In view of the authoritarian measures that destroyed the political life and tender roots of democratisation during the First World War in Austria-Hungary, the political representatives of the Czech people remaining in the country had little scope for action. Politicians in exile took over the initiative and worked actively for the creation of an independent Czech state.
On 3 October 2004 Pope John Paul II received the last Austrian emperor Karl I into the ranks of the Blessed of the Roman Catholic Church.
Otto Habsburg-Lorraine grew up as the figurehead of the legitimist movement. His use of the latter term was deliberately vague: as a politician he interpreted it as giving support to any lawful form of government. However, he must have been aware that in historical discourse legitimism is a synonym for dynastic monarchism.
The 1930s saw the issue of the Habsburgs’ return brought back into the political arena in an active role. A chapter in Otto’s biography that has remained controversial to this day is his prominent association with Austrofascism. His committed efforts for the Austrian resistance in exile to the National Socialist regime are regarded in a far more positive light.
Otto made his first public appearance as a representative of the House of Habsburg at the tender age of four, at the funeral of his great-great-uncle Emperor Franz Joseph in November 1916.
The long life of the last Austrian empress was marked by the political upheavals that changed the face of Europe during the twentieth century. However, Zita remained true to her principles: unconditional devotion to the Roman-Catholic Church and defence of the principle of legitimism, that is, the indeposability of the ruling dynasty of Habsburg-Lorraine.
On his early death Karl left seven children. His wife Zita was pregnant with their eighth child. In May 1922 the young widow was allowed to return to Europe.
Emperor Karl’s refusal to abdicate was rooted in his conviction that he had been invested with imperial office by divine right and not by popular representation. However, in the several attempts he made to regain power he relied on more than mere divine providence, taking active steps and not shrinking from force of arms.
Karl’s ambitions to regain the power he had lost focused principally on Hungary. This provoked disquiet in the successor states of the Habsburg Monarchy.
In March 1919, on the initiative of the British government, preparations were started to enable the imperial family to leave the country and go into exile. It was felt that Karl’s continued presence in Austria was helping to destabilize conditions in the country.