Friday, 22 August 2008

Prince Christoph von Altenburg RIP

I attended the funeral on Wednesday of (if I've interpreted the genealogical charts properly!) one of the great-grandchildren of the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, Prince Christoph von Altenburg (though he did not use his title), and would ask your prayers for the repose of his soul.
Its always going to be an interesting funeral when the eulogiser opens up by saying, I have to start in 1273, when the Hapsburgs ascended to the throne of the Holy Roman Empire!

But if you are now expecting to hear about the bishops attending and a full traditional liturgy, you are going to be disappointed because in fact it was a well-attended but very Australian affair.

There was lots of Gregorian chant (the propers and ordinary from the Traditional Requiem), motets from a madrigal group, rather beautiful black vestments and a truly outstanding sermon on the Trinitarian relationships - but (an admittedly very reverently and nicely sung) novus ordo Mass.

But perhaps in this case that was not entirely inappropriate for a man who had developed a taste for the simple life. The Canberra Times reports (thanks to Cath News for the alert):

"From European royal to simple silversmith

He started life as Austrian royalty and ended it as a silversmith in Braidwood, still regarded as a prince among men due to his generosity, free spirit and compassion.

Christoph Altenburg was a member of the famous European Habsburg family, the son of an Austrian archduke, Clemens Salvator. When his father married, he changed the family name, later allowing the son to follow his destiny in Australia, pursuing everything from copper mining to silversmithing.

Mr Altenburg died aged 71 on Monday. More than 250 people packed St Bede's Catholic Church in Braidwood to farewell him yesterday. Silver candlesticks Mr Altenburg had crafted and wattle from his property, Anningie, adorned the altar, Father John Parsons leading a starkly beautiful requiem mass.

The Counts of Habsburg Arms were also displayed on the coffin, but there were few other references to his royal past.

Mr Altenburg was born in Wallsee, Austria, in 1937. The family lived at the Kaiser Villa in Bad Ischl during the war years, where Mr Altenburg's schooling was interrupted by the conflict.

He boarded and attended school in Ried and at a Benedictine monastery school in Seckau, where he had his first experience of silversmithing.
Despite his royal lineage, Mr Altenburg arrived in Melbourne in 1960 as a modest ten pound migrant.

His son Wasti told the congregation yesterday that after working on farms around Australia, mining in the Pilbara and studying silversmithing in Austria, Denmark and England, his father moved to Braidwood in 1974 and ''Braidwood possibly has never been the same since''.

''He enjoyed the freedom of Australia. People accepted him as Chris not Prince Christoph,'' Wasti said.

Mr Altenburg and his then wife Kirsty opened Studio Altenburg in the main street of Braidwood in 1978.

Family friend and Braidwood resident Professor Tony Milner said in his eulogy that Mr Altenburg ''always loved art and was an enormously creative person''.

His jewellery was worn by women around the world and his paintings with their ''irreverent social comment'' were sought after.
He started the Iron Corroboree outside Braidwood in 1985 as a celebration of all things metal.

But more than anything, Mr Altenburg valued relationships, often offering the hand of friendship to new residents to Braidwood.

''He gave people time, golden time, time without boundaries,'' Professor Milner said.

Mr Altenburg also loved a conversation, especially about politics and ''was not just a doer but a thinker and an explainer''. Family friend Allan Geier told the congregation Mr Altenburg was a ''big, beautiful man with a heart full of love, generosity and compassion''.

He moved to his property Anningie next to the Shoalhaven River outside Braidwood in 1994, declaring himself the Sultan of Anningie, a light-hearted nod to his royal heritage.

Mr Altenburg is survived by his former wife Kirsty, his children Wasti, Matilda and Francesca, and three grandchildren."


(Another) Louise said...

I also attended this Mass. It is such a long time since I have been to a properly sung NO, that I wasn't sure I would remember the sung responses. It was lovely to hear the whole congregation singing the Pater Noster (in english) - the only part everyone seemed to know. And I quite agree with the description "starkly beautiful". I have alway thought the chant for the Requiem Mass to be the most beautiful of the Church's repertoire.

David said...

Just a slight correction it was Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive whose 1914 assassination in Sarajevo by on Gavrillo Princip, started the train of events that lead to WWI. Frans Josef himself lived to a ripe old age and died in 1916, to be succeeded by Bl Karl (Charles) I, who reigned for 2 years until deposed, twice tried and failed to regain the throne of Hungary, and who I understand is soon to be canonized.

David said...

But from what I can tell, Prince Altenburg was decended from Franz Josef through his fourth child Marie Valerie Mathilde Amalie, and her son Clemens. Franz Josef's only male sone died in a bizarre murder-suicide in the Mayerling hunting lodge in the late 19th century, leaving the ill-fated Franz Ferdinand (who was a nephew, or a great-newphew of Franz Josef) as the heir presumptive!

I once had a friend who would regale us for hours with European monarchichal geneologies!

Terra said...

Oops yes good catch I've corrected the comment about who was assasinated! Your read of the genealogy is the same as mine - not withstanding the dearth of immediate male heirs back then, the Hapsburgs remain a prolific family if you look at the current order of succession!