Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The marriage of Archduke Karl of Austria and Baroness Francesca von Thyssen









For perhaps a decade or so,  Archduke Karl of Austria, the elder son of the late Archduke Otto, head of the Imperial Family, was determined to marry Camilla von Habsburg-Lothringen, a distant cousin.  According to the then house laws,  the marriage would not have been equal because Camilla was a mere Miss, a descendant of a morganatic branch of the Habsburg family.

Perhaps because of Karl's love for Camilla,  Archduke Otto decided to upgrade all of the morganatic descendants to the rank of Count or Countess.   Camilla became Countess Camilla von Habsburg-Lothringen, and, thus, eligible for an equal marriage with Karl.

The marriage never took place.

On January 31, 1993,  Archduke Karl married Baroness Francesca von Thyssen-Bornemisza at the Basilica at Mariazell, near Vienna.   Francesca, known as Chessie, is the daughter of the late Baron Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza and his third wife, Scots aristocrat Fiona Campbell-Walker.

The marriage did not receive family approbation.  None of Archduke Otto's four brothers attended the wedding citing illness or unable to attend. Nor did their children.    Forty-three members of the Habsburg family sent written complaints to Otto about the marriage as all considered Francesca to not be of equal rank.  The dissent may also have had something to do with her much married and very rich father  -- and Chessie's pre-marriage behavior as a "social powerhouse" in London.

In a 2000 interview with W Magazine, Francesca said: "In the wild days, I used to dress outrageously, because that's what everybody did in London, and one went dancing as much as one possibly could.  But I didn't feel comfortable about certain things that I did. I didn't really have a sense of purpose, and I didn't have a sense of who I was at all.  Now I think I've more or less found what I'm comfortable with."   She was raised as an Anglican, but "inspired" by her meetings with the Dalai Lama, Francesca converted to Roman Catholicism before she even met Karl.

They were introduced by a mutual friend.  At the time, Karl offered Francesca a ride from Salzburg to Croatia, where she planned to organize an art conservation conference.  Two years earlier, she had ARCH - Art Restoration for Cultural Heritage.  Archduke Karl was traveling to Croatia to see the war zones.  He was a member of the Pan-European movement, headed by his father.

The couple had three children: Archduchess Eleonore (1994), Archduke Ferdinand (1997) and Archduchess Gloria (1999) before separating after ten years of marriage.   The separation was amicable.

"The problem is that when you are married you judge each other," she says. "But when you are not living together you have no right to do that, and you get on much better," Francesca said in a 2006 interview in The Telegraph.

Three years later, in an interview with the Independent, she said: "For those who know, I'm still throwing great parties. I get really offended when people say I've grown up. I did marry into one of the most conservative families ever and to this day I have never done anything that has upset them and in 15 years of marriage that is pretty good going – apart from the fact that I live separately from my husband. What I have done is manage to have a family; I have three really great kids and have managed to integrate into my husband's life and I am very lucky in that respect."

"I am still that same person as I was in the Eighties. I haven't changed at all. Not one bit."

8 comments:

Jérôme J. said...


Is Camilla von Habsburg-Lothringen married ? Thank you.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

she has never married

Jérôme J. said...


Thank you Marlene.

www.maltagenealogy.com said...

From your knowledge, what is the opinion of the Imperial family of the Head of the House and his heir ? or do they nominate as heir, the Head of the house's brother, who has married within the strict code of marriage law ?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Karl is accepted as the head of the house. Otto changed the rules again .. the only requirement for an equal marriage now is that the bride be a Christian

www.maltagenealogy.com said...

Interesting and modern update. Thank you for your generous knowledge.

TheHabsburgMonarchy said...

There are many rumours about the House Rules, their changes and the family titles? Are they anywhere published?
best regards

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Otto changed the rules several times, but I do not think he released public statements as it was a family matter. The decision to upgrade the morganatic descendants to count and countess was sent to all the living members of the family. I suspect it is a decision made within the family - and done privately