Sunday, June 29, 2014

Today -100: June 29, 1914: Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s 83-year-old Kaiser Franz Josef I and heir to his throne, is assassinated in Sarajevo in a somewhat inept plot that only worked because someone drove down the wrong street. The first two assassins along the route fail to act at all. A third, 19-year-old Nedeljko Čabrinović, throws a hand grenade at the open-topped car containing Franz Ferdinand, his morganatic wife Duchess Sophie (that means her children would not be in the line of succession because she was a mere Czech), the governor of the Bosnian province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Oskar Potiorek, and a colonel. But the archduke swats it away (or it bounces off the car, depending on whose version you believe) and it explodes behind his car, only hurting a few insignificant non-royals. The archduke then orders his car to stop while they figure out what had just happened, but the plotters weren’t prepared for such a boneheaded move.

When he arrives at his destination he interrupts the mayor of Sarajevo’s welcoming speech to exclaim, “It is perfectly outrageous! We have come to Sarajevo on a visit and have had a bomb thrown at us!” Then he graciously allows the mayor to continue his speech, not at all awkwardly, while he mentally composes a scathing Yelp review. Afterwards, Franz F. decides to go to the hospital to visit the bystanders injured by the grenade. When someone suggests this might be dangerous, Potiorek retorts, “Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?”, totally ignoring the city’s motto.

Still, Potiorek decides that after the bomb incident they should take an alternate route. But he forgets to tell the driver. The route they did take took them right alongside a café where Gavrilo Princip, a 19-year-old member of the conspiracy, was either sitting gloomily, thinking he’d lost his chance, or standing outside attentively (the NYT is full of contradictory details). “Hey, that’s the very car I was looking for!” he said, probably, and emptied his pistol into it, killing FF and Sophie (he said at his trial that the he was aiming at Potiorek, not Sophie). It was their 14th wedding anniversary.

According to the NYT, Princip and Čabrinović “expressed themselves to the police in the most cynical fashion about their crimes.” I’m telling ya, these kids today -100. Both are from Herzegovina, which was annexed by Austria (officially) in 1908 along with Bosnia. The two assassins are singing like canaries, or boasting like, um, peacocks.

The NYT is already reporting (correctly) that the bombs were supplied by Serbia, I think because Čabrinović admitted it.

Censorship is clamped down so quickly in Sarajevo by the Austrian authorities that the first news of the assassination to reach Budapest, which is after all one of the capitals of the Dual Monarchy, comes via Belgrade.

Headlines of the Day -100: 1) “Paris Press Fears War.” “Several journals express the fear that the consequences will be sufficiently serious again to plunge the Balkans, if not Europe, into a conflict.”
2) “Tragedy May Alter Politics of Europe.” Ya think?

A Mrs. Alma Vetsera Hayne pops up in New York claiming to be the daughter of Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress the Baroness Maria Vetsera (played by Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux in Mayerling or – dear God why – by Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve in the remake), who committed suicide together in 1889, and that therefore her son is now the true heir to the Austrian throne. Presumably a con artist or fabulist, but her personal history is so dysfunctional, she’d fit in perfectly with the Habsburgs. One incident: the LA Times mentions a Canadian who was on his way to marry her a few years back (although she was already married) when his father had him arrested: “The young man was put in an asylum to effect a reconciliation with his wife.”

At a banquet in Monterrey, Venustiano Carranza says that the US is taking a dictatorial attitude toward Mexico. He rejects any foreign interference in Mexico’s internal affairs. Elsewhere, Constitutionalists are denying a story in the New York Herald that the rebel movement is financed by American businessmen like financier Henry Clay Pierce (who has big oil and railroad interests in Mexico).

The Dominican Republic: a US gunboat fires at government batteries which are bombarding rebel-held Puerta Plata. It was okay when they were just killing rebels, but damaging US-owned property is right out of bounds.

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