Wife and Mother


       Raising the Children

       The Servant of God, despite difficult circumstances, made the education of her children her priority for as long as it was necessary, from 1922 to the end of the Second World War.  In spite of successive exiles, and in spite of destitution and uncertainty concerning financial resources (since she was at the mercy of the generosity of some of her former subjects, such as Marquis Pallavicini), she still managed to raise her children and provide them with a solid education.

       She was assisted admirably by the Countess Therese von Korf-Schmising-Kersenbrock: “I am leaving Karl-Ludwig with his mother, she told me. It is good for them to be together. They all love their mother so much. Mother is a marvelous woman who has raised them so well, with the Countess von Kersenbrock. The latter had a remarkable personality. She was truly a gift from Heaven to the Empress to replace Emperor Karl for the children.” Her children’s academic achievements are quite impressive: doctorates in political science for Otto, Adelheid and Robert, a law degree for Felix, a doctorate in law and social and economic science for Karl-Ludwig, a doctorate in social and economic science for Rudolf, a degree in economics and social science for Charlotte and a degree in political science for Elizabeth. “These academic achievements illustrate the most important interests of the family. Politics, economics or sociology, it is always a question of the common good of the city.”

       At this point, it is useful to note that the Empress wished to hand down to her children the spiritual legacy and values of her beloved spouse. She had to, in a sense, take on the role of their father as well as be their mother. This explains the great strictness that she applied to the education she provided, particularly for the older ones and especially for the titular emperor, her son Otto. In time, the Empress softened. All the children are grateful to the Countess for having been a second mother. An anecdote is enlightening on this subject. One day in Spain, at Lekeitio, while her children were swimming, her son Rudolf nearly drowned. At seeing his mother’s deep fear of losing her son, he realized the extent of her love, despite a certain reserve in her expression of feelings. “If you had died, I would not have had enough tears in my body to mourn your loss.” All her children were grateful to her for having trained them to work together, as a team. “I once told Archduchess Yolande about the admiration I felt towards their familial affection and unity: ‘yes, it is true, she answered, they are an admirable family and they owe this to their Mother.’”

       Short interview with Archduke Rudolf, on the education received from his mother:


       A Doting Grandmother

       With her grandchildren, she was an ever-present grandmother. Freed from the daily worry that parents have for their children’s education, a grandparent can reveal without so much restraint the kindness of her heart, and impress upon the soul and mind of the children the boundaries that frame the growth of a young individual. “She was still young at heart and loved young people. She was always easy to approach by all, and always gracious.” Her grandchildren testified that she was very present during their visits. When she visited her son Archduke Rudolf, she would usually stay there for several weeks at a time. She was involved in the life of her grandchildren, taking part in their games, walking them to and from school. She was truly accessible.

       One of the Empress’ granddaughters fondly remembers the loving presence of her grandmother during one of her childhood illnesses. As she woke up between two bouts of fever, she saw her grandmother at her side, deep in prayer.
       Out of her heartfelt compassion, she regularly inquired after the poor and the sick, always offering them up in her prayers, especially when her health would allow her to do nothing else.
       But earlier, while she was still healthy, she was not satisfied being just a consoling presence, she held the members of her family together who were tried by hardships, such as her son Archduke Rudolf, who almost died in Belgium in a car accident that took his wife Archduchess Xenia in 1968. And later, when she became a pillar of strength to her family as they faced devastating heartache with the death of Archduke Johannes, who was hit by a bus while riding his bike on the way to buy a birthday gift for his brother in 1975!