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How to tell the tragedy of two love stories – the power and construction of memorable narrative

Fig.1.Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria-Hungary – Only son of the Emperor Franz Josef

You are one of the wealthiest and privileged men in the world and likely, by all accounts, to be one of the most powerful men too some day soon, but you are deeply unhappy and married as protocol requires to another European royal.

You are Crown Prince Rudolph of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – wanting for nothing and everything. Your are also crushingly unhappy – the privilege a burden.

Then you fall in love and like royals before you the woman becomes your mistress – two years of bliss are doomed when your father the Emperor demands that it ends. Rather than give each other up you commit suicide, shooting first your 17 year old mistress, then turning the gun on yourself.

Love for a girl and hate for the Empire could only be resolved through violence. The year is 1889.

Fig.2. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, wife the Duchess Sophie of Hohenberg and their children  Sophie 13, Max 10 and Ernst 8 c 1914.

Some two decades later your nephew, the heir presumptive since your own death, appears to have it all – a compromise had been found when he refused to give up the woman he wished to marry in 1890. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, stunningly wealthy, happily married to the Countess Sophie Chotek – the woman he loves, with three healthy children, and trained up through his military career to rule would expect to become the next emperor soon – his grandfather the Emperor Franz Josef is now in his 80s.

Then, on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s misplaced ‘love’ for his subjects and his unquestioning love for his wife puts them both in an open top tourer on a formal visit to the Austro-Hungarian provincial capital of Sarajevo.

Hate looms in the form of the 19 year old Gravilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist, desperately poor, principled, prepared and determined. Under instructions and guidance from the leaders of the radical Serbian terrorist group ‘The Black Hand’ he finds himself positioned on the route the Archduke will take back and forth through Sarajevo with six others – armed and eager to kill.

In their different ways both Franz Ferdinand and Gravilo Princip disliked what the Austro-Hungarian Empire represented and how it behaved – both had ideas of how the problem could be fixed – Franz through compromise and accommodation – he tabled a federation of Austro-Hungarian states in 1906 -while both Count Rudolph at one end of the scale and Princip at the other, both felt that two bullets from a revolver were the pill that wold fix everything when others controlled your life in a way that you found intolerable.

Two world wars later, nearly 50 million dead and conflict only recently resolved in the Balkans and if there is a one word lesson to take from the 20th century it is ‘Diplomacy’.

(Born Aug 24, 1855, died Feb 12, 1944)

My goal is to find a way into this story – my quest might be over.

I’m doing this as an exercise

I’m taking known facts rather than fiction and using the 1939 book ‘Story Writing’ by Edith Ronald Mirrieless as my guide. Narrative is a powerful tool, but compare a factual account, say of the sinking of the Titanic, with the move. Compare too some botched attempts at the telling of the 1914 Sarajevo assassinations where students recall above all else that Gravilo Princip apparently went into a cafe to buy a sandwich when he say the Archduke’s car outside. There is invention and accuracy, but also responsibility to ensure that the facts that matter and can be corroborated are in the story.

The story I tell will be told by the Infant Marie Theresa of Portugal who married Archduke Karl Ludwig a month before her 18th birthday at Kleinheubach on 23 July 1873.

She would have been 32 when Crown Prince Count Rudolph killed himself. Maria Theresa then stood in for the Empress who retired from court life after her son’s death. She carried out honours at the Hofburg Imperial Palace with the Emperor until 1896 and was instrumental in helping her step-son Franz Ferdinand  fulfill his desire to marry the Countess Sophie Chotek which he achieved in July 1990.

The following details I sourced from various places and will verify and alter in due course. 

It was then Marie Theresa who broke the news of the couple’s death to their children Sophie, Maximilian and Ernst. She also managed to ensure the children’s financial security after telling the Emperor that if he did not grant them a yearly income, she would resign the allowance which she drew as a widow in their favour. (The majority of Franz Ferdinand’s property went to his nephew the Archduke Charles)

When the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed following its defeat in the First World War. After his abdication, Maria Theresa accompanied Karl and his wife Zita into exile in Madeira, but eventually returned to Vienna where she spent the rest of her life.

In 1929, following a decline in her finances, Maria Theresa engaged two agents to sell the Napoleon Diamond Necklace, a piece inherited from her husband, in the United States.

After a series of botched sales attempts, the pair finally sold the necklace for $60,000 with the aid of the grand-nephew of Maria Theresa, the Archduke Leopold of Austria, but he claimed nearly 90% of the sale price as “expenses”. Maria Theresa appealed to the United States courts, ultimately resulting in the recovery of the necklace, the imprisonment of her grand-nephew, and the absconding of the two agents.

Maria Theresa died in Vienna during World War II.

The first of a million tragic love stories – the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie Chotek

With a title like ‘My Mind Bursts’ I can justifiably offer moments of curiosity and indulgence. The First World War is an interest of some forty years – not least because my grandfather served in it as machine gunner and survived. In another blog I’ve begun to sketch out ‘a death a day’ for the duration of the war – to reach the figure of 9 million there were, as we know, some busy days indeed. Researching this is uncovering extraordinary moments I hadn’t heard about at all, whilst others, such as the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir presumptive to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife the Duchess Sophie are thoroughly covered. Here I go in search of what happened – what would I see if landed there to observe and could go anywhere and speak to anyone? What is the background to all of this? I uncover the mess and hypocrisy of the Imperial Family – their behaviours and culture, but also a love story with a tragic ending.

In doing so I have found myself editing Wikipedia, turning increasingly to Encyclopedia Britannica for something accurate while stumbling across some extraordinary resources, not least a forum for descendant of the Hapsburgs to share stories and family photographs. It is going to be a busy decade leading up to the centenary of the First World War and its aftermath. Have the consequences of that war yet been fully resolved? Trouble in the Balkans was its beginning and end – yet Europe, together, federalised or apart continues to be an issue – just so long as it doesn’t become violent again.

The Archduke Franz Ferdinand new his mind unlike others at the Court of the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary. When he fell in love with someone ‘beneath his station’ he would not budge.

Knowing that his affection for the daughter of a Czech Count, Sophie Chotek would meet with disapproval and marriage never permitted they kept the relationship a secret.

Meanwhile his younger brother Otto married a Royal and kept a mistress, just as the Emperor Josef had done for decades. This kind of behaviour came unstuck when the heir presumptive to the Crown, Count Rudolph,  in an unhappy marriage, started to have an affair with a young girl, possibly as young as 15 when the relationship began and certainly only 17 when it ended.


In January 1889 he kills his young mistress rather than give her up then commits suicide.

Rudolph’s uncle, Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s father  Archduke Karl Ludwig and the next in line to his older brother Franz Josef, renounces the throne within days in favour of his 26 year old son.


Still not married, Franz Ferdinand may also have considered renouncing the throne for Sophie Chotek. She  was indeed considered by the court to be an unsuitable match due to the lack of broad royal pedigree in her lineage. Franz was exceedingly wealthy having inherited an uncle’s vast estates when he was 12 so perhaps he bargained with the Emperor – let him marry Sophie and he would indeed become the heir presumptive.

Deeply in love, Franz refuses to consider marrying anyone else. In turn, Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and the German Emperor Wilhelm II make representations to the Emperor.

It is almost certainly his stepmother, Marie Theresa who is one the most influential at court – as after the death of Count Rudolf the empress had retired from court life and Marie Theresa had taken a far more active role.

In Vienna, on Thursday 28th June 1900 Franz Ferdinand signs a paper before Foreign Minister Goluchowski stating that neither Sophie nor their children would have rights to succession, the titles or privileges of a royal Archduke.

On Sunday 1st July 1900,  in the Chapel at Reichstadt in Bohemia, Marie Theresa’s home, Franz and Sophie are married.

The only members of the Imperial family attending are Franz Ferdinand’s stepmother and her two daughters – Archduchess Maria Annunziata and the Archduchess Aloys. Those absent included the Archduke’s grandfather the Emperor, his father the Archduke Ludwig, his brothers the Archdukes Otto and Ferdinand Karl and his sister the Archduchess Sophie.

Those present must surely include Sophie’s six sisters and her brother.

The couple have four children: Princess Sophie von Hohenberg  is born the following year on 24 July 1901, while Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg  is born on 28 September 1902 and Prince Ernst von Hohenberg in 1904. There is also a stillborn son born in 1908.

Because of their morganatic marriage, many European royal courts feel unable to host the couple, however, some do so, including King George V and Queen Mary, who welcome the Archduke and Sophie to Windsor Castle in November 1913.

Franz Ferdinand had entered the army young and was frequently promoted, given the rank of lieutenant at age fourteen, captain at twenty-two, colonel at twenty-seven, and major general at thirty-one. In 1898 he was given a commission “at the special disposition of His Majesty” to make inquiries into all aspects of the military services and military agencies were commanded to share their papers with him, which is how he came to be invited by General Oskar Potiorek to observe military manoeuvres in the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1914.

On the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914 the Archduke and Duchess are part of a motorcade with a number of planned stops.

There are seven armed assassins waiting for them – Serb Nationalists led by leading figures who wanted the province of Bosnia and Herzegovina to become part of a Greater Serbian nation.

The mind been this plot and previous assassinations – failed and successful – is Dragutin Dimitrijević, a very able,though ruthless 36 year old military man. He knew of Franz Ferdinand’s ideas for a federated ‘United States of Austria- Hungary’ and feared that would put an end to bringing the southern Slav provinces of the old empire into the Serbian fold.

A bomb is thrown at the open top tourer carrying the Archduke and Duchess but it bounces off the unfolded canopy, possibly as the chauffeur spots the danger and hits the accelerator. The bomb goes off under car behind wounding several of the occupants – soldiers from the academy.

Despite the self-evident danger of his presence in Sarajevo the Archduke presses on with a short engagement at the City Hall. Less than an hour later, against advice, Franz gets back into the open-top tourer. Given the heightened dangers General Oskar Potiorek suggests that Sophie stays behind, but she insists on remaining at her husband’s side. After more than a decade of being snubbed due to court protocol she may relish any rare opportunity such as this – despite the risk.

This map above is wrong. The car used, as can be seen here, was a right hand drive tourer … until 1938 they drove on the left in Austria. This photograph of the Archduke’s car coming down the Quai Appel also shows it on the left.

The vehicles in the entourage initially stick to the original itinerary until it is remembered that the Archduke had asked that they go to the hospital to visit the wounded from the bomb attack – so they stop.

By chance this presents Gavrilo Princip with an extraordinarily good opportunity to fulfil his mission. He raises the revolver he has been practising with for the last few months and shoots at point blank range. The first bullet hits Franz in the neck and the second hits Sophie in the abdomen.

As Sophie dies she expresses concern for her husband’s health, while Franz implores Sophie to stay alive for the sake of their young children. Both are dead within minutes. The couple leave behind them three children, their eldest daughter Sophie, soon to be 14, Max, age 11 and younger son Ernst age 8.

The repercussions for Europe are that Austria sends an army in Serbia which triggers a response by Russia to defend its Serbian ally and the Great Powers line up then tumble towards war.

USEFUL LINKS

Study ‘Total War’ with the Open University this February

 

The well planned assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose ideas for federation may have avoided conflict in 1914


Fig 1.  The Archduke Francis Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his wife the Duchess Sofia with his daughter Sophie and son Max. c1907

SUMMARY

At 10.10am on the morning of 28th June 1914 on the way to the Sarjevo Town Hall from the railway station, would-be assassin and Bosnian-Serb nationalist, Nedeljko Čabrinović hurls a bomb at the car carrying the 51 year old Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir  to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The bomb bounces off the open hood of the right-hand drive 1911 Gräf & Stift and blows up under the vehicle behind wounding several.

Less than an hour later, and back in this open top chauffeur-driven tourer, the Archduke wants a change to their planned itinerary in order to visit the injured from the earlier bomb explosion.

Simply being in Sarajevo was a provocation that the Archduke had been warned about so to carry on after the first assassination attempt appears like folly.

As the entourage leaves the Town Hall, the car’s owner, Count Harrack, gets up on the running board by the Archduke as if to offer a modicum of protection, though what protection this affords to a hand-thrown bomb or gun-shots from determined assassins is doubtful. The chauffeur turns off the Quay D’Appel following other vehicles into Franz Josef Street as per the original itinerary but is advised, presumably by the front seat passenger Count Potoirek and perhaps Count Harrac or the Archduke himself to stop the car and reverse back onto the Quay D’Appel to go to the hospital.

It is 10.55am.

19 year old Gavrilo Princip, one of the seven armed assassins spread out on the route that morning, sees his opportunity, pulls out a pistol, steps forward from the pavement to the driver-side of the vehicle, aims and shoots at point-blank range. The first bullet hits the Archduke in the neck piercing one of his jugular veins and presumably exiting  the other side of his neck and missing the spine while the second bullet hits his wife the Duchess, Sofia of Hohenberg in the abdomen.

Had Princip meant to shot both to kill? Probably – there was a pattern of established regicide in the group he belonged to.

The car stops.

Men grab the assailant.

The car carrying the Archduke and Duchess heads off again, this time to the safety of the Governor’s House and we assume as part of the convoy of three.

En route the Archduke’s mouth falls open and blood squirts onto Count Harrack’s right cheek.

The Duchess Sofia asks her husband  ‘Was ist mist dir passiert?’

As the Archduke turns his head it topples forward and his plumed hat falls into the car-well; he sees that the Duchess has been hit too and implores that she stay alive for the sake of their three children.

‘Sofia, Für unsere Kinder sterben nicht’.

Sofia dies before they reach the Governor’s house while Franz Ferdinand dies ten minutes later.

Fig.2.  On the right,  Dragutin Dimitrijević with associates – the mind behind this and other successful as well as failed assassinations of royals that got in the way of the creation of a Greater Serb Nation that had support from a pan-slavic notion of shared ‘nationhood’ that took in Russia – their ally in the World War these machinations provoked.

EXTENDED COMMENTARY ON THE EVENTS

To provoke war not only had Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary to die on the morning of Sunday 28th June 1914 but it had to be seen to be the act of a people, not just a lone assassin. This was the case, there was a desire by nationalist Serbs to extricate all Serb land from the Austro–Hungarian Empire just as they had successfully ceded land from the Ottoman Empire in the previous five years. The aim was to create a Greater Serbia – for some violence was the only way to achieve this. Even an assassination attempt, whether successful or not, could have been enough to oblige the Austro-Hungarian Empire to mobilise and send an army into Serbia. The danger was how this would be perceived and interpreted amongst the ‘Great Powers’ of the day given the accords they had troubled over and signed between each other over the previous couple of decades.

The planned itinerary through Sarajevo from the station to the Town Hall was common knowledge.

To increase the odds in favour of success the leadership of the assassination-attempt placed several trained and armed men along the route ready to take their best chance.  Six of the seven armed men : Mehmedbasic, Cabrincvic, Cubrilovic, Princip, Grabez and Illic positioned themselves along the Appel Quay by the River Miljacka, as if planning to hit their target on the way to the Town Hall, while Popovic was on the other side of the road. Any one of them would take a chance from their position if and as it arose whether using a hand thrown bomb with a ten second fuse or a revolver. One of them, Illic, had a roving brief to reposition himself as he felt appropriate. There would be crowds. Movement on the street might be restricted by a throng of people. Traffic, other than the entourage of four vehicles, is likely to have been restricted on the morning. Each of them also had a cyanide pill so that they could, to evade capture and giving away details of the network of their support, commit suicide. This was a conspiracy, never the lone work of a single assassin, it was a well planned plot, involving a network of Serbian support, not least by the Serb Chief of Police,

A convoy of four vehicles left the station at around 10.oo am  – the Archduke and his wife the Duchess Sofia in the third vehicle, an open top tourer.

The streets were busy with onlookers but perhaps not such a throng as to slow the vehicles down and so offer an opportunity for someone to push, then jump forward with a bomb or pointed revolver. Mehmedbasic, the first would–be assassin did nothing as the entourage approached the Cumburja Bridge, then Cabrinovic, the second took armed Serb nationalist assassin took his chance – pushing forward he hurtled a bomb into the open topped tourer – it missed, bouncing off the canopy cover and ending up under the car behind where it exploded, badly wounding the occupants. Cabrinovic tried to evade capture by taking a cyanide pill and jumping into the River Maljacka. The lack of thorough preparation is telling – at the height of summer the river is only a few inches deep and the cyanide pill only made him ill. He was easily caught. Informed of this outcome did the party representing the Austro–Hungarian Empire believe the actions of a lone assassin had been foiled? Little action was taken to indicate that anyone thought there was any further risk. In age of assassination of Royals there is a stubborn inability to accept that circumstances have changed or are changing. Here as we see in the World War that follows, there is considerable inertia that requires things to be done in a certain, prescribed way rather than responding flexibly to changing circumstances.

At 10.10 the Archduke and his wife the Duchess reached the Town Hall as planned.

Not in the mood for pleasantries from dignitaries the Archduke interrupted the Mayor to say that having a bomb thrown at him was hardly what he’d call a friendly welcome. The Duchess pressed her husband to allow the man to go on. Before they left the Town Hall the Archduke demanded a change to his itinerary so that he could visit the wounded from the bomb attack in hospital.

Leaving the Town Hall at around 10.40 the revised route to the hospital should have taken the Imperial visitors straight along the Quay D’Appel

As perhaps the instructions had not been passed down the chain of command further along the Quay D’Appel instead of continuing on the entire entourage turned instead onto the Rue Franz Joseph opposite the Latina Bridge as originally intended. Quickly corrected the chauffeur stopped to reverse back onto the Quay d’Appel – by chance this was exactly the spot where the would-be assassin Princip was standing having crossed from one side of the Quay D’Appel to the other – in position, as planned.

Had he crossed the road to take up a second position expecting the entourage to come this way as per the original plan? It looks like it.

He happens to be outside a pastry store – Schiller’s. It is artistic licence put into a TV drama reconstruction in 2008 that suggests that Princip, knowing he had a good half-hour to go that he went in to for refreshment and sat down to eat, of all things, a sandwich. After the earlier failed attempt on the Archduke’s life it would also be reasonable however to consider the view that the six remaining would–be assassins believed that their chances had now gone – that heightened security or a change in the route back through town would mean that they would have no second chance. On the other hand, knowing how officials behaved, they may have understood that plans once set in motion are rarely altered. In any case, Princip and the  others were acting on orders –  with the Serbian government and security forces tangential to their enterprise.

Fig. 3.  Map of Assassination attempt and assassination of  Archduke Francis Ferdinand and Duchess Sofia 24 June 1914

It is now 10.45 am.

Princip sees the Archduke for the second time, his vehicle static or reversing slowly back onto the Quay d’Appel from Rue Franz Joseph – Princip takes the opportunity that presents itself and acts – he takes out a revolver, steps forward and aims at the Archduke. Nerves, lack of skill with a handgun or the vehicle being put into reverse means that even at less than 6ft a bullet meant for the Archduke’s head hits him in the neck while a second shot, almost certainly meant for the Archduke, hits the Duchess Sofia in the abdomen. Perhaps someone has already grabbed Princip forcing his arm down as he fires the second shot.

As Princip is bundled away, another change is hastily made to the itinerary – this time instead of the hospital, which under the circumstances would have been the better choice, the vehicle heads for the known safety Governor’s mansion.

Still sitting bolt upright in the back of the tourer no one is immediately aware that both the Archduke and Duchess are mortally wounded.

Count Harrac, who still riding on the running board at the Archduke’s side, feels warm, wet blood on his right cheek. Turning to the Archduke he sees that blood is spurting from the Archduke’s open mouth. The Count reaches for a handkerchief which he places on the Archduke’s neck. Sofia speaks to her husband to ask in horror what is wrong. The Archduke turns to his wife and as he slumps forward is shocked to see that she too has been hit. He mutters something about her staying alive for the children.

Princip and the cell or cells acting on the 24th June 1914 did not act alone.

They were part of a secret Serbian military liberation movement that had been formed out of a group calling themselves the ‘Unification of Death’ that had been founded on 6 September 1901 with the aim of shaking off the yolk of the Austro–Hungarian Empire to create a Greater Serbia that united Serb speaking people – assassinating heads of state at a time and in a part of the world where monarchs ruled – was the modus operandi.

Fig.4.  King Alexander of Serbia and Queen Draga

A royal assassination was the aim of the ‘Unification of Death’ from the outset, indeed with such a name results through violence were clearly how they expected to achieve their aims.

For example, one of the group’s founding members, Dragutin Dimitrijevic, known as ‘Apis’ – possibly funded from Russia, broke into the Serbian Royal Palace on 11th June 1903 with some junior officers, found the autocratic 26 year old King of Serbia, Alexander and his wife Queen Draga and took part in their murder – if there is any substance to the suggestion that the bodies were mutilated and disemboweled then ‘Apis’ already had more than just royal blood on his hands when a little over ten years later he plotted the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Duchess Sofia. At the time of the murders of Alexander and Draga the Serbian parliament hailed Apis as their saviour and appointed him Professor of Tactics at the Military Academy.

There followed in 1980 a  failed attempt by the same group to assassinate the Montenegrin King  and in 1909 to overthrow the Montenegrin government.

Around this time, ‘The Black Hand’ formed as the group within the ‘Unification of Death’ that would continue to seek an end to Austro-Hungarian rule of Serb people through violent means as others began to think of a slower, negotiated solution. In 1911 Apis plotted the assassination of Emperor Franz Josef, when this failed he turned his attentions to his successor Archduke Francis Ferdinand, not least because he planned to make concessions to Slavs living in the south of the Austro–Hungarian Empire which may have appeased their desires for separation.

When at the start of 1914 Apis turned his attention to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand he began by recruiting three young Bosnian–Serbs as would–be assassins and had them trained.

Not all got behind this plot, knowing that these actions could invite war between Austria and Serbia at a time when Russian support wasn’t as yet a certainty. The Black Hand had supporters in the army and government. They used murder against opponents. Vocal or actual opposition was minimal. In any case, Apis was Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence. Several people in authority in the Serb government, not least the prime minister Nikola Pasic and in the army knew that would–be assassins were in Sarajevo for a full month awaiting the visit of the Archduke – no efforts were made to apprehend them or alert the Austrians of their presence.

Fig. 6. The Archduke and Duchess left three orphaned children, Sophie age 13, Max age 10 and Ernst age 7.

Shunned by their family, as their mother had been shunned by the court during the lifetime of Sophia, the children were  care for by a close friend of Franz Ferdinand. Their properties were confiscated at the end of WW1 and they moved to Austria. A staunch Austria nationalist and against the Nazi’s Max and Ernst were sent to the concentration camp Dachau. Sophie had three sons and a daughter – one son died on the Eastern Front towards the end of the Second World War, while a second died in a Soviet POW camp in 1949.

In 2000 a granddaughter of the Archduke filed to have their ancestral home returned.

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