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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Very engaging read. The Royal couple knew that in order to do right by their subjects, they had to submit to in word in practice to the Divine and Sovereign King, by making decisions that would aid all in making it one day to Heaven.
Very informative; always interesting to see how well known figures had interaction with each other.
I pray more leaders today would pray to him for his intercession.
The book is simply superb; I couldn't put it down. Rich in historical and hagiographical information, I recommend this book most of all to anyone who feels lost in the storms which seem to wrack our society with the chaos of evil, greed, violence, madness, perversion, and unbelief. Blessed Karl is shown here, along with his wife, to have been a man of virtue to the very end, trusting always in the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the world fell to pieces around him, and loving his neighbor even when surrounded by traitors, repaying evil with kindness again and again in a spirit of nobility, honor, and unflagging piety even in the worst of situations imaginable.
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.
Those who follow Mr. Coulombe's weekly YouTube show w Vincent or have read his articles know that he is an avowed monarchist. He puts that zeal to work here to good effect. In a twist of fate, as democracy is failing in the West Mr. Coulombe chronicles the end of monarchy and birth of democracy. It may have seemed a fanciful affectation a few years ago but he may well live to see monarchy rise once again. If it is to be let us hope the monarchs that emerge are as decent and devout as Blessed Charles of Austria. Buy and read this book for a glimpse into the past...and perhaps the future.
I never knew anything about Bl. Charles before reading this book, and now I see that he is a great example for leaders of the world today
After listening to monarchy commentary by Mr. Coulombe I reread the book and got much more out of it the second go round. I am now praying to Bl Charles for my sons and Empress Zita my daughter. Thank you for introducing me to these amazing souls.
Mr. Coulombe has given me in this well researched work an insight into the world of Charles I of Austria and how he managed to bring his Catholic faith into his leadership. I pray the last emperor of Austria-Hungary reaches full canonization someday. The book also gives a better understanding about the Holy Roman Empire and Catholic monarchy.
The author Charles Coulombe does an excellent job presenting history in an easy to read, entertaining style. The fast-paced saga reads like a great work of fiction, yet details with great accuracy the tragic "Long slow defeat" of Christendom in the 20th century. The history of monarchy, the idea of the empire, and the story of Christendom is given in surprising detail. The author goes to some lengths debunking various myths surrounding the Empire and the Family who ruled it. Ultimately though, this is the biography of Blessed Karl von Habsburg, a man who was at once an heroic Emperor, a loving Father, and a great Saint. It is a must read for anyone interested in the Holy Roman Empire, Blessed Karl, or Catholic history and culture in general.