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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own