Secret marriage in Switzerland

Ferdinand Karl in civilian dress with his wife Berta Czuber, 1913

In spite of the Emperor declining to give his permission for him to wed a commoner, Archduke Ferdinand Karl married his partner – and had to leave the Habsburg family.

Ferdinand Karl in civilian dress with his wife Berta Czuber, 1913

In 1902, Archduke Ferdinand Karl, a brother of the heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand, made the acquaintance of Bertha Czuber, the daughter of a Vienna university professor. He requested Franz Joseph’s permission to marry Bertha, but the Emperor refused. Nevertheless, Ferdinand continued to live quietly with his partner and in 1909 the two married secretly in Switzerland. In so doing, Ferdinand committed a clear violation of the Family Statute, which specified the necessity of obtaining the permission of the Emperor for a marriage of this kind. Ferdinand succeeded in keeping the marriage secret for two years. Finally, however, he informed Franz Joseph of the state of affairs and asked him to recognize the marriage, announcing that if recognition was not granted, he would leave the family: ‘In the event of Your Majesty not giving his most gracious consent to my request, I would naturally be compelled to renounce my title and other things, and to continue my life under some other name, e.g., Burg.’

To which Franz Joseph replied: ‘By virtue of an act that was in defiance of my will and in contradiction with the dictates of the Family Statute, you have created a fait accompli that cannot be excused and the consequence of which must be your leaving the imperial house.’

Ferdinand thus left the archducal house and took the name Ferdinand Burg. The matter was handled discreetly in order not to create a public scandal. However, as rumours did get around, a simply announcement of Ferdinand Burg’s withdrawal from the family was published in the newspapers.

Stephan Gruber