Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Eagle and the Maple Leaf

The Widowed Empress Zita and her Children
Gareth Russell discusses the Austrian Imperial Family in Canada. To quote:
Having been overthrown at the end of the First World War, the Hapsburg dynasty found itself the focal point of Austrians opposed to their country's Anschluss with Germany in 1938. The last emperor, Karl, had died in exile but his widow, Zita of Bourbon-Parma (right), had been active in monarchist politics throughout the 1930s and their son, Crown Prince Otto, was a vocal opponent of Nazism. As the Wehrmacht moved through western Europe, Zita no longer felt safe and dreaded the prospect of any of her children falling into Nazi hands. She had every reason to be afraid, for as they hurtled towards their own ruin in the fire and horror of war, the Third Reich had no respect for human life, royal or otherwise. Two of the Hapsburgs had already been captured - Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg, eldest son of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination had helped start the First World War, had vanished behind the barbed wire fences of Dachau concentration camp in southern Germany, for daring to oppose the Anschluss, while the Archduke Albrecht emerged from Gestapo custody blind in one eye and partially paralysed as a result of the torture inflicted upon him. In time, the King of Italy's daughter, Princess Mafalda, was arrested for "subversive activities" and sent to her death at Buchenwald. 
The British Royal family had helped arrange the Austrian Imperial Family's evacuation from Austria in 1919, something I talk about in chapter 12 of The Emperors, and they came to their aid again by arranging safe transport for the Dowager Empress and her younger children to Canada. The family had fled Belgium after the Nazi invasion, making it through France, Spain and Portugal, and across the Atlantic to New Jersey, where they spent some time in New York and the Hamptons, but with the Germans having cut off all access to their bank accounts, funds were tighter than ever and Zita was reduced to making salad made from dandelion leaves. Eventually, the British once again came to her aid by facilitating her move to Quebec, a predominantly Catholic and French-speaking part of the Empire, which suited the Dowager Empress perfectly, since French was her first language and some of her children were still learning English. (Read more.)

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