Tuesday, 20 November 2012


To mark what would have been the centenary of Prince Otto von Habsburg (who only died last year) the last crowned head of one of Europe's greatest dynasties - whose territories once spanned from Flanders and Spain to Italy and Hungary as well as Austria - I thought it appropriate to reflect on the Habsburgs' impressive collection of some of the finest jewelled pieces in history, which were still in the possession of Otto's family until the dismantling of their empire in 1919.

[top of page] The Imperial Crown of Austria, made in Prague in 1602 as the personal crown of Emperor Rudolf II, who had been Holy Roman Emperor since 1576 (and king of Bohemia and Hungary as well as Austrian Emperor).

Crown of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from the High Middle Ages. It was probably made ​​somewhere in Western Germany, either under Otto I (with additions by Conrad II ), by Conrad II or Conrad III during the late 10th and early 11th centuries.

The "Emerald Unguentarium" was commissioned by Emperor Ferdinand III in 1641, and was carved out of a single large emerald crystal of Colombian origin, probably over 3,000 carats in weight, perhaps the largest emerald crystal discovered in the world at that time.

Love Brooch, first documented in the inventory of Emperor Ferdinand I. It probably came into Habsburg possession through his grandmother, Archduchess Mary of Burgundy in the fifteenth century.

One of a pair of jewelled ceremonial gloves made for the coronation of Frederick II in 1220.

Emperor Leopold I acquired the "incomparably precious stone called Hyacynth La Bella" from an aristocratic Hungarian family in 1687, and a richly enamelled double eagle with the imperial crown was added to the existing early 15th century setting of the Zircon stone.

Jewelled medallion (1870 to 1890) of the Order of the Golden Fleece - an order of chivalry founded by Philip III, Duke of Burgundy in 1430, to celebrate his marriage to the Portuguese princess Infanta Isabella of Portugal, and the extension of his Habsburg territories across Europe.

All these wonders and more may be seen at the Vienna History Museum


  1. I will never forget the odd feeling one got, one day in the late '80s, sitting there on an ordinary morning and reading in the The New York Times the obituary for "Zita, Last Empress of Austria-Hungary" - it was like a draft from another age on the back of one's neck...

  2. I really enjoy your blog. Thank you for all the marvelous photos and information.

    1. You are more than welcome, kind sir! Jx


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