1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Francis Ferdinand

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FRANCIS FERDINAND (Franz Ferdinand von Este) (1863-1914), Archduke of Austria, was born at Graz Dec. 18 1863. His father was the Archduke Charles Louis, second of the younger brothers of the Emperor Francis Joseph; his mother was the Princess Maria Annunciata, daughter of the Bourbon King Ferdinand II. of the Two Sicilies. His mother died while he was a child, but he was affectionately cared for by his father's second wife, Maria Theresa of Braganza, daughter of the exiled Portuguese Prince Dom Miguel of Braganza. He received the education usually given to members of the imperial family, not too thorough a one, as his succession to the throne was not anticipated. In later years, when he had become heir to the throne, Francis Ferdinand worked with iron industry to fill in the gaps in his education; he learned the languages of the nations over whom he appeared to be called to rule, and took pleasure in obtaining instruction from leading men of science in their special branches of knowledge. He showed special interest in the natural sciences and in the plastic and pictorial arts, but had little taste for poetry and music.

When the education prescribed for him was completed Francis Ferdinand, still following the archducal tradition, entered the army, which kept him for many years away from the imperial palace. In 1875 he took the name of Austria-Este, as heir of his uncle the Duke of Modena, with whose death the male line of this branch of the house became extinct, and of his possessions in Austria-Hungary and Italy. Until the death on Jan. 30 1889 of the Crown Prince Rudolf, Francis Ferdinand was only known in limited circles, and even then he did not at first play any prominent part. For although his father, the next heir to the throne, showed little inclination to make use of his rights when occasion offered, his uncle the Emperor did not give Francis Ferdinand any share in the business of government. He devoted himself as before to his military duties and to the management of his extensive estates. In 1892-3 he made a world tour, which he described in two volumes issued in 1895. He himself states the chief aim of his travels to have been the satisfaction of his desire to become acquainted with foreign systems of government, and to get into touch with foreign peoples and persons and foreign manners and customs. But his delight in the adventures of the chase — he was an excellent sportsman and an admirable shot — his strongly developed feeling for nature, and the desire of his friends and relations to strengthen the uncertain health of a prince born of a consumptive mother counted among the reasons for the long journey. The last aim was not realized; Francis Ferdinand's sufferings notably increased after his return, and compelled him, after his father's death in May 1906 had made him heir-apparent to the throne, to spend considerable periods in southern resorts. The undisguised haste with which many people, especially those connected with the court, who had hitherto courted him, deserted him, now that he was seriously ill and his succession improbable, hardened the prince's character, which was not naturally gentle, increased his distrust of the men who surrounded him, and heightened his contempt for mankind.

When his health improved he returned home and spent a considerable time very actively on his estate at Konopischt, where he established a model farm and gained the reputation of a close-fisted and not very popular master. Even then he was not invited by Francis Joseph to take part in state affairs; yet the Emperor frequently commissioned him to represent him abroad, and gradually allowed him to exercise greater influence in military matters. In 1896 Francis Ferdinand became a cavalry general, and on April 1 1898 he was placed at the disposition of the supreme army command; in 1902 he became an admiral of the Austro-Hungarian fleet. Learned bodies and artistic societies gave him their highest places of honour. He became honorary member and later curator of the Imperial Academy of Science at Vienna and patron of the Academies of Science in Prague and Cracow.

On July 1 1900 Francis Ferdinand married Countess Sophie Chotek (1868-1914), after having overcome by tenacious persistence the obstacle due to the fact that the lady was not of royal family, and renounced, a few days before the ceremony, the succession rights of any children of the union. This renunciation was not only inscribed in the records of the imperial family, but ratified in the Austrian and Hungarian Parliaments and sanctioned by a law of Dec. 4 1900. The consort of the heir to the throne was raised to princely rank with the title of Hohenberg; later on she received the rank of duchess with the style of “highness.” Of this marriage were born a daughter, Sophia (b. 1901), and two sons, Max (b. 1902) and Ernest (b. 1904). The influence of his ambitious, clever, rigidly Catholic wife on the heir to the throne was lasting. The difficulty of providing her with a position at Court corresponding with his own and her desires estranged him from the majority of the members of the imperial house, and influenced unfavourably his relations with Francis Joseph, with whom he had never really been on intimate terms. Still his influence increased as years went on; the Emperor gradually allotted to him responsibilities of his own, not only in military matters but occasionally in questions of domestic politics. Yet until Francis Ferdinand's death the Emperor reserved for himself the final decision in every question which arose. The difference of outlook of the two men became more and more marked; for with advancing age Francis Joseph was less and less willing to consider far-reaching reforms, was anxious to avoid any conflict with the nationalities, and preferred advisers who knew how to untie a knot gently instead of hacking through it. It is not surprising that he did not like Francis Ferdinand, who advised rapid and energetic action and, if necessary, methods of violence. So it happened that the nephew did not take into sufficient consideration the jealousy with which his aged uncle guarded his rights as a ruler; he repeatedly spoke of the responsibility which God had imposed on him with his right of succession; he would express a curt opinion on men and things when he knew that they did not correspond with the view of the sovereign. The estrangement increased; personal contact became rarer; Francis Ferdinand came into the Emperor's presence only on exceptional occasions; as a rule he contented himself with expressing his views in writing, and they very rarely agreed with his uncle's. For Francis Ferdinand was decidedly opposed to the preponderant influence exercised in ever-increasing measure by the Magyars in both the domestic and the foreign affairs of the Dual Monarchy, and blamed the complaisance shown by Francis Joseph to all Hungarian demands which did not directly threaten the unity of the monarchy or seriously menace the rights of the throne. Francis Ferdinand was convinced that this Magyar preponderance must be broken in the interests of the monarchy and the dynasty. As to the way in which this struggle was to be conducted his opinion varied from time to time. For some time he was wholly in the camp of the Federalists, and directed his efforts to the splitting-up of the monarchy into a series of states possessing equal rights and held together by a strong central Government. At another period, especially just before the first Serbian crisis, he inclined to “Trialism” as the best solution. At that period he contemplated the union of the Southern Slavs as an independent state within the Habsburg dominions, but abandoned this scheme when he realized that the union of the Austrian and Hungarian Slavs in a separate national system would merely forward the intentions of the Belgrade Government. Later, strongly influenced by the Hungarian minister Kristoffy, he inclined to the idea of attempting, by a change which would leave the dualism of the monarchy as such untouched, to strengthen unity by changing the Delegations into a central Parliament and attaching the annexed provinces Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a state organization of their own, to the Empire. The opposition which he met on all sides from the ruling party in Hungary strengthened his conviction that here lay the essential obstacle to the healthy recovery of the monarchy. In the severe conflicts between the Magyars and the Crown from the beginning of the 20th century onwards he, therefore, maintained the opinion that no concession must be made, and that there should be no shrinking even from the use of armed force for the defence of the rights of the monarchy and the dynasty. The conclusion of the struggle, after a duration of more than five years, in a compromise was a bitter disappointment to Francis Ferdinand, and strengthened his dislike for the Magyar leaders, among whom he particularly hated Stephen Tisza, whose high standing he recognized.

He was more successful in his opposition to the Magyar attempts for the partition of the army. In this, as in the questions of the language to be used in the words of command and response, and of the regimental colours and emblems, he had the Emperor's support, and was able to hinder the accomplishment of the Magyar desires.

The zeal with which Francis Ferdinand sought for the solution of domestic political problems by strengthening the central power is explained by his firm conviction that this was the indispensable condition of the position of the monarchy as a Great Power, which he desired to maintain and to increase. Francis Ferdinand was not an unconditional adherent of the group which thought his aim would only be attained by force of arms. He repeatedly foiled their intentions. But he was firmly determined to tread this path if it was the only one by which the goal could be reached. Personal inclination and a conviction of the commanding position of Great Britain made him regard the establishment of good relations with that Power as desirable. Towards the French, and still more towards the Italians, his attitude was cool and negative. He was convinced that it was impossible to establish permanently friendly relations with the Italian nation, and that there must inevitably be a day of reckoning between the monarchy and Italy. He never adopted an anti-Slav policy. Not only did he wish, from the point of view of his plans for internal reconstruction, to avoid conflicts with the principal representatives of the Slav nationalities, but he recognized in the Tsar of Russia the strongest support against revolutionary movements in monarchical states. Nor is it true that he wanted to see Serbia struck out of the list of independent Balkan states; he merely expressed the decided opinion that the encroachments of the Greater Serbia movement on Austro-Hungarian soil should be resisted with all the forces of the monarchy. He stood faithfully by Germany, with whose ruler his relations became more and more intimate, in spite of the difference between the characters of the two men. Yet no one was less inclined to contemplate the monarchy falling into a relation of dependence on her powerful ally than Francis Ferdinand, whose whole being was informed with a sense of the majesty of the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty.

Francis Ferdinand was a man of more than average ability. He had a power of quick comprehension; possessed in a high degree the ability to recognize the essential point in any business in which he was engaged, and, unlike his uncle Francis Joseph, did not allow his general impressions to be clouded by too close attention to detail. What he lacked was knowledge of men, calmness and constancy in his relations with the men who had been placed in high offices of state by his influence: Beck, Aehrenthal, Conrad, Auffenberg and others lost, not always for any serious reason, the favour of the heir to the throne as quickly as they had won it. The influence of his wife, ill-natured tittle-tattle to which he listened more and more, and the outbursts of ungovernable rage to which he became increasingly prone with the years, all helped to make intercourse with him more difficult, and prevented a great many persons holding high positions, socially and intellectually, from approaching him. He never enjoyed any wide popularity, and indeed did not seek it.

He asked from the citizens of the monarchy not affection, but submission to the will of the ruler. For to him the State was identified with the divinely appointed person of the monarch. He understood by viribus unitis the union of all the forces of the State for the advantage of the Crown, which on its side had to guard the interests of all. This conception accounts for the fact that he took no particular interest in any of the numerous nationalities of the monarchy. He had undoubtedly German sympathies; but the German Austrians were to him merely the bulwark of the throne and of the power of his House; it would never have occurred to him to make dynastic sacrifices for their sake. Even against the Catholic Church, of which he was a convinced adherent, he maintained the rights of the throne with unbending severity, being in this matter also a true Habsburg.

His tragic end — he was shot June 28 1914 with his wife by Bosnians of Serbian nationality at Serajevo — brought on the World War.

There is no proper historical account of his life and activities. The sketch, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand, unser Thronfolger, a special number of the Oesterreichische Rundschau (1913), is purely superficial. His descent is given in Ahnentafel S. k. H. des durchl. Herrn Erzherzogs Franz Ferdinand von Oesterreich-Este, drawn up by Otto Forst (1910). See also Paul von Falkenegg, Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand von Oesterreich-Este (1908); H. Heller, Franz Ferdinand (1911).

(A. F. Pr.)