"The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914" by King and Woolmans (2013)
I enjoyed this biography - interesting to learn more about the lives of a royal couple best known for their deaths in 1914
The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World by Greg King and Sue Woolmans (Review) | Carolyn Harris: Royal Historian
reproduced for promotional purposes
I have read almost everything Greg King has written, and I will be picking up his latest as well. Thanks for the heads up!
The Assassination of the Archduke
I saw this yesterday in my local bookstore,it looks quite interesting .I must admit I know very little about the Archduke & his wife Sophie.
The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Murder that Changed the World by Greg King
I've often wondered what their assassin thought afterwards.
He died in prison in 1918 and I wonder what he thought about the chain of events he sat in motion.
Did he feel guilt? The assassinations was a disaster for his beloved Serbia as well. Or did he feel convinced that what he did was right?
Yes it does indeed especially of the fate of their children!
I guess with the 100th anniversary of WWI this year we'll be reading,seeing & hearing more on Franz Ferdinand,Sophie & Gavrilo Princip.
The Assassination of the Archduke
"The Assassination of the Archduke"
A full excerpt from Chapter 1 can be read here: In the Shadow of the Throne
Drawing on unpublished letters and rare primary sources, King and Woolmans tell the true story behind the tragic romance and brutal assassination that sparked World War I.
In the summer of 1914, three great empires dominated Europe: Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. Four years later all had vanished in the chaos of World War I. One event precipitated the conflict, and at its hear was a tragic love story. When Austrian heir Archduke Franz Ferdinand married for love against the wishes of the emperor, he and his wife Sophie were humiliated and shunned, yet they remained devoted to each other and to their children. The two bullets fired in Sarajevo not only ended their love story, but also led to war and a century of conflict.
Set against a backdrop of glittering privilege, The Assassination of the Archduke combines royal history, touching romance, and political murder in a moving portrait of the end of an era. One hundred years after the event, it offers the startling truth behind the Sarajevo assassinations, including Serbian complicity and examines rumors of conspiracy and official negligence. Events in Sarajevo also doomed the couple’s children to lives of loss, exile, and the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, their plight echoing the horrors unleashed by their parents’ deaths. Challenging a century of myth, The Assassination of the Archduke resonates as a very human story of love destroyed by murder, revolution, and war.
2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the fatal shots that not only ended the life of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, but precipitated the First World War. That their assassination caused the war is common knowledge. What this timely and highly readable publication from Greg King does is fill in the details of what happened on that momentous day and puts human faces to the political and historical figures who were involved. Most historical accounts focus primarily on the assassination itself and its consequences, but this one gives equal weight to the personal tragedy, and thus becomes a gripping human drama.
The book is divided loosely into two halves. The first concentrates on Franz Ferdinand himself, as heir to the Hapsburg throne, but also as devoted husband and loving father and family man. The second describes the background to the assassination, the dreadful events of the day itself and the aftermath, examining en route the many conspiracy theories that have since been propounded, and looking in detail at both the facts and also rumours that continue to surround the murder. Greg King goes on to report the fate of the couple’s 3 children, who were just 13, 12 and 10 when they lost their parents and whose own lives were blighted by their deaths. From castles and royal courts, to concentration camps and battlefields, this is biography and historical writing at its best. A moving picture of the end of an era, it draws on a variety of sources, including letters, diaries and archives, access to many of which has been restricted until now. This is a vivid and totally compelling account of a pivotal event in 20th century history.
On the eve of the centennial of the Sarajevo event, well-known royalty historians King and Woolmans bring us a detailed account of the life, times, and tragic deaths of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, which helped touch off the First World War, which still shapes the world.
The early chapters of The Assassination of the Archduke concentrate on Franz Ferdinand’s family, birth, childhood, education, and military career. This gives the reader a good look at the complexities of the stifling regime of the Hapsburg court in the reign of the tradition-bound and ultra-conservative Emperor-King Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary. As a member of the imperial family, albeit originally not the heir to throne, Franz Ferdinand’s life was essentially planned for him in great detail. But he broke the rules, falling for a woman who, though a noble, was not quite noble enough to marry a Hapsburg.
The romance, marriage, and family life of the imperial prince and the mere countess take up about half the book. King and Woolmans give us a look at the courtship of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie and their long battle to secure permission to wed, albeit in a morganatic marriage, which denied her and her children imperial rank. The picture of the couple’s life together shows us an almost continuous pattern of petty snubs and deliberate insults from the court, but they have been a happy couple, producing three children who seem to have had a rather normal family life considering the pressures on them. King and Woolmans make a serious effort to rehabilitate the images of both Franz Ferdinand and Sophie. For example, they argue that Franz Ferdinand was neither an unimaginative, stiff-necked conservative, nor a starry-eyed liberal, as various authors in the past have depicted him. Though perhaps more sympathetic than the evidence would suggest, they see him as a realistic conservative, who recognized the need for reforms that would bolster the old order. Moreover, they point out that he actually had some influence in reshaping the monarchy, helping create a new navy for example.
Naturally, the events in Sarajevo take up a substantial part of the book, about a third overall. King and Woolmans discuss the circumstances that led the couple to be in Sarajevo on a most inappropriate day, the anniversary of the destruction of the old Serb kingdom by the Turks more than five centuries earlier. They then give us an overview of the Serb nationalist conspiracy that led to the assassination. King and Woolmans follow this with a detailed look at the events on that fateful day. They also briefly summarized some “conspiracy theory” views of the events, including the possibility that the assassination might have had the blessing of the Serbian crown, and even a suggestion that some of the Archduke’s enemies within the Empire may have had a hand in it.
In their final chapters King and Woolmans give us a look at the funeral accorded Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, with its continuing slights, the political and diplomatic fallout of their deaths, notably the “Great War” which everyone had been desiring and dreading for decades and its long term consequences, as well as look at the later history of the couple’s children.
The authors are good at short word-portraits of some of the many interesting characters who appear in the book. They have insightful looks at Franz Joseph, his wife the Empress Elizabeth, and their son Crown Prince Rudolf, who famously murdered his mistress and killed himself, as well as many others, from court officials to their assassin, Gavrilo Princip. They do make a few small errors of fact, for example, misdating the Empire’s loss its Italian provinces by some 20 years, and while there are a number of excellent photographs not previously seen by this reviewer, a plan of Sarajevo would have been useful in following the events.
In writing this book, King and Woolmans were assisted by the couple’s descendants, who provided access to family archives and shared personal recollections. These helped flesh out material found in other archives and published works, and the authors also consulted a impressive number of contemporary newspaper accounts. This wealth of resources makes the book of value to scholars of the outbreak of the Great War and to “royalty buffs” of course, but also to anyone curious about the political, social, and cultural milieu within which the Archduke and his wife lived. The Assassination of the Archduke, which has a thoughtful foreword the tragic couple’s great-granddaughter [Princess Sophie of Hohenberg], is well-written, and makes for an easy read, and can be enjoyed by both academic and layman alike.
"The Assassination of the Archduke"
Life can be unpredictable and is often infused with bitter irony. Consider the incredible and terrible course of the two brothers Ernst and Max. Born into the luxury of the Austro-Hungarian imperial family — their father was next in line to the imperial throne — the two ended up in Dachau concentration camp.
Their fate is the most shocking aspect of The Assassination of the Archduke. But the story of their fate is, of course, deeply intertwined with a far greater and violent episode of European history, the decline and the destruction of Austria-Hungary, most visibly announced by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, their father.
June 28, 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of that fateful day. The tide of years, of course, has erased most everything of that time except for the buildings and a handful of individuals who can claim direct lineage to the families of Imperial times. One of these sentries of the past called Konipiste or Konopischt, a chateau located about 50 miles from Prague, where the Archduke and his Countess spent a few happy years, is now the object of a decade old legal fight between a descendant Sophie von Hohenberg and the Czech government. With the passing of time, certain aspects of the past may also be forgotten. This is certainly the case with respect to the personal lives of the Archduke and the Countess as much of the history of that time focuses on the larger issues of politics in an attempt to divine the causes of the Great War, a project which does not easily admit the personal.
The Assassination of the Archduke works to reverse this and reveals the human story of the Archduke Ferdinand, his problematic marriage to Countess Chotek, their problems at Austrian imperial court, their moments of happiness at Konopischt, their death in Sarajevo and the fate of their children as their world unraveled around them. The Assassination of the Archduke creates a compelling and readable account of the private life of the imperial family headed for doom.
Archduke Ferdinand wasn’t to be emperor, but the death of his cousin and Crown Prince Rudolf and the abdication by his own father made him the only heir to the imperial throne. From the very first, the Emperor Franz Joseph I disliked the Archduke. Their relationship was further complicated when Ferdinand chose a woman who could never be Empress, the Countess Sophie Chotek, as his wife.
The morganatic marriage proved to be a source of great friction at the imperial court. The Emperor viewed it and the reformist ideas of the Archduke as proof of his unsuitability as future Emperor. For example, the Archduke at one point became convinced that Austria-Hungary could survive only after becoming radically reformed along the lines of a federal union similar in structure to the United States of America, an idea that the Emperor though preposterous and dangerous.
Not a few historians believe that choices could have been made differently and that the Great War ultimately avoided. But the character of Franz Joseph I that comes across in this book casts doubt on such naive views: The Emperor was incapable of change — moreover, he hated the idea of reform. How do you convince such a man to act against his beliefs and interests? It would require nothing less than magic to change the old Emperor into a man capable of finding common ground with the Archduke and entertain notions of reform. In this sense, the Great War was impossible to avoid because the people who were responsible for making it happen could not possibly alter their thinking. The possibility of choice, then, is an illusion created by hindsight. The decisions that were made were the only decisions that could ever have been made given who the people involved in the situations were as people.
As the years wore on, however, The Emperor’s attitude softened somewhat. Countess Chotek was elevated in her station. But some hings could never change: neither she nor her two sons could ever be part of the imperial family. Then, when the Archduke and his wife were killed in Sarajevo, Franz Joseph I breathed a sigh of relief. His hopes for preserving the old order seemed about to be assured. But it was not to be: precisely a month, on July 28, war erupted that would sweep his empire away.
Ultimately, a deep irony obtains from the story of the Archduke Ferdinand: though disliked by Emperor Franz Joseph I, the Archduke Ferdinand through his assassination was the direct cause of the decision by Austria-Hungary to attack Serbia, which caused the European continent to descend into war that destroyed three empires of Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary [Four empires, including the Ottoman]. Even in death, Ferdinand remade Austria-Hungary in a fundamental way but not in the way he planned or imagined. And the old Emperor was unable to prevent the destruction of tradition he valued so much.
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