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palmed off

Archduke Eugen of Austria

Archduke Eugen Ferdinand Pius Bernhard Felix Maria of Austria-Teschen (May 21 1863December 30 1954) was an Archduke of Austria and a Prince of Hungary and Bohemia. He was the last Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights from the Habsburg dynasty.

Early life

Eugen was the son of Karl Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria (son of Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen) and of his wife Archduchess Elisabeth Franziska of Austria. He was born at the castle of Gross Seelowitz (Židlochovice), near Brünn (Brno) in Moravia. At his baptism he was given the names Eugen Ferdinand Pius Bernhard Felix Maria. His education was Spartan in character. His country living at Gross Seelowitz and holidays at Gmund alternated with a sound education and strict instruction.

At the Albrechtspalais in Vienna, Eugen received instruction in all the military subjects in addition to languages, music and the history of art. At the age of 14 in keeping with the family tradition and like his elder brother, he also began his military career with the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger Regiment and was commissioned as a Leutnant on the 27 October 1877. Shortly thereafter he was transferred as an Oberleutnant to a hussar regiment and in the following years participated in many lengthy manoeuvres.

In 1882 Eugen took an examination before a commission assembled by Archduke Albrecht that verified his suitability to attend the military academy at Wiener Neustadt. Eugen became then the sole archduke to attend the several year long course at the academy (1883-1885) and subsequently successfully graduated as a fully trained general staff officer.

Military career

In 1885 Eugen was assigned to the General Staff and rapidly rose through the ranks . He commanded a battalion of Infantry Regiment 13 as a lieutenant colonel before assuming command of the entire regiment as a colonel. Following a further regimental assignment as commanding officer of Hussar regiment 13, he assumed command of an infantry brigade in Olmütz and then a division in Vienna. In 1900 he was appointed to the command of XIV Army Corps in Innsbruck and promoted to General der Kavallerie on 27 April 1901. This command simultaneously also made him the commanding general in Innsbruck and the defence commander for the Tyrol. He was appointed eight years later as an army inspector and senior defence commander for the Tyrol. When in 1909 the possibility of a war against Serbia was in the air he alongside Archduke Franz Ferdinand and General Albori was named as a presumptive army commander.

Eugen also had exercised his influence in the field of personnel. He had urgently recommended Feldmarschall-Leutnant Conrad von Hötzendorf, his divisional commander at Innsbruck as the successor to the retiring chief of the general staff - General Beck-Rzikowsky. In 1911 the Archduke retired from active military service ostensibly for health reasons. Conrad von Hötzendorf however suggested in his memoirs that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had become increasingly jealous of the importance of Eugen.

In addition to his military career above all else, Eugen was called upon to perform his duty as the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. On 11 January 1887, Eugen entered the Teutonic Knights as a professed knight. At the same time he was chosen to be the coadjutor of his uncle, Archduke Wilhelm, the then Hoch- und Deutschmeister.

When Archduke Wilhelm suddenly died, Eugen was enthroned as the new Hoch- und Deutschmeister on 19 November 1894 and in this office he also proved himself very effective. He further developed the institution of the volunteer nursing care (Marianer), founded new hospitals and improved the training of the sisters. Finally he had the central archives of the order in Vienna sorted out and extended.

World War I

At the outbreak of the war he immediately reported for active duty. He was however at first palmed off with a relatively unimportant post as the patron of the voluntary war welfare organization. Finally he was transferred in December 1914 to assume to post of commander of the forces in the Balkans with his headquarters at Peterwardein. Together with his chief of Staff, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Alfred Krauss, a very talented military theoretician with a decisive and vigorous character, he reorganized the hard hit 5th army.

On 22 May 1915 Eugen was promoted to Generaloberst. Two days later on the 24th of May he was entrusted with the command of the southwestern front against Italy. He moved his headquarters to Marburg (Maribor) and now commanded a theatre stretching from the Swiss border to the Adriatic. His main objective here was a pure and simple defence against the many times numerically superior Italian forces. Only at the beginning was the designation "Southwest Front Command" clear. From March 1916 it functioned as Heeresgruppen-Kommando Erzherzog Eugen in the Tyrol to the exclusion of the remaining parts of the front and at the beginning of the execution of the 12th battle of the Isonzo as Heeresfront Erzherzog Eugen with the allied German 14th Army and Heeresgruppe von Boroević under command but Heeresgruppe von Conrad was not immediately subordinate.

During the 1st battle of the Isonzo Eugen traveled back and forth behind the front. He came to many conferences, appeared in the front lines and encouraged the troops and in this way achieved great popularity. At the same time he took care of the rear areas in order to guarantee the best possible supply to the forward troops.

Before the great attack from the South Tyrol which took take place in the Spring of 1916 Eugen assumed command as army group commander of the 11th and 3rd armies and took up headquarters at his cousin's, the Graf von Bozen und Maurer, estate just outside Bozen (Bolzano). After initial success, the attack had to be broken off in consequence of the danger posed to the Russian front following the Brussilow offensive of June 1916 and the subsequent transfer of formations to that threatened front. However after breaking off the offensive, Archduke Eugen successfully withdrew his troops in the second half of June 1916 into secure positions.

In the further course of the war Eugen had to transfer more and more of his troops to the hard fighting Isonzo Army so that he soon had to manage without reserves in his own theatre of operations. Although he had had only a very limited forces holding the Tyrolean front he never considered withdrawing further and shortening his line. He was too personally attached to the land to do that.

Eugen was promoted to Field Marshal on 23 November 1916 and in the middle of March 1917 again took up his work as the commander of the southwest front. During the Caporetto offensive, Eugen was the actual commander employing his complete energy in the process. He recognized that this was the last favorable opportunity for the central powers. The Archduke, who normally was no great flayer of the soldiers could on this occasion not push hard enough. There appeared temporarily to be great confusion in the issuing of orders. It is possible that many blamed Eugen and his staff for this.

Against the will of the chief of the general staff, Generaloberst Baron Arz, the Emperor Karl released Eugen from active service on 18 December 1917. The southwestern front command was terminated. The relief of Eugen does not appear to been made for personal but on objective reasons. After Russia's withdrawal from the war and the shortening of various other fronts (Isonzo, Carinthia, Dolomites), the senior generals pushed at the Piave. With his very senior rank, Eugen could only be a commander in chief. But as the Emperor Karl himself took up the supreme command Eugen had to go.

Eugen still enjoyed high renown and at the end of the war at the beginning of November 1918, the idea of Eugen becoming a regent was introduced. The last foreign minister Graf Andrassy and the member of parliament Dr. Franz Dinghofer of the German nationalist party had discussed this. However, Eugen would never have accepted such an offer without the consent of the emperor.

Military awards

Amongst the Archdukes considerable number of Austro-Hungarian awards here are the most important:

He also received the Swords to both his Large Military Merit Medal and Bronze Military Merit Medal at a later date to the original awards.

Additionally he was the possessor of a host of foreign awards and decorations:

Later life

Following the collapse of the monarchy Eugen first settled in Lucerne and then at Basle where he lived modestly in a hotel from 1918 to 1934. In order to safeguard the existence of the Teutonic Order , Eugen voluntarily resigned his position as the Hoch- und Deutschmeister in 1923. He had been the last secular grand master of the order. In this way the possessions of the order were saved.

In 1934 Eugen settled at the order's convent at Gumpoldskirchen near Vienna. He participated at monarchical rallies, attended veterans' meetings and placed himself again at the service of the dynasty even though he himself no longer believed in the restoration. Following the Anschluß of Austria to Germany in 1938 the German Order was dissolved and its possessions confiscated.

Eugen received, probably with the intervention of Hermann Göring and other senior military figures a rented house at Hietzing where he survived the 2nd World War. In 1945 he fled to the Tyrol where he received through the French occupying power a small rented villa at Igls. On 21 May 1953 the whole of Innsbruck celebrated the field marshal's 90th birthday.

Eugen died on 30 December 1954 at Merano surrounded by the brothers of his order from Lana. On 6 January 1955 he was buried in the St. Jakobskirche at Innsbruck next to Archduke Maximilian III (1558-1619).

Ancestry

Bibliography

  • Rác, Robert. Arcivévoda Evzen Habsbursko-lotrinský 1863-1954: velmistr Rádu nemeckých rytíru. Sovinec/Eulenburg: Esmedia, 2005.
  • Schildenfeld, Zoë von. Erzherzog Eugen, 1863-1963: ein Gedenkbuch. Innsbruck: F. Rauch, 1963.

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