On August 17, 1887, Charles of Habsburg, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, was born. He was born to Princess Maria Joseph of Saxony, who was the wife of Archduke Otto Francis of Austria (younger brother of the famous Archduke Francis Ferdinand). After his uncle Franjo Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, the young Charles became the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, because his father died in 1906.
Charles of Habsburg was born in the Persenbeug castle in Lower Austria. This castle is located right next to the Danube River, about ten kilometers upstream from the famous Melk Abbey. Charles was not involved in state affairs during the reign of his great-grandfather Emperor Francis Joseph, but only after the assassination of Francis Ferdinand, who had until then been heir to the throne. When Francis Joseph died in 1916, the inexperienced Charles ascended the throne during the First World War, when Austro-Hungary was facing numerous external and internal problems. Karl’s lack of state knowledge and experience proved fatal for the already shaky Monarchy, which disintegrated at the end of the First World War in 1918.
Charles of Habsburg was a staunch Catholic, and he was beatified, in part because of his (unsuccessful) attempts to conclude a separate peace with the Entente forces and pull Austro-Hungary out of the war. He died at the age of only 34, and his wife lived as a widow until she was 97 years old.