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on 16 October 2013
We've all heard of Archduke Franz Ferdinand whose assassination sparked the First World War. But I for one knew little about him personally.

The assassination, and the politics surrounding it, are condensed into a few chapters. The book is really the story of Franz Ferdinand and his happy marriage to Sophie, who died alongside him that June day in Sarajevo one hundred years ago. But what a fascinating tale it all makes.

Not born to be Emperor, this reserved and shy man found himself suddenly heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown upon the suicide of his cousin the Crown Prince. Franz married Sophie for love. She was aristocratic but, crucially, not royal. The Archduke and his Countess endured years of slights and snubs from the imperial family in Vienna. The couple's children were barred from the succession. So strained was Franz's relationship with the old Emperor, his uncle, that the Archduke's children only met Franz Josef twice in their lives.

But Franz Ferdinand had ideas for Austria-Hungary which may have prevented the Empire's extinction after the Great War. Following a visit to the USA, he considered re modelling the crumbling Behemoth on federal lines.

King and Woolmans have written a very readable book, with useful family trees and dramatis personnae. My only slight criticism is that the fairytale motif was a little overused - the repeated comparisons between Franz and Sophie's love story and the Cinderella fable came to jar after a while. But otherwise, a great book. Thought-provoking too: I always remember my school history teacher asking 'what would have happened if Gavrilo Princip had missed?'
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on 1 October 2013
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie at Sarajevo in 1914 had momentous consequences. Just six weeks later the First World War broke out, leading to the downfall of several European dynasties as well as the deaths of millions of people. As the centenary of this event approaches it is a good time to take a closer look at the first two victims of this war, the Archduke and his wife.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand has previously come across as aloof, charmless and arrogant. In fact his childhood was blighted by the death of his mother and his youth by tuberculosis. He never expected to become heir to the Austro-Hungarian crown but the suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf and the death of his own father (after inadvisably drinking contaminated water from the River Jordan), thrust him into the spotlight. He seems never to have got on with the ageing Emperor Franz Joseph, a situation that was only exacerbated when Franz Ferdinand fell in love with Countess Sophie Chotek. Unfortunately, the letters between Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were destroyed by their son, nor did they keep regular diaries, but the authors have done a good job piecing together the story of their courtship.
Sophie, as a `mere' countess, was not sufficiently noble to marry an Archduke, and it took all the persuasion of Franz Ferdinand's stepmother Archduchess Maria Teresa before the old Emperor allowed them to marry morganatically. Sophie could never share her husband's rank and their children could never succeed to the throne.
Once married, Sophie found herself subjected to `pinpricks' from the Imperial Court, which were really more like stabs in the back, served up by Prince Montenuovo the Lord Chamberlain (although the Emperor, here far from the powerless figure usually portrayed, seems to have had little inclination to change Sophie's awkward situation). Sophie endured all the humiliations with good grace. It is heartening to see that members of foreign royal courts gave Sophie the respect she deserved, and also that towards the end of her life (perhaps wishing to ingratiate themselves with the man who would undoubtedly soon be Emperor) even members of the Austrian court softened.
Which brings us to Sarajevo. Franz Ferdinand did not want to go, but was forced to in the face of the Emperor's insistence. The villain here is Count Potiorek, the Governor of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who was determined that the visit would go ahead to bolster his own position. The authors chart the events leading to the assassination with scrupulous detail and reading their account it is difficult to believe that Potiorek could have been so incompetent in the face of all the warnings given about what would happen. The lack of security around the couple could only have been deliberate. Was it, as the authors postulate, a plot whereby the murder of the couple would be used as an excuse for Austria to settle old scores with Serbia, and did Russia know of the plan in advance?
Their children's suffering did not finish at Sarajevo. Although in Austria they were regarded as private individuals, in Bohemia they were seen as Habsburgs. When the war ended their estates were confiscated and they were evicted. They were condemned to lives of suffering, especially the two boys, who endured time in concentration camps which broke their health. Two of the Archduke's grandsons perished at the hands of the Soviets.
This is very much a personal, rather than a political, biography and the authors are to be congratulated on shedding a fresh perspective on a couple who, until now, have been mainly famous for their deaths, the repercussions of which are still with us today. This book shows what the couple were really like. And the illustrations are excellent.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 September 2013
2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the fatal shots that not only ended the life of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, but precipitated the First World War. That their assassination caused the war is common knowledge. What this timely and highly readable publication from Greg King does is fill in the details of what happened on that momentous day and puts human faces to the political and historical figures who were involved. Most historical accounts focus primarily on the assassination itself and its consequences, but this one gives equal weight to the personal tragedy, and thus becomes a gripping human drama.
The book is divided loosely into two halves. The first concentrates on Franz Ferdinand himself, as heir to the Hapsburg throne, but also as devoted husband and loving father and family man. The second describes the background to the assassination, the dreadful events of the day itself and the aftermath, examining en route the many conspiracy theories that have since been propounded, and looking in detail at both the facts and also rumours that continue to surround the murder. Greg King goes on to report the fate of the couple's 3 children, who were just 13, 12 and 10 when they lost their parents and whose own lives were blighted by their deaths. From castles and royal courts, to concentration camps and battlefields, this is biography and historical writing at its best. A moving picture of the end of an era, it draws on a variety of sources, including letters, diaries and archives, access to many of which has been restricted until now. This is a vivid and totally compelling account of a pivotal event in 20th century history.
I received this as an e-galley from Netgalley and very much missed not seeing the illustrations that will accompany the final version, but no doubt these will be as illuminating as the text. All in all I can't recommend this book strongly enough, a book that is thoroughly researched enough for any serious student of history but also of enormous interest to the more casual reader. No reader will surely remain unmoved by the story of the Archduke and his wife, the fate of whom is surely almost as tragic as that of the Romanovs, whose heart-breaking end seems to have eclipsed that of Franz Ferdinand and his Sophie in the popular imagination. Greg King has now redressed that balance.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 November 2013
In school we all (or at least most of us) learned that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was the spark that exploded into World War I, but did we ever wonder who Franz Ferdinand was and what role he played in the life of Austria-Hungary? If you ever asked yourself those questions "The Assassination of the Archduke" is the place to look for answers.

I turns out that Franz Ferdinand was the heir presumptive to the throne occupied by his uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph. Sophie was his morganatic wife, one of unequal rank whose children would not inherit their father's titles. Together the raised a loving family constrained and, ultimately destroyed, but the world in which they lived.

This book tells two stories. The first is the disparaging treatment of the family by the members of the Habsburg Court. Being of inferior rank, Sophie was not permitted to enter events with her husband or even sit next to him. The emperor even declined permission for the couple to share a box in a theatre in which there was no royal box. At official dinners Franz Ferdinand would be among the first to enter and would sit near the head of the table. Sophie, if she was even invited, would usually be the last to enter and would be seated at the end of the table. One incident was mentioned in which the couple was very excited because someone of lower social standing enabled Sophie to be the second last to enter the room. Even in death, Franzi's casket was larger and higher than Sophie's. Their children were not permitted to attend the funeral Mass for the royals, only being allowed to visit their parents' coffins after the invited guests had left the chapel.

The second story is that of the assassination itself. The readers become acquainted with Franz Ferdinand's reluctance to visit Sarajevo and Sophie's insistence on accompanying him. The saga then winds through the plotters' preparations, the alleged involvement of the Serbian government and couple's itinerary, culminating in the fatal shooting by Gavrilo Princip.

The last chapters of this work deal with the chain of events set off by the assassination that set the world on fire. The Austrian ultimatums, the Serbian responses, the signals sent by allies in Berlin and St. Petersburg and the motivations of the players are all analyzed. Did Franz Joseph insist on the trip to rid himself and his empire of an embarrassing marriage in the Royal Family and an heir who was seen as too liberal, too willing to change the structure that held the Realm together? Did the Serbian government encourage the assassins in the hopes of creating a disturbance that could lead to Serbian advantage?

We know the rest of the story for Europe, but what happened to the orphans of the featured couple? That is the subject of the epilogue. Their status would vary with the changing winds of politics. They got no benefits from being Habsburgs, but their property was confiscated along with that of the Imperial family. The sons, Maximilian and Ernst would long support the restoration of the monarchy, a position that would get them confined in Nazi concentration camps. After release they would die at fairly young ages while their sister, Sophie, would live as the defender of her parents until her death in 1990. The fates of the conspirators are described. Time would change how the events of Sarajevo would be remembered. The principals involved would alternate on top and bottom as wrestlers in a match. Princip would mutate from hero to villain while Franz and Sophie would change from oppressors to honored heroes.

The dramatis personae are introduced and developed. Franz Ferdinand is depicted as a man of his rarified world who has the vision to look outside it and pluck its sweetest rose while preparing for the day when he could adapt the realm to the world of the then new 20th century. The accounts of his hunting records are amazing. Sophie is seen as intelligent woman who knew the place for herself and her children while quietly working to improve it. I am impressed by how they both knew how far to press and when to stop. Emperor Franz Joseph is depicted as an elderly monarch constrained by the blinders of tradition and devoid of compassion for those around him. Archduke Karl, who would come to idolize Franz Joseph and succeed as the last Austrian Emperor, is shown as a somewhat enlightened character who tragically comes to power as that power was slipping away. There are villains also. The Prince of Montenuovo as master of the court left no stone unturned in making life miserable for Franz Ferdinand and his family. Prince Rudolph, Franz Joseph's son and heir is recorded as having murdered his mistress before committing suicide, as scandal among the Habsburg defenders of the Church.

Authors Greg King and Sue Wollmans do an excellent job at weaving a personal story into historic events. The writing style never dampens the readers' interest. I fell that I got less about the lead up to the war than I expected but much more about the personalities involved so I am glad that I read it. It is the first of millions of family tragedies associated with World War I. The one thing that gives me some reservation about this book is the authors' association with the descendents of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie. One wonders whether this resulting narrative too defensive and places them in an overly favorable light. Even with this in mind "The Assassination of the Archduke" is an important addition to what I am sure will become a flood of World War I books as we approach its Centennial.
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on 11 February 2014
I really enjoyed this book. The fate of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is probably one of the most famous events in modern history, yet for most of us so little is known about him, his family, and the circumstances surrounding his death. While the tragedy of Czar Nicholas II and his family is well known and much has been written about it, the tragedy of Franz Ferdinand has been mostly ignored. This is unfortunate because had he lived and succeeded to the throne, there might never have been a WW1 and by extension, a WW2, a Soviet Union or Cold War. Franz Ferdinand was a forward looking man and his plans for the empire may have stabilized Europe and even Russia. The Romanovs were a dieing dynasty and not much could have saved them, but Franz Ferdinand may have changed history. And the fate of his family is no less a tragedy than that of the Romanovs. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were truly a love story and the children lost their entire world after the deaths of their parents. And the repercussions of their death continued to follow them their whole lives, just as it did for the rest of the world.

Was there a conspiracy to kill him in Serbia? According to the authors it seems the answer is yes and the Prime Minister knew it. Did it include Russia? Did the conspiracy reach all the way to Emperor Franz Joseph? The world may never know but it is certainly possible. The book is really fascinating and I would highly recommend it. Definitely worth five stars.
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Next year will see the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo. It was an event which changed history - without their assassination this book asks, would there have been WWI, the Russian Revolution or, later, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union? History reverberates with the effects of this couple's deaths; but what is actually known of them? In this extremely readable history book, authors Greg King and Sue Woolmans looks at a love affair which was resisted and resented by many. They tell the story of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, who wed his beloved Sophie against massive resistance, and give the human background to a political story.

Franz Ferdinand became the heir of Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria, on the suicide of the Emperor's son, Rudolf; followed shortly by the death of his own father from typhoid. Franz Josef never seemed to accept Franz Ferdinand as his heir presumptive and their difficulties were increased by a romance which would "rock the very foundations of the Hapsburg monarch," when Franz Ferdinand fell deeply in love with Sophie Chotek, lady in waiting to Princess Isabella of Croy. Sophie was beautiful, intelligent and vivacious, but she was not considered equal to the heir of the Hapsburg throne. Princess Isabella had invited Franz Ferdinand to her home with the intent of marrying the most eligible bachelor to her eldest daughter, and was enraged when she realised that he had fallen for Sophie - when she discovered he had left his pocket watch behind, she opened it and found her picture inside. The insult was never forgiven and Princess Isabella became the "wicked stepmother" of the `Cinderella" story of their romance.

In this book we read of how Franz Ferdinand fought to be allowed to marry Sophie - how she was threatened, insulted and humiliated. Their marriage was morganatic, which meant any children they had would be barred from the succession. Permission for even this marriage was given unwillingly - Sophie was resented and suffered many petty humiliations. Both during, and after, their lifetime, there were many rumours about the couple. Suggestions that Sophie was desperate for power, or that Franz Ferdinand and Kaiser Wilhelm planned to carve up the European continent between them, so that Franz Ferdinand's sons would become kings in their own right, abounded. The humiliations heaped on Sophie (such as banging a door in her face as she approached a ballroom), led to the couple avoiding the season in Vienna and their distance led to more speculation about their behaviour and motives. It is notable, though, that as it seemed likely Franz Ferdinand would replace an ageing Franz Josef, attitudes softened. Certainly, Kaiser Wilhelm and the British royal family, were amongst those who were willing to accept Sophie and receive Franz Ferdinand's gratitude.

It is fascinating to read about the trip to Sarajevo which resulted in the couple's assassination. Why did they visit on St Vitus's Day, a Serb national holiday, marking the 1389 battle of Kosova, when "every Serb vowed revenge" against foreign intruders? Why visit such a volatile situation and hostile place at such a time? Again, why was the security so insufficient? The book takes us through that day and the aftermath. Even after the murders, more petty humiliation was poured onto Sophie; causing widespread indignation at the disrespect shown to her.

We then read of the outbreak of war and its aftermath; leaving Europe changed forever, with the Romanov and Hapsburg dynasty swept away and Kaiser Wilhelm in exile. It also follows what happened to the children of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie - little Sophie, Max and Ernst - including more tragedy in the second world war. This, then, is the personal story of a devoted couple, of how their assassination led to a changed Europe and the impact of those events nearly one hundred years ago. It is interesting to note, though, that even in this book, Sophie is not mentioned in the title - "the assassination of the Archduke" ignores the fact that, despite the very real threat of assassination, Sophie refused to leave his side and was killed alongside him. It is a little sad to see her side lined even in this fact, although I suspect she would have understood. However, this is a very readable account of events and a sympathetic portrait of a couple who were devoted to each other.
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on 7 November 2014
Like mannequins, Franz Ferdinand and his wife remain etched in the popular consciousness at the moment of their murder.
Both draw back, frozen in horror, as the black-clad fanatic ends their lives with a pistol.
The historical consequences of those shots are well-known but this book has a completely new perspective.
It brings to life both victims and rightly places them on a par with the Romanovs as a comparable love story cut short by blood-thirsty revolutionary monsters.
Franz Ferdinand was anything but the wooden titan he appears to be from photos. A devoted husband and father, he overcame incredible opposition to marry his true love, the "commoner" Sophie.
The book highlights his positive and reformist credentials while also pulling no punches on the effect the double murder had on the surviving familiy members.
Compulsive, intriguing, exciting and finally poignant, this book takes you from the halcyon Ruritarian world of pre-1914 via World War 2 death camps to the fall of communism and beyond.
All this in the history of one family,
The assassin all too often omits to think of the personal trauma his "political" act entails.
Gavrilo Princip not only smashed a world to smithereens but decimated a loving family forever.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 26 September 2013
I am ashamed to say that, although I knew that the First World War was triggered by the assassination of ArchDuke Franz Ferdinand I knew absolutely nothing about him other than that he was the heir to the throne of AustroHungary and that his wife was killed with him in Sarajevo. When I had the opportunity to have a free copy of this book in exchange for a review I was interested in filling in the gaps in my knowledge. I am so pleased that I did, for this is a fascinating story, told well, which engaged me from the start.

The authors tell the tale of the ArchDuke and his quite horrible family and the strange events which led up to him being the heir of a man who greatly disliked him. They also bring the ArchDuke to life and show why he was regarded differently by the people who knew him in various roles. The ArchDuke's marriage is a very special love story and his wife, Sophie, had to live every day with the consequences of them stepping outside the bounds of tradition at the very conservative court. Just as we have come to know and understand the couple the authors lead us up to the assassination (this is not a spoiler, it's in the title !) and explain carefully the events of the day, the various conspiracy theories and why it was had such far reaching consequences. The political bits were easy enough to understand and there is a lot of interesting detail about the assassins and the actual events of the day.

What makes the book exceptional, however, is the attention to detail in what happened after the assassination. The couple's children are described as the first orphans of the war and the authors show how they were treated when they no longer had their parents to defend them. The story of what happened to their sons in the Second World War is very grim and demonstrates well the consequences of the choices which the ArchDuke made in his personal life as well as the assassination itself.

I found it very difficult to put this book down as I wanted to know what had happened to the people, but it is very much a history book and not a novel.The authors have referenced their material and are careful to explain where a fact or opinion is disputed. What this book achieves very well is putting life into an historical event - the assassination is not just a fact learned in history lessons but the death of a fascinating couple and the beginning of eventful times for all who knew them as well as the world at large.
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on 3 December 2015
A sympathetic take on Franz Ferdinand , the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary , whose assasination in 1914 acted as the catatlyst for World War. King and Woolmans aim from the outset to rescue the heir and Sophie Chotek (his morganatic wife who died with him) from 100 years of misinformation , propaganda and lazy stereotyping - a period where , as individuals, they have largely been ignored and marginalized ; significant only because of the disastrous political consequences stemming from their violent deaths.

Franz Ferdinand has invariably been portrayed as a bad tempered misanthrope , renowned for his hunting excesses and excessive wealth .He is also seen as being deluded in his vision for the future of the Hapsburg empire as a Triple Monarchy . The authors explain that none of these are exactly true . In fact his hunting exploits were typical for an aristocrat of his time ; he was often in debt ; his vision of monarchy did not get the opportnity to be tested ; and his ill temper was more often than not the result of the various humiliations heaped upon his wife Sophie - a woman deemed unworthy of her positon as wife to a Hapsburg - due to her unequal status as a ''lesser aristocrat ''.

The source of this treatment was the emperor Franz Josef , uncle of Franz Ferdinand. His enmity towards his nephew and his wife (and also their children) was unrelenting , and was facilitated at court by other family members and aides , especially Count Montenuevo , who comes across as a malevolent , cold hearted persecutor of the family - a stance he maintained even after their murder , continuing to humiliate the couple , Sophie in particular , in the discriminatory funeral arrangements.

Of course , the Count and others could quickly point to the authority wielded by Franz Josef , and that they were simply obeying the will of the emperor. The portrayal here of the ageing autocrat is far from flattering. He was in the end a man of the 19th century , rooted in traditionalism and conservatism ; the champion of reactionary forces, and determined to maintain his familys power and prestige in spite of internal and external threats to his dominions .Hence his inflexible attitude not only towards political reform , but also towards his nephew and his wife's scandalous marriage - which he believed undermined the dignity of the dynasty .

It is odd indeed that Franz Josef is rarely singled out , at least by the general public , as being a villain of history . He has to take a large share of the responsibilty for the outbreak of World War One. The fatal decision to attack Serbia was the last in a long line of military blunders made by the Emperor . His record , regarding military affairs, was poor .Yet the Tsar and the German Kaiser get all the ridicule and blame and are damned by history , while Franz Josef is treated sympathetically ; no doubt due to in part to his advanced age and various private tragedies (the suicide of his son , murder of his wife ,etc) .

The heir himself was flawed too - his support of Conrad as head of the military proved to be disastrous when Conrad turned out to be a relentless warmonger . Yet Franz Ferdinand did his best to restrain him and even demanded his resignation on more than one occasion . Alas, the killing of Franz Ferdinand left Conrad free to wield his influence at court and his demands for vengeance against Serbia were heeded by the Emperor. Franz Ferdinand also had an elevated sense of duty, love for his wife and a religious fatalism , which proved, in the end ,to be his and Sophies' undoing . He did not wish to upset the local governor Poitorek by cancelling the drive through Sarajevo , and allows Sophie to sit in the car next to him AFTER the first non-fatal attack by the assasins at her insistence. Indeed, his instincts were not to visit Bosnia at all and not to agree with Poitorek that they were safe from terrorist attacks.

But duty prevailed. It makes for stunning reading - the first failed attempt at assasination by the conspirators where a bomb missed the car and left the couple shaken but uninjured; the subsequent town hall rendez vous where the entourage debated how to get the Archduke out of the city alive and, incredibly, decide on retracing the route down towards the site of the first assasination attempt . Governor Poitoreks role in all this is questioned by the author - was he incompetent ? In on the conspiracy ? Or just willing to let fate decide the outcome of the Archdukes visit to the hotbed of anti-Hapsburg sentiment ? King concedes we are never likely to know . What is certain is that Franz Ferdinand was not mourned by Poitorek's boss - the emperor . Tellingly , neither Poitorek nor anyone else faced any disciplinary action for performing their task so shoddily that day in Sarajevo.

The assassins , especially the man who fired the fatal shots , Princip , are given a fair hearing by the authors, but are ultimately damned as terrorists , not freedom fighters . Many Serbs, and others, would disagree , but of course any opinion on this matter is highly subjective and contentious.

The book also details the lives of Franz and Sophie's children Max , Ernst and Sophie post 1914 . Persecuted , evicted , stolen from , imprisoned , yet somehow dignified and unbowed , their tale is a cautionary one , and the worst of it takes place largely amidst the hellish backdrop of Nazi Europe, where Maz and Ernst served time in concentration camps. The fallen dynasty of the Habsburgs represented a threat to Nazi rule as ghosts of a bygone era that could be brought back to life . Yet the assasinations in Sarajevo had already set in motion the events that lead to the Empires permanent demise. There has been no resurrection of Hapsburg power. Nazi paranoia and persecution showed how the impact of the assasination of the archduke and his wife continued to resonate long after their deaths . Indeed a century later the world is still living with the consequences of that sunny morning in Sarajevo in 1914 , a day which ushered in the modern era . This book helps to give the two almost forgotten first victims of that apocalyptic war , a voice.
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on 9 April 2014
While most people know that the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie in Sarajevo on 28th June 1914 was the spark that ignited the First World War, few know little or anything about the Archduke himself and the life he lived before that fateful day. As we approach the 100th anniversary of his murder this highly topical book by Greg King and Sue Woolmans provides an interesting and detailed account of the lives of Franz Ferdinand and his family and the role they played in pre-WW1 Europe during the last years of The Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The story begins in 1889 when the morally earnest, conservative and deeply religious Franz Ferdinand became the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Sometime In 1894 [the book makes clear no-one knows exactly when] he met and fell in love with his future wife, the Countess Sophie Chotek [although initially he was forbidden to marry her because she did not belong to one of the reigning or formerly reigning dynasties of Europe and was therefore considered too lowly]. However in 1899, after he had refused to marry anyone else, the Archduke's uncle, the Emperor Franz Joseph, relented and allowed the couple to marry but only on the condition that the marriage would be morganatic and that any children they had would not have succession rights to the throne. They wed on 1 July 1900 and would remain happily married until their deaths in June 1914.

Using the Austrian and the recently opened Czech and Hungarian archives, as well as various other sources such as diaries, letters, contemporary newspaper reports and interviews with their descendants, the authors piece together a comprehensive appraisal of the Archduke, his wife, their three children and the society they lived in. The account of the family's idyllic private life at their home, Konopiste Castle, located just outside of Prague, is particularly endearing. Yet, while the book deliberately paints a sympathetic portrait of Franz Ferdinand in order to "correct a century of misinformation and errors", it is justifiably scathing about the Imperial Court and it catalogues years of cruelty, spite and vindictiveness directed towards Sophie by officials, courtiers and the wider Imperial family - petty humiliations Franz and Sophie bore with dignity and fortitude during their time together and which, absurdly, even continued after their deaths.

However, this is so much more here than historical romance and when it comes to the assassination itself and the machinations behind it the authors consider how history has generally ignored the Serbian government's complicity in the murder of the couple and they illustrate how Serb officials either deliberately - or through sheer incompetence - enabled the crime to take place. They also look at a number of conspiracy theories that have been raised over the years. Finally, there's the sad fate of Franz and Sophie's three orphaned children, Sophie, Maximillian and Ernst who are the largely forgotten victims of their parents' murder. Their fate becomes all the more poignant when you consider Franz Ferdinand's famous dying words to his fatally wounded wife: "Sophie, don't die! Stay alive for our children".

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a fantastic read. On a personal level it was a great antidote to the communist-era rubbish I was fed about the Archduke and his wife when I visited their former home at Konopiste a few years ago but there is probably something in here for everyone. The Assassination of the Archduke is one of those true stories that read like a novel and even if you've only a passing interest in history, it should be on your reading list for 2014. The world we live in today was born on 28th June 1914.
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