The Endangered Asian Century
America, China, and the Perils of Confrontation
THIS, it would seem, is a bad age for kings. In most countries royalty is out of power or out of fashion, and monarchs have been replaced as real rulers by proletarian or bourgeois adventurers, Hitlers or Mussolinis. Divine right, based on spiritual submission by the people, has given way to the right of the common man with a fist. Modern science, modern economics, have destroyed the will of the masses to have a Father, viz. King.
Nevertheless the imperial family which most signally incarnated the virtues and vices of old-style kingship, the House of Hapsburg, is entering the arena of practical politics again. It would be rash to say that a Hapsburg restoration in Austria is imminent. But it is not excluded as a bizarre contribution from the Dollfuss dictatorship to its supine electorate. Europe, to paraphrase Heine, is the continent with its future behind it, and everywhere the forces of reaction march full strength these days, especially in Austria.
The Hapsburgs are more than a family, they are a sort of organism -- a resplendent fungus long attached to the body politic of Europe. They are as prolific as mice and as international as counterfeiters. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, murdered at Sarajevo, had 2047 ancestors, including 1486 Germans, 124 Frenchmen, 196 Italians, 89 Spaniards, 20 Englishmen, 52 Poles, and 47 Danes. The Hapsburgs ruled in Europe for some sixteen generations. Their polyglot and bulbous holdings included at one time or other twenty countries, but never, one might say, a single country. The family was always superior to the state. Family laws in old Austria-Hungary had precedence over state laws, and the provisions of the Family Charter, drawn up in 1839, are still unpublished and secret. When he heard of Franz Ferdinand's death in 1914 (which removed uncertainty in the succession), old Franz Josef, who had been emperor for 66 years, said, "Ah! A higher power has restored the Order that I was unhappily unable to maintain."
The Hapsburg power toppled at the end of the war in 1918, but not the Hapsburg dynasty. When the last emperor, Karl, was asked to abdicate, his Empress Zita replied, "Rather will I die with you here. Then Otto will come. And when all our own family have gone there will still be Hapsburgs enough." Karl, indeed, never abdicated, although he renounced all participation in the governments of Austria and Hungary on November 11 and 13, 1918. He and Zita fled to exile. Twice Karl made an abortive Putsch in Hungary, in March 1921, and October 1921. He died in Madeira in 1922. Ever since ex-Empress Zita has trained her eldest son, Prince Otto, for kingship.
Otto was born near Vienna on November 20, 1912, the son of the Archduke Karl (eldest son of the Archduke Otto, a nephew of Emperor Franz Josef), and Zita, Princess of Bourbon-Parma. He has four brothers and three sisters. He reached his majority in 1930, and became legal head of the House of Hapsburg in all its multifarious ramifications. By direct lineal descent he is the great-great-great-grandson of the Emperor Francis, last Holy Roman Emperor and first Emperor of Austria.
A diffident, sensitive boy, strikingly handsome, gravely schooled by his heredity, well-educated and intelligent and ambitious, fully conscious of the tragic imperial burden he inherits, Otto at the moment is a vital question-mark in the future development of Central Europe. For circumstances have made him, besides an ancient Hapsburg, a modern weapon. He is the last club Dollfuss can use to drive Hitler out of Austria. The Hapsburgs, like the Catholic Church of which they are such faithful servants, exist in terms of decades or centuries, and it is by no means improbable that "Hapsburg versus Hitler" will be a main motif in the future Central European struggle for power.
Otto has become a live issue because the Dollfuss régime, for all its nimble efforts to build up a patriotic Austrian spirit symbolized by the little chancellor's Fatherland Front, is fatally handicapped in that its general tendency is so negative. It has destroyed the Social Democrats and kept the Nazis out. But these are not exactly positive achievements. The government needs badly some flaming symbol as an offset to Hitlerism. It needs the attractive force of some rallying point, some promise of permanence and vitality, some fixed and positive pole. This the Hapsburgs might provide.
In addition there has been much growth of monarchist sentiment for its own sake. The whole trend and temper of present affairs in Austria is legitimist. The Dollfuss dictatorship not only revives the mediæval Staende; it stands for all the things the Hapsburgs stood for: centralization of authority, "benevolent" despotism, above all the Church. Hints are constant that the present complicated constitutional fabric is transitory; much leeway is given to the President as head of state under the new constitution; it is not difficult to bridge the gap to an "elected" king. Some 150 Austrian towns and villages have spontaneously granted Otto honorary citizenship in the past year or two, and one of the powerful Austrian private armies, the Ostmarkische Sturmscharen, is pronouncedly legitimist. Chancellor Dollfuss, it is true, although monarchist in general sympathy, is not actively in favor of the return of the Hapsburgs -- yet. Questioned about a possible restoration, he evasively says that it is not a "practical" issue. But almost all the important members of his entourage are emphatic legitimists: Prince Starhemberg (head of the Heimwehr), Prince Schönburg-Hartenstein (the Minister of War), Dr. Schuschnigg (the Sturmscharen leader and Minister of Justice and Education), and Dr. Schmitz (the new mayor of Vienna). And the name "Republic" is being struck out of the constitution as the official designation of the country.
Otto himself has broken the long Stenockerzeel silence by a remarkable letter addressed to one of the Austrian towns which granted him honorary citizenship:
I absolutely reject [Nazi] fascism for Austria and see the solution only in a constitutional monarchy along democratic lines similar to that in England. I hope the Hapsburg [exclusion] law will soon be revoked by emergency decree, but I consider that the moment for a successful restoration is not yet ripe. . . . I absolutely refuse to be drawn into any adventurous Putsch attempts. . . .
An un-Austrian movement has lately been created [National Socialism] which promises everything to everyone, but really intends the most ruthless subjugation of the Austrian people. . . . The people of Austria decline such aims, as they know that real German culture was at home only in Austria. The Austrian people will never tolerate that our beautiful fatherland should become an exploited colony, and that the Austrian should become a man of second category. . . .
It is my wish and holy duty to be with my people in these days of danger. I trust that the present just, manly, and truly Austrian régime will understand the clamors which one can perceive from your and many similar municipal addresses, and that they will shortly repeal the [exclusion] law, which only dishonors Austria.[i]
Finally the Dollfuss government has crushed the two political parties in Austria which would have fought a restoration to the bitter end, the Nazis and the Social Democrats. The bloody collapse of Viennese social democracy in February did in effect mean the end of the Republic, even if an actual restoration is considerably delayed.
The obstacles to restoration in Austria -- as distinct from Hungary -- are mostly domestic. There is no mention of the Hapsburgs in the Treaty of St. Germain. In November 1920, Italy and Jugoslavia agreed in the Treaty of Rapallo to take any political measures necessary to prevent a return of the Hapsburgs to Austria, and in December 1921 Austria and Czechoslovakia promised in the Treaty of Lány to coöperate against a revival of the "old régime;" but both these instruments have long since lapsed.
The last emperor, Karl, Otto's father, issued a proclamation on November 11, 1918, as follows:
Still, as ever, filled with unchanging love toward all my people I will not oppose my person as an obstacle to their free development. I recognize in advance the decision which German-Austria will take on its future form of state. The people have assumed the government through their representatives. I renounce any share in the affairs of state. At the same time I remove my Austrian government from office.
The first National Assembly in Vienna, on March 12, 1919, incorporated this declaration in its statement of policy. But Karl, be it noted, did not abdicate. Therefore the republican government, on April 2, 1919, passed the Hapsburg Exclusion Act. The provisions of Section 1 are as follows:
LAW OF APRIL 3, 1919, No. 209.
1. All sovereign rights and privileges of the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine as well as those of its members are forever declared null and void.
2. In the interests of public security, the former bearers of the crown and all other members of the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine are hereby expelled from the country, unless they shall expressly resign their membership in the said house and all their rights of sovereignty deriving therefrom, and unless they declare themselves faithful citizens of the republic.
3. The use of titles is forbidden. Oaths sworn to the former Emperor in his character as a sovereign are not binding.
Section 2 of the same law provides for the confiscation of all the imperial property (with a few minor exceptions) and its transfer in perpetuity to the title of the republic. The realizable assets were utilized for relief of soldiers wounded in the war and for families of dead veterans; castles like Schönbrunn and the Hofburg were taken over as government offices or let in part to private tenants. A government-owned restaurant in the Hofburg sells wines and liqueurs from the imperial cellars, and thousands upon thousands of bottles are still left.
Law No. 211, also passed on April 2, 1919, removes privileges of rank and title from the nobility. Both these laws were given constitutional validity by terms of Article 149 of the republican constitution. This means that they were not designed as simple statutes, but were part of the basic charter of the state.
The immense hierarchy of the Hapsburgs and their henchmen was thus denuded of power and privilege. The family scattered. A very few young archdukes renounced their titles and thus were permitted to continue to live in Austria; Archduke Franz Salvator took up farming in Wallsee, Archduke Leopold Wölfling ran a grocer's shop in a Vienna suburb, Archduke Leopold Salvator went into the malt-and-hops business. Princess Elizabeth Windischgraetz, the only child of Crown Prince Rudolf, who killed himself at Mayerling in 1889, divorced her husband, turned socialist, and taught school in a Vienna working-class district. But almost all the others fled and took up residence abroad.
About a year ago agitation began for repeal of the Hapsburg Exclusion Law. It was convenient to the legitimists that the government at the time was beginning to tackle the question of constitutional revision. The issue of repeal became actual, not only because the Hapsburg question was getting hot, but because the whole constitution was being overhauled. Laws 209 and 211 stuck in the gullet of monarchists in the cabinet like Schuschnigg and Schmitz, and it was determined to get rid of them.
The legitimists wanted the Exclusion Law abolished unconditionally. This was not done. Austrians love to do things by quarters and halves. They adore legal complexities, and a clearcut decision based on realities is abhorrent to their gentle juridical natures. So a compromise was reached. At the moment this article is written the new constitution is on the point of promulgation, but the actual text is not yet available. Official information, however, forecasts it. Laws No. 209 and 211 will not be actually rescinded, it has been decided, but will be reduced in quality from constitutional to simple civil statutes. They no longer have basic juridity, and they may be repealed at any time henceforward by ordinary or emergency legislation.
This is not all that the legitimists wanted, but obviously it is an immense step forward. The chief obstacle to restoration, the constitutional force of Law 209, is removed. The legitimists promptly set up a committee for correspondence with the government, headed in person by Prince Max Hohenberg, the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and in spirit by Baron Friedrich von Wiesner, an amiable and clever diplomat who for many years has been the ex-Empress' legal representative in Austria. The government has intimated that settlement of the imperial family's property claims against the state must precede restoration, and that the family, if it returns to Austria, must undertake certain promises not to indulge in political activity. Another step forward came a few days before promulgation of the constitution, the announcement that permission had been granted by the government for the return to Austria of Archduke Eugen Hapsburg, cousin of the last emperor, title, privileges, and all. This was open disobedience of Law 209 by the government itself. Eugen, who has been living in Basle since 1919, is freely mentioned as possible President of Austria when the new constitution is in force.
Disadvantages to restoration are largely the international complications that might result. The legitimists assert that Austria is not bound by the famous declaration of the Conference of Ambassadors[ii] of November 10, 1921, forbidding a Hapsburg restoration in Hungary, and that although the countries of the Little Entente are pledged to prevent a Hungarian restoration, Austria is quite a different matter. Nevertheless a return of the royal family to Austria would provoke a serious international storm, as Chancellor Dollfuss well knows. Perhaps the government is holding Otto as a concealed card up its sleeve. Should the Nazi attack on Austria recur on a serious scale, then Otto may be produced. It is seemingly with this strategy in mind that the government so obviously opens the path to restoration, but delays restoration itself.
Another obstacle to restoration is the expense it would entail. There are some 160 surviving Hapsburg archdukes, and they would flock to Vienna like bees to an open jar of honey. The cost of maintaining an imperial court would severely strain Austrian finances, which are sagging anyway. Revolutions cost money, and so do the private armies that make them; the February Putsch has plunged the budget deep in deficit.
If Law 209 becomes a dead letter, as seems certain at the moment, there is nothing to prevent Otto and Zita from catching the next train to Vienna and living there -- as private citizens. This seems to be the plan of the more important legitimist camp -- invisible restoration by gradual means.[iii] Otto's return as a simple commoner, they say, cannot possibly be regarded by Czechoslovakia or Jugoslavia as a casus belli, and once he is within the country his elevation to kingship becomes a "domestic" matter. The legitimists hope to give their enemies no specific pretext for intervention, no single extra-legal act to pounce on. Restoration may be gradual even within Austria, with Otto successively assuming the old Hapsburg dukedoms of Tyrol, Salzburg, and Carinthia.
So much for Austria. Hungary is quite a different story. Here obstacles to a legitimist return are almost prohibitive, both because of the international commitments of the Hungarian government in respect to the Hapsburgs, and on account of the distinct anti-legitimist bias of the present Horthy-Gömbös régime. If a successful restoration occurs in Austria, one in Hungary may follow. But a direct approach to the Crown of St. Stephen is at the moment a virtual impossibility.
Oddly enough, the Hapsburgs are not mentioned in the Treaty of Trianon. No bar to their return was formally incorporated into the peace treaty structure. But in 1919 the Allied Powers insisted on the withdrawal of Archduke Josef Hapsburg as White "Administrator" of Hungary, and in February 1920, while discussing the Treaty of Trianon, the Conference of Ambassadors declared that a Hapsburg restoration in Hungary would be a matter of international concern and that the Powers would neither recognize nor tolerate such a restoration.
Karl, as in Austria, did not abdicate in Hungary. He never surrendered his right to the Crown of St. Stephen. Hungary remained a kingdom, and Admiral Horthy assumed the regency. Twice Karl tried to regain his Hungarian crown. In each case the Horthy government was forced by the international position and by direct pressure of the Powers, particularly Czechoslovakia, to throw him out. After the second Putsch, the Hungarian Government passed (November 8, 1921) the following Dethronement Law:
LAW No. XLII, 1921.
Concerning the cessation of the sovereign rights of His Majesty Karl IV and the rights of succession of the House of Hapsburg:
I hereby inform all whom it may concern that the National Assembly of Hungary has passed the following law:
1. The right to reign of Karl IV is terminated.
2. The Pragmatic Sanction and all other stipulations of Law I and II of 1723, regulating the rights of succession to the House of Austria are hereby for all time annulled, and the privilege of electing a king is returned to the Hungarian nation.
3. The nation resumes the Kingdom's ancient form of government, but postpones the occupation of the royal throne until a later date. . . .
4. This law takes effect on day of publication.
I hereby order that the foregoing law be published and this law being the will of the nation, I obey it and shall see that it is obeyed by others.
Governor of Hungary.
COUNT STEPHEN BETHLEN,
Royal Hungarian Prime Minister.
Dr. Beneš, the Czechoslovak foreign minister, at whose dictation the decree was virtually drawn up, instantly spotted a loophole in this text in that, dethroned by terms of the law, a Hapsburg might nevertheless be elected to the crown. He protested to Paris and the Conference of Ambassadors referred the matter to the Hungarian Government. As a result the Hungarian Government bound itself to abide by the decisions of the Conference of Ambassadors of February 4, 1920, and April 3, 1921, forbidding the restoration of the Hapsburgs; to elect no king without coming to a previous understanding with the Conference of Ambassadors; and to pass a law forbidding propaganda in Hungary for a Hapsburg restoration. These promises were embodied in a formal declaration on November 10, 1921, with which the Conference of Ambassadors declared itself satisfied, and which was recognized as an international obligation by the Hungarian Government. Finally, when Hungary entered the League of Nations in 1922, it submitted a document confirming the obligations of the November 10 agreement.
It was largely out of fear of a Hapsburg restoration that the first Little Entente treaties were negotiated and signed. They do not mention the Hapsburgs specifically, but they pledge the signatories to concerted foreign policy in regard to Hungary. Karl's mildewed bones crumble in the church of Nostra Señora del Monte in Funchal, Madeira; the Little Entente is still a very live concern. The Polish Government declared its solidarity with Czechoslovakia on the Hapsburg question on October 24, 1921, and so did France in the Franco-Czechoslovak treaty of April 1926.
But these international obstacles, severe as they may seem to be, are not the chief bar to restoration in Hungary at present. The Little Entente might fight now; but it might not. Blood is not so warm today as it was in 1921, and the moral authority of these old engagements is considerably blurred. It would be very difficult for Czechoslovakia to undertake the moral onus of invasion and war today even if the 1921 treaties were flagrantly violated. The principal obstacle to the return of the Hapsburgs to Hungary is the attitude of the Hungarian Government itself. Otto is outside Hungary today not so much because the Czechs want him out as because Horthy and Gömbös do not want him in.
Their motives are not exclusively personal, although Otto's return would lose them their pleasant jobs; Zita in particular could never forgive Horthy for what she considers his betrayal of the principle of legitimacy, and Gömbös for having fired on her (on the occasion of the second Putsch) at Budaörs. They feel that a restoration would still be internationally dangerous for Hungary; that although the bulk of the people are legitimist the question of restoration is not ripe; that Otto and Zita are not, after all, Hungarian and that the House of Hapsburg has brought more ill to Hungary than good, particularly during the "Dualism" of the last phase of the old monarchy; that, in short, restoration is an inexpedient, unproductive, and perilous idea.
The Crown of St. Stephen dates from the year 1001 A.D. It has an honorable history. Kings came early in Hungary, but parliaments too, and the Hungarian Magna Charta (the Golden Bull of 1222 A.D.) authorizes armed resistance by the commons to the crown if the king's behavior is unconstitutional. By Hungarian tradition the crown is a fixed point; kings do not place the crown on their heads at coronation; they raise themselves under it. The crown is in the perpetual keep of a royal guard under the authority of two custodians, one of whom must be a Catholic nobleman, the other a Protestant; significantly enough, the third key -- there are only three -- is in the possession of the prime minister.
The Hapsburgs assumed the Hungarian succession only in 1687. "By Hungarian custom the eldest lawfully begotten son of a crowned king of Hungary becomes King of Hungary on the death of his father. According to the Pragmatic Sanction of 1723, the Holy Lords, Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons, accept the Right of Succession of the male descendants of the daughters of Charles III, Joseph I, and Leopold I, so long as these lines shall not have been extinguished." [iv] By both these criteria, Otto is the rightful pretender. Indeed, he has had no rival since the oath of fealty to him of his erstwhile competitor, the Archduke Albrecht, who removed himself from royal grace in 1930 by marriage to a commoner.
Hungary, although it keeps Otto out of the country, supports him. Hapsburg private property in Hungary has never been expropriated. For some years payments were suspended, but now the royal family is believed to receive the revenues from Raczkeve, a 40,000 acre estate in central Hungary, and from various properties in Budapest.
Legitimism in Austria and Hungary present some curious contrasts. Austria is a republic (at the moment of writing) but it smooths the path to Otto's restoration; Hungary is a kingdom but will have none of him. Austrian monarchism is deeply seated in the Catholic peasantry of the Tyrol and the mountain districts, backward and isolated; Hungarian legitimism is the hobby of a clique of immensely aristocratic noblemen. In Austria Otto is on the point of being summoned by a corporative fascism; in Hungary he is rejected by a monarchical parliament.
The Hungarian legitimist leaders, like Count Sigray, Count George Apponyi, Count Josef Karolyi, find a certain amount of backing in the ranks of the church and army as well as the aristocracy. The "legal" basis for their program is their belief that the Hungarian Dethronement Act and the subsequent communication to the Conference of Ambassadors are both null and void because they were voted under duress, i.e. threat of Czech invasion. Their views on the question of restoration in Austria are sharply divided. Some think it would be a good thing, a prelude to inevitable restoration in Hungary too. Most of them, however, oppose it. Their Magyar pride is hurt that Otto should find his eventual path to Hungary through another state; they feel that the Crown of St. Stephen in future should matter more to him than Austrian enthronement now; they consider that his possible return as a private citizen would irreparably damage his imperial prestige; they think, in short, that he should take Hungary first or nothing.
The attitude of Otto himself and his mother seems to be quite clear. It is that Hungary sacrificed its claims to priority, not once but twice, by repelling the Karlist attempts in 1921. Crowns are rare these days. When one is as temptingly close as the Austrian, it should be plucked while the plucking is good. Certain it is that the whole orientation of Zita's policy has remarkably turned in the past few years toward Austria and away from Hungary.
There is no provision in Hungarian law for a successor to the present regent, Admiral Horthy. This means, obviously, that the restoration problem in Hungary, no matter how remote it may seem now, is bound sooner or later to come to a head. Horthy is 66. When he dies the League Council (successor to the Conference of Ambassadors as trustee of the peace treaties) may exert its right to veto Otto's restoration -- or maybe will not.
The Hapsburg question is an international question. Let the imperial title of the House be recalled:
We . . . by God's grace Emperor of Austria; King of Hungary, of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria, and Illyria; King of Jerusalem, Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, of Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, and Bukovina, Grand Duke of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, of Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastella, of Ausschwitz and Sator, of Teschen, Friaul, Ragusa, and Zara; Royal Count of Hapsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Goerz, and Gradisca; Duke of Trient and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lausitz and in Istria; Count of Hohenembs, Feldkirch, Bregenz, and Sonnenberg; Lord of Trieste, of Cattaro, and above the Windisch Mark; Grand Voivode of the Voivodine Serbia, etc.
Letting Jerusalem and Lorraine go, this title includes claims to sovereignty over territory in five countries besides Austria and Hungary, viz. Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Jugoslavia, Poland, and Italy. The claims may be dismissed as mere grandiose verbiage; but listen also to the royal oath, an indispensable part of the coronation ceremony:
We . . . by God's grace the Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, etc.; the Apostolic King of Hungary in our quality of eternal and Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia swear to the living God, the blessed Virgin Mary, and all the saints to attach ourselves to the maintenance of the rights, prerogatives, liberties, and privileges, to the maintenance of the laws, of the good old customs established by the Churches of God, of the sovereignty of Hungary, Croatia, Dalmatia, and all the ecclesiastical as well as lay populations of this country; to serve everybody with justice; to watch over and maintain the integrity of Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia, of their constitutions, of their legal independence and territorial integrity as well as of the integrity and constitution of Hungary and of the political unity which this country forms with Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia; not to alienate or restrain the frontiers of Hungary, Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia . . . but to enlarge and increase them; to accomplish everything We can do in just title for the common good, and in the interest and glory and consolidation of this country; may God and all Saints help Us therein.[v]
The Little Entente fears a Hapsburg restoration, in Austria or Hungary or both, for the simplest of reasons: the enormous magnetic attraction which a Catholic monarchy in Central Europe would exert toward Catholic Slovakia in Czechoslovakia, Catholic Croatia in Jugoslavia, and partly Catholic Transylvania in Rumania. It was long a dream of that great clerical, Monsignor Seipel, to create such a Danubian papal bloc. Undoubtedly Slovaks and Croats and Transylvanians remember the absolutism, the parochialism, the oppressive reaction of the old empire; the Croats have not forgotten the Friedjung trial and the Slovaks know that President Masaryk is one of them; the minorities have not forgotten the Hapsburg policy of national enslavement. Nevertheless a reconstituted empire would be a mortal affront to the unity and happiness of Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Jugoslavia.
The attitude of Italy, on which much depends, is obscure. The Italians still adhere to the sound and mellow foreign policy of sitting astride the fence as long as possible. Much rumor has gone about that Otto may marry the Princess Maria, the King of Italy's youngest daughter; Italy might seek to cement its political ties with Hungary, as with Bulgaria, by a marital connection. The Vatican undoubtedly supports a restoration. The Pope and Mussolini are all-powerful advisers of Chancellor Dollfuss, and already Italy, Hungary, and Austria are bound by a sort of would-be Triple Alliance. On the other hand, the Hapsburgs have been the hereditary enemies of Italian expansionist policy in the Balkans. Italy fought to destroy the Hapsburg empire, and officially, up to the present, Mussolini has frowned on Otto's claims.
France, it is commonly said, would not object too hotly to a restoration, even though the allies of France in the Little Entente so decisively oppose it. The French feel that Otto in Budapest and in Vienna would be a permanent dam across the Danube, preventing German encroachments in middle Europe. Return of the Hapsburgs would -- theoretically -- be the best possible antidote to a Nazi revival of the theme of Drang nach Osten. To keep Hitler out of Austria, France -- and even Italy -- might consent to a Hapsburg restoration. But this would mean sacrificing the Little Entente.
"It is not sentimental reasons or feelings of hatred to, or aversion from, this Dynasty which dictate our standpoint of uncompromising opposition to a return of the Hapsburgs," Dr. Beneš said in a speech on the Austrian problem not long ago. "It is our conviction that a Hapsburg restoration would signify a permanent, never-ceasing struggle for the heritage of the former Empire, everlasting intrigues, the persecution, bribery, and corruption of the population of the former territories of the Empire, the development of new forms of irridentism and revision campaigns, attempts to win Croatia from Jugoslavia, numbers of Slovak districts from Czechoslovakia, and Transylvania from Rumania -- in short, a never-ceasing struggle and nowhere peace. I repeat: The Hapsburgs in Central Europe mean that there will never be peace or quiet. That is the final word of the Little Entente countries."
It is possible for a legitimist sympathizer to say, of course, that Otto locally restored in Austria would mean nothing of the sort. Otto in Austria, the only place where a restoration is at the moment possible, would not mean -- necessarily -- recreation of the empire, either in spirit or substance. Otto in Austria, if he is sensible, will be quiet internationally as a mouse. Nevertheless the recrudescence of the Hapsburg movement is a distinct reversion to a past Europe had hoped it was rid of. To brandish Otto as a stick against Hitler is like mobilizing the sixteenth century to fight the twentieth. A Hapsburg king in 1934 in Vienna is an almost grotesque anomaly. It is a depressingly backward gesture. Let Dr. Beneš have the last word: "The World War was not waged that we might go back to former times."
[i]Manchester Guardian, September 25, 1933.
[ii] See below.
[iii] See "Will the Hapsburgs Return?" by G. E. R. Gedye, London Daily Telegraph, April 17, 1934.
[iv] London Times, November 20, 1930.
[v] "Central European Observer," November 14, 1930 (italics mine).