If Archduke Franz Ferdinand (@ArchdukeFranzi) and Duchess Sophie (@Duchess_Sophie) were the first casualties of World War I, then their three children were its first orphans. As a follow-up to the #KU_WWI LIVE Tweetenactment of the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, #FirstWorldWarOrphans features a collection of tweets from the perspectives of the Archduke’s daughter, Sophie Von Hohenberg (@Little_Zofie), and her tutor, Otto Lev Stanovsky (@Fr_Stanovsky), as they live through the aftermath of the assassination. The tweetenactment humanizes Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie as people and parents – through the eyes of their children we see their humanity rather than just their place in history.
#FirstWorldWarOrphans begins a couple of days before the June 28th assassination. It begins with the innocent perspective of a 12-year-old girl, the Archduke’s oldest child, Sophie Von Hohenberg, or as her family affectionately called her, Little Zophie.
Little Zophie’s tweets give us insight into the Archduke’s family life as well as highlight his passion for travel and hunting. By the time of his death, he had successfully hunted 274,889 animals and was widely considered one of the best shots in the empire.
Accurately illustrating the Archduke’s personality has been a challenge for #KU_WWI staff and tweetenactors. Publically he was known for being introverted and aloof, but more commonly he was described as brusque, arrogant, and even hot-tempered. He was also an avid art collector, had a sincere passion for architectural preservation, and traveled widely – even as far as America (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 121-125). For the #KU_WWI Twitter Project we focused on the Archduke as a husband and father — while his public persona may remain controversial, there is little doubt as to his sincere adoration and devotion to his wife and children in his private life.
As stated in the #WhySarajevo and #All4USophie Tweetenactments Archduke Ferdinand’s marriage to Duchess Sophie was deemed morganatic, which meant that their children were barred from imperial succession. One of the benefits of this status was that they could raise their children however they saw fit, without the pressures and protocols of court. By all accounts, the couple were informal, loving and engaged – somewhat out of the norm for upper class Edwardian families in which nannies and private schools parented more than parents.
The tone of the tweetenactment changes abruptly when Zophie’s tutor, Otto Lev Stanovsky, receives a phone call informing him of the deaths of Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie in Sarajevo.
What follows over the next few days is an account of the children trying to fully understand the death of their parents and the horrible treatment they continued to receive from the imperial court.
Usually when an heir to a European monarchy dies, all the imperial houses of Europe go into official mourning and gather to attend the state funeral. For Archduke Ferdinand and Duchess Sophie, however, foreign representatives were not only not invited, but also actively turned back from the border (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 224).
Otto Lev Stanovsky’s tweets specifically calls out Prince Alfred de Montenuovo, Lord Chamberlain, for the bizarre and bureaucratically petty funeral proceedings. Responsible for court protocol, Montenuovo had made a point of humiliating the morganatic couple in life and refused to let up after their death.
Originally, Montenouvo only made plans for the funeral and burial of Archduke Ferdinand, refusing to acknowledge Duchess Sophie even in death. But in his will, the Archduke had laid out his wishes to be interred with his wife at their family home in Artstetten, rather than in Vienna where they would have been surely separated by protocol.
The official, imperial funeral in Vienna continued to be problematic, however. When the bodies of the Archduke and his wife arrived in Vienna on July 2, 1914, the imperial family was ordered not to greet the train as was the usual custom. Even though the bodies could have been switched to more imperially appropriate, matching coffins, the bodies were kept in the original coffins provided in Sarajevo. Archduke Ferdinand’s was large and ornate, while Duchess Sophie’s was simple and modest. While finally being allowed to lay in state beside her husband only after multiple family members directly appealed to the emperor, Duchess Sophie’s coffin was kept 18 inches lower than the Archduke’s – a visual reminder of her unequal status. For imperial funerals, it was not uncommon for viewings to last several days. In the case of the Archduke and Duchess Sophie, viewing was kept to just 4 hours and tens of thousands of mourners were turned away (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 227-228).
The couple’s three children were not allowed to attend the funeral in Vienna – as products of a morganatic marriage it was deemed inappropriate for them to mourn next to the imperial family (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 230-231). It was only after all the official mourners had left, that the children were allowed into the chapel to pay their respects during which their daughter privately eulogized:
After the funeral, the couple were taken by carriage to a train. This procession was kept private, no bells tolled, and no military escort was provided.
Even though the Archduke was the Inspector General of the Austro-Hungarian army, Montenouvo denied military honors for the funeral proceedings because they were deemed unworthy of Duchess Sophie. A hundred aristocrats defied imperial protocol by spontaneously following behind the hearses to the train station – a public rebuke of the court’s treatment of the heir and his wife (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 232).
The coffins were unceremoniously loaded onto the train to Artstetten – no mourning carriage was provided, they were placed in a freight car. Upon arrival to their home, the couple finally began to receive the mourning they deserved as family and staff gathered to greet the royal couple and grieve together in a private ceremony.
Specifically to keep other aristocrats in Vienna from attending these private ceremonies, Montenouvo ordered a longer than normal requiem at mass that Sunday, keeping them in church rather than allowing them to go to Arstetten. A few openly rebelled against this order, defied the court, and went to the funerals in Artstetten anyway. One of these was Franz Ferdinand’s exiled brother, who had also been striped of his titles and land for entering into a morganatic marriage (King and Woolmans, The Assassination of the Archduke, pg 237).
The couple were finally laid to rest in matching white tombs with the inscription, Joined in marriage, they were joined by the same fate.
#KU_WWI Project staff would like to extend a big thank you to KU Slavic Department alumna Courtney Shipley for bringing these characters to life.
Click here to learn more about the #KU_WWI Twitter Project.
Click here to read about Duchess Sophie and the #KU_WWI Twitter Project in a She The People Washington Post blog by Diana Reese.