Czechoslovakia’s founder and first president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk is hugely respected by many Czechs and still referred to as the tatínek (daddy) of the nation. But who was the great man’s own father? According to a book that has received a lot of attention lately, it may have been none other than Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph 1.
The claim is made in The Emperor’s President: The Secret of the Family of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk by Czech author David Glockner. Glockner says his main evidence comes from one of Franz Joseph’s diaries, which contains the words Kropaczek erl., possibly meaning Kropaczek erledigt (dealt with), with Kropaczek being Teresie Kropáčková, the future president’s mother.
Her husband, Jozef Masaryk, was a semi-literate coach driver 10 years her junior. She was two months pregnant when she walked up the aisle in Hodonín in August 1849.
Glockner is not a historian but a fantasy author. He does not specify where he acquired the diary entry referred to and otherwise offers “evidence” that hardly even qualifies as tenuous, such as that the emperor travelled around South Moravia that year.
So it might be easy, then, to dismiss his assertions out of hand. Except for the fact that the same conclusion was reached two decades ago by a serious author, religious studies expert and university lecturer Otakar A. Funda.
After studying materials in the Vienna archives relating to Franz Josef and Masaryk, Funda reportedly recorded his findings in a memorandum that he presented to a number of historians. With the proviso that they not be made public as he had such great respect for TGM and did not want to use them to make a name for himself.
Journalist Petr Zídek says Funda told him that every time the young Masaryk got into serious difficulties in his student days in Vienna some “angel from heaven” would appear to sort it out. These guardian angels were always very close to the emperor.
What’s more, according to Funda, Franz Josef was indeed in Hodonín at the turn of June and July 1849, returning two months later in the face of protests from his staff.
It was on the second visit, he speculates, that the emperor arranged the marriage of Teresie Kropáčková and Josef Masaryk.
In any case, unless proper, verified research is carried out there is of course no way of knowing where the truth lies.
In the meantime, there is no denying the fascination of the very possibility that the son of the Hapsburg emperor who led Austria-Hungary into WWI may have sired the father of the Czechoslovak state which the empire’s collapse helped bring about.
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