Amateur’s Caused Disaster

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, left, and his cousin Czar Nicholas II of Russia are seen in a photo from 1905.
Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, right, and his cousin Czar Nicholas II of Russia are seen in a photo from 1905.

This Sunday the world observes the centenary of the end of the First World War, a war of previously unimagined destructiveness. Pre-war Europe was largely directed by royal personages related to each other. The German emperor, William II, was a cousin of the Russian emperor, Nicholas II, and their grandmother and grandmother-in-law in the case of Nicholas, was Victoria, queen and empress, grandmother also of Britain’s King George V, cousin of the Kaiser and the Czar.

The world blundered into war on a sequence of hair-triggers. On June 28, 1914, the heir to the Habsburg throne of the 700-year-old dynasty that ruled in Vienna, then evolved from the spuriously named Holy Roman Empire to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Austria-Hungary had abruptly annexed Bosnia, contrary to popular wishes. The German emperor gave the venerable Franz Josef, emperor in Vienna for 68 years, and his divided government “a blank cheque” to exact revenge on Serbia, the Slavic power that had inspired Bosnian resistance to Vienna and the assassin, Gavrilo Princip. The Austro-Hungarian demands were accepted apart from the insistence on the prosecution of Serbian pan-Slav activists, practically regardless of evidence.

At this, Serbia balked and asked the assistance of its pan-Slav guarantor, Russia, which had just received a visit from the president and prime minister of France, Raymond Poincare and Rene Viviani. These two countries were allies opposite rampant imperial Germany and what had become its somewhat calcified, polyglot, client-empire governed from Vienna and Budapest. The French leaders urged the Russians not to be bullied. The world was generally sympathetic to Vienna and to Franz Josef, and few countries were prepared to express much toleration of assassination. Berlin and Vienna thought Russia was bluffing in its professed support of Serbia against the full Austro-Hungarian demands, and on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

[Interesting Read]

See Also:

(1) This November 11th, remember Canada’s heroic 100 days

(2) Last road to Mons

(3) The war that did not end all wars: 1914-1918 — from the Battle of the Marne to the signing of the armistice

(4) New book captures the Great War as it really looked — in colour

(5) Black on the battlefield: Canada’s forgotten First World War battalion

(6) The long shadow of war: 100 years later, the First World War continues to haunt us

(7) These four Victoria Cross winners showed valour. Only one survived the war.

(8) Remembrance Day a legal holiday, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the day off

For My Grandfather Who Died In That Terrible War From His Grandson 100 years later:

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