Habsburg & the Fatima Connection

In depth complete story of Habsburg and Fatima


Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary (1877-1922),
beatified 3 October 2004.

 “In asking Heaven for grace and blessing for myself and my House, as well as for my beloved peoples…I swear before the Almighty to administer faithfully the goods that my ancestors have bequeathed to me. I will do all in my power to banish, with the briefest possible delay, the horrors and sacrifices that the war is bringing and to bring my people the benefits of peace.”

It is by this prayer and this solemn promise that Emperor Charles of Austria, the first of that name, inaugurated his reign on 21 November 1916, a reign of barely two years, mingled with the agony of the Great War and brutally interrupted by revolution. Jean Sévillia has just devoted a fascinating work to him: Le dernier empereur, Charles d’Autriche, 1887-1922 (Perrin 2009,) which completes what he has already written about Charles’ admirable spouse: Zita, Impératrice courage, (Perrin, 1997.)

We read it in community with all the more interest since the account responds to an expectation that our Father formulated in his special issue on the heroes of the Great War. Neither the politicians, nor the historians, nor even the theologians have yet truly understood the meaning of their sacrifice: “There remain, alone credible, alone audible, but yet neither heard nor believed, the saints of the Church who had revelations and indubitably prophetic visions of it, and accompanied them with religious and moral lessons so that the holocaust might not be without merit, without value in the eyes of God but, on the contrary, that it might obtain from Him mercy and grace upon grace up to the fullness of victory and a holy Catholic peace that have not yet come to our peoples of sacrificed heroes…” (Georges de Nantes, Memorial of the Heroes of the Great War. I have compassion on the multitude,” CCR n° 272, December 1994, p. 1)

Charles of Austria was not of “our side,” of our Catholic and Latin people confronted by Germanic and Lutheran barbarism; he was not favored with any revelations, but he is today Blessed and his life is inscribed in the orthodromy “that leads all things in Christendom toward the greatest good of men, their true conversion, and – that price once paid – their peace on earth and eternal life in Christ.” (CRC n° 302, p. 36).


Born 17 August 1887, Charles showed from his early years a benevolent and sensitive character, with a heart as true as gold and a profound piety. Destined, like all the princes of his family, to the military profession, he became an officer at the age of eighteen and distinguished himself by his sense of duty, his austerity and his gaiety. Nothing, however, suggested that this grandnephew of the old emperor, Franz-Joseph, would succeed him one day.

On 21 October 1911, Charles married Zita de Bourbon-Parma, a charming princess of French tradition and education, integral and monarchy Catholic Faith – her grandmother, the Duchess Louise of Parma, was the sister of the Count of Chambord. In every fibre of her being, Zita was Austrian: “I never would have thought that Austria could be for me something foreign,” she wrote. “Even before I was married, I knew a great part of the country like the back of my hand. It was simply our homeland.” The day of their wedding, Charles confided to his spouse: “Now, our duty is to help each other to go to Heaven.”

A few months before the wedding, the princess had been received in audience with her mother by Pope Pius X, who told her: “You are going to marry the heir to the throne.” Surprised and intimidated, she did not dare object that the heir to the throne of the Habsburgs was then the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and not Charles, her future husband. Pius X continued, however: “I rejoice very greatly at this, because a great blessing will fall upon his country because of him. He will be the recompense for Austria of its fidelity.”

The assassination at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 confirmed, though in tears and in blood, the prophecy of the saint. At the same time that Charles became the heir presumptive of the royal and imperial crown, the fatal spiral that was to lead to a terrible conflict of peoples began.

To the ambassador of Franz-Joseph, come to ask, in the name of his master, a blessing for the Austrian armies, Saint Pius X, who had had a sort of prophetic vision of the dreadful “guerrone” – the great war – into which the world was plunging as a chastisement for its impiety, answered:

“Tell the Emperor that I cannot bless either war or those who have wanted war: I bless peace”.


War having been declared, one had to do one’s duty and go to the firing line. The Archduke and heir could be seen rushing about on all the fronts; he was everywhere: on the eastern front, facing the Russian armies of Brusilov, and in the southwest, in the Tyrol, where he commanded for a time the elite troops of the Edelweiss Korps, with an obvious concern for sparing the blood of his men that causes one to think irresistibly of General Pétain at the same period.

If the Dual Monarchy had been on the point of disintegrating, as was repeated ad nauseam after the war to justify the treaties of 1919 that dismembered it, that would have happened in 1914. Against all expectation, however, the mobilisation took place without difficulty. More: the regiments fought valiantly. In October 1917, the Austro-Hungarian armies were still able to inflict a disaster on the Italian troops at Caporetto.

This fidelity and this valour can be explained by one very simple and positive reason. The imperial army was a melting pot in which was blended the profound sentiment, shared by the peoples of the Danube basin, of belonging to a community of destiny, incarnated in one family, the house of Habsburg, and cemented by the Catholic Faith – the ancestral support of the throne.

Charles, who said his rosary every day, whether alone at the front or with his children when he returned to Vienna, saw everything. He descended into the trenches and spoke easily with the soldiers. Arms, officers, battlefields, nothing was unfamiliar to him, and he faithfully gave an account of everything to the Emperor deploring, for example, that the Germans took more and more positions in the command of the troops and the conduct of operations.

Yet how was it possible to get free of a ally that was animated by such bellicose fury?


When Emperor Franz-Joseph died on 21 November 1916, after a reign of sixty-eight years, one might have wondered if imperial Austria had died with him. During his funeral, everyone suspected it.

“The emperor, however, was there. He now had the face of a man not yet thirty years old, at whose side walked a very young woman, already the mother of four children, veiled in black from head to toe.”

Charles and Zita were crowned December 30, 1916, in Budapest, according to the traditional pomp and ritual. “From the religious point of view,” writes Sévillia, “the sovereigns, staunch Catholics, were penetrated with the spiritual dimension of the coronation. From the political point of view, this act only engaged them, in the strict sense, in Hungary. Nevertheless, raised in monarchical fervour, they judged that the anointing they received conferred the ultimate meaning of the mission with which they were invested: king and queen, they were responsible before God for their peoples and their crown.” (p. 70)

To tell the truth, their responsibility in such circumstances was crushing. Charles fulfilled it in the daily exercise of the virtues of his state to a heroic degree. Taking supreme command of the army himself, he succeeded in imposing his way of looking at things: no infantry engagement without a long and intense preparation by the artillery. New life ran through the army. On their side, the civilian populations began to suffer painfully the consequences of the blockade: replenishing supplies became more and more difficult and food shortages occurred…The pity that flooded the heart of the Emperor, joined to his keen sense of the duty of a sovereign, obliged him to seek by any and all means to put an end to a war that had lasted much too long.

He tried, in vain, to oppose the German plan for excessive submarine warfare, which caused the United States, attached to the freedom of the seas, to enter the conflict. “It is dreadful! Germany underestimates America and over-estimates its own strengths. Berlin is struck with blindness and will push us into the abyss,” Charles confided to Polzer-Hoditz, head of his civil cabinet.

Likewise, he considered insane the support given by the Kaiser’s headquarters to Lenin in April 1917, allowing him to pass through Switzerland into Russia for the sole purpose of igniting his revolution.

If, in his heart and in his conversations, he was opposed to his ‘allies,’ in practice he was deprived of means to put pressure on them. “This is the whole drama of the sovereign,” notes Sévillia.

It was so until the day when he decided to open secret discussions with the Entente, that is to say with France and England, with a view to concluding a peace between soldiers, in honour.


Contacted by their mother, the Duchess of Parma, the two brothers of Empress Zita, Sixtus and Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, who had been engaged since the beginning of the conflict in the Belgian army, went incognito into Switzerland, then to Vienna, where they met the Emperor. At the account of this attempt at dynastic diplomacy, one begins to dream: was peace then possible, in the spring of 1917?

On 24 March, Emperor Charles confided to his brother-in-law a handwritten letter destined to be delivered to the French authorities, in which can be read :

France has shown a magnificent strength of resistance and momentum. We all admire, without reserve, the admirable traditional bravery of its army and the spirit of sacrifice of the whole French people [the battle of Verdun had just been won!]. It is also particularly agreeable to me to see that, although for the moment adversaries, no true divergence of views or aspirations separates my empire from France, and that I am entitled to be able to hope that my lively sympathies for France, joined to those which reign throughout the Monarchy, will avoid forever the return to a state of war for which no responsibility at all can lie with me…”

Charles offered the Entente substantial terms: recognition of Belgian neutrality, reestablishment of Serbia with access to the Adriatic, support of the “just French claims” to Alsace-Lorraine; in return, he only asked that the integrity of the Austrian state be maintained. He reiterated his offers in a second letter of 9 May. His aim, he confided to Count Czernin, his minister for foreign affairs, was “after the peace, to be allied with France as a counterweight to Germany.”

He was indeed the only head of state of the time thus to desire and to propose peace honestly. Another motive also urged him: the revolution that had just broken out in Saint Petersburg could in turn spread to the central Empires. Charles disclosed his thoughts on this to the nuncio in Vienna, who did not take it seriously. The Emperor was saddened by this: “The nuncio thinks that I speak for my own house, but nothing is less correct. In truth, it is a question of things that are much more important than keeping a throne; it is a question of the security and peace of the Church, as well as the eternal salvation of many souls in peril.


Charles had placed his plans for peace under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, whose image adorned the flags of the imperial regiments. On 15 April 1917, he went to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna in order to make a vow to build a church dedicated to the Queen of Peace, and to offer himself to her to be her instrument, if she so desired.

For his part Pope Benedict XV, who believed “in the moral force of what is right,” added to the Litanies of Loretto, on 5 May 1917, the invocation “Regina Pacis, ora pro nobis.” “He asked,” wrote our Father, “that there be prayers for peace so that God would give it to the world even though the belligerents did not want either to pray or to disarm.” (CCR n° 272, p. 4)

In response, on 13 May, Our Lady appeared to the children of Fatima to put forth the conditions for this peace so much desired:

“Recite the Rosary every day in order to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.

– Can you tell me,” asked Lucy, “if the war is still going to last a long time, or if it will end soon?

I cannot tell you that yet, until I have not also told you also what I want.”

“Thus humanity asks first of all for its immediate and temporal good. Our Lady, in deferring that off until later, reminds humanity that it is neither the most necessary gift nor the best one. That one is conversion, with Heaven as its object. The great evil is not war but sin, which leads poor souls to Hell and unleashes wars and revolutions.” (G. de Nantes, Letter to My Friends n° 247.) On 13 July 1917, the Blessed Virgin revealed her secret plans of mercy, the execution of which ungrateful and rebellious men were going to delay indefinitely: The war is going to end, but if they do not cease offending God, another, worse, one will begin in the reign of Pius XI…”

Already, in 1917, a false peace and a calamitous postwar period were being prepared, of which Charles of Austria would be one of the first victims, while from the disjointed parts of his Empire, separated from their head, the spark of the other “worse” war would shoot forth.


The first to refuse the outstretched hand of Emperor Charles were the French… republicans. Sévillia, following the historian François Fejtö in his “Requiem pour un Empire défunt ” (Paris, 1988), details the stages of this criminal blindness, from the suppression of the Austrian propositions by the Radical-Socialist Alexander Ribot and his Italian accomplice Sonnino in April-May 1917, to the spring of 1918 when “the ignoble Clemenceau,” as our Father calls him, communicated to the press the secret letter of Charles of 24 March 1917. He repudiated the engagements taken and contributed by that very fact to shift Austria into the arms of Germany definitively.

There were networks in Paris and London, such as the “National Czechoslovakian Council,” created by the Freemasons Benes and Masaryk, whose watchword was, “destroy Austria-Hungary.” In June 1917, an international Masonic conference of the allied and neutral countries was held in Paris. Among its resolutions, the “Czechoslovakian” and “Yugoslavian” claims to autonomy aimed at the destruction of the Dual Monarchy, the last obstacle to the Masonic revolution in Europe, bastion of a detested Counter-Reformation and political Catholicism.

“It was in 1918 that the wind changed,” remarks Sévillia. The president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, made himself the echo of these resolutions by issuing, on 8 January 1918, his ‘fourteen points to establish world peace.’ Economic barriers were to be suppressed, Bolshevik Russia supported and, in the name of the right of peoples to dispose of themselves, Austria-Hungary was to be dismantled (article 10) and Germany spared…

Ah! Here is the fine program, formulated by Wilson’s partner in crime, the pseudo Colonel House, one of the influential champions of the new world order. The year 1918 would not end before it was all accomplished.

Poor Charles, who had thought it a good idea to write to the American president and received no answer! To whichever side he turned, he encountered only contempt and rebuffs. A smear campaign against the imperial couple during the summer of 1918 wreaked havoc in the Empire; upon investigation, it was seen to emanate from the German ambassador in Vienna and from the Evangelical League of the North!


It is not enough that I am the only one who wants peace,” Charles confided one day to Polzer-Hoditz, “I must have the whole people and the ministers at my side.”

The people certainly were his from the beginning; never had a monarch gained so quickly the approval of his subjects. His simple manners, his social reforms – he was the first in Europe to institute a ministry of health and of social assistance – and the presence at his side of the Empress Zita, who multiplied works of charity, contributed greatly to this.

The “representatives” of the people, on the other hand, caused him nothing but difficulties, and one is surprised that one of Charles’ first measures was to convoke the Austrian parliament, closed since 1914. “The democratic game in Austria-Hungary,” thought the sovereign, “is all the more necessary because the Western powers boast of waging a war between legally constituted states and reactionary states. To make of Austria-Hungary a modern power is to defuse the Allied propaganda.” (p. 108.) It was a bad move. Had not Charles confided to Polzer-Hoditz: “The late Emperor Franz-Joseph often repeated to me, so that I would never forget it, that these tales of ministerial responsibility are actually only a joke. In reality, it is we who bear the responsibility.”

There were few talented men to help him govern, while partisan and national rivalries obstructed his just reforms, in particular his federalist project. If there is a lesson to be drawn from this account, it is that parliamentary life is incompatible with the conduct of war. The most disconcerting thing in these pages is to see that the natural benevolence of Charles, for want of a solid political doctrine, often turned into excessive confidence accorded to his political enemies. At the same time, he professed a disarming belief in the aspirations of peoples, who “eliminate exaggerations on their own [sic!].” In this, he showed himself more a disciple of Leo XIII and Benedict XV than of Pius X.

At the critical moment, the Austrian bishops shirked their traditional mission of supporting the throne. On 12 November 1918, the Christian Socialist deputies, who composed the majority of the assembly and who had sworn fidelity to the Monarchy a few days previously, rallied to the Republic. “A republic without republicans,” read the headlines in the Arbeiterzeitung, the Social-Democratic daily, so evident was it that the change in regime had not been willed by the people but by the political class.

Elections were fixed for 16 February 1919. Sévillia recounts: “Msgr. Seydl, at Eckartsau where the imperial family had taken refuge, had in his hands the text of a Pastoral Letter that the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Piffl, planned to publish in the name of the Austrian episcopate, urging Catholics to vote. This amounted to an implicit recognition by the Church of the change in regime.

“On 15 January 1919, Charles wrote to Msgr. Piffl to get the priests to urge their sheep to elect deputies who were not only Christian but faithful to the throne. In this letter the monarch insists that the teaching of Leo XIII, calling for action within the framework of established institutions, could not be invoked in the Austrian case, where the Republic had been the fruit of a revolution…Wasted effort: on 23 January, the Letter of the episcopate was read in all the pulpits. It was an appeal to work for the future of society and of the fatherland, and to recognised the form of the state in the spirit of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans‘All power comes from God’– and of the encyclical Immortale Dei of Leo XIII.” (p. 228) Sickening, fatal rallying!

As for Pope Benedict XV, in response to the magnificent letter that Charles addressed to him the 28 February 1919, on the eve of leaving for exile, he urged the Emperor to find “in the Faith and abandonment to God the strength to consent to the sacrifice (!) that is required of him.” Rome had turned the page. At the same moment, however, the Communist Béla Kun was inflicting fire and bloodshed on Hungary.


The Emperor, who had not abdicated, tried twice, in March and October 1921, to restore his throne in Hungary, where he had been anointed and crowned “Apostolic King,” and where the regent Horthy himself had given him some assurance. They were two unfortunate attempts, which recall too well Louis XVI at Varennes or the Count of Chambord at Versailles for us not to deplore with our Father, at the reading of these lamentable pages, that at these decisive moments, when what was needed was to show audacity and to force destiny, legitimacy was not armed with the virtue of fortitude.

Relegated with his family to the island of Madeira, abandoned and deprived of all resource, Charles of Austria, who never complained and pardoned his enemies – sign of a true Christian! – died a saint on Holy Saturday, 1 April 1922, offering his life in sacrifice for his people. He was thirty-four years old.

“We are going through suffering now, but after will come the resurrection,” murmured his heroic spouse at his bedside.

The dawn of this resurrection began to break on 3 October 2004, when Charles of Austria took his place among the Blessed. A “great blessing” then fell upon his country.




One cannot speak of the Emperor Charles of Austria without mentioning at the same time the figure of his spouse, the Empress Zita. This is because they formed a holy and united couple, both in the days of peace and happiness that did not last and in the tragic years of war and exile.

On the day of their coronation in Budapest, on 30 November 1916, the consecrating bishop had placed the heavy Crown of Saint Stephen on the queen’s shoulder for a moment, saying to her: “Receive the crown of sovereignty, so that you know you are the spouse of the King and that you must always take care of the people of God. The higher you are placed, the more you must be humble and rest in Jesus Christ.”

Following the example of Charles, whose memory she kept alive, she never abdicated her rights, and it was as Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary that she was interred on 1 April 1989, in the crypt of the Capuchins in Vienna. The popular fervor of which she was the object in the course of this ceremony showed an astonished world that, after seventy years of the republic, Zita remained in Austria the Landesmutter, the “mother of the country,” a terrestial image of Her who is venerated at the sanctuary of Mariazell in the heart of the former Empire under the title of “Magna Mater Austriæ, Magna Domina Hungarorum, Mater Gentium Slavorum.


She who received at her birth the uncommon name of Zita, the holy patronness of Luca, was born in Tuscany on 9 May 1892, of a Portuguese mother and of a “line of French princes who reigned in Italy,” as her father, Duke Robert of Parma liked to say. With him, we find the legitimist framework that we love, since he was the son of Louise de Bourbon, sister of Henry V. Driven from his States by revolution, he had been raised by his uncle at Frosdorf in Austria. From his two successive marriages he had twenty-four children, of whom six were handicapped. The family was divided between the domain of Pianore in Tuscany, and that of Schwarzau in Austria. Gaiety was in vogue there – they spoke six languages! – and the education given was a mixture of austerity, charity, and profound piety.

Zita had a childhood “particularly joyful and happy.” After four years spent with the Salesian sisters of Zangberg in Bavaria, she lived several months on the Isle of Wight with the Benedictines of Solesmes, who were driven from France by the anticlerical laws. There she found her elder sister who had just taken the veil, as well as their maternal grandmother, Queen Adelaide of Portugal. Braganza, Bourbons of France, of Spain and of the Two Sicilies: Zita belonged to all these royal Catholic houses, now dethroned, which a sort of family pact had connected since the time of Louis XV. “The world was full of cousins,” she later said smilingly.

On her return to Austria in 1909, she was a tall and lovely young girl, of haughty carriage and luminous gaze, pious, lively and gay, who had chosen this as motto: “More for you than for me.” It was then that she met Charles of Habsburg, grandnephew of Emperor Franz-Joseph. On could not find a better representative of traditional Austria: sincerity, charity, tenacity, modesty, Charles had all the qualities that attached upright hearts to him, together with a piety that was surprising to find in a young archduke. “If one does not know how to pray, he can learn from this young gentleman,” said one of his relatives.

In the enthusiasm of mutual love and with the blessing of Pope Pius X, they were married on 21 October 1911. The following day, they went on pilgrimage to Mariazell to consecrate themselves to “The August Mother of Austria,” as she was called by Ferdinand II when his empire was threatened by the Turks and the Protestants.

Zita had a very thorough sense of tradition; one could even say that her whole personality was “relational.” “All those who preceded me,” she said, “left their mark on my life, and all those who were and are with me, above all the Emperor who gave meaning and fullness to my existence. Without those who have gone before us, we would be nothing. Whatever happened, whatever I have done, I have done it for those who lived before us, those around us, and those who will live after us. Certainly, we have made mistakes, but good will presided over all our enterprises.” (Zita of Habsbourg, Mémoires d’un empire disparu, collected by the historian Erich Feigl, 1991, p. 23)

She added that above all the vicissitudes of history, God alone is sovereign: A thousand powers, the one Power! All the forces around us that bustle about, pushing or pulling, are nothing beside the only power that rules us. The Emperor Charles was in its service.”


“The identity of the Danubian region was forged in the struggle against the Turks, and then against Protestantism. In the seventeenth century, Austria was the Catholic rampart of Europe. In the eighteenth century, during the reign of Maria-Teresa [an ancestor of both Charles and Zita,] Austria had incarnated the apotheosis of baroque civilisation [in other words, of the Counter-Reformation.] In 1756, the great Empress concluded a prophetic reversal of alliances with Louis XV: after two centuries of Franco-Austrian wars the new enemy, for Vienna as for Paris, was crouching in Berlin, the capital of Prussia. During the Revolution and the reign of Napoleon, Austria had been the bastion of legitimacy against the new ideas.” (Jean Sévillia, Zita, impératrice courage, Paris, 1997, p. 50)

Situated geographically between the West and the East, the Austria of the Habsburgs had, for the seven centuries of its existence, played a determining federating role for the mosaic of peoples who, although displaying in the heart of Europe an astonishing diversity of statutes, customs, and institutions, were incapable of living and defending themselves alone. Franz-Joseph observed this in 1868: “Within our Empire, the small nations of central Europe find a refuge. Without this common house their fate would be a miserable one. They would become the plaything of every powerful neighbour.” During his reign ( 1848-1916 ) the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary, which Zita would say “incarnated the spirit of European civilisation as did no other state,” was transformed into a modern power with its fifty-one million inhabitants, the forth power in Europe after England, Germany, and France, and experienced a prosperity at the beginning of the twentieth century that aroused much jealousy.

It was, however, above all its overtly political Catholicism that brought down upon the Empire of the Habsburgs the hatred of the enemies of the Church, in particular of Freemasonry. In the year that followed the marriage of Charles and Zita, an international Eucharistic Congress was held in Vienna, at the end of which a friend of the family, Father Andlau, a Jesuit, reported that the Scottish Masonic lodges had sworn the annihilation of Austria-Hungary, obstacle to the creation of a secular and Masonic Europe.

Already the death of Rudolph of Habsburg at Mayerling in 1889 had been, in all likelihood, a Masonic crime. (cf. Michel Dugast Rouillé, L’ombre de Clemenceau à Mayerling, Paris, 1985;) the assassination of Franz-Ferdinand at Sarajevo, on 28 June 1914, was one also. The Archduke, heir to the throne, had divulged to Charles and Zita shortly before:

I am going to be assassinated.

– But Uncle, that’s not possible! Who would commit such a crime?

“Uncle Franz-Ferdinand,” Zita commented, “obviously had reasons for believing what he told us. He had had serious threats from nationalist and anarchist groups. Obviously the police had been informed of them and took them very seriously. To tell the truth, the instigators were known to be inaccessible. They mingled and moved in a half-light, and in the political demi-world, between Turin, Paris, and Scotland. They also haunted Belgrade. It was already known at the time that, if an assassination attempt were committed, the authors of it would only be agents manipulated by a ‘big brother.’ ” (Mémoires, p. 123)


Zita, raised by Franz-Joseph to the rank of first lady of the Empire, came to live at Schönbrunn beginning in July 1914. Before leaving for the front at the head of the First Hussars, Charles asked her to have engraved on his sabre the words of their consecration to the Virgin:  Sub tuum præsidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix. ” On her side, her own brother, Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, who was preparing to join France with Sixtus, wrote in his journal on 20 August 1914:

“Today Zita called us to Schönbrunn. She gave us terrible news that, I must say, is in accordance with the moment in which we are living: Pope Pius X is dead. He was the only source of light in this period of darkness. ‘Ignis ardens,’ the ‘burning fire’is no more. I see him again before me; we are all assembled around him, and he is speaking to us as a father to his children. How we were all attentive when he spoke of Zita as of the future Empress of Austria! I see again Mama saying that it was not possible…  and here Uncle Franz-Ferdinand is dead. Zita is at Schönbrunn…”

At Court, Zita quickly made an impression by her charisma and her energy. A confidante of the old Emperor, mother of two, then of three lovely children, she gave herself without counting the cost to the most needy, applying the motto of her patroness, St. Zita: “The hands at work, the heart to God.” Watching over the functioning of the hospitals, in the capital and then behind the frontlines, she visited the wounded and organised the relief services. She was, according to the expression of the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna, Msgr. Piffl, “the guardian angel of all those who suffer.”

On 21 November 1916, Franz-Joseph drew his last breath after seventy years of reign. He had wanted to punish Serbia, but he had not foreseen that a world war would result, of a new and terrifying type that would be the death-knell of traditional Europe. Why did he enter into war against France and England? Austria had no quarrels with them. This absurd conflict resulted from the distressing German alliance.



Jean Sévillia puts it very well: “A monarchy is a family placed at the head of the State.” Charles, who appreciated the political intelligence of his wife, wished her to be directly informed of the great issues of government. With tact and discretion, Zita knew how to assist her husband admirably in his crushing task. General Margutti, received in audience by the young Empress at the end of January 1917, recounts:

“This time I was again fascinated, not only by the charm that emanated from her august person and by the unrivalled grace of her manners, but more by the turns of her alert and pleasant conversation, sparkling with intelligence and vivacity.” Their exchanges covered the desire of Charles for peace, the implacable determination of the Germans, the risk of the entry of the United States into the war, the danger of events precipitating the fall of Nicholas II and rebounding into that of William II and of the Habsburgs. Zita, however, never encroached on the sphere of the Emperor. Polzer-Hoditz describes the way in which she assisted each evening at the military briefing:

“She was habitually seated a little apart, reading a book or writing letters. Her presence was purely passive. She sometimes asked me for information on such or such an event, but it was never about important affairs. It was rare that she permitted herself to make a remark while the Emperor was discussing political questions with me, but when she did so, the question was always judicious and never beside the point.”

Zita was the soul of the peace negotiations that began to develop beginning in the month of December 1916. It was she who wrote in March 1917 to her brother Sixtus in order to convince him to come to Vienna to learn from Charles himself of his resolution to take Austria out of the war: “Think of all the unfortunates who must live in the hell of the trenches, who are dying by the thousands every day: come!” It was again she who helped her husband to write, in impeccable French, his secret propositions for peace and the reversal of alliances, intended to remove the Monarchy from the German grip and to establish a new Paris-Vienna axis against Berlin. No disloyalty entered into these exchanges. Even with her brothers, she avoided bringing up the internal situation of Austria, though it was becoming more alarming day by day.


“The Emperor of Austria, secret friend of France? The Germans guessed it. It was difficult for them to attack the Emperor directly. They thus chose another target: Zita. Her French ancestry, in the bellicose speeches of the pan-Germanists, would serve as the pretext for a campaign of disparagement of the Empress. In Germany, she was called “the Frenchwoman,” and in Austria, “the Italian woman.” Within a few months, some would be accusing her of treason.” (Sévillia, p. 96)

Though it was treason for Germany, the project of Charles and Zita was seen in France as the best outcome possible for the war, as shown by a memorandum of the second bureau of army headquarters dated 4 August 1917, of which the author was certainly a disciple of Bainville. This memorandum, supervised by General in Chief Philippe Pétain and transmitted to the Minister of War, Paul Painlevé, stressed the imperative necessity of disassociating the two Empires of Central Europe:

“The only enemy of France, the one danger in Europe is Prussia. The amendments to the constitutions of the other governments are secondary factors as long as Prussia is not entirely and definitely vanquished and reduced to impotence. The Entente must therefore create an irremediably hostile power next to Prussia. It can achieve this through the Habsburgs by forming, with the bond of a personal union, a federation with a majority of Slavic states…”

The same report envisioned that “in case of the break-up of the Danubian monarchy into ethnic and national groups, Germany would find itself faced with small, independent states; Austria itself would opt for anschluss (annexation,) and the Hungarians would seek the support of Germany.”

This prophetic note would have no sequel because Pétain and Painlevé had to cede their positions to the evil duo of Clemenceau-Foch, more avid of power and glory than the true good of France, as the Abbé de Nantes, our Father, has shown. (cf. Les années Pétain : 1918, la gloire éclipsée, CRC n° 303, p. 31).

Charles of Austria had thus failed. “There is something so tragic in the destiny of Emperor and King Charles that one must have lost all sense of spiritual realities not to be moved in seeing the way in which all the aspirations of his soul clashed with the great currents of world politics,” wrote Polzer-Hoditz. The honour of Charles, and that of Zita, “Princess of Peace,” (Antoine Redier, Paris, 1930), consisted in fighting to the end for the peace of Christendom. The judgment of Anatole France is thus applied to both of them, as the homage of vice to virtue: “The Emperor Charles offered peace: he was the only honest man to appear in the course of this war, and he was not listened to… Ribot is an old villain for neglecting such an opportunity. A king of France, yes, a king, would have had pity on our poor exhausted, bleeding, worn-out people!” cité par Michel Dugast Rouillé, le dernier empereur, 1991, p. 89)


On the domestic front, Charles and Zita found themselves more and more alone as the months passed. He was snubbed by the Viennese aristocracy for his too simple and common manners, heir to a Constitution that imprisoned his reform projects, ill served by ministers who were not equal to the task. When the Emperor, who wanted to keep close contact with his peoples and reinforce their union during the ordeal, decided to convoke the parliament, he soon had reason to regret it: each ‘national’ party rushed to take up pre-war conflicts without regard for the common good. When Charles wanted to repair the denials of justice committed by certain military tribunals with a general amnesty, as a way of pulling the rug out from under his enemies’ feet, he was not understood. This was one of the rare points to which Zita objected, and with reason.


One day in January, 1867, Blessed Pius IX asked Don Bosco if he had done well to grant an amnesty to the political prisoners of his States. As the saint hesitated to answer, the Pope insisted :

Go on, state your idea frankly.

– Your Holiness, by this sovereign stroke of clemency seems to have done what Samson did when he captured three hundred foxes and then let them go. They ran about everywhere, sowing fire and ruin.

– Well, well, you have guessed right. We made a mistake. Wild beasts can be gentled and tamed, but the foxes ‘would lose their coats rather than their vices.’ ”

It was Zita who, in April 1918, was subjected to the affronts of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ottokar Czernin, who, in a fit of madness, wanted to use odious blackmail against the imperial family. “The honour of a gentleman,’ Zita calmly retorted, ‘is to protect his sovereign.” The treason of Czernin had disastrous effects, obliging the Emperor to draw closer to Germany and detaching the Slav peoples from the Throne.

A real work of sabotage, orchestrated in London by the Czechs Thomas Masaryk and Edward Benes, and relayed through the Masonic lodges, led about the same time to the insurrectionary creation of “national councils.” More than a million tracts promising independence to the peoples of the Danube were released behind the Austrian lines, while strikes erupted in the industrial centres.

“We must show the people,” said Zita, “that we are there where our duty commands.” It was the maxim of a sovereign. All through the crisis the Empress, who in 1918 became a mother for the fourth time, gave proof of a rare courage. At the end of the summer, she was to be present at a charity gala for the benefit of the war-wounded. Some people warned her against going: she would be booed, the scandal would be tremendous. The Empress decided to face it; she would go. Charles accompanied her. Tense, they appeared at the Konzerthaus in Vienna. In the packed auditorium, there was only profound silence to greet them. Then frenetic applause broke out. After the performance, the sovereigns mingled with the audience. “In all the provinces of the Empire,” Sévillia adds, “in the State, the Church, at all levels of the population, vigorous forces remained faithful to the monarchy. The voice of this silent majority was not heard, however: no effort was made to make it speak.” (p. 124.)

Charles too had shown his character. Probably he committed blunders; probably he had moments of weakness. Nothing, however, had prepared him to succeed Franz-Joseph, and he compels admiration, consideration and compassion when almost always everything turned against him.

“This thirty-year old man,” writes Sévillia, “placed at the head of an old empire, had to face, almost alone, its dissolution. At his side there was no minister of the stamp of Kaunitz or Metternich, no marshal of the character of Eugene of Savoy or Radetzky. Austria had known great men throughout her history; in 1918, she was searching for them.” (p. 147)


The fall of the Empire took place “in the Austrian way,” without bloodshed, the Emperor having refused to defend his throne with arms. When the political circles wanted to push him to abdicate, however, he likewise refused. He did not acknowledge any right for himself to dispose of an authority received from God and blessed by the Church, and Zita still less: “Abdicate? Never! The imperial family retired to the castle of Echartsau from which, in March 1919, they had to leave the country as outcasts, deprived of their fortune, by the decision of the new “Austro-German Republic,” which was already reaching out to Germany.

From his place of exile in Switzerland, the Emperor continued to fight day after day to prevent this unnatural union, a struggle that would be continued by his family until 1945. His correspondence from that period reveals his broad views of the future and his monarchical convictions, strengthened by the ordeal.

Zita accompanied him in his second attempt at a restoration in Hungary. “In danger,”she said, “the place of the queen is with the king.It is known how Admiral Horthy, of Calvinist origin but in reality an atheist who detested the Catholic tradition of the Habsburgs, made every effort to cause the attempt to fail. “He came to his own and his own received him not,”would be inscribed by the Hungarian legitimists in the chapel built in the place where the Emperor’s airplane rested on Hungarian soil.

Confined and then exiled to Madera, Charles experienced in the few months he had left to live a spiritual ascension that was the admiration of his spouse. “Even if we have failed in everything,”she said, “we have to thank God, for His ways are not our ways.”Stricken with a double pulmonary congestion, his last days were those of a saint. “I must suffer much so that my peoples can come together again.” In the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, he offered his life in sacrifice and died pronouncing the name of JESUS.

The Empress, who was holding him in her arms, had then an expression of unspeakable dread on her face. Mater dolorosa… Soon, however, her faith got the upper hand and caused her to pronounce the act of heroic abandonment that was to bring her so many graces.

On his side, the Bishop of Funchal testified: “No mission has ever contributed so effectively to revive the Faith in my diocese as the example given by the Emperor in his sickness and his death.” Among the bouquets placed on his tomb in the Nossa Senhora do Monte church, one bore a band on which was written in Portuguese: “to the martyr king.Five years earlier, in the same language, the Virgin Mary had announced at Fatima: “The good will be martyred.”


It is at Fatima that the divine orthodromy is revealed, the “thread of the Virgin’s thoughts” on the twentieth century. Let us follow its sequence with our Father (cf. CRC 309, janv. 1995.) 

Our Lady granted the end of the Great War, announcing on 13 July 1917: “The war is going to end,” as a truce. After the vision of Hell, which should have sufficed to terrorize the good and result in a Crusade of prayer, bringing the reigns of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary over the world… Alas! She announced the possibility, that She knew must be the sad reality of the near future: no attention would be paid to Her appeals, and thus the chastisements would return:

But if they do not cease to offend God, another, worse one will begin in the reign of Pius XI.

Jacques Bainville, analysing the treaty signed at Versailles on 28 June 1919, saw it already pregnant with a new war on the part of the same enemy, who would win it! “The damned were not helped to convert,” wrote our Father, “they were kept as heads of nations. They spread everywhere hatred, vices, impiety.” In Central Europe, one of them was distinguished by his anti-Habsburg hatred. It was the Freemason Benes, who was to roar, fifteen years later: “Better Hitler than the Habsburg!Our Clemenceau, who glorified himself in his memoirs, was no better: “In all of Europe, at last, the words right, liberty, justice, have a meaning… This, we had promised. This, we have done.” The madman!

The Virgin Mary continued :

When you see a night illuminated with an unknown light, know that it is the great sign that God is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, famine, and persecutions against the Church and the Holy Father.

This “unknown light”shone in the night of 25 January 1938. Less than seven weeks later, the Anschluss of Austria by the German army marked the true beginning of the Second World War, with Pius XI still reigning. From Russia, however, was to come an evil more terrible than all the others:

“If My requests are heard, Russia will be converted and there will be peace. If not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, provoking wars and persecutions against the Church…”

The peoples of the ancient Austria-Hungary were going to suffer in their bodies and their souls.


Alone and destitute, with eight children, of whom the last was still to be born, Zita felt “supernaturally united to her husband.

Every day she invoked him in her prayers, and more so when difficulties arose.” (Sévillia, p. 207) To the faithful Werkman, who had served as secretary to the Emperor, she confided:

“I have one great political duty, and perhaps only that one. I must raise my children according to the mind of the Emperor, to make of them good men who fear God, and above all to prepare Otto for his future. None of us knows what that is.”

Welcomed by the Spain of Alphonso XIII, the family settled in the very Catholic little village of Lekeitio, on the Basque coast, until 1930, before going to Belgium at the invitation of Albert I and Queen Elizabeth. Three sentences would be sufficient to sum up the instruction that this admirable mother, a worthy imitator of Blanche of Castille, was giving her children.

Finding one of her ladies-in-waiting in tears one day, she learned that there was not enough money left to buy provisions for the week. She was then heard to murmur, “All the same, it is a great thing to be at this point in the hands of God!

Otto had been kept in his room for two days while the shoemaker resoled his one pair of shoes: “Thus,” said the Empress, “he will understand the poor and will really be their king!”

Another day, she called him and spoke seriously to him. The newspapers had just announced that the crown prince of Italy had been the victim of an attack in Brussels that nearly cost him his life: “I want you to learn from me, my child, what has just happened and that it concerns you; for miserable men will perhaps want to kill you too. You must know it, and be ready to fall at any moment of your life, as a Christian and a King.” (Marie-Madeleine Martin, Othon de Habsbourg, prince d’Occident, Paris, 1959, p. 145)

It was, however, towards Austria, the mother country, that their hearts ceaselessly turned.


The treaty of 1919 had created an unlivable Austria, which had to reconvert its activities completely in order to acquire a satisfactory economic equilibrium. Placed at the head of a state of which the financial situation depended on loans agreed to by the League of Nations, Msgr. Seipel, who had become Chancellor, had to sacrifice to its pacifist internationalism. When the crisis occurred, and with it unemployment and class struggle, a new chancellor, Dollfuss, set up in 1933 a “federal, corporative, and Christian state” in imitation of that of Dr. Salazar in Portugal. On 11 September 1933, he had celebrated the 250th anniversary of the victory over the Turks at the siege of Vienna. “Exalting the Christian vocation of Austria against the barbarians encamped at the gates of the city, he provoked the admiration of the crowd, who understood the symbol.” The modern barbarians were the Nazis.

Hitler understood him too, and wanted to finish off the little man who flouted him. On 25 July 1934, Berlin masterminded a putsch organized by the Austrian Nazis. The putsch miscarried, but a henchman struck down the Chancellor. “The first bloody victim of Nazism, he died for having carried on, alone and intrepid, the combat for the faith and the liberty of his country, in a Europe that was sleeping.” (Sévillia, p. 228)

Let us be finished once and for all with the legend: Austria was not the cradle of National-Socialism! If Hitler was an Austrian, he had denied his country and built his career on negation of the Austrian spirit. Austria benefited then from the support of Mussolinian Italy, but the situation changed in 1937: the war in Ethiopia and the stupid sanctions with which the Allies thought it necessary to strike Italy only brought Rome closer to Berlin. Schuschnigg, who had succeeded Dollfuss, was summoned on 12 February 1938 to Berghof by Hitler. Already the plan for the invasion of Austria by the Wehrmacht was ready, and bore the name of “Otto.”

Reading the thrilling pages of Sévillia on this period, we realise that the legitimist movement had spread to such an extent in Austria that tens of thousands of students, workers, and peasants yearned for the return of the son of the Emperor Charles. The very name of Habsburg incarnated the independence of Austria; the song Edelweiss was on all lips. The announcement of the plebiscite set for 13 March 1938, however, provoked an ultimatum from Berlin. Schuschnigg was forced to resign and soon, at Linz, Hitler decreed the Anschluss, that is to say the union, the forced integration of Austria into the Fourth Reich – amid international indifference.

From Belgium, Zita and Otto had followed the events hour by hour, in anguish. Heart to heart with their faithful people caught up in the turmoil – most of the leaders of legitimist groups would die in concentration camps, and those who escaped the raids fought in the front line for the freedom of Austria – the exiled sovereigns carried on the same combat.

As refugees in the Unites States from 1940, Otto and his brothers, but also Zita, their discreet and attentive counsellor, multiplied approaches to Roosevelt and Churchill so that Austria might be listed among the number of countries occupied by Hitler and that it would thus be spared at its liberation. They were successful, and it was thanks to a speech that the Empress gave in 1948 to the wives of members of Congress that Austria was accepted as a beneficiary of the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. This was “the last political act of Zita.” It can be said that, at a distance, she was during these years of suffering and anguish, the lightning rod of Austria.

It was still necessary for her people to join with her.


Liberated Austria was divided in May 1945 into four zones occupied by the victors: Soviet Russia, the United States, England, and France. At Vienna, General Tolbukhin, commanding the Soviet occupation forces, supported the Socialist Karl Renner – who, in 1938, had applauded the Anschluss! – to form a provisional government. As the years passed, however, the USSR showed no desire to leave, for Austria represented too precious a base of operations in the heart of Europe: “What we occupy, we never give up,” declared one of its directors. In 1955, nevertheless, Moscow accepted, in an unhoped-for fashion, the complete withdrawal of its occupation forces. What had happened?

At the origin of this “miracle” we find a Franciscan of the name of Petrus Pavlicek. On 2 February 1946, this valiant popular missionary went to the sanctuary of Mariazell to ask “the august Mother of Austria” what he should do. During his prayer he heard a voice saying to him:

Do what I tell you and you will have peace.

Remembering Fatima, he obtained from his superiors permission to launch a crusade of prayer by means of the rosary and of penance, in a spirit of reparation and expiation. Missions were organised throughout the country, so well that in 1954 the Crusade counted more than a million members – a tenth of the population – with at their head the Chancelor Figl, who engaged himself to recite the rosary daily. Each year, for the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, a great procession went through the capital. Between 10 and 15 May 1955, international agreements gave back to Austria its full independence.

On the other side of the eastern frontier, events had taken a far more dramatic turn. Hungary, with its seven million Catholics out of ten million inhabitants, had been delivered over to Bolshevism by the Yalta accords. Named Archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary on 7 October 1945, Cardinal Mindszenty wanted to be “the good shepherd who, if necessary, gives his life for his sheep, his Church, his homeland.” Foreseeing that terrible persecutions were going to descend upon the Regnum Mariae, he declared a Marian year devoted to Fatima on 15 August 1947, to the great fury of the Communist government: “These days of Mary must reinforce the Catholic conscience; remain Catholic and Hungarian! Keep away from false prophets. They sow hatred and gather the fruits of their own interests. May the Hungarians be the people of Saint Stephen and of the Mother of God!

The Marian year was scarcely ended when the Prince-Primate was arrested. Imprisoned, dreadfully tortured, he was condemned to perpetual forced labour at the end of a mock trial that accused him of counter-revolutionary intrigues in league with Otto von Habsburg, on the pretext that he had met Otto at the Marian Congress in Ottawa in 1947!

He was liberated during the uprising of 1956, then constrained to take refuge in the American Embassy in Budapest, which he left in September 1971. Removed from office by Pope Paul VI as an embarrassing obstacle to the Vatican’s Ostpolitik, he went in May 1972 to Zizers in Switzerland to meet… the Empress Zita, the last crowned Queen of Hungary, and to celebrate the Mass for her eightieth birthday. The following 13 October he preached prayer and penance at Fatima in order to try to awaken our old Catholic nations!



In 1982, Zita could once again at last set foot on Austrian soil. In contrast to her son Otto – who had renounced his rights at the end of the nineteen-fifties in order to return to the country, assuage his democratic passion and be elected to the European Parliament! – she had never given in. “Not through pride,” Sévillia stresses, “but out of fidelity to the memory of Charles.” After a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to Mariazell, she was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in Vienna on 13 November 1982, before going to the Tyrol, a bastion of legitimist fidelity.

In the beginning of 1989, she knew one final joy in learning that her son Otto had also been received triumphantly in Budapest, and that the Iron Curtain was cracking: “The Habsburg in Hungary, liberty for the Danubian peoples? God is great! I must join Him – the mission is finished,” the ninety-seven year old Empress said, smiling, before dying on 14 March 1989.

Well, no! Her mission is not finished, nor is that of Charles, whom Maurras honored with the title of “True European gentleman,” if it is true that in Heaven one can still work for the Kingdom of God on earth. That Kingdom is far from being established in Central Europe! After having endured passion and death under the yoke of the Nazis, then under that of the Soviets, these peoples have fallen back into the disorder created by the Allies in 1919-1920. Still worse, since 1993 a split has occurred between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, while the countries of the ex-Yugoslavia gave themselves over to war to the death.

Then, “Austria-Hungary, an idea of the future,” as Professor Pierre Béhar claims? Yes, but on the condition that these fraternal peoples be liberated from the democratic virus and returned to their legitimate sovereigns, under the aegis of Roman authority. Our Father developed on this subject exciting ideas, to which we will perhaps have the occasion to return.

frère Thomas de Notre-Dame du perpétuel secours.