Blessed Emperor Charles was crowned as Apostolic King of Hungary on the 30th of December in 1916. It was the last Hapsburg coronation to this day. For those interested there are two accounts which do justice to the sacred rites. One is by that most devoted admirer of the Hapsburgs, Gordon Brook-Shepherd, in his excellent biography of Charles, The Last Hapsburg. (Brook-Shepherd also wrote excellent and quite readable biographies of the Empress Zita, of Crown Prince Otto, of Chancellor Dollfuß, and Baron Sir Rudolf von Slatin Pasha).
It is fortuitous that the man who organized much of the coronation was the director of the Royal Hungarian Theaters (including the Budapest Opera House, where he is honoured to this day): none other than Count Miklós Bánffy, one of the greatest novelists ever who ever put pen to paper. His memoirs were translated into English in a single volume, The Phoenix Land, and open with two chapters portraying the coronation. The first deals with the organization of the rites in the middle of wartime Budapest, while the second chapter relays the events of the day itself.
It would not do for either of these accounts to be merely excerpted here, as both should be appreciated in their fullness. Perhaps the reader should seek Brook-Shepherd’s biography first, as Count Bánffy’s memoirs really should not be read until one completes all 1,440 pages of the nobleman’s brilliant Transylvanian Trilogy (They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting, and They Were Divided); a richly rewarding read.
Very well, I will give you just the briefest excerpt from Bánffy’s memoirs:
He was a lovely child; still at that time with the golden-blond hair and rosy cheeks. Since then I have heard his hair has turned dark, and that he greatly resembles his mother.
He was dressed in a resplendent brocade mantle, lined with ermine and decorated with egret feathers, his whole outfit having been designed by [Gyula] Benczúr, and in tiny shoes he tripped along hurriedly so as to keep up with General Count Wallis, whose finger he clutched in a tight little fist.
He was adorable as he moved swiftly through the crowd.
The “little crown prince” is none other than Archduke Otto, still alive to this day (aged 95) and uncrowned emperor in the hearts and minds of many throughout Christendom. The Crown Prince was for many years a Member of the European Parliament and is currently a citizen of Germany (where he lives), Austria, Hungary, and Croatia. Otto was offered the Presidency of Hungary in the euphoria following the fall of Communism, but, to the consternation of many of his Hungarian would-be subjects, the Archduke turned the offer down. History is chock full of “what ifs”.