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Albrecht Wilhelm Karl
Herzog von Teschen
|To be the Senior Archduke...
Friedrich Maria Albrecht Wilhelm Karl von Österreich-Toskana, Herzog von Teschen was born 4 June 1856 at Schloß Groß-Seelowitz in Moravia, oldest son of Archduke Karl Ferdinand and Archduchess Elisabeth. His younger brothers were the Archdukes Karl Stefan (Inspector General of the Navy to 1916) and Eugen (commander of the Southwestern Front to 1917). Friedrich was married at Château L'Hermitage, Belgium on 8 October 1878 to Princess Isabella von Croy-Dülmen (born at Dülmen on 27 February 1856). He had eight daughters and one son by this union, and they were married until Isabella's death on 5 September 1931.
Archduke Friedrich was a knight of the Orders of the Golden Fleece, Saint Hubert, the Annunciata, the Black Eagle of Prussia, the Rue Crown of Saxony, Grand Cross Orders of Leopold of Belgium, Saints Cyril and Methodius, Charles III, etc., Royal Prussian Gen-Field Marshal, and many others.
His fortunes were not to arise from merely being a Habsburg Archduke, but from being the faithful and beloved nephew to the powerful and forceful Archduke Albrecht. Now, Albrecht was the son of Archduke Karl, whose claim to fame was to inflict on Napoleon Bonaparte the first defeat he ever suffered, at Aspern in 1809. For this and subsequently helping to bring down the French Empire in the Battle of the Nations in 1813, Kaiser Franz I created the Duchy of Teschen for Karl, and bestowed much land upon him as well.
This was bequeathed to his son Albrecht, who likewise did excellent and loyal service to his nephew, Kaiser Franz Josef, taking part in the many wars and rebellion suppressions from 1846 to 1866, including the famous defeat of Italy at Custozza in Venezia. Afterwards, Albrecht was the Supreme Commander of the armed forces from 1867 on. There are many who think that Austria's chances of victory over Prussia were far greater had Albrecht been chosen to be Supreme Commander in 1866.
Friedrich was another nephew of Albrecht's, and the two were very close. So much so, that upon the death of Albrecht on 18 February 1895, the entire fortune of the Archduke passed to Friedrich, who became the Third Duke of Teschen and was suddenly one of the richest men in the Empire.
Among the rich farm and woodlands of Friedrich's in Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Hungary, there were also many industries, and Friedrich took an active interest in their function. He even brought his family to the various factories, mines, and lumberyards to acquaint them with the business.
In spite of his enormous wealth and many businesses and franchises, Friedrich never forgot his military career. Indeed, the previous two Dukes of Teschen were the most famous and respected Austrian military men of the XIX. Century. It was the destiny of Friedrich to carry on with this tradition and be Austria's military hero for the XX. Century. Ranked as FML, Archduke Friedrich was appointed to command the V. Corps in September 1889, replacing FZM Adolf Freiherr von Catty. This appointment was held all the way until April 1905, when the Archduke was succeeded by FML Karl Freiherr von Steininger.With this in mind, Friedrich became Inspector General of the Soldiery in 1905, and was made Supreme Commander of the Austrian Landeswehr in 1907. Becoming Supreme Commander of the Austrian Armed Forces was to follow.
GWS, 8/01 [rev. 2/05]
|The bombastic, hot-tempered Archuke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen, was the son of the Archuke Karl, hero of the Battle of Aspern in 1809, and also uncle to both Archduke Friedrich and Kaiser Franz Josef.|
|The new Duke of Teschen practices riding tall in the saddle, 1895.|
|The Duke of Teschen and his grandchildren, 1917.|
|The Supreme Commander and his adjutant deal with daily work at Army HQ, Teschen. This photo taken in 1917.|
|... Official Proclamation by the Supreme Commander of the Austrian Army...
This army order was issued on September 30, 1914:
"The situation of the Germans and Austrians is favorable. The Russian offensive is beginning to break down. We, with the German troops, shall beat again the enemy already beaten at Krasnik, Zamosc, Insterburg, and Tannenburg. The German main army, without hindrance, has penetrated deeply into France, where a new and great victory is imminent. In the Balkan theatre, we are fighting in the enemy's territory. The Serbian resistance is beginning to weaken. Internal dissatisfaction, insurrections, and lack of food threaten our enemy in the rear, while the Dual Monarchy and Germany are united and have full confidence of fighting out to the end this war which has been forced upon us. This is the truth about the situation. This proclamation must be made known to all officers and men, in their respective mother tongues. --Archduke Friedrich."
Indeed, this was the truthful situation as of 30 September 1914, but very shortly thereafter, many disasters occurred that effectively nullified this proclamation. The Germans withdrew from the Marne and organised new trenches that ensured no movement in France for the next four years, the Austrians were expelled from Serbia, the Russians forced new attacks in the Masurian Lakes region and central Poland, and Przemysl, though relieved for a short time by a victorious offensive, was soon returned to a Russian siege. October was bittersweet for the Archduke Friedrich.
|The Supreme Commander and his Chief of Staff General Conrad at the Teschen railway station, 11 February 1917. Time was running out for both of them.|
|The Supreme Commander in the Field
General der Infanterie Archduke Friedrich was the senior Archduke in the military and therefore was placed by Kaiser Franz Josef as supreme commander of the K.u.K. Armee at the beginning of WWI. This was an unusual precedent, for the Kaiser was traditionally supreme commander of the Army in times of war. Franz Josef had been so during the Italian War in 1859 and again in 1866.
However, his advanced age and desire to remain aloof from the conflict in order to handle state affairs caused him to pass the responsibility on to Friedrich. As it was, all Archdukes were expected to have military careers, particularly in times of war. Whether they were capable or not was of little concern. The Chief of Staff was expected to make up for any deficiencies an Archduke might have.
Friedrich was elevated to the rank of Feldmarschal on 8 December 1914, following the repulsion of the Russian advance by the K.u.K. Armies at Limanowa. His highest point was on 2 May 1915, when he stood alongside General Mackensen and witnessed the opening bombardment of the Russian positions across the Dunajec. From this point, the Russians were put on the defensive and eventually driven hundreds of miles in retreat at a cost of a million casualties.
Archduke Friedrich's Chief of Staff was General Conrad von Hötzendorf. Archduke Friedrich played an active rôle in the campaigns, but usually deferred technical details to Conrad. This was probably due more to Conrad's strong will, rather than any inability on Archduke Friedrich's part.
The first cracks in Archduke Friedrich's command occurred when the Russians launched their Czernowitz offensive on 24 December 1915. A few days later, General Mackensen arrived from recently conquered Serbia and assumed control of the sectors containing the German Südarmee and the Austrian VII. Army, which bore the brunt of the attacks.
Author George Allen states that Archduke Friedrich relinquished supreme command on Austria's section of the Eastern Front in late July 1916, as part of the big shake-up and reorganisation of the Army following Brussilov's offensive. Hindenburg took this command and combined it with the German Eastern Front to form the position of Supreme Commander of the Eastern Front on 2 August 1916.
The Archduke Friedrich retained his position as Supreme Commander of all the Austrian Armies until the end of February 1917, when Kaiser Karl replaced him. The new Kaiser personally took Supreme Command of the K.u.K. Army, thus emulating Tsar Nikolai the year before, when he removed his capable uncle Grand Duke Nikolai and took command himself to raise Army morale.
|Heroic print of the Archduke Friedrich in the Feldmarschal's uniform (left) and the last photo of Friedrich as Supreme Commander, taken in early 1917 (right).|
|Enemy Portrait: General Nikolai Judovich Ivanov|
|General Ivanov was born in 1851, and fought in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). He commanded the Kiev Military Guberniya from 1908 through 1914, and was in charge of mobilising this important region during the inital phase of WWI. He was given the command of the Southwestern Front, which basically opposed the Austrians. His counterpart was General Yakov Grigorevich Zhilinski, who commanded the Northwestern Front and opposed the Germans. Ivanov personally commanded the XI. Army until it was sent under the command of General Selivanov to besiege Przemysl in late 1914.|
|The Duke of Teschen in Retirement
Retirement saw the Archduke devoted to his estate in Hungary near Ungarisch-Altenburg, today Mosonmagyaróvár, which previously he regarded as a light distraction from his heavy duties in Vienna. Indeed, he first acquired a taste for the provincial life after he received the grand estates of the Duke of Teschen, when he would visit the farms and rural industries, and personally take charge of whatever happened to be going on, be it cutting the chaff or working the sawmill.
When in 1920 the governments of Austria and Czechoslovakia expropriated his palaces and estates and the famous art gallery which he owned in Vienna, they discharged all of his former employees. These went back to Ungarisch-Altenburg where the Archduke considered it his duty to employ them. For this tremendous burden even his great estate could not earn enough. In his will, he bound his heirs to support these numerous dependents, even though doing so would strain their fortunes to the breaking point.
Friedrich often dressed in peasant costume, and enjoyed conferring with the locals in town, with whom he felt more comfortable than the diminished high society of his former days. Some authors wrote almost mournfully of meeting a stooping old man sitting on a bench outside a shop on the main street of Altenburg, looking dejected and worthless, only to realise it was the Third Duke of Teschen stripped of all titles and dignity.
This was far from the truth. Friedrich liked nothing more than to relax downtown in the afternoons, where he could converse with the people who passed by and generally enjoy his reduced responsibilities. Even if he wore faded regular clothes, it was a matter of comfort, not distinction. He still had a sizeable fortune and his small estate outside town. In the last chapter of his life, no longer did Friedrich have to take charge of playboy Archdukes, attend stifling royal functions at innumerable palaces and manors, maintain discipline in the armed forces, or make public proclamations on the state of the Empire and its armies. Now he was simply an old man relaxing on a bench by the roadside.
The Passing of the Duke of Teschen
The death of Archduke Friedrich in 1936 was the biggest royal event for Hungary since the coronation of King Karl in 1916. The funeral was attended by his nephew, the exiled King of Spain; by numerous archdukes; by all the surviving Austro-Hungarian Feldmarshals; by personal representatives of the German Führer; by members of the House of Savoy; by the diplomatic corps; by a son of exiled German Kaiser Wilhelm ; by representatives of the governments of Germany, Italy and Austria, and by Hungary's Regent, Miklós Horthy and his wife. There were members of the Hungarian government and delegates of the German and Austrian in attendance as well. Entire battalions of the Hungarian army was present to pay their last respects to their former Supreme Commander.
The setting for the funeral and several thousands in attendance was a tiny chapel outside town, mostly devoted to the workers on the Archduke's estate. There was snow and the streets were slushy and muddy, especially after the procession of foreign cars tearing through town. After the funeral mass, everyone formed in correct order behind the silver coffin. Because of his knightly position, was entitled to have a knight in full armour follow his coffin, and he received this great respect. Apparently, the knight in shining armour who followed the Archduke's coffin wore the armor of Lohengrin from the play being performed in the State Opera House in Budapest. The Archduke's former honorary cavalry regiment rode out in front, and the horses did not improve the road in the slightest. But where they marched, Madame Horthy and all the ladies in their little open shoes marched too, along with the best dressed royals and dignitaries of Europe. So ended the life and times of the second most powerful man in the Empire of Austria-Hungary. And, he was the last Duke of Teschen; the title did not seem to pass to his son, though his eligibility was not in question.
Friedrich was survived by his children, including Maria Christina (1879-1962) who had four children; Maria Anna (1882-1940), who had children born into exiled Spanish royalty; Maria Henrietta (1883-1956), who had four children; Nathalie (1884-1898); Stephanie (1886-1890); Gabriella (1887-1954); Isabella (1888-1973); Maria Alice (1893-1962), who had six children; and lastly, the man who would be the Fourth Duke of Teschen, Archduke Albrecht (1897-1955).
The Rise and Fall of the Archduke Albrecht
Albrecht was a popular young man in Hungary after the civil war. Following the bungled attempts by first Archduke Josef to claim the Hungarian throne and then by two failed putsches by ex-King Karl, the Archduke Friedrich made several attempts to let the higher circles of society and power know that Albrecht was a suitable candidate for the vacant throne. Regent Horthy was in no mood to play royal games, especially after Karl's second putsch in 1921. Now, Friedrich would not go so far as to suggest an armed putsch, but his son's name and intentions were well known to the Regent and all classes in Hungary.
By 1928, however, the claims of Albrecht had faded. He was remembered among the royal circles and often visited their homes in Budapest and out in the country, but mostly he studied agriculture and was happy enough managing his father's estate. Albrecht was married first to Irene Lelbach (1897-1985) in 1930 (they divorced in 1937, after the Archduke Friedrich died), secondly to Katalin Bocskay de Felsö-Bánya (1909-2000) in 1938. She was a school teacher, and it was reported in the 1940s that Katalin once tried to shoot Albrecht during an argument. They soon separated but did not divorce until 1951.
Albrecht moved into the house of Georgina Lidia Strausz-Dorner (died in 1998), whose step-parents were of Jewish extraction. Nevertheless, Albrecht had an interest in the fascist movements of both Germany and Hungary, giving financial support to the Arrow Cross faction and also the SS, specifically the RuSHA, whose main task was to identify racially acceptable people living in non-German lands, and forcibly resettle them into the Reich. Apparently, Albrecht helped perpetrators of massacres in the Vojvodina escape the partisans in 1944, though they were later arrested and executed. Vojvodina was under German military control during WWII, and was also the site of some of the Duke of Teschen's former Hungarian estates. Albrecht's servitude to the Nazis may have been to recover lost estates for himself, as such a scheme was part of the SS and especially RuSHA's program. After WWII, both Jugoslavia and Hungary sought the arrest of Albrecht as being an abettor of war crimes, but he fled to Latin America. He obtained a divorce from Katalin in Morales, Mexico.
Finally, in 1951 Albrecht was married to faithful Lidia at Ascuncion, Paraguay; by Katalin he had two children, both daughters, and by Lidia he had one son, Rudolf Stefan, but Albrecht died four years later from an operation to remove an ulcer. By one source, Albrecht's son reportedly died in the United States in 1992, but others claim he lives anonymously; a parish priest of Mosonmagyaróvár states Rudolf Stefan had spoken with him when he visited the family tombs on several occasions. It is not known if he had children. But it is impossible that he would have been permitted by the royal laws to carry the title of Duke of Teschen. Indeed, some claim he did not exist, including the executor of Albrecht's estate in Vienna, but others say he simply kept his origins a secret owing to the terrible turn his father had taken during the war. At any rate, Albrecht's designated heir was his cousin, Freiherr Paul Waldbott von Bassenheim, son of his sister Maria Alice.
GWS, 6/04 [rev. 9/05]