Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl

Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl Ludwig Joseph Johann Maria was born on the 27th of December 1868 at Vienna as the third and youngest son of Erzherzog Karl Ludwig, the younger brother of Kaiser Franz Joseph I. and his second wife Maria Annunziata von Neapel-Sizilien. After the early death of his mother he was affectionately raised by his stepmother Maria Theresia mainly at the estates at Reichenau and Schloß Artstetten. On the 25th of April 1884 he was commissioned as a Leutant in ulan regiment number 4 shortly followed by his admission to the Order of the Golden Fleece. After three years of military education where he displayed more technical talent than interest in horses, he was transferred to Genie-Regiment number 2 followed by his promotion to Oberleutnant on the 26th of October 1889.

After the son of Kaiser Franz Joseph, Erzherzog Rudolf, committed suicide, the dynastic importance of Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl grew from year to year. His eldest brother Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand, who became the new heir to the throne, suffered during these years from Tuberculousis and later effected a morganatic marriage to Gräfin Chotek which forced him to renounce any dynastic rights for his children whilst his other brother, Erzherzog Otto, the father of the later Kaiser Karl, was a notorious playboy and it was commonly hoped that he would also renounce all his rights if the worst case should happen. As so often in history everything turned out differently in the end but all these dynastic circumstances caused the award of - mainly foreign - high honours and orders to Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl whilst he performed his military career. On the 28th of November 1891 he received the Saxon Order of the Rautenkrone and on the 31st of January 1893 the grand cross of the Order of the Crown of Württemberg. On the 26th of April 1893 Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl was promoted to Hauptmann 1st class and simultaneously transferred to Pioneer Battalion number 5. On the 27th of October 1893 he was transferred to the more prestigious Tyrolean Kaiserjäger where he received his promotions to Major on the 27th of October 1895 and to Oberstleutnant on the 22nd of April 1897 - both with the 1st regiment of the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger at Innsbruck. On the 4th of June 1897 he was honored with the award of the Bavarian Order of St.Hubertus and on the 3rd of October 1898 he received the grand cross of the Serbian Order of the White Eagle. Additionally with his promotion to Oberst on the 27th of October 1898 he was transferred to the 4th regiment of the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger. On the 30th of November 1898 Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl received the Military Merit Cross. This award was in close connection with the 50 years crown jubilee of the Kaiser; all the Archdukes who performed duty in the army and had not previously received this award received that cross on this day. On the 21st of April 1899 he was transferred to the 3rd regiment of the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger soon followed by his taking over the command of this regiment on the 13th of May 1899. At the end of June 1899 Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl was honored with the title of Oberstinhaber of infantry regiment number 48. During the following years as a regimental commander he was honored with several foreign decorations: the grand cross with chain of the Order of Karl III. from Spain (8th June 1900), the portrait of the Shah of Persia with brilliants (19th October 1900), the Order of the Chrysanthemums from Japan (6th May 1901), the grand cross of the Order of the White Falcon of Saxon-Weimar (18th June 1901) and the Prussian Order of the Black Eagle (27th November 1901).

Around 1900 the troubles between his brother, the heir to the thrown Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser regarding the morganatic marriage with Gräfin Chotek came to the fore. Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand had hoped that his brothers would support his position but both Erzherzog Otto and Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl maintained dynastic discipline and more than this both refused to attend the wedding ceremony. Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand was deeply hurt and would never forget or forgive this "treachery" as he saw it. It was just at this time that Erzherzog Frerdinand Karl meet for the first time Berta Czuber (1879-1979), the daughter of a professor from the technical university at the Viennese Technikerball. Besides his enthusiasm for the theatre, Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl was also very interested in technical problems which seem to be have been promoted by his origin from a technical branch of the service It was for him always a pleasure to be the patron of the annual ball of the technical university. He immediately fell in love with the charming young lady but one could imagine the problems which would arise if it was a scandal that his brother wanted to marry a countess of the highest and oldest nobility and he became engaged with a girl from a good but untitled family! The first years, while he was a regimental commander at Vienna and Trient, they met secretly. On the 17th of October 1902 Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl received the commendation of the Kaiser for his efforts as a regimental commander which allowed him to wear the Bronze Military Merit Medal (Signum Laudis) on the red ribbon and was transferred to Prague as commander of the 18th infantry brigade shortly followed by his promotion to Generalmajor on the 26th of October 1902. At this post he received his last two decorations, the grand cross of the Maltese Knightly Order (2nd June 1903) and the grand cross of the Russian Order of St.Andreas (6th October 1903).

The rumours about his love affair grew and finally in 1903 Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl steeled himself and asked the Kaiser for his permission to marry the beloved Miss Berta Czuber. He hoped that it could work if he offered to retire from his military ranks probably becoming Hoftheater-Intendant or if he promised to stay away from Vienna - it shows how far his imagination differed from reality! Kaiser Franz Joseph I. acted as he had to do and refused to sanction this affair. Now the time for his brother's revenge had come. Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand started a real campaign against his younger brother and more than this he demanded the severest possible punishment for Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl. The situation came to a head in 1904 and so Generalmajor Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl was released from further duty with the official cause "on health grounds" on the 18th of October 1904 and was advised to stay away from Vienna - the permission to marry was still refused, of course. The lovers now "fled" to Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl's own estates Schloß Rosenstein and Rottenstein near Meran and retired from social life. In love and war everything is allowed and so they married secretly in 1909 in Switzerland but the marriage remained childless. It took some time until the Kaiser was informed about this but then he had to react on this disobedience to his orders. In August 1911 Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl was excluded from the dynasty, he lost all his titles, ranks and rights, all his honours, orders and decorations were dispossessed and the couple were banished from Vienna - Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand had his revenge! Only the Kaiser himself mitigated the hard punishment in agreeing to the payment of a small annual subsidy from the family treasures. Ferdinand Karl now assumed the name "Ferdinand Burg" which was a pseudonym often used by his father during traveling.

After the murder at Sarajevo in 1914 Ferdinand Burg received special allowance to travel to Vienna and to take part in the funeral ceremonies of his eldest brother. But the folks saw a suffering, broken old man ignored by all members of his family. Only a short while later on the 12th of March 1915 did Ferdinand Burg, the former Erzherzog Ferdinand Karl, die at Munich at the age of only 47. His human remains were buried at the cemetery at Untermais near Meran - his beloved wife survived him by more than 50 years!

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