The Habsburgs: Embodying Empire (Revised)
DescriptionFor half a millennium, the Habsburgs were at the heart of western history. Their long, lugubrious faces and watery blue eyes stared out of myriad portraits, seemingly unchanged from generation to generation. They were a race apart, inhabitants of a world detached from the real and the tangible. For a Habsburg, there was no limit to possibility: Maximilian I could dream of being both Pope and Holy Roman Emperor; Ferdinand II could imagine turning back the tide of Protestantism, and cheerfully risk drowning Europe in blood to achieve that miracle; and Francis I would fashion a cosy Biedermeier world, in which all children had rosy cheeks and all milkmaids were pretty and demure. Like saints - or madmen - they denied reality and constucted the world as they wanted it to be.
The Habsburgs were a diverse, disparate, often warring tribe, but ultimately all fell under the controlling discipline of their chief. They suffered catastrophe, sudden death and moral and political failure that would have destroyed other royal houses, but though they no longer rule, they remain an important and influential family; and they believe they may be called upon to rule again.
For generations, the Habsburgs have resisted the interrogation of history, but in this book, covering the whole sweep of Habsburg history from the Middle Ages to the present, Andrew Wheatcroft utilizes a new approach. There is less about the lands and peoples that were ruled, and more about the rulers themselves, both as individuals and collectively. Andrew Wheatcroft uses the techniques of the archaeologist, scraping through the strata of past lives to rediscover the Habsburgs' own scale of values, their concerns, theirtotems and their fetishes. He explores how and why the Habsburgs have survived and how they are now moving confidently towards a new century, as ever imbued with their own curious and convoluted version of eternal life. This marvellous new work, the product of twenty years' study and research, defines the true nature of a unique Imperial dynasty.
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