For many centuries, the death of an heir to the Hapsburg throne in Austria-Hungary would have been the most significant news of the time. But no more. Otto von Hapsburg, the last heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, died on 4 July 2011. Otto’s father, Charles I, was the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, succeeding his great-uncle, Franz Josef I, in 1916. Outside of Austria, I don’t think many people noticed.
Greatly weakened by the economic and political strains of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in 1918. Charles I was forced off the throne but never formally abdicated. Otto did not renounce his claim to the throne until 1961.
It is difficult for us to picture a time when Austria was one of the most important of the Great Powers in Europe. But it was and for the entire existence of the Empire it was ruled by the Hapsburg dynasty. The Emperor had so many titles that his “working title” was abbreviated to this:
His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty, Francis Joseph I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria; Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, Illyria; King of Jerusalem, etc;
For all of their power and imperial pomp, the Hapsburgs today are barely remembered outside of history books.
And our name shall be forgotten in time, and no man shall have our works in remembrance, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud…
– Revelations 21:4 KJV