Descendants of last Habsburg emperor climb ladder to power Hungary looks to its empire of the past for a new beginning

Ancient dynasty stages a surprise comeback in lands it ruled for centuries, reports Adrian Bridge

Budapest - In what must rank as one of the most unlikely political comebacks of the century, the descendants of the last Habsburg emperor are once again making their mark in the Central European territories that their family ruled for hundreds of years.

Not surprisingly, the comeback revolves around the cities of Vienna and Budapest, the twin centres of power in the latter years of the Austro- Hungarian empire, which at its peak stretched from the Adriatic to what is now Ukraine.

The most striking example of the trend is the appointment this week of Georg von Habsburg, the 32-year-old grandson of Emperor Karl I, to the position of Hungary's ambassador for European Integration.

In neighbouring Austria, the traditional heart of Habsburg power, Georg's brother, Karl, 35, was recently elected to represent the country in the European parliament. In addition to this, he serves as the president of the Austrian branch of the Pan-European movement.

The appointment in Budapest, where Karl I and his more famous predecessor, Franz Josef I, both held the title King of Hungary, marks the first time that a Habsburg has been given any official post in that country since the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1918 following defeat in the First World War.

In addition to coming as a surprise, the move is full of historical irony. While Georg von Habsburg's predecessors did all that they could to keep the clock turned back to an imperial past, he is now being asked to help propel the country into the future through integration with Western Europe.

And while Mr von Habsburg himself was born an archduke and remains related to many of Europe's royal families, he was formally sworn into his new post by Hungary's Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn, a man who spent most of his political life in the Hungarian Communist Party.

"Having a Habsburg in the position [of ambassador] will help to enhance the reputation and image of Hungary," said Mr Horn, who has made membership of the European Union and Nato Hungary's key foreign policy goals.

The new ambassador, who holds Hungarian citizenship and has worked as director of a film company in Budapest since 1993, was quick to deny that he saw his new job as a stepping stone to the restoration of the monarchy.

"Let's forget about all that," he told The Independent. "We have got much more important things to do now - such as bringing Hungary back into Europe. We Habsburgs are a political family. We have been in the past, and why not again in the future?"

Otto von Habsburg, 83, himself a keen advocate of the Hungarian cause, has long since renounced any claim to his father's throne.

But the same is not true of all the members of the family. Before his election to the European parliament in October, Georg von Habsburg's older brother, Karl, refused to be drawn when he was quizzed on the issue.

When he was asked if he believed the Habsburg monarchy could return, his circumspect reply was: "Never say never again."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor