Erzherzog Heinrich

Erzherzog Heinrich Anton Maria Rainer Carl Gregor was born as the fifth son of Erzherzog Rainer Josef and Elisabeth von Savoyen-Carignan on the 28th of May 1828 at Milan. As a son of the vice king of Lombardy-Venetia he rapidly progressed through the ranks attaining the rank of Oberst attached to infantry regiment number 3 with his coming of age in 1849. In June 1852 he was transferred to infantry regiment number 14 at Linz were for the first time he performed regular military duty as the second colonel of this regiment followed by his admission to the Order of the Golden Fleece in December of the same year. In 1856 he was honored with the title of Oberstinhaber of infantry regiment number 62 followed by the award of the grand cross of the Hessian Order of Ludwig by the Oberstinhaber of infantry regiment number 14 in May 1857. After his promotion to Generalmajor in 1858 he took over command of a brigade of the 3rd army corps at Laibach under the command of Erzherzog Ernst. For about 4 weeks during the campaign of 1859 he commanded  a brigade of the 15th army corps occupying Venice before he was replaced by Generalmajor Schneider von Arno at the end of June 1859 and again attached to the headquarters of the 3rd army corps.

In August 1863 Erzherzog Heinrich received his promotion to Feldmarschall-Leutnant followed by the appointment as Commanding General at Graz on the 3rd of March 1864. This was where he first met the great love of his life, the singer Leopoldine Hofmann. At the outbreak of  the war with Prussia he was attached to the headquarters of the 9th army corps in May 1866 where he performed sufficiently  well during the battle of Custozza on the 24th of June that he was honored with the award of the Military Merit Cross with war decoration on the 14th of July 1866. For some weeks in July he commanded the 7th army corps before he took over command of the 4th infantry division in September 1866. Meanwhile the love affair with Miss Hofmann became ever more a "public secret". Erzherzog Heinrich attempted to obtain permission for this morganatic marriage but - of course - the Kaiser refused. When Erherzog Heinrich insisted, the conflict escalated and he was removed from his command "on health grounds for an indefinite period" on the 19th of September 1867. A critical situation for the couple but they decided to remain together and after a quiet wedding at Bozen on the 4th of February 1868 they fled to Switzerland and settled down at Lucerne. The consequences then followed, Erzherzog Heinrich now titled Graf Waideck was excluded from the dynasty, was deprived of all his titles, privileges and rights, all his honours, orders and decorations were dispossessed and the couple were banished from Austria. On the 18th of February 1868 it was published that Feldmarschall-Leutnant Erzherzog Heinrich had resigned all his duties, cast off his rank and gave up his military character - he was now neither an Archduke nor even an officer anymore.

At this point the story would normally have come to an end when a unique case occurred! After the birth of a daughter the couple were able to reconcile themselves with the dynasty in 1872. For the first - and last - time Kaiser Franz Joseph showed this kind of beneficence, perhaps because Erzherzog Heinrich was distant from any claim to the throne and relatively unimportant. He was reappointed to all his rights and ranks and his wife was ennobled to Edle von Waideck, later in 1878 to Freifrau von Waideck, and they were able to return to Austria were they settled at his own Palace at Bozen. In January 1875 Feldmarschall-Leutnant Erzherzog Heinrich received the colonelcy of infantry regiment number 51, because his old regiment number 62 had meanwhile been bestowed upon Ludwig Prince of Bavaria. Apart from this honorary appointment he did not resume a full time military career. It was a part of the agreement with the family that they had to lead a quiet life at Bozen retired from all public or society occasions and they both followed the rule. One of the extremely rare cases when they traveled to Vienna was for the wedding of Erzherzogin Maria Louise to the Saxon crown prince in 1891 - but this has fatal consequences! During this journey the couple both contracted pneumonia and died in the same night of the 29th to the 30th of November 1891!

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