On This Day: Born Charles I. of Austria

On this day, 17th of August, 1887., was born His Imperial and Royal Majesty, Charles I. He was the last king of Austria, as well as the last king of Croatia according to Zvonimir’s hereditary right. He was also the first Croatian ruler who united all Croatian historical lands: Istra, Croatia proper, Slavonia, Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He spent his childhood in Opatia and Istra, playing with children of local peasants, from whom he also started learning Croatian language.

Contrary to the imperial custom, prince Charles attended the public gymnasium. On the conclusion of his studies 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 as his chamberlain. During the next few years, he carried out his military duties in various Bohemian garrison towns. Charles’ relations with his great-uncle 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. This unfortunately showed its consequences later, when Charles – then an Emperor – failed to take decisive action that could have saved the Empire tottering at the edge of the collapse. As field marshall Svetozar Boroević also failed to take the action, the ancient Empire fell apart.

During the war, prince Charles spent time caring for troops and especially their orphans, widows and wounded. After coronation, Emperor Charles supported the idea of the trialist monarchy, where all Croatian crown lands would have been united into the third federal unit. This failed due to Hungarian resistance. In the exile, answering the statement that Croatia no longer exists, he would answer that so long as he is alive, so is Croatia. Emperor Charles was, in fact, never dethroned as a king of Croatia by act of Croatian Parliament.

In the end, he could have been the best ruler Croatia has had since Matthias Corvinus, but he came too late and could only do too little. Consequently, Croatia had to endure 45 years of Yugoslav tyranny.

3 Comments

  1. Sorry I missed this one yesterday. He is also known as “Blessed Karl”. I feigntly remember Karl being involved with the decision to deploy chemical weapons in battle. Thank you for your post.

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    1. He was actually beatified by the Pope John Paul II in 2004., and if memory serves me right, he is the only ruler of Austria or Croatia to receive that honour (Hungarians also have the Saint Stephen, that is, Stephen I. of Hungary).

      Liked by 1 person

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