R.I.P. Otto von Habsburg

The eldest son and heir of Austria’s last emperor Karl I. died at the age of 98.


A title of one of the biographies of Otto von Habsburg is Uncrowned Emperor. The monarchy is of course long gone but do you think he had the qualities of the good emperor?


Alan Sked, Professor in International History, London School of Economics and Political Science

Yes. He was well educated, enlightened, had an anti-Nazi record and a European perspective. He was tough, patient and avoided scandal. He also accepted democracy. He was always charming and diplomatic and therefore had all the qualities of a modern Emperor.

Just look at the present leaders of the EU to put him into perspective.

Pieter Judson, Editor, Austrian History Yearbook, Professor of History, Swarthmore College

I believe that as Emperor or King, one can say that Otto would have shared an important quality of  great great uncle, the Emperor and King Franz Josef: this is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and to accept change. People often forget that Franz Josef was unpopular–even hated–at the beginning of his reign, and beloved at the end of his reign. This is not because  people forgot Franz-Josef’s early mistakes (especially his treatment of Hungary in 1849 and his revocation of the Austrian constitution he had promised). Franz Josef became beloved because he learned to become a constitutional monarch later in life and showed devotion to his work. He also learned to become an Emperor for ALL of his subjects, including Jews, workers, or the peasants who had been badly oppressed at the beginning of his reign. He learned not to align himself publicly with one political party or another, or with one nation or another.

Otto too learned to adapt himself to circumstances in order to promote a vision of united Europe that was more important than his own personal interest. Although I believe that it was a mistake that he sometimes sided with particular political parties in the period after World War II, I also believe that as Emperor he would not have made this mistake. In the later part of his life especially, Otto showed many qualities that might indeed have made him a good emperor (if not a great one).

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