This history relates the incredible circumstances of the life of the great Gustavus von Habsburg, having lived during the greatest scientific revolution of modern history. In 1755, our
story begins with the birth of Gustavus, an indirect descendant in the von Habsburg line; he was born into a noble family, but one of little importance, who possessed a very small fortune, and lived a comfortable yet humble life.
From a young age, it was clear to his family that he was destined for great things, having advanced in his studies extremely rapidly, soaring above the academic achievements of his classmates at a quick pace. He amazed all of his teachers, mastering art, science, language, and history before the age of 14. By 16, in 1771, he was able to speak, read, and write fluently in German, Polish, Greek, Italian, Latin, English, French, Russian, and Spanish.
Having achieved the highest peaks of academic excellence, he desired that he should advance his expertise even further, and began to experiment with the new technology of steam power, which he saw as having limitless potential. He read of the works of Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen, having been some of the first successful to harness the power of steam and begin to utilise its potential. His father, Baron von Habsburg, saw his son begin to express interest in these things, and strongly disapproved immediately, stating that such new sciences were “frivolous and uncultured.” The elder von Habsburg, being a man of classical learning, saw such radical advances in technology as unnatural and unGodly.
Tensions rose between the two from that point on, the young prodigy wishing to continue his pursuits of new and incredible technologies, his father doing everything in his power to prevent this from happening. When Gustavus was sent to university by his family in 1774 to learn classical studies, he was defiant from the start. This heavily disrupted everything he had worked for for several years. He had to be practically torn from the workshop which he had assembled in a shed behind his family’s Austrian home. He had already advanced far beyond what anyone else had done at the time, even using his scarce, low quality equipment. This, however, was all destroyed when he left Austria for an Italian university, by his father, who so hated his son’s passions that he would do nearly anything to prevent them from taking flight.
Upon reaching the university, Gustavus made his way sluggishly, as he bore day after day of intensive study, of which he hated every minute. Being unable to pursue advancements in his true passions was torture for him; he was living in a personal hell which he thought must have been designed specifically to destroy all of his will to live. That was, until he met John Abbott, a British professor at the university, an expert in the modern sciences. His knowledge of machinery and new innovations was massive, and he quickly would become a close friend to von Habsburg.
They first encountered each other at a lecture being given by another professor on the historical significance of the trebuchet, when Prof. Abbott saw von Habsburg and thought how his expression gave an instant empathy for the pain which he endured by his presence in the lecture hall. Thinking this was quite odd for a student at the university, to be so clearly distressed by such a simple subject matter, Prof. Abbott took his seat next to von Habsburg. “What seems to be the matter, son?” he politely inquired.
“If you must know,” responded the ailing Gustavus, “I am quite simply in the wrong place.”
“Well that is a simple enough matter to resolve!” exclaimed Prof. Abbott, “Why do you not just leave now to find the correct place?”
“It is not quite so simple, my situation is one far too deep for such a casual conversation,” spoke von Habsburg, “if you truly wish to know more, inquire after me at my apartments, just outside of the campus.” Intrigued by this, Abbott departed from his new counterpart, intending to follow up on this strange offer to hear a story which to him seemed so promising a tale.
The following morning, Prof. Abbott, having breakfasted, began upon a path to the outskirts of the university campus, to see the mysterious pupil with whom he had yesterday conversed. Prepared to follow this adventure to the end of the day, and having cleared his schedule, for his curiosity was so piqued, he embarked to the apartments of Gustavus von Habsburg.
From his vast expectations, when he entered the rooms of von Habsburg, he was quite underwhelmed. What he found was a relatively clean and neat space, with a few scattered books here and there, but which otherwise looked as though it had been cleaned quite recently. What was not yet to be seen in the room, however, despite being called in, was von Habsburg himself, appearing to be away in some other compartment of the rooms.
When the depressed bachelor entered the room, it appeared as though he had just awoken from bed, and was perhaps not expecting any visitors. He still wore his night clothes, and yawned obnoxiously when he walked into the living space in which the professor was waiting. “You seem to be waiting,” questioned Gustavus of his seemingly unexpected guest.
“You promised a story,” retorted Abbott, “and I have come to hear it. I wish to know the circumstances which led to your attendance of that lecture yesterday, and if my suspicions are correct, this university itself.” This question being asked of him, the student began to tell a story similar to the one which I have related to this audience, and as it would serve no purpose to tell it once again, I have exempted it from this history.
This recital being complete, the professor sat back in his chair, clearly taking a minute to absorb and ponder the information which he had just received, in a manner very becoming of a man of his profession. After reflecting in this manner for a few moments, he suddenly started up and exclaimed, “I think I have the solution to your issue!”
At these words, the otherwise complacent von Habsburg became uncharacteristically excited, “How so do you mean, sir? It is clear that I cannot escape this university, lest I be discovered by my father, and I know of no programs at this school involved in the newfound sciences.”
Cutting off his associate, Abbott continued, “In London, from which I hail, these branches of science in which you take particular interest are in full swing at the moment, and I, being a contemporary of the time, have done my own level of study in these subjects, many of which I profess to have mastered to the level of anyone else today. In addition, this university surely has the equipment I would require to create you an adequate lab in which you could experiment and advance your studies. I propose that you may become my disciple, and all I request in return is that you credit me in your future works, for I can clearly see that your potential far exceeds the environment you have been given, and that you will in no time at all become a leading mind of your day.”
Gustavus jumped at this incredible opportunity which had offered itself to him, and began work to create his lab with the help of the professor immediately. Upon its completion, both worked with a fervorous ardor to advance the knowledge and understanding of the younger. Very quickly a point was reached at which neither knew who was instructing the other, and Gustavus seemed to quickly surpass his mentor, achieving a higher level than most who professed to know these sciences in his day. He soon began to develop his own technologies, more advanced even than those of the day.
The effects of this study could be seen on his person as well, he was clearly more enthusiastic about life, his dress improved, as he starched more collars and linked more cuffs than he had in his previous depressive state. Even the rest of his learning at the university became more and more tolerable for him, as he was able to convince himself that everything he did in the present was in his own favor, even studying the classics, so that he could appease his father.
This went on for some time, Abbott teaching all that he could to the already expert von Habsburg, and the pupil continuing to advance his studies and develop minor technologies on his own, mostly to solve small everyday problems, such as a clock which would wake him in the morning by boiling water in a tea kettle at a specific time, from which point he could also enjoy his morning tea when he awoke, a mechanical horn which was capable of playing itself, and an oven which would cool itself when food was done cooking for a certain amount of time. All of this being said however, it inevitably had to come to an end at some point or another. This happened when Gustavus was to be sent home for the summer months to break between semesters. He parted ways with his new mentor to return home, as Abbott thought. The reality however, was quite different.
Upon his departure from the university, Gustavus did not return home as he said he would. Instead, he decided that he would travel to London, the center of the science and advancements which he so dearly loved, in order that he may contribute his own work to the pool of greatness which was emerging from the city. His inventions and genius would inevitably advance humanity’s understanding of machinery to a level which had not been before in history realised, and London was the place where he would be able to profit from the great works he had created in a way beneficial to himself as well as the common good.
Upon his arrival in the city, he had very few accommodations which would allow him to stay very long. He rented rooms in the first unoccupied apartment building he came across, at 220 Baker Street, a quaint residence, but one which would serve his needs nonetheless. Financially he had very little which could sustain him for a long period of time, and used most of what he did have initially on the construction and operation of a lab in his apartments. This put an immediate strain on his work to prove profitable, which it of course did very quickly. Out of his modest living space, he was able to craft and sell designs and models of inventions both big and small, commonplace and revolutionary, which he had obtained patents for. Like this, his operation began and steadily grew, consuming, before long, the entirety of his mind, all thoughts of home and his time at the university vanishing.
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Some significant amount of time having now passed, and von Habsburg now being 35 years of age, his practice had grown significantly since I have last related it here. This being the case, Gustavus was now one of the leading scientists of his day, pioneering a great number of important technological advances covering the realms of electricity, steam power, mechanics, and many more. His work became so well known and sought after that he became extremely rich from his writings and patents, of which he owned a plentiful quantity. This led him to become a very influential figure in the social scene of the city, being one of the most wealthy and one of the most respected not only in London but in the entire world.
He obtained a plot of land just outside of the city on which he built his estate, a magnificent manor being the centerpiece with splendid gardens and beautifully kept lawns surrounding it. His estate became quickly the place which was most popular to visit on social calls or scientific enquiries. The inside of his home was splendidly decorated with murals of classical scenes of ancient myths, portraits of von Habsburg and his associates, and the most luxurious furniture which one could acquire in the day.
At this point in his life, Gustavus was living in such a way that most could only dream of, and still engineering incredible new inventions which awed both commoners and the scientific community alike. It seemed to him that there was nothing which could possibly disrupt his wonderful life, save for some act of God himself which would interfere with the designs of von Habsburg.
Given the climate of the city’s social structure, newcomers came and went frequently from the spotlight of Londonian society. This being said, one person seemed to be gaining and holding ground quickly in the circles of the city for his seeming genius in the newfound sciences. This piqued the interest of Gustavus, himself having come into fame this way. Worried about competition, Gustavus used his contacts to gather information on this person.
His name was John Smith, an older man who seemed to have just recently uncovered his own scientific talents, after being a professor for most of his life. He had recently gained a moderate fortune from his own inventions which he bought patents for and sold himself. Nothing about him, however, particularly stood out to von Habsburg as quite special in his inventions, as many of them were being developed in very similar forms by others during the same time.
At this time, Gustavus having reached the heights of scientific discovery and social status wished to go even farther, as to entirely revolutionize the world. To set about this enormous task to which he had set himself, he looked at the possibility of utilizing the power of steam for transportation over long distances. It was while pondering this idea that he had the brilliant revelation to create an early model of a steam powered locomotive.
His initial design for this incredible mode of transportation was rough, but as he worked tirelessly to improve it, his ideas began to take shape into a form which might just work. Finally, after months of work to improve his designs, he had a working model which would move along a small track on a table in his workshop which would move by the power of coal used to produce steam. He had finalized blueprints in addition to this model, which he would submit to acquire a patent on his new invention.
Before he could do this however, he awoke one morning to find his workshop in a complete state of disarray. Papers were strewn across the room, materials thrown about across the floor, and his model steam engine destroyed. He looked to find the blueprints where he had left them, but alas, the drawer had been removed and thrown about the room. He searched the mess of documents and parts in vain, hoping to find it, but was never able to discover its hiding place. By this fact, in addition to signs of forced entry and the general state of the room, he was able to conclude that it had been stolen from him.
Having spoken of this new design to very few people whom he held in close confidence, he knew that it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to mount such a robbery specifically for these plans, the existence of which so few people were aware. Of those he had told however, he remembered one outlier from the rest of the group, John Smith. Hoping to share his ideas with another scientific mind such as his own, he had written a letter to Smith explaining his new concept and requesting input on how he may improve his designs. He recognized upon this realization that the only person who could have stolen the plans was indeed Smith himself.
Having found this to be the case, Gustavus began to formulate his response to this horrible action. He couldn’t report Smith to the police, for he didn’t have any solid evidence that Smith stole them or that he didn’t come up with the locomotive himself. This course of action being ruled out, he began to come up with a plan to reclaim the plans before Smith could obtain a patent for them and unveil the locomotive as his own. He would set out to begin his plan the next day, having spent most of the day investigating and inventing his retaliation.
The next morning, Gustavus traveled to the offices of John Smith, where he performed most of his business tasks and much of his inventing. His visit was under the guise of friendliness, yet in reality it was to gather intelligence which would allow him to carry out his further plans. The offices were rather large, with more than a dozen employees, working to maintain his finances and produce his inventions in factories elsewhere. There was one large office partitioned off from the rest of the building, which belonged to Smith himself. He could see through the open door of this office that behind the massive mahogany desk there was an impressive safe built into the wall. He found Smith to be not present at the time when he arrived, and instead left a message with his secretary that he wished to discuss in person the locomotive, and that he wished to collaborate at a later date.
From there he left, now having what he needed to perform the rest of his plan. It could be safely assumed that the safe behind the desk would house the stolen plans, as it would likely be the most secure place in which Smith could place them. Therefore, it was the safe which he needed to get into.
That night, when all respectable folk were long asleep, a lone figure could be seen in the streets of London, who was not the type one would expect at such an hour. It was von Habsburg himself, wearing clothing to suggest to those who did not know him that he may have been just as any delinquent performing questionable deeds in the night. To some, that may have been exactly what he was doing, as he approached the offices of John Smith once again, this time thoroughly locked down so that none should have been able to enter. Gustavus, of course, was no ordinary individual, and he removed from his coat his own design of lock picks, which enabled him to enter the building just the same as if he had owned it.
Once he was inside, the intrepid inventor located the corner office in the building, and used the same lock picks to enter it as easily as he had the first door. At this point, he was to have a greater challenge in the opening of the safe. He inspected it for a few moments carefully, using his keen discretion to advise his path forward from that point. He was able to determine what mechanisms allowed the safe to lock, and by listening to it as he operated it, he was able to open it.
As the door swung open, he watched in anticipation to see the rolled up plans in the unfastened safe, and as he expected, they were there, right in the center of the box. He carefully removed them and put a different set of plans back in before closing and relocking the safe. He then exited ad locked the doors through which he had entered.
At this point, all that he had to do was wait for his plan to take effect. Now that he was back in possession of the real plans, it was only a matter of time until John Smith exposed himself for the thief which he was by presenting a malfunctioning, volatile version of the locomotive to the public eye. Gustavus was patient, of course, and waited happily for Smith to complete his model to present to the world.
Very nearly a month had past when in the newspaper Gustavus saw the headline he was waiting for, “Smith to Unveil Grand New Invention: Promises to Reinvent Travel”. Through the paper, Gustavus was able to gather all he needed to know to be present to witness the failure of his rival and expose him as a thief.
On the day of the presentation, von Habsburg arrived several minutes late to a disturbing sight. The presentation was about to go on as scheduled, but John Smith was nowhere to be seen. Instead, he saw in front of the crowd Professor Abbott, about to begin the demonstration of the model locomotive. He wondered if Smith had been a friend of Abbott’s. Nevertheless he knew that he had to stop Abbott from starting the locomotive before he got himself injured.
Gustavus ran through the crowd, yelling, “Stop! It’ll go up in flames if you start that!”
Having heard this, Abbott hesitated from his action and recognized von Habsburg, “What do you mean? There’s no way that’s possible, I tested an identical model just over a month ago!”
“What do you mean by that? You can’t have had those plans more than a few days, John Smith stole them from me!” came von Habsburg’s reply.
“Have you not yet figured out that I am John Smith? I spent so long educating you and providing you with opportunity to experiment, and yet it seems you have forgotten me until this moment!” Suddenly the pledge which Gustavus had given returned to him, that he would credit Professor Abbott for his education, and yet he never had. “Now that you’ve taken my recognition away, I’m about to take yours!” said Abbott, as he lit a fire to start the model. At this, von Habsburg darted back from the locomotive, and urged the crowd back, because he had replaced the plans in such a way that the locomotive would explode.
As he was driving the last few audience members back, he heard a high pitched whistle of steam through a pipe, and looked back to see not but a moment later, a pressurized explosion of shrapnel from the train and flaming coal. The engine had not moved an inch before it happened, and everyone had managed to get to safety except for one. Professor Abbott. Gustavus rushed towards him as he layed on the street where he should have been triumphant, bleeding out with burns all over from the coal. The professor looked at his former student and asked hopelessly, “What have you done?”
“I’m so sorry,” came von Habsburg’s reply, “it was never meant to be like this, it was just supposed to ruin your reputation as John Smith, I had no idea that it was you, and I over adjusted the measurements on the plans, it should never have been that dangerous, I’m so sorry.”
As his old teacher expired in his arms, the world became suddenly more vivid to Gustavus, he saw the red bricks in the buildings a new color which he had never seen before, and he saw clearly the panic in the faces of the people who had come to see new technology as they ran, seemingly slower than before. This was certainly the last time that he broke an oath, for he saw the damage which revenge could cause, and realized that had he remembered his professor, this never would have happened.
After this incident, Gustavus continued to work in the fields of science which he had always been his passion, but he always acknowledged his professor in any texts he wrote and named several inventions after his great mentor, such as the Abbott Steam Engine, which was patented shortly after the incident. He also returned to the von Habsburg family home in Austria to make peace with his father. Unfortunately, when he arrived, he was greeted by the news that his father had died 2 years previously of natural causes. This put the title of Baron von Habsburg upon him, with which he returned to England to his manor and continued life where it had left off, with a new title and a new respect for his pledge to his teacher. He was afterwards able to travel between his manor in London and his family home in Austria, allowing him recognition across Europe for his great achievements.
This history relates the incredible circumstances of the life of the great Gustavus von Habsburg, having lived during the greatest scientific revolution of modern history. In 1755, our