Sophie Chotek

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Countess Sophie With family.

Sophie Reichsgräfin Chotek (Countess Sophie Chotek von Chotkova und Wognin, Czech: Žofie hraběnka Chotková z Chotkova a Vojnína) (born March 1, 1868 in Stuttgart ~ died June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo) was duchess of Hohenburg and wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. Their assassination sparked World War I.

Contents

Early relationship with Franz Ferdinand

Sophie came from a prominent Bohemian family. She was the fourth daughter of Count Bohuslaw Chotek von Chotkova und Wognin and of his wife, Countess Wilhelmine Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau. As a young woman, Sophie became lady-in-waiting to the Archduchess Isabella, wife of Archduke Friedrich of Austria. Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, first met Sophie at a dance in Prague in 1888.

Sophie and Franz Ferdinand kept their relationship a secret for more than two years. When Franz Ferdinand began to make regular visits to the home of Archduke Friedrich, it was assumed that he had fallen in love with his eldest daughter, Marie Christine. When the relationship was discovered by Archduchess Isabella, Sophie was immediately dismissed and a public scandal was created.

Emperor Franz Josef made it clear to Franz Ferdinand that he could not marry Sophie. To be an eligible partner for a member of the Austro-Hungarian imperial family, one must be descended from the House of Habsburg or from one of the ruling dynasties of Europe.

Franz Ferdinand insisted he would not marry anyone else. Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Pope Leo XIII all made representations to Franz Josef on Franz Ferdinand's behalf arguing that the disagreement was undermining the stability of the monarchy.

Marriage with Franz Ferdinand

In 1899, Emperor Franz Josef agreed a deal with Franz Ferdinand for a morganatic marriage. Franz Ferdinand was allowed to marry Sophie but it was stipulated that her descendants would not be allowed to succeed to the throne. Sophie would not share her husband's rank, title, or precedence.

Sophie and Franz Ferdinand were married July 1, 1900 at Reichstadt. Emperor Franz Josef did not attend the wedding, nor did most other members of the Habsburg family. The only people of the imperial family who went to the ceremony were Franz Ferdinand's stepmother, Archduchess Marie Therese, and her two daughters.

In 1905, Emperor Franz Joseph granted Sophie the title of Herzogin von Hohenberg (Duchess of Hohenberg) which ensured that her children would have a title. While still not on a par with her archducal husband, the title did grant her the privilege of being addressed as "Highness," which was less socially awkward.

Over the next few years, the couple had three children:

The Assassination

In 1914, General Oskar Potiorek, Governor of the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, invited Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Sophie to watch his troops on maneuvers. Franz Ferdinand knew that the visit would be dangerous. A large number of people living in Bosnia-Herzegovina were unhappy with Austrian rule and favoured union with Serbia.

Sophie was usually not allowed to accompany her husband on official visits, but on this occasion Franz Ferdinand arranged for her to come as an anniversary gift. She was ecstatic.

Just before 10 o'clock on Sunday, June 28, 1914, the royal couple arrived in Sarajevo by train. General Oskar Potiorek was waiting to take the royal party to the City Hall for the official reception. In the front car was Fehim Curcic, the Mayor of Sarajevo and Dr. Gerde, the city's Commissioner of Police. Franz Ferdinand and Sophie were in the second car with Oskar Potiorek and Count von Harrach. The car's top was rolled back in order to allow the crowds a good view of its occupants.

At 10.10, when the six car possession passed the central police station, Nedjelko Cabrinovic hurled a hand grenade at the archduke's car. The driver accelerated when he saw the object flying towards the car and the grenade exploded under the wheel of the next car. Two of the occupants, Eric von Merizzi and Count Boos-Waldeck were seriously wounded. About a dozen spectators were also hit by bomb splinters.

After attending the official reception at the City Hall, Franz Ferdinand asked about the members of his party that had been wounded by the bomb. When the archduke was told they were badly injured in hospital, he insisted on being taken to see them. A member of the archduke's staff, Baron Morsey, suggested this might be dangerous, but Oskar Potiorek, who was responsible for the safety of the royal party, replied, "Do you think Sarajevo is full of assassins?" However, Potiorek did accept it would be better if Sophie remained behind in the City Hall. When Baron Morsey told Sophie about the revised plans, she refused to stay arguing: "As long as the Archduke shows himself in public today I will not leave him."

In order to avoid the city centre, General Oskar Potiorek decided that the royal car should travel straight along the Appel Quay to the Sarajevo Hospital. However, Potiorek forgot to tell the driver, Franz Urban, about this decision. On the way to the hospital, Urban took a right turn into Franz Joseph Street. One of the conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, was standing on the corner at the time. Oskar Potiorek immediately realised the driver had taken the wrong route and shouted "What is this ? This is the wrong way ! We're supposed to take the Appel Quay !".

The driver put his foot on the brake, and began to back up. In doing so he moved slowly past the waiting Gavrilo Princip. The assassin stepped forward, drew his gun, and at a distance of about five feet, fired several times into the car. Franz Ferdinand was hit in the neck and Sophie in the abdomen. Sophie said to her husband, "For God's sake what happened to you". then she fell bleeding. Before losing consciousness, he pleaded "Sophie dear ! Sophie dear ! Don't die ! Stay alive for our children !" They were both dead within an hour.

Sophie and Franz Ferdinand were buried in the crypt of their country home, Schloss Artstetten. Today the castle houses a museum to their memory.

See also: Assassination in Sarajevo

Notes

Template:German title Gräfin The title Reichsgräfin comes from the times of the Holy Roman Empire, and would translate as 'Imperial Countess'. The male title would be Reichsgraf (Imperial Count).

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