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."

News
i100
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Financial Accountants, Cardiff, £250 p/day

£180 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Financial Accountants - Key Banking...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Recruitment Consultant - Bristol - Computer Futures - £18-25k

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices