Friday, July 8, 2011
The Significance of an Archduke
However, he was not ambitious, only anxious to help. General Franco supposedly offered to make him King of Spain after his own demise but the Archduke felt the House of Hapsburg was too distance in the Spanish memory for that and he recommended a certain Prince Juan Carlos for the job. Nonetheless, he caused socialists to gasp in horror when he spoke somewhat kindly of the Spanish caudillo saying that Franco was a “dictator of the South American type…not totalitarian like Hitler or Stalin”. He pointed out the aid Franco had given refugees during World War II among other things. Naturally the socialists would think this an outrageous thing to say, mostly because it was perfectly true. Franco was not an arbitrary totalitarian and in many ways he did Europe a service through his victory in the civil war. Nor was that the only time the Archduke of Austria was criticized for speaking the truth.
We here might be a bit disappointed that the Archduke did not do more to actively campaign for his own restoration, however, he had as many supporters doing that as he was ever going to have and to do so would have forced him to remain on the sidelines. That was something he could not tolerate and the primary reason why he (reluctantly) renounced his rights to the throne and recognized the Austrian republic. He had something to contribute to western history and he was not going to allow the built-in bigotry of the republican system in Austria to stop him. In so doing he proved that he would have made an excellent monarch in a far more tangible way than if he had simply been campaigning. This does not mean I endorse any/all cases of royals getting involved in politics, and even in the case of the Archduke things may have gone very differently if he had stood for election in one of his former countries.
It does though, I think, prove that Archduke Otto was singularly prepared, at almost any stage, to have taken up the position of a reigning and ruling monarch. Honestly, most modern constitutional monarchs are so limited and restricted to mere ceremonial functions that one does not have to be a brilliant statesman to do their “job” (which is to take nothing away from any of those currently reigning, most of whom are vastly over-qualified). Actually ruling a country, leading a government, deciding foreign policy and domestic policy is a very different thing but in every area, there is no doubt it my mind, the Archduke was fully qualified to take up those duties at a moments notice. Furthermore, he would have been prepared to do so in almost any country in central Europe one could name. I do not know of many other non-reigning royals about whom I could say the same (excluding of course those who have actually done the job themselves in the past already).
The Archduke was a man totally worthy of his rank and the unique place he held in European history, in a roundabout way the modern-day, would-be successor of Augustus Caesar. Even without reigning, in this way, his life represented what a grand and ancient history only a monarch can embody. His loss is hard to overstate. His death truly represented the end of an era, the loss of the last link with a time when republics were the exception and monarchies the rule and he was, sadly, the first Hapsburg in centuries who never wore a crown. Had he done so, a great deal of human suffering might never have happened and that is an injustice we must all work to correct so that the Europe he envisioned, of free states united by common bonds of culture and faith, based on traditional authority, might someday become reality.