Buried in Madeira

IN CENTRAL SARAJEVO, there used to be a pair of footprints carved on the corner of a pavement where two roads met. I do not know whether these impressions, which I saw in the 1980s, still exist. They marked the spot where a young sharpshooter, Gavrilo Princip, took aim and assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in 1914. Had his aim not been so accurate, the last Emperor of Austria might not have been buried in a church high above the city of Funchal in Madeira.

Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary

Had Princip’s aim not been so good,  his victim, Franz Ferdinand, would have been successor to the imperial throne. With the Archduke eliminated, his nephew, Karl (1887-1922), succeeded Emperor Franz Joseph when he died in 1916.

Following the end of WW1 in 1918, Austria’s last Emperor, Karl, fled to Switzerland. After a couple of attempts to regain his throne,  the British exiled him and his wife to Madeira in 1921.

In 1922, Karl died of pneumonia.  He was interred in a chapel on the north side of the nave in the Igreja Nossa Senhora in the Monte district high above Funchal.

Plenty of tourist gawp at Karl’s simple tomb in the lovely church, which overlooks the city and the Atlantic Ocean far below.  I wonder whether Madeira would have been the final home of the Archduke had he not been so unlucky in Sarajevo.

Curiously, Karl was beatified in 2004. Equally strange was the British choice of a Portuguese island for Karl’s exile. After all, Napoleon Bonaparte was eventually exiled to a British possession: St Helena.

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