Saturday, 12 July 2014

Countdown to War, day 15. 12 July: the Archduke's assassination – another death; and Hansi's great escape

One hundred years ago today, on Sunday 12 July 1914, Martin the Mancunian railwayman might have picked up the Observer when his Minister had finished with it, and read a curious story about another celebrity death associated with that ugly business between Serbia and Austria-Hungary.

Belgrade, Saturday.

M. de Hartwig, the Russian Minister, called on the Austro-Hungarian Legation at nine o’clock last evening and was received by the Austro-Hungarian Minister in his study. [...] During the conversation, which was of a friendly nature, the Russian Minister suddenly placed his hand over his heart. His head dropped and he fell to the floor. Although restoratives were applied and medical assistance was prompt, M. Hartwig succumbed to heart failure.

Quoting the Serbian journal Politika, the Observer revealed that this sad event was not entirely unrelated to the murder of the Austrian Archduke two weeks earlier:

...certain rumours are current to the effect that Baron Giesl [the Austro-Hungarian Ambassador] was informed while in Vienna that the Russian Legation did not hoist its flag half-mast high for the Archduke Ferdinand’s death. M. de Hartwig, who heard these rumours, dismissed the matter with Baron Giesl. During the conversation M. de Hartwig became excited and collapsed.

Despite this hint at tension between Austria-Hungary and Russia, it seemed that the heartwarming unanimity of reaction to the assassination across Europe, as reported in the Manchester Guardian the day before, was still being maintained. Russia, France and Britain, the first two allies, the second two linked by the Entente Cordiale, saw things very much as Austria-Hungary did:

The “Neues Wiener Tagblatt” leans from a well-informed source that the report that the Powers of the Triple Entente, through their Ministers in Belgrade, would make friendly representations to the Servian Government, calling its attention to the necessity of taking suitable steps against anarchist elements, is correct. The newspaper adds that this step is imminent.

By speaking with one voice in this way, Europe should be able to bring Serbia into line and contain, perhaps even cool, the bad blood between Belgrade and Vienna.

If only a solution were as simple in Ulster.

There is a feeling of crisis in the air throughout the province. The grim sincerity of the Ulstermen was never shown more clearly than at the remarkable parade of armed and well-trained men which was held yesterday at Larne and inspected by Sir Edward Carson.

He shook his head in disbelief. A similar parade by armed men demanding independence for Ireland might have been met by force. Clearly, not all rebellions were equal: if your aim was to maintain British power, your action, however illegal it might be, could be winked at.

The unfortunate caricaturist condemned to prison by the German authorities for promoting French interests in his native Alsace would not, it seems, be serving his sentence after all.

Hansi: "A big Boche soldier and two little Alsatians from Saverne."
Did the German authorities feel he was getting at them in Alsace?

Herr “Hansi” Waltz, the Alsatian artist who was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for publishing two books which the Courts considered insulting to the authorities, was permitted to postpone the beginning of his sentence until next Tuesday in order that he might first visit his father. He is now suspected of having taken to flight.

He turned up later in Belfort, just across the border into France proper.

Meanwhile, Eton had beaten Harrow in their yearly cricket match. It seems it had been a “splendid game”. He stared at the story, his mouth open. How was this national news? And what was he supposed to feel? Two schools for the sons of the inconceivably rich – why on Earth would he care which one beat the other?

He shook his head. His Labour Party had its work cut out if it was ever to shake the grip of privilege on British society. Just the sheer fascination with the doings of its children revealed the scale of the task.


Anonymous said...

I feel the same about the boat race (I mean what Martin feels about the Eton/Harrow cricket match).
I look forward to the countdown. An excellent i initiative on all counts.


David Beeson said...

Yes, the boat race is amazing, isn't it? Extraordinary that Oxford and Cambridge always make it through to the final.

Awoogamuffin said...

The boatrace immediately came to my mind as well!

David Beeson said...

it's the reserves of the privileged: the boat race, Royal Ascot, the Henley regatta, the Eton and Harrow match... The expression in sport of a mindset where what matters is money not merit