Charles I & IV
Emperor of Austria
Reign 21 November 1916 – 1 April 1922
Coronation 30 December 1916
Predecessor Francis Joseph I
Successor Otto I
Spouse Zita of Bourbon-Parma
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Archduke Otto Franz
Mother Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony
Born 17 August 1887
Persenbeug-Gottsdorf, Austria-Hungary Flag of Austria-Hungary (1869-1918).svg
Died 1 April 1922 (aged 34)
Vienna, Greater Austria 22px
Religion Roman Catholicism

Charles I of Austria or Charles IV of Hungary (Karl Franz Joseph Ludwig Hubert Georg Otto Marie; 17 August 1887 – 1 April 1922) was, among various titles, the ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was usually referred to as the Emperor of Austria. He reigned from 1916 until his death in 1922. He spent most of his reign preventing his empire from collapsing. Following his beatification by the Catholic Church in 2004, he has become commonly known as Blessed Charles of Austria.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Charles was born 17 August 1887 in the Castle of Persenbeug in Lower Austria. His parents were Archduke Otto Franz of Austria and Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony. At the time, his great uncle Franz Joseph reigned as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Upon the death of Crown Prince Rudolph in 1889, the Emperor's brother, Archduke Karl Ludwig, was next in line to the Austro-Hungarian throne. However, his death in 1896 from typhoid made his eldest son, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the new heir presumptive.

As a child, Archduke Charles was reared a devout Roman Catholic. He spent his early years wherever his father's regiment happened to be stationed; later on he lived in Vienna and Reichenau an der Rax. He was privately educated, but, contrary to the custom ruling in the imperial family, he attended a public gymnasium for the sake of demonstrations in scientific subjects. On the conclusion of his studies at the gymnasium, he entered the army, spending the years from 1906 to 1908 as an officer chiefly in Prague, where he studied law and political science concurrently with his military duties.

In 1907, he was declared of age and Prince Zdenko Lobkowitz was appointed his chamberlain. In the next few years he carried out his military duties in various Bohemian garrison towns. Charles's relations with his granduncle were not intimate, and those with his uncle Franz Ferdinand were not cordial, with the differences between their wives increasing the existing tension between them. For these reasons, Charles, up to the time of the assassination of his uncle in 1914, obtained no insight into affairs of state, but led the life of a prince not destined for a high political position.

Marriage[edit | edit source]

File:Hochzeit Erzh Karl und Zita Schwarzau 1911c.jpg

The wedding of Zita and Charles, 21 October 1911.

In 1911, Charles married Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. They had met as children but did not see one another for almost ten years, as each pursued their education. In 1909, his Dragoon regiment was stationed at Brandýs nad Labem (Brandeis an der Elbe) in Bohemia, from where he visited his aunt at Franzensbad. It was during one of these visits that Charles and Zita became reacquainted. Due to Franz Ferdinand's morganatic marriage in 1900, his children were excluded from the succession. As a result, the Emperor pressured Charles to marry. Zita not only shared Charles' devout Catholicism, but also an impeccable royal lineage. Zita later recalled:

We were of course glad to meet again and became close friends. On my side feelings developed gradually over the next two years. He seemed to have made his mind up much more quickly, however, and became even more keen when, in the autumn of 1910, rumours spread about that I had got engaged to a distant Spanish relative, Jaime, Duke of Madrid. On hearing this, the Archduke came down post haste from his regiment at Brandeis and sought out his [step]grandmother, Archduchess Maria Theresa, who was also my aunt and the natural confidante in such matters. He asked if the rumor was true and when told it was not, he replied, "Well, I had better hurry in any case or she will get engaged to someone else."

Heir presumptive[edit | edit source]

Charles became heir presumptive after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, the event which precipitated the World War. Only at this time did the old Emperor take steps to initiate the heir-presumptive to his crown in affairs of state. But the outbreak of the World War interfered with this political education. Charles spent his time during the first phase of the war at headquarters at Teschen, but exercised no military influence.

Charles then became a Feldmarschall (Field Marshal) in the Austro-Hungarian Army. In the spring of 1916, in connection with the offensive against Italy, he was entrusted with the command of the XX. Corps, whose affections the heir-presumptive to the throne won by his affability and friendliness. The offensive, after a successful start, soon came to a standstill. Shortly afterwards, Charles went to the eastern front as commander of an army operating against the Russians and Romanians.

Reign[edit | edit source]

King Charles taking his coronation oath at Holy Trinity Column outside Matthias Church, 30 December 1916

Portrait of the recently crowned King Charles IV and Queen Zita with their son Otto

Charles succeeded to the thrones in November 1916, after the death of Emperor Franz Joseph.

On 2 December 1916, he assumed the title of Supreme Commander of the whole army from Archduke Frederick. His coronation occurred 30 December. In 1917, Charles secretly entered into peace negotiations with France. He employed his brother-in-law, Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma, an officer in the Belgian Army, as intermediary.

Although his foreign minister, Ottokar Czernin, was only interested in negotiating a general peace which would include Germany, Charles himself 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 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 talks with U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who encouraged that the Empire allow for autonomy and self-determination of its peoples. As a result, 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 informed the government of a 1 September armistice with the Western Allies but not with Italy, and on 16 October Charles issued a proclamation that radically changed the nature of the Austrian state. The Poles were granted a plebiscite with the purpose of either joining their ethnic brethren in Russia and Germany in a Polish state or remaining part of the empire. 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 have a special status. However, autonomy for the nationalities was no longer enough. In fact, a Slovak provisional government had broken away from Hungary on 29 October, and a national council declared an their own Slav state on the same day. Both threatening seccession from Vienna if Charles di not recognise them.

One by one, the nationalities proclaimed their autonomy with the threat of withdrawing from the empire; even before October 1918 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. A diplomatic note from France confirmed that the Allies would not recognise an independent Hungary. Austrian prime minister, Heinrich Lammasch, advised him that he was an impossible situation, and his best course was to temporarily exercise his sovereign power on Hungary.

On 1 March 1920, the National Assembly of Hungary re-established the Kingdom of Hungary. Bishop Ottokár Prohászka then led a small delegation to meet Charles, announcing, "Hungary's Parliament has re-elected your majesty! Would it please you to once again accept crown of Hungary?" With the new United States of Greater Austria guaranteed, Charles swore allegience to the new constitution. The country retained its parliamentary system following the transition, with a chancellor appointed as head of government. As head of state, Charles retained significant influence through his constitutional powers and the loyalty of his ministers to the crown. Although his involvement in drafting legislation was minuscule, he nevertheless had the ability to ensure that laws passed by the national parliament conformed to his political preferences.

Death[edit | edit source]

Imperial Crypt, Vienna

After the events in Hungary had calmed, Charles and his family enjoyed a period of considerable popularity through out their realm. On 1 March 1922 the entire family went on holiday to the Portuguese island of Madeira. On 9 March 1922 he caught cold walking into town which developed bronchitis and subsequently progressed to severe pneumonia. Having suffered two heart attacks while returning to Vienna, he died of respiratory failure 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. His remains except for his heart were interred in the Habsburg Crypt in Vienna. His heart and the heart of his wife are in the monastery of Muri Switzerland.

Official grand title[edit | edit source]

Monarchical styles of
Charles I of Austria
Imperial Coat of Arms of Greater Austria
Reference style His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty
Spoken style Your Imperial and Royal Apostolic 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, King of Bohemia, Croatia, Galicia, Lodomeria, and Venetia; King of Jerusalem, Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Slovakia, 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 of the Voivodship of Serbia.

Children[edit | edit source]

The children in Funchal, 1920s

Name Birth Death Notes
Emperor Otto I 20 November 1912 4 July 2011 (aged 98) married (1951) Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen (1925–2010); seven children.
Archduchess Adelheid 3 January 1914 2 October 1971 (aged 57)
Archduke Robert 8 February 1915 7 February 1996 (aged 80) married (1953) Princess Margherita of Savoy-Aosta (born 7 April 1930); five children.
Archduke Felix 31 May 1916 6 September 2011 (aged 95) married (1952) Princess Anna-Eugénie of Arenberg (5 July 1925 – 9 June 1997); seven children.
Archduke Karl Ludwig 10 March 1918 11 December 2007 (aged 89) married (1950) Princess Yolanda of Ligne (born 6 May 1923); four children.
Archduke Rudolf 5 September 1919 15 May 2010 (aged 90) married (1953) Countess Xenia Tschernyschev-Besobrasoff (11 June 1929 – 20 September 1968); four children.
Second marriage (1971) Princess Anna Gabriele of Wrede (born 11 September 1940); one child.
Archduchess Charlotte 1 March 1922 23 July 1989 (aged 68) married (1956) George II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (5 October 1899 – 6 July 1963).
Archduchess Elisabeth 31 May 1922 7 January 1993 (aged 70) married (1949) Prince Heinrich Karl Vincenz of Liechtenstein (5 August 1916 – 17 April 1991), grandson of Prince Alfred; five children.
Charles I of Austria
Born: 17 August 1887 Died: 1 April 1922
Austrian royalty
Preceded by
Franz Joseph I
Emperor of Austria
Succeeded by
Otto I
King of Hungary
King of Bohemia
King of Croatia
King of Galicia and Lodomeria
King of Venetia
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.