Karl von Habsburg
|Member of the European Parliament for Austria|
|Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine|
|Otto von Habsburg|
|Born||11 January 1961|
Starnberg, Bavaria, West Germany
|Political party||Austrian People's Party|
(m. 1993; div. 2017)
|Children||Eleonore von Habsburg|
Ferdinand Zvonimir von Habsburg
Gloria von Habsburg
|Parents||Otto, Crown Prince of Austria|
Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen
|House of Habsburg-Lorraine|
|Francis I (Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor)|
|Franz Joseph I|
He is also known as Karl of Austria or Karl von Österreich. In Hungary, he is known as Habsburg Károly, in the Czech Republic as Karel Habsbursko-Lotrinský, in Croatia as Karlo Habsbur?ko-Lotarin?ki, in Italy as Carlo d'Asburgo-Lorena, in Spain as Carlos de Habsburgo-Lorena and in France as Charles de Habsburg-Lorraine.
Karl is the son of Archduke Otto von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria and Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen, and the grandson of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, Charles I. He is head and sovereign of the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece. Karl von Habsburg served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Austrian People's Party (1996-1999). He is known for being Pro-European and is also an advocate for the Pan-European movement.
Karl von Habsburg has long been committed to protecting the world's cultural heritage from threats such as armed conflict and natural disasters. Habsburg vigorously advocates international humanitarian law, the right of peoples to self-determination and the protection of ethnic minorities worldwide. He has been President of the cultural protection organization Blue Shield International since 2008, stepping down in August 2020.
Karl von Habsburg was born on 11 January 1961 in Starnberg, Bavaria. He was baptised in Pöcking, Bavaria, as Archduke Karl of Austria (Erzherzog Karl von Österreich), the name entered in the baptismal records. At the time of his birth, his father was de facto stateless and possessed a Spanish diplomatic passport (he had grown up in Spain), while his mother was a German citizen. Like his father and siblings, he was banished from Austria for the first years of his life. However, the administrative court of Austria later ruled that applying to return to the country was legal, and his family was granted visa entrance in June 1966.
His ancestral titles are Imperial Highness Archduke of Austria, Prince of Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria, and Jerusalem, etc.; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow, Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, 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 and Sonnenberg, etc.; Lord of Trieste, Cattaro and in the Windic March, Grand Voivode of the Voivodeship of Serbia, etc., etc., etc.
He does not use his ancestor titles, because unlike most European countries, the own use of such titles is not permitted in Hungary and Austria. Habsburg, however, is often referred to and titled as Imperial Highness by inhabitants of Central Europe, especially in Hungary, Austria, Italy and Croatia. Karl von Habsburg himself is addressed worldwide (next to his names in for example Italian or Spanish) as Mr. Von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria or even from official organs especially as Imperial Highness. Habsburg himself says:
I don't refer to titles, I'm not that vain. People use these titles out of respect for history and the role of my family in history.
Although the Adelsaufhebungsgesetz abolished all Austrian and Hungarian noble, royal, and imperial titles in 1919, and their usage is still illegal in those countries, media elsewhere occasionally refer to Karl von Habsburg by his ancestral titles of Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia.
In 1961, his father, Otto von Habsburg, renounced all claims to the Austrian throne, as a necessary legal condition to being allowed to return to Austria. On 30 November 2000, Karl's father transferred over to him the position of head and sovereign (grand master) of the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece. In 2005, Karl von Habsburg filed an unsuccessful lawsuit before Austria's constitutional court after a failed attempt to have former properties of the Habsburg family returned. The family's estates had been expropriated by the First Austrian Republic; this had in part been reverted under Austrofascism, and then the Nazis had expropriated them again.
As ordered personally by Adolf Hitler, Otto von Habsburg's personal property and that of the House of Habsburg were confiscated. Otto von Habsburg, like later his son Karl, was a firm supporter of European integration and was a vehement opponent of National Socialism and Communism. Hitler hated the Habsburgs, so much so that his invasion plan of Austria was called "Operation Otto". Hitler diametrically opposed the centuries-old Habsburg principles of "live and let live" with regard to ethnic groups, peoples, minorities, religions, cultures and languages. Over 800 Habsburg resistance fighters were executed by the Nazis. Among them was Karl Burian, who was planning to blow up the Gestapo headquarters in Vienna, and Dr. Heinrich Maier, who very successfully sent the locations of Nazi armament factories for V-2 rockets, Tiger tanks or airplanes to the Allies and planned a monarchy for after the war in Central Europe.
At the express request of the USSR, which feared an opposition in its oppressed countries, the anti-Habsburg laws became mandatory international and constitutional components of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955. The family tried to get their former property returned under rules for victims of the Nazi regime. The attempt failed because the law of expropriation still has constitutional status. The Habsburg family played a leading role in the fall of the Iron Curtain.
On 1 January 2007, his father relinquished his position as the head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a status which then devolved on Karl, and in 2008 he became the grand master of a Habsburg-Lorraine Order of St. George.
Karl von Habsburg did his military service in 1981 as a Platoon commander of a Jäger (infantry) Platoon as a one-year volunteer with the Austrian Armed Forces, where he later also completed his pilot training and is currently the reserve Hauptmann (captain) in the Austrian Air Force. He is also an Austrian Army Cultural Property Protection Officer, first with the staff of the Military Command of Salzburg, later with the Armed Forces High Command, currently with IHSW at Staff College. As a paratrooper, he was elected President of the European Military Paratroopers Association (Europäischen Militär- Fallschirmsprungverbandes e.V.) in 2001 - a role that he still holds today.
Since 1986, Karl von Habsburg has been president of the Austrian branch of the Paneuropean Union, which co-organised the Pan-European Picnic (- an important event during the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Revolutions of 1989). Under his responsibility, the opposition and freedom movements in Central and Eastern Europe were supported and he participated extensively in political events in what was then Czechoslovakia, Hungary, then Yugoslavia and the Baltic States.
In May 1990, Habsburg personally led an aid convoy to Vilnius with food, medicine and clothing as a representative of the Paneuropean Union, in response to the Soviet Union's blockade of raw materials following the proclamation of Lithuanian independence in March 1990. In 1991 he organized international aid against the destruction in Dubrovnik and in the former Yugoslavia.
Karl von Habsburg studied law, political science and philosophy from 1982 at the University of Salzburg and received a scholarship in 1984 for further studies at Michigan State University. He received later an LLM and MBA degree from IMADEC University in Vienna in 2012. Habsburg has been giving lectures on many topics such as European unification, legal philosophy, political and historical developments in Europe and security issues. He speaks English, French, Spanish, Italian and German.
In 1992/1993, he hosted a TV game show with Austrian public TV broadcaster ORF, called Who Is Who. In October 1996, he was elected to the European Parliament for the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP). Two years later, it emerged that the ÖVP's election campaign had benefitted from at least 30,000 Mark of World Vision donation money via Paneurope Austria while Karl von Habsburg sat on the board of World Vision Austria, apparently without noticing the director's dubiously legal activities. His father exacerbated the controversy when he complained that his son was being attacked unfairly and drew a parallel between the name "Habsburg" and a yellow badge. ÖVP did not nominate Karl von Habsburg again for the 1999 elections. In 2004, Karl von Habsburg paid 37,000 euros to the new World Vision Austria branch.
From 7 December 2008, he became the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield., an organisation that later became Blue Shield International. He stepped down as President at the General Assembly in August 2020. During this time, he undertook a number of fact finding missions like in Egypt, Libya, Lebanon and Mali. Habsburg does not hesitate personally to undertake dangerous operations himself, as Joris Kila, art historian for Blue Shield and "Competence Center for Cultural Heritage" at the University of Vienna, explains: "Unesco and other institutions consider it too dangerous to inspect the places in Libya whether they are damaged or not, so Karl von Habsburg and I decided that we had to do it ourselves, we were in Ras-Almergib, a place right next to Leptis Magna, where a Gaddafi radar and air defense station destroyed was 15 meters from a Roman fortress that remained intact. The ancient site was on our list." Habsburg was a strong supporter of those who created the "No Strike List" of cultural heritage sites and cultural sites that should be preserved when attacks or flight operations were carried out. This particularly moved NATO troops to protect the cultural assets and the economic and cultural basis of the civilian population.
At a Civil-Military Assessment Mission for Malian Heritage in 2014, extensive "no-strike lists" of cultural property was created. With a Blue Shield team in cooperation with the Armed Forces in Mali, Von Habsburg checked the cultural assets threatened and any relief measures. In particular, training was given by the Commander of military region 5, Colonel Kèba Sangare, Habsburg for Blue Shield and Siratigui Sogoba performed as a Cultural Heritage specialist. This also involved adapting the combat technique.
It is also about preventing the looting of historical cultural sites. Habsburg particularly supports the bringing together of military and civilian personnel and the cooperation of various international organizations for the protection of cultural assets, such as the Blue Shield, UNIFIL and UNESCO deployment in Lebanon in 2019, and the cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2020. After the big explosion in the port of Beirut in Lebanon in summer 2020, Habsburg coordinated the reconstruction and aid on site. Although he has stepped down as President, he remains a strong supporter of the Blue Shield.
Since 2010 he has been Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Competence Center for Cultural heritage and Cultural Property Protection at the University of Vienna. He delivers lectures and training courses worldwide on the role of the military in protecting cultural property, such as at the United States Africa Command, the Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence or the Theresian Military Academy. He emphasises that it is crucial for cultural property protection to be on the spot quickly: "We know the importance to be fast and in a place where there is a potential conflict or an actual conflict; you have to be there really fast to make an assessment and to see what you can do to immediately help."
Von Habsburg propagates vehemently worldwide through on-site missions, lectures, workshops and interviews on the protection of archaeological finds and archaeological sites, in addition to the establishment of rules, documentation and lists, and the training of the police, the military, civil administration and international organizations, but with particular importance the strong involvement of the local population. It is only through cooperation with the locals that the protection of archaeological finds, exhibits and excavation sites from destruction, looting and robbery can be implemented sustainably. He summed it up with the words: "Without the local community and without the local participants, that would be completely impossible".
Another of his areas of activity is the protection of intangible cultural heritage such as customs, traditions or languages. Much of what is not hewn out of stone or on paper has to be preserved for the next generations, he says. "Today, on average, we lose one language in the world every six weeks. But 96 percent of the languages we know are more or less at risk. You have to treat them like extinct species."
Since 2009, he has been a shareholder in a media group in the Netherlands, consisting of radio stations, a magazine and a music television channel. He is also one of the three co-founders of BG Privatinvest, a Vienna-based investment company. In December 2010 the company acquired the two most important Bulgarian daily newspapers, Dneven Trud and 24 Chasa. After ongoing conflicts with Bulgarian partners, BG Privatinvest sold the newspapers in April 2011.
As head of the family, Habsburg undertakes numerous commitments. On the one hand, these are cultural, historical, scientific, political, but also tourist events and, on the other hand, commitments to orders of chivalry, associations or military units. Many events, such as the participation in the peace flight in 2018 as a pilot with his plane, concerned the centenary of World War I. In 2019 there were many events in honor of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. He is supported in this work by an adjutant general or adjutant.
Habsburg has lived in Salzburg, Austria, since 1981, and resides in Casa Austria, formerly called Villa Swoboda, in Anif, near the city of Salzburg. On 31 January 1993 in Mariazell, he married Baroness Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza (born 7 June 1958 in Lausanne), the only daughter of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, a European industrialist, and his third wife, the fashion model Fiona Frances Elaine Campbell-Walter. The marriage received the dynastic authorization of Karl's father, as head of the House of Habsburg, despite objections from some members of the family inasmuch as the bride, although a baroness in the nobility of pre-republican Hungary and Transylvania, did not descend in the canonically legitimate male line from a family of dynastic (ruling or formerly ruling or mediatised) status, as does his younger brother Georg's wife.
In July 1998 an Austrian court fined Karl von Habsburg 180,000 schillings ($14,300); he had failed to declare immediately to customs officials that he had an antique diadem in his luggage when he crossed the border from Switzerland in July 1996. The diadem belonged to his wife who intended to wear it at a wedding ceremony. After 10 years of marriage, the couple separated in 2003. Finally, they divorced in 2017.
Karl and Francesca have three children:
Habsburg said in an interview about private life in the 21st century: "If you don't deliver results, you won't get any further. There are no inherited laurels to rest on. And I don't see anyone in my family who has a problem with that." Regarding the racing profession of his son Ferdinand: "I'm pretty relaxed now. When I think about how often I took him to the hospital with broken bones after a kart race!"
In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he tested positive for the virus. Karl von Habsburg said he felt good and fearless and was self-isolated at home. He was the first royal person and head of a royal house to contract the virus. Karl von Habsburg was officially declared healthy after almost three weeks of quarantine. "However, the situation makes it necessary to stay at home. It is the best way to curb the spread of the virus," he said. "One must now bear responsibility in freedom, to take care of ourselves and thus of our fellow human beings". After his illness, Karl von Habsburg encouraged everyone to follow the official protective measures strictly, and asked survivors of the disease to donate blood plasma.
Karl von HabsburgBorn: 11 January 1961
|Titles in pretence|
Otto von Habsburg
|-- TITULAR --
Emperor of Austria,
King of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia,
4 July 2011 - present
Reason for succession failure:
Austro-Hungarian Empire abolished in 1918
Ferdinand Zvonimir von Habsburg