Monday, July 04, 2011

A great man....

....Archduke Otto von Habsburg,eldest son of the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary, has died aged 98. A truly good man, whose life was dedicated to public service in a genuine Christian spirit, and some one who sparkled with zest and good humour even in old age.

One of the most interesting afternoons of my life as a writer was the one spent with him, as he answered questions about his childhood memories and his father. His lively and interesting mind, his beautiful English - it had a hint of the pre 1914 flavour in its style and accent - his courtesy and his excellent memory and ability to communicate interesting information in a friendly and pleasant way made this an unforgettable encounter. He was charming and patient with us - and yet he must have had so many people, over the years, asking him questions about his extraordinary life, his childhood memories of being Crown Prince, of meeting Emperor Franz-Joseph, of being part of that vanished world of before the First World War...

4 comments:

Alenka said...

I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing him a couple of times. He was a truly impressive man, with a powerful intellect, profound moral values and great humanity and quite without pretence or grandeur - younger politicians and celebs take note! He could have lived his life in his exiled Crown Prince role - the cute little boy with the long curls at his father's coronation in 1916 (how many eras he spanned!) growing old and bitter but he accepted and embraced the realities of the new world (more lessons there!) and achieved his own success in it, doing a tremendous amount of good, not least in his support of the new democracies of eastern Europe, once part of the old Hapsburg Empire. He had a great sense of humour too. I once asked him (he was a spry 80-something at the time) how he kept so fit. "Ah - I never take the lift!" he replied.

jacquelineparkes said...

Thanks for this lovely post..

Andreas said...

There are some brief clips on You Tube where one can get a glimpse of him. May his posterity live on and prosper. Truly "a heart for Europe" of a man.

Julia said...

It must have been amazing for him to have been at his father's beatification. It's lovely that he lived to see that day.