Book: The Assassination of the Archduke

Author(s): Greg King and Sue Woolmans

Review: Bruce Allen, honorary consul of Liechtenstein in Georgia

With this year as the 100th anniversary of the onset of World War I, there is perhaps no timelier book to read than “The Assassination of the Archduke” by King and Woolmans.  Most of us certainly know the history, the dates, and the names of the key participants, but few really know the “back story,” those small details that led up to that terrible St. Vitus Day, Sunday, June 28, 1914, when an assassin named Princip took a small pistol and in two shots ended the most moving love story of the century and triggered the greatest calamity in human history.  

Using many previously unreleased materials from the archives of several royal families of Europe, and conducting detailed interviews with descendants of various lineages, the authors have provided us with the most intimate history yet published about Archduke Franz Ferdinand, his wife Sophie and their children. We learn of how they defiantly married for love, despite the opposition of the Emperor and his Chief of Protocol who did everything within his power to make Sophie feel forever embarrassed and unwanted. We learn the numerous details of how various political advisers repeatedly failed to provide good advice because of their failure to understand the political situations in both Vienna and Sarajevo. Then too, and perhaps the most tragic of all, we learn what happened to the children orphaned by the assassination of their parents, and how their plights came to mirror the tragedies of millions of people and families in the wake of both world wars.

So why do I call this my best book of the year?  First, the science of chaos theory teaches us that seemingly insignificant and small acts can have unpredictably large and horrible consequences. Nothing in history exemplifies this better than the events that occurred in 1914. Secondly, as a diplomat daily involved in protocol, which is designed to level the playing field and make negotiations fairer, I was shocked by how the egotistical misuse of protocol could so miserably ruin the lives of such a loving family. Finally, this book is in many ways a current or perhaps futuristic newsreel that shows us the unimagined tragedy that can befall the entire world when leaders listen to incompetent or self-motivated advisers, when leaders fail to understand the motivations of their opponents and when technology fails to prevent our headlong run into disaster.  

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...