originally published April 25, 2012
This is Charlie. Charlie is not having a good year.
Charlie used to be the king of Austria-Hungary, up until the end of WWI. In 1918 he relinquished his right to take part in the affairs of state in Hungary, then took off to Switzerland. By 1920 Hungary was a Soviet republic, but Charlie’s old buddy Mike was running things.
This is Mike. Miklós actually, but I’m sure he went by Mike. Mike used to command the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and he was once fiercely loyal to Charlie. Now, though he’s a regent and not a king, he runs the show in Charlie’s old neighborhood.
On Easter weekend, 1921, Charlie decided it was time to take back the throne. Shaving his mustache and using a phony passport, Charlie slipped back into Hungary, and showed up at Mike’s palace (once Charlie’s pad) just as Mike was sitting down to Easter dinner.
This is Maggie. Okay, ‘Magdolna’, but that doesn’t exactly pirouette off the Western tongue, does it? Maggie plays almost no role in this story, but she’s the one who insisted Charlie sit and wait while Mike finishes his Easter dinner. Maggie is Mike’s wife. She’s got spunk, I like that.
Charlie informed Mike he was back to be king again. Mike, aware that some Hungarians were still royalists and many were not, didn’t think hosting a potential civil war so soon after an Allied ass-whooping was a good idea. Charlie insisted the French prime minister supported him; Mike pointed out that Yugoslavia and the Czechs would launch a WWI encore if Charlie reclaimed the throne.
The two men took a breather. Unfortunately, they both had a different idea of what a breather was.
Mike thought Charlie would leave the country, allow cooler heads to prevail, then either try to reclaim Austria (not Mike’s problem) or just retire. Charlie thought the breather would allow Mike to rally his governing buddies, and push through the paperwork to return Charlie to the CEO’s office.
The French PM denied any support for Charlie’s return, and the army was loyal to Mike. Charlie moped back across the border.
This is Anton. He’s a Colonel and the Minister of Education in Mike’s government. He’s got a thing for Charlie – probably not a romantic thing, but who knows? I’m sure man-crushes happened at high government levels in eastern Europe in the early 20’s, it’s just that nobody talked about it.
Anton did his best to rally the royalists while Charlie chilled out in his tiny exile shack in Switzerland.
In October, it was time to try again. Charlie flew into western Hungary in a rickety old war plane, hiding from authorities. On the afternoon of October 21, a group of armored trains were being equipped in Sopron for a trip into Budapest, 120 miles away. The battalion took an inspiring oath to the king, and Charlie quietly prepared for his return to glory.
It took ten hours for the trains to travel only 50 miles. They stopped in every little village along the way, graciously allowing the local garrison and public officials the opportunity to swear their loyalty to Charlie, and to allow a photo op for the adoring masses to feed Charlie’s ego. No rush, this was an inevitable journey back to the pinnacle of power – what’s the harm in basking in a little bit of a worshipping glow?
Well, for one thing it gave Mike plenty of time to hear the news about Charlie’s train fleet, and to gather his own forces to shut down the party. He demanded loyalty from his army. The younger troops were keen to help, but some of the older officers adopted a “meh” strategy, which undermined Mike’s cause.
Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania were amassing troops, ready to invade if Charlie reclaimed the throne. Mike sent Charlie a desperate letter, begging him not to proceed. Charlie liked his little victory train-chain though, and he wasn’t backing down.
This is Pál. Pál is a Hungarian general, loyal to Charlie. He showed up on the morning of October 23 to remind Mike that the international community was on Charlie’s side. Mike politely informed Pál precisely how much shit he was full of, and that, not only would the Allied forces never recognize Charlie’s leadership, but Budapest would be overrun by Czech troops if Charlie’s plan were to continue.
Pál was convinced. He offered to negotiate peace on Mike’s behalf. Mike then gave a rousing speech to the army waiting for Charlie’s Train Squad of Hellfire (that’s my nickname – I really think they needed a nickname). Shots were fired when the trains pulled into Budaörs, just outside the capital. Fourteen of Mike’s troops and five of Charlie’s were killed.
Still, by noon on the 23rd it was pretty clear that the “meh”-leaning officers were falling into place on Mike’s side. Charlie arrived in Budapest expecting to see Mike ready to hand over the keys to Hungary, hopefully with a parade at least in the planning stages. There were no keys. There were no floats, no dancing ferrets or whatever they do for a traditional Hungarian parade.
On October 24, Charlie read the terms of Mike’s peace agreement. Charlie was to surrender, abdicate his throne officially, and in return only the top ringleaders of his revolution would be arrested. As he was perusing Mike’s conditions, shots rang out. Charlie was bundled onto the royal train, just as Anton appeared, calling out for a “fight to the last drop of blood.”
Charlie ordered the train stopped. He knew he was beaten. He ordered Anton and his troops to surrender.
If Anton wasn’t on the “arrest” list before that last move, he was now. He fled Hungary and stashed himself in Germany, trying to break into music publishing. The Nazis weren’t fans of royalists, so he had to flee to Austria when they took over in 1933. He lived there until time took its toll in 1962.
Pál underwent gender reassignment surgery, and lived out the rest of her days as Pauline Guggenblatz, aspiring dancer and part-time cigarette girl at the Roxy in Manhattan. Not really – he doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page, so I can make up whatever I like.
Mike picked the wrong ally in siding with the Nazis going into WWII. They didn’t trust him, and invaded his country in 1944, booting him out of power. After the war, Mike testified at the Nuremberg trials, then lived out the remainder of his days in Portugal. Why Portugal? Why not?
As for Charlie, well it didn’t end well for him. He didn’t win back his throne, and his health began to deteriorate. He lasted until April 1, 1922 – a year and five days after he’d first shown up at Mike’s door on Easter.
Sometimes politics can be a fickle bitch.