"blue eyes that had seen Franz Josef in his glory at the Court Opera in 1908 close upon a view of rusty bed frames and cracked concrete walls."
February 7, 2009 4:05 AM   Subscribe

"Habsburg! A vile being, heir to an illustrious name, born to a fortune, to honours, to soldiers, to prestige, and who finished as the lowest of Montmartre pimps, living from the money of a poor and unstable girl whom he sent to commit his foul deeds in his place!"
That was after this Polish scion of the most famous family in Europe and commander of a soi disant "Ukrainian Legion" failed to finagle the crown as a Socialist king of The Ukraine, and became instead a patron of the rent boys of Paris who "handled women by necessity and men for pleasure". And all that before he turned successively a Nazi sympathizer, a British spy, and finally came, for the first and last time, to Ukraine's capital Kiev as a victim of Stalin and the Twentieth Century.
posted by orthogonality (24 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Wonderful post! Needless to say, I had no idea.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 4:48 AM on February 7, 2009

Frankly, I find his cousin Otto vastly more interesting (as well as more important in the vast scheme of things).
posted by Skeptic at 4:51 AM on February 7, 2009

Thanks skeptic. But (no offense to Otto) I've been reserving that one for a memorial thread.
posted by orthogonality at 4:57 AM on February 7, 2009

Good reading. I found the Trebitsch-Lincoln character mentioned intriguing and he does turn out to have had quite the picaresque life too.
posted by Abiezer at 4:57 AM on February 7, 2009

As a Dutchman I'm honour-bound to deem the Habsburgs my hereditary enemies; we fought for 80 years to become independent from the Spanish Habsburgs. The South-Netherlanders (now known as the Belgians) remained owned by the Austrian Habsburgs for a long time.

But Wilhelm von Habsburg is a fascinating character.
When will the movie appear?
posted by jouke at 5:59 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Whoah, Abiezer! Here's a NYT article by a guy who researched and wrote a book about Trebitsch-Lincoln. The book seems to be out of print, but there are used copies being offered.

Great post, ortho.
posted by taz at 6:27 AM on February 7, 2009

Sounds like a solidly researched & entertaining work of history that the reviewers only fault for some weak prose here & there. I'll add it to the (long) list of books I intend to read. Thanks for the post, mister.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:29 AM on February 7, 2009

Wait. Who are these people, and do most Australians know they have a Monarchy? Was that a little easter egg?
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:37 AM on February 7, 2009

Constitutional Monarchy, Devil's Rancher. I think they know.
posted by taz at 6:44 AM on February 7, 2009

Wonderful post. I just finished a book on the end of the Habsburg dynasty and have big chined men on the brain. This is just what I needed.
posted by munchingzombie at 7:10 AM on February 7, 2009

wow, fascinating thanks! a few unconnected thoughts...
  • reminded me of a couple films* i saw recently by péter forgács -- i am von höfler and miss universe 1929 -- movies about lives and families that span eras amid the shifting boundaries of central/eastern europe.**
  • in sort of a parallel occurrence to the hapsburgs (auf Englisch) i was reading about jacobitism (a favourite of conspiracy theorists ;) and apparently franz, duke of bavaria is the "the rightful King of England and Scotland" :P but!
    Franz has never married. On his death his position as head of the House of Wittelsbach will pass to his brother Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria. Because Max has no sons, the Bavarian titles will pass after his death to his first cousin Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and his descendants, while the position of heir of the House of Stuart will pass to Max's daughter Sophie, Hereditary Princess of Liechtenstein. [Gallery of Jacobite pretenders]
    from what i understand, most germans consider this all rather silly (along with the pope).
  • for a fuller treatment of national identity that applebaum concludes with in her review, i'd heartily recommend nations and nationalism by ernest gellner, sort of an anthropological view of the historical forces -- production, coercion, cognition ('plough, sword and book') -- shaping society.
  • the IT and the telegraph sometimes referred to ukraine as 'the ukraine', which i get cuz we're kinda used to saying the UK? altho it might be ok since ukraine i guess literally means borderland. also taking it to the present day ukraine is (still) kind of messed up and worth watching (along with its 'twin' across the black sea).***
*btw own death i must say is amazing; imagine a hyperconscious near-death experience in the style of la jetée
**a bit after "fin de siècle Vienna" (and in berlin) menschen am sonntag provides a great impression of everyday life in the interwar period; there was another 1920s billy wilder (i think?) film that took place in vienna, but i can't remember...
***esp if you're geopolitically minded -- not that we're about to descend into world war again (depression 2.0 comes before) but in times of stress and anxiety it's worth remembering that sometimes unless we pull together things fall apart

posted by kliuless at 8:42 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm cracking up that his royal nickname was "Vassily the Embroidered."

Seriously, I love royal nicknames. When I read things like "Albert II, The Lame" was brother to "Frederick the Fair," I automatically imagine the dynamics between the two of them sitting at a dinner table together and it makes me laugh. Frederick sitting there all pretty and virile, Albert slouching, picking his nose and hating his brother under his breath. Poor Albert, his lameness memorialized for all eternity.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2009

Habsburg... aka Montreal.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 8:43 AM on February 7, 2009

After visiting the Berlin Dom and it's massive crypt, I'm convinced there where more than a few vampires in the Habsburg line.
posted by The Whelk at 8:55 AM on February 7, 2009

Goddamn it, I might have to read the book now.
posted by everichon at 9:07 AM on February 7, 2009

I'm reminded of this guy.
posted by kmz at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2009


I was kind of hoping for a musical.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:30 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've mentioned the Habsburg's rebel princess Sisi before, so what the Hell... why not relink to her big cheesy musical number from the Elisabeth! musical and make Joe Beese's dreams come a smidgen more true!?

Hey Joe... would you rather watch it in original German? How about Japanese? Or hey... why not sing it yourself Karaoke style?
posted by miss lynnster at 1:06 PM on February 7, 2009

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by thivaia at 2:53 PM on February 7, 2009

Thanks for the post. I went out and bought the book today and have barely put it down. Good read, if you're into the historical.
posted by jsavimbi at 3:46 PM on February 7, 2009

FYI, I interviewed the guy who wrote "The Red Prince," Tim Snyder, on a podcast I host ("New Books in History"). Very interesting fellow and story. NB: No link, so no self-link! You can Google it!
posted by MarshallPoe at 4:06 PM on February 7, 2009

Heh. I read the NYRB article when it came out and thought it would make a good post, but was too lazy to put one together; a good thing too, because you've done a better job than I would have. Great post and great thread—that Trebitsch-Lincoln guy is at least as amazing as Wilhelm (aka Vasyl Vyshyvanyi)!

Frankly, I find his cousin Otto vastly more interesting

Seriously? You find a Member of the European Parliament more interesting than this guy? I mean, it's nice that Otto opposed Hitler and piquant that he "is alleged to have struck fellow MEP Ian Paisley," but seriously?

No link, so no self-link! You can Google it!

Dude, self-links are perfectly OK in comments. Give the link yourself.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 PM on February 7, 2009

languagehat Well, first of all, Otto still is the (theoretical) heir to the Austro-Hungarian thrones. Secondly, it is quite impressive that he managed to reinvent himself, not as a pimp, but as a leading politician. Thirdly, he was not just a run-of-the-mill MEP, he was one of the minds behind both the Christian Democratic and pan-European movementsl, and one of the creators of the EU. Fourthly, he was also one pivotal Cold Warrior. Fifthly, he probably still has the best-filled adress book in the Continent. Sixthly, he may probably still live to see his father Charles, the last Austro-Hungarian emperor, declared a saint by the Vatican. And he biffed Ian Paisley, something quite commendable in and by itself. Should I go on?
posted by Skeptic at 4:08 AM on February 8, 2009

Well, you'd have to if you wanted to keep trying to convince me, but don't bother, because it seems we have different ideas of "interesting." The fact that Otto is is the theoretical heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne is interesting in a sort of "huh, how about that" way, but somebody has to be the heir—the fact that it's him is just happenstance. The rest of your points just aren't interesting to me, and I doubt to most people ("one of the minds behind both the Christian Democratic and pan-European movements"? "the best-filled address book in the Continent"? I don't think you'll see anyone panting to film his life based on stuff like that). I'm not going to repeat all the adventures from the links about Wilhelm, but I'm pretty sure 95% of people would find him more interesting. That's OK, you're free to prefer Otto and I'm not trying to convince you otherwise, it just seems weird to me.
posted by languagehat at 9:41 AM on February 8, 2009

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