Emperor Karl I
Karl I (r.1916-1918), last Emperor of Austria
Karl IV, last King of Hungary (r. 1916-18)
Karl was the son of Archduke Otto and grandnephew of Emperor Franz Joseph and after the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 he became heir apparent and was then successor to Emperor Franz Joseph.
He married Zita of Bourbon-Parma.
The death of his uncle, Franz Ferdinand, was to make Karl heir to the throne.
After his accession, Karl tried to obtain peace and an end to the war but his efforts led to friction between Austria and Germany.
The future of the empire and the monarchy became more and more dependent on the outcome of the war and even though Russia had withdrawn from the war, thus easing pressure from the east, the losses in the west of Europe were becoming a threat to the stability of the front.
The new monarch feared that Austria's future was doomed by its alliance with Germany and tried to reach a peace settlement with the Allies by using his Bourbon-Parma brothers-in-law as emissaries.
Karl sent peace offers to Georges Clemenceau, the French Prime Minister, in an effort to bring an end to the war, but France rejected his plans. Germany became worried and decided to keep a watchful eye on the actions taken by the young Austrian Emperor and for the rest of the war Austria was exposed to close German surveillance.
The future of the Empire and monarchy became more and more dependent on the outcome of the war.
Even though Russia had withdrawn its troops in the east, it became very hard to maintain the stability of the German front in the west.
After the United States had entered the war on the side of the Allies in 1917 and Germany’s military offensive in the spring of 1918 failed completely, Germany was no longer able to continue its war effort.
Immediately after the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, the Empire and the monarchy started to crumble.
Karl renounced his right to participate in the affairs of state and in 1919 the Imperial family left Austria to go into exile.
Karl I died just 4 years later in 1922 on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
His wife, the Empress Zita, died in 1989, at the age of 97.
Zita remained loyal to the Habsburg claim to the throne and was not permitted to enter Austria until the Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky lifted the restrictions in 1982.
On the 1st April 1989, she was given something very near to an “Imperial” state funeral in Vienna and is now buried in the tomb of the Habsburgs (Imperial Crypt).
The Emperor Karl I is buried on the Portuguese island of Madeira.
Archduke Karl Franz Joseph Ludwig Hubert Georg Otto Marie
was born on the 17th August 1887.
Karl was the couple’s firstborn and the Imperial House of Austria rejoiced the birth of Emperor Franz Joseph’s grandnephew.
The infant was far down the line of succession and it was unimaginable at that time that a series of tragedies
and events was to change his destiny and that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Karl was the son of Archduke Otto and grandnephew
and successor to Emperor Franz Joseph.
Karl IV, last King of Hungary (r. 1916-18)
The Imperial family in Hungary
Wedding of Archduke Karl and Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma
in Schwarzau Palace on the 21st October 1911.
Emperor Franz Joseph attended the wedding and was relieved to see an heir make a suitable marriage.
Archduke Karl was not expected to become Emperor for some time because Franz Ferdinand was first-in-line but had married morganatically which made their future children and descendants not eligible for the throne and they were excluded from the line of succession.
On the 28th June 1914, Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were assassinated in Sarajevo.
The disastrous war that followed was difficult for Zita because several of her brothers fought on the opposing sides.
Prince Felix and Prince René had joined the Austrian army but Prince Sixtus and Prince Xavier both enlisted in the Belgian army.
Even Zita’s country of birth, Italy, joined in the war against Austria in 1915.
Zita of Bourbon-Parma was born on the 9th May 1892
and died on the 14th March 1989.
Zita was the wife of Emperor Karl I of Austria.
After the First World War, Karl and Zita were forced to leave Austria and went into exile in Switzerland and later Madeira.
Karl died in 1922 and Zita, who was at that time only twenty-nine years of age, had to start to raise her children as a widow.
Empress Zita died in 1989 at the age of ninety-seven.
She remained loyal to the Habsburg claim to the throne and was not permitted to enter Austria until the Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky lifted the restrictions in 1982.
On the 1st April 1989, she was given something very near to an ‘Imperial’ state funeral in Vienna and is now buried in the tomb of the Habsburgs (Imperial Crypt).
The Imperial Family
The children of Emperor Karl I and Empress Zita:
Franz Josef Otto (1912–2011)
Robert Karl Ludwig (1915–1996)
Felix Friedrich (1916–2011)
Carl Ludwig (1918–2007)
Rudolph Syringus (1919–2010)
Elisabeth Charlotte (1922–1993)
The train journey to Hungary
Karl and his wife Zita bow their heads at a field Mass during his attempt to regain the throne of Hungary in 1921.
Karl attempted to reclaim throne of Hungary
On the 13th November 1918, Karl renounced his right to take part in Hungarian affairs of state.
The last Hungarian prime minister, Mihály Károlyi proclaimed the Hungarian Democratic Republic but in March 1919 he was forced out of office by the Social Democratic-Communist coalition.
The Communist leader Bela Kun was overthrown in August and Archduke Joseph August took power but the Allies refused to recognise him.
In March 1920, Miklós Horthy, the last commander of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, became regent of Hungary.
Karl was encouraged by Hungarian royalists and tried to reclaim the throne of Hungary twice in 1921 but failed - Horthy refused to support him.
Emperor Karl I died in 1922 on the Portuguese island of Madeira and is buried in the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte.
The Beatification of Emperor Karl I
In October 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified the last emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Karl I.
The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints credits Karl with a miracle concerning a Brazilian nun who was able to walk for the first time in years after offering prayers for his beatification. (This is the step prior to canonisation. Proof of another miracle is required before the decision to canonise, sainthood, can be made,)
The Emperor’s Car "Kaiserwagen"