After two years of war Austria-Hungary was economically and militarily entirely worn out. On 21 November 1916 a further blow came with the death of Emperor Franz Joseph, who had been an important linchpin for the unity of the decrepit Dual Monarchy.
The death of Franz Joseph was no surprise, but for the Habsburg Monarchy it meant the loss of a major symbolic figure. The succession was exploited as propaganda before the war-fatigued population as the sign of a new era.
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.
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