Monday, August 8, 2011

Otto Von Habsburg put to rest

Habsburg funeral sparks nostalgia and admirationBy Bethany Bell

BBC News, Pannonhalma, Hungary

Otto von Habsburg returned to Austria in death to claim something of his dual heritage Continue reading the main story
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A silver urn stood by the altar in the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma in Hungary.

It was surrounded by a wreath of flowers and leaves in red, white and green - the colours of the Hungarian flag.

It contained the heart of Otto von Habsburg, Archduke of Austria, Crown Prince of Austro-Hungary, Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria - to give him just a few of his pre-World War I titles.

The Habsburg family once ruled over a mighty empire, which dominated central Europe for hundreds of years. But Otto, who was endowed with brains and charm, was born just a few years before the monarchy collapsed at the end of WWI.

He and his family were expelled and Otto spent much of his life in exile. But he returned in death to claim something of his dual heritage.

On Saturday, his body was buried with his ancestors in the imperial crypt in the Austrian capital Vienna.

That was a favour that was not granted to his own father, Karl, the last Emperor, who abdicated in 1919. When he died four years later, it was out of the question for the newly formed Republic of Austria to allow his body to be returned to Vienna. Karl was buried in exile in Madeira - where his tomb remains to this day.

Otto himself was only allowed back into Austria in the 1960s after a protracted and bitter legal battle.

But the pomp and ceremony at his funeral this week suggest that many Austrians have managed to overcome their reservations about their former crown prince.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote
[Otto von Habsburg] wanted to be buried in a country which still loves him”
End Quote
Father Albin

While few want to see the return of the monarchy, there is nonetheless nostalgia for the days of Austria's bygone greatness, as well as admiration for Otto von Habsburg's efforts to reunify Europe during and after the Cold War.

On Saturday, the Austro-Hungarian Empire seemed to come back to life as moustachioed men in richly brocaded Habsburg-era uniforms marched behind his coffin in solemn procession through Vienna.

At the requiem mass in St Stephen's Cathedral, the Kaiser Hymne, the old imperial anthem by Joseph Haydn, was played.

The current President of Austria, Heinz Fischer, pointedly did not sing along.

Other ancient traditions were observed.

'Still loved'
Mr Habsburg's sons, Karl and Georg, carried the urn down to the crypt
The Habsburgs often have their hearts buried separately from their embalmed bodies. Many of them are kept in copper urns in Vienna's Augustiner Church, a few streets away from the imperial crypt in the Cappuchin Church.

But Otto chose to have his heart buried in Hungary, in the Benedictine abbey where he was sent to learn Hungarian as a boy, when he was still Crown Prince.

Later, monks from the abbey followed him into exile to teach him Hungarian literature.

He returned here in the late 1980s as the first cracks appeared in the Iron Curtain.

Working with the pan-European movement, he had long campaigned against communism and worked for the re-unification of Europe.

At the service in Hungary, which was attended by Protestant and Catholic bishops and a rabbi, the monks promised to look after his heart and pray for his soul.

His two sons, Karl and Georg, carried the urn down to the crypt to be buried under a marble slab.

Burying the heart separately to the body was a custom used by a number of medieval European aristocrats:

Richard I (Richard the Lionheart): The English king's heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy after he died in 1199. His body was buried in Anjou

Robert the Bruce: The king of the Scots, who died in 1329, is buried in Dunfermline Abbey but his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey

The House of Habsburg has practised heart burial for centuries
But the practice was not limited to monarchs.

English writer Thomas Hardy's body is interred in Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey but his heart is buried in the grave of his first wife Emma in Dorchester.

And one of the monks, Father Albin, had another reason for why Otto von Habsburg may have chosen Pannonhalma as a final resting place for his heart.

"Hungary never expelled him personally, and he wanted to be buried in a country which still loves him," he said.

Nancy Wake

Australia WWII heroine Nancy 'White Mouse' Wake dies At one point, Nancy Wake was top of the Gestapo's most wanted list Continue reading the main story
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One of the most highly decorated Allied secret agents of World War II, Nancy Wake, has died in London aged 98.

Born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, she is credited with helping hundreds of Allied personnel escape from occupied France.

The German Gestapo named her the "White Mouse" because she was so elusive.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Mrs Wake was "a truly remarkable individual whose selfless valour and tenacity will never be forgotten".

"Nancy Wake was a woman of exceptional courage and resourcefulness whose daring exploits saved the lives of hundreds of Allied personnel and helped bring the Nazi occupation of France to an end," Ms Gillard said in a statement.

Saboteur and spy

Working as a journalist in Europe, she interviewed Adolf Hitler in Vienna in 1933 and then vowed to fight against his persecution of Jews.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote
I killed a lot of Germans, and I am only sorry I didn't kill more”
Nancy Wake

After the fall of France in 1940, Mrs Wake became a French Resistance courier and later a saboteur and spy - setting up escape routes and sabotaging German installations, saving hundreds of Allied lives.

She worked for British Special Operations and was parachuted into France in April 1944 before D-Day to deliver weapons to French Resistance fighters.

At one point, she was top of the Gestapo's most wanted list.

"Freedom is the only thing worth living for. While I was doing that work, I used to think it didn't matter if I died, because without freedom there was no point in living," Wake once said of her wartime exploits.

It was only after the liberation of France that she learned her husband, French businessman Henri Fiocca, had been tortured and killed by the Gestapo for refusing to give her up.

"I have only one thing to say: I killed a lot of Germans, and I am only sorry I didn't kill more," she once said.

She was Australia's most decorated servicewoman, and one of the most decorated Allied servicewomen of World War II.

France awarded her its highest honour, the Legion D'Honneur; she also received Britain's George Medal, and the US Medal of Freedom. In 2004, she was made Companion of the Order of Australia.

She returned to Australia in 1949, where she failed several times to win a seat in parliament.

In 1957 she went back to England, where she married RAF fighter pilot John Forward.

Wake died in London. She had been a resident at a nursing home for retired forces personnel since 2003.

She is expected to be cremated and her ashes spread in Montlucon in central France, the scene of much of her heroism.

Her story inspired Sebastian Faulks' 1999 novel Charlotte Gray and a 2001 film by the same title, with the lead role played by Australian actress Cate Blanchett.