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Monday 24 August 2020

Shattered Crowns - The Scapegoats

 “In the past,” Archduke Franz Ferdinand said, “I believed that kings and emperors made all the decisions for their people. Now, though, I see it very differently. For the most part, monarchs are merely the actors who take centre-stage. Their lines are scripted for them and their movements are stage-managed by faceless people whom the audience never sees. Even in an autocracy like Austria-Hungary, so much goes on behind the scenes where ministers and politicians plot and intrigue among themselves. They see their monarchs as little more than puppets. They make plans that suit their personal ambitions and increase their own sense of power, and they manipulate their emperors into accepting and implementing those plans at whatever cost to their countries. Then comes the cruellest part of all: when the drama turns into tragedy, these people withdraw into the shadows leaving the emperor to shoulder all the blame…””

 From 'The Scapegoats' - the first book in the Shattered Crowns trilogy - a series of novels portraying   the Royal Families of Germany, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Roumania in the First World War.



Friday 21 August 2020

Crown Prince Rudolf

 The ill-fated Crown Prince Rudolf was born on 21st August 1858. Countess Larisch, writing after his death, rather dramatically described her first meeting with him. It sounds very melodramatic and obviously written in hindsight...."The next evening we were invited to a family dinner, and there I saw, for the first time since I was quite a tiny child, my cousin the Crown Prince Rudolph. When he entered the room I experienced a curious feeling of uneasiness. Perhaps my subconscious self knew the danger which Rudolph was destined to become in my life, and my nervousness increased when I saw that he watched me narrowly out of the corners of his eyes. The Crown Prince sat next to me and commenced to tease me unmercifully, and, boy though he then was in years, he seemed to possess the intelligence of a man. He was handsome, and for some time I racked my brains to remember what wild animal he recalled to me, for he had a curious look not altogether human. Then, I knew – Rudolph reminded me of a wolf; his eyes blazed green at times, and he seemed almost ready to spring. “Was he as cruel as a wolf?” I wondered, and then an icy chill went down my spine as I recalled the Empress’s words to me before dinner when I had gone to show her my pretty gown. “Marie,” she had said, “tonight you will see Rudolph. I warn you against him, because he will turn on you if ever he gets the chance.”



Monday 17 August 2020

Emperor Karl and his father, Archduke Otto

 On 17th August 1887, the future Emperor Karl of Austria was born. He was the son of Franz Ferdinand's brother, 'the gorgeous Archduke' Otto, whose beauty was unfortunately only skin deep. Otto was a complete cad, a drunkard and a womaniser who, with his companions, wrecked many cafes and bars in Vienna. On one occasion he took his drunken friends to his wife's bedroom at 3 o'clock in the morning so that they could have some fun 'with a nun.' Fortunately, one of his friends was sober enough to draw his sword to protect the poor woman until help arrived. 


 Archduke Otto

Otto's lifestyle soon caught up with him. He contracted syphilis, which not only left him in agony but also rotted his face. His nose was so eaten away that he had to wear a leather prosthesis and he died at the age of only forty-one. Karl, of course, was a very different character - devout and faithful to his wife.


Emperor Karl

Thursday 13 August 2020

King George's Menagerie





King George IV, like many of his contemporaries, developed an interest in exotic animals and created a large menagerie at Windsor. From 'Queen Victoria's Creatures':  "Generally, George preferred the company of the docile creatures and colourful birds that lived in his menagerie, one of which, a cockatoo, was tame enough to sit on his arm as he travelled through London. So proud was he of his growing collection of interesting beasts that he granted the public admission to his menagerie on condition that they made no drawings of the inhabitants and only visited on days when he was absent. On rare occasions he made an exception to this rule, as when a young lady arrived at the gates as he toured the gardens. On being denied entrance, she sent George a message, explaining that she had travelled some distance for the sole purpose of seeing the peacocks, and, once he had ascertained from the messenger that she was a woman of great beauty, he allowed her admission. When, however, soon afterwards, he caught sight of one of his former mistresses standing by the gate, he insisted that she be detained by the guards until he had departed." 


Thursday 6 August 2020

The Battle of Worth

On the 6th August 1870, the Prussian were victorious at the Battle of Worth. The Prussian Crown Prince, Frederick (Fritz) had just led his troops to victory at Weissenburg, but he: "...had neither the time nor the inclination to celebrate the victory, as, early the following morning, he led his men on towards the Alsatian village of Worth. As the competent French General MacMahon had amassed a force of over eight-thousand men, Fritz intended to await his cavalry before launching an attack on the 7th August. In the early hours of the 6th, however, he heard the booming of cannon and realised that a battle was underway. At eleven o’clock he reached the battlefield and, for the next six hours, he remained in the saddle in the heart of the fray. Heavy losses were sustained on both sides and, for a while, it appeared that MacMahon would emerge triumphant, but in the late afternoon, the French were forced to retreat, leaving thirty cannon and forty-thousand prisoners in the hands of the triumphant Germans.
"Bismarck pointedly failed to acknowledge Fritz’ role in the victory, and looked ‘as sulky as a bear’ when the King warmly praised him; but, with two victories in four days, the morale of the Third Army soared, and ‘Our Fritz’ became the soldiers’ ‘idol.’" (From 'The Silent Emperor')
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