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(108,903 posts)
Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:35 AM Aug 2013

WWI Centennial: The Archduke and Arch-Conspirator Take Their Places



According to the American diplomat George F. Kennan, the First World War was the “great seminal catastrophe” of the 20th century, “the event which . . . lay at the heart of the failure and decline of this Western civilization.” But like most epochal events it was the product of general trends coinciding with a precise alignment of people and places at a certain moment in time. The broader forces behind the war included the rise of nationalism, social Darwinism, and the European arms race -- but it took the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, to set the world on fire. In mid-August 1913, the Archduke and the man who would arrange his death assumed the roles that put the wheel of fate in motion.

Franz Ferdinand (pictured) was thoroughly disliked by his uncle, the Emperor Franz Josef, and other members of the Imperial household, who were annoyed by the Archduke’s brusque manner and deeply resentful of his “morganatic” marriage to Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg (a minor aristocrat who was far beneath Franz Ferdinand in social terms, and thus legally excluded from his imperial privileges, along with their children). Many Imperial officials also feared Franz Ferdinand’s plans to accommodate Slavic nationalism by adding a third monarchy representing the Slavs to the Dual Monarchy of Austria and Hungary – or even reinventing the Empire as a federal state.

But following the deaths of Franz Josef’s son, the Crown Prince Rudolf (who committed suicide in 1889) and the his brother (Franz Ferdinand’s father) Karl Ludwig in 1896, Franz Ferdinand was the legitimate heir to the throne – and Franz Josef, motivated by feelings of responsibility to the House of Hapsburg and his subjects, did his best to get along with his cantankerous nephew and smooth the way for his succession. Therefore on August 17, 1913, the elderly Emperor appointed Franz Ferdinand inspector general of the Austro-Hungarian army, a position of real responsibility which would help prepare the heir for the role of commander-in-chief when he assumed the throne.

As inspector general, Franz Ferdinand was eager to begin familiarizing himself with the current state of the Empire’s forces and asserting his authority, especially over chief of staff Conrad von Hötzendorf, a former favorite who had fallen into disfavor with the Archduke because of his aggressive attitude towards Serbia. To put his stamp on the army (and let Hötzendorf know who was boss) Franz Ferdinand immediately began arranging to attend the next year’s army maneuvers, scheduled to take place in Bosnia in June 1914.

Read the full text here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/52286/wwi-centennial-archduke-and-arch-conspirator-take-their-places#ixzz2cKMtnVV3
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WWI Centennial: The Archduke and Arch-Conspirator Take Their Places (Original Post) xchrom Aug 2013 OP
Kick and Rec Cooley Hurd Aug 2013 #1

Cooley Hurd

(26,877 posts)
1. Kick and Rec
Sun Aug 18, 2013, 09:44 AM
Aug 2013

Fascinating read!

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was a benevolent leader at a time of great Nationalism and Militarism in Europe. I don't think anyone can say for sure if he wasn't assassinated that WWI would've been averted (since things were already a tinderbox), but it stands to wonder if the Austria-Hungary empire would've persisted and survived under his (eventual) rule.

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