Otto von Habsburg-Lothringen, Austria-Hungary’s last crown prince has died at the age of 98. Son the Emperor Charles I and Empress Zita, he saw the dismemberment of the old Austro-Hungarian empire. With the creation of the Republic of Austria, it became actually illegal to use noble titles. Germany permits those who have them to use them. He and his family were exiled from Austria. It was many years before he was permitted to return. Before he was allowed to cross the border into Austria, he had to sign a statement recognizing the legitimacy of the Austrian Republic and to formally renounce the crown for himself and his descendants.
He became a major voice for democracy in Europe. He supported the desires of the former Warsaw pact nations to join the European Union. He was a highly respected figure in his native Austria, his adopted Germany, and in many other countries in Europe.
When Empress Zita died in the 1980s, some of the old Habsburg ceremonies were resurrected. There was a funeral Mass celebrated in the magnificent Stephansdom, the cathedral of Vienna. The old imperial anthem was sung. Finally, the coffin bearing the remains of Empress Zita was taken to the Capuchin church. They knocked on the door leading to the imperial crypt with a mace announcing that they carried the body of Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress Zita. After hearing all the imperial titles of the late Empress, the Capuchin friar said in reply, “we don’t know her”. They knocked on the door again and the friar asked who was there. This time, they said, “a poor sinner”. At that, the door was opened and the body of Empress Zita was taken into the crypt.
This short video should give an idea of what might happen at the funeral of Otto von Habsburg-Lothringen. With his passing, we have lost the last link to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. While the Habsburgs are still very much with us, their empire has passed away.