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July 1914: Prelude to War

Memorial postcard for Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg, killed in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, June 28, 1914.
Text:
Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand von Oesterreich und Herzogin von Hohenberg
Sarajevo, den 28 Juni 1914.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Duchess of Hohenberg 
Sarajevo, June 28, 1914.

Memorial postcard for Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie von Hohenberg, killed in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina, June 28, 1914.

Image text

Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand von Oesterreich und Herzogin von Hohenberg

Sarajevo, den 28 Juni 1914.



Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and Duchess of Hohenberg

Sarajevo, June 28, 1914.

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The European powers had managed through crises without a major war repeatedly in the years before the assassination of the Archduke, and European capitals had a measured response.

Because of Countess Sophie's lower station - she was not a member of a European ruling family - Emperor Franz Joseph and the Austrian court disapproved of the couple's marriage. The court would not bury her in the imperial crypt in Vienna, and they had insisted on being buried together. Their funeral was not imperial, and heads of state were invited, then uninvited. Their bodies lay in state briefly - she in a smaller coffin than his on a lower dais than his - in Vienna the morning of July 3.

Within days of the murders, Austro-Hungarian authorities had identified the seven assassins, had six in custody, and knew that three had come from Serbia with guns and bombs.

On July 5, Kaiser Wilhelm and Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg promised German support for Austria-Hungary in its response to Serbia.

On July 23, French president Poincaré left St. Petersburg after a state visit to Russia. The same day, Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to Serbia, demanding unconditional acceptance within 48 hours. Two minutes before the deadline, Serbia accepted all but the condition that Serbia included representatives of the Austro-Hungarian government in its investigation into the assassination. This demurral was enough, and the Austrian ambassador returned to Vienna.

Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. Russia responded by partial mobilization, but escalated to full mobilization on the 29th when Austria-Hungary shelled Belgrade, Serbia's capital.

In a telegram to Tsar Nicholas on July 30, Kaiser Wilhelm emphasized that Austria-Hungary had mobilized only part of its army, and only against Serbia. Britain tried to organize a peace conference.

On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia.

1914-06-29

1914-07-28

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July 1914: Prelude to War