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Last Empress Zita of Austria Signed Autograph Christmas Card 1940

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Fine photographic postcard of Vienna sent as a Christmas card dated December 2nd 1940 from Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma (9 May 1892 – 14 March 1989), to Amercian socialite Mrs Henry Cole. Zita was the wife of Emperor Charles of Austria. As such, she was the last Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary, and Queen of Bohemia.

Born as the seventeenth child of the dispossessed Robert I, Duke of Parma and his second wife Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal, Zita married the then Archduke Charles of Austria in 1911. Charles became heir presumptive to the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1914 after the assassination of his uncle Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, and acceded to the throne in 1916 after the old emperor's death.

After the end of World War I in 1918, the Habsburgs were deposed when the new countries of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs were formed. Charles and Zita left for exile in Switzerland and later Madeira, where Charles died in 1922. After her husband's death, Zita and her son Otto served as the symbols of unity for the exiled dynasty. A devout Catholic, she raised a large family after being widowed at the age of 29, and never remarried.

During World War II the U.S. Government granted the family exit visas on 9 July 1940. After a perilous journey they arrived in New York on 27 July, having family in Long Island and Newark, New Jersey.

The Austrian imperial refugees eventually settled in Quebec which was where this card was sent, it had the advantage of being French-speaking (the younger children were not yet fluent in English). As they were cut off from all European funds, finances were more stretched than ever. At one stage, Zita was reduced to making salad and spinach dishes from dandelion leaves. However, all her sons were active in the war effort. Otto promoted the dynasty's role in a post-war Europe and met regularly with Franklin Roosevelt; Robert was the Habsburg representative in London; Carl Ludwig and Felix joined the United States Army, serving with several American-raised relatives of the Mauerer line; Rudolf smuggled himself into Austria in the final days of the war to help organise the resistance. In 1945 Empress Zita celebrated her birthday on the first day of peace, 9 May. She was to spend the next two years touring the United States and Canada to raise funds for war-ravaged Austria and Hungary.

While visiting her daughter, in summer 1988, she developed pneumonia and spent most of the autumn and winter bedridden. Finally, she called her son Otto, in early March 1989, and told him she was dying. He and the rest of the family travelled to her bedside and took turns keeping her company until she died in the early hours of 14 March 1989. She was 96 years old

"Dear Mrs. Cole,
With every good wish for Christmas and the New Year, Mr. Cole and your dear children
Zita."

Card size: 13 x 8.5 cm approx

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