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Ron Knief's Great Uncle

Ron Knief's Great Uncle - Johann Glatz

"Johann was the personal body guard of Emperor Franz Josef of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The picture on the left is of Johann in his younger years wearing his full dress uniform. The picture on the right was taken in later years. His name was Johann Glatz - born 09/05/1870, died 03/28/1949. He was a great uncle of mine. He visited his brother, my Mother's Father (he was a farmer) in Kansas back in 1911, three years before the Great War. It no doubt took close to a month's travel each way from Vienna to a port, then across the Atlantic and by train half way across the continent. I understand the whole town showed up when he got off the train in his dress uniform. He was a very big man as attested to by the high back chair he's standing next to in this picture.

My Mother was playing catch with him one day using a brass door knob for a ball. Someone called out to Johann just as my Mother threw the knob. He turned to answer the caller and was hit in the head by the door knob. My Mother, who was 8 years old, was so embarrassed that she ran and hid in the barn. Johann had to go and talk her out. She always remembered that. Judging by the pictures, I would have run into the barn too if I had hit him on the head with a brass door knob!

When I went around the World in 1977, I made a point of stopping to visit his daughter and her husband in Vienna. She was/is my Mother's first cousin (obviously). She was married to a school teacher who spoke excellent English. She had lost one of her daughters   several years before and was unable to reconcile her grief. I got the feeling, no doubt well founded, that it was impacting the whole family.              

While in Vienna I visited the Capuziner (capuchin - hooded ones, an order of monks) Kirche where most(?) of the caskets of the more recent Hapsburg Emperors and their families are housed in the basement. It is quite a sight. I had seen dozens of Bourbon Kings in the Escorial in Spain many years earlier so it was an equally awesome display. Franz Josef was there as was Maximilian his brother, and many others.  Maximilian was put on the throne of Mexico by Napoleon III. He was executed by the revolutionary Juarez in Queretaro, Mexico. I visited the hill (the Hill of the Bells) and the tiny chapel built by the Austrian government seven years later in 1984 while touring Mexico. A son of Franz Josef, Crown Prince Rudolph, was interred there also. Rudolph shot himself and his lover at the age of 31 in a hunting lodge in Austria. Franz Josef was crowned Emperor at the age of 18 and went on to become one of the longest ruling monarchs in History - 1848-1916. Franz Josef lost major wars to France (1848) and Prussia (1866).  I'm happy to say this was before Johann's tenure. His wife was assassinated by an anarchist in Geneva (1897). His nephew and heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by Serbian nationalists on 28-Jun-1914 at a place called Sarajevo. This precipitated WWI. There was a lot of history in that basement."

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