The Dynastic Tragedy That Begins a
New Political Era in Europe

[Current Opinion, August 1914]

With the swift arrival in Vienna of that Archduke Charles Francis Joseph who, through the double assassination in Bosnia became immediate heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne last month, an era "new, strange and exciting," as the Paris Matin says, dawned in European world politics. The fate of the Triple Alliance trembles in the balance, to give the gist of hints in the Paris Gaulois. That modification of the dual monarchy itself into a federal system based upon wider recognition of the Slav, which Magyars anticipated with such, dread, is deferred indefinitely. The social reorganization of the Hapsburg dominions upon a basis of Roman Catholic piety and a more democratic economics, the policy for which the murdered Archduke stood firmly, has become, in the light of the month's press comment abroad, an idle dream. The men about the new Hapsburg heir are suspected of hostility to the Slav and unless, as the London Times says, this racial question be treated with constructive statesmanship, its developments may render the reign of the next sovereign a series of such disasters as attended the unification of Italy and the unification of Germany—events fatal to the prestige of the Hapsburgs in Europe for years. The tragedy, again, that closed the career of Franz Ferdinand may not hasten the death of the Emperor, but the one catastrophe must follow hard upon the other.

Sinister Suggestions Regarding the Assassination of Franz Ferdinand.

Few assassinations have been so extremely convenient in their consequences to powerful parties in the state as the taking off of Franz Ferdinand proves to important elements in Vienna and Budapest. The fact does not escape the notice of Socialist dailies like the Berlin Vorwärts. Even the conservative London Standard must define the general sense of mystification sufficiently to refer to ''features about this appalling catastrophe which seem to indicate something more than the crazed malignity of half-witted fanaticism. "The progress of events from the opening of the maneuvers in Bosnia to the fatal setting out for the town-hall at Sarajevo suggests a plot laid not only with some care, but with a wealth of resources. "The insignificance of the instruments," as the British paper, confirming others, remarks, "is not in itself sufficient to negative the presumption of more serious figures in the background. "There is something here besides an impression that the late heir to the throne succumbed to a conspiracy using fanaticism as its tool. There is a fear that the new heir-presumptive has fallen into hands seeking to shape him to purposes alien to those of the slain archduke.

Character of the New Heir to the Hapsburg Throne.

Born some twenty-seven years ago, the Archduke Charles Francis manifests, from all accounts, the traditional Roman Catholic piety of the Hapsburgs. His consort, who was Princess Zita of Parma, journeyed with her mother to Rome to procure the Pope's consent to her betrothal before the wedding three years ago. The new heir to the throne is credited with profound sympathy for that Catholic German element in Austria which seeks the unification of the dual monarchy under clerical and conservative auspices. He will prove a clerical potentate, declares the Rome Avanti, Socialist, but his sympathies will not be with the democratic forces in the Roman Catholic Church. He will work rather with the Bourbon influences surrounding his youthful consort, a gracious Princess to whom the monarchical Paris Gaulois refers as one of the hopes of the anti-republican elements in France. Unlike the assassinated Franz Ferdinand, who was no friend to Russia, the Archduke Charles Francis is in high favor at St. Petersburg, perhaps because, to use the phrase of the London Times, "the assassin's bullet has shot away more than one postulate of German policy and has aroused the fear that problems for which Germany was dimly preparing may ripen too soon. "The intimacy of the relations between the late Archduke and the German Emperor were in marked contrast with the feeling between His Majesty and the new heir to the Hapsburg dynasty. Vienna was in the grip of Berlin while Franz Ferdinand lived, to give the theory of the Paris Temps. The arrival of Charles Francis in his new capacity is bound to emphasize the differences between Catholic Germans and Protestant Germans.

The Succession to the Hungarian Throne Not Affected.

Once upon the throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand, whose morganatic marriage made him so famous, would have raised his wife to the royal family or the Paris Débats is much mistaken. He seems to have shared the longing of his consort for a recognition of their eldest son as heir to the Hapsburg house. The Archduke and his wife had by vows upon the cross abandoned whatever claim their children can be presumed to have upon the ancient diadem. This renunciation was entered formally upon the statute books of the dynasty. In Austria it was a closed issue. In Hungary the Hapsburg dynastic code is not so definitely recognized. The parliament at Budapest passed, therefore, a statute excluding the children of the late Franz Ferdinand from their father's royal inheritance. These measures had not removed the uncertainties. A morganatic marriage is not a bar to the Hungarian throne, according to some jurisconsults in Budapest. The parliament in that city could at any time have repealed the law it made. The Pope had power to grant a dispensation from the vow taken by Francis Ferdinand, or so the Débats says. His assassination precluded a world of complications, according to the French daily. Austria would never have tolerated a son of the late Duchess of Hohenberg on the throne in Vienna, whatever Hungary might enact in Budapest. Not until recently had the unfortunate lady been given precedence immediately after the Archduchesses. Even then, according to the London Chronicle, there was an unpleasant episode at the English court, where this new distinction could not, for a mysterious reason, be recognized.

The Hapsburg Assassination as a Provocation to War.

Diplomatic representations, in Belgrade as a result of the tracing of any plot against the late Archduke to that city must further embitter the Servians against the Austrians, fears the Paris Matin, altho the Vienna Neue Freie Presse discredits the notion that the tragedy could bring on war between Servia and the dual monarchy. "Sarajevo," declares the latter, however, "is doubtless the seat of a conspiracy and the successful assassins came from Belgrade." Suspicious, too, is the detail that those in the plot were so well supplied with money. The Vienna daily treats with contempt the insinuations in Servian dailies that those who murdered the late Archduke and his consort relieved the Hapsburg court circle of many embarrassments. As the details of the tragedy emerge more clearly this tendency to mutual accusation between Slav and Teuton grows quite definite. These and similar consequences of the assassination, however, could scarcely become serious, says the well-informed Manchester Guardian, unless the aged Emperor Francis Joseph were to fail to live long enough to allow excitement to die down. The peoples of Austria and the countries around it have still to become accustomed to the notion of the undisturbed succession of the new heir. The combination of Bourbon, Teutonic and Magyar elements creating an atmosphere of reaction around the youthful Archduke Charles Francis tends to create alarm among the forces that rallied around the late Francis Ferdinand. An expert view of the crisis impending is afforded in this study of it by one for whose capacity to speak our British contemporary vouches from first-hand knowledge:

"Should the accession of the new ruler be accompanied by any internal confusion or any apparent disunion between the different races and provinces which make up the Austrian Empire, there might easily be produced a situation similar to that which occurred in Turkey after the fall of Abdul Hamid—one which would invite the less scrupulous of the neighboring Powers to seize the advantage given them by internal dissension and to provoke a war which might have the gravest possible consequences.

"There is, in the second place, the danger of an attack by Servia, which would be attracted by the possibility of increasing its territory at the expense of the Slav provinces of Austria lying near to it. Finally, there is the more serious danger of a Russian attack, which if made would no doubt be participated in by Roumania, The great military preparations of Russia in the last few years have been directed solely to the possibility of a conflict with Austria, a conflict which was averted at the time of the annexation of Bosnia by the prompt and decisive intervention of the German Emperor, but which many observers of new eastern affairs believe only to be postponed. It is to the possibility of this conflict that France owes its Three-Years-Service Law. The possibility hung as a vague menace over the defined disturbance in the Balkan War, and it might in the event of a change in the throne occurring before Austria has settled herself again become an immediate reality."

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013.

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