Although the smouldering distrust and racially inflamed tensions that continually raised the political temperature in the Balkans were very deliberately reignited by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the spark failed to catch fire immediately. Civilised Europe was certainly stunned by the double murder. His uncle, the elderly Austrian emperor Franz Joseph, went into shock.

200px-Franz_josephAustria-Hungary was outraged, and there were anti-Serbian riots in Sarajevo and Mostar, [1] but it required weeks of careful planning and considered judgement on the part of the Secret Elite to fan the understandable outrage and bring about the great European war for which they had planned since before 1905. Furthermore, it required the highest level of diplomatic skill and political nous, allied to press connivance, unseen sleights of hand and downright lies to achieve the ultimate goal of war with Germany. War apparently started by Germany; war that would once and for all crush Germany and re-affirm the pre-eminence of the British race.

On 1 July, 1914, war was not inevitable. Far from it. The assassination in itself presented no cause for a world war. Political murders were not uncommon in these troubled parts, with royalty, prime ministers, political opponents and religious leaders all victims to the gunman in the recent past. [2] This was different. The Secret Elite deliberately and systematically whipped the consequences of Sarajevo into a raging wildfire that could not be extinguished. From the hub of the Foreign Office in July 1914, Sir Edward Grey and his ambassadorial guard abused their position in order to trick Austria-Hungary and Germany, into a European war. A diplomatic network of highly experienced ambassadors committed to the Secret Elite vision of the pre-eminence of the British race was in place throughout the European capitals: Sir George Buchanan in St Petersburg, Sir Maurice de Bunsen in Vienna, Sir Edward Goschen in Berlin and Sir Francis Bertie in Paris. Each was entrusted with the task of manipulating the Balkan crisis into a war that would see the Anglo-centric influence dominate the world.

Highly confidential information and instruction passed to and fro between the British embassies and legations and the Foreign Office, where Sir Eyre Crowe and Sir Arthur Nicolson headed Grey’s personal praetorian guard. Even where the major players appeared to be Russian (Sazonov and Isvolsky) or French (Poincaré and Maurice Paléologue, the French Ambassador at St Petersburg in 1914), their actions were sanctioned from London. The last days of June and the first week of July were, on the surface, comparatively calm. An outpouring of sympathy for Austria and its old monarchy followed the initial shock of the assassination. In a parliamentary address on 30 June, Prime Minister Asquith stated that Emperor Franz Joseph ‘and his people have always been our friends’. He spoke of the ‘abhorrence of the crime and the profound sympathy of the British Parliament’. [3] In France, President Poincaré expressed his ‘sincere condolences’. [4] Profound sincerity did not last long.

Franz Ferdinand's FuneralDespite the archduke’s high office and his position and rank as heir apparent, his funeral was decidedly low-key. The Austrian foreign minister, Count Leopold Berchtold, allegedly wanted it that way. Kaiser Wilhelm II definitely intended to go. Franz Ferdinand had been a close personal friend, and it was his duty to show public respect to the ageing emperor. [5] The kaiser, however, developed diplomatic lumbago when it was rumoured that a dozen Serbian assassins were making their way to Vienna to kill him. [6] Prince Arthur of Connaught was the designated representative for King George V, but quite suddenly, on 2 July, he and all other members of European royalty cancelled. Every one. Fears were expressed that other assassins were ready to do away with any passing royalty. No collection of funereal crowned heads gathered in Vienna. But the insult to Austria threatened their national pride. It was a crime too far crying out for justice. And most of Europe appeared to understand this.

Yet Serbia, the nation with most to fear in terms of retribution, continued to goad Austria and made little pretence of being contrite. Why? Why did the Serbs continue to aggravate the situation, unless of course they, and others, were determined to provoke a reaction? The Times correspondent reported on 1 July that newspapers in Belgrade were claiming that the assassination was a consequence of the bad old Austrian police system and a lack of real liberty in Austria. The Russian press was equally aggressive. They placed the responsibility for Serb agitation on those who, ‘like Franz Ferdinand’, sowed discord between Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.. If the powers that controlled Serbia, both internally and from St Petersburg, had wanted to caution restraint, then this provocation would never have been tolerated. But the assassination had not been meticulously planned as some singular act of defiance. The flames were not to be doused. Russia and Serbia alone took an aggressive stance.

In Britain the Westminster Gazette, owned by Waldorf Astor from the Secret Elite ’s inner-circle, [7] stated that ‘Austria cannot be expected to remain inactive ’. [8] The Manchester Guardian, always influential in Liberal circles, declared that Serbia’s record was unmatched as a tissue of cruelty, greed, hypocrisy and ill faith. ‘If it were physically possible for Serbia to be towed out to sea and sunk there, the air of Europe would at once seem clearer.’ [9] It could hardly have made its position more obvious. With one exception, The Times, all English newspapers recognised that Austria had suffered intense provocation and acknowledged her right to take the strongest measures to secure the punishment of those concerned. The weekly paper John Bull, which had a wide readership among the working classes, was equally adamant that Austria’s position was ‘just’.[10] Small wonder, then, that Berchtold believed that he had the understanding and sympathy of the British government.

Ulster Volunteer Force trainingThe British public were consumed by its own immediate crisis. Though it is not absolutely true to say that they had their heads turned exclusively elsewhere, the overwhelming newspaper interest centred on Irish Home Rule, gun running and the Ulster Volunteers. All of these threatened a civil war. [11] Day by day, week by week, the Loyalists in Ulster and the Home-Rulers in the southern counties captured the headlines and raised the horrendous spectre of a civil war that would spill over onto mainland Britain. How convenient, then, that for most of the month of July home affairs dominated learned debate, while Sir Edward Grey and the Foreign Office went about their business in almost monastic silence, unburdened by the need to keep the Cabinet or Parliament informed of the developing crisis in Europe.

Austria was determined to deal with Serbia as an act of self-preservation, [12] but it would have been impractical to attempt this without the approval of her great ally, Germany. A letter from Emperor Franz Joseph was delivered to the kaiser at Potsdam on 5 July, underlining Austria’s desire to take definitive action. After discussing the representations from Vienna with his advisors, Kaiser Wilhelm gave his unqualified approval, the so called German ‘blank cheque ’. This was later misrepresented as a binding promise to give Austria military support against Serbia in order to bring about a European-wide war. It was nothing of the sort. Certainly the kaiser encouraged Austria to take whatever action she believed necessary to put Serbia in its place, [13] but few in Germany believed that Russian military intervention in a localised dispute was a realistic possibility. Russia had no defence treaty with Serbia, and Austria had no intention whatsoever of using force against Russia. It was inconceivable to the kaiser that the czar would actively support the ‘regicides’ in Serbia. [14]

One of the most deliberate historical misrepresentations of the twentieth century took root in that Potsdam meeting. A great lie was concocted by the Secret Elite that, before going on his scheduled sailing holiday, the kaiser convened a crown council meeting at Potsdam on 5 July and revealed his determination to make war on an unsuspecting Europe.[15] The myth holds that he was advised to wait a fortnight in order to give German bankers time to sell off their foreign securities.[16] Such blatant fabrication has since been unmasked as part of the orchestrated propaganda constructed to ‘prove ’ that Germany intimidated Austria into attacking Serbia in order to draw Russia into the conflict. [17] In the years immediately after the war, the deliberate lie that the kaiser was the instigator of war passed into accepted history as ‘truth’. Children learn in school, and students repeat in examinations, that war was the kaiser’s doing. In fact, the only signal he transmitted back to Vienna was that, whatever Austria decided, Germany would stand by her as a friend and ally.

Reassured by support from across Europe, Berchtold came to the logical conclusion that he was expected to punish Serbia for the crime of Sarajevo. Other governments, even the entente governments, appeared to approve the need for retribution. [18] Indeed, the Austro-Hungarian ministerial council was concerned that if they did not take strong action, their own Slav and Romanian subjects would interpret it as weakness. [19] They agreed to make stringent demands on Serbia. Nothing else would stop their vicious intrigues. The die was cast, but few in Britain knew that the dice were even rolling.

[1] The Times 1 July 1914.
[2] King George I of Greece was assassinated in 1913; Mahmud Sevket Pasha, prime minister of Turkey in 1913; José Canalejas, prime minister of Spain in 1912; Prime Minister Stolypin in Russia in 1911; Grand Duke Alexandrovitch Romanov in 1911. Many survived attempted assassination, including Prince Albert Edward in 1900, Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900 and Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
[3] Prime Minister Herbert Asquith in Hansard, House of Commons, Debate, 30 June 1914, vol. 64, cc214–6.
[4] Imanuel Geiss, July 1914: The Outbreak of the First World War: Selected
Documents, p. 55.
[5] Ibid., p. 63.
[6] Sidney B Fay, Origins of the World War, vol. II, p. 205.
[7] Carroll Quigley, Anglo-American Establishment, p. 12.
[8] Fay, Origins of the World War, vol. II, p. 332.
[9] Irene Cooper Willis, England’s Holy War, p. 59.
[10] Ibid., p. 25.
[11] Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ireland in 250 Episodes, p. 435.
[12] Count Leopold Berchtold, ‘Austria’s Challenge Justified by Serbian Menace’, New York Times Current History of the European War, vol. 28 (1928), p. 626.
[13] Geiss, July 1914, p. 71.
[14] Ibid., p. 72.
[15] Harry Elmer Barnes, In Quest of Truth and Justice, p. 52.
[16] Fay, Origins of the World War, vol. II, p. 175.
[17] Harry Elmer Barnes, Genesis of the World War, p. 241.
[18] ‘Origin of the World War: Minutes of a Historic Council’, New York Times Current History of the European War, vol. 11, (1919), pp. 455–60.
[19] Geiss, July 1914, pp. 80–7.