Drawing on unpublished letters and rare primary sources, King and Woolmans tell the true story behind the tragic romance and brutal assassination that sparked World War I.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 heart 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 ofthe 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.
©2013 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2013 Greg King and Sue Woolmans
I am an avid eclectic reader.
June 28, 1914 will mark the 100th anniversary of that fateful day in Sarajevo. Well–known royalty historians King and Woolman bring us a detailed account of the life, times, and tragic deaths of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Czech Countess Sophia Chotek, that helped touch off WWI, which still shapes the world. The early chapters concentrate on Franz Ferdinand’s family, birth, childhood, education and military career. The reader obtains a look at the complexities of the stifling regime of the Hapsburg court in the reign of traditional bound ultra-conservative Emperor Franz Joseph 1 of Austria-Hungry. The romance, marriage, and family life of Ferdinand, Sophie and the children Sophie, Max and Ernst consumes about half the book. The author explains the morganatic marriage in detail. The authors reveal the petty snubs, deliberate insults from the court and how it affected the family. The event in Sarajevo takes up about a third of the book. The final chapter looks at the later history of the children and their offspring. How they had their home, money, personal items all taken from them by the Czech government. The Nazi arrested them and imprisoned them in Dachau concentration camp. The author’s tell the story in the camp and then living under the Soviets after being released from Dachau. Today their great grand daughter who wrote the foreword to the book is in a decades old legal battle with the Czech government attempting to obtain their family home Konipiste returned to them. The author’s did an enormous amount of research, assisted by the descendants who shared personal recollections and access to family archives and other archives. The wealth of resources makes the book of value to scholars of the outbreak of WWI. I found it most helpful that the author’s pointed out the rumors and theories then stated the proven fact in various situations throughout the book. This book brought to life the Archduke and his family as well as the time they lived. The book is well written and makes for an easy read for both the academic and the layman alike. Malcohm Hillgartner did an excellent job narrating the book.
An obvious fool
The great disappointment of this book was the focus on the minute details of the marriage of the Duke and his wife and the consternation their marriage caused in the Austrian Royal Family. While some of this was interesting, it became extremely tedious after numerous descriptions of what the Duke's wife wore to various social engagements or verbatim quotes of letters from members of the Austrian aristocracy to each other.Another disappointing aspect of the book is the lightly hidden collaboration between the authors and the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Duke and his wife to restore their reputations. The authors make a very strong argument that the behavior of Austrian Royal Family to the Duke and his wife was despicable. But I couldn't help but be put off by the decedents of the Duke and his wife seeming to cling to titles of Prince and Princess when such titles were part of the social order that permitted the mistreatment of their grandparents.The last part of the book partially makes up for these deficits when it launches into detail about the immediate events surrounding the assassination of the Duke and his wife. What I felt was left out, though, was more information about the politics in the Balkans that caused such hatred of the Duke. Why did the Eastern Orthodox Slavs hate the Catholics and Muslims? The book is very shallow in providing the reader with an understanding of why the Balkans were, and remain, an area of viscous ethnic conflict. This would have been far more interesting than digressions on the type of feathers the Duke was wearing on his hat on a certain day.
This book is not perfect by any means, the first half is plodding and somewhat repetitive, but the second half more than makes up for it with its minute and absolutely riveting account of how the ill fated Sarajevo trip came to happen, as well as the actual trip and everything that happened on Sarajevo on June 28th. This is "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" , and you will read in shock as you see the events unfold and ask " Why did not someone stop the trip? Why did they decide to keep their schedule on June 28th when that same day they had already been attacked?". So this is basically two books: the first one is interesting but a missed opportunity; the story of Franz Ferdinand and his "forbidden" marriage too Sophie is very interesting and out of high class melodrama, however the lack of context on Austrian politics and society is a big hole. The emphasis on the romance is probably due to the fact that the authors had direct access to the descendants of the Archduke. However, the secon half is absolutely priceless, as you see in dramatic slow motion the event which would lead to catastrophe. Recommended to anyone interested in World War I and as far as I know the only book in English whose main subject is the Archduke.
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