Blessed Charles of Austria
Publisher: TAN Books
Publication Date: August 27, 2020
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A Holy Emperor and His Legacy
October 3, 2004 saw what appeared to many to be a very strange thing: Emperor-King Charles of Austria-Hungary, last Habsburg to rule in Central Europe and wartime foe of the United States, was raised to the altars of the Church as a Blessed by St. John Paul II. But odd as this appeared, the real story of the “Peace Emperor” and his just as remarkable wife reads like a combination of a suspense thriller, Greek tragedy, and hagiography. The inheritor of a tradition of Catholic monarchy dating back to the Roman Empire, Bl. Charles struggled to update it sufficiently to survive in the modern world. A brave soldier coming to the throne during a war whose start he had no part in, he risked everything to bring the bloody conflict to an end. Betrayed on all sides by allies, enemies, and subjects, his deep devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacred Heart, and the Virgin Mary helped him to avoid hating those who wronged him. Devoted to his wife and children, Charles succeeded, with the help of his loving Empress, in leading a good Catholic family life despite everything. In a life filled with signs and miracles before and after his death, Bl. Charles managed to combine a life of deep piety with intense practicality. After his death, his wife and children continued his work—her cause for beatification is now being considered.
In these pages, prolific Catholic author Charles Coulombe brings to bear his vast erudition, affection for Catholic monarchy, and assorted contacts close to the Hapsburg family, through his residence in Austria in the production of a biography of a man whose thrilling and event-filled life story deserves to be better known.
From his life, we can learn that it is not necessarily the results of the achievements that count, but the will to try to do what is right. And if the rewards don’t come immediately, there is no need to despair, they might come later in heavenly blessings.
--From the Foreword by Archduke Karl von Habsburg
In Blessed Charles of Austria: A Holy Emperor and His Legacy, Charles Coulombe nestles the life of this recent ruler within a vast tapestry spanning centuries. He begins by tracing the idea of empire, the ideals of the Catholic monarchy, and how the Habsburg and Bourbon families developed and intertwined. Within, Emperor Charles himself comes alive as Coulombe melds his political history, his loving marriage with Princess Zita, and his deep Catholic faith into a fast-moving thriller. Looking forward, Coulombe concludes by considering the ongoing mission of the Habsburg family, movements to reunite the peoples of the former empire, and the emperor's Cause for Canonization. I welcome this book which is sure to deepen interest in and devotion to Blessed Charles, one of the most misunderstood and neglected, yet truly great figures of history.
Delegate of the Emperor Karl League of Prayer in the United States
Charles A. Coulombe is one of North America’s most respected and sought-after commentators on culture, religion, history, and politics. A specialist in the history and government of the Catholic Church, Coulombe’s influence and expertise extend far beyond matters religious. He has written on topics ranging from the history of rum to haunted houses to a history of the United States.
Mr. Coulombe is a social and political commentator of note. In 2005 he provided narration and commentary for ABC News during the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the subsequent election and installation of Pope Benedict XVI. A former journalist, Mr. Coulombe served as a film reviewer and Contributing Editor of the National Catholic Register, during which time he received the Christian Law Institute's Christ King Journalism Award. Coulombe's work has appeared in over than 20 journals, including regular columns in Fidelity (Australia), PRAG (London), Monarchy Canada, and Creole Magazine (Louisiana). He has also been a frequent contributor to such publications as Success, Catholic Twin Circle, Gnosis, FATE, and the New Oxford Review.
As an informed and passionate speaker on a wide variety of religious, social, political, historical, and literary topics, Mr. Coulombe has appeared on lecture circuits throughout the North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1992 he lectured at Oxford University and the following year embarked on a lecture tour of Ireland and Great Britain, returning to Oxford and Cambridge in 1995. Coulombe has also delivered lectures at the University of Southern California on the history of Rock & Roll and at Cleveland's John Carroll University on the history of medieval monarchy. In February 2011, he was invited to take part in a debate on the abolition of the monarchy before the prestigious Oxford Union.
This book was refreshing to read and a page turner, unlike some of the more dense history/biographical books. Its subject matter is important, due to the nature of the times when many are forgetting their Catholic identity and need to look to history for examples of true leadership, where leaders sought to advance both spiritual and temporal needs.
I particularly enjoyed the background section of events before Blessed Charles' ordination; it set the stage for understanding Catholic Europe during a period of history that is often forgotten, as well as understanding the many heartbreaks experienced by Franz Joseph, which helps the reader sympathize with the character. The details of Franz Ferdinand's assassination, and what it meant for Austria-Hungary, will also be of interest to Catholics looking to learn more about that era.
All in all, the book is not just a biography of Blessed Charles, but also is a brief summary of the rise and fall of the Holy Roman Empire; a call to show what was lost and could have been, and a calling to Catholics and leaders to follow Blessed Charles' example to renew their Catholic faith in all aspects of life.
Charles Coulombe's writing, like a fine wine or stinky cheese, improves with age. This volume is the proof. The life of Blessed Charles, although short, was extraordinary. Coulombe's presentation of this man's life work of faith. family, and sacrifice is a solid testament and honest delivery of the simple but profound moments that will live on for those interested in the subjects of the last reigning Hapsburgs, old Europe, monarchy, and World War I. As a young Catholic man with a young family there are of course many Saints to look to. But, for some reason, Blessed Charles' life speaks more to me in my state of life than nearly all others. We have a tough job. Keep the faith, raise the family, restore the culture. Other than seeking Blessed Charles' intercession for that, the single best thing you could do in my humble opinion, is to buy this book. And buy it from Tumblar House right now.
I take off one star for some typos and a few awkward sentences and incomplete or undeveloped thoughts. An example of this last: page 74: “But there was nothing of the annoying prig about him [Charles as a child], hence the near-drowning at Persenbeug.” There is no explanation of the relationship between Charles’ lack of annoying priggishness and his near-drowning at Persenbeug. The author clearly knows what it is, but he forgot to share it with his readers.
However, these are minor issues. Overall, Mr. Coulombe does a very good job of laying out the history and traditions that ultimately brought forth Bl. Charles, of setting his life within the context of that history, and within the context of his Catholic faith. In our utilitarian age, when many dismiss as mere pointless and unnecessary pageantry the rituals and liturgies of kingship, Mr. Coulombe demonstrates how meaningful and necessary they in fact are, how they formed Bl. Charles, and how seriously Bl. Charles took them as his pledge of faithfulness as Emperor.
Most of all, this book has touched my beady-black heart. St. Therese of Lisieux, recounting the dream that made real to her the Communion of Saints, said that those in heaven love us and look after us as their own children, even when we never pray to them, even when we do not know who they are. I feel that through this book, Bl. Charles has reached out to me, introducing himself to me and offering to help me as I work out my salvation in fear and trembling. Probably he has been helping me all my life without my knowing it.
As I read the account of Bl. Charles’ prayers for divine aid in ruling, his sacrifices for his subjects, his strivings on their behalf, and his attempts to regain his throne, not because he was hungry for power but in fulfillment of his kingly oaths, I pondered the question why God seemed to allow his prayers and his efforts to be so often thwarted. Perhaps the answer is that the failures were God’s judgment, not on Bl. Charles, whom He ultimately rescued from this vale of tears, but on his ungrateful and undeserving subjects, and on a world that had given itself over to godlessness. What a terrible thing to have God leave us to our own devices. Through the intercession of Bl. Charles, may He soon rescue us from the troubles we have created for ourselves.
Great book, informative and enjoyable read (except for the heartbreaking betrayals of Blessed Charles). Reading this I feel like I've gotten to know Blessed Charles, a great example and saint for me as a father and for my family. This book is also an enlightening historical work, introducing this American to a part of WWI history I hadn't known. Thank you.
I have read several of Mr. Coulombe's books previously and this one just may be my favorite. It is part a historical work, a biography, a suspense novel and a illustration of what it means to be a Catholic. The author weaved together a myriad of historical figures and events to place the proper context to understand Blessed Charles and how he lived up to his "state in life." The book more than anything else, was an illustration of how one can practice the Catholic faith in varying circumstances and be a role model for others to follow. I heartily recommend this book.
Marvelously written book about my favourite Saint by someone who really knows how to connect the historical, cultural and religious dots in this epic drama of a biography. I especially like how well structured it is, in three parts: 1) The Inheritance, where the reader learns all the prerequisites for this story, 2) the Imperial Lives in Tandem, which tells the dramatic story of one (or two?) Saints' lives amidst the total collapse of everything Good, True and Beautiful on the Old Continent, and 3) The Legacy, how all this impacts today's world and our everyday lives.
Having already read a bit about Blessed Charles, and admiring his life story, I looked forward to reading Charles Coulombe's new work. I was not disappointed. Mr. Coulombe writes in a style that holds the attention. Alas, there were a few typos, which passed the attention of the editor. The details of Bl. Charles' life are set in the context of political and military machinations, betrayal and indifference. Yet, it comes clear that a strong faith, love of God, and a sense of honor sustained him in his many trials. This can be a lesson for us as we try to survive in the midst of a confusing and angry world.
I would highly recommend this inspiring work.
This book is essential reading for the young Catholic man. Its subject, Blessed Charles of Austria, sets an example of leadership and piety that orients the reader to the true north of Jesus Christ, something that is desperately needed in an age where leaders such as Kaiser Karl are exceedingly rare, and faith in our public institutions is eroding due to their ineptitude. Charles Coulombe's book is a brisk read that details not only the life of the its subject, but also reaches into the notions of empire, the background of House Habsburg, the work of his wife and children after his death, and the League of Prayer, which carries the torch for Kaiser Karl's legacy. Now is the best time to study a great and holy leader, to find example for men to follow, at work, at home, and in their faith.
This book is a highly readable account of the life and importance of Blessed Charles of Austria. Not only readable, but informative and the best book available on Emperor Charles. The book is not only a page turner but also, in many ways, a spiritual book with the chapters beginning with liturgical texts and prayers. It is also an exciting historical book for the young and old showing true love, honor, courage, betrayals and perseverance. Read this book, learn more about this kingly and noble man and begin to ask him to pray for you and for our country!
I buy books, read them several at time slowly. I went through Blessed Karl of Austria in 3 days. It is packed with facts, history and yet reads like a novel. Holy Emperor used to walk the earth barely 100 years ago and Mr Coulombe makes a case for his sanctity proving his exceptional qualities as a monarch, soldier, husband, father. Must read!