Charles I of Austria: Last Reigning Monarch of Austria-Hungary and My Patron Saint

This is a secondary post to go along with my post on The Saints: Our Great Cloud of Witnesses

Chad’s (Eastern Orthodox) post on his patron: Ephrem the Syrian

Lisa’s (Catholic) post on his patron: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Shea’s (Eastern Orthodox) post on his patron: Thaddeus and Patrick


I chose Charles as my patron saint because I identified with him, and he inspires me to a deeper devotion to our Lord and love of people… even in the face of rejection.

“I can’t go on much longer… Thy will be done… Yes… Yes… As you will it… Jesus!” – Final words of Karl I of Austria

My patron saint’s name is Charles “Karl” I of Austria (Karl Franz Joseph Ludwig Hubert Georg Otto Maria). KarloathHe lived between August 17, 1887 – April 1, 1922, and was the last Emperor of Austria, the last King of Hungary (as Charles IV), the last King of Bohemia (as Charles III), and the last monarch belonging to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Charles’ reign began on November 21, 1916, and ended November 11, 1918.

Charles was an amazing godly man, especially considering the time of his reign, and was known for having a deep and contemplative prayer life, as the Freidkaizer (Emporer of Peace) during WWI, and recognized the awesome responsibility that he had to and for his people.

World War I

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Charles was deeply grieved at the initiation of WWI and was the only leader, who was forced by Germany to fight, who was willing to lose the war for the sake of his people. Furthermore, he wasn’t just willing to lose the war, but he was willing to surrender his sovereignty to help the allies become victorious. Charles said, after fighting in the trenches, “I will do all within my power to banish the horrors and sacrifices of war at the earliest possible moment, and to restore to my peoples the sorely missed blessings of peace…” Pope Benedict XV (Papacy: September 3, 1914 – January 22, 1922) had seven points to his plan of peace:

  1. “the moral force of right … be substituted for the material force of arms,”
  2. there must be “simultaneous and reciprocal diminution of armaments,”
  3. a mechanism for “international arbitration” must be established,”
  4. “true liberty and common rights over the sea” should exist,
  5. there should be a “renunciation of war indemnities,”
  6. occupied territories should be evacuated, and
  7. there should be “an examination … of rival claims.”

Proclamation of November 11, 1918:

Since I came to the throne I have ceaselessly strived to lead my people out of the horrors of war, for whose outbreak I bear no blame.I have not hesitated to rebuild the constitutional life and have opened the way for the people to develop their own national identity.

Now as before filled with unwavering love for all my people, I do not wish to be a barrier to the freedom of their development.

I acknowledge in advance the decision that Germany-Austria is making about its future system of government.

The people have through their representatives taken over the government. I hereby renounce any part in state affairs.

At the same time I relieve my Austrian government of its office.

May the people of Germany-Austria create and consolidate the reorganisation in the spirit of harmony and forgiveness. The happiness of my people was my most cherished goal from the beginning.

Only inner peace can heal the wounds of this war.

– Charles

This proclamation is often referred to as “Emperor Karl’s Abdication – Proclamation,” but he was vehemently against the concept of “abdication.” He said, “I have done my duty, as I came here to do. As crowned King, I not only have a right, I also have a duty. I must uphold the right, the dignity, and honor of the Crown… For me, this is not something light. With the last breath of my life I must take the path of duty. Whatever I regret, Our Lord and Savior has led me.” (Addressing Cardinal János Csernoch after the defeat of his attempt to regain the Hungarian throne in 1921. The British Government had vainly hoped that the Cardinal would be able to persuade him to renounce his title as King of Hungary.) Charles, as an act of love for his people and in recognizing their right to chose their king, he renounced, not abdicated, his official role in the development of his kingdom, but never absolved himself of his responsibility to his people. They may have chosen to reject him, but he believed that, “I must suffer like this so my people will come together again.”

The politicians now in power were extremely irritated by the Charles’ departure without an explicit abdication. The Austrian Parliament passed the Habsburg Law on April 3, 1919, which permanently barred Charles from returning to Austria. Other Habsburgs were banished from Austrian territory unless they renounced all intentions of reclaiming the throne and accepted the status of ordinary citizens.

Exile and Death

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After the end of WWI, Charles and his family were moved around from place to place in exile. Initially, they were at the Tihany Abbey in Hungary, then they were moved to Baja, Hungary, and finally, they landed in Madeira, Portugal.

 

Beatification

“The decisive task of Christians consists in seeking, recognizing and following God’s will in all things. The Christian statesman, Charles of Austria, confronted this challenge every day. To his eyes, war appeared as “something appalling”. Amid the tumult of the First World War, he strove to promote the peace initiative of my Predecessor, Benedict XV.

From the beginning, the Emperor Charles conceived of his office as a holy service to his people. His chief concern was to follow the Christian vocation to holiness also in his political actions. For this reason, his thoughts turned to social assistance. May he be an example for all of us, especially for those who have political responsibilities in Europe today!”

Pope Saint John Paul II
Homily, Mass of Beatification
Saint Peter’s Square, October 3, 2004

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Ubi Caritas Est Vera, Deus Ibi Est.

 

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