Parents: Karl I, emperor of Austria, and Zita of Bourbon-Parma
Date of Birth: 20 November 1912
Royal House: Habsburg-Lorraine
Spouse: Regina, daughter of Georg, prince of Saxe-Meiningen, and Klara Maria of Korff
Predecessor: Karl I
Reign: 1922 – 2011
Summary: No other royal pretender in history has been recognized for so much and thrived for so long. The eldest son of the short-reigning last emperor of Austria, Karl I, Otto was made crown prince in 1916. His father was deposed only two years later when the Central Powers lost World War I and most of the monarchies were abolished. Hope returned a few years later that a Habsburg would become king of Hungary again, but the state decided to declare a kingdom without a king instead. During his life, Otto learned fluently German, Hungarian, Croatian, English, Spanish, French, and Latin. He would later write around 40 books in four different languages. Otto spent most of his teenage years in Switzerland and on the Portuguese island of Madeira. In 1922, his father died and Otto became the pretender and titular ruler of Austria and about a dozen other countries. The family settled in the Basque country of Spain soon after.
By 1935, Otto had moved above his pretentions and begun his life, though he never forgot his place in Austrian society. He earned a doctorate in political and social science at the University of Louvain in Belgium. Meanwhile, World War II was warming ip. In 1938, Austria annexed Germany and openly supported international intervention and outright resistance against Nazi Germany. He even offered his services as head of state to help repel Hitler. Many municipalities supported his return, among them the majority of the Austrian Jewish population. When Germany finished the Anschluß, all Habsburg properties and possessions were confiscated by the state and Otto was sentenced to death. Many leaders of the Habsburg reinstallation movement in Austria were executed and anti-Habsburg laws were reinstated. Two cousins, Max and Ernst, were arrested and imprisoned at Dachau throughout the war. By the beginning of the war, Otto was actively helping around 15,000 Austrians, many Jews, flee Nazi-occupied Austria. Otto helped the United States government in its war effort, though he hoped to regain his throne through their help, and he protected historic sites from air raids throughout the war. When the war ended, Otto found himself without a home and Charles de Gaulle personally requested Otto be granted a passport from Monaco. Malta also issued him a passport a few years later, and Otto was eventually granted Spanish citizenship. In 1956, Otto was recognized as an Austrian citizen by a provincial government in Lower Austria. The federal government agreed but Otto had to take the public name Dr. Otto Habsburg-Lothringen. In 1961, he formally renounced his privileges as a member of the house of Habsburg and declared his loyalty to the Austrian Republic and, in 1966, was allowed to return to Austria, 44 years after being forced into exile. In his later years, Otto would admit that he was insincere regarding his renunciations, though he was absolutely loyal to Austria. Otto immediately entered Austrian and European politics, being an early supporter of a unified Europe. He was elected president of the International Paneuropean Union from 1973 to 2004. From 1979 until 1999 he was a member of the European Parliament serving the Christian Social Union of Bavaria. By the time he resigned, he was the EUP's senior member. He actively supported the admission of Hungary, Slovenia, and Croatia into the EU, all three being former member states of the Austrian Empire. He retired from politics largely in the early- to mid-2000s and retired completely after making an unpopular and highly contentious public statement defending Austria's role in the Anschluß and its status as a victim of, rather than participant in, the Third Reich. Otto died a year after his wife died at the age of 98 at his home in Pöcking, Germany. His son, Karl, succeed him in his titles.
Date of Death: 4 July 2011
Successor: Karl II
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