Considered by many of his contemporaries to be brusque, ill-natured and bad tempered, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was also known for one of the greatest romances of the 20th century. In 1900, much to the scandal of Viennese society and the Austro-Hungarian imperial court, Archduke Franz Ferdinand married Sophie Chotek, a lady-in-waiting with no fortune and what many considered inferior connections. The couple had been secretly courting since meeting at a ball in 1894, and their love affair shocked the royal families of Europe.
Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef I was so against the marriage that it took intervention from Pope Leo XIII, German Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Russian Tsar Nicholas II before he’d allow it to take place, and even then only with certain conditions.
In order to marry, the couple accepted their marital classification as morganatic, meaning that Sophie would never be afforded the rights and privileges as usually befits the wife of the heir to the throne, and any children born of the marriage would not inherit privileges or titles. Their eldest son Max would never inherit the throne, and he and his siblings, Sophie and Ernst, would never be accepted as equals by the imperial court.
Even after signing an official, legally binding document renouncing his children’s right to the throne, enduring 14 years of imperial protocol and social slights designed to embarrass the couple, and publicly embracing his nephew as his future heir, many still suspected that Archduke Franz Ferdinand would go back on his word and crown his wife upon accession to the throne. For this as well as his various political views, Archduke Franz Ferdinand was unpopular garnering little public sentiment or support.
There were varying opinions on Sophie Chotek — some thought her dangerously ambitious and strategically manipulative. Others admired her quiet resolve and piety. Few, however, could argue that she was not entirely devoted to her husband and children. After a previous assassination attempt, Sophie insisted on accompanying her husband even (and maybe especially) when warned it was too dangerous. Most of the time she was forced to ride in separate carriages and use an alias, as her inferior status would not allow her to officially accompany her husband on imperial trips. But an exception was made for the couple’s visit to Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. As a 14th anniversary present and also because the Austro-Hungarian imperial court condescendingly considered Bosnia somewhat of an unimportant backwater, Sophie Chotek was given official permission to accompany Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Sarajevo and even allowed to ride with him in the same car…
#All4USophie was translated into German by Lawrence-native Lea Greenberg who recently graduated with a major in German and concentration in Russian and East European Studies from Grinnell College. Lea also translated the #WhySarajevo mini reenactment.
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