Karl, Archduke of Austria

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The Archduke of Austria
Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Tenure 1 January 2007 – present
Predecessor Otto von Habsburg
Heir apparent Archduke Ferdinand
Born (1961-01-11) 11 January 1961 (age 63)
Starnberg, Bavaria, West Germany
(m. 1993; div. 2017)

Issue Archduchess Eleonore
Archduke Ferdinand
Archduchess Gloria
Full name
Karl Thomas Robert Maria Franziskus Georg Bahnam
House Habsburg-Lorraine
Father Otto, Crown Prince of Austria
Mother Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen
Religion Roman Catholicism

Karl Thomas Robert Maria Franziskus Georg Bahnam, Archduke of Austria (In German: Karl, Erzherzog von Österreich; born 11 January 1961) is an Austrian politician and the head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, which used to rule the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg Monarchy, the Empire of Austria, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and the Kingdom of Hungary as well as the Crown lands of Bohemia and Croatia by hereditary right until the end of World War I. He is known as Karl von Habsburg in his professional life.

Karl is the son of Otto, 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's career has focused on the issue of protecting cultural heritage from threats such as armed conflict and natural disasters. He was President of the cultural protection organization Blue Shield International from 2008 until August 2020.[1]

Early life[edit]

Karl von Habsburg was born on 11 January 1961 in Starnberg, Bavaria. He was baptised in Pöcking, Bavaria, as Archduke Karl of Austria, the name entered in the baptismal records.[2] His father was Otto, Crown Prince of Austria, and his mother was Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen. He is the oldest grandson of the last Austrian emperor and empress, Charles I and Zita of Bourbon-Parma.

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.[3]

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.

House of Habsburg titles and issues[edit]

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. Habsburg does not use his ancestral titles, because unlike most European countries, the own use of such titles is not permitted in Hungary and Austria.[4] Habsburg 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.[5]

Although the Adelsaufhebungsgesetz abolished all Austrian and Hungarian noble, royal, and imperial titles in 1919,[6] and their usage is still illegal in those countries,[7] media elsewhere occasionally refer to Karl von Habsburg by his ancestral titles[8][9] of Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia.Template:Refn

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.

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.[10][11][12] The family tried to get their former property returned under rules for victims of the Nazi regime. The attempt of Karl von Habsburg failed because the law of expropriation still has constitutional status.[13] The Habsburg family played a leading role in the fall of the Iron Curtain.[14][15] On 1 January 2007, his father relinquished his position as the head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a status which then devolved on Habsburg,[16] and in 2008 he became the grand master of a Habsburg-Lorraine Order of St. George.[17]

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.[18] In 2019 there were many events in honor of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I.[19] He is supported in this work by an adjutant general or adjutant.[20]


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.[21]

Since 1986, Karl von Habsburg has been president of the Austrian branch of the Paneuropean Union, which co-organised the Pan-European Picnic. 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.[22]

In 1992/1993, he hosted a TV game show with Austrian public TV broadcaster ORF, called Who Is Who.[23][24] 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.[25] 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.[25] ÖVP did not nominate Karl von Habsburg again for the 1999 elections.[23][26] In 2004, Karl von Habsburg paid 37,000 euros to the new World Vision Austria branch.[26]

On 19 January 2002, he was appointed Director General of UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) by the UNPO Steering Committee.[27]

Blue Shield[edit]

From 7 December 2008, he became the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield,[28] a cultural protection organisation that later became Blue Shield International. 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.[29] This particularly moved NATO troops to protect the cultural assets and the economic and cultural basis of the civilian population.[30]

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.[31][32][33] After the explosion in the port of Beirut in Lebanon in summer 2020, Habsburg helped coordinate the reconstruction and aid on site.[34] He stepped down as President of the Blue Shield at the General Assembly in August 2020.[1]

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.[35][36][37] He emphasizes 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."[38]

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.[39] After ongoing conflicts with Bulgarian partners, BG Privatinvest sold the newspapers in April 2011.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Appearing on UK television programme After Dark in 1989

Habsburg has lived in Salzburg, Austria, since 1981, and resides in Casa Austria, formerly called Villa Swoboda, in Anif, near the city of Salzburg.[41] 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 Campbell-Walter.[42] 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,[43][44] 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.[45] 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.[46] Finally, they divorced in 2017.

Karl and Francesca have three children:

In the spring of 2022 in Portugal, Karl married Christian Nicolau de Almeida Reid, a woman of Portuguese descent.[48]

In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, he tested positive for the virus. Habsburg self-isolated at home.[49] He was the first royal person and head of a royal house to contract the virus.[50] Karl von Habsburg was officially declared healthy after almost three weeks of quarantine. 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.[51]



  1. 1.0 1.1 "Blue Shield General Assembly". The Blue Shield. Blue Shield International. Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  2. "Habsburgs Erbe zerfiel und erlebte dennoch eine Renaissance « DiePresse.com". diepresse.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  3. "House of Habsburg | European dynasty". Encyclopedia Britannica. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  4. "RIS - Gesamte Rechtsvorschrift für Habsburgergesetz - Bundesrecht konsolidiert, Fassung vom 09.08.2015". bka.gv.at. Archived from the original on 30 September 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  5. "Ist der Adel passé, Herr Habsburg?". Kronen Zeitung. Archived from the original on 3 March 2020. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  6. "Law of April 3, 1919, on the referral from the state and the takeover of the assets of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine". Rechtsinformationssystems des Bundes. Archived from the original on 30 September 2019. Retrieved 7 May 2011.
  7. Korom, Philipp; Dronkers, Jaap (2015). "Nobles among the Austrian economic elite in the early twenty-first century" (PDF). Nobilities in Europe in the Twentieth Century: Reconversion Strategies, Memory Culture and Elite Formation. Peeters. pp. 281–304. Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  8. Kaiser Joseph II. harmonische Wahlkapitulation mit allen den vorhergehenden Wahlkapitulationen der vorigen Kaiser und Könige.
  9. Croatian Coronation Oath of 1916. pp. 2–4. Emperor of Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia Apostolic king
  10. A Habsburg monarchy or Danube federation, as aimed by the British side, was seen by the Soviet politicians as an instrument of an anti-Soviet policy. (Wolfgang Mueller "Die sowjetische Besatzung in Österreich 1945-1955 und ihre politische Mission" (German - "The Soviet occupation in Austria 1945-1955 and its political mission"), 2005, p 24.
  11. Gerald Stourzh "Geschichte des Staatsvertrages 1945 - 1955" (1975) p 2.
  12. Robert J. Gannon "The Cardinal Spellman Story" (1962), p 222-224.
  13. Karl von Habsburg will Vermögen vor VfGH erkämpfen Archived 11 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
    Habsburger mit Entschädigungs-Forderung beim VfGH abgeblitzt Archived 11 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. Otmar Lahodynsky: Paneuropäisches Picknick: Die Generalprobe für den Mauerfall (Pan-European picnic: the dress rehearsal for the fall of the Berlin Wall - German), in: Profil 9 August 2014; Thomas Roser: DDR-Massenflucht: Ein Picknick hebt die Welt aus den Angeln (German - Mass exodus of the GDR: A picnic clears the world) in: Die Presse 16 August 2018.
  15. Miklós Németh in Interview, Austrian TV - ORF "Report", 25 June 2019.
  16. "Die vielen Pflichten des Adels". Wiener Zeitung (in German). 5 July 2011. Archived from the original on 5 August 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  17. "Wiener Schatzkammer: Schatz des Ordens vom Goldenen Vlies". wiener-schatzkammer.at. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  18. "ILF begrüßt Karl Habsburg bei der Landung nach dem Friedensflug". Austrian Wings. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  19. GmbH, Typoheads. "Der letzte Ritter". www.milak.at. Archived from the original on 26 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  20. "Generaladjutantur". Generaladjutantur. Archived from the original on 28 March 2020. Retrieved 28 March 2020.
  21. "Vorstand". www.european-paratrooper.de. Archived from the original on 23 March 2020. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
  22. Hans Haider: Kulturgüterschutz: Karl Habsburg-Lothringen. Archived 6 October 2020 at the Wayback Machine In: Wiener Zeitung, 29. Juni 2012, Archived on 9 Februar 2020.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Beruf: Enkel", Die Presse, 3 April 2011, archived from the original on 8 April 2011, retrieved 5 June 2011
  24. Ansichtssache: Ranking der Absonderlichkeiten im ORF Archived 11 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine, 27 December 2005
  25. 25.0 25.1 Martin, Hans-Peter (21 December 1998), "Österreich : Gelber Stern", Der Spiegel (52), archived from the original on 16 September 2011, retrieved 5 June 2011
  26. 26.0 26.1 Schüller, Rainer (2005), "25. November 1998: Der Spendenskandal um "World Vision Österreich" bringt den ÖVP-Politiker Karl von Habsburg in Bedrängnis. Volkspartei und Adel: ein schwieriges Verhältnis?", Datum (10), archived from the original on 14 May 2007.
  27. UNPO. "UNPO Steering Committee appoints Karl von Habsburg as the organizations new Director-General". UNPO Website. Archived from the original on 3 September 2010. Retrieved 23 April 2011. This position is separate from the "Secretary General" as the UNPO Website explains "This is a newly created senior position within the UNPO, aimed at further enhancing the fundamental rights of its Members world-wide."
  28. Blue Shield. "ANCBS – An organization for protection of culture in danger". Blue Shield Website. Archived from the original on 13 August 2012. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  29. Kane, Susan (May 2013). "Lessons Learned From Libya". SAA. 13 (3). Retrieved 12 January 2021.
  30. "Protecting Libya's heritage". NATO. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2020.
  31. "The ICRC and the Blue Shield signed a Memorandum of Understanding". 26 February 2020. Archived from the original on 22 March 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020 – via www.icrc.org. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  32. "Action plan to preserve heritage sites during conflict". UNIFIL. 12 April 2019. Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2020.
  33. "Wo Österreichs Soldaten den Osterfrieden sichern". Kronen Zeitung. Archived from the original on 26 December 2019. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  34. "Beirut: Habsburg koordiniert Kulturgüterschutz". Archived from the original on 27 August 2020. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  35. "Islamic Manuscript Collections in Conflict Zones: Safeguarding Written Heritage" In: The Islamic Manuscript Association, 5 October 2015.
  36. "Interview with Karl von Habsburg-Lothringen - CIMIC-COE". Civil-Military Cooperation Centre of Excellence. Archived from the original on 6 October 2020. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  37. GmbH, Typoheads. "Die Rolle des Militärs beim Schutz von Kulturgütern". www.milak.at. Archived from the original on 11 January 2020. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
  38. Protecting Libya's heritage. NATO-News, 4 Januar 2012. 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".<ref>"Action plan to preserve heritage sites during conflict". United Nations Peacekeeping. Archived from the original on 27 May 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  39. "German media group sells its newspaper and publishing business in Bulgaria", Associated Press Newswire (15 December 2010).
  40. "Sopharma Owner, Partner Win Battle for WAZ Asssets in Bulgaria", Novinite (18 April 2011).
  41. "Villa Swoboda" Archived 21 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, SalzburgWiki.
  42. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser vol. 16. C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 87–90. (German). ISBN 3-79800824-8.
  43. Enache, Nicolas. La Descendance de Marie-Therese de Habsburg. ICC, Paris, 1996, p. 50. (French). ISBN 2-908003-04-X
  44. de Badts de Cugnac, Chantal and Coutant de Saisseval, Guy. Le Petit Gotha. Nouvelle Imprimerie Laballery, Paris 2002, pp. 201–202 (French). ISBN 2-9507974-3-1.
  45. "Member of Habsburg family fined for smuggling", Reuters News (21 July 1998).
  46. Shaw, William, "We Are Not a Muse Archived 27 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine", New York Times, 25 February 2007.
  47. "le baptême de Gloria, archiduchesse d'Autriche", Point de Vue, no. 2688 (26 janvier au 1 fevrier 2000): 32–35.
  48. "Karl Habsburg hat sich in Portugal getraut" (in German). Kronen Zeitung. 16 June 2022. Archived from the original on 17 June 2022. Retrieved 17 June 2022.
  49. "Auch Kaiserenkel Karl mit Coronavirus infiziert" (in German). Kronen Zeitung. 10 March 2020. Archived from the original on 12 March 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  50. Sampson, Annabel. "Prince Albert II of Monaco has now recovered from Coronavirus". Tatler. Archived from the original on 21 March 2020. Retrieved 21 March 2020.
  51. Habsburg in "ZIB -2" and "Mittag in Österreich", in Austrian TV - ORF (German), 30/31 March 2020.
  52. "Internetseite in englischer Sprache". schuetzen.erzbistum-koeln.de. Archived from the original on 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  53. "Katholisch Österreichische Landsmanschaften |". Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  54. "ORDO EQUESTRIS VINI EUROPAE" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 March 2020. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  55. 55.0 55.1 "Karl von Habsburg wearing the star of the royal household order and the coronation medal". Archived from the original on 18 February 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2016.

External links[edit]

Karl, Archduke of Austria
Born: 11 January 1961
Titles in pretence
Preceded by — 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
This article initially used material from the Wikipedia article Karl von Habsburg, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (view authors). Changes by Royalpedia users can be viewed by clicking 'View history'.