Monarchy Over the Danube: Or, an Alternate History Tale of Austria-Hungary through the Nations Themselves.
Somewhere in Upper Austria. 26 September 1935.
The road leading into Wien stayed silent as the soldiers manning the barricade continued their increasingly reluctant watch. While seated in an old auto, the embodiment of Austria wearily looked on alongside his highest leaders. The Republic of Austria, the Nation reminded himself bitterly, not that it showed. He may no longer be bound to a wheelchair, but the pain remained. Yet deep down, he also felt that it wouldn't last for much longer.
"This is madness," he heard Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg cringe in exasperation. "Fresh from a flight from Belgium and now that pretender thinks he's already won."
The former aristocrat tried to clear his throat. "Your Excellency, perhaps it's a sign that
"Sir," the defense official chimed in. "The entire country is in an uproar! We're bleeding more and more manpower in cutting off these dissidents. The last thing we need is an excuse for the Nazis to steamroll us!"
"The police and armed forces are already compromised," another minister sneered. " So is the damn government! We should have expected Guido Schmidt of all people would turn traitor!"
"Wasn't it also your brilliant idea to repeal those anti-Habsburg laws, Kurt?!"
"Now is not the time for pointing fingers, gentlemen! The Republic is in its greatest crisis since its inception over 15 years ago. And the people expect us to stand resolute in this critical hour
Austria turned towards the window as his politicians continued bickering; he might as well not be there. After all, his days as a great power were long over. Centuries of Empire gone. The Entente with their precious Versailles treaty made sure of that. And with Hitler barging at his very doorstep, what could a small farce of a Nation achieve now?
Yet despite it all, he still had good reason to hold on to his dignity. Unlike his leaders, he knew that everything was about to change. More and more, his citizens were siding with the dissidents. He could sense their clamor for change. Restoring a prince to a shattered throne. The hope of surpassing lost glory. Regaining their rightful place in the world. The Nation felt it all through his body. Or rather, he wanted this. And he knew what had to be done. So be it
With a massing group of people and armored cars began appearing on the horizon, some among them carrying old Habsburg flags, Austria calmly opened the passenger door and he motioned to step out towards the barricade, fixing the creases on his old suit and cravat as he did so.
"Herr Edelstein, return at once!" Roderich glanced towards the startled look of his bespectacled leader's face, as though in shock from his apparent defiance. "Osterreich's days are numbered as we speak. To let these dissidents sweep us at this time is suicide! You will
There was a cold glare as he fixed his own glasses. "Nein. You misunderstand, Chancellor. I am Osterreich. And it would be in our best interest for all of you to return to the capital. I don't wish for a civil war any more than you do. Thus, it is imperative that the government must sign certain important documents for the good of the people. I would very much regret having to do them myself. Now, kindly leave at once. Schnell!"
The Nation turned away from the now speeding vehicle and towards the approaching group, many of the soldiers manning the barricades joining it. Leading them were the maverick conspirators themselves, at the very helm of which was a twenty-something man in a plain suit. The Nation noted for a moment how the seemingly unassuming figure looked very much like his late father. He would have been proud of what you're about to achieve, Otto. As they approached, he stepped forward before the young man to give a respectful bow.
"Welcome back home, Mein Kaiser."
Schonbrunn Palace, Vienna. 1 October 1935.
If Austria were frank about the proceedings, it still felt as though it were a surreal dream. The makeshift coronation of Otto von Habsburg earlier that day, as well as the old government's resignation only a few days before, seemed like throwback to another time, though it was of a smaller scale. And yet here he was, savoring the evening ball as esteemed guests from across the country gave their toast, and for some suspicious glances, to the new Emperor of Austria.
Excusing himself, the brown-haired aristocrat couldn't help but notice the many figures who had shown up, either to get in His Majesty's graces or plot his downfall. Here were tycoons and old nobility. Politicians and activists. Socialists and Fascists. Even the Archbishop and Grand Rabbi of Wien made an appearance, the Nation still surprised at how they managed to make the ceremony quick yet reverent. But if there was any certainty, it was that everyone knew of the work and trials ahead.
Stranger things have happened, he mused as he finally found a quiet spot away from the celebrations, finding it harder to ignore other, more painful memories from the past. The last time he had attended an Imperial ball, it had been alongside his dear, spirited wife
"I'm surprised that you're out here, Roderich."
He wearily turned to find his liege, still wearing an old white dress uniform. "Pardon, Your Majesty? Apologies, but it has been a tiring day. And bitte, I am but your Nation."
"Nonsense. You've always been close to our family," he chuckled. "And I can assure you that we intend to stay this time." The man's smile faded as a more solemn one took its place. "Do you still miss her?"
Austria was taken aback, finding it hard to slide back to his normal tone as memories of his time with Hungary came back. "M-Mein Kaiser
"None of it should ever have happened. The Great War. Sarajevo, Russia, Italy, the trenches
everything. Emperor Karl
my father was right in trying to stop it, even if it was too late. Of course, you've seen what the price was for seeking peace."
" the Nation gritted more forcefully that he would have wanted. He could almost see it all unraveling in his mind all over again. The bloodshed tearing though his, or rather their peoples' morale. His household crumbling in one nationalist uprising after another until even Elizaveta couldn't take it anymore. Versailles should have been a mercy kill. "Perhaps there really was nothing that could have been done. Perhaps we're all to blame for those mistakes, my liege. All that remains now is preventing them from ever happening again." He could almost feel tears breaking through his façade, just barely able to repress them.
A moment of awkward silence followed as the sounds of people and an orchestra playing continued to echo around them. But just as the monarch was about to return to the festivities, he turned back with a soft smirk. "There is another matter I wish to discuss with you later. It doesn't make sense sticking to these arbitrary borders if we wish to not only restore the Empire but reunite it. And it would be an injustice to you if we do not offer a certain neighbor a chance to share in it, is it not?"
The Nation was speechless. "Do you mean that
"What God has brought together, man cannot separate," Otto mused cryptically. "My parents taught me that. And no doubt you must have heard those words back during your wedding. But please be patient. For now, we celebrate the beginning of a new age."
As Austria made his way back, he couldn't help but sense just how prophetic that would turn out to be in the years to come. If it also means being with her again? So be it.