The Real King of the Spanish Tradition

Carlos VIII



Don Carlos de Austria y de Borbón was born in the beautiful palace of the grand dukes of Tuscany on Argentinierstrasse in Vienna on 4 December 1909. He was the fourth son of Archduke Don Leopold Salvator of Habsburg-Lorraine. Marshall of the Austrian army, inspector general of artillery and knight of the Austrian branch of the Order of the Golden Fleece, and of the Infanta Doña Blanca de Borbón y de Borbón. He was baptized a few hours after his birth. His godparents were Pope Pius X represented by Cardinal Granito de Belmonte and the Countess de Bardi of the royal house of Naples. He was given the names of Carlos, Pio, Maria, Aldegunda, Blanca, Leopoldo, Ignacio, Rafael, Miguel Salvador and Cyrill. On his mother’s side the little archduke descended directly from the Chivalrous King Don Carlos VII and on his father’s from the Catholic Kings and the Emperor Ferdinand, son of Doña Juana, common procreator of all the current Habsburgs.

The Archduke Leopold Salvador was son of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II and Princess Alice of Borbón-Parma. Despite his military background he was also a civil engineer who distinguished himself as the creator of several hydraulic innovations. His mother, the eldest daughter of Carlos VII had not lost her Spanish nationality when she married the Austrian archduke because she had seen to it that the marriage contract so specify. She was multilingual and spoke Spanish,German, French, Italian, English and Polish to perfection and was a patron of the arts protecting the celebrated Puccini to whom she left a farm where he could bring up his family. She was known at the Austrian court as a violin virtuosa.

Don Carlos lived his early years at the side of his parents and frequented the court of the old Emperor Francis Joseph until the revolution of 1918 forced the imperial family to leave Vienna when the troubles reached the gates of the grandducal palace and the republic was proclaimed.

After a short stay at the family farm in la Tenuta Reale de Viareggio in Italy, they settled in reduced circumstances in a tower in the Sarría neighborhood of Barcelona, with the blessing of Don Alfonso XIII. Don Carlos attended a private school run by monks where he made his first childhood friends and came in contact with distinguished pro-Carlist Catalan families. Undoubtedly influenced by his father, after the completion of his studies he entered the Industrial Engineering School, a career he pursued in Austria when the Spanish Republican government expelled him from Spain.

While still in high school he joined the Carlist Youth Movement in a volunteer company of which he became the standard bearer. With the advent of the Republic he defended the red and yellow flag against a large group of revolutionaries who were trying to burn it in the center of the Plaza de Cataluña, which later resulted in the Javieristas claiming that his sympathies rested with Alfonso XIII. This episode, however, brought him to the attention of the most militant conservative elements of Carlism who promptly adopted him as their leader. Their decision was also influenced by a stint Don Carlos had served in jail during which he had suffered an anarchist attempt on his life, but which, thanks to his coolness, he had been able to foil. Since the death of Don Jaime III and even during the life of old Don Alfonso Carlos, Don Carlos was the prince behind whom the staunchest traditionalists fell to save the Dynasty. In 1932 they published a study by the then Lt.Col. Judge Advocate of the Army don Jesús de Cora y Lira (Note 1) defending the legitimate succession in the person of the Archduke.

Once back in his native Austria he joined the Dollfus Militia with which he participated in 1934 in street fights against communist and socialist groups involved in a general revolutionary strike threatened to overthrow the government. Don Carlos received his baptism of fire in a street fight between the traditional Heimwehr and the Marxists. The first photograph of Don Carlos which circulated in Spain according to Cora y Lira (Note 2)shows him wearing the Heimwehr uniform.

Following the Spanish Civil War and, realizing that the illegally-founded Regency established by Don Alfonso Carlos had become invalid , Don Carlos issued a manifesto from Viareggio on 29 March 1943 accepting "the monarchic legitimacy" transmitted by his mother Doña Blanca( Note 3.)who had previously given up her rights to the Crown. At first taking up residence in Andorra, Don Carlos wrote his second political manifesto on Good Friday 1944. In it he expressed his fervent catholicity saying: " Only a Christian state totally imbued in the doctrines of the Savior can ensure the tranquillity of the nation and give it the stability and firmness which are cemented in the eternal truths." These statements, however, were given a different spin by some Javierists who claimed that they revealed a complicity between Don Carlos and the fascist doctrines and they warned him to publicly deny the "totalitarian regime" of General Franco. Don Carlos replied in writing to the Carlist chief in Navarre , Don Emilio Dean Berro as follows:

"In the first place I must point out that in my manifesto of 29 June 1943 I swore to maintain the principles and the program of government of my illustrious ancestors, the Kings of the Carlist Dynasty. No one can proclaim, without accusing me of perjuring myself that I could accept other principles than those which my eminent ancestors defended with integrity. I shall be a traditional King or I shall not be King at all."

In spite of the doctrinal energy of this letter, both the Juanistas(Note 4.)(who were preparing the act of Estoril) and the Javieristas (Note 5.)(who urged the Regent to proclaim himself King) depicted Don Carlos as "an invention" of Franco’s in order to divide Carlism. Now firmly established in Barcelona, Don Carlos named a Council and a Secretary General in the person of now General Advocate General of the Army, Don Jesús de Cora y Lira on whom he bestowed the title of Count of Cora y Lira . (See annexes). It was during this period that Don Carlos surrounded himself with an important group of traditionalists among whom were Lizarza, Láscaris, Jaime Fernandez, Larraya, Zuazo, etc. among others. Falangist, personal friends also belonged to this circle. Cadenas y Vicent, whom he had known in Italy and who he had appointed King of Arms is a case in point. The false accusation of "being sold to the Falange" continued to spread like an oil stain.(Note 6.)

The calumny not withstanding, the economic clout of his partisans enabled the publication of various propaganda bulletins which shed some light on Don Carlos’ agenda. (Note 7.)This was a mixture of a thoroughly Carlist traditionalism with a side reminiscent of Portuguese integralism,(Note 8.)little known in Spain and which had such an influence on our own integrism (Note 9.)and in the Portuguese Salazar dictatorship. They appealed to those who aspired to realize in Spain a regime based on the social doctrine of the Church.

Josep Carles Clemente,(Note 10.) a propagandist for the left-leaning Carlists has effectively summarized the political program of Don Carlos VIII:



-Representative parliament

-Traditional government by means of councils

-Independent judiciary

-Avowed catholicity of the State

-Recognition of regions

-Limited right of property

-Abolition of political parties

-Collaboration with Labor unions.


This program was quite different from that of the Franco régime, notwithstanding the admiration that the followers of Carlos VIII had for the general who had triumphed over the Marxist revolution. In his first manifesto of 1943 to the people of Spain (Note 11.) Don Carlos said: "Perhaps I should keep silent about the circumstances and dangers besetting Generalissimo Franco and the Fatherland and his success in keeping the nation in peace which is an inestimable gift from God and also underlines his clearsightedness with respect to his obligations…" The future Carlist State would not be that of Franco: "Carlism wants neither an absolute Monarchy nor a liberal Monarchy, nor a totalitarian State nor a police State."

But it was inevitable that the views of an individual with the anti-Marxist background of Don Carlos had to coincide with those of a leader such as Franco who made an uncompromising anti-communist stance the principal characteristic of his regime. The result was that his political enemies accused him over and over again of "collaboration" and by so doing confused a number of families which were very close to Don Carlos doctrinally but rabidly anti-Franco such as those who later proclaimed the National Regency of Estella before the veering off to the left of the Javierists which was to taint Carlism. There is, however, no evidence that Don Carlos VIII received any official help either before or after he proferred the Collar of the Order of Saint Carlos Borromeo, which he had created to reward the merits of his followers, on the Generalissimo at the Pedralbes palace during a visit by the latter to Barcelona in 1951. We know from Cora y Lira that the Head of State was grateful for the award and pronounced words of praise for Carlism and the Prince.

At the time most responsible followers of Don Carlos sought a solution to the thorny succession problem created by his morganatic marriage to Doña Cristian Satzger von Balvayos which had ended in divorce in 1950 but which had given him two daughters, Doña Alexandra Blanca born on 20 January 1941 in Viareggio and Doña María Inmaculada, born 3 July 1945 in Barcelona. It was clear that neither could inherit the throne. Don Carlos’ brothers had renounced their rights; Leopold and Francisco José before the Spanish Consul in New York in 1947 and Anton before Don Carlos himself. Cora y Lira, however, leaned toward Anton, as he was the only one who had kept his condition of Archduke when he married equally with Princess Ileana of Roumania (whom he eventually divorced) and had a suitable heir for the succession to the Throne of Spain in the person of his son, the Archduke Esteban Carlos.

This lack of foresight in the end had a tragic result for the Carlist Habsburgs, Poisoned, as it was rumored at the time or not, Don Carlos died suddenly on Christmas eve 1953 at his residence on Balmes street in Barcelona without a successor being named from among his brothers, trusting perhaps in the royal automatism of the laws of Phillip V. The IVth Duke of Madrid (as he styled himself in life) Grand Master of the Orders of Proscribed Legitimacy, of Santa Maria of the Lily of Navarre and of San Carlos Borromeo was buried wearing the uniform of colonel of the Carlist Volunteers in the Royal Monastery of Poblet,(Cistercian) former pantheon of the Kings of Aragon in the presence of a multitude which was presided over by his faithful followers Cora y Lira, Vallescar and Roger. They signed over the transfer of his remains to the Cistercian community. The official mourning period was presided over by the Minister of Justice, the Civil Governor and Mayor of Barcelona. Generalissimo Franco expressed his condolences in a telegram. Present at the official funeral in Madrid were four ministers and the President of the Council of the Kingdom presided over by Archduke Anton in the role of dynastic heir. Writers wrote that with the demise of Don Carlos VIII so died the Habsburg pretensions to the headship of Carlism. Thanks to the revelations of Cora y Lira who became the "depository of Carlism" , it turns out that there was still some life in the movement.


Note 1. Estudio jurídico y político. El futuro caudillos de la tradición española. Don jesús de Cora y Lira, del Ilustre Colegio de Abogados de Madrid. Imprenta Martosa, Madrid 1932.

Note 2. See previous note.

Note 3. A principle, as explained by Aparisi y Guijarro, which was implicit in the formation of the Spanish monarchy, when he said with Zurita that girls transmit the right but do not reign.

Note 4. Followers of Don Juan, Count of Barcelona.

Note 5. Followers of Francisco Javier de Borbón-Parma

Note 6. Conspiración y guerra civil. Jaime del Burgo. Madrid, 1970

Note 7. The most important of which was ¡Volveré! ( I shall return) which was subtitled, "In the service of Spain, of Tradition and of Carlos VIII".

Note 8. Which was based on order over freedom.

Note 9. "integrism" = Late nineteenth century Spanish political party which advocated the preservation of national traditions.

Note 10. Historia del Carlismo contemporáneo. Josep Carles Clemnte. Ed. Grijalbo, Barcelona, 1977.

Note 11. Translator's note: Franco managed to keep Spain out of WWII.




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