Empress Zita was born in Villa Pianore near Lucca in Italy. She was a daughter of the deposed Robert I, Duke of Parma and his second wife, Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal. Her maternal grandparents were Miguel of Portugal and Adelaide of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg.
Her Imperial and Royal Highness married Karl of Austria in 1911 and in the following decade gave birth to eight children, starting with Crown Prince Otto (born 1912), the current head of the Habsburg dynasty. She was accused by critics of being behind her exiled husband's attempts to regain the throne of Hungary, where the monarchy had been re-established under a regent after the end of the First World War, and from which he had not abdicated.
After Emperor Karl's death in 1922, Empress Zita wore mourning black until she died 67 years later. Empress Zita left Madeira but continued living abroad, in France, Spain (Lekeitio), Belgium, Canada, and the United States. She spoke five languages, and kept in contact with many of Europe's royal houses throughout her exile. In her old age, from 1962 onward, she lived in Zizers, Graubünden, Switzerland at a former Franciscan monastery, where she died. She was always a fervent Roman Catholic.
In 1982, the Austrian government granted Zita the right to re-enter Austria, although she had never renounced the Habsburg claim to the throne. She was buried in Vienna's Imperial Crypt (die Kapuzinergruft) in the city centre, which had served for centuries as the Habsburg family's burial place. Zita received what was in effect a state funeral, attended by leading politicians, state officials and international representatives, including a representative of Pope John Paul II.
Photographs from her wedding can be found here.