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Figurehead of Polish Habsburgs dies aged 88

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 02.10.2012 12:18
The figurehead of a Polish branch of the Habsburg dynasty has died in the town of Zywiec, southern Poland, aged 88.

Maria Krystyna Habsburg-Lothringen: photo - PAP/Jacek Bednarczyk

Maria Krystyna Habsburg-Lothringen, Princess of Altenburg, lived much of her life in exile, but returned to Poland following the collapse of the Iron Curtain, resettling in a small apartment on what had been her father's estate.

She belonged to a branch of the Habsburgs that had become assimilated into the Polish aristocracy in the nineteenth century, in spite of having arrived as scions of a conquering power.

Her father, formerly Archduke Karol Olbracht, served in the Polish army following the return of national independence in 1918.

During the Second World War, he refused to sign the Nazis' so-called Volksliste, a document that enabled people of German ancestry in occupied countries to escape some of the hardships suffered by the wider population.

As a result, he was imprisoned, and his famed brewery at Zywiec was confiscated.

After the war, Maria Krysytna was compelled to emigrate with the rest of her immediate family, moving first to Sweden, the country of her mother, and then to Switzerland.

The family brewery was nationalised under Poland's communist regime.

Following the collapse of the Iron Curtain, the brewery was swiftly sold off by the state to Danish group Heineken, prompting a long-running legal dispute, ultimately settled out of court seven years ago.

Maria Krystyna returned to Poland permanently in 2001, but did not attempt to reclaim the family castle. Town authorities provided her with an apartment on the estate, gave her honorary citizenship, and she quickly became something of a local celebrity.

Maria Krystyna Habsburg-Lothringen will be laid to rest in the Habsburg chapel at the Co-cathedral of the Blessed Virgin in Zywiec. (nh)

tags: habsburgs, zywiec
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