Austria’s Last Empress Died 20 Years Ago

  March 14, 2009 at 10:35 am by

On 14 March 1989 Austria’s last empress died in Ziziers, Switzerland. She was born on 9 May 1892 in Pianore, Italy as Princess Zita Maria della Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese of Bourbon-Parma, one of the 24 children of Roberto I, the last reigning Duke of Parma by his second wife Princess Antonia of Portugal. In 1911 she married Archduke Charles (Karl) of Austria, heir to the Austrian throne. The couple would get eight children: Otto, Adelheid, Robert, Felix, Karl Ludwig, Rudolf, Charlotte and Elisabeth.

Click on image to see larger photo

Click on image to see larger photo

During the first world war old emperor Franz Joseph died and Karl and Zita became emperor and empress of the Austriann empire and king and queen of Hungary. After the first world war ended emperor Karl was forced to abdicate by revolutionary forces and the family went into exile on the island of Madeira. Here Karl died in 1922 from a pneunomia, while Zita was still pregnant with their daughter Elisabeth. King Alfonso XIII invited her and her family to live in one of his palaces in Madrid, but Zita soon moved to Leketio in the Basque region, where she rented a castle. In 1929 she moved to Belgium but when the Nazi’s invaded this country she fled with her family through Spain and Portugal to the United States. She only returned to Europe in 1953, where she finally settled in Ziziers, Switzerland.

In 1982 the Austrian government allowed her to return to Austria, due to mediation by king Juan-Carlos of Spain. Shortly before she died empress Zita published her memoires, in which she wrote about the Mayerling drama. According to her the French president Georges Clemenceau was involved with the suicide of crown prince Rudolf, only son of emperor Franz Joseph and the legendary empress Elisabeth (Sissi).

Click on image to see photo at royal portraits blogspot

Click on image to see photo at royal portraits blogspot

When empress Zita died at 14 March 1989, at the age of 96, her family was allowed by the Austrian government to bury her in the Kapuziner Crypt in Vienna. Over 200 members of the Habsburg and Bourbon-Parma family attended the funeral, along with 6000 other people, among them leading politicians, royalty and a representative of pope John Paul II. Empress Zita had asked that her heart, which was placed in an urn, stay behind at the monastery of Muri, Switzerland, where the her husband’s heart had rested for decades. In doing so, Zita assured herself that, in death, she and her husband would remain by each other’s side for eternity.

Two youtube clips of the funeral:

Funeral on Youtube

Funeral on Youtube 2

Filed under Austria-Hungary, Historical Royals, Italy
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