GUEST COLUMNIST, London
Reprinted from The Remnant
As co-authors of one of the few books in English on the Blessed Emperor Charles, and as friends of the Imperial family and especially of HIRH (His Imperial Royal Highness) Archduke Lorenz of Austria-Este and his wife, HIRH Princess Astrid of Belgium, Archduchess of Austria-Este, my wife and I found ourselves invited to a front row seat for the beatification of the Blessed Emperor by Pope John Paul II on 3 October 2004.
We attended all the ceremonies at the invitation of the family and I was privileged the week before to interview the son and grandson of the Blessed Emperor, TIRH Archduke Rudolf and my old friend, Archduke Lorenz, for a broadcast on Mother Angelica’s EWTN network.
Two more charming and Catholic gentlemen of the old school would be hard to find and the interview was full of fascinating asides such as confirmation that the late Pope John Paul II had told the Archduke Rudolf that he had been named by his father, a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army, “Karol” or “Charles” after the Blessed Emperor. The interview was broadcast worldwide on the day of the beatification. Those wishing to obtain copy videotape should write to Miss Cristina Borges at EWTN in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Archduke Rudolf also confirmed in the interview that he had been present when the body of his father was exhumed in 1972 from its resting place in the church of Nossa Senhora do Monte, Madeira, and he was able to confirm that the body was incorrupt despite the presence of damp in the tomb.
Truly this beatification of the last of the Habsburg Emperors, Blessed Charles I of the House of Austria, was a remarkable one.
Successor of the Roman Emperors of that Roman Empire of the christened Constantine I, of the Catholic Byzantium of Justinian and, lastly, of Charlemagne, the progenitor of that empire that truly did last for 1,000 years from Christmas Day 800 AD until its dissolution under the attacks of the Bonapartist Republicans in 1806, the Blessed Emperor Charles is indeed a most fitting exemplar of Christian chivalry.
I shall recount a little of the events of these days but I first invite you to consider the time in which Divine Providence chose to unfold His revelation of the beatitude of His servant and chevalier.
The Feast Day of the Blessed Emperor Charles had been chosen by the Holy Father, at the behest of the Habsburg family, to be 21 October, being not the day of his death but rather the day of his wedding to Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Empress Zita herself had two sisters who were cloistered nuns in the convent of St. Cecilia at Ryde on the Isle of Wight – a Benedictine convent still much blessed by God and most worthy of a visit.
It comes therefore but 10 days before the Feast of Christ the King in the old calendar and 1 month before the same feast in the new calendar.
Friday 8 October 2004 is the Feast of St. Birgitta (Bridget) of Sweden, Princess of Nericia of the House of Persson, Bengtsdotter and Gudmarsson. Our Lord in vision appeared to her and gave her the most harrowing descriptions of his Passion and of the Passion of the Blessed Virgin – harrowing but imbued with the deepest mystical significance. Our Lord was at pains to extol to her the spirit of chivalry as the safest path leading to sainthood, the spirit of disinterested and self-denying service for the common good. He said to her, in a vision: “A knight who keeps the laws of his order is exceedingly dear to me. For if it is hard for a monk to wear his heavy habit, it is harder still for a knight to wear his heavy armour”.
The Blessed Emperor Charles exemplified that chivalric spirit.
This spirit is meant to signify an interior attitude of the soul to accomplish God’s will whatever the cost, a disposition of mind whereby in the revelations of St. Birgitta the faithful knight and the self-denying, cloistered and most hidden nun or monk are at one. She explains that the Christian cavalier (or lady) gives his or her life to Christ and “orders his (or her) life according to the commandments of Christ, he represses the wicked and aids the humble in the community to obtain their rights. He shall therefore enter into everlasting joy; Christ Himself is the Head of the Christian knights’ army, the Holy Cross his royal banner and Christ’s passion is the fight against the enemy of mankind and his temptations.”
The date of the beatification of the Blessed Emperor was 3 October, the Feast day of St. Therese of the Holy Child Jesus in the old calendar (on 1 October in the new). This holy Carmelite of Lisieux, of indomitable spirit and declared in 1997 a Doctor of the Church, wrote in her spiritual biography: “I feel in my soul the courage of a crusader, of a Pontifical Zouave and I would like to die on a battlefield in defence of the Church”.
She lived at a time when the Red republicans and anti-Catholic revolutionaries of Italy, imbibing the revolutionary and anti-chivalrous spirit of Mazzini, Cavour and Garibaldi, had attacked Papal Rome which was defended by the Pontifical Zouaves and by regiments of faithful Catholics from Europe and the world. They were commanded by, among others, the descendants of those French Catholic Vendean generals who had died fighting the French Revolution a generation before.
1 October is also the Feast of St. Remigius who crowned the first Frankish king, Clovis, in 496, just 20 years after the fall of the Catholic Roman Empire in the West at the hands of the Arian Goths and pagan barbarians. 2 October is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels, to whom the Blessed Emperor Charles was much devoted.
Appropriately, also, Blessed Anna Catherine Emmerich was also beatified on the same day as the Blessed Emperor Charles, since she, like St. Birgitta, received revelations of the Passion of Christ which, together with those of Ven. Mary of Agreda, inspired the recent film “The Passion of the Christ” by American-Australian director, Mel Gibson. This same day was, in the old calendar of the Church, also the original Feast day of our Lady of Victory, later our Lady of the Holy Rosary. This day is now celebrated on 7 October. It is a feast day of immediate chivalric moment. On that day in 1571, the Christian fleet under Don John of Austria, son of Emperor Charles V, heavily outnumbered by 7 to 1, achieved a stunning victory over the Moslem host, under Sultan Selim II, son of Suleiman the Great, bent upon subjugating Vienna and Rome, Emperor and Pope, and at a time when the Christian West was rent in two by the effects of the Protestant Reformation.
This great victory took place at Naupactos off the Greek coast, known to history by its Roman name: Lepanto. Pope St Pius V had ordered that the Catholic world pray the Dominican chaplet of the Holy Rosary for victory and had appointed Don John of Austria to command the Christian fleet. Don John had on his flagship the miraculous image of our Lady of Guadalupe, depicting the recent vision of our Lady, in 1531, to an Indian, Juan Diego, in the Latin American realms of Don John’s father, Emperor Charles V.
Ven. Pope Innocent XI, in memory of the deliverance of Vienna from the Moslem Ottoman Turks, a century later in 1683, by King John Sobieski of Poland (who had mounted his horse for battle on the Feast of the Assumption of our Lady), also accompanied by Christendom-wide praying of the Rosary, extended the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary to the whole Church to be celebrated on 12 September. On the same September day but in 1213, Count Simon de Montfort (father of he who founded the English Parliament) and 300 Christian knights at Muret routed an army of between 50-100,000 Albigensian invaders under the Albigensian King Pedro of Aragon, whilst St. Dominic himself and his friars prayed the Holy Rosary in the Church within Muret.
So, too, in 1716, Clement XI inscribed the Feast of our Lady of the Holy Rosary on the universal calendar in gratitude for the victory gained by Prince Eugene of Savoy, commander of the Imperial forces of the Habsburg Roman Emperor, at Peterwardein on 5 August under the auspices of our Lady of the Snow. This victory was later followed by the raising of the siege of Corfu and a year later by the liberation of Belgrade.
The Feast of our Lady of the Snow, also promulgated to the whole world by St Pius V, was first instituted in honour of the miraculous siting of the Basilica of St Mary Major on the Esquiline Hill where a Mass was celebrated (which I attended) on Monday, 4 October 2004, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, in thanksgiving for the beatification of the Blessed Emperor Charles.
The Basilica was filled to overflowing with devotees from all the lands of the former Empire, together with many of the Catholic crowned heads of Europe and 200 members of the Habsburg family. A beautiful portrait of the Blessed Emperor Charles occupied a dominant position near the high altar and a very fine choir sang (they were so good that the choir of the Sistine chapel that had sung the previous day at the beatification was somewhat overshadowed by it).
After the Mass, the Archduke Otto and his wife Archduchess Regina led some 200 members of the Imperial family down the aisle after the clergy, led by the chief celebrant, His Eminence, Count Christoph, Cardinal von Schoenborn OP, had processed out. Before the Imperial family marched a contingent of Imperial Dragons and Uhlans and Hungarian Hussars who then formed a guard of honour for the Imperial family as they emerged from the Basilica. On the square outside the Basilica, and at the emergence of the members of the Imperial family, two Tyrolean bands, dressed in Tyrolean costume and the uniforms of the Tyrolean schuetzenkompanie with broad feathered hats, short jackets and cummerbund, and long lederhosen knitted socks and rawhide leathern shoes, struck up and played traditional and very lively Tyrolean music. The Tyroleans have ever been the most faithful defenders and protectors of the Habsburg Empire and family, not least since they were granted their own parliament (der Landschaft) in the early Middle Ages without whose consent they could be neither taxed nor conscripted.
Shortly before the beatification had occurred the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on 14 September. This Feast was once celebrated with the same solemnity as Easter and the Epiphany. It commemorates the apparition of the Cross to the armies of Emperor Constantine with the motto “In Hoc Vinces” (by this conquer), which symbol became the Labarum that was the standard of Constantine and in which sign he conquered the pagans at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on the Via Flaminia. It also commemorates the finding of the true Cross by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine.
On this same day, the Emperor Heraclius restored the true Cross to Jerusalem after defeating the armies of King Chosroes of the Persians, fire-worshipping pagans who had sacked Constantinople and threatened to destroy Christendom. Heraclius, on this day, bore the Cross back into Jerusalem on his own shoulders barefoot and in mean attire, in imitation of the Saviour.
These inter-connected mysteries were a most suitable preparation and background for the beatification of the Blessed Emperor Charles of the House of Austria, that House that has ever been one of the most faithful of the Catholic Royal Houses in Europe and of whose Holy Empire it was once said that the sun never set upon it (under Emperor Charles V when the Empire included Spanish America).
On 2 October 2004 Mass was celebrated in the Church of St. Paul outside the Walls for the Blessed Emperor Charles.
On 3 October the beatification Mass was celebrated in St. Peter’s Square outside the Basilica.
On 4 October the Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated at St. Mary Major for the Blessed Emperor Charles. Thereafter there was a papal audience in the Aula of Paul VI.
On 4 October, in the evening, there was a Mass of thanksgiving in the traditional Roman rite celebrated in the church of St. Nicholas in Carcere by Campidoglio near the Capitoline Hill ending with a Solemn Te Deum in the ancient pre-1955 manner.
Blessed Emperor Charles was beatified alongside 4 others, all wonderfully humble men and women, like the Blessed Emperor. They were Bl. Pierre Vigne, priest-founder of the sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Joseph-Marie Cassant, priest-monk of the Reformed Cistercian Order, Anna Catherine Emmerich, of the Canonesses of St. Augustine and Maria Ludovica de Angelis, of the daughters of our Lady of Mercy of Savona. It was an eminently suitable choice of most humble, simple and engaging souls.
The beatification was attended by some 200 members of the Habsburg family including the current head of the family, HIRH Archduke Otto of Austria, eldest son of the Blessed Emperor Charles, as well as a Professor of Politics and a former MEP. It was a remarkable sight to see him receiving the blessing of the Holy Father on the day of his own father’s beatification.
It was a moving sight indeed to see these two together; the Pope blessing Otto, the son of his own Emperor, the Blessed Charles of Austria, for Pope John Paul II’s father had been a subject and officer of the Blessed Emperor Charles.
On either side of the dais were contingents of Hungarians and Austrians attired in the colourful old uniforms of the Imperial army, Hussars, Uhlans, Dragoons and the old Infantry regiments. There was a contingent mounted on horse, including a number of costumed Hungarian ladies.
Members of various chivalric orders attended, not least the members of the Toson d’Oro, the ancient Burgundian Order of the Golden Fleece long associated with the Habsburg monarchy. The Blessed Emperor Charles was, of course, a member of that ancient Order and took very seriously its considerable religious obligations, reading in full the Rule of the Order, written in Medieval French.
The declarations of beatification and the unveiling of the tapestry hangings (with images of the beati) from the balconies of St. Peter’s Basilica was a most moving consummation of the ceremony.
The old Austrian nobility (die Uradel) were out in force and looked the part. Noble gentlemen in dark suits, white shirts and dark ties and the ladies all in black, many with enormous, long black silk mantillas looked superbly elegant and many of them stunningly beautiful in that blonde Teutonic manner.
We had stayed in the Casa Pastor Bonus where most of the Austrian families stayed, including a contingent of Knights and Dames of the Golden Fleece.
It is not often that a saint is reviled by worldlings and the reprobate both during his life and yet still even many years after his death. That honour must be reserved for very special saints. Such a one is the Blessed Emperor Charles. Immediately upon his accession to the Imperial throne following the death of the Emperor Francis Joseph (himself a man of piety and self-denial), Charles declared his intention of obtaining peace and an end to the war that he had had no part in starting. To this end he persuaded his wife’s brother, Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma, then serving in the Belgian army, to negotiate a peace with the Entente powers. But the Entente politicians – the grizzled old men of a previous generation that had declared war on the Pope – were not as interested in peace as they were in warring against Christian princes.
In order to get Italy into the war on their side, French and British political leaders had secretly conceded the whole of the Trentino and South Tyrol to Italy at the insistence of Baron Sydney Sonnino, the Italian Foreign Minister. This was despite the fact that the Italians were constantly beaten by the Austrians and later thoroughly routed at the Battle of Caporetto in November 1917. The Blessed Emperor’s peace negotiations were doomed by the intransigence of both the Entente powers, his enemies, and the German High Command, his allies. He agreed to keep the negotiations secret and so denied their existence when challenged but the wicked Clemenceau revealed the whole correspondence so as to embarrass the Austrian government before the German High Command. The German High Command then took over command of Austrian forces and peace was doomed.
The Blessed Emperor refused to permit shelling of Italian cities lest civilians be harmed. He forbade the U-boat war against civilian shipping (which the Germans pursued anyway and so caused the Americans to join the war). He forbade the use of poison gas. He refused to allow Lenin to pass through any of his lands on his way to Russia (the Germans sent him in a sealed train through their lands) and he stated that a Marxist revolution would be worse than losing the war. How right he was!
After the fall of the Habsburg monarchy came first Nazism and then Communism, each devastating the former countries of the Empire.
The Blessed Emperor Charles was committed to the Catholic Social principle of subsidiarity – not in the bogus sense that is sometimes employed today – but in the true sense. In this he looked both back to the days of the political and economic Distributism of the Holy Roman Empire with its famous patchwork of baronies, counties, duchies, principalities and kingdoms, but also forward to the renewed idea of federalism and political self-determination. Bonaparte had ended the Holy Roman Empire’s subsidiarist patchwork and replaced it with the oppressive centralism of revolution and repressive bureaucratic centralist administrative law. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 tried to revive the old regime of decentralised power but hardly succeeded. Nationalism tore apart the kingdoms of Europe and threatened them with further revolution. Emperor Charles revived the ambitious project of the murdered Archduke Francis Ferdinand to give greater federal powers and freedom for self-rule to the nations of the polyglot, multi-national, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire which he ruled.
Already the Empire nurtured its minorities, the Orthodox, the Protestants, the Jews, the Moslems and even the gypsies. Already Vienna was a by-word for art, literature, music and culture. However, extremist nationalism threatened the very foundations of the Empire but Blessed Emperor Charles intended to, and did, grant federal constitutions to the principal national groupings in the Empire with a view to re-capturing the subsidiarist and Distributist spirit of the old Empire but in a new setting. But he was not going to be allowed to continue this noble aim. The extremist anti-Imperial and anti-Catholic nationalists and irredentists preferred to see destruction than stability and growth.
For his commitment to peace and his attempt to free his own peoples and all the peoples of Europe from the most devastating war in history, the Blessed Emperor was rewarded with exile first in Switzerland and then Madeira, after he had made two attempts to return to Hungary where the treacherous Admiral Nicholas von Horthy claimed to be ruling as Regent in his place but was actually intending to supplant him. Once he realised that Horthy was a traitor and that more bloodshed would follow a restoration attempt, Charles ordered his faithful troops to disband and he left the country with his wife and family.
The Austrian and Hungarian governments then seized all his family money and property and left him and his family penniless and exiled to Madeira. He was still young but already his hair had greyed. In Madeira, being penniless, he had to live on charity and a Hotel owner in Funchal lent him a villa in the mountains where the weather was foggy and damp. He caught a chill and developed pneumonia. Having little medical assistance he offered his life to God for his family and peoples and, after a lingering and painful illness born with great courage and fortitude as an offering to God for his peoples, he died, uttering the Holy Name, at the age of 34 leaving a pregnant wife and 7 children whom he entrusted to King Alfonso of Spain in a quasi-miraculous manner, appearing to the Spanish king in a dream.
Despite the heroism, vision and courage of this young ruler whom his people called Der Friedenskaiser, the Peace Emperor, the newspapers have been vile about him. The British media, during the week of the beatification, called him an adulterer and drunkard, and accused him not merely of permitting the use of poison gas but of ordering gas attacks upon the Italians. At the same time they accused him of losing northern Italy by incompetence (they plainly have not heard of Caporetto!) and of being variously a weakling, a fool and a buffoon. For good measure they accused him of lying about his negotiations with the Entente powers.
So wild and excessive were the accusations that they missed their mark.
In truth, this was a most significant beatification of a layman, husband, father, soldier and above all political ruler in whom was joined both the spirit of Christian chivalry and the Christian political vision of the Social kingship of Christ upon the earth. It is this that the enemies of the Church so much revile and detest, preferring, as they do, the anarchy and lawlessness of immoral government under which they can give free vent to their dark deeds and indulge their vulgar appetites and wicked desires and designs. Above all they hate with a bursting hatred the idea of the government of men submitting to the gentle yoke of Christ. They prefer the harsh, unruly and arbitrary rule of men to the peaceful, just and merciful rule of God.
This was the government that they and their faithless and unbelieving predecessors had sought to destroy. This was the government that the Church had ever celebrated and supported since the time of St. Peter. This was the government celebrated even in the Church’s liturgy until as late as 1955 when the Imperial prayers1 were removed by Italian nationalist, Archbishop Bugnini. It was St. Peter who recommended honouring the Imperial government in his very first letter [1 Peter 2:13,17].
In the person of the Blessed Emperor Charles of the House of Austria the unbelievers rightly see the government of Christ and His Social kingship personified. Accordingly they reject him and all he stands for. Indeed, they were even successful in stopping his cause for beatification altogether in 1976 so that it was, in effect, discarded even by the Vatican. But the late Pope John Paul II quietly revived it and put it back on track. Now it has remarkably succeeded and put to flight the machinations of the enemies of Christ.
This indeed was a most significant beatification and a red letter day for Christendom, Christian chivalry and the Social kingship of Jesus Christ.
Beatus Carolus e domo Austriae, ora pro nobis!
1 EASTER VIGIL – THE EXSULTET (PRE-1955)
GOOD FRIDAY PRAYERS
PRAYERS FOR THE ROMAN EMPEROR
(The lamps are lit from the Paschal fire halfway through the Exsultet to signify the Resurrection of Jesus Christ)
Respice etiam ad devotissimum imperatorem nostrum (Nomen) cujus tu, Deus, desiderii vota praenoscens, ineffabili pietatis et misericordiae tuae munere, tranquillum perpetuae pacis accommoda, et coelestem victoriam cum omni populo suo.
Regard also our most devout Emperor [Name] and since Thou knowest, O God, the desires of his heart, grant by the ineffable grace of Thy goodness and mercy, that he may enjoy with all his people the tranquillity of perpetual peace and heavenly victory.
INTERCESSIONS FOR THE ROMAN EMPEROR (PRE-1955)
Oremus et pro Christianissimo imperatore nostro [Nomen] ut Deus et Dominus noster subditas illi faciat omnes barbaras nationes ad nostram perpetuam pacem.
Diaconus: Flectamus genua
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, in cujus manu sunt omnium potestates, et omnium jura regnorum: respice ad Romanum benignus imperium; ut gentes, quae in sua feritate confidunt, potentiae tuae dexterae comprimantur. Per Dominum.
Let us pray also for the most Christian Emperor [Name] that the Lord God may reduce to his obedience all barbarous nations for our perpetual peace.
LET US PRAY
The deacon: Let us kneel down
The subdeacon: Stand up
O almighty and eternal God, in whose hands are all the power and right of kingdoms, graciously look down on the Roman empire that those nations who confide in their own haughtiness and strength, may be reduced by the power of Thy right hand. Through the same Lord…
Note: The “power of Thy right hand” means the Roman empire and emperor.
1 EASTER VIGIL – THE EXSULTET (PRE-1955)
GOOD FRIDAY PRAYERS
© 2005 The Remnant