The Austrian Archducal Hat, the symbol of the unity of the Austrian hereditary lands, has been preserved to this day. It is the centerpiece of the collection at Klosterneuburg Monastery, and symbolises the Archduchy of Austria, the heartland of the Hapsburg Empire. Archduke Maximilian III, the Regent of Tyrol and brother of Rudolf II, presented it to the monastery in 1616 as a consecration gift, and it was kept there together with the relic of the skull of Saint Leopold. It was believed that some divine power would thus be transferred to the ruler who was “crowned” with it.
The Monastery’s statute stipulates that the archducal coronet that stared on a new stamp by Austrian Post may only be removed from the monastery for very special occasions and for a maximum of 30 days, the main reason for its removal being the ceremony of Homage by the Estates for the accession of a new ruler. The penalty for breaching these conditions is excommunication. The last ceremony of Homage by the Estates was held in 1835 for Emperor Ferdinand I. The last time that the coronet was removed from the monastery for an official occasion was the funeral of Empress Zita in 1989.
As befits a symbol of absolute rule, which, furthermore, was intended as a counter- part to the Hungarian Holy Crown of St. Stephen and the Bohemian Crown of St. Wenceslas, the coronet is sumptuously crafted using exquisite materials such as enamel, precious stones, pearls, velvet and ermine. The coronet with its tines and crossed arches is set with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and pearls and is surmounted by a blue sapphire set in gold and a small golden cross. Neither the name of the craftsman responsible nor the place where it was made are known.
From March to November 2016, Klosterneuburg Monastery is dedicating a special exhibition to the Austrian archducal hat.