A Green politician sitting on the local council in Wolfsberg wants to see the return of aristocratic titles which were banned in Austria after the first world war.
Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen, himself a descendant who would have the title Archduke, wants them to be returned to their former owners and their descendants by 2018 at the latest as Austria celebrates 100 years as a republic.
The Adelsaufhebungsgesetz of 1919 (Law on the Abolition of Nobility) abolished nobility as well as all noble privileges and noble titles and names. Thus, no Austrian can have any noble titles or even particles such as von and zu in his or her name.
For example, the name of the grandson of the last Austrian emperor is simply Karl Habsburg. Similarly, Friedrich von Hayek became Friedrich Hayek and Kurt von Schuschnigg became Kurt Schuschnigg.
Some descendants of nobles are sometimes referred to with noble names abroad, even though this is not legally accurate with respect to Austrian citizens.
Also, different members of noble families often hold different citizenships, such as in the case of Otto von Habsburg (the son of the last Austrian emperor and father of the Karl Habsburg mentioned above), who is also a citizen of Germany, where this Austrian law does not apply to him.
And the law does not apply to artistic, performers, or “stage names,” where the von is sometimes used, as in the case of conductor Herbert von Karajan or the musician Hubert von Goisern.
However, stage names are never recognized for official purposes.
Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen says that the names are an important part of the country’s history and culture.
He said: “Like it or not it must happen eventually simply to make the EU uniform – it can’t be that half of those in the EU can use their titles and the other half not.”
In Austria there are about 50,000 people eligible to have titles to their names.
But a clear no has already been registered by the Green Party constitutional spokesperson Daniela Musiol. She said the politician’s opinion was a personal one that did not represent the official opinion of the green party.