Francis Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria


Francis Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria
(1863–1914)
   Heir to the Austrian throne, whose assassination in Sarajevo in July 1914 triggered the diplomatic crisis leading to World War I. Archduke Francis (Franz) Ferdinand of Austria-Este was born in December 1863 in Graz, the capital of the Austrian crownland Styria. After the suicide of Archduke Rudolph, Emperor Francis Joseph’s only son in 1889, and the death of his father, Archduke Charles Louis in 1896, Francis Ferdinand became the heir apparent and served as the Emperor’s deputy in military affairs since 1898. In 1913, he was appointed inspector-general of all Austro-Hungarian forces. After 1906, Francis Ferdinand used his military chancellery as the institutional basis for his efforts to reinvigorate the position of the crown in Austro-Hungarian politics.
   The focus of his political maneuvers was on the role of Hungary within the framework of the Habsburg monarchy. Francis Ferdinand resented nationalist groups and politicians in general because he perceived nationalism as a deadly challenge to the multiethnic realm of his dynasty. The Magyar political elite, who had revolted against Habsburg rule in 1848–49 and had taken control of Hungary since the Ausgleich of 1867, looked like the most dangerous of those groups to him. He sabotaged his uncle’s policy of accommodating the Magyars and toppled several ministers and high-ranking officials because they seemed to be too lenient in dealing with Magyar politicians. His chancellery in the Belvedere palace in Vienna became the rallying point of conservatives who wanted to strengthen the authority of the crown and the Catholic Church in the Habsburg monarchy. Some of them called for a strong political role for Austria-Hungary ’s south Slav population or a higher degree of autonomy for the Habsburg crownlands. Francis Ferdinand’s interest in these projects was limited to their tactical value as tools to undermine Hungary’s privileged position. Embittered by the emperor’s resistance against his marriage with Sophie Chotek in 1900, he felt a strong dislike for his uncle’s advisors and the court. In the final years before World War I, Francis Ferdinand played the role of leader of the opposition to the governments installed by the emperor. While he destabilized domestic politics, he usually was an advocate of a cautious foreign policy. He warned against a military confrontation with Russia and acted as the leading “dove” within the decision-making circles in Vienna in 1913. His assassination by a Bosnian terrorist group supported by Serbian ultranationalists in Sarajevo July 28, 1914 gave the war party in Austria-Hungary the upper hand and opened the way to wage war on Serbia.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Bérenger, Jean. A History of the Habsburg Empire. London, New York: Longman, 1994;
    Fichtner, Paula Sutter. The Habsburg Empire: From Dynasticism to Multinationalism. Malabar: Krieger, 1997;
    Macartney, Carlile A. The Habsburg Empire, 1790-1918. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1971.
   GUENTHER KRONENBITTER

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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  • Francis Ferdinand, archduke of Austria-Este — ▪ Austrian archduke German  Franz Ferdinand, Erzherzog von Österreich Este   born Dec. 18, 1863, Graz, Austria died June 28, 1914, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina  Austrian archduke whose assassination was the immediate cause of World War I.… …   Universalium

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