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|Archduke Karl Stefan
|The photo that inspired the painting of the Archduke Karl Stefan|
|Archduke Karl Stefan Eugen Victor Felix Maria was born at Gross-Seelowitz, Moravia, on 5 September 1860. He married Maria Theresa von Toskana (born at Alt-Bunzlau, Bohemia on 18 September 1862) on 28 February 1886, and had three sons and three daughters by this union. Maria Theresa was the older sister of Archdukes Leopold Salvator and Franz Salvator.
Among his ranks, claims, and titles were Admiral of the Fleet of the Austrian Navy, Protector of the Academy of Sciences at Krakau, Knight of the Orders of the Golden Fleece, Saint Hubert, the Elephant, Saint Andrew of Russia, the Rue Crown of Saxony, Bailiff of the Grand Cross Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Karl Stefan was the brother of the Supreme Commander of the Armies, the Archduke Friedrich, and also of the Supreme Commander of the Southwestern Front, Archduke Eugen. Karl Stefan's daughter Archduchess Renée married Prince Heronymus Radziwill of Warsaw. His other daughter Eleanor married morganatically to Captain Alfonse von Kloss, who commanded Karl Stefan's private yacht--a bit of a scandal at the time, but one that the Archduke chose to enflame by embracing the couple with equal devotion. His last daughter, Mechthildis Maria, married Prince Olgierd Czartoryski. The three daughters of Archduke Karl Stefan are blamed for setting an as-yet unheardof precedent: Habsburgs marrying spouses well below their rank and class. Karl Stefan's son, Archduke Wilhelm, acquired his own fame in his devotion to the Ukrainian movement, which moved quite contrary to the Polish movement his father favoured.
According to less-than-reliable newspaper sources, by early December 1916, Archduke Karl Stefan was selected to be regent of Poland, a prerequisite to being crowned King of Poland at a later date. This action would have been accomplished by the State Council of the General Government in Warsaw, presided over by the Bavarian State Councilor Graf Lerchenfeld (acting as German Commissioner) and District Councilor Zychlinski (as his representative). As he owned a vast estate in Galicia, spoke fluent Polish, and made close friends with the Polish intelligentsia in Galicia, rumour had it that he was tapped for the throne of Poland well before the war began, sort of a "dark horse" held in the event of war between Austria and Russia. That his daughters were also united to the two greatest families of Poland, the Radziwills and Czartoryskis, did little to diminish his ever closer move to the throne of Poland. That both families urged the cause of Russia (as their ancestors had done in the 1700s to the doom of the Polish state) had little effect on the Archduke's ambitions.
Karl Stefan, at that time in charge of the Austrian Navy, had made evident his interest in this matter as early as 15 August 1916. From then, there was much speculation that Karl Stefan would be proclaimed by both the State Council and the two Emperors as candidate to be King and subsequently crowned at the Warsaw cathedral. However, this was not to be. The declaration of the independent Kingdom of Poland by the Quadruple Alliance was vague and poorly received by the Polish people, the Entente, and even the people of the Quadruple Alliance itself. By the end of the war, there was no point of pressing the issue further, and Karl Stefan chose retirement in his new homeland, the Polish Republic.
Archduke Karl Stefan died at Zywiec (Saybusch) in Galicia, Poland on 7 April 1933.
GWS, 10/01 [rev. 11/03]
|The Archduke Karl Stefan and some of his sons (left) along with his brother the Archduke Friedrich, Supreme Commander of the Austrian Armed Forces in 1917.|