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Legitimism is generally the standpoint of the irremovability of the ruling house. Thus, legitimists only recognize the monarchy as a legitimate (lawful) form of rule. In contrast, while monarchists advocate monarchy , they can also view other forms of rule as legitimate. Legitimism as a movement was historically significant in republican France in the 18th and 19th centuries and in the Austrian First Republic .


Legitimists (French légitimistes , from légitime = legal, lawful) originally referred to the party in France that, after the revolution of 1830, continued to support the claims of the older line of the House of Bourbons as the legitimate rulers by the grace of God . The Legitimists were at times in competition with the Orléanists , the supporters of the House of Orléans .

The death of the Count of Chambord in 1883 caused the dissolution of the Legitimists' party. Only an insignificant remainder, known as the Blancs d'Espagne , did not want to recognize Philip V of Spain's renunciation of succession and upheld the rights of the Bourbons in the Anjou line.

Today Louis Alphonse de Bourbon holds as Louis XX. maintained his claim to the French throne. Orléanists, on the other hand, see Jean d'Orléans as the contender for rule as Jean IV (John IV).


Legitimists in the First Republic and in the corporate state

In Austria, after 1918, those circles are called legitimists who viewed the proclamation of the First Republic as a “revolutionary act” and thus as a violation of the law. Emperor Karl I , who in 1918 renounced "any share in state affairs" but not the crown, was still the legitimate, that is, rightful ruler. After Karl's death in 1922, the Legitimists considered his eldest son Otto von Habsburg to be the heir to the throne .

One of the prerequisites for legitimism in Austria was the general willingness of the House of Habsburg to restore . For the House of Habsburg, restoration included not only re-establishment but also the establishment of a supranational empire in the Danube region, which contradicted the peace treaties after the First World War and would at least have meant a restriction of the state sovereignty of the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy . Thus, the successor states were hostile to a restoration and severely restricted the possibilities of legitimist politics in Austria through international pressure.

In 1920, the former Colonel Gustav Wolff founded the Party of All Black and Yellow Legitimists (SGL), which later appeared under the name of the People's Loyalty to the Kaiser, and which was also called the Wolff Association after its militant founder. In the National Council election in 1923 , however, the party received only a few votes. Other legitimist parties were the Party of Austrian Monarchists (PÖM) and the Austrian State Party , which merged with the PÖM. Its president, Ernst (Freiherr von der) Wense drew a choice compromise with the Christian Social Party (CS) for the parliamentary election in 1923 on the list of CS in the National one. In 1924 the PÖM changed to the Conservative People's Party , which existed until 1926.

The branch of organized legitimism "authorized" by the imperial family was the Reichsbund der Österreicher , founded in 1921 , whose leading representatives were Johannes (Prince von und zu) Liechtenstein, Friedrich (Knight of) Wiesner and Hans Karl (Freiherr) Zeßner (von) Spitzenberg . In 1932 the Eiserne Ring was founded as the umbrella organization for legitimist organizations, to which more than 50 associations belonged shortly before the "Anschluss" of Austria .

In contrast to parliamentary democracy, the Legitimists were sympathetic to the Heimwehr and the authoritarian regime of the corporate state . The Reichsbund announced corporate accession to the Fatherland Front . From 1934 onwards, legitimist associations organized a number of larger events, in which it was emphasized that the restoration would be the best means against a "Anschluss" and the repeal of the Habsburg law was demanded. More and more representatives of public life took part in events of the Iron Ring. Kurt Schuschnigg considered himself a legitimist and was also a simple member of the Iron Ring during his chancellorship. In the Schuschnigg era there was an appreciation of legitimism, "Der Österreicher", the organ of the Reichsbund, reached a weekly circulation of 10,000 copies at the end of 1936. Nevertheless, it was evident that the Schuschnigg government would not allow the Restoration as a way of preventing a “Anschluss”. The German Reich Minister of War Werner von Blomberg had planned an armed intervention under the code name special case Otto in the event of a restoration in Austria .

In the student scene, legitimism was reflected in the legitimist student associations . They organized themselves partly in the Vienna SC and the Catholic-Austrian country teams .

Legitimists in the Nazi era

The position of the legitimists was neither compatible with the republic, nor with the National Socialist dictatorship 1938–45 . During the Nazi era, avowed legitimists were persecuted by the National Socialists because they regarded Otto von Habsburg as their rightful head of state and refused to take the Fiihrer's oath . About 4,500 legitimists and people close to them were arrested and taken to concentration camps . During the Second World War , this group played a significant role in the resistance and in exile.

On May 24, 1938, according to the State Commissioner at the Reich Governor in Vienna (Gen. Kdo XVII, Wehrkreiskdo. XVII, Ic Az. 1p 12 No. 471/38), the following legitimist associations were run as opposing organizations and associations:

  • Iron ring
  • Working group of Austrian associations
  • Academic Association of Catholic Austrian Landsmannschaften
  • Black and gold cartel
  • Old gentlemen's association "Raethe-Teutonia"
  • Patriotic Defense "Ostmark"
  • Lichtenstein round
  • Association of former Theresianists
  • Co-sponsorship of Viennese women and girls
  • Union of Bourgeois Merchants
  • Altkaiserjäger Club
  • Comradeship of former "7s"
  • Association of former professional officers in Austria
  • Patriotic ring of Austrian soldiers
  • Austrian legitimist working group
  • Reich League of Austrians
  • Austrian front
  • Black and Yellow People's Party
  • Austrian Danube Rescue Corps
  • Austrian youth movement "Ottonia"
  • Young storm "Ostmark"
  • Young Austrian Federation
  • Patriotic Youth Association of Austria
  • Austrian young storm
  • Association of Catholic German Youth
  • Karl Lueger Association
  • Karl Vogelsang Association
  • "The Habichtsburgs"
  • Popular movement loyal to the emperor
  • Legitimistic Volksbund Austria
  • Legitimistic medical profession in Austria
  • Association of Old Austria
  • People's association loyal to the emperor (Wolff Association)

Legitimists in the Second Republic

Legitimism was increasingly lost in the Second Republic . Since 2004 there is again an organization in Austria with the Black-Yellow Alliance , which advocates a return of the Habsburgs to the leadership of the state.

Today there are 15–20 student associations in Austria and Bavaria who represent the legitimist principle, 11 of which are KÖL associations ( Academic Association of Catholic-Austrian Landsmannschaften ).

Position of Otto Habsburg-Lothringen

Otto Habsburg-Lothringen had initially held on to his claim to the throne for decades. In 1961 he finally declared that he would expressly renounce his membership in the House of Habsburg-Lorraine and all claims to power that had been derived from it, and that he was a loyal citizen of the republic. This waiver was a prerequisite for lifting the entry ban.

In 2002 Otto Habsburg-Lothringen described himself as “legitimists” and defined legitimists as those who would advocate the legitimized form of government at that time: “It would be just as absurd to form a monarchist movement in Switzerland as it is a republic in Spain. That would hurt as well. One should not overestimate the question of the form of government. It is a form that can be used, that changes according to the conditions and that corresponds to what is currently in existence in terms of legitimacy. ”In the interview, he left his opinion on the legitimate form of government for Austria open.

Important representatives (selection)

Other successor states of the Habsburg Monarchy

There were also smaller legitimist movements in other successor states of Austria-Hungary , which - like those in Austria - advocated the re-establishment of the Habsburg monarchy. The most obvious was the Hungarian movement, which supported two unsuccessful attempts at restoration by King Charles IV .

supporting documents

  1. ^ Duden online: Legitimism
  2. Legitimism in the Dictionary of New Humanism
  3. ^ A b c Robert Holzbauer: Ernst Karl Winter and the Legitimists . In: Documentation archive of the Austrian resistance (ed.): "Anschluss" 1938. A documentation . Österreichischer Bundesverlag, Vienna 1988, ISBN 3-215-06898-2 , p. 27-31 .
  4. ^ Gernot Stimmer: Elites in Austria 1848-1970. Volume 2 (=  Ernst Bruckmüller , Klaus Poier , Gerhard Schnedl, Eva Schulev-Steindl [Hrsg.]: Studies on politics and administration . Volume 57 ). Böhlau, Vienna 1997, ISBN 978-3-205-98587-7 , pp. 752–755 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  5. ↑ Daily report. Ambassador Baron von Wense †. In:  Reichspost , March 27, 1929, p. 4 (online at ANNO ). Template: ANNO / Maintenance / rpt.
  6. “I am a legitimist.” Interview with Otto von Habsburg in: Junge Freiheit , November 22, 2002. Retrieved July 18, 2011.

Web links

Commons : Legitimists  - collection of images, videos and audio files