The year 1918 saw the end of three big empires in the world: Russia, Germany and Austria. Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany fled the country and spent the rest of his life – he died in 1941 – in the Netherlands. The fate of the Russian imperial family was worse, and several family members were killed, including the last emperor and his family.
Also the Emperor of Austria, Karl II, his wife Zita and their young children fled the country. The new republic abolished all noble titles and the privileges of the nobility. Where in Germany the title became a part of the surname, in Austria it became forbidden to use them. In their own circles however they kept their own manners. And nowadays you can find back titles in family announcements or even newspaper articles. According to the Austrian law this is however still forbidden, unless it is a foreign title.
On 24 September Ulrich (count von) Habsburg-Lothringen – member of the Tuscany branche of the Austrian imperial family – said in an interview in the Austrian newspaper “Kurier” (see here) that nobility is an important part of history. He thinks that the celebration of 100 years republic in the year 2018 should be the right time to change the constitution. It is about time that it is not an offence anymore to use noble titles in Austria. The politician thinks about 50.000 nobles should be able to use their full name again.
Nothing wrong with this proposal, I’d say, even when there is not that much support for it in Austria, not even among nobility. But I think many people found his other proposal somewhat disgusting. He also said that the republic could earn money by selling titles to people who are interested.
“Why not desire 100.000 Euro for the Duke or Prince, and 5000 for a simple ‘von’?”
I am sure lots of people who were adopted by nobles (either as a child or as an adult) are normal and hardworking people. There is however unfortunately a group that not only paid for it, but also misuses the “title” they have managed to acquire. They make money with their “title” and regularly appear in the press. I won’t mention names, but most royalty watchers could name a few of them.
Members of the former Austrian imperial family are also still not allowed to run for president in their own country by the way. Something Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen also questioned last year. The constitution was changed afterwards.