Karl von Habsburg

Karl von Habsburg (Karl Thomas Robert Maria Franziskus Georg Bahnam; born 11 January 1961), also known as Karl of Austria and referred to by his ancestral titles as Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia,[4] is an Austrian politician, the current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine which ruled the lands of 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. Born in Starnberg, Germany, in 1961, he is the son of Archduke Otto von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria and Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen, and the grandson of the last Austrian emperor, Charles I. He served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Austrian People's Party 1996–1999. Like his father, he is known as an advocate for the Pan-European movement.

Karl von Habsburg
Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia
Karl at the General Assembly of Blue Shield International in the Vienna City Hall
Head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine
Tenure1 January 2007 – present
PredecessorOtto von Habsburg
Heir apparentArchduke Ferdinand
Born (1961-01-11) 11 January 1961
Starnberg, Bavaria, West Germany
IssueArchduchess Eleonore
Archduke Ferdinand
Archduchess Gloria
Full name
Karl Thomas Robert Maria Franziskus Georg Bahnam
FatherOtto, Crown Prince of Austria
MotherPrincess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen
ReligionRoman Catholicism
Austrian imperial family

HI&RH Archduke Karl
HI&RH Archduchess Francesca

Early life

Karl von Habsburg was born in 11 January 1961 in Starnberg, Bavaria. He was baptised in Pöcking, Bavaria, as Archduke Karl of Austria (Erzherzog Karl von Österreich), the name entered in the baptismal records.[5] 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.[6]

He is the oldest grandson of the last Austrian emperor and empress, Charles I and Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Born a member of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, he does not use his ancestral titles, since the use of such titles is now illegal in both Hungary and Austria.[7]

House of Habsburg

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. On 30 November 2000, Karl's father transferred over to him the position of head and sovereign (Grand Master) of the 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. The family tried to get their former property returned under rules for victims of the Nazi regime. The attempt failed because the law of expropriation still has constitutional status.[8] On 1 January 2007, his father relinquished his position as the head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a status which then devolved on Karl,[9] and in 2008 he became the Grand Master of the Order of St. George.[10]


Since 1986, Karl von Habsburg has been president of the Austrian branch of the Paneuropean Union. After studying law for 12 years, in 1992/1993, he hosted a TV game show with Austrian public TV broadcaster ORF, called Who Is Who.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[13] ÖVP did not nominate Karl von Habsburg again for the 1999 elections.[11][14] In 2004, Karl von Habsburg paid 37,000 euros to the new World Vision Austria branch.[14]

On 19 January 2002, he was appointed Director General of UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) by the UNPO Steering Committee.[15] Since 7 December 2008, he is the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield.[16] Since 2009, Karl von Habsburg is 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.[17] After ongoing conflicts with Bulgarian partners, BG Privatinvest sold the newspapers in April 2011.[18]

Personal life

He has lived in Salzburg, Austria, since 1981, and resides in Casa Austria, formerly called Villa Swoboda, in Anif, near the city of Salzburg.[19] 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 Frances Elaine Campbell-Walter.[20] 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[21][22], 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.[23] 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.[24]

Karl and Francesca have three children:




  1. Royal and noble titles were abolished in Austria and Hungary by the Adelsaufhebungsgesetz of 3 April 1919. The family name of Karl von Habsburg's father was declared to be Habsburg-Lothringen by an Austrian ministerial decision in 1957 and by a German court (Landgericht Würzburg) on 16 July 1958. Otto was, however, at the time de facto stateless, living in Germany with a Spanish diplomatic passport, and was denied both entry to Austria and an Austrian passport. Otto's official name as a German citizen from 1978 was Otto von Habsburg.


  1. Kaiser Joseph II. harmonische Wahlkapitulation mit allen den vorhergehenden Wahlkapitulationen der vorigen Kaiser und Könige. The official title used for princes since 1780 (zu Hungarn, Böheim, Dalmatien, Kroatien, Slavonien, Königlicher Erbprinz).
  2. Croatian Coronation Oath of 1916.. P.2-4, Emperor of Austria, Hungary and Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia Apostolic king
  3. For some examples of this usage, see Burke's Guide to the Royal Family, edited by Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, published by Burke's Peerage, London, 1973, p. 240. ISBN 0-220-66222-3; Nicolas Enache's La Descendance de Marie-Therese de Habsburg, published by ICC, Paris, 1996. pp. 44, 50; Chantal de Badts de Cugnac and Guy Coutant de Saisseval's Le Petit Gotha, published by Nouvelle Imprimerie Laballery, Paris 2002, pp. 201–202. ISBN 2-9507974-3-1; the Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser, Band XVI, published by C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 87–90. ISBN 3-79800824-8; and the Daily Mail, Richard Kay (27 March 2002) "Charles, Camilla and a concert date with the Queen", p. 11. He was baptised as Archduke Karl of Austria, and in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI referred to him several times as (His Imperial Highness) Archduke Karl of Austria in public statements. He has also been consistently referred to as such by the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna and the papal nuncio in the country.
  4. Karl von Habsburg is known in Hungary as Habsburg Károly, in the Czech Republic as Karel Habsbursko-Lotrinský, in Croatia as Karlo Habsburško-Lotarinški, and by his ancestral titles as Archduke Karl of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia.[1][2][3] All noble, royal, and imperial titles have been abolished and are forbidden in Austria and in Hungary, and members of the family do not use them in these countries.[fn 1]
  5. "Habsburgs Erbe zerfiel und erlebte dennoch eine Renaissance « DiePresse.com". diepresse.com. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  6. "House of Habsburg | European dynasty". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  7. "RIS - Gesamte Rechtsvorschrift für Habsburgergesetz - Bundesrecht konsolidiert, Fassung vom 09.08.2015". bka.gv.at.
  8. Karl von Habsburg will Vermögen vor VfGH erkämpfen
    Habsburger mit Entschädigungs-Forderung beim VfGH abgeblitzt.
  9. "Die vielen Pflichten des Adels". Wiener Zeitung (in German). 5 July 2011. Retrieved 11 July 2011.
  10. "Wiener Schatzkammer: Schatz des Ordens vom Goldenen Vlies". wiener-schatzkammer.at. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  11. "Beruf: Enkel", Die Presse, 3 April 2011
  12. Ansichtssache: Ranking der Absonderlichkeiten im ORF, 27 December 2005
  13. Martin, Hans-Peter (21 December 1998), "Österreich : Gelber Stern", Der Spiegel (52)
  14. 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.
  15. 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."
  16. 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.
  17. "German media group sells its newspaper and publishing business in Bulgaria", Associated Press Newswire (15 December 2010).
  18. "Sopharma Owner, Partner Win Battle for WAZ Asssets in Bulgaria", Novinite (18 April 2011).
  19. "Villa Swoboda", SalzburgWiki.
  20. Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser, Band XVI. C.A. Starke Verlag, 2001, pp. 87–90. (German). ISBN 3-79800824-8.
  21. Enache, Nicolas. La Descendance de Marie-Therese de Habsburg. ICC, Paris, 1996, p. 50. (French). ISBN 2-908003-04-X
  22. 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.
  23. "Member of Habsburg family fined for smuggling", Reuters News (21 July 1998).
  24. Shaw, William, "We Are Not a Muse", New York Times, 25 February 2007.
  25. "le baptême de Gloria, archiduchesse d'Autriche", Point de Vue, no. 2688 (26 janvier au 1 fevrier 2000): 32–35.
  26. http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-wOtMM9EZBjU/VZgWTbZ-xPI/AAAAAAAACRg/chjGxeeBDbU/s1600/11705099_1142214442462304_2805245957135831276_n.jpg wearing the star of the royal household order and the coronation medal
Karl von Habsburg
Born: 11 January 1961
Titles in pretence
Preceded by
Otto von Habsburg
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

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