Saturday, June 28, 2014

Franz Ferdinand ~ December 18, 1863 ~ June 28, 1914

Franz Ferdinand (18 December 1863 – 28 June 1914) was an Archduke of Austria-Este, Austro Hungarian and Royal Prince of Hungary and of Bohemia, and from 1889 until his death, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne. His assassination in Sarajevo precipitated Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia. This caused countries allied with Austria-Hungary (the Triple Alliance) and countries allied with Serbia (the Triple Entente Powers) to declare war on each other, starting World War I.

He was born in Graz, Austria, the oldest son of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria (younger brother of Franz Joseph and Maximilian) and of his second wife, Princess Maria Annunciata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. When he was only twelve years old, his cousin Duke Francis V of Modena died, naming Franz Ferdinand his heir on condition that he add the name Este to his own. Franz Ferdinand thus became one of the wealthiest men in Austria.


In 1889, Franz Ferdinand's life changed dramatically. His cousin Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide at his hunting lodge in Mayerling, leaving Franz Ferdinand's father, Archduke Karl Ludwig, as first in line to the throne. However his father renounced his succession rights a few days after the Crown Prince's death. Henceforth, Franz Ferdinand was groomed to succeed. Despite this burden, he did manage to find time for travel and personal pursuits -- for example, the time he spent hunting kangaroos and emus in Australia in 1893, and the return trip to Austria in sailing across the Pacific on the RMS Empress of China from Yokohama to Vancouver.


In 1895 Franz Ferdinand met Countess Sophie Chotek at a ball in Prague. To be an eligible marriage partner for a member of the Imperial House of Habsburg, one had to be a member of one of the reigning or formerly reigning dynasties of Europe. The Choteks were not one of these families, although they did include among their ancestors, in the female line, princess of Baden, Hohenzollern-Hechingen, and Liechtenstein. (Ironically, one of Sophie's direct ancestors was Count Albrecht IV of Habsburg; he was descended from Elisabeth of Habsburg, a sister of King Rudolph I of Germany, while Franz Ferdinard was a descendant of King Rudolph I.) Sophie was a lady-in-waiting to Archduchess Isabella, wife of Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen. Franz Ferdinand began to visit Archduke Friedrich's villa in Pressburg (now Bratislava). Sophie wrote to Franz Ferdinand during his convalescence from tuberculosis when he went to the island of Lošinj in the Adriatic. They kept their relationship a secret for more than two years.

Deeply in love, Franz Ferdinand refused to consider marrying anyone else. Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and the German Emperor Wilhelm II all made representations on Franz Ferdinand's behalf to the Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, arguing that the disagreement between Franz Joseph and Franz Ferdinand was undermining the stability of the monarchy.

Finally, in 1899, the Emperor Franz Joseph agreed to permit Franz Ferdinand to marry Sophie, on condition that the marriage would be morganatic and that their descendants would not have succession rights to the throne. Sophie would not share her husband's rank, title, precedence, or privileges; as such, she would not normally appear in public beside him. She would not be allowed to ride in the royal carriage, or sit in the royal box.

The wedding took place on 1 July 1900, at Reichstadt (now Zákupy) in Bohemia; Franz Joseph did not attend the affair, nor did any archduke including Franz Ferdinand's brothers.The only members of the imperial family who were present were Franz Ferdinand's stepmother, Maria Theresia, and her two daughters. Upon the marriage, Sophie was given the title Princess of Hohenberg (Fürstin von Hohenberg) with the style Her Serene Highness (Ihre Durchlaucht). In 1909, she was given the more senior title Duchess of Hohenberg (Herzogin von Hohenberg) with the style Her Highness (Ihre Hoheit). This raised her status considerably, but she still yielded precedence at court to all the archduchesses. Whenever a function required the couple to gather with the other members of royalty, Sophie was forced to stand far down the line of importance, separated from her husband.


Politically, Franz Ferdinand was a proponent of granting greater autonomy to all ethnic groups in the Empire, and to address their grievances, especially the Czechs in Bohemia and the Yugoslavic peoples in Croatia and Bosnia, that had been left out of the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867. He also advocated a careful approach towards Serbia - repeatedly locking horns with Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, Vienna's hard-line Chief of the General Staff -, warning that harsh treatment of Serbia would bring Austria-Hungary into open conflict with Russia, to the ruin of both Empires. Franz Ferdinand was a prominent and influential supporter of the Austro-Hungarian Navy in a time when sea power was not a priority of the Austrian foreign policy and the Navy was relatively little known and supported by the public. Franz Ferdinand had a keen private interest in the fleet and was an energetic campaigner for naval matters. After his assassination in 1914, the Navy honoured Franz Ferdinand and his wife with a lying in state aboard the SMS Viribus Unitis.


On 28 June 1914, at approximately 1:15 pm, Franz Ferdinand and his wife were killed in Sarajevo, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by Gavrilo Princip, 19 at the time, a member of Young Bosnia and one of a group of assassins organized by The Black Hand.

The event, known as the Assassination in Sarajevo, led to a chain of events that eventually triggered World War I. Ferdinand and Sophie had previously been attacked when a grenade was thrown at their car. Ferdinand deflected the grenade and it detonated far behind them. The royal couple insisted on seeing all those injured at the hospital. After traveling there, Franz and Sophie decided to go to the palace, but Franz Ferdinand's car took a wrong turn onto a side street where Princip spotted them. As their car was backing up, Princip approached and shot both Sophie, striking her in the abdomen, and Franz, who was struck in the jugular and was still alive when witnesses arrived to render aid.His dying words to Sophie were 'Don't die darling, think of the children.' Princip had used the Browning .380 ACP cartridge, a relatively low power round, and a pocket-sized FN model 1910 pistol.[The archduke's aides attempted to undo his coat when they realized they needed scissors to cut the coat open, but it was too late; he died within minutes. Sophie also died while on route to the hospital. The assassinations, along with the arms race, nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and the alliance system all contributed to the beginning of World War I, which began less than two months after Franz Ferdinand's death, with Austria-Hungary's declaration of war against Serbia.

Franz Ferdinand is interred with his wife Sophie in Artstetten Castle, Austria.

Photo &

Two years to the day before the assassination in Sarajevo, my dear friend Marie Bronson married her husband Clarence, Yale Class of 1900. I met Marie as a 78 year-old widow, and she remained a close friend until her death at 97 on February 3, 1989.

1 comment:

jutka said...

Thank you for your posting. I'm a native born Hungarian, and very much appreciate when our history is remembered.

Titian in the Frari (Venezia)