her home in Zizers, Switzerland at the age of 96.
The government of Austria allowed the funeral to take place in Austria provided that the Habsburg family pay the cost. The funeral mass was held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. At least 200,000 people had filed past her coffin during the two days it lay in state at the cathedral. Zita’s casket was borne to the Capuchin Church, where the Imperial Crypt is located, by the same coach she had walked behind during the funeral of Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1916. Over 200 Habsburg and Bourbon-Parma family members along with 8,000 other guests attended the funeral. Zita was buried in the Crypt Chapel of the Imperial Crypt. Her husband’s remains are still interred at the Church of Our Lady of Monte on the island of Madeira in Portugal, but their hearts were buried together at the Habsburg Crypt in the Loretto Chapel at the Muri Abbey near Basel, Switzerland.
YouTube: Beerdigung Ihrer Majestät Zita (Funeral of Her Majesty Zita)
People: Europe’s Heads, Crowned and Otherwise, Bury Zita, the Last Habsburg Empress
New York Times: Hapsburg Grandeur Is Dusted Off for Burial of ‘Our Sister the Empress Zita’
Otto von Habsburg, last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary (from 1916 – 1918)
Archduke Otto was born on November 20, 1912 at Villa Wartholz in Reichenau, Austria. He was the eldest of eight children of the future Emperor Karl I and Zita of Bourbon-Parma. He became Crown Prince upon his father’s accession in 1916 and remained Crown Prince until the empire was dissolved in 1918.
When his father died in 1922, Otto became the pretender to the throne. As described in his mother’s article above, Otto’s family spent many years in exile and faced many difficulties. In 1935, Otto received a Doctorate degree in Political and Social Sciences from the University of Louvain in Belgium. In 1961, he renounced all claims to the Austrian throne and proclaimed himself “a loyal citizen of the republic.” After many problems, Otto was issued a Certified Proof of Citizenship by Austria in 1965. He finally returned to Austria in 1966 for the first time since he left the country in 1918 at the age of six.
Prior to and during World War II, Otto von Habsburg was a strong opponent of Adolf Hitler and Nazism and was greatly concerned about the spread of Communism after the war. He believed in a unified Europe and was president of the International Paneuropean Union from 1973 to 2004. He served in the European Parliament from 1979 – 1999. Otto strongly supported the rights of European refugees, especially the ethnic Germans displaced from Bohemia which was once part of his family’s Austro-Hungarian Empire.
On May 10, 1951 Otto von Habsburg married Regina of Saxe-Meiningen in the Église of the Cordeliers in Nancy, France. The couple had seven children and lived at Villa Austria, also called the “Kaiservilla” (Emperor’s Villa), in Pöcking, Germany. After his wife’s death in 2010, Otto stopped making public appearances. On July 4, 2011, Otto von Habsburg died, aged 98, at his home in Pöcking, Germany.
Otto von Habsburg’s death cut the link to the imperial past and he was given what was called “the last Emperor’s funeral.” Following a 13 day period of mourning in many of the countries that were once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a requiem mass was held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna and Otto then was buried in the Crypt Chapel of the Imperial Crypt where his mother was also buried. At the time of his burial, Otto’s wife Regina was reburied nearby. 1,000 invited guests attended the funeral and over 100,000 people lined the streets of Vienna. The funeral was televised on Austrian television. Otto’s heart was buried at Pannonhalma Archabbey in Hungary on the day after his funeral.
Wikipedia: Funeral of Otto von Habsburg
Official Website: Dr Otto von Habsburg
Telegraph: Obituary – Archduke Otto von Habsburg
BBC: Habsburg: Funeral held for last Austro-Hungarian heir
YouTube: Otto von Habsburg Funeral Clips
YouTube: Otto von Habsburg – Funeral – Singing of the Kaiserhymne
YouTube: Otto von Habsburg Funeral – Entering the Capuchin Church
Regina of Saxe-Meiningen, wife of Otto von Habsburg
Regina of Saxe-Meiningen was born on January 6, 1925 in Würzburg, Germany. Her parents were Prince Georg of Saxe-Meiningen, who was the pretender to the Dukedom of Saxe-Meiningen, and Countess Klara-Maria of Korff genannt Schmising-Kerssenbrock. Regina was a second cousin of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and a great-great-granddaughter of Princess Feodora of Leiningen, half-sister of Queen Victoria. Regina’s father died during World War II in a Russian prisoner of war camp and one of her two brothers died in combat during World War II. Her other brother became a Carthusian monk. The Saxe-Meiningen family was Lutheran, but Regina was raised in the Roman Catholic religion of her mother.
Regina studied social work in Bamberg, Germany and later worked at a refugee home in Munich. In 1949, Otto von Habsburg met Regina when he came to visit former subjects of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the refugee home. In 1950, he and Regina became engaged and they married on May 10, 1951 at the Église of the Cordeliers in Nancy, France, with the blessing of Pope Pius XII.
As she aged, Regina suffered from heart problems and had a stroke in December of 2005. However, her recovery enabled her to attend the reburial of her mother and older brother in 2006 and the wedding of a grandson in 2008. On February 3, 2010, Regina von Habsburg died at her home in Pöcking, Germany, aged 85, from undisclosed causes. After lying in state in the Church of St. Ulrich in Pöcking, a requiem mass was held and then her remains were temporarily interred at Veste Heldburg, her family’s ancestral castle in Hildburghausen, the former capital of Saxe-Meiningen, now in Germany. Regina was reinterred at the Imperial Crypt in Vienna at the time of her husband’s burial.