1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charles
CHARLES (Karl Franz Josef) (1887- ), Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary from 1915 to 1918, was born Aug. 17 1887 at Persenbeug in Lower Austria. His father, the Archduke Otto (1865-1906), the younger brother of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, was a clever man of easy morals; his mother, Princess Maria Josepha of Saxony (1867- ), was a zealous Catholic. Charles spent his early years wherever his father's regiment happened to be stationed; later on he lived in Vienna and Reichenau. He was privately educated, but, contrary to the custom ruling in the imperial family, he attended a public gymnasium for the sake of demonstrations in scientific subjects. On the conclusion of his studies at the gymnasium he entered the army, spending the years from 1906-8 as an officer chiefly in Prague, where he studied law and political science concurrently with his military duties. In 1907 he was declared of age and Prince Zdeuko Lobkowitz was appointed his chamberlain. In the next few years he carried out his military duties in various Bohemian garrison towns. At that time no opportunity was given him of gaining a closer insight into affairs of State, although the death of his father in 1906 and the renunciation by his uncle, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, on the occasion of his marriage with the Countess Chotek, of any right of succession for the children of this union, made him heir presumptive to the Emperor Francis Joseph. In 1911 he represented the Emperor at the coronation of King George V. in London. In October of the same year he was married at Pianore (Italy) to the Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Of this marriage, which is everywhere described as a happy one, there were several sons and daughters, the eldest of whom, Otto, was born in 1912.
Charles's relations with his great-uncle, the Emperor, were not intimate; and those with his uncle Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, not cordial, the differences between their wives increasing the existing tension between them. For these reasons Charles up to the time of the murder of Francis Ferdinand, obtained no insight into affairs of State, but led the life of a prince not destined for a high political position. It was only after the death of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand that the old Emperor, moved by an innate sense of duty, took steps to initiate the heir to his crown in affairs of State. But the outbreak of the World War interfered with this political education. Charles spent his time during the first phase of the war at headquarters at Teschen, but exercised no military influence.
In the spring of 1916, in connexion with the offensive against Italy, he was entrusted with the command of the XX. Corps, whose affections the heir to the throne won by his affability and friendliness. The offensive, after a successful start, soon came to a standstill. Shortly afterwards Charles went to the eastern front as commander of an army operating against the Russians and Rumanians. On Nov. 21, the day of his great-uncle's death, he succeeded to the throne.
Seldom has a ruler on ascending the throne been faced with a more difficult situation. The struggle between the nations had been going on for more than two years; for more than two years the troops of the monarchy had been fighting heroically against the superior forces of their enemies. The military and economic resources of the monarchy were beginning to fail. Behind the front, especially in the towns of Austria, there was want of the necessaries of life, and already it was clear that anti-dynastic feeling was spreading widely especially in the non-Austrian and non-Magyar territories.
His programme on his accession was to combat this feeling, to renew the splendor of the dynasty, to give to the peoples under his rule the longed-for peace, and to bring about a settlement between the different nations composing the Habsburg Monarchy. But how was this programme to be carried out?
The Emperor Charles thought that for this purpose he needed new men; he therefore dismissed many of his predecessor's most influential advisers, and replaced them by persons from his own circle of friends and that of the late Archduke Francis Ferdinand. The Obersthofmeister, Prince Montenuovo (1854- ), was superseded by the former president of the council of ministers, Prince Conrad Hohenlohe (1863-1920); the position of head of the military chancery, which had been held during the last years of the Emperor Francis Joseph by Freiherr von Bolfras (1838- ), was given to Field-Marshal von Marterer (1862-1919); Count Polzer (1870- ) succeeded Freiherr von Schiessl (1844- ) as head of the civil chancery. The Archduke Frederick, the commander-in-chief, was dismissed, the Emperor himself taking over the supreme command of the army, and headquarters were transferred from Teschen to Baden, near Vienna. Shortly afterwards Conrad von Hötzendorf was replaced as chief of the general staff by Arz von Straussenburg. In the great offices of State there was also a change of personnel. The position of the Hungarian prime minister, Stephen Tisza, was indeed much too strong for his removal to be thought of at that time, and this was not effected till May 1917. But the Austrian prime minister, Ernst von Körber, was replaced by Count Clam-Martinitz, and the Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, Baron Burian, by Count Ottokar Czernin. These changes, however, were merely disadvantages, because the new men, with the exception of Czernin, could not free themselves from the traditional principles of government, while they lacked the experience of their predecessors.
The Emperor Charles himself had not the energy and strength of character necessary to carry out his views. Even his adherents while praising his powerful memory, his gift of rapid comprehension, his marked sense of the greatness of his House, his devotion to duty, and his personal charm, admit that he lacked the stronger qualities. His efforts for peace, which embroiled him with Germany, and his attempts to save the Habsburg Monarchy by concessions to the various nationalities composing it are described in the article Austrian Empire (Foreign Policy).
During 1918 his attitude became more and more vacillating. Immediately after the capitulation of the Bulgarian army he announced that the various nationalities were free to sever their connexion with the monarchy, but on Oct. 16, in the hope of saving the dynasty, he issued a manifesto forecasting the conversion of Austria into a federal state, but with no mention of Hungary. This project also failed, the revolutionary elements having gained complete control in the various territories, and on Nov. 11 the Emperor, in order not to hinder the free development of his peoples, resigned all share in the government of Austria. Two days later he made a similar renunciation in the case of Hungary. The German Austrian Republic was proclaimed by the National Assembly on Nov. 12; the Hungarian at Budapest on Nov. 16. Yet Charles did not resign the crown of his dominions. He retired to his castle of Eckarotau on the Danube; thence he went on March 24 1919 to Switzerland, where he stayed first at Schloss Gstaad, and later at Prangins. His attempt at the end of March 1921 to secure his restoration as King of Hungary failed owing to the unfriendly attitude of the Hungarians and the unanimous opposition of the Succession States and the Entente.
A further and more serious attempt, on Oct. 22-24 1921, was defeated with fatal results to the ex-Emperor's chances of restoration. Having made a surprise air-flight with his wife from Switzerland to the Burgenland (where for some weeks a revolt had been organized against its transference to Austria), Charles was there joined by a small force of armed Royalists, at whose head he marched on Budapest. But the Allied Powers, as well as the “Little Entente,” at once made it clear that a coup d'état would not be tolerated; and there was a strong rally at Budapest to the side of the Horthy Government. The Royalists, within 12 m. of Budapest, were met and defeated, with heavy losses, Charles and Zita being themselves arrested at Komorn. On instructions from the Powers, the definite deposition of Charles and renunciation of his claims to the throne were insisted upon, and he and his wife were handed over to the custody of the Allies for internment. With this dramatic failure was ended the hope of a restored Habsburg dynasty in Hungary.