The Habsburgs: To Rule the World’ Review: An Ideal Empire

August 21, 2020

Zbigniew Brzezinski used to tell the story of how his mother would bake a cake every year to mark the birthday of the Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph. He marveled at how she maintained the tradition long after the emperor had died and the empire over which he presided was nothing more than a memory. Her attachment to the Habsburgs would have been recognizable to the residents of 16th-century Peru who, when told of the death of the distant monarch Charles V, built elaborate, 50-foot catafalques and mourned even after his successor had taken the throne.How did a family of inbred Swiss Germans hold in thrall the imaginations of Poles and Peruvians, 7,000 miles and half a millennium apart? Unlike the Romanovs or the Ottomans, both of whom eventually assumed the identity of their empires’ dominant ethnicities, the Habsburgs remained, to the end, a dynasty without a nationality, the ultimate imperial expression of what is today called supranationalism.


The Wall Street Journal

Wess Mitchell
Dr. A. Wess Mitchell is co-founder and principal at The Marathon Initiative, a policy initiative focused on developing strategies to prepare the United States for an era of sustained great power competition.