One of the biggest hardships for Emperor Karl was the separation from his children as he and Empress Zita were sent into exile on Madeira. The children remained in Switzerland until Empress Zita, with many restrictions, could travel there and bring them back with her to Madeira.
The following is an account of the family’s reunion:
“On February 2, [Emperor Karl] met Empress Zita and the children—Archduke Robert excluded [because he was recovering from appendicitis]—to accompany them and Archduchess Maria Theresa into Funchal. Emperor Karl stood on the pier. The joy of the children was indescribable when they greeted him with exuberant embraces when he boarded the ship. Tears ran down the Emperor’s cheeks as he carried the little Archduke Rudolf in his arms down the gangway. The attendants who had come with the children were startled to see how tired and aged their sovereign had become. But it was impossible to see any sign of bitterness in his face, or hear him say anything uncharitable.”
During his final illness the Emperor received considerable pleasure when he could hear from his sickbed the voices of his children through the window, and if they could hear him when he called out to them.
Throughout his fatal illness he was considerate and concerned for the wellbeing of others because of the danger of infection, and for his children because of the possible trauma of seeing him so ill. Of all the children, only Otto as his heir was called to his deathbed because he wanted to give the young archduke the example of how a monarch and Catholic faces death. As Otto sobbed loudly seeing his father struggling with death, he received comfort from his mother. The Emperor wanted to save the rest of the children from contagion and trauma.
One of the last prayers the Emperor uttered shortly before he died was for all of his children, whom he mentioned by name, placing them under the special protection of the Lord. Archduchess Maria Theresa overheard the Emperor praying for the children. She gives the following account: “‘Dearest Savior protect our children: Otto, Mädi, Robert, Felix, Karl Ludwig. Who comes next?’ The Empress helped him: ‘Rudolf,’ and he continued: ‘Rudolf, Lotti and especially our newest little one [the Empress was pregnant with Elisabeth, who was born after the Emperor’s death]. Preserve them in body and soul, and let them die rather than commit a mortal sin, Amen! Thy will be done. Amen.’”
My Lord and God, I thank You that Blessed Emperor Karl loved his family and entrusted them to Your Will and Divine Plan, which he loved so very much. Hear my petition [mention your petition here] through the intercession of Blessed Emperor Karl.
[Hail Mary. Our Father. Glory Be.]