Outbreak of the war
End of the war

The last days of the Monarchy

In the last days of October 1918 events followed in rapid succession. Having existed for nearly 640 years, Habsburg dominion in Austria collapsed within just a few days.

‘Filled with an unalterable love for all my peoples I do not wish to make my person a hindrance to their free development. I accept in advance the decision that is taken by German-Austria concerning its future form of state. The people has taken charge of government through its representatives. I relinquish every participation in the affairs of state. At the same time I release the Government of Austria from its office.’

Quoted from Bihl, Wolfdieter: Der Erste Weltkrieg 1914–1918. Chronik – Daten – Fakten, Wien/Köln/Weimar 2010. p. 237

From the declaration of relinquishment signed by Emperor Karl on 11 November 1918

On 23 October 1918 the imperial family travelled to Hungary, where the situation was still somewhat more stable, in order to assure themselves of the continued loyalty of the Hungarian government. They took up quarters at Gödöllö, as the situation in Budapest was already too dangerous. On the 26 October the imperial couple made a hasty return to Vienna, having received the news that the army was disbanding. As a sign that they were not simply taking flight, they initially left their children behind in Hungary.

On the same day Emperor Karl revoked the military alliance with Germany, and on 27 October appointed a new government with Heinrich Lammasch as prime minister. This last imperial government had de facto lost the Empire, as the newly formed national councils had already taken over local power, even in German Austria: after all the other national representatives had revoked their affiliation with the Habsburg Monarchy, on 30 October the representatives of German Austria also disassociated themselves.

Thus in the days following the collapse of power, two governments were active in Vienna: the imperial government under the leadership of Lammasch, which was virtually powerless to act, and the government of German Austria, a political entity without a constitution and with borders that had yet to be defined.

When the end of the war and the subsequent demobilization of troops were officially announced on 3 November 1918 the collapse of Austria-Hungary was inevitable. As Karl persistently refused to abdicate, he was persuaded by the imperial ‘government of liquidation’ under Lammasch to sign a document at Schönbrunn on 11 November 1918 declaring his renunciation of all further participation in the affairs of state. This formally marked the end of Habsburg rule.

Karl and Zita spent the final few days of the Monarchy at Schönbrunn Palace, which was seen as the last bastion of Habsburg power. The palace was also the scene of negotiations for the transfer of power. After Karl had signed the relinquishment of participation in the affairs of state in the Blue Chinese Salon, the imperial couple took their leave of their last faithful supporters. Cars were waiting in the courtyard below. In order to attract as little attention as possible, the motorcade left the park through a side gate rather than the main entrance to the palace.

Translation: Sophie Kidd


Brook-Shepherd, Gordon: Um Krone und Reich. Die Tragödie des letzten Habsburgerkaisers, Wien 1968

Broucek, Peter: Karl I. (IV.). Der politische Weg des letzten Herrschers der Donaumonarchie, Wien 1997

Gottsmann, Andreas (Hrsg.): Karl I. (IV.), der Erste Weltkrieg und das Ende der Donaumonarchie, Wien 2007

Leidinger, Hannes/Moritz, Verena/Schippler, Bernd: Schwarzbuch der Habsburger. Die unrühmliche Geschichte eines Herrscherhauses (2. Auflage, ungekürzte Taschenbuchausgabe), Innsbruck [u.a.]  2010

Rauchensteiner, Manfried: Der Erste Weltkrieg und das Ende der Habsburgermonarchie 1914–1918, Wien u. a. 2013

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    After the war

    The First World War marked the end of the “long nineteenth century”. The monarchic empires were replaced by new political players. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy disintegrated into separate nation states. The Republic of German Austria was proclaimed in November 1918, and Austria was established as a federal state in October 1920. The years after the war were highly agitated ­– in a conflicting atmosphere of revolution and defeat, and political, economic, social and cultural achievements and setbacks.



  • Development

    The Habsburg myth – the dynasty before and after 1918

    The Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty formed the ideological basis for the Habsburg Monarchy, since the existence of the multi-ethnic state was primarily a product of the dynastic history of this ruling house.

    In the latter days of the Habsburg Monarchy, Emperor Franz Joseph personified the imperial idea, although towards the end of his sixty-eight-year reign he was reduced more and more to an abstract symbol, a kind of father figure. His death in November 1916 left a vacuum at the head of the dynasty, which his successor Karl could no longer fill.