Courtesy Reuters

Hapsburgs Again?

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Austria-Hungary had precedence over state laws, and the provisions of the Family Charter, drawn up in 1839, are still unpublished and secret.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

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