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Uncrowned Emperor: The Life and Times of Otto von Habsburg Paperback – April 10, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Book Description

Otto von Habsburg became the head of the House of Habsburg at nine years old in 1922, on the death in Madeira of his father, the Emperor Karl, four years after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Now ninety, Otto's life has been an extraordinary and fascinating one. As pretender to the throne of Central Europe, Otto was naturally an important figure in European politics. Strongly opposing Hitler, he spent World War II in America, where he developed a close friendship with F.D.R. and championed the causes of Austria and Hungary. Renouncing his claims, he later became a member of European Parliament and a strong advocate for a unified Europe.
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About the Author

Gordon Brook-Shepherd, now deceased, was the author of many books on Austrian history, including The Anschluss and Dollfuss. His distinguished career as a journalist included being deputy editor of the Sunday Telegraph.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (April 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852855495
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852855499
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,386,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Brook-Shepherd's latest Habsburg effort is all him, colorful phrases and all. A large portion of the book actually summarizes much of the happenings in his previous works, THE LAST EMPRESS and THE LAST HABSBURG, though he manages (no doubt somewhat through new interviews with Otto as well as material he may have held back) enough new anecdotes to keep that material fresh for returning readers. He does tend as in his other works to interpret the words and behaviors of Habsburg "enemies" in an extremely unflattering light, whether these were overt and obvious or not. The relatively smaller amount of space devoted to them here ends up sharpening the somewhat villainous characterizations. This once again betrays bias on behalf of the Habsburg family, that B-S himself finally admits to here, at least. I am speaking mainly of Admiral Horthy and Kurt Schuschnigg, who at crucial junctures in post WW I Hungarian and Austrian history, did not step aside in the face of de facto restoration attempts by Otto's father and himself, respectively. Objective histories of these interwar countries, as well as Kurt Schuschnigg's THE BRUTAL TAKEOVER and Horthy's MEMOIRS ("ERINNERUNGEN") would give the reader, at a minimum, a more balanced picture of the difficulties and (sometimes conflicting) motivations faced by these men.
The last part of the book deals with Otto's Pan-Europeanism as well as the ups and downs of his family life and his children's personal and political fortunes. Combined with his efforts earlier, it makes an interesting and convincing case that Otto genuinely is and always was concerned with Europe's well-being in general, and that of his father's former subjects in particular, with recovering the Habsburg crowns a secondary concern.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine biography of a man who, but for a World War, might have been an Emperor and King. Otto von Hapsburg, born in 1912,was the son of the last Emperor of Austria-Hungary. His parents were overthrown in late 1918 and young Otto, whose own memories of his childhood are astonishingly vivid, began a life of exile.
Otto had every right to be bitter over the hand fate dealt him, but we see very little of such an emotion in his life. Instead, we see a man whose dedication to Austria and Hungary (and later to all of Europe) never wavered. He stood by his homelands and was their most fervent advocate even in the dark days of World War II and the Cold War. He was ambitious yet honorable, as we see repeatedly when he refused to have anything to do with Hitler, for example.
Otto's most important contributions came towards the end of his life, when he became one of the first members of the European Parliament. For twenty years he was a steadfast advocate of greater European unity, but within a setting in which tradition, custom, and above all established religion were not ignored. He was also a devoted family man, marrying rather late in life and fathering a large brood of children.
So although Otto von Hapsburg did not achieve the status he was born to, he nevertheless made a positive contribution to the world, something his ancestors, many of whom held more power but had far less stature, would certainly be proud of.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've long had a fascination with Austria and its former rulers. I found the book extremely well-written. Biographies often run a bit dry, but this one definitely keeps one's interest without really trying. I feel like it's a combination of the subject and the writing that makes for excellent fare. Although Brook-Shepherd obviously adored the would-be emperor, it seems like he did everything he could to stay true to facts (despite several pointed out by other readers). There is at least one skeleton that he chose to ignore though, such as Otto's association with fascist dictator Francisco Franco. While there is a picture included, there is no mention of Franco in the book. That said, I highly recommend this book. It's a wonderful scope into the 20th century from a rather narrow view-point. It felt like I lived through 100 years through the eyes of someone who was so intricately a part (and yet not) of so much of what happened. Honestly, I believe that the book would have benefited from being lengthier so as to go into things that perhaps don't show Dr. Habsburg quite so perfectly. He was, after all, human, and therefore made the same mistakes as anyone. I would really like to know more about this extraordinary man at this point.
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Format: Hardcover
In his introduction, Gordon Brook-Shepherd boasts that an Austrian critic once claimed that Brook-Shepherd "knew more about Austria and the Austrians than any living Englishman." After reading "Uncrowned Emperor," I find that claim to be *very* dubious. This book is absolutely riddled with factual errors, both concerning Austria and other European countries.

Among the most glaring . . .
p. 24: Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914, not June 26, 1914. Although the difference is slight, this date is known to almost every schoolboy in Austria.
p. 31: Empress Zita's brother Sixtus fought for the Belgians in World War I, not the French. This is significant because of Sixtus's efforts to mediate a peace settlement with Austria.
p. 33: During the course of fighting in World War I, German troops had no "final retreat--back to the homeland." They withdrew in an orderly fashion after the armistice was signed. On November 11, 1918, German troops, though weakened, were still on French soil.
p. 80: During the Weimar Republic, there was no such thing as a "Democratic Conservative Party." The Democratic Party was not conservative, and the conservative party (DNVP) was not democratic.

Brook-Shepherd also has problems with first names.
-- Thomas (or Tomas) Masaryk, not Jan Masaryk, was the founder and first president of Czechoslovakia. This error is notable both because it is repeated several times and because Thomas (or Tomas) Masaryk was largely responsible for the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire. Jan Masaryk was Czechoslovak foreign minister after 1945.
-- The regent of the Kingdom of Hungary was Miklos Horthy, not Niklos Horthy.
-- The former chancellor of Germany is Helmut Kohl, not Helmuth Kohl.
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