Last Austrian emperor's heir buried in Vienna

Posted by Nick Efstathiadis

Posted July 17, 2011 10:12:56

Political leaders and European royalty paid their last respects to Otto Habsburg, the eldest son of the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, who was buried at Vienna's Imperial Crypt on Saturday.

Thousands of Austrians and tourists lined the streets of the historic city centre for the funeral, after a week of ceremonies honouring Mr Habsburg, who died on Thursday at his Bavarian home, aged 98.

Although his body was to be buried in the crypt of his ancestors in the Austrian capital, Mr Habsburg's heart will find a separate resting place in Hungary.

Respecting a longstanding family tradition, it will be buried in the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma in north-west Hungary in a private family ceremony Sunday.

His wife Regina, who died last year, will be reburied beside him in Vienna.

Vienna's archbishop Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn presided over the funeral mass at St Stephen's Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, and saluted Mr Habsburg's work promoting peace in Europe.

To the sound of drums, mourners wearing traditional uniforms and carrying banners dating back to the days of the old empire accompanied the funeral cortege in its procession through the heart of the city.

Along the way, they walked past the Hofburg palace, once the Hapsburg seat of power in the days of the empire.

Police put the number of people who turned out for the ceremony at 10,000 and many more watched live on Austria's ORF state television channel.

Among those present were Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia; Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg; Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein; and representatives of the British, Spanish and Belgian royal families.

Leading politicians also attended, including Austrian president Heinz Fischer; Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili; the prime ministers of Croatia and Macedonia; and European parliament president Jerzy Buzek.

Mr Habsburg, who was exiled with his family after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918, was a strong proponent of Europe and served for 20 years as a member of the European parliament.

More than 400 police officers were deployed for security in central Vienna where the last event to merit such pomp was the funeral in 1989 of former empress Zita, wife of the last emperor Karl I and mother of Otto Habsburg.

Known abroad as Otto von Habsburg, he was just Otto Habsburg in Austria, after the state abolished his family's titles in 1919.

Over the past week, a series of wakes and requiems were held along the route that took Mr Habsburg's body from his home of Poecking in Bavaria to Vienna, with stops in Munich and the Austrian pilgrimage site of Mariazell.

Jewish, Muslim and Christian prayers were held Thursday at the crypt, where ordinary people were able to pay their last respects.

As well as being fiercely pro-European, Mr Habsburg had a reputation for being an ardent anti-Nazi and anti-Communist.

In August 1989 he organised the Pan-European picnic near Hungary's border with Austria during which some 700 East Germans were able to escape to the West, months before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

But the disruption caused by Saturday's regal funeral attracted criticism from some quarters.

The event led to officials closing off large parts of Vienna and disrupting the public transport system.

A senior figure in Austria's ecologist party, a leading jurist and several historians questioned why Austria, now a republic, was extending such honours to Mr Habsburg.


Last Austrian emperor's heir buried in Vienna - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

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