I rather like the fairy-tale image of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge preparing to welcome a new heir to the throne. Yes, Uncle Harry has some ‘issues’, along with some less than loyal party pals, but what family tree doesn’t have a few gnarled branches. A few more war-torn assignments should keep his youthful indiscretions out of the press while he sows a few wild oats.
In addition to the dukedom, Prince William is also the Earl of Stratheam and Barron Carrickfergus, which in some circles makes up for having no surname (somewhat anticlimactic after the string of titles) that I can recall and no real job. And while I have no idea what a Carrickfergus is, it can’t be any worse than a Kardashian.
Europe is all about royal families, most with some rather interesting family histories shared somewhere along the line with almost every other noble family; it should come as no surprise that during our recent trip to Europe, Jimmy and I did some hobnobbing with a member of Austria’s Hapsburg-Lorraine royal family. I wisely chose not to wear my jeans that day.
Least you’ve forgotten your history and “the shot heard round the world”, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in 1914 while visiting Sarajevo precipitated the Great War (World War I). And all this time I thought I'd never again need to know anything I learned in World History 101.
Now that I have your full attention, I can commence with my top ten photos of our tour of Artstetten.
1. Artstetten Castle
Emperor Franz I bought the castle Artstetten in 1823 and began immediately renovating both the castle and grounds. Thirty years later Artstetten became the property of Archduke Franz Karl (father of Emperor Franz Josef), who in turn gave it to his third son, Karl Ludwig.
Karl made extensive changes to the interior and exterior of the castle, adding a bathroom as well as the swimming pool and its pavilion. From 1866 till 1867 Artstetten belonged to his brother, the Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, who left no changes within the castle structure. The castle was then deeded to Karls's son Franz, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of "the-shot-heard-round-the-world" fame, whose assassination prompted Austria to declare war on Serbia, which ultimately lead to World War I. Following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and Sophie, 12-year-old Maximillan inherited Artstetten Castle from his father's estate. When he and his brother Ernst (outspoke opponents to the Nazi occupation) were deported to the concentration camp of Dachau following the annexation of Austria in 1938, the castle was expropriated. The castle was returned to the Republic of Austria in 1949.
Following the early death of Duke Franz in 1977 his widow, Duchess Elisabeth von Hohenberg (she is now interred in the family crypt on the premises), Princess of Luxemburg, deeded the castle and estate to her eldest daughter, Princess Anita, our hostess with the mostess the day of our visit. To retain the castle and estate the Anita Hohenberg Trust was founded in 2003.
The Artstetten Castle was chosen as a main motif for a high value collector's coin. The Castle of Artstetten Commemorative 10 euro Coin was minted on October 13, 2004. The castle is the private property of the Hohenberg Family and houses a vast collection of family heirlooms in the Archduke Franz Ferdinand Museum.
2. Vehicle in which Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie were shot while visiting Sarajavo
The six-passenger car built for royalty was on loan from Count Franz von Harrach, an officer of the Austrian army transport corps (Archduke Franz wanted something that would impress the public when he and his wife toured the tiny Bosnian capital of Sarajevo).
Like many artifacts of historical significance, some think the vehicle comes with a curse, if legend is allowed to have the last word. Legend aside, facts do reveal that the original license plate, AIII 118, does have a rather astonishing interpretation. It has been taken to read A (for Armistice), the numbers 11-11-18 a prediction of Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), the day World War I ended.
3. House of Habsburg-Lorraine Family Tree
Franz II was the first Emperor from the Hapsburg-Lorraine branch after the failure of both Hapsburg Emperors Joseph I and Charles VI to produce an heir. Franz II married Charles VI daughter, Maria Theresa, resulting in his title as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Franz II reign lasted from 1792-1806. When Napoleon dictated the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in his proclamation of the First French Empire in 1804, Franz II agreed to the humiliating Treaty of Pressburg as he watched his empire slowly begin to crumble. That same year, with Napoleon poised to succeed Franz II upon his eventual death, Franz II declared himself Franz I, Emperor of Austria, effectively keeping the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty right where he wanted it. A piece of cake when you’re already Emperor! His double Emperor status from 1804-1806 earned him the distinction of being the only Doppelkaiser (double Emperor) in history.
Although Franz I despised Napoleon and was twice defeated by France as the two adversaries vied for power, he was forced, by reasons of state, to marry his daughter, Marie Louis, to Napoleon in 1810 (I'd say by reasons of insanity might be more precise). As they say, the rest is history.
4. Family Portrait – Franz I (House of Hapsburg) and Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina House of Lorrain with 10 of the 16 children born to the couple.
Franz I and Maria Theresa had 16 children. Among their children was would be Queen Marie Antoinette of France, Queen Maria Carolina of Naples, Duchess Maria Amalia of Parma and two Holy Roman Emperors, Joseph II and Leopold II. Maria Theresa was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Hapsburg. Before her father died, Emperor Charles VI, he made provisions for her accession with the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713. She reigned for 40 years following the death of her father (actually she co-ruled with her husband to eliminate any hurdles relative to her gender). I gotta give her credit; she was very good at burning the candle at both ends.
5. Picture of Countess Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenbegr, morganatic wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
Franz’s uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph eventually came around and Franz and Sophie were married July 1, 1900 (don’t you just love happy endings!). Franz was happy to renounce all rights of succession for his children, making Sophie a morganatic wife. She was also never allowed to ride in the royal carriage or sit in the royal box (and I thought my in-laws were difficult!). Emperor Franz Joseph did not attend the nuptials nor did any archdukes, including Franz’s brothers. The only members of the imperial family present were Franz Ferdinand's stepmother, Maria Theresa, and her two daughters. Apparently love doesn't conquer all.
6. Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914); Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro-Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia.
Described as energetic, reckless, proud, mistrusting and moody, Ferdinand’s two loves were family and hunting. Evidence suggests he acquired approximately 300,000 hunting trophies, 5,000 of those deer. His distinguished military career began in his early teens; he achieved the rank of lieutenant at age 14, captain at 22, colonel at 27, and major general at 31. He was appointed Inspector General of the Austro-Hungarian Army and was popular with the armed forces. It was that position that would eventually bring him to Sarajevo and his death.
7. Chapel and Family Crypt
The crypt became a place of pilgrimage after Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were laid to rest. It was given a more dignified appearance and the small coffin of the infant, originally placed between the parents’ coffins, was moved to a closed alcove.
The original crypt under the south terrace of the castle and church tower was enlarged in 1955 following the early death of Prince Ernst von Hohenberg. Both sons to the Heir to the Throne and their wives lie there with three of Franz Ferdinand’s grandchildren.
8. Tombs of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie Hohenberg
9. Family Chapel
10. Princess Anita Hohenberg, great granddaughter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie at our Champagne Reception
The Bottom Line on Artstetten Castle:
Verdict: A must see, althought I'd plan a return trip during the spring or summer, when touring the gardens and grounds would be more enjoyable than on a cold, rainy fall day.
Ideal For: History buffs of all ages, the curious or anybody who simply loves castles (this one has seen its share of renovations). This was one of the few castles we managed to tour during our Danube Riverboat Cruise via Vantage Travel. The immense collection of family artifacts was impressive as was our warm reception with a royal family member. Not something I can truthfully say has heretofore happened in my lifetime.
How to Get There: By car: Follow the A1 motorway (Westautobahn) to the exit Pöchlarn, then across the Danube bridge and left, up river towards Klein Pöchlarn. In Klein Pöchlarn turn right at the crossroad (sign-posted Artstetten) 3km. By train: With the “Westbahn” to Pöchlarn and from there either by bus or taxi to Artstetten. By bicycle: Danube bicycle path to Klein Pöchlarn, then up the steep “Tonberg” to Artstetten.
Nearby Food: Light snacks from the "Kitchen & Cellar" are available at the Artstetten Castle Café. In the nearby village of Nussendorf is the Heurige Hold, a typical winery which is open twice a year for longer periods: from March till June and from September till December where classic farm dishes are served, including “Surschnitzl” (a escalope of cured pork) and “Saumeise” (smoked minced pork meat balls), as well as vegetarian dishes. The Gasthof “Zum Schwarzen Bären” in Emmersdorf includes the restaurant Landgasthof as well, well known for its excellent selection of local dishes.