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|Franz Josef von
|"The old Gentleman," whose reign lasted longer than anyone can remember, even in an age where longevity dominated the thrones of Europe (Queen Victoria in Britain, King Leopold II in Belgium, King Carol I in Roumania, King Nikola in Montenegro). By the time the July crisis had broken, the Kaiser had confidently left all affairs in the hands of his cabinet. However, he was unaware that his ministers were plotting behind his back to bring war to his peaceful land. They were convinced it was necessary to save the Empire. He was convinced war would be its doom, and it was his perogative to decide when his Empire was to go to war. But, what if his trusted ministers, such as Graf Berchtold, lied to him about the events unfolding at the end of July? Would not the old gentleman be forced to act in the name of honour?
|The Imperial Dynasty after the Assassination, 1914
|A poster celebrating three royal figures: Kaiser Franz Josef; his new successor, Archduke Karl, and a hopeful successor to Karl, his son Otto.
|An Meine Völker!
|The formal proclamation by the Kaiser to his subjects. In this case, announcing Italy's declaration of war against the Empire. Such proclamations occurred with a terrible regularity during the final two years of his reign.
|The "Four Conspirators"
as the Leaders of the Quadruple Alliance were described by the Entente...
|Drawn together by formal alliance, uncertainty of the future, and desire for revenge, Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Bulgaria formed the Quadruple Alliance, whereby all member states swore to fight together and make peace together. Military challenges and territorial claims threatened the fabric of this alliance at every step.
|The Kaiser of Austria and King of Hungary, Franz Josef I
|The Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II Hohenzollern
|The Tsar of Bulgaria,
Ferdinand von Saschen-Coburg
|The Sultan and Caliph ul-Islam, Mohammed V Osmanli
|Miklós Horthy reflects on Franz Josef
|The ex-Regent of Hungary describes his service as Aide-de-Camp to His Majesty Kaiser Franz Josef from the years 1909 to 1914. Exerpt from his memoires.
"His Majesty had four aides-de-camp to represent the main branches of the armed services. The first aide-de-camp to have been drawn from the Navy was my captain of the Saida, the later Vice-Admiral Sachs von Hellenau. I was proud and happy to be in the immediate entourage of our King-Emperor, a man respected and beloved by all, but those who perceived only the outward glitter of my post were under a misapprehension. Service at Court, so profoundly different from life on board, brought me many difficulties.
"I began by reporting to my highest chief, His Majesty's first Adjutant-General, Count Paar. He had held this position for many years, and of all the members of His Majesty's staff was no doubt the one who stood closest to him. With the charm of the grand seigneur, he gave me several hints and much friendly advice, and referred to me to the senior aide-de-camp, Colonel of Dragoons Baron Bronn, who was the son of a Prince Hohenlohe by a morganatic marriage, so that, in accordance with the traditions of his family, he could not bear his father's name. Three years later, he was created a prince under the name of Weikersheim. With his wife, Countess Czernin, and their children, he lived a singularly happy and harmonious life.
"The second aide-de-camp was Count Heinrich Hoyos, at that time Lieutenant- Colonel in the Windischgrätz Dragoons. His mother was the sister of Count Paar. A man of imperturbable good temper, always ready for a joke, he was generally liked. As he was a passionately keen huntsman and a good shot, I was delighted when we chanced to be together in a hunting party. The third aide-de-camp was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Imperial Rifles, Count Manzano.
"I also had to report to the second Adjutant-General, Baron Arthur Bolfras, who for many years had been Head of His Majesty's Military Chancellery. His was an extremely responsible position, for it was his task to submit to His Majesty names for the more important military appointments. A profound knowledge of men, a clear judgment of character, made him eminently suitable for this task, especially as he was a man of high intelligence and sterling good nature. His unusually clear diction was much appreciated by His Majesty, who retained him in his service in spite of his great age. The Military Chancellery was situated within the Imperial Palace, and apart from Baron Bolfras and his deputy nine or ten General Staff officers worked there. The adviser for Hungarian affairs was then Staff Captain Baron Láng.
"During my years of service, Emperor Francis Joseph resided at Schönbrunn. Twice a week, accompanied by an aide-de-camp, he drove to the Hofburg, the Imperial Palace in Vienna, arriving there at seven o'clock in the morning, to grant audiences. He usually returned at half-past four in the afternoon. As aides-de-camp, we had an official residence in the Hofburg, of which we made full use; there was a similar residence at Schönbrunn for the use of the aide-de-camp on duty. It was arranged, soon after I had reported to Count Paar, that I should be received in audience by His Majesty, an interview I anticipated with tension and excitement. From my early youth, I had heard the King-Emperor spoken of as almighty, a being of a higher order, enthroned in regions beyond human aspiration. Now I was to meet him face to face, to be daily in his personal service. When I entered his study, His Majesty, wearing the uniform of a General, took a few steps forward to meet me. I have never known any other monarch who personified majesty as did Francis Joseph.
"This, my first impression, I have never had reason to modify. If the high dignity that radiated from him and which was entirely free from affectation demanded that visitors should keep their distance, I quickly observed that all embarrassment melted away before his kindness and affability. This was the greatest moment of my life as I stood before the grey-haired ruler. On beholding his frame, bent beneath the heavy cares of state and the tragic fate of his kin, I was filled with compassion and affection, feelings that I have always retained. From the questions he put to me, I realized that he had been fully informed of my origins and my career.
"Even now, it is as if I can see the glance of his kindly blue eyes, can hear the intonations of his voice. When he dismissed me, the audience lasted about ten minutes and was conducted standing, and I left the audience chamber walking backwards, I was in a state of ecstasy, determined to serve my King and Emperor faithfully, and if necessary gladly to give my life for him.
"I was still feeling extremely uncertain when, on the evening of November 30th, a guardsman came to inform me at what hour His Majesty would rise the next morning. He reported as follows: "The hour is four." His Majesty sometimes got up at half past three; indeed, during my last two years of duty, that was the rule. We naval officers were in a more favourable position than our military colleagues, for on board ship we had been used to a four hours' watch at night and had become used to sleeping beforehand. If I remember correctly, even on that first night I slept well, having turned in early, and rose feeling fresh and energetic as I hastened down to the aides-de-camp room on the first floor, separated from the Emperor's study by a baroque reception hall.
"On his desk the monarch would find the documents sent from the Chancelleries of the Cabinet and the Ministry of War, and his aide-de-camp was rarely in demand while he studied them. With the approach of half-past eight, the two Adjutants-General arrived. On the stroke of nine, the aide-de-camp announced first Count Paar and after him Baron Bolfras. They might be followed by archdukes, cabinet ministers, chiefs of the general staff and other high dignitaries with important communications or reports to make. These audiences lasted until lunchtime.
"Then His Majesty, usually alone, went for a stroll in the conservatory, after which he resumed work, going on until dinnertime at half-past five, dinner usually being served to him at his desk. At six o'clock, he dismissed his aide-de-camp.
During the whole of my period of service, no aide-de-camp was ever kept late or recalled in the evening or during the night. My first day passed happily and without misfortune. My colleagues had been right when they told me that in the main the rules consisted of tact and common sense. The Emperor was not a talkative man and preferred concise answers.
"Once, an aide-de-camp who was on duty for the first time felt, as they drove out of the palace, that he ought to make conversation. As they passed the tower, he pointed to the monument of Maria Theresa and remarked: "What a glorious work of art! A triumph of the human urge to create." On their arrival at Sch?nbrunn, the Emperor called for Count Paar and ordered him to have "that chatterbox" replaced immediately by someone else. Another aide-de-camp met with the same fate for clicking his heels loudly every time he made a statement. That sort of thing was not done at the Viennese Court.
"General audiences were granted at the Imperial Palace. They began at ten o'clock and the list invariably ran to fifty names. In earlier days there had been a hundred. The order of precedence had to be worked out by the aide-de-camp on duty, though for what reason I do not know. It would have been more natural for that task to have been left to the protocol experts, who had, in the first place, dealt with the requests for an audience.
"It was no simple matter for an officer to find his way about the hierarchies that exist at Court and to know who ranked above whom when dealing with princely personages, high-ranking clergy, present and past cabinet ministers, foreign dignitaries and officers. We had general guiding rules, but each one seemed to have its exceptions. A princely privy councillor or chamberlain, for instance, went before all others; if, however, a prince, such as one of the Schwarzenbergs, had not applied for the chamberlain's status, he had no rank and fell among the last. Those who had been called gathered in a hall where an official would conduct them one by one, in accordance with the aide-de-campss list, to the aide-de-camp whose duty it was to announce them. Two officers of the Guards, one Austrian and one Hungarian, stood with drawn swords at the door of the audience chamber. Each of the fifty individual audiences, usually to express thanks for an appointment or a distinction, occasionally to make a personal request, was bound to be very short. In the afternoon, more visitors were received until, at half-past four, His Majesty drove back to Schönbrunn.
"On one of these drives, it was a rainy November day and we were in a closed carriage, His Majesty looked out with great interest at the Palace Guard and expressed emphatic thanks for the honour they were showing him. "This regiment," he said, "is mounting guard at the Palace for the first time. It is the best regiment in Vienna and one of the best in the monarchy." I was proud to hear him say this, for the regiment in question was the 82nd Austro-Hungarian infantry regiment from Székelyudvarhely, Transylvania. During the First World War, that regiment performed marvels of bravery and suffered tremendous losses.
"Before the audiences began, the aides-de-camp room was usually a hive of activity. Everyone present was drawn willy-nilly into discussions on a number of often delicate problems. I learned to view the "nationalities problem" from a new angle. It filled me with anxious forebodings to observe in the course of discussions that foreign influences were at work and to note how, even indirectly, the theories of irredentism and separatism were infiltrating. At times, socialist ideas were also mentioned. The people who voiced these were plainly unaware how well off they were. They wanted to see the country governed on the basis of abstract theory and failed to allow for the immutable laws of nature. Their gaze went as far as the destruction of what was in existence. What the new state they were striving after would be like or what it would turn into, of that they had only the vaguest notion.
"If, therefore, we, that is to say those of us who lived in close contact with His Majesty, were not wholly without cares. The Bosnian crisis of 1908 had brought the dangers threatening the monarchy clearly before all eyes, we were obviously far from the spirit of defeatism that may have prevailed elsewhere. The strength of tradition and mutual interest, ensuring the stability of the Habsburg Empire, was shown at the outbreak of the First World War. Those who had argued that the monarchy would fall asunder on the first day of a major war were proved wrong by the facts. The military defeat which enabled the forces of revolution to carry out their destructive work was not the result of any inherent weakness in the monarchy but of the crushing superiority of an enemy coalition.
"In spite of his advanced age, His Majesty adhered to the traditional representative duties of the sovereign, among which were the gala dinners on the occasion of visits made by high-ranking guests, and in honour of the Diplomatic Corps in general. So large was the number of Ambassadors and Envoys that they had to be invited in groups. The diplomats assembled in the Pink Drawing-Room in Schönbrunn and engaged in conversation until the Lord Steward of the Household, Prince Montenuovo, gave three raps with his staff to announce the approach of His Majesty. All conversation ceased and all took position according to rank. Time and time again, I observed how profound an impression his appearance and personality made. I always admired the perfection with which he held court.
"Even when he talked with a hundred people in the course of an evening, and that in many languages, the Lord Steward murmuring the names and countries of the guests, he had some friendly, personal comment to make to each one and was never at a loss for a subject. It is utterly false that he asked the same question over and over again: "How do you like Vienna?" as Count Sforza, the Italian Foreign Minister after both the First and Second World Wars, averred in his book "Makers of Modern Europe", which he wrote while in exile. There he speaks of Francis Joseph as "a petrified eighteenth century autocrat" and talks of his "cold, proud and closed nature", disclosing how utterly he had misunderstood the personality of Emperor Francis Joseph.
"His Majesty retired about eleven o'clock and was at his desk the next morning at his customary hour. That this is no legend I can vouch: with his proverbial sense of duty, Francis Joseph spent every working day, beginning at five o'clock in the morning, at his desk going through the documents submitted to him by his Ministers. Never did I see him idle or wasting time, and I can speak with authority on this point, for the aides-de-camp invariably entered his study without knocking. He never took a nap, even after meals, as do so many younger men, though they have not risen at half-past three or four o'clock in the morning. At the age of eighty, Emperor Francis Joseph always inspected his garrisons on horseback, whether in Vienna, Budapest or at Sarajevo.
"His Majesty loved music and art. In my time, admittedly, he no longer went to the Opera or the theatre. Only once did I attend him, while at Ischl, to the premiere of a farce entitled When the Capercaillie Capers, in which Girardi's artistry made him laugh until the tears ran down his face. And, of course, the prima donna of the Court Opera, Frau Jeritza, who later became so famous, began her career in the summer theatre at Ischl.
"His Majesty always opened the spring art exhibition in person. He did not hide the fact that the then modern art, of which the Viennese secessionism were the representatives, was not to his taste. I remember the drive to the Künstlerhaus on the first occasion that I accompanied him, and the agonies I suffered on the way, for the day was chilly, we were in a closed carriage and had a fur rug across our knees. We were bound to moor on the port side, I had decided, which meant that I would have to jump out first. But what was I to do with the fur rug? Shortly before we arrived, as if aware of my dilemma, His Majesty threw the rug on to the carriage floor.
"At the exhibition, he passed by most of the paintings in silence, listening to the explanations given by an eminent artist. He paused in front of a landscape with a hunting lodge in the woods and asked, "Is that meant to be a lake in front of the lodge?" The artist was summoned. His Majesty repeated his question and received the answer, "No, Your Majesty, that is a forest meadow." "But it's blue." The artist, who was one of the modern school, said proudly, "That is how I see it." At which, His Majesty smiled and remarked, "In that case, you oughtn't to have become a painter." He never learned to appreciate faces depicted in shades of green and yellow; on one occasion, while viewing the art section of a hunting exhibition, he came upon a female nude, drawn entirely out of proportion, and, turning to the President of the exhibition, asked, "Tell me, are these gentlemen altogether in earnest, or are they pulling our legs?"
"Every year, early in July, His Majesty would go to Ischl in the Salzkammergut, the country in Upper Austria near Salzburg, for two or three months. Ischl was a friendly, clean little village with potent mineral springs; but the visitor had to accustom himself to the frequent rainfall. The Imperial Villa stood in a great park, consisting mainly of highland forest, with peaks rising to some two thousand five hundred feet, inhabited by chamois and other game. His Majesty's summer residence acted as a magnet to the aristocracy; they were followed by the rich manufacturers, who built elegant villas along the Traun. The mountain air and the springs were extremely beneficial to health, and there were many who became converts to the motto of the discoverer of the Ischl springs: "The greatest happiness on earth is not to be healthy, but to get healthy."
"Here His Majesty's life was less constrained. After an early morning ride, he had breakfast; then he dealt with the documents that had arrived and received people in audience. After a walk in the garden, he was served with a meal at half-past two, at which his two daughters, the Archduchess Gisela with her husband Prince Leopold of Bavaria and their two children, and the Archduchess Marie Valerie with her husband Archduke Francis Salvator, would be present, and also Count Paar and the aide-de-camp on duty. If the weather was tolerably good, His Majesty would, in the afternoon, ride on a pony through his preserves to some covert near which a stag was known to break cover.
"The Emperor was a keen and skilful huntsman, and an excellent shot, advanced though he was in age. I once suggested the use of telescopic sights, which facilitate one's aim by making both game and horizon stand out better, but in vain. His Majesty would have none of such new-fangled gadgets; he was so conservative that he did not even use modern guns but remained faithful to his old carbine.
"Most game, once raised, remains on the move until it has found good cover. Chamois, on the other hand, are uncertain in behaviour and the right moment to fire has to be carefully judged. His Majesty preferred to shoot them on the move. At the end of each shoot, he would interrogate the participants and ask them what they had seen and shot. Woe betide anyone who had not acquitted himself correctly.
"At one chamois shoot, the first shot was fired from the covert next to Count Paar, and he guessed that it was his neighbour the Archduke of Tuscany. There was a ridge in the terrain immediately in front of him at a distance of just over a hundred yards, and after a few minutes the head of a chamois popped up above it, disappearing again at once. Count Paar decided that it was a buck and fired. After a few moments, during which the Archduke fired again, another chamois head appeared at approximately the same place, and again Count Paar fired. The same sequence was repeated for a third time. Count Paar had no idea what he had hit, if anything, and the gamekeeper who had been assigned to him offered to go and investigate. It was, of course, strictly forbidden to leave the covert, but curiosity proved too strong. After some time, the gamekeeper returned looking very upset and reported, "Three kids, Your Excellency." Count Paar was in despair, but refused the offer of the well-meaning gamekeeper that he should quickly bury the kids.
"When the shoot was over, he went to make his report with a very guilty conscience, which was in no way relieved when he saw that His Majesty was considerably perturbed by something the Archduke was saying to him. As he drew nearer, he could hear the Archduke being rebuked for having shot three female chamois that had kids. When his turn came, Count Paar declared that he had disposed of the kids which had lost their mothers. This luckily won the Emperor's approval.
"His Majesty took part in a shoot for the last time when he was seventy-nine. Raising his gun for the first cock, he brought the bird down faultlessly, and then said, "This is no longer a sport for me." But although he had given up this pleasure which he had so much enjoyed in the past, he still had to know exactly how his guests had fared. Every morning, the Imperial Master of the Hunt had to report by telegram the tally of the birds that his guests had shot or missed. His Majesty was always annoyed to hear if game was wounded and lost.
"What events had not those sixty years seen? "Nothing," His Majesty had said when the news of the murder of the Empress was broken to him, "nothing has been spared me." His brother, the Emperor Maximilian, had been court-martialled and shot by the Mexican revolutionaries. His only son, the very intelligent Crown Prince Rudolph, in whom lay all his hopes, lost his life under tragic circumstances. His wife, the Empress and Queen Elizabeth, so highly esteemed and gratefully honoured by the Hungarian people, was murdered by an Italian anarchist in Geneva. The same fate later befell his nephew Archduke Francis Ferdinand, the heir to the throne, at Sarajevo.
"He still carried the burden of the execution of the thirteen Hungarian Generals at Arad in 1849 at the end of the War of Liberation, though he was blameless in the matter, since he was then a youth of eighteen in the hands of the Camarilla. Even the losses at K?öniggraetz weighed heavily on his soul, and it was his most fervent wish never to have to experience another war. But not even that experience was spared him.
"In all those dark hours, His Majesty sought and found solace in his strong religious faith. He saw his task, of ruler as one given him by God and he performed it with a sense of duty to which he subordinated his own personal desires. Painfully precise, even in the smallest details, he personally cleaned the red surface of his desk with a small brush every evening when the day's work was finished. Simple and unassuming in the conduct of his private life, he did not regard the strict Spanish Court etiquette as an end in itself but as the necessary outward form for a tradition, the maintenance of which among the diverse ethnic elements of the Habsburg monarchy was more important than in other countries.
"The fundamental traits of his character were kindliness and courtesy. In his wisdom, which long experience had refined, he aimed first of all at righteousness, which to him was the "foundation of the realm." When His Majesty celebrated his eightieth birthday on August 15th, 1910, his physical and mental faculties still unimpaired, the huntsmen of Austria dedicated a statue in bronze to him. An excellent likeness, portraying him in the leather shorts of the traditional national hunting costume, his gun over his shoulder, his alpenstock in his hand, standing on a rock. At his feet lay a fine stag with a royal head, the antlers modelled after those of a stag that His Majesty had actually shot in the vicinity of the monument.
In keeping, all the guests invited to the unveiling ceremony wore hunting costume. Count Wurmbrandt gave the address and the whole gathering was deeply moved when, following upon it, the Viennese male choir sang in the forest the national anthem: "Gott erhalte, Gott beschütze unsern Kaiser, unser Land" (God preserve, God protect our Emperor, our Land)."