His Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty The Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary and Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia Otto von Habsburg is the current ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ascending to the throne of the battered empire at the age of 9 after the untimely and suspicious death of his father, his regency saw Vienna's power devolved to its subjects, but it
Otto was born on November 20th at the Villa Wartholz in Reichenau an der Rax, Lower Austria, near Vienna. There he was baptized Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius on the 25th by the Prince-Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Franz Xaver Nagl.
Less than two years old when the Weltkrieg began, he became the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary when his great-grand uncle, Kaiser Franz Josef I, passed away of pneumonia on November 21st, 1916 - the day after his fourth birthday. His father, Kaiser Karl I, inherited an empire fighting on three separate fronts and facing growing shortages and domestic upset. When these reached a fever pitch in late 1918, he issued the "Volkermanifest", a document promising a mass devolution of power to the subject nations of Cisleithania, akin to what Hungary had gained in 1867. Convinced that they would share the fruits of victory, the empire held on to the end, dismantling the Kingdom of Italy and annexing Montenegro and a handful of the Ionian Isles. After the war was officially concluded in November of 1921, Kaiser Karl reconvened the Imperial Council and announced that the Volkermanifest plan would proceed immediately.
Ascending to the Throne of a Crumbling Empire
The backlash from the aristocracy was vicious, especially in Hungary, and rumors of a plot against the Kaiser's life began to spread. In February, as Karl traveled to Budapest to negotiate concessions for the plan, he suddenly developed a cold. The condition worsened into bronchitis, and on the 14th of March, he was dead. As the 9-year-old Otto mourned his father and attempted to deal with the prospect of becoming Kaiser, the regency council formed to rule in his stead scuttled the federalization plan. When the news broke on April 2nd, the empire was plunged into chaos, as the conspiracy theories about Karl's death were suddenly granted tremendous weight. With investor panic adding an economic crisis on top of the domestic one, the Regency Council had no choice but to beg Germany to mediate. The Germans were less concerned with preserving Vienna's control and more with creating an arrangement that would stabilize Europe and hopefully provide better allies than the old Austria-Hungary, a relationship that had been described as "being shackled to a corpse". In the end Bohemia, Galicia-Lodomeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia were all made autonomous, although the latter two were merged into a new Kingdom of Illyria.
Coming of Age and Planning for the Future