Blessed Karl: A Humble King
By Zita Ballinger Fletcher
One of Blessed Karl’s most remarkable virtues was his great humility. Despite his considerable wealth and great authority as the ruler of a strong empire, Karl was a down-to-earth man who chose to live a humble life.
Karl was hardworking. Unlike many of his aristocratic relatives, Karl chose to work for a living. Instead of living in luxury, Karl voluntarily chose a career as a professional soldier. He viewed himself as an ordinary soldier serving his country. He worked at various military posts, accompanied by his wife and children. Despite becoming ruler of the Austrian Empire, he continued to live a simple, ordinary life with his family.
Karl was a hands-on leader. Whereas many emperors avoided contact with commoners and were out of touch with their subjects, Karl didn’t shy away from mingling with ordinary people in his kingdom. He often went out among them, meeting with them and talking with them about their lives and concerns. He was a leader who viewed himself as a public servant.
Karl was not corrupted by money. Despite his aristocratic background, he did not live an opulent or avaricious lifestyle. In his office as ruler, he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of his subjects and did not spare himself from personal hardship and sacrifice. He gave away many of his own belongings to the poor, even his own clothes from his wardrobe. He also made great personal sacrifices for his wife and children, selling his ancestral heirlooms to provide for his family when they fell upon hard times. When forced to make a home in impoverished living conditions during his exile, he did not complain. His primary concern was to continue to be, as he always had been, a good husband and father, and to serve his nation in any way he could.
Although he was a virtuous man, Karl did not promote himself as holy or claim to be a moral standard for others. He did not preach about his own ideals or criticize others who did not have the same values as he did. Rather, he led by example. He actively lived his beliefs—a testament to his sincere and deep humility, which continues to be an inspiration for many.
Zita Ballinger Fletcher is a journalist for CNS (Catholic News Service) who resides in Washington, D.C. She was named after Empress Zita and took the name Karl as her confirmation patron. She is devotee and member of the Emperor Karl League of Prayer for Peace Among Nations.