VIENNA — Ferdinand Habsburg-Lothringen sometimes runs around the 1,441-room Schönbrunn Palace, the former summer residence of the Habsburg rulers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Delight in manicured gardens, mazes, and one of the world’s oldest surviving zoos. “I go there to walk around the beauty,” she said, just like tourists who pay a fee of $22 or more do.
But every once in a while things can feel a little weird in a way that’s unique to Habsburgs.
“There is a chamber inside the palace that would have been mine if I were the crown prince,” he said, noting that he knows which one it is. “The first time I visited this place on a school trip at the age of 14, I thought, ‘I would never fix my bedroom like this.’”
Habsburg is the 25-year heir apparent to the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. His great-grandfather was Charles I, the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. Before him, other ancestors ruled for more than 600 years, presiding over a global empire.
In 1918, at the end of World War I, Austria became a republic and the Habsburgs were dethroned and sent into exile. Charles I died on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1922. The Habsburgs were allowed to return to Austria if they gave up their claims to rule, which Habsburg’s grandfather Otto did in 1961.
While some members of the old ruling family, like Ferdinand himself, are living in Austria again, they remain powerless. Instead, he is an ordinary citizen – one who races cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship and lives in a Vienna apartment with his 22-year-old sister, Gloria Habsburg-Lothringen.
Habsburg has a name fit for a king: Ferdinand Zvonimir Maria Balthus Keith Michael Otto Antal Bahnam Leonhard von Habsburg-Lothringen. He also has a title: Archduke of Austria, Royal Prince of Hungary.
“My grandfather was the last crown prince and as a child, he had to go through all the training and learn 10 languages, and it’s a lot of work to be a royal. Everything is events and inaugurations.
“I am very proud of my family and what they have done,” he said. “But I had a different life.”
Habsburg was born in Salzburg, Austria, the son of Karl von Habsburg, a politician, and Francesca von Thyssen-Bornemisza, an art collector and curator. His parents are divorced; His father, 62, lives in Vienna and Portugal, and his mother, 64, lives in Madrid.
Ever since he got into a go-kart at age 7, Habsburg has been addicted to motorsports. He got good enough grades at his private high school to spend more time on the slopes. He scrapped university to move to London and join an F3 team, one of the starting points for those with F1 aspirations.
Instead, he dedicated himself to endurance races, which last from 6 to 24 hours. (The drivers take turns doing hundreds of laps.)
In 2021 he won Le Mans, a 24-hour race in France considered the most prestigious sports car race in the world.
When Habsburg started, it was financed by his mother. He now has all the sponsors he needs, he said: “I will never have to ask my mom for money again.”
When you think about what life would have been like as a royal, it’s more of a curiosity. “It’s like, ‘Hmm, that would have been interesting,’” she said. “And then I go back to living my life.”
“I am very proud of my family. But I had a different life.”
By: ALYSON KRUEGER
BBC-NEWS-SRC: http://www.nytsyn.com/subscribed/stories/6716112, IMPORTING DATE: 2023-05-16 20:10:06
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