Short Biography by Br. Nathan Cochran, O.S.B
Resting in the arms of his beloved wife, his breathing laboured, he prays: “My Jesus, Thy Will be done—Jesus.” With these words he takes his last breath, and gently meets his Lord and Savior. His lingering illness and suffering is over. The torment of betrayal and rejection is over.
It is shortly after noon, on Saturday, April 1, 1922. His name is Karl, a humble, mortal man facing the end of his life with dignity. To his fellow countrymen, he is His Majesty, Karl, Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary.
Childhood and Early Adulthood
On August 17, 1887, a son is born to Archduke Otto and Archduchess Maria Josefa in their family home in Persenbeug, Austria. He is named Karl Franz Josef Ludwig Hubert Georg Otto Maria. He is the couple’s firstborn, and he is greeted with joy and thanksgiving. The Imperial House of Austria rejoices in the birth of Emperor Franz Josef’s grandnephew, but the rest of the empire barely takes notice—as the newest archduke is far down the line of succession. It is not yet known that a series of tragedies and events will alter his destiny, and that of the empire.
Karl’s childhood is simple and wholesome. He is tutored and attends school at the Schottengymnasium in Vienna. He is taught the Catholic faith, and loves to practice it. He becomes known as a kind and compassionate child, who performs various chores and tasks in an effort to raise money to give to the poor and buy gifts for those around him. As he grows, it becomes apparent that he will follow in his father’s footsteps and become a military man. At the age of 16 Karl is commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Imperial Army. He is known as an intelligent and thoughtful young man, someone who is totally loyal and dependable. He is an inspiration to his fellow soldiers and works his way up the ranks, earning various promotions. He is consciously groomed for his future role in the empire, but it is thought that he will not succeed to the throne until after his uncle and father have both reigned—perhaps thirty or forty years in the future.
A Devout Husband and Father
In 1911, when Archduke Karl begins thinking of marriage, he remembers the younger sister of some of his childhood playmates. Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma is a young, beautiful, vivacious and religiously devout young woman, and Karl’s heart is set on marrying this exceptional woman. Because he is shy around women, he asks for assistance from his step-grandmother—who also happens to be Zita’s aunt—Archduchess Maria Theresa. She arranges a week long hunting party at her estate and invites both of the young people, giving the opportunity for them to meet, talk and get to know one another. Afterwards, Karl takes Zita to the Marian Shrine of Mariazell, where he proposes to her in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and places their engagement under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Their marriage is set for October 21, 1911 and on the eve before Karl tells his bride: “Now we must help each other get to Heaven.” Their union is blessed with eight children: Otto, Adelheid, Robert, Felix, Karl-Ludwig, Rudolf, Charlotte and Elizabeth. Their family and devotion to God are their first priorities, and they try to live a simple, quiet life, while Karl continues his military career.
A Christian Soldier and Catholic Monarch
On June 28, 1914, word is sent from Sarajevo that the Heir Apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is assassinated, making Karl the new Heir Apparent and changing his life forever. As a consequence of the assassination, war breaks out and quickly engulfs Europe. Karl is called to lead various military actions, and comports himself with valour and honour. He leads victorious efforts on the eastern and southern fronts, and is known for incorporating his moral convictions into his battle plans. In Italy, he commands his officers to avoid needless bloodshed, and: “. . . to ensure that the wounded are taken care of as quickly as possible and that the troops are always provided for as well as possible…I forbid the order to take no prisoners…I forbid most emphatically stealing and plundering and wanton destruction.” Every soldier in the 20th Corps must be filled with the conviction that we are the bearers of culture, even in the land of traitors.
For Karl, the culture he bears is Christianity, and in the face of being in a war he considers immoral, he insists that he and the army act morally.
In the midst of war, Karl is summoned to the side of a weary and elderly Emperor Franz Josef. On November 30, 1916, Karl is near the Emperor’s deathbed praying the rosary with Zita when he hears the words “Your Majesty” addressed to him for the first time. His first priority as Emperor is to bring peace and security back to Europe and his empire. He begins secret peace negotiations through his brother-in-laws, the Princes Sixtus and Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, who are in a position to smuggle letters from Karl to the Entente leaders in France and England. These negotiations occur from November 22, 1916 through February 20, 1917, when a new government in Paris puts a halt to the talks.
He begins a second series of attempts that last until the end of the war. In these negotiations, his Foreign Minister Count Czernin and the French Representative Count Armand, discuss terms in Switzerland. However, these talks come to nothing, and are damaged by the French revelation to the world press of the “Sixtus Affair.” The leak also hurt Karl’s reputation and ability to function as an intermediary in the effort to bring peace to the world.
Pope Benedict XV proposes a plan for peace as well, but only Emperor Karl accepts the Pontiff’s solutions—the other belligerents are intent on continuing the war for their own selfish advantages. With the advent of the United States in the war, President Wilson issues “Fourteen Points” necessary for the war’s conclusion. Karl accepts all of them, but by this time the Entente no longer recognises him as a legitimate ruler.
Although Karl’s attention is focused on peace throughout his reign, the Emperor still has to wage a war that is not of his making, and care for his suffering people. Upon his accession to the throne, he grants a general amnesty.
Militarily he prohibits the fighting of duels, and the practices of flogging and binding wrists to ankles. He despises and forbids the use of mustard gas on the enemy, and the employment of submarine warfare. He orders that soldiers, prisoners, and the wounded must be humanely treated, and creates a great books program for soldiers. Whenever possible he commutes death sentences— both military and civil.
Civilly, he organises soup kitchens, uses the palace’s horses and carriages to deliver coal to the Viennese, he fights against usury and corruption, and gives away his personal wealth— distributing alms beyond his means. He is the first world leader to establish a Ministry of Social Welfare, which is commissioned to deal with youth welfare, the war-disabled, widows, orphans, social insurance, labour rights and protection, job placement, unemployment relief and emigration protection and housing.
Spiritually, Emperor Karl shares in the same privations as his people, and orders the palace to observe food rationing and smaller portions. He invokes the name of God in all decrees and governmental acts, creates a Catholic press, and plans the building of more churches in Vienna to serve the growing needs of the faithful.
Exile, Restoration Attempts and Death
Despite working himself to exhaustion, the war continues to erode the empire until it collapses on November 11, 1918. The war is finally over, but so too is the concord of the Habsburg Empire. Karl is asked to abdicate, but he refuses, stating that his crown is a sacred trust from God, and he will never betray God, his subjects, or his dynastic inheritance. His ministers finally coerce him to withdraw from personal participation in government, and go into seclusion with his family at a family-hunting lodge in Eckartsau. However, the new, socialist government continues to deem Emperor Karl a threat because he has not abdicated; so they send him into exile in Switzerland.
In Switzerland the family lives a quiet, humble lifestyle for a time—until the Emperor hears from many of his subjects begging him to return to his Hungarian Kingdom and take the reins of power once more. Karl makes two attempts to regain his throne. During the first attempt, his regent, Admiral Horthy, persuades the Emperor that the time is not yet auspicious, and that he should return to Switzerland until all of the necessary preparations are made. When it becomes clear that Horthy has betrayed him, and plans to illegally retain power, Karl makes a second attempt, which has the support of the people who appeal to his coronation oath. Furthermore, a “White Terror” against Jews, union members and political opponents is taking place in Hungary. However, Horthy once again betrays his true monarch, arrests him and hands him over to the Entente as a prisoner. Zita accompanies him on the second attempt, and joins him on the long journey into final exile on the island of Madeira.
On Madeira, the Imperial Couple is penniless, without any means to support themselves. Their children, who are initially kept separated from them, do not join their parents for several months. Finally, the family is reunited on February 2, 1922, and the family takes comfort in each other’s presence.
Their joy is short-lived, when a few weeks later Karl becomes ill with pneumonia and influenza. Emperor Karl prays and suffers for several days, saying: “I must suffer like this so that my peoples can come together again.” When he realises he is dying, he calls his son, Archduke Otto, to his bedside to say goodbye and to show him “how a Catholic and Emperor conducts himself when dying.”
On April 1, 1922, he whispers to his wife, “I long so much to go home with you. Why won’t they let us go home?” She holds him in her arms for most of the morning, and he receives Holy Communion and the Sacrament of the Dying. The Eucharist is exposed in his bedroom, and Karl tries to hold a crucifix in his hands. Shortly after noon, he tries to kiss the crucifix and whispers: “Thy Holy Will be done. Jesus, Jesus, come! Yes—yes. My Jesus, Thy Will be done— Jesus.” He whispers “Jesus” a final time and expires. The Peace Emperor, husband, father, and man of faith, is dead at the age of 34.
Why an Austrian Emperor Should be Canonised: An American Perspective
“Are you a monarchist?”
“Why does an American care about an Austrian Emperor?”
“Is your family from Austria?”
In the course of promoting the cause for the canonisation of Emperor Karl, I frequently hear these questions, as well as many others. More often than not, an Austrian or some other national from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire makes the inquiry. And, more often than not, it is asked in disbelief-as though they cannot fathom what might be special about this man.
The questions may be innocent enough, but they demonstrate that Emperor Karl’s story has not been told often enough or far enough. In American history books-as well as many Austrian ones-Emperor Karl’s reign is frequently relegated to a footnote. His importance, however, is far greater than that acknowledged by historians-especially historians who may not be entirely without bias. I say this because if they were familiar with the story of the last Habsburg Emperor, they would realise that Karl’s life, character, honour, and fidelity have universal inspiration and appeal to everyone-regardless of politics, race or nationality.
The three questions mentioned above, therefore, are really irrelevant to the subject. The question that should be asked is: “why is Karl of Austria worthy of canonisation?” The answer to that is five-fold: because Blessed Karl was a man of faith, a Christian family man, a Catholic monarch, a resolute peacemaker; and a seeker of God’s Will.
A MAN OF FAITH
Karl became the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1916, during the First World War. During his brief reign, he continually worked to make peace between all of the belligerents. He was socially aware, creating many human services for the welfare of his people. In this regard, he was ahead of his fellow heads-of-state. By the time the fighting was over, the empire was collapsing, and Karl would soon be forced to withdraw from governing. He was then sent into exile in Switzerland. From there he made two attempts to regain his Hungarian crown, with the support of the Vatican, the French Prime Minister, and many loyalists in Hungary, however both attempts ended in vain. He was then sent to the island of Madeira, where he died within five months on April 1, 1922, at the age of 34.
From a young age and throughout his life, Karl of Austria demonstrated an awareness of God’s presence and Christian duty. As a child, he loved praying at daily mass with his mother, Archduchess Maria Josefa, and was known for his charitable acts. He knew all the prayers a typical Catholic youth would learn, and loved praying them, particularly the rosary. As a youth and later as an adult, he loved making pilgrimages to Marian shrines.
As a young child, he was concerned about the poor and needy, so he did odd jobs around his home in order to earn money to give to them. There are records from when he was 18 years old recording his alms giving, and even as Emperor he continued his private charitable giving. There is testimony from one of his aides who was in charge of distributing the Emperor’s alms from his personal household. The aide informed him there was no more money left, and Karl said: “The need is so great, find the money from somewhere else and distribute that.”
Blessed Karl loved to pray throughout his life. He received Holy Communion daily, and at the end of mass prayed “Veni Creator.” He prayed Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the rosary daily. He frequently prayed the Litanies of the Sacred Heart, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph; he was a member of Our Lady’s Confraternity and wore the scapular. Karl was devoted to adoring the Blessed Sacrament, and could happily spend hours in adoration. He was routinely found praying wherever he was, at home, in the office, and on the battlefield. He encouraged all of his soldiers to pray and frequently asked those around him to join him in prayer to begin a meeting or some action. Furthermore, the Emperor had a devotion to the angels, especially Saint Michael the Archangel, whom he made patron saint of the imperial army.
Karl of Austria was obedient to the Holy Father, acknowledging him to be the Vicar of Christ; and he treated bishops and priests with respect. He was known as a loyal, kind, generous and jovial comrade, who lived and practised his faith without artifice. From the testimony of those who knew him well, it is clear that Blessed Karl took his faith seriously and fostered his relationship with God, devoutly following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
A DEVOTED CHRISTIAN FAMILY MAN
As a young boy, Archduke Karl frequently met and played with the children of Duke Robert of Parma at their home in Schwarzau, which was near his boyhood home in Reichenau. When he began to look seriously for a wife he remembered the young Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, one of Duke Robert’s 24 children. Karl’s mother had originally tried to interest him in one of Zita’s older sisters, but his heart was set on Zita. After a short courtship, their engagement was announced on June 13, 1911, and they were married in the Bourbon-Parma family chapel at Schwarzau on October 21, 1911. Their union produced eight children: Otto, Adelheid, Robert, Felix, Karl Ludwig, Rudolph, Charlotte, and Elizabeth (who was born after Karl’s death).
Both Karl and Zita were devout Catholics, and from the very beginning they brought their faith to their relationship. Karl proposed to Zita in front of the Blessed Sacrament at the Marian Shrine of Mariazell. They made their wedding retreat with the famous Jesuit preacher, Fr. Karl Maria Andlau, and on the eve of their wedding, Karl told Zita: “Now we must help each other attain heaven.” His devotion to the Blessed Mother is apparent on his wedding band, where he had the following antiphon inscribed: “Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix” (We take refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God).
The wedding ceremony was conducted by Monsignor (later Cardinal) Bisleti, Papal Legate of Saint Pius X, who read a nuptial blessing prepared by the Pope, and presented them with a gift from the Pope as well. While on their honeymoon, they returned to Mariazell to place their union under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Karl and Zita had a loving relationship, and were each other’s soul mate. They were devoted to each other, supported each other, and had the same Christian values. Their children were brought into this loving environment, and each child was cherished as a gift from God. They were taught their prayers and catechism as soon as they could understand, and many of these religious lessons Karl taught the children himself. The family prayed together daily and First Friday devotions were observed. When Otto, the oldest child, made his first Holy Communion, Blessed Karl consecrated his family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Likewise, the first Holy Communions of all their children were important family events that were celebrated with special joy.
As a father, Karl was loving, devoted, and caring. In the midst of some of his greatest trials-war, rejection, poverty and exile-his children brought him his greatest joy and comfort. His only consolation in losing his throne was the fact that he could spend more time with his wife and family. This time of being together-whether all in one room reading, playing and praying together, or outdoors walking and hiking together, or doing other activities such as hunting, boating and fishing-was a great treasure for him. As he lay dying, he prayed for all of the children by name, and one of his frequent prayers was: “Look after my little ones. Let them die rather than commit a mortal sin- keep them in body and soul.”
A CATHOLIC MONARCH
The Habsburg monarchy had a long relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. As the political descendant of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg monarchy had dual responsibilities for its subjects’ spiritual and temporal welfare. In this context, the Austro- Hungarian monarch was head of both the State and Church; however, it must be noted that although the Habsburg emperors were Apostolic Majesties mandated to spread the Catholic faith and foster the Church’s welfare, they were also tolerant of non-Catholic faiths found in their empire. Jews, Muslims, and Protestants were protected by the crown, and permitted to observe their faiths in peace. Karl was perfectly suited for this role, and is an excellent model of a head-of-state who diligently works for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his people.
In order to reign constitutionally in the Hungarian half of the dual monarchy a coronation was required. Since the First World War was raging and speed was necessary, the coronation in Budapest was pushed forward earlier than usual, but nevertheless it was celebrated with great solemnity. Karl and Zita spiritually prepared for the event, which was a moving experience for both of them, and nourished their souls. They were anointed and crowned as Apostolic Majesties by the Hungarian Cardinal Primate. After receiving Holy Communion, they were given the commission to uphold the Hungarian constitution and the welfare of the Roman Catholic Church.
Karl took both of his mandates seriously. He strove to make the correct ethical and moral decisions, even when overlooking some of his duties might have been easier for him, and perhaps may have even allowed him to maintain his throne. Every decision, act, order and law was made with ethical and moral deliberation, using the criteria of whether what was being proposed fostered both the temporal and spiritual welfare of the people. For him, these two functions could not be separated, as they were mandates given to him by God, through the auspices of the Church-hence a sacred trust.
He upheld this sacred trust in all that he did. At home, Emperor Karl established a Ministry of Social Welfare-the first of its sort in the world. Its mission was to deal with such social issues as youth welfare, war disabled, widows and orphans, social insurance, labor rights and job protection, job placement, unemployment relief, and emigration protection and housing. He commuted death sentences whenever he could, and constantly urged his Hungarian ministers to enact universal suffrage in Hungary (unfortunately, his ministers resisted his instructions and suffrage was not legislated during Karl’s reign). Karl ordered rationing to be instituted at the palace, just as it was throughout the rest of Vienna. He organized soup kitchens, used the palace’s horses and wagons to deliver coal to the Viennese, fought against usury and corruption, and gave away most of his private wealth by distributing alms beyond his means. He went among his people, suffered with them, and comforted them with his presence and words. His subjects called him “The People’s Emperor,” a title he cherished more than his noble and royal titles.
On the warfront, Emperor Karl halted strategic bombing of civilian populations and buildings, restricted the use of mustard gas, and was adamantly opposed to submarine warfare and the mining of harbors. He abolished the military punishment of binding wrists to ankles, prohibited duels, and forbade flogging. He decreed an amnesty for anyone sentenced by military or civilian courts on charges of high treason, insults to the Royal Family, disturbance of the public peace, rebellion or agitation. At risk to his own life, he visited the soldiers on the frontlines and in the hospitals, giving all of the moral support he could, and observing the fighting firsthand. As Supreme Commander, Karl would not send his men anywhere that he himself would be afraid to go. His trait of showing up unexpectedly at anytime, anywhere, caused his soldiers to affectionately nicknamed him: “Karl-the-Sudden.” His presence inspired courage and valor.
Morally, the Emperor was concerned for the spiritual welfare of his people. He had plans to build many churches throughout Vienna to make access to churches easily available to all Viennese. He also insisted that the name of God be cited in all laws and acts of his government, because laws should be motivated by the love of God and one’s fellow man. He enacted laws to protect readers from obscene reading material, started a movement to provide soldiers with good books, and fostered the printing of Catholic reading materials by implementing the formation of a Catholic printing press. Although he incorporated many laws and movements to raise the morality of his people, he primarily led them by the example of his life. A life dedicated to God, family, and homeland.
At the end of the war, revolution was beginning to spread throughout the empire. In Vienna, members of his government approached him requesting that he abdicate. He resolutely refused, stating: “My crown is a sacred trust given to me by God. I can never forsake that trust or my people.” With the empire literally falling apart, and the Austrian government in chaos, he was finally coerced into signing a renunciation document in which he temporarily removed himself from governing until the people could decide on what form of government they desired. It was not an abdication-he would keep his sacred trust, even if it meant exile and poverty.
Emperor Karl went into seclusion at Eckartsau, a family hunting estate outside of Vienna and from where he would later be sent into Swiss exile. While he was in exile, he was approached several times by unscrupulous people and groups offering to return him to his throne. They, of course, had ulterior and selfish motives for making their offers. He refused them saying: “As a Catholic monarch, I will never make a deal with the devil-even for the return of my throne.” Because of his continual refusal to abdicate, he was sent into exile in Switzerland.
He spent a couple of quiet years with his family in Switzerland, but requests from Hungary continually begged him to return. Hungary was still a monarchy at this time and Karl was the rightful monarch. He staged two attempts to reclaim his throne from his regent, Admiral Horthy. The first time, Admiral Horthy convinced him that it was not yet time to restore Karl to the vacant throne, and that more preparations had to be made. However, back in Switzerland, Karl continued to receive requests for him to return, along with reports that convinced him that Horthy had betrayed him, and had no intention of returning the throne. He attempted a second restoration bid, which had the support of the French government and the Vatican, but this time, Admiral Horthy lied to university students in Budapest, armed them, and sent them against their rightful king. Thinking the King was held captive by Slovak forces, the students created a standoff with the army, which was loyal to Karl. When he saw that there would be bloodshed in his name, instead of pressing on to the capital with his loyal troops, the Emperor-King surrendered saying: “The return of my crown is not worth the spilling of innocent Hungarian blood.”
Emperor Karl was taken prisoner, and then sent into exile on Madeira island, where he soon became fatally ill. Towards the end of his illness, he called his eldest child, Crown Prince Otto, to his side. He wanted his son and heir to witness the faith, with which he approached death, saying: “I want him to see how a Catholic and an Emperor dies.” This too clearly shows how Karl perceived his spiritual and temporal mandates to be irrevocably intertwined.
Like a loving father and good monarch, Karl’s prayers during the final days of his life were for the people of his former empire. He forgave his enemies, and those who betrayed and exiled him. His most fervent desire was to return to his homeland. He prayed for his homeland, saying: “I must suffer like this so that my peoples can come together again.”
A RESOLUTE PEACEMAKER
From the very beginning of his reign, Karl worked to create peace for his empire. He had been against the declaration of war, and now he was in a position to put an end to the needless killing and fighting. In his accession speech he proclaimed: “I will do all within my power to banish the horrors and sacrifices of war at the earliest possible date and to win back for my peoples the sorely missed blessings of peace . . .”
Emperor Karl’s deepest desire was to end the killing and suffering brought on by the First World War. As an archduke and military man, he saw first hand the killing and mutilations created on the battlefields of the various fronts. As Emperor, he saw the suffering and starving of his people during his visits to various cities, towns, and villages throughout his empire. As hereditary monarch, he foresaw the impending doom for his dynasty from numerous revolutionaries.
Karl tried to enter into secret negotiations with the Entente Powers. His brotherin- laws, Prince Sixtus of Bourbon-Parma and Prince Xavier of Bourbon-Parma, who were serving in the military on the Entente side, acted as intermediaries between the Emperor and the French and English leaders. The princes were secretly smuggled into Austria, so they could discuss with Emperor Karl possible solutions to the war. As a result of their discussions, the Emperor wrote a confidential lettered addressed to Prince Sixtus, which could be shown to the Entente Powers to indicate Karl’s good faith to negotiate a peace, and willingness to help lead his German ally to the peace table. He ended the letter stating: “Hoping that in this way we shall soon be able, on both sides, to put an end to the suffering of so many millions of men and of so many families that live in sorrow and anxiety.”
Because the success of this attempt relied totally on its confidentiality, a great scandal occurred when a dispute between the Austrian Foreign Minister Count Ottokar Czernin and the new French leadership occurred. The contents of the letter were reveled, and during the subsequent accusations and denials by the various ministers, Karl’s influence on his allies was compromised and his standing with the Entente as a realistic instrument for peace was ruined. The peace initiative collapsed, the war was prolonged, and some of the bloodiest days of fighting occurred, resulting in the loss of over two million more lives.
Although the “Sixtus Affair” ended peace negotiations through his brother-in-law, Emperor Karl did not stop his pursuit of peace. He made it clear that his sole intention was to end the war as quickly as possible, and because he was not one of the original belligerents he was the ideal person to bring the war to an end. During the second half of his reign, he ordered negotiations to continue. This time the talks were in Switzerland, and between Count Czernin for Austria-Hungary and Count Armand for the French. The talks continued to almost the very end of the war, but the discussions unfortunately came to nothing.
Another avenue of peace that Karl supported was Pope Benedict XV’s peace proposal. Karl accepted the proposal unconditionally. Responding in a letter dated August 1, 1917, he wrote to the Pope that from the earliest days of his reign he sought peace. He continued:
. . . we expressed the hope for Austria-Hungary to find a peace that will free the future lives of people from rancor and revenge, so as to protect generations to come from the use of arms. In the meantime, our government has not stopped repeating our continual call for peace-a call heard by the entire world-expressing the desire and agreement of the people of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy to put an end to the bloodshed according to the peace plan that Your Holiness has before you.
However, the other belligerents flatly rejected it because the plan basically reestablished pre-war borders. The other combatants wanted the war to continue for their own selfish purposes. The Italians wanted the war to continue because the Entente promised them any Austrian territory they occupied at war’s end-and the Italians did not occupy any promised territory. The French wanted the war to continue so that they would be winning at war’s end and able to punish Germany, and take Alsace-Lorraine from them. The English also wanted to be in a dominant position at the conclusion of the war in order to better negotiate terms. Finally, because the Germans were winning the war at the time, they wanted it to continue so they could expand their territory even farther.
When the United States of America entered the war, the tide began to turn against the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. When President Woodrow Wilson proposed his famous Fourteen Points, Emperor Karl accepted all the points unconditionally. The war might have ended then, but France and the United States surprisingly recognized a group of Bohemian refugees in Paris as a legitimate Czechoslovakian government in exile, rather than accepting Karl’s compliance to Wilson’s demands. The other ethnic groups and nationalities in the empire saw their chance at independence and began declaring their separation from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. France and the United States encouraged them, and it soon became clear that the Empire was being dismantled from within and without-with nothing Karl could do to halt the process.
It is uncontestable that Karl tried everything in his power to bring peace to his empire and to Europe. Even writers from his enemy combatants recognized this trait. The French novelist and satirist, Anatole France, wrote:
Emperor Karl is the only decent man to come out of the war in a leadership position, yet he was a saint and no one listened to him. He sincerely wanted peace, and therefore was despised by the whole world. It was a wonderful chance that was lost.
Herbert Vivian, an English writer, wrote later in life about his meeting with the Emperor: