Erzherzog Eugen

Archduke Eugen, the younger brother of Archduke Friedrich was born on the 23rd May 1863 at Groß-Seelowitz in Moravia as the son of Archduke Karl Ferdinand and the Archduchess Elisabeth. His education was Spartan in character. His country living at Schloß Seelowitz in Moravia and holidays at Gmund alternated with a sound education and strict instruction.

At the Albrechtspalais in Vienna he received instruction in all the military subjects in addition to languages, music and the history of art. At the age of 14 In keeping with the family tradition and like his elder brother, he also began his military career with the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger Regiment and was commissioned as a Leutnant on the 27th of October 1877. Shortly thereafter he was transferred as an Oberleutnant to an hussar regiment and in the following years participated in many lengthy manouvres. 

In 1882 he took an examination before a commission assembled by Archduke Albrecht that verified his suitability to attend the Kriegsschule or war academy for general staff training. Eugen became then the sole Archduke to attend the several year long course at the Vienna war academy (1883-1885) and subsequently successfully graduated as a fully trained general staff officer. 

After attending the war academy he was assigned to the General Staff and rapidly rose through the ranks . He commanded a battalion of Infantry Regiment 13 as a lieutenant colonel before assuming command of the entire regiment as a colonel. Following a further regimental assignment as commanding officer of Hussar regiment 13, he assumed command of an infantry brigade in Olmütz and then a division in Vienna. In 1900 he was appointed to the command of XIV Army Corps in Innsbruck and promoted to General der kavallerie on the 27th of April 1901. This command simultaneously also made him the commanding general in Innsbruck and the defence commander for the Tyrol. He was appointed eight years later as an army inspector and senior defence commander for the Tyrol. When in 1909 the possibility of a war against Serbia was in the air he alongside Archduke Franz Ferdinand and General Albori was named as a presumptive army commander.

The Archduke also had exercised his influence in the field of personnel. He had urgently recommended Feldmarschall-Leutnant Conrad von Hötzendorf, his divisional commander at Innsbruck as the successor to the retiring chief of the general staff - General Beck-Rzikowsky. In 1911 the Archduke retired from active military service ostensibly for health reasons.  Conrad von Hötzendorf however suggested in his memoirs that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had become increasingly jealous of the importance of Eugen. 

In addition to his military career above all else, Archduke Eugen was called upon to perform his duty as the "Hoch- und Deutschmeister des Deutschen Ritterordens" or grandmaster of the Teutonic Order". On the 11th of January 1887, Eugen entered the Deutschen Ritterorden as a professed knight. At the same time he was chosen to be the coadjutor of his uncle, Archduke Wilhelm, the then Hoch- und Deutschmeister.

When Archduke Wilhelm suddenly died, Eugen was enthroned as the new Hoch- und Deutschmeister on the 19th of November 1894 and in this office he also proved himself very effective. He further developed the institution of the volunteer nursing care (Marianer), founded new hospitals and improved the training of the sisters. Finally he had the central archives of the order in Vienna sorted out and extended.

At the outbreak of the war he immediately reported for active duty. He was however at first palmed off with a relatively unimportant post as the patron of the voluntary war welfare organization. Finally he was transferred in December 1914 to assume to post of commander of the forces in the Balkans with his headquarters at Peterwardein. Together with his chief of Staff, Feldmarschall-Leutnant Alfred Krauss, a very talented military theoretician with a decisive and vigorous character, he reorganized the hard hit 5th army.

On the 22nd of May 1915 by means of an handwritten letter from the Kaiser he was promoted to Generaloberst. Two days later on the 24th of May he was entrusted with the command of the southwestern front against Italy. He moved his headquarters to Marburg (Maribor) and now commanded a theatre stretching from the Swiss border to the Adriatic. His main objective here was a pure and simple defence against the many times numerically superior Italian forces. Only at the beginning was the designation "Southwest Front Command" clear. From March 1916 it functioned as Heeresgruppen-Kommando Erzherzog Eugen in the Tyrol to the exclusion of the remaining parts of the front and at the beginning of the execution of the 12th battle of the Isonzo as Heeresfront Erzherzog Eugen with the allied German 14th Army and Heeresgruppe von Boroević under command but Heeresgruppe von Conrad was not immediately subordinate.

During the 1st battle of the Isonzo Archduke Eugen traveled back and forth behind the front. He came to many conferences, appeared in the front lines and encouraged the troops and in this way achieved great popularity. At the same time he took care of the rear areas in order to guarantee the best possible supply to the forward troops.

Before the great attack from the South Tyrol which took take place in the Spring of 1916. Archduke Eugen assumed command as army group commander of  the 11th and 3rd armies and took up headquarters at Bozen (Bolzano). After initial success, the attack had to be broken off in consequence of the danger posed to the Russian front following the Brussilow offensive of June 1916 and the subsequent transfer of formations to that threatened front. However after breaking off the offensive, Archduke Eugen successfully withdrew his troops in the second half of June 1916 into secure positions.

In the further course of the war Archduke Eugen had to transfer more and more of his troops to the hard fighting Isonzo Army so that he soon had to manage without reserves in his own theatre of operations. Although he had had only a very limited forces holding the Tyrolean front he never considered withdrawing further and shortening his line. He was too personally attached to the land to do that. 

Archduke Eugen seated next to Chancellor Schuschnigg in the thirties. Click to enlargeHe was promoted to Field Marshal on the 23rd November 1916 and in the middle of March 1917 again took up his work as the commander of the southwest front. During the Caporetto offensive, Eugen was the actual commander employing his complete energy in the process. He recognized that this was the last favorable opportunity for the central powers. The Archduke, who normally was no great flayer of the soldiers could on this occasion not push hard enough. There appeared temporarily to be great confusion in the issuing of orders. It is possible that many blamed Eugen and his staff for this. 

Against the will of the chief of the general staff, Generaloberst Baron Arz, Kaiser Karl released Eugen from active service on the 18th of December 1917. The southwestern front command was terminated. The relief of the Archduke does not appear to been made for personal but on objective reasons. After Russia's withdrawal from the war and the shortening of various other fronts (Isonzo, Carinthia, Dolomites), the senior generals pushed at the Piave. With his very senior rank, Eugen could only be a commander in chief. But as Kaiser Karl himself took up the supreme command Eugen had to go.

Archduke Eugen still enjoyed high renown and at the end of the war at the beginning of November 1918, the idea of Eugen becoming a regent was introduced. The last foreign minister Graf Andrassy and the member of parliament Dr. Franz Dinghofer of the German nationalist party had discussed this. However, Archduke Eugen would never have accepted such an offer without the consent of the Kaiser.

Amongst the Archdukes considerable number of Austro-Hungarian awards here are the most important: Order of the Golden Fleece (13 Apr 1878), Military Merit Cross (30 Nov 1898), Jubilee Commemoration Medal (02 Dec 1898), Military Service Award III Class (24 Oct 1902), Bronze Military Merit Medal (26 Sep 1905), Brilliants to the Military Merit Cross (12 Aug 1908), Second Expression of Appreciation (Silver Military Merit Medal 1911) (11 Oct 1908), Military Jubilee Cross (02 Dec 1908), Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen (30 Mar 1911), Red Cross Merit Star with War Decoration (08 Mar 1915), Bronze Military Merit Medal (War ribbon) (09 May 1915), Military Merit Cross 1st Class with War Decoration (29 Jul 1915), Large Military Merit Medal (24 May 1916), Grand Cross of the Military Order of Maria Theresia (15 Jan 1917), Silver Military Merit Medal with Swords (26 Jun 1917), Brilliants to the Military Merit Cross 1st Class with War Decoration and Swords (05 Nov 1917) and the Swords to both his Large Military Merit Medal and Bronze Military Merit Medals awarded at a later date to the original awards.

Additionally he was the possessor of a host of foreign awards and decorations: Grand Cross of the Royal Rumanian Order "Star of Rumania" (03 Oct 1881), Grand Cross of the Royal Spanish Order Karl III (02 July 1883), Throat and Breast Cross of a Professed Knight of the German Order (11 Jan 1886), Grand Cross of the Royal Portuguese Military Merit Order (07 Mar 1890), Royal Prussian Black Eagle Order (26 Apr 1891), Grand Cross of the Grand Duke of Hesse Ludwig Order (05 May 1892), Throat and Breast Cross of the Hoch- und Deutschmeister (30 Jul 1894), Grand Cross of the Holy Joseph Order of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (07 Apr 1896), Imperial Russian Andreas Order with Chain (26 Jun 1896), Imperial Russian Alexander Nevski Order, Imperial Russian White Eagle Order, Imperial Russian Saint Anne Order 1st Class, Royal Siamese Chiak-kri Order (17 Sep 1897), Royal Swedish Seraphim Order (10 Oct 1897), Royal Swedish Jubilee Commemorative Medal, Papal Order of Christ (17 Feb 1904), Grand Cross of the House Order of Saxe-Ernestine (05 Jun 1904), Collar to the Royal Spanish Order of Karl III (21 Jun 1907), Grand Cross of the Papal Order of the Holy Sepulchre (24 Sep 1907), Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (20 Sep 1908), Commemoration Medal to the Regency of her Majesty Queen Maria Christina of Spain (1909), Grand Cross of the Royal Belgian Order of Leopold (06 Oct 1910), Royal Prussian Iron Cross 1st and 2nd Class (30 Mar 1915), Grand Commander of the Royal Prussian Hohenzollern House Order with Swords (04 Aug 1915), Grand Cross of the Royal Bavarian Military Max Joseph Order (16 Nov 1915), Imperial Ottoman Gold and Silver Imtiaz Medals (15 Jan 1916), Friedrich-August Cross 1st and 2nd Class of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg (15 Mar 1916), Royal Prussian Order Pour le Mérite (24 May 1916), Grand Cross of the House Order of Vigilance or of the White Falcon with Swords of the Grand Duchy of Saxe-Weimer (02 Dec 1916), Honour Award of the Royal Bulgarian Red Cross (1916/17), Oak leaves to the Royal Prussian Order Pour le Mérite (11 Nov 1917), Royal Bulgarian Order of Bravery 1st Class (20 Nov 1917), Grand Cross of the Royal Württemberg Military Merit Order (02 January 1918) and the Royal Bavarian Honour Award to commemorate Golden Anniversary of King Ludwig III (20 Jan 1918).

Following the collapse of the monarchy he first settled in Lucerne and then at Basle where he lived modestly in an hotel from 1918 to 1934. In order to safeguard the existence of the Teutonic Order , Eugen voluntarily resigned his position as the Hoch- und Deutschmeister in 1923. He had been the last secular grand master of the order. In this way the possessions of the order were saved.

In 1934 he settled at the order's convent at Gumpoldskirchen near Vienna. He participated at monarchical rallies, attended veterans' meetings and placed himself again at the service of the dynasty even though he himself no longer believed in the restoration. Following the Anschluß of Austria to Germany in 1938 the German Order was dissolved and it's possessions confiscated.

FM. Archduke Eugen received, probably with the intervention of Hermann Göring and other senior military figures a rented house at Hietzing where he survived the 2nd World War. In 1945 he fled to the Tyrol where he received through the French occupying power a small rented villa at Igls. On the 21s of May 1953 the whole of Innsbruck celebrated the field marshal's 90th birthday. 

The Archduke died on the 30th of December 1954 at Meran (Merano) surrounded by the brothers of his order from Lana. In a solemn funeral ceremony on the 6th of January 1955, Archduke Eugen was laid to rest in the St. Jakobskirche at Innsbruck next to Archduke Maximilian III. (1558-1619).


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