Karl Habsburg-Lothringen, also known as Karl von Habsburg (Karl Thomas Robert Maria Franziskus Georg Bahnam; born 11 January 1961), is an Austrian politician, the current head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine which ruled the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, the Empire of Austria the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and the Kingdom of Hungary as well as the Crown lands of Bohemia and Croatia by hereditary right until the end of World War I. Born in Starnberg, Germany in 1961, he is the son of Otto von Habsburg and Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen, and the grandson of the last Austrian emperor, Charles I. He served as a Member of the European Parliament for the Austrian People’s Party 1996–1999. Like his father, he is known as an advocate for the Pan-European movement.
Since 1986, Karl Habsburg has been president of the Austrian branch of the Paneuropean Union. After studying law for 12 years, in 1992/1993, he hosted a TV game show with Austrian public TV broadcaster ORF, called Who Is Who. In October 1996, he was elected to the European Parliament for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP). Two years later, it emerged that the ÖVP’s election campaign had benefitted from 30,000 euros of World Vision donation money via Paneurope Austria while Karl Habsburg sat on the board of World Vision Austria, apparently without noticing the director’s dubiously legal activities.
His father exacerbated the controversy when he complained that his son was being attacked unfairly and drew a parallel between the name “Habsburg” and a yellow badge. ÖVP did not nominate Karl Habsburg again for the 1999 elections. In 2004, Karl Habsburg paid 37,000 euros to the new World Vision Austria branch.
On 19 January 2002, he was appointed Director General of UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) by the UNPO Steering Committee. Since 7 December 2008, he is the President of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield.
In 1961, his father Otto von Habsburg renounced all claims to the Austrian throne, as a necessary legal condition to being allowed to return to Austria.
On 30 November 2000, Karl’s father transferred over to him the position of head and sovereign (Grand Master) of the Order of the Golden Fleece and in 2008 he also became the Grand Master of the Order of St. George.
In 2005, Karl Habsburg filed an unsuccessful lawsuit before Austria’s constitutional court after a failed attempt to have former properties of the Habsburg family returned. The family’s estates had been expropriated by the First Republic; this had in part been reverted under Austrofascism, and then the Nazis had expropriated them again. The family tried to get their former property returned under rules for victims of the Nazi regime. The attempt failed because the law of expropriation still has constitutional status.
On 1 January 2007, his father relinquished his position as the head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, a status which then devolved on Karl.
Karl Habsburg was born in Germany. He was baptised in Pöcking, Bavaria, as Archduke Karl of Austria (Erzherzog Karl von Österreich), the name entered in the baptismal records. At the time of his birth, his father was de facto stateless and possessed a Spanish diplomatic passport, while his mother was a German citizen. Like his father and siblings, he was banished from Austria for the first years of his life.
He has lived in Salzburg, Austria, since 1981. He resides in Casa Austria, formerly called Villa Swoboda, in Anif, near the city of Salzburg.
On 31 January 1993 in Mariazell, he married Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, the only daughter of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, a European industrialist, and his third wife, the fashion model, Fiona Frances Elaine Campbell-Walter. The marriage received the dynastic authorization of Karl’s father, as head of the House of Habsburg, despite objections from some members of the family inasmuch as the bride, although a baroness in the nobility of pre-republican Hungary and Transylvania, did not descend in the canonically legitimate male line from a family of dynastic, mediatised or alter Adel status. Karl and Francesca have three children:
Eleonore Jelena Maria del Pilar Iona, born 28 February 1994 in Salzburg
Ferdinand Zvonimir Maria Balthus Keith Michael Otto Antal Bahnam Leonhard, born 21 June 1997 in Salzburg
Gloria Maria Bogdana Paloma Regina Fiona Gabriela, born 15 October 1999 in Salzburg; her godmother is Gloria, Princess of Thurn and Taxis.
Karl and Francesca separated in 2003.
In July 1998 an Austrian court fined Karl Habsburg 180,000 schillings ($14,300); he had failed to declare immediately to customs officials that he had an antique diadem in his luggage when he crossed the border from Switzerland in July 1996. The diadem belonged to his wife who intended to wear it at a wedding ceremony