Austria on Saturday buried its last empress, Zita, with all the pomp and pageantry of a vanished monarchy that for centuries ruled territory from Poland to the Mediterranean.
The nation's biggest funeral since Emperor Franz Joseph was buried in 1916, in the waning days of the Hapsburg Empire, seemed like an act of reconciliation with the family that brought Austria greatness but was driven into exile after World War I.An elaborate Requiem Mass in Vienna's towering St. Stephen's Cathedral climaxed a week of ceremonies honoring Zita, who died in Switzerland two weeks ago at 96. When she and her husband left the country in 1918, she was denounced as a spy for her role in a plot to end the war.
Police estimated the number of spectators at 40,000, including hundreds from Hungary, Italy, Yugoslavia and other parts of what was once the Hapsburg Empire.
State television broadcast the ceremony live, and the nation's largest-circulation daily, Neue Kronen Zeitung, bore the headline, "Farewell to Zita," printed against a background of imperial Hapsburg yellow.
Zita's son, Otto von Hapsburg, who fled Vienna's sprawling Schoenbrunn Palace with his parents, led mourners who included President Kurt Waldheim.
All Europe's Roman Catholic royal houses sent representatives. But no crowned heads attended the four-hour ceremony, which drew curious, sometimes bemused spectators in an outpouring of nostalgia for the glory of the empire.
"The Austro-Hungarian monarchy was the best state for central Europe," said Abel Paizs, a 21-year-old Hungarian who called himself a monarchist and came from Budapest for the occasion. "The small countries don't function as well separately."
Between passages from the soaring Requiem of Vienna's most beloved composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the Mass was laced with tributes to the huge Hapsburg Empire that stretched north to Poland, south to northern Italy and east to what is now the Soviet Union.
Intercessions were read in each language of the polyglot empire - German, Italian, Hungarian, Croat, Slovene, Czech and Polish.
At the end of the two-hour Mass, the old imperial hymn that was replaced with a republican anthem in 1918 rang through the vaulted naves of the Gothic cathedral.