Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our Meeting with Archduke Imre

Every once in awhile life offers surprises when the impossible becomes a reality. On the Vigil of All Saints we had the joy of meeting His Imperial and Royal Highness Imre of Habsburg-Lorraine, Archduke of Austria, Prince of Hungary and Bohemia (on the right). Mr. Michael Drake of the TFP emailed me with an invitation to meet the Archduke at a TFP event and I gladly accepted. The Archduke possessed a most friendly manner; we were put completely at ease and found ourselves speaking quite freely. I told the Archduke how I have always loved his family, especially his great aunt Marie-Antoinette. I described my experience of praying in the Capuchin crypt at his great grandmother Empress Zita's tomb and at Empress Maria Theresa's tomb and finding the inspiration to write Trianon.

 I hoped to the Archduke that his great grandfather Blessed Emperor Karl could be returned to rest in Vienna in the Capuchin crypt with the rest of the family. But Archduke Imre said no, he thought it was better for Blessed Karl to be buried in Madeira, in a remote place which captures the spirit of the Holy Emperor's poverty, suffering, exile and rejection by his own. It was amazing to talk about a saint with one of the saint's own great grandchildren. Archduke Imre is also the nephew of the courageous Grand Duke Henri de Luxembourg who has taken such a strong pro-life stand.

Here are 2008 photos of the Archduke's family at the wedding of his sister, Her Imperial Highness Archduchess Marie Christine.

Later in the day, I met His Imperial and Royal Highness Prince Bertrand of Orléans-Braganza. Slightly bent with age and walking with  a cane, Prince Bertrand nevertheless emanated great dignity. His Imperial Highness had the kindest, most gentle face, with black eyes that pierce the soul. He is not only a prince but a mystic, I think. I addressed His Imperial Highness in French but it turned out that his command of English is better than mine of French. (It was a good thing that Mr. Robert Ritchie, who introduced me to the Prince, is fluent in French and was able to rescue me.) The Prince graciously received my books and told me he had just read a biography of Madame Elisabeth of France.

As for the TFP members hosting the event, they treated us royally, with the utmost kindness and deference, making for an especially lovely day. Michael Drake showed me around the campus, which had been the estate of wealthy industrialists. The main house is an old Tudor revival, utterly magnificent, now a beautiful place for study, prayer and cheerful gatherings. Mr. Drake introduced me to everyone we met and I had many delightful conversations. My husband listened to a lecture which he found gratifying both spiritually and intellectually. It is good to know that there is such a movement of faith and culture in Pennsylvania. Share


Enbrethiliel said...


What a wonderful experience, Elena! And how many Historical novelists get to give a copy of their book to the great-nephew of one of the figures they have written about? =D

I remember you telling me that Trianon is full of connections among historical figures who seem to the untrained eye to be incredibly far apart. I'm getting a similar sense from this post. Although it seems little more than an anecdote, it contains the vibrant intersections of not just admirable individuals alive today, but also the past, the present, and dare I say even the future?

Thanks for sharing this experience with us!

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

A fascinating experience, thank you for sharing that with us.

Julygirl said...

Such an inspiring experience! One can imagine the awe in times past upon getting a glimpse of His or Her Majesty.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience. I adore the story of Blessed Emperor Karl and his wife, Zita. Beautiful picture, Elena! I love your plaid dress and it looks like your daughter is wearing a matching that your family plaid?

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, everyone! I think that His Imperial Highness resembles Marie-Antoinette and his younger sister the Archduchess Gabriela look very much like the Queen as well.

Thank you, Susan. Yes, my daughter is wearing the tartan of my family, the MacLachlan clan.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, E., for making so many connections! Yes, you are so right! Meeting the Archduke was like a journey outside of time, where the past, present and future are there all at once!

Allison said...

Indeed and experience of a lifetime!

How wonderful that your daughter could be with you!

I really enjoyed all the links and pictures. You do a lovely job of commending your gracious hosts.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, A! I almost did not bring her because she is quite rambunctious but am SO glad I did.

May said...

How lovely and providential! I am very happy for you!

Mercury said...

Gotta love the Habsburgs. I always found their status in Austria rather tragic. If there ever was a royal dynasty worth anything, it was the Habsburgs - so many of them truly were Catholic monarchs.

I'm not such a big fan of the Bourbons. Living in Southern Germany and experiencing history there really made me hate Louis XIV (at least by destoying every town in Baden and the Palatinate he unwittingly set the stage for a huuuge amount of Baroque architecture to pop up), and I just can't bring myself to admire many of the others.

But like I said, gotta love the Habsburgs, and Marie Antoinette certainly had that going for her. I also like how John Zmirak has a beagle named Franz Joseph.

Mercury said...

Actually, I have a question ... does TFP still support elitism as an actual goal? I find Pineira (name?)'s stuff a bit creepy in places.

I mean, I understand that nobility and royalty can have its proper place, but in the past it took a very special person to be worthy of such a title (which is why I said I liked many of the Habsburgs). I also think Europe could make better use of constitutional monarchy.

But for countries like the US, who have no native aristocracy, it just seems like bad idea.

Mercury said...

And it's really amazing by the way how his facial features really do resemble Marie Antionette's in the painting!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Matterhorn!

Mercury, I am really not the person to ask since I am not a member of the TFP; I would write directly to them to find out. I am sure they would love to discuss the goals of their organization. My impression is that they are focused on rallying lay people to rebuild Catholic culture by challenging the zeitgeist of the world with beauty and truth. I think that they emphasize the role of traditional nobility in that it was the place of those with wealth and influence to use their power for good; for protecting and helping the poor, cultivating the arts and education,and defending the Faith. For Americans who do not have a tradition of a hereditary nobility, the emphasis seems to be on building strong family values by training young people to use courtesy as a means of conveying Christian charity. That was my impression after one afternoon there.

Mercury said...

Yeah, that's the impression I get from their website. Maybe they've distanced / updated themselves somewhat from some of the actual views of the founder, who did admittedly come from a different cultural background (Brazil).

The way you describe it, that sounds great!

By the way, have you ever had the chance to visit the Hofburg in Vienna?

elena maria vidal said...

Oh, yes, I love the Hofburg, especially the gardens!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful experience, wow! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. PRince Imre does indeed resemble Marie Antoinette-- he has her exact jawline! What a gift! I hope you shared your email address with him, so that he can, hopefully, send his review of Trianon! Wouldn't that be just too cool to have a foreword from him?

A lovely family photo, as well! You look beautiful!


elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Gette. HIH received the copies of my books with such graciousness. We discussed the Vigee-Lebrun painting of Marie-Antoinette and the painting of Madame Royale on the covers as well as the Walters Art gallery in Baltimore where many royal artifacts can be found.

xavier said...

Maria Elena:
Is the TFP the Tradition, Family and Property group from Brazil? If it is, please be careful because the Vatican has condemned the founder's cult of personality and some suspect theological pronuncements.

In any case, glad you had a great time with the Archduke


Brantigny said...

How great!

Christina said...

How wonderful that you were able to meet the Archduke! He seems to possess a true sense of noblesse oblige.

elena maria vidal said...

Xavier, thank you. My commitment is to Carmel and I am not going to be joining the TFP since I already have enough on my plate. However, you make a very strong statement and if you have some links to back it up, please do post them.

Thank you, Richard. I have heard that HIH Archduke Imre is enjoying my books. Praise God.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you, Christina, yes, indeed!

Anabel said...

What a great experience you had, Elena! Sounds incredible. And he resembles Marie Antoinette, especially his eyes.


Anonymous said... researches Catholic websites then posts a review and ratings; they seem to be very fair and level-headed. They give a 'green light' for fidelity. I don't think they are affiliated in any way. Hope this helps!

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you!

Matthew said...

I found this thread after doing a search for Archduke Imre. What an honor it was to meet him! I met him at a Traditional Latin Mass that was held in Washington, DC on the feast day of his blessed ancestor, Emperor Karl.

Xavier said: "Is the TFP the Tradition, Family and Property group from Brazil? If it is, please be careful because the Vatican has condemned the founder's cult of personality and some suspect theological pronuncements."

From what I know, the American TFP was inspired by the Brazilian TFP and works closely with them. I don't know of any Vatican condemnation though. In fact, the former Vatican librarian, Cardinal Stickler of blessed memory, wrote the forward to a bio of their founder, Plinio Correa de Oliveira, and dispelled any "cult" fears regarding him.

The crusader of the 20th century: Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

"All founders and others who have stood out in the history of the Church have had to suffer calumny and misunderstanding. It should come as no surprise, then, that Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira was, and will continue to be, the target of a campaign of denigration, skillfully orchestrated by those who oppose his ideal of re-Christianizing society. In our century, such defamatory campaigns have also attacked other Catholic associations, demonizing them as 'sects.' It is interesting to note that these campaigns are much more aggressive when they are directed against associations that express a greater fidelity to the Catholic Church. This reveals that the true object of these accusations and falsehoods is the Church and that they are made to deny the Church's role as the 'teacher of truth,' recently affirmed by the Holy Father John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor. It is disturbing that these campaigns of denigration promoted by the enemies of the Church are often aided by Catholics who pretend to be orthodox."

"I hope that this biography of Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira can help to dissipate the criticism and misunderstanding and create an ideal point of reference for all those who generously wish to dedicate their energies to the service of the Church and Christian civilization."