Thursday, June 28, 2018

"You have received us with bombs" ~ The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the end of Christian Europe

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It is not too far-fetched to say that Christian Europe officially died on June 28, 1914. On that day, the heir to the imperial throne of Austria-Hungary and his wife were gunned down on the streets of Sarajevo. In modern parlance, we would call the assassin, 19 year-old Serbian radical Gavrilo Princip, a terrorist. His act would lead directly to the outbreak of the Great War a little over a month later.

Following is an article that appeared in The Outlook, an important New York-based political and social journal, from a week after the assassinations. It is notable that the terrible ramifications of the slaying had yet to be recognized—stories regarding the political maneuvering of Theodore Roosevelt and the situation in Mexico were given priority in this issue.
The Assassinations at Sarajevo 
All friends of Austria-Hungary were shocked by the murder on June 28 of the heir to the throne, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg. Those in exalted stations are never free from some sudden attack by some crazed man, as the cases of Lincoln and Garfield and McKinley, of King Humbert of Italy and King George of Greece, remind us.

In the present instance, murder has removed those who were about to succeed to great power. Franz Ferdinand was not a popular prince. He was reserved, taciturn, moody, opinionated, supposed to be under Jesuit control, a jingo, a militarist—not all together a happy combination. Accident made him, as the nephew of the venerable Austrian Emperor, heir to the throne. The world looked on with misgiving. For of all monarchs the Emperor of Austria-Hungary has best known how to manage the conglomeration of the many different nationalities which make up the Dual Empire. It might well be triple, as Franz Ferdinand himself suggested not long ago, the third part to be Slav.

With bitter irony, the Prince met his death at the hands of a Slav—a Serb. The Archduke and his wife were entering Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, when a bomb was burst immediately behind their motor, shattering the motor which followed it and injuring its occupants. Moved by this circumstance, the Archduke, before replying later to the Mayor’s message of welcome, said: “An amazing indignity has been perpetrated. You have received us with bombs.” With his wife, he then drove towards the hospital to inquire after the condition of the sufferers from the bomb, when a young man sprang out of the crowd and aimed a pistol at the Duchess. Her husband immediately threw himself in front of her to shield her. The weapon used was an automatic pistol. Both occupants of the motor received mortal wounds from which they soon expired…

The tragedy gains deeper pathos because it leaves the venerable head of the house of Hapsburg (Emperor Franz Joseph) so utterly alone. His has been a life overborne by grief. A quarter of a century ago, he lost in a most tragic way, his only son. Sixteen years ago, his wife was murdered. His brother, Maximilian, became Emperor of Mexico, only to be shot there, and Carlotta, Maximilian’s wife, became an inmate of an insane asylum. The Emperor’s sister-in-law, the Duchess of Alencon, was burned to death in Paris. The Archduke John, who suddenly renounced his rank and became plain Johann Orth, disappeared. And now comes the loss of another nephew, the heir presumptive.

As the children of Franz Ferdinand’s morganatic marriage are debarred from the throne, the new heir presumptive is Charles Francis Joseph (later Blessed Karl of Austria), the son of the late Archduke Otto, who married Josefa, daughter of the late King of Saxony.

The assassination of the Archduke and his wife was followed by bloody riots at Mostar, the capital of Herzegovina, between Mohammedan Croats and the Serbs. In the attempts of the Croats (aided by Austrians) to drive the Serbs back into their own quarters many serious incendiary fires were started, which at one time threatened the destruction of the city. It was reported that in the street fighting in Mostar, over two hundred Serbs were killed. Rioting also broke out in other towns in Herzegovina.
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie destroyed their young family—their three children, Sophie, Maximilian and Ernst were sometimes described as the first orphans of the Great War. The assassination also led directly to the destruction of the last vestiges of Christian Europe. Considering the events that have followed up to the present, and the dark and uncertain future that Europe faces today, it is perhaps not out of place to remember these victims as signs of contradiction to the mess that liberal democracy and socialism have made of the once cultured and prosperous nations of the continent.

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