Archduke Otto von Habsburg (November 20, 1912-July 4, 2011) RIP

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by Leonard P. Liggio

I have been fortunate to know several persons who connected me to Central Europe. For example, a  professor at the graduate school of Fordham University was Oskar Halecki with whom I took the  annual lecture course and four annual seminars (two on the Versailles conference). Halecki’s grandmother as a teenager danced at the Congress of Vienna; his father was a Lieutenant-Field Marshall in the Austro-Hungarian army. He lived and studied in Vienna until he attended the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

In 1919 he became secretary of delegation to the Versailles Conference of the newly created Poland; before he retired at Fordham University, he directed my M.A. thesis on the “Austro-Polish Solution to the Polish Question during the First World War” which intended to crown Archduke Stefan von Habsburg as King of Poland. Halecki became dean of the University of Warsaw after Versailles and was teaching in Grenoble in 1939. He came to the Laval University and then to Fordham where the graduate common room was named after the University of Lublin.

Many of my professors were Central Europeans  who greatly benefited American universities. At Georgetown University I studied with Tibor Kerekes and Heinrich Rommen; also at Georgetown were Goetz Briefs and Stefan Possony. At Fordham I had several courses with Gerhard Ladner from Vienna; when I was on the history faculty of the City College of New York, two of my closest colleagues were Herbert Straus from Bavaria and Thomas Goldstein from Vienna. My associations with Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek and Fritz Machlup were memorable.

Tibor Kerekes was  the Hungarian tutor of Archduke Otto von Hapsburg-Lothringen (Lorraine). Kerekes had been an aide of the Habsburg heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand who was assassinated by Serbian nationalists at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Kerekes was present and his lecture on the assassination was instructive. Archduke Otto’s father, Archduke Karl, was the nephew of Franz Ferdinand and heir as Franz Ferdinand’s children were not eligible since their mother was a noble and not royalty. Kerekes lost his arm in the fighting and returned to the dynastic household as tutor to the young Archduke Otto and accompanied the imperial-royal family when they went into exile to Switzerland after abdication at the November 1918 armistice (Emperor Franz-Josef died on November 22, 1916 after 68 years on the throne).

Emperor Karl I attempted to regain the Hungarian throne of St. Stefan but was blocked by the Hungarian regent, Admiral Miklos Horthy. Kerekes came to the US where he became chairman of the History and Government Department at Georgetown University. The Habsburgs settled on the Portuguese island of Madeira where Emperor Karl died on April 1, 1922. Empress  Zita from the House of Bourbon-Palma settled in Spain where Archduke Otto completed his secondary education; they then moved to Belgium so he could study at the University of Louvain.

In 1940 Empress Zita and Archduke Otto moved to U.S. where Kerekes advised the family. Archduke Otto returned  to Europe as a lecturer and journalist with special attention to the concept of European Union. From 1979 to 1999 Archduke Otto was a member of the European Parliament representing the Bavarian Christian Social Union. In 1954 he married Princess Regina of Sachsen-Meiningen who passed away in 2010. I met the couple on visits to Washington, and met Archduke Otto at meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society (he became a member in 1960) and of a discussion club in Liechtenstein. Empress Zita died in 1989 at age 96 years (her mother, Maria Antonia, Infanta of Portugal, died in 1959 at age 96 years). Archduke Otto will be buried in the Habsburg’s Emperor Tomb in the Franciscan Capuchin church in Vienna.