Friday, May 4, 2012

Vienna's Golden Age

There are some things in life I wish I knew early on so I could have already been giggling and snickering for years. All that giggling WASTED because I missed a day in History class.

For instance, why didn't I know about the Hapsburg inbreeding. Had I known, I could made fun of it and slid in one-liners for years to come?

While on a tour of the Habsburg estate in Vienna, I learned how this major royal family of Europe split in two in 1556. One part went to Spain and the other went to Austria. The Habsburgs of Austria became known for gaining political power not by wars but by marrying off their kids to other royal families.
Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria, nube.
Let others wage war, but thou, Oh happy Austria, marry.
And you know why? Because the Habsburgs in Spain got so into marrying each other that they got in a rotten mess of DNA. A bunch of horny uncles were marrying nieces, and cousins were boinking cousins, which eventually resulted in this looker:

Charles II of the Spanish House of Habsburgs is said to have had an enormous wonky head, his jaw stood out so far that he couldn't chew, his tongue was so large he couldn't speak, he couldn't walk and his intellect was similarly disabled. 

But what makes me snicker is not this unfortunate DNA science experiment, which was't his fault. These royal heirs are also rumored to have distinct tails and a severely droopy lower lip.
One of the most famous examples of a long-lived trait is known as the “Habsburg Lip.” This distinctive elongation of the jaw and droopiness to the lower lip-which made the Habsburg rulers of Europe such a nightmare assignment for generations of court portrait painters-was passed down intact over at least twenty-three generations. 
-- James Watson & Andrew Berry’s DNA: The Secret of Life
So the Habsburgs of Austria said, "Um, let's marry other people so we don't have babies with tails."

And then there was a whole bunch of years of uninteresting royals.

Until this beauty came along:
She is Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She could be confused with the Queen of Hungary because she was both at the same time.

Which crown will I wear today? Hmmm. Choices, choices, choices.

At 15, she was married to Franz Joseph and was in a bad mood about it for the rest of her life. She had a few heirs as was instructed by royal pressure, but motherhood wasn't her thing. Neither was marriage. Or eating. She spent a great deal of time starving and traveling without hubbie and the tail-free cherubs. Eventually she was stabbed by a nutcase in Italy and that was the end of her.

When Franz Joseph died after his 68 years of reign, his grand-nephew Karl took over. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was supposed to take over but he was axed by a Serbian nationalists. This act started World War I.

And after World War II, the winners said, "Hey Karl, you're out." But Karl was all "As if!" but really he was out and that was the end of that.

And that concludes our Short-attention-span history lesson about the Habsburgs.


  1. No one does history quite like you!

  2. Wow, this is certainly more entertaining than any history class I ever had.
    I can't wait for the next chapter!

  3. AnonymousMay 05, 2012

    This trip could be the start of a new book for you!!! I hope you're taking lots of pictures and jotting down your wild interpretations daily.

    You are gifted!!



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