Your RDA of Irony

December 18th: Mishapsburgs

Archduke Franz Ferdinand would have been 146 today; but he stopped counting in 1914. His assassination was, at the very least, a disaster for Sarajevo’s tourism. If only the heir to Austria-Hungary had the consideration to have been gunned elsewhere, World War I could have been averted.

The Emperor Franz Josef couldn’t stand his nephew. The archduke was crass, humorless and irritable; there was no Viennese charm about him. In fact, Franz Ferdinand hated Vienna: too intellectual, too artistic and–or is this redundant–too Jewish. The elderly Emperor may have kept living just to keep his repulsive nephew from the throne.

And if Franz Ferdinand had been killed anywhere but Bosnia-Herzegovina, the old Emperor might have chuckled and shrugged. The Hapsburgs were inured to violent deaths. His brother Maximilian had been executed in Mexico. His wife Elizabeth had been assassinated in Switzerland. Yet Austria had not declared on Mexico or Switzerland, and Franz Josef actually liked his wife.

Unfortunately, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand could not be rationalized or ignored. Bosnia-Herzegovina was Austrian territory (whether or not Bosnians liked it) and it really was a breach of etiquette for the Serbian secret service to be encouraging the murder of Hapsburgs there.

So Austria-Hungary had to declare war on Serbia, so Russia had to declare war on Austria, so Germany had to declare war on Russia, and France was only too eager to declare war on Germany, so Germany had to declare war on Belgium (poor Belgium was in the way), so Britain had to declare war on Germany. Turkey hated Russia and didn’t want to feel left out.

On the positive side, the next-in-line to the Hapsburg throne was the Archduke Karl, and the Emperor liked him.

  1. Hal Gordon says:

    You left out Franz Josef’s son, Rudolf, who blew his brains out at Meyerling. “Inured to violent deaths” indeed.

  2. Hello Hal:

    And unlike so many royals, Rudolf had brains to blow out. Of course, the intelligence was from his mother’s side: the bright and highly neurotic Wittelbachs of Bavaria.

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