Sunday, March 14, 2021

Empress Zita of Austria (1892-1989)


Former Empress Zita of Austria, widow of Karl I, last Emperor Austria, died in her apartment in Zizers, Switzerland on March 14, 1989.  She was 96 years old.

She was born HRH Princess Zita Maria delle Grazie Adelgonda Micaela Raffaela Gabriella Giuseppina Antonia Luisa Agnese of Bourbon-Parma, on May 9, 1892 at Villa Pianore in Lucca, Italy, the fifth of 12 children of former Duke Roberto I of Parma and his second wife, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal.   (Roberto's first wife,  Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies died after giving birth to her twelfth child who was stillborn.)

It was at Villa Wartholz. the home of Zita's maternal aunt, Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria, where she met Maria Theresa's stepgrandson, Archduke Karl, the second in line to the throne after his uncle, Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose marriage to Countess Sophie von Chotek was morganatic.  This meant that Sophie and their three children were not entitled to imperial titles.  Sophie was styled as the Duchess of Hohenberg.   Their children were not in line to the thrones of Austria and Hungary.

Maria Theresa was the third wife of Archduke Karl, a younger brother of Emperor Franz Josef.

Zita and Archduke Karl were married at Schloss Schwarzau on October 21, 1911.  A year later, she gave birth to a son Archduke Otto.  She and Karl would have seven more children.  Their last child, Archduchess Elisabeth, was born nearly two months after the death of Emperor Karl on May 1, 1922.

Karl and Zita's lives were changed inexorably on June 28, 1914, when Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated by a Bosnian Serb, Gavrilo Prinzip, during an official visit to Sarajevo.  Karl was now the heir presumptive to his great-uncle Franz Josef.    Austria-Hungary soon found itself at war, allied with Germany against the Entente (the United Kingdom, France and Russia, and eventually, the United States.)

Emperor Franz Josef was 86 years old when he died on November 21, 1916.   Karl was now the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, and Zita, his devoted consort.

The Austrian monarchy came to an end on November 11, 1918, with the establishment of a republic the following day.  By March 1919, Karl and Zita and their children went into exile.  The family was living in Madeira when Karl succumbed to bronchitis and died on April 1, 1922.   He was 34 years old.  Zita, pregnant with their eighth child, only 29.

all images: Marlene A. Eilers Koenig Collection

The Austrian government permitted Zita's funeral to take place in Vienna with one caveat: her family would have to pay all costs.  The funeral took place on April 1, 1989.  

I was working for the Associated Press in New York when Zita died.  I spoke with Roland Prinz's AP's Vienna Bureau chief.  He told me he was going to the funeral.   After the funeral, he sent me his ticket and the program/liturgy for the funeral.  Zita's Mass card and a commemorative card were tucked inside the booklet.

Cover of the service booklet


Brian Coleman said...

In World War One Italy fought on the allied side !

Elena Ciocan said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful posts you are making. This has become my favorite blog.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Thanks, Brian, it was not until the treaty of LOndon (which was not publicized) in 1915, that Italy removed itself from the triple alliance

Sagar Dhakal said...

Österreich Zeitung | Österreich Nachrichten

Mabar said...

What about her beatification process?