The Privileges of the Habsburgs

1 x 45 min

Are we really all equal in the eyes of the law? Nowadays it is usually taken for granted that even crowned heads of state are subject to the laws of the land. But that was not always the case – even until late in the 19th century, the House of Habsburg placed itself above the law. Despite the many misdemeanors committed by the ruling family, not a single Habsburg ever stood trial. In this documentary, Stefan Wolner compares some of the Habsburgs’ crimes with the misdemeanors of those of lower rank, shining a light on the double standards of the time. Homosexuality, for example, was punishable by up to five years in prison. The only punishment for Archduke Ludwig Viktor, who lived more or less openly as a homosexual, was having to move from Vienna to faraway Salzburg when a scandal hit. The Monarchy’s attitude to prostitution was similarly hypocritical: In Maria Theresa’s time, venal love was punished with heavy fines or would have you pilloried and flogged. And yet, the Habsburgs – from Maria Theresa’s husband Franz Stephan to Crown Prince Rudolf – were known to be good customers of the oldest profession. As a skilful financial juggler, Franz Stephan did business with the Prussian army, i.e. with the enemy, during the War of the Austrian Succession. Someone who did not bear the Habsburg name would have been charged as a high traitor for this, as was seen with the Jacobin trial taking place at the time.

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