Charles I of Austria

Charles I of Austria
"Karl I" redirects here. For the Prince of Liechtenstein, see Karl I of Liechtenstein.
Charles I & IV
Emperor of Austria (more...)
Reign 21 November 1916 - 12 November 1918 (&100000000000000010000001 year, &10000000000000356000000356 days)
Predecessor Francis Joseph I
Apostolic King of Hungary (more...)
Reign 21 November 1916 - 16 November 1918 (&100000000000000010000001 year, &10000000000000360000000360 days)
Coronation 30 December 1916(1916-12-30) (aged 29)
Predecessor Francis Joseph I
Spouse Zita of Bourbon-Parma
Otto, Crown Prince of Austria
Archduchess Adelheid
Robert, Archduke of Austria-Este
Archduke Felix
Archduke Karl Ludwig
Archduke Rudolf
Archduchess Charlotte
Archduchess Elisabeth
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Archduke Otto Franz
Mother Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony
Born 17 August 1887(1887-08-17)
Persenbeug-Gottsdorf, Austria-Hungary
Died 1 April 1922(1922-04-01) (aged 34)
Madeira, Republic of Portugal
Burial Igreja Nossa Senhora do Monte, Madeira, Muri Abbey, Switzerland (heart)
Austrian Royalty
House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Smaller Coat of Arms of Austria (1815).svg

Francis I
(Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor)
Children include
   Archduchess Marie Louise
   Ferdinand I
   Archduchess Maria Leopoldina
   Archduchess Clementina
   Archduke Franz Karl
Grandchildren include
   Franz Joseph I
   Archduke Maximilian
   Archduke Karl Ludwig
   Archduke Ludwig Viktor
Great-grandchildren include
   Archduke Franz Ferdinand
   Archduke Otto Franz
Ferdinand I
Franz Joseph I
   Archduchess Sophie
   Archduchess Gisela
   Crown Prince Rudolf
   Archduchess Marie Valerie
Grandchildren include
   Archduchess Elisabeth Marie
Charles I
Children include
   Crown Prince Otto
   Archduke Robert
   Archduke Felix
   Archduke Karl Ludwig
   Archduke Rudolf
Grandchildren include
   Archduchess Andrea
   Archduchess Monika
   Archduchess Michaela
   Archduchess Gabriela
   Archduchess Walburga
   Archduke Karl
   Archduke Georg
   Archduke Lorenz
Great-Grandchildren include
   Archduke Ferdinand Zvonimir
   Archduke Amedeo

Charles I of Austria or Charles IV of Hungary (German: Karl Franz Joseph Ludwig Hubert Georg Otto Marie von Habsburg-Lothringen, English: Charles Francis Joseph Louis Hubert George Otto Mary of Habsburg-Lorraine, Hungarian: IV. Károly or Habsburg-Lotaringiai Károly Ferenc József Lajos Hubert György Mária, Italian: Carlo Francesco Giuseppe Ludovico Giorgio Ottone Maria d'Asburgo Lorena, Polish: Karol Franciszek Józef Ludwik Hubert Jerzy Otto Maria Habsbursko-Lotaryński, Ukrainian: Карл І Франц Йосиф) (17 August 1887 – 1 April 1922) was (among other titles) the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was the last Emperor of Austria, the last King of Hungary,[1] the last King of Bohemia and Croatia and the last King of Galicia and Lodomeria and the last monarch of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. He reigned as Charles I as Emperor of Austria and Charles IV as King of Hungary from 1916 until 1918, when he "renounced participation" in state affairs, but did not abdicate. He spent the remaining years of his life attempting to restore the monarchy until his death in 1922. Following his beatification by the Catholic Church, he has become commonly known as Blessed Charles of Austria.



Early life

The wedding of Zita and Charles, 21 October 1911

Karl was born on 17 August 1887, in the Castle of Persenbeug in Lower Austria. He was the son of Archduke Otto Franz of Austria (1865–1906) and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony (1867–1944); he was also a nephew of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este. As a child, Charles was reared a devout Catholic. In 1911, Charles married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma.

Charles became heir-presumptive with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his uncle, in Sarajevo in 1914, the event which precipitated World War I. Karl's reign began in 1916, when his great-grand-uncle, Franz Josef I of Austria died. Karl also became a Generalfeldmarschall in the Austro-Hungarian Army.


On 2 December 1916, he took over the title of Supreme Commander of the whole army from Archduke Frederick. His coronation occurred on 30 December. In 1917, Charles secretly entered into peace negotiations with France. Although his foreign minister, Ottokar Czernin, was only interested in negotiating a general peace which would include Germany as well, Charles himself, in negotiations with the French with his brother-in-law, Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma, an officer in the Belgian Army, as intermediary, went much further in suggesting his willingness to make a separate peace. When news of the overture leaked in April 1918, Charles denied involvement until the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau published letters signed by him. This led to Czernin's resignation, forcing Austria-Hungary into an even more dependent position with respect to its seemingly wronged German ally.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was wracked by inner turmoil in the final years of the war, with much tension between ethnic groups. As part of his Fourteen Points, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson demanded that the Empire allow for autonomy and self-determination of its peoples. In response, Charles agreed to reconvene the Imperial Parliament and allow for the creation of a confederation with each national group exercising self-governance. However, the ethnic groups fought for full autonomy as separate nations, as they were now determined to become independent from Vienna at the earliest possible moment.

Foreign Minister Baron Istvan Burián asked for an armistice based on the Fourteen Points on 14 October, and two days later Charles issued a proclamation that radically changed the nature of the Austrian state. The Poles were granted full independence with the purpose of joining their ethnic brethren in Russia and Germany in a Polish state. The rest of the Austrian lands were transformed into a federal union composed of four parts—German, Czech, South Slav and Ukrainian. Each of the four parts was to be governed by a federal council, and Trieste was to receive a special status. However, Secretary of State Robert Lansing replied four days later that the Allies were now committed to the causes of the Czechs, Slovaks and South Slavs. Therefore, autonomy for the nationalities was no longer enough. In fact, a Czechoslovak provisional government had joined the Allies on 14 October, and the South Slav national council declared an independent South Slav state on October 29, 1918.

The Lansing note effectively ended any efforts to keep the Empire together. One by one, the nationalities proclaimed their independence; even before the note the national councils had been acting more like provisional governments. Charles' political future became uncertain. On 31 October, Hungary officially ended the personal union between Austria and Hungary. Nothing remained of Charles' realm except the Danubian and Alpine provinces, and he was challenged even there by the German Austrian State Council. His last prime minister, Heinrich Lammasch, advised him that it was fruitless to stay on.

Proclamation of 11 November

Castle Eckartsau, the last refuge of Charles I in Austria
The declaration of 11 November 1918.

On 11 November 1918—the same day as the armistice ending the war between allies and Germany—Charles issued a carefully worded proclamation in which he recognized the Austrian people's right to determine the form of the state and "relinquish(ed) every participation in the administration of the State."[2] He also released his officials from their oath of loyalty to him. On the same day the Imperial Family left Schönbrunn and moved to Castle Eckartsau, east of Vienna. On 13 November, following a visit of Hungarian magnates, Charles issued a similar proclamation for Hungary.

Although it has widely been cited as an "abdication", that word was never mentioned in either proclamation.[3] Indeed, he deliberately avoided using the word abdication in the hope that the people of either Austria or Hungary would vote to recall him.

Privately, Charles left no doubt that he believed himself to be the rightful emperor. Addressing Cardinal Friedrich Gustav Piffl, he wrote:

I did not abdicate, and never will. (...) I see my manifesto of 11 November as the equivalent to a cheque which a street thug has forced me to issue at gunpoint. (...) I do not feel bound by it in any way whatsoever.[4]

Instead, on 12 November, the day after he issued his proclamation, the independent Republic of German Austria was proclaimed, followed by the proclamation of the Hungarian Democratic Republic on 16 November. An uneasy truce-like situation ensued and persisted until 23 March 1919, when Charles left for Switzerland, escorted by the commander of the small British guard detachment at Eckartsau, Lt. Col. Edward Lisle Strutt. As the Imperial Train left Austria on 24 March, Charles issued another proclamation in which he confirmed his claim of sovereignty, declaring that "whatever the national assembly of German Austria has resolved with respect to these matters since 11 November is null and void for me and my House."[5]

Although the newly-established republican government of Austria was not aware of this "Manifesto of Feldkirchen" at this time (it had been dispatched only to the Spanish King and to the Pope through diplomatic channels), the politicians now in power were extremely irritated by the Emperor's departure without an explicit abdication. On 3 April 1919, the Austrian Parliament passed the Habsburg Law, which permanently barred Charles and Zita from ever returning to Austria again. Other Habsburgs were banished from Austrian territory unless they renounced all intentions of reclaiming the throne and accepted the status of ordinary citizens. Another law, passed on the same day, abolished all nobility in Austria.

In Switzerland, Charles and his family briefly took residence at Castle Wartegg near Rorschach at Lake Constance, and moved to Château de Prangins at Lake Geneva on 20 May 1919.

Attempts to reclaim throne of Hungary

Encouraged by Hungarian royalists ("legitimists"), Charles sought twice in 1921 to reclaim the throne of Hungary, but failed largely because Hungary's regent, Miklós Horthy (the last admiral of the Austro-Hungarian Navy), refused to support him. Horthy's failure to support Charles' restoration attempts is often described as "treasonous" by royalists. Critics suggest that Horthy's actions were more firmly grounded in political reality than those of Charles and his supporters. Indeed, the neighbouring countries had threatened to invade Hungary if Charles tried to regain the throne. Later in 1921, the Hungarian parliament formally nullified the Pragmatic Sanction--an act that effectively dethroned the Habsburgs.

Madeira exile and death

After the second failed attempt at restoration in Hungary, Charles and pregnant Zita were briefly quarantined at Tihany Abbey. On 1 November 1921 they were taken to the Danube harbor city of Baja, made to board the British monitor Madeira, on 19 November 1921. Determined to prevent a third restoration attempt, the Council of Allied Powers had agreed on Madeira because it was isolated in the Atlantic and easily guarded.[8]

Originally the couple and their children (who joined them only on 2 February 1922) lived at Funchal at the Villa Vittoria, next to Reid's Hotel, and later moved to Quinta do Monte. Compared to the imperial glory in Vienna and even at Eckartsau, conditions there were certainly impoverished,[9] although not nearly comparable to the bleak conditions under which most of Charles' former subjects had to make a living after the war.

Charles would not leave Madeira again. On 9 March 1922 he caught a cold walking into town and developed bronchitis which subsequently progressed to severe pneumonia. Having suffered two heart attacks he died of respiratory failure on 1 April in the presence of his wife (who was pregnant with their eighth child) and 9-year old Crown Prince Otto, retaining consciousness almost to the last moment.[10] His remains except for his heart are still kept on the island, in the Church of Our Lady of Monte, in spite of several attempts to move them to the Habsburg Crypt in Vienna. His heart, and that of Empress Zita, repose in the Loreto Chapel of Muri Abbey.


Historians have been mixed in their evaluations of Charles and his reign. One of the most critical has been Helmut Rumpler, head of the Habsburg commission of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, who has described Charles as "a dilettante, far too weak for the challenges facing him, out of his depth, and not really a politician." However, others have seen Charles as a brave and honourable figure who tried as Emperor-King to halt World War I. The English writer, Herbert Vivian, wrote:

"Karl was a great leader, a Prince of peace, who wanted to save the world from a year of war; a statesman with ideas to save his people from the complicated problems of his Empire; a King who loved his people, a fearless man, a noble soul, distinguished, a saint from whose grave blessings come."

Furthermore, Anatole France, the French novelist, stated:

"Emperor Karl is the only decent man to come out of the war in a leadership position, yet he was a saint and no one listened to him. He sincerely wanted peace, and therefore was despised by the whole world. It was a wonderful chance that was lost."

Paul von Hindenburg, who at the time of Charles' reign was German army commander in chief, commented in his memoirs:

"He tried to compensate for the evaporation of the ethical power which emperor Franz Joseph had represented by offering ethnical reconciliation. Even as he dealt with elements who were sworn to the goal of destroying his empire he believed that his acts of political grace would have an impact on their conscience. These attempts were totally futile; those people had long ago lined up with our common enemies, and were far from being deterred."[11]


Blessed Charles of Austria
Born 17 August 1887
Persenbeug-Gottsdorf, Austria-Hungary
Died 1 April 1922
Madeira, Republic of Portugal
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 3 October 2004 by Pope John Paul II
Feast 21 October

Catholic Church leaders have praised Charles for putting his Christian faith first in making political decisions, and for his role as a peacemaker during the war, especially after 1917. They have considered that his brief rule expressed Roman Catholic social teaching, and that he created a social legal framework that in part still survives.

Pope John Paul II declared Charles "Blessed" in a beatification ceremony held on 3 October 2004,[12] and stated:

The decisive task of Christians consists in seeking, recognizing and following God's will in all things. The Christian statesman, Charles of Austria, confronted this challenge every day. To his eyes, war appeared as "something appalling". Amid the tumult of the First World War, he strove to promote the peace initiative of my Predecessor, Benedict XV.[13]

From the beginning, the Emperor Charles conceived of his office as a holy service to his people. His chief concern was to follow the Christian vocation to holiness also in his political actions. For this reason, his thoughts turned to social assistance.

The cause or campaign for his canonization began in 1949, when testimony of his holiness was collected in the Archdiocese of Vienna. In 1954, the cause was opened and he was declared servant of God, the first step in the process. The League of Prayers established for the promotion of his cause has set up a website,[14] and Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna has sponsored the cause.

Recent milestones

  • On 14 April 2003, the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the presence of Pope John Paul II, promulgated Charles of Austria's "heroic virtues, and he thereby acquired the title of venerable.
  • On 21 December 2003, the Congregation certified, on the basis of three expert medical opinions, that a miracle in 1960 occurred through the intercession of Charles. The miracle attributed to Charles was the scientifically-inexplicable healing of a Brazilian nun with debilitating varicose veins; she was able to get out of bed after she prayed for his beatification.
  • On 3 October 2004, he was beatified by Pope John Paul II. The Pope also declared 21 October, the date of Charles' marriage in 1911 to Princess Zita, as Charles' feast day. The beatification has caused controversy because of the mistaken belief that Charles authorized the Austro-Hungarian Army's use of poison gas during World War I,[15] when in fact he was the first, and only, world leader during the war who banned its use.
  • On 31 January 2008, a Church tribunal, after a 16-month investigation, formally recognized a second miracle attributed to Charles I (required for his Canonization as a Saint in the Catholic Church); in an uncommon twist, the Florida woman claiming the miracle cure is not Catholic, but Baptist. However, due to her experiences, she became Catholic in the Latin Rite soon after.[16][17][18]


  • "Now, we must help each other to get to Heaven."[19] Addressing Empress Zita on 22 October 1911, the day after their wedding.
  • "I am an officer with all my body and soul, but I do not see how anyone who sees his dearest relations leaving for the front can love war."[20] Addressing Empress Zita after the outbreak of World War I.
  • "I have done my duty, as I came here to do. As crowned King, I not only have a right, I also have a duty. I must uphold the right, the dignity and honor of the Crown.... For me, this is not something light. With the last breath of my life I must take the path of duty. Whatever I regret, Our Lord and Savior has led me."[21] Addressing Cardinal János Csernoch after the defeat of his attempt to regain the Hungarian throne in 1921. The British Government had vainly hoped that the Cardinal would be able to persuade him to renounce his title as King of Hungary.
  • "I must suffer like this so my people will come together again."[22] Spoken in Madeira, during his last illness.
  • "I can't go on much longer... Thy will be done... Yes... Yes... As you will it... Jesus!"[23] Reciting his last words while contemplating a crucifix held by Empress Zita.

Official grand title

Monarchical styles of
Emperor Charles I of Austria
Imperial Monogram of Emperor Charles I of Austria.svg
Reference style His Imperial Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial Majesty
Alternative style My Lord

His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty,

Charles the First,

By the Grace of God, Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, of this name the Fourth, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, and Galicia, Lodomeria, and Illyria; King of Jerusalem, Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Duke of Lorraine and of Salzburg, of Styria, of Carinthia, of Carniola and of the Bukovina; Grand Prince of Transylvania; Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Auschwitz and Zator, of Teschen, Friuli, Ragusa and Zara; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and in Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenberg; Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro, and in the Windic March; Grand Voivode (Grand Duke) of the Voivodship (Duchy) of Serbia.


Name Birth Death Notes
Crown Prince Otto 20 November 1912 July 4, 2011(2011-07-04) (aged 98) married (1951) Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen and Hildburghausen (1925–2010) and had seven children.
Archduchess Adelheid 3 January 1914 October 2, 1971(1971-10-02) (aged 57)
Archduke Robert 8 February 1915 February 7, 1996(1996-02-07) (aged 80) married (1953) Princess Margherita of Savoy-Aosta (b. 7 April 1930) and had five children.
Archduke Felix 31 May 1916 September 6, 2011(2011-09-06) (aged 95) married (1952) Princess Anna-Eugénie of Arenberg (b. 5 July 1925 d. 9 June 1997) and had seven children.
Archduke Karl Ludwig 10 March 1918 December 11, 2001(2001-12-11) (aged 83) married (1950) Princess Yolanda of Ligne (b. 6 May 1923) and had four children.
Archduke Rudolf 5 September 1919 May 15, 2010(2010-05-15) (aged 90) married (1953) Countess Xenia Tschernyschev-Besobrasoff (b. 11 June 1929 d. 20 September 1968) and had four children. Married (secondly) (1971) Princess Anna Gabriele of Wrede (b. 11 September 1940) and had one child.
Archduchess Charlotte 1 March 1921(1921-03-01) July 23, 1989(1989-07-23) (aged 68) married (1956) George, Duke of Mecklenburg (b. 5 October [O.S. 22 September] 1899 d. 6 July 1963).
Archduchess Elisabeth 31 May 1922 January 7, 1993(1993-01-07) (aged 70) married (1949) Prince Heinrich of Liechtenstein (b. 5 August 1916 d. 17 April 1991) and had five children.


See also



  1. ^ Charles (I), . (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 19 April 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  2. ^
  3. ^ Kings and Queens of Hungary & Princes of Transylvania, by István Gombás published by Corvina, Budapest, 2002 (ISBN 963-13-5152-1)
  4. ^ Die Presse. Unanhängige Tageszeitung für Österreich. 8 November 2008. German online version dated Vov. 7, 2008 [1] accessed 24 March 2009
  5. ^ Portisch H: Österreich I. Die unterschätzte Republik. Verlag Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1989. p. 117
  6. ^ Gordon Brook-Shepherd Uncrowned Emperor - The Life and Times of Otto von Habsburg, Hambledon Continuum, London 2003. ISBN 1852855495.
  7. ^ The New York Times, Nov. 5, 1921 (accessed 4 May 2009)
  8. ^ The New York Times, Nov. 6, 1921 (accessed 4 May 2009)
  9. ^ Blessed Emperor Charles, Prince of Peace for a United Europe, a Roman Catholic pamphlet, Nihil Obstat: Archdiocese of Vienna, 6.7.2005, K1238/05.
  10. ^ The New York Times, 2 April 1922 (accessed 4 May 2009)
  11. ^ Hindenburg, Paul von. Aus meinem Leben. S. Hirzel Verlag Leipzig, 1920. (German) p. from Project Gutenberg (page 165 in PDF file)
  12. ^ Lawrence Sondhaus, World War One: The Global Revolution, p. 483
  13. ^ Beatification of Five Servants of God, Vatican website, 3 October 2004
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Emperor and mystic nun beatified". BBC News. 2004-10-03. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  16. ^ GOODMAN, TANYA Miracle in our midst: Central Florida woman’s cure may lead to sainthood for Blessed Karl of Austria Florida Catholic Feb. 8, 2008
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ "A Miracle in Florida." Messenger of St Anthony Apr. 2009: 19. Print.
  19. ^ James and Joanna Bogle, "A Heart for Europe," page 35.
  20. ^ Bogle, "A Heart for Europe," page 54.
  21. ^ Bogle, "A Heart for Europe," page 137.
  22. ^ Bogle, "A Heart for Europe," page 143.
  23. ^ Bogle, "A Heart for Europe," page 144.

Further reading

  • "The Last Empress, The Life & Times of Zita of Austria-Hungary 1892-1989" by G.Brook-Shepherd 1991,ISBN 0-00-215861-2.
  • Flavia Foradini, "Otto d'Asburgo. L'ultimo atto di una dinastia", mgs press, Trieste, 2004. ISBN 88-89219-04-1

External links

Media related to Karl I of Austria at Wikimedia Commons

Charles I of Austria
Born: 17 August 1887 Died: 1 April 1922
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Franz Joseph I
Emperor of Austria
Abolition of monarchy
King of Hungary
Austro-Hungarian royalty
Preceded by
Franz Ferdinand
Heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne
Succeeded by
Crown Prince Otto
Political offices
Preceded by
Franz Joseph I
as Emperor of Austria
Head of State of Austria
as Emperor of Austria

Succeeded by
Karl Seitz
as President of Austria
Preceded by
Franz Joseph I
as King of Hungary
Head of State of Hungary
as King of Hungary

Succeeded by
Mihály Károlyi
as Provisional President of Hungary
Titles in pretence
Titles extant before
dissolution of
Emperor of Austria
1918 – 1 April 1922
Succeeded by
Crown Prince Otto
King of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia and Galicia
1918 – 1 April 1922
Preceded by
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Duke of Modena
28 June 1914 – 16 April 1917
Reason for succession failure:
Title abolished in 1860
Succeeded by
Archduke Robert
Archduke of Austria-Este
28 June 1914 – 16 April 1917
Reason for succession failure:
Dissolution of Austria-Hungary

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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